Coach of the year can often be a tough award to call and 2019 is no different. This award can really go anywhere. It does not need to be the coach of the best team, because often they are also the most talented. The award should reward the coach that has overcome the most, or taken their franchise to the next step despite reservations that he can. This year three coaches have absolutely deservedly put their name in the hat, and three of our writers have picked one each to champion.

Paul Mainwaring: John Harbaugh

For those with short memories, some 18 months ago it seemed like John Harbaugh was in his final days with the Ravens. The team had gone stagnant, especially on offense and it looked like the only way to halt the malaise was to fire Harbaugh. 18 months later and the Ravens have the most innovative and high powered offense in the league and are about to be the number 1 seed in the AFC for the first time. Harbaugh should take huge credit for this and for me he is easily the best coach this season.

Mark Ross: Mike Tomlin

Coach of the Year 2019

Has a coach in recent times had as much to deal with as Mike Tomlin has in Pittsburgh over the last 12 – 18 months? 

Firstly he loses his elite level running back in Le’Veon Bell to an AFC rival. Then in the last game of the 2018 season he loses the league’s best wide receiver Antonio Brown, although the way his career has spiralled that may not have been a bad thing. So the start of the 2019 season rolls around and the Steelers are missing the league’s best receiver and one of the league’s best running backs. At least they still have Ben Roethlisberger right? Surely he can still get this offense going. After a blowout loss to the Patriots in Week 1 Tomlin then lost Roethlisberger to injury in Week 2, and he was done for the season. At the start of 2018 the Steelers had the killer B’s. Two weeks into the 2019 season and all the Killer B’s were gone (well minus Chris Boswell) and one of the league’s best offenses had been ripped apart.

Realising that his offense was not going to be able to get the job done this year, Tomlin went out and pulled off arguably the best trade of the season by bringing Minkah Fitzpatrick to the steel city. That trade revitalised the Steelers and showed that a strong defense can cover for the blunders of an offense. Don’t get me wrong, you need a strong offense as well, but just look at what this defense has done. The defense alone is the reason that the Steelers are one game away from the playoffs and you better believe that it is Tomlin that is behind that defense. 

Tomlin’s worries weren’t over there. He then had to deal with another quarterback injury when Mason Rudolph was knocked out against divisional rivals Baltimore Ravens. Tomlin then had to turn the reins over to their undrafted fourth string quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges. All of that put together, then an all out brawl in the Cleveland game, injuries to his number one running back James Conner and number one receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster make it truly incredible that the Steelers even have a shot at the playoffs. One thing is for sure, if the Steelers had made the playoffs then no other coach comes close to this award for me. They may have fallen short in the end, but that does not diminish what Tomlin and his staff have achieved.

Ben Rolfe: Brian Flores

The first question you likely ask here is how can a team that won just five games have a coach of the year. Well simply because, quite frankly, it is somewhat of a miracle they won that many. The Dolphins team was stripped bare last offseason, leaving Brian Flores with a whole lot of question marks. They then got blown out early in the season, raising more questions.

However, this team fought back after starting 0-7, to win five of their last nine games. The most impressive victory? Beating a Patriots team in Foxborough in Week 17, to deny Flores’ old team the #2 seed. This Dolphins team never quit on the season, and Flores deserves a lot of credit. As Michael Lombardi said on his podcast this week, culture can overcome talent. No team has proven that more this season than the Dolphins. Just maybe the Patriots should have fought harder to keep Flores in the building last offseason, because he looks like a fantastic head coach right now.

Image credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports, Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports