NFL COACH OF THE YEAR VOTING
While we are still a few weeks away from the NFL unveiling its official award winners for the 2021 season, we here at The Draft Network feel like there’s no need to wait. The regular season has concluded and the final resumes for players and coaches have been submitted. Let’s pick some winners!
The TDN staff put together their ballots for MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, and Coach of the Year. The Offensive Player of the Year award was intentionally omitted to make the MVP race a little more interesting. More than a dozen TDN scouts and writers submitted their ballots listing the top five players/coaches for each category. First-place votes received five points, second-place votes received four points, and so on and so forth. Tie-breakers were decided in the following order: Number of first-place votes, number of ballot appearances, number of second-place votes.
Let’s get to it! Below, you will see the list of every player who received at least one vote from a TDN staff member. Here is how the voting shook out for Coach of the Year, starting with our winner.
COACH OF THE YEAR
2021 NFL COTY: Matt LaFleur
Key Stats: 13-4 record, NFC North Champion, No. 1 seed in NFC
Why Matt LaFleur Deserved To Be COTY
Jack McKessy: Matt LaFleur became the Packers’ head coach in 2019 on the heels of back-to-back losing seasons under Mike McCarthy. Since the combined 13-18-1 records in those last two McCarthy seasons, LaFleur has gone 39-10. This year, Green Bay had to deal with drama surrounding not only Aaron Rodgers but Davante Adams as well before the 2021 season even began. During the season, there was only more Rodgers drama: his first game had many wondering whether he was already tuned out for the season, and then there was the whole “immunized” issue. On top of all of that, LaFleur and the Packers had to handle injuries to three of their best and most important players: LT David Bakhtiari, CB Jaire Alexander, and EDGE Za’Darius Smith. Through it all, LaFleur led the Packers to win after win after win, all the way to securing the NFC’s No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs by Week 17 of the regular season. They are the first team in NFL history to win 13 games in three straight seasons, and LaFleur clearly deserves a ton of credit for that.
Ryan Fowler: While having Aaron Rodgers running the show obviously helps, Matt LaFleur has maneuvered his way through a litany of obstacles to firmly place himself as the favorite for Coach of the Year. With organizational cornerstones in David Bakhtiari and Jaire Alexander out for a majority of the season, at 13-3, anything less than a Super Bowl appearance would be a disappointment. 26-9 through 35 regular-season games as Green Bay’s head bench boss over the last three seasons, LaFleur finally receives his hardware.
Justin Melo (Mike Vrabel): Mike Vrabel has worked his magic with the injury-riddled Titans all throughout 2021. The Titans set the NFL record for the most players (92) used in a single season and somehow rarely missed a beat. Many wrote off their postseason chances at Halloween when superstar running back Derrick Henry suffered a serious foot injury. Fast forward to now and Vrabel's Titans wrapped up the top seed in the AFC with a victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday. Tennessee's injury issues extended far beyond losing Henry. Receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones have missed several contests while leaving quarterback Ryan Tannehill butchered in the pass-catching department. They've started an astounding five different left tackles throughout the course of the season. None of this mattered as the remaining healthy Titans took on the personality of their head coach, refused to make excuses, and continued to win games at an extremely efficient clip.
Zach Cohen (Mike Vrabel): Matt LaFleur is a great coach. Let’s get that out of the way. So why was I the only one to not include LaFleur on my COTY ballot? Coaches shouldn’t get rewarded for having great players, let alone a Hall of Fame quarterback. Yes, Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay have been better under LaFleur than they were with Mike McCarthy. But that’s more of a testament to LaFleur’s COTY case in years one and two. This is year three. And what did LaFleur do in Year 3? He won the NFC North, clinched a first-round bye, and established the Packers as Super Bowl favorites. For the most part, that was all expected.
You can’t reward coaches for inheriting top talent and simply doing what he’s been doing. My first-place vote, Mike Vrabel, clinched the No. 1 seed with his star running back injured for half of the season. Vrabel clearly exceeded expectations, while LaFleur simply met them. Again, LaFleur is a great coach who deserves praise. He just didn’t surpass expectations like other coaches did this season, namely Vrabel and Zac Taylor.
Crissy Froyd (Zac Taylor): It’s been a year of ups and downs for the Bengals, but the highs have been notable and a lot of that is a credit to coach Zac Taylor. It wasn’t long ago that Cincinnati had an unsightly record of 7-6 with struggles to go with it, but the Bengals were on a three-game winning streak before a close loss to the Browns without their starters. What’s most significant here, though, is the year-over-year improvement this team has shown—things are clicking and there are some exciting things in the future with this offense and some of the most important pieces are in place. Please see quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase for reference as a starting point.