In light of the sparks that flew between Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz on Sunday, we had an interesting conversation last night that essentially boiled down to this question: Which NFL head coach would you take in a fight?
We threw out some names, but figured there must be a fairer way to come up with an answer. So naturally we devised a bracket system. We took a look at each division, seeded the coaches based on their current standings, re-seeded them once we had eight division winners by conference, and came up with a Super Bowl of Head Coaching Fisticuffs. The winner? Well, we hate to be a spoiler, but let’s just say Rex comes up just short again.
Here’s what we had. Let us know if you agree or disagree.
(1) Tom Coughlin vs. (4) Andy Reid
(2) Mike Shanahan vs. (3) Jason Garrett
We liked Coughlin for his scrappiness and ability to move. While both men appear to have tempers, Coughlin can be more demonstrative with his. In the other battle, we went with Garrett’s athleticism as a former NFL player. We didn’t think Coughlin would be a pushover for Garrett, but ultimately the age difference would be too much for Coughlin to overcome here. Winner: Garrett.
(1) Raheem Morris vs. (4) Ron Rivera
(2) Sean Payton vs. (3) Mike Smith
Bad draw for Morris, who probably would have won at least a first-round bout had he not been going against the bigger, stronger Rivera. Payton would have won, but had to withdraw due to his recent injuries. That left Rivera to pummel Smith for the division title. Winner: Rivera.
(1) Mike McCarthy vs. (4) Leslie Frazier
(2) Jim Schwartz vs. (3) Lovie Smith
While Schwartz has spunk, there’s a quiet simmer to Lovie that, when exposed in a fight, we feel would boil over. McCarthy and Frazier seem like two pretty docile guys. We give it to the former player, Frazier, ahead of the former toll collector. Smith, already frothing from his quick knockout of Schwartz, is able to handle Frazier. Winner: Smith.
(1) Jim Harbaugh vs. (4) Steve Spagnuolo
(2) Pete Carroll vs. (3) Ken Whisenhunt
Harbaugh is bigger and younger that Spags, but it’s a tough one because there’s no quit in the Rams’ coach. Carroll’s a lover, not a fighter, and he’s too California cool to even get in the ring with Whisenhunt. That leaves two coaches who are, to put in as complimentary as we can in this situation, psychos. It’s a wild brawl. Ultimately, only one can emerge. Winner: Harbaugh.
(1) Bill Belichick vs. (4) Tony Sparano
(2) Chan Gailey vs. (3) Rex Ryan
Sparano is fighting for his job and fighting for the Dolphins to finally win something this season. They do here. Ryan has the size, the determination, and the aforementioned psycho element. He clobbers Gailey, out-muscles Sparano, and then talks about how disappointed he is that he didn’t get a crack at Belichick. Winner: Ryan.
(1) Mike Munchak vs. (4) Jim Caldwell
(2) Gary Kubiak vs. (3) Jack Del Rio
Munchak wins his opening rounder easily because Caldwell thinks he can draft Andrew Luck if he takes a dive. Kubiak against Del Rio is a backup quarterback against a linebacker. We’ll take the linebacker. Until, that is, the old offensive lineman shows up. Winner: Munchak.
(1) John Harbaugh vs. (4) Pat Shurmur
(2) Marvin Lewis vs. (3) Mike Tomlin
We like the Harbaugh intensity and junkyard dog attitude with a win over Shurmur. Maybe a few years ago Lewis puts up a better fight against Tomlin, but he’s been beaten down by years in Cincy and Tomlin is too cool to lose. He’s tougher than he looks, too, and is able to take care of business against Harbaugh. Winner: Tomlin.
(1) Norv Turner vs. (4) John Fox
(2) Hue Jackson vs. (3) Todd Haley
Fox beats Turner, who always seems to struggle with a high seed like this one. Hue Jackson is crazy enough to call all of those fake punts and field goals, so he’s crazy enough to dispatch Haley. He’s got size and age on his side against Fox. He’s also carrying the Al Davis legacy. Winner: Jackson.
OK, so now we have eight division winners, four from each conference. We re-seeded them and put them head-to-head. Here’s what we came up with for the conference championships:
(1) Ron Rivera vs. (4) Jason Garrett
(2) Jim Harbaugh vs. (3) Lovie Smith
Garrett slipped past his more, um, experienced opponents in the divisional round but Rivera is too big and strong for him to handle here. Smith expelled too much energy in his first two fights and has returned to his calm demeanor while Harbaugh still has the lunacy of a pitbull. Harbaugh wins, but he just doesn’t have the size to beat Rivera. He gives him a strong handshake afterwards, though. Winner: Rivera.
(1) Hue Jackson vs. (4) Mike Tomlin
(2) Mike Munchak vs. (3) Rex Ryan
We like Jackson over Tomlin. The odds say take Munchak over Ryan, but we think there’s too much killer attitude in the Jets coach and he finds a way to win. That leaves Jackson against Ryan for a chance to advance to the Super Bowl. It’s time. Rex wins this AFC title game. Winner: Ryan.
That leaves only two coaches left. And they fight for the title.
Ron Rivera vs. Rex Ryan
Two guys who measure up well in terms of size, age, experience, tenacity, attitude. Both have deep-seeded anger about not being given chances to be a head coach earlier in their careers. Ryan does a lot of jawing, Rivera has a quiet intensity. The fight goes 12 rounds, and ultimately Rivera’s one advantage – his conditioning – allows him to win as Ryan simply runs out of gas. Winner: Rivera.