With just two ever-important weeks remaining in the 2021 regular season, time is quickly running out for applicable candidates to lay their stake to the claim in regards to this year's plethora of individual honors. We've undeniably reached the witching hour of the current campaign, and we’re officially paying extra close attention to BetOnline’s recently updated odds for the 2021 “NFL Coach of the Year” award.
The current top 10 per the oddsmakers goes as follows:
- Matt LaFleur (+130)
- Zac Taylor (+600)
- Frank Reich (+650)
- Bill Belichick (+750)
- Mike Vrabel (+900)
- Brain Flores (+1600)
- Nick Sirianni (+1600)
- Mike McCarthy (+2200)
- Sean McVay (+2500)
- Andy Reid (+3300)
These updated odds are certainly intriguing and showcase several impressive head honchos who have yet to capture this honor throughout their young coaching careers. This entire list is deserving in one way or another, but these three successful coaches especially stand out.
THE FAVORITE AND MY PICK: MATT LAFLEUR
Largely considered the favorite by the oddsmakers, LaFleur has done a terrific job in his third season as Green Bay's head coach. The Packers own the league's best record at 12-3 and have already locked up the division title in the NFC North. One victory in their final two regular-season contests will also clinch a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
LaFleur has achieved much of his success while carrying the Packers through some difficult, injury-related adversity throughout 2021. Stud left tackle David Bakhtiari has yet to appear in a single contest this season. Second-team All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander hasn't played since Week 4 but is excitingly nearing a return to the field. Fellow injuries to Elgton Jenkins and Za'Darius Smith have furthered the damage to the top half of Green Bay's roster, yet LaFleur's Packers have hardly missed a beat. It's the sign of an excellent coach that prepares his team at the highest level imaginable regardless of the surrounding circumstances. The Packers are legitimate threats to capture Super Bowl LVI, and LaFleur is a big reason why.
A WORTHY UNDERDOG: ZAC TAYLOR
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more surprising and heartwarming success story in 2021 than the one delivered to the masses by the surging Cincinnati Bengals. Taylor's head coaching career began in less-than-ideal fashion. The former Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks coach brought little success to Cincinnati throughout his first two years in charge, as he oversaw a Bengals unit that won just six games in two seasons.
Bengals owner Mike Brown and general manager Duke Tobin decided to stick by Taylor's side and that decision has paid major dividends in 2021. Starting quarterback Joe Burrow has rebounded incredibly from last year's gut-wrenching season-ending knee injury and continues to develop in impressive fashion under Taylor's watchful eye while playing alongside one of the most exciting supporting casts in all of football. Taylor's Bengals are now 9-6 and one victory away from clinching their first AFC division title since 2015.
The AFC North has been particularly competitive in 2021, with the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Cleveland Browns all very much alive in the cluttered race heading into Week 17. If Taylor's men can indeed clinch the division title, his stake to the claim will be as good as anybody's.
DON’T SLEEP ON: BRIAN FLORES
No team has experienced a more peculiar campaign than the one unfolding in South Florida. The Miami Dolphins began the season in shockingly disappointing fashion, having lost seven consecutive games to fall to 1-7. They've dumbfoundedly embarked on an active seven-game winning streak since then and currently own the seventh and final playoff spot in the competitive AFC.
Flores' dedication to his craft has unbelievably flipped Miami's campaign while sending it in a more positive direction. The 8-7 Dolphins have an incredibly difficult close to the regular season, however. They'll square off with the likely playoff-bound Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots in Weeks 17 and 18. The Dolphins will likely need to claim victories in both contests if they hope to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
If Flores' Dolphins can end the season on a nine-game winning streak by rising to the challenge and defeating a pair of Super Bowl contenders in order to guarantee themselves a spot in the dance, Flores' work will deserve your attention.