Gridiron Roundtable: What Rookie Coach Are you Most Impressed w/ so far in His First Season?


Ian Leslie – John Harbaugh – Considering how little experience he has, and his age, he has managed to inspire a mostly veteran team and has them believing that they can be a contender in the AFC. The Ravens looked like a team that was on the decline and would have to undergo a massive rebuilding process, but under Harbaugh the defense is playing as good as ever and the offense has been surprisingly strong as well, even with a rookie QB at the helm. Also, the Ravens have been in every game (aside from the Indy game), including two 3 point losses to the Steelers and Titans, probably the two best teams in the AFC.

Shawn McAllister – Jim Zorn – While it is a close call, I believe Jim Zorn has been the most impressive. Inheriting a underperforming medicore football team, he now has them on pace to be 12-4 in the toughest division in football. He has both Clinton Portis and Jason Campbell having career years due to his offensive philosophy and coaching.

Jeff Roman – Ramsgab: Tony Sparano
– His team had a very low level of talent going into the year, playing in the tough AFC East. The team is not a mirage and he’s got them playing way over their heads.

Tim Hiller – Billsgab: Tony Sparano
– Nobody is doing more with less than Tony Sparano. He has no marque receiver, a quarterback who was run out of New York, and a defense anchored by a linebacker widely thought to be washed up coming into this year (Joey Porter). P.S. This is coming from a die hard Bills fan who absolutely hates the Miami Dolphins.

Russ Loede – Bearsgab: Tony Sparano – The remarkable turnaround that he and his staff have been able to accomplish thus far, as they’ve sharply orchestrated and precisely conducted a complete “360” in Miami. He took over a 1-15 Dolphins squad which was in as worse shape as “Jared” before Subway. They did not draft a highly touted talent at QB in the 1st round and had to scramble to pick-up Chad Pennington, who many had thought was done as a starter. Having lost two of its franchise’s best players, cornerstones Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas, as they’ve gone through a reality TV-like remodeling project in order to revamp and rebound from one of the worst seasons in the history of the NFL. Now Miami has a chance to play in January and win a tough division deemed non-winnable back in July.

Josh Salter – Tony Sparano – He inherited a 1-15 team, devoid of real talent – aside from Ronnie Brown who was recovering from ACL surgery – and has reinvigorated this group into a legit playoff contender. He’s done two things which really standout: first off, he implemented the wildcat offense which is now being copied throughout the league, and secondly, he’s instilled a toughness in this team – both mentally and physically – that the team was lacking. I think Dallas can attest to his value with the way its OL has played this season.

Jesse Rios – Texansgab: Tony Sparano – I like what Tony’s done in his first year with the Dolphins. Bringing a good system to Miami,s stunning us with the Wildcat, Pennington and Henne, Yeremiah Bell, and the Tuna, and doing a heck of a lot better with less talent than what Saban did for the team, earns my vote of confidence for the future.

Jeremy Fuchs – NFLGridirongab: Mike Smith – He transformed the culture in Atlanta, has made the community forget about Mike Vick, and has instantly made this team a contender.

Jerie OConner – Ravensgab: Jim Zorn – All of them have succeeded beyond expectations. If I had to pick one, it would be Jim Zorn, Washington Redskins, who had never before even been an offensive/ defensive coordinator in the NFL having served as a QB Coach for the Seattle Seahawks. Only one other HC had never served as an OC or DC before and that person was Andy Reid, HC of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Matt Jergensen – Ravensgab: Mike Smith – Mike Smith has had the most to overcome in order to be successful. The Micheal Vick situation as well as the train wreck that was the Bobby Petrino era. He has established a new culture for a team that was expected to win a handful of games.

Alan Wilson – Jaguarsgab: Mike Smith – Look what has happened with Jacksonville’s plunge in the defensive rankings with Smith’s departure as defensive coordinator and the transformation that has taken place in Atlanta with him as a head coach. The rise of Matt Ryan makes everyone in Atlanta say “Michael who?” The Falcons are still winless in their division. However, for a team that wasn’t expected to win more than 3 or 4 games this season, you have to tip your hat to the job that Smith has done in changing the culture of losing in Atlanta.

Jean-Paul Bergeaux – Saintsgab: Mike Smith – He doesn’t have a legend like Bill Parcells behind him. (And I hate Atlanta, so this is hard to say out loud)

Jim Dubenetzky – Chargersgab: Mike Smith – All of them have been very impressive. But since Miami and Atlanta have done much better than expected it has to be Sporano or Smith. I think Smith is the most impressive because the Falcons were a mess and he has turned things around quicker than anyone thought possible and has eased Matt Ryan into the game helping him to become a very solid young QB.

Cole Pepper – Jaguarsgab: John Harbaugh – It’s close between Smith and Harbaugh. Considering Harbaugh came from a career as a special teams coach, his rise is pretty impressive. Both have rookie quarterbacks, but the Falcons were in much worse shape last year. While few outside of Jacksonville knew of Smith (he was the Jaguars defensive coordinator), he’s made a huge impact. Not only has he been the best rookie coach, he might be the NFL’s coach of the year.

Mike Loede – Raidersgab: Mike Smith – Quietly placing aside the Michael Vick fiasco, and the with help from the play of rookie QB Matt Ryan, Mike Smith of Atl has been the most impressive first year coach this year, followed VERY closely by Jim Zorn of Washington..

Jeff Sack – Patriotsgab: Jim Zorn – I can’t Sparano that much credit because I think Parcells in calling a lot of the shots. Always thought Ravens had talent just Billick wore out his welcome in Baltimore. Smith has done a nice job a year after the lost season of Vick. But I have to go with Zorn, he truly is the same scrappy guy as a coach as he was as a QB.


Mike Smith – Falcons 6 Votes
Tony Sparano – Dolphins 5 Votes
Jim Zorn – Redskins 3 Votes
John Harbaugh – Ravens 2 Votes

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