Entering Week 12, it’s clear which head coaches are uplifting their teams and merit NFL Coach of the Year consideration. In alphabetical order, here are the five leading candidates:
Dan Campbell, Detroit Lions | Record: 8-2
The Lions are 8-2 for the first time since 1962, per The Detroit News. Some attribute the team’s strong start to Campbell’s ability to instill a winning culture.
“Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes have constructed a roster of tough guys who embrace the ‘grind it out’ approach of the coach himself and embody the spirit of Detroit,” wrote NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks.
Don’t be surprised if the Lions win their first division title since 1993. As of Monday, oddschecker lists them as the favorite (-850) to win the NFC North.
Mike McDaniel, Miami Dolphins | Record: 7-3
In his second season in Miami, McDaniel has proved he’s an offensive mastermind The Dolphins are first in the NFL in points per game (30.5) and passing yards (291 YPG).
“The offensive numbers and production speak for themselves,” an anonymous defensive coach told The Athletic’s Mike Sando. “He is calling the offense, he is designing the offense, he’s creating the motions we haven’t seen in the NFL before. They look Canadian to us.”
Expect Miami to make the playoffs for a second straight season and win its first AFC East title since 2008. As of Monday, oddschecker gives the Dolphins the best odds to win the division (-450).
Kevin O’Connell, Minnesota Vikings | Record 6-5
Minnesota WR Justin Jefferson — a three-time Pro Bowler — has missed six games with a hamstring injury, and starting QB Kirk Cousins suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in Week 8. Despite the injuries to star players, the Vikings have won five of their past six games.
In Week 9 against the Atlanta Falcons, backup QB Joshua Dobbs — who was acquired five days earlier and didn’t know his teammates’ names — entered the game after Jaren Hall suffered a concussion. O’Connell guided Dobbs through every play, leading the Vikings to a shocking victory.
“We might be quickly finding out O’Connell is worth a few points in each game,” wrote Yahoo Sports’ Frank Schwab. “Coach of the Year is a weird award sometimes, but why wouldn’t it be O’Connell?”
Sean Payton, Denver Broncos | Record: 5-5
What a remarkable in-season turnaround in Denver. After a dismal 1-5 start, the Broncos have won four consecutive games and are back in the playoff hunt.
Somehow, Payton has re-ignited a Denver defense that allowed 70 points — the most in a game since 1966 — in a Week 3 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Per Pro Football Focus, the Broncos have forced 12 takeaways over the past three games.
He’s also salvaging QB Russell Wilson. After throwing for a career-low 16 TDs in 2022, the former Pro Bowl has tossed 19 TDs this season, tied for third in the NFL.
DeMeco Ryans, Houston Texans | Record: 6-4
From 2020-22, the Texans won 11 games, so it appeared Ryans was in for a long rebuild. However, they’ve transformed into a potential playoff team under the rookie HC. The New York Times simulator gives Houston a 63 percent chance to make the postseason.
Rookie QB C.J. Stroud — second in the NFL in passing yards (2,962) — is thriving under Ryans, strengthening his COTY case. As of Monday, oddschecker gives him the second-best odds (+350) of winning the award.