Nine current NFL head coaches have won a Super Bowl: Bruce Arians, Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, Jon Gruden, John Harbaugh, Sean Payton, Mike McCarthy, Andy Reid and Mike Tomlin. That leaves 23 others who are vying to hoist the Lombardi Trophy for the first time.
Mike Zimmer, who was hired by Minnesota in 2014, is the longest-tenured head coach still searching for a championship, though Ron Rivera, entering his 11th season as an NFL head coach (and second in Washington), has the most on-the-job experience of the group. A pair from the NFC West, Los Angeles’ Sean McVay and San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan, were thisclose to winning a title within the last three seasons, ultimately falling to Belichick and Reid on the game’s biggest stage.
So, of the 23 head coaches yet to win a title, who has the best chance to win his first Super Bowl in the upcoming season?
I have to go with Sean McDermott. After falling one win short of making a Super Bowl appearance in January, the Buffalo Bills went to work and improved their roster this offseason. Josh Allen had to be happy with the additions to the O-line, backfield and receiving corps, which included veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders, while the defense retained linebacker Matt Milano and corner Levi Wallace and bolstered its pass rush in the draft. It’s a competitive AFC field, but Allen only seems to be getting better with a team that rallies around him.
The Los Angeles Rams had the best defense in the league last season. If they can remain dominant on that side of the ball, even after losing DC Brandon Staley (now the Chargers’ head coach) and key players in the secondary, and the offense improves with Matthew Stafford under center, this team is going to be one to watch. General manager Les Snead and Sean McVay have me believing in this team so much just a few months away from the start of training camp.
Fresh off a 13-3 season and an AFC Championship Game appearance, Sean McDermott boasts the top squad of the league’s 23 coaches still seeking the elusive Lombardi. While several top teams face uncertainty at the quarterback position, the ever-evolving Josh Allen looks poised to take the Bills’ offense to even newer heights in 2021. The Bills also addressed their biggest weakness in their failure to dethrone the AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs by selecting talented and versatile pass rushers (Gregory Rousseau and Boogie Basham) early in the draft. Add that to the stellar job McDermott has done in Buffalo over the years, and he is clearly the favorite.
One key offseason signing can change the entire trajectory of an organization — we saw this last season when Tom Brady headed to Tampa. I think Matthew Stafford will have that same type of influence in Los Angeles. The veteran passer fits perfectly into Sean McVay’s offense and should take this unit to another level. The Rams were trending in the right direction last season, and I believe the addition of Stafford is what will help McVay reach the mountaintop three years after falling just short.
Sure, the Bills showed us they weren’t quite ready to take down the reigning champs in 2020, and yes, the AFC is again loaded, but a new year brings new opportunities, and Buffalo seems about as well-prepared as anyone to give it another go. While we spent plenty of time gushing over Tampa’s ability to retain its 22 starters, Buffalo followed a very similar path in a much quieter manner, retaining its core while making savvy additions (Emmanuel Sanders, Matt Breida) that could help the Bills get over the hump. Let’s also not forget where they found themselves in January — leading the Chiefs 9-0 in Kansas City — before things fell apart. That experience will be incredibly valuable, and Buffalo proved in 2020 it knows how to concoct a winning mix. Now the Bills just need to give it another shot at relying on their strengths and established culture, and making sure they don’t overcook their dish this time around.
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