Every year the NFL hands out numerous awards recognising the achievements of certain players and coaches during the season. My personal favourite is the Coach of the Year award.
Now, similarly to every other year, this year's crop of candidates all have their own reasons and achievements for being in consideration for the award.
So let's breakdown some of the top candidates and the reasons for them potentially winning the annual award.
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Bill Belichick - New England Patriots
Bill Belichick is unilaterally viewed as the best coach in the NFL right now and is in the discussion for greatest coach ever.
While I disagree with the latter statement - Chuck Noll has my vote - he is no doubt a legend, and is certainly a top coach of the year candidate.
Over the offseason, the Patriots released a huge amount of talent from their team, more specifically their defence.
Names such as Darelle Revis, Vince Wilfork, Brandon Spikes, Alfonzo Denard, Brandon Browner, and Kyle Arrington all departed for different teams leaving many to wonder whether the Patriots would be able to cope with such a rift of losses on defence.
The Patriots are now ranked fifteenth on defence, more impressively they are ranked second against the run, and second in sacks. Pretty good considering the amount of personnel they lost.
On offence, there is nothing new there. It has been business as usual for Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, while the Patriots also signed a host of no-names who have turned into significant playmakers.
This year, Belichick has coached his Patriots to an undefeated 9-0 record, with the potential to go 16-0.
Considering the Patriots are fresh off a Super Bowl victory in 2014, for Bill Belichick to keep his team in contention for another championship is a fine achievement, but to also have them undefeated, with the potential to go 16-0, it's a testament to his coaching greatness.
If he does manage to go undefeated it will be the second time Belichick will have done so in his tenure as the Patriots head coach, and that will no doubt solidify his place as the 2015 Coach of the Year.
Ron Rivera - Carolina Panthers
Three years ago, the NFC South had never seen a team win the division in consecutive years, but since that time the Carolina Panthers have risen above the rest of their divisional opponents en route to winning the division year after year since 2013.
Wielding an undefeated 9-0 record that ties the Patriots for the best in the NFL, Ron Rivera has accomplished that with a relatively talentless squad if you compare them to the likes of the Cardinals, Bengals, Broncos, and even the Patriots to a lesser degree.
Now, by no account am I calling Cam Newton talentless, nor am I calling the Panthers defence - a unit that has been dominant for years now - talentless. No, by talentless I mean in regards to depth of talent.
The Panthers lost a number of pivotal players over the offseason; Kelvin Benjamin with a season-ending ACL injury, DeAngelo Williams and Greg Hardy to free agency, the release of Thomas DeCoud, and other less notable players.
These losses left many doubting that the Panthers could win the NFC South for a third straight year over the rising Falcons and Buccaneers.
But Ron Rivera's squad has proven the doubters wrong - winning nine straight games, extending their regular season win streak to 12.
They have also established themselves as one of the toughest defences in the league and as one of the most clutch teams, having a number of close-call wins this year.
This type of resiliency that the Panthers play with has been embedded into them by coach Ron Rivera, it's one reason the players love him, and it's the reason the Panthers are undefeated.
Continuing this surprise wave of consecutive wins will no doubt always leave Ron Rivera in the discussion for Coach of the Year, but taking the Panthers further in the playoffs than he has the past two years will definitely solidify his case.
Going as far as an NFC Championship game or even the Super Bowl will make the discussion almost redundant.
Bruce Arians - Arizona Cardinals
Bruce Arians is one of my favourite coaches in the league. His tough love style of coaching, combined with his great coach-to-player relations, makes you wonder why he wasn't selected for a head coaching job years ago.
The Arizona Cardinals are 7-2 and in firm control of the NFC West division for the first time since the days of Kurt Warner back in 2009.
Since Bruce Arians has arrived in Arizona he has led the Cardinals to consecutive double-digit winning seasons and is on his way to a third. He has also taken the Cardinals to back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since 2008-09.
Every year the Cardinals seem to look better, and something that has been very impressive out of Bruce Arians' Cardinals teams is the use of veteran players, and the effectiveness Arians seems to get out of them.
Last year, cornerback Antonio Cromartie played some of his best career football in Arizona. This year Arians has Chris Johnson playing the best he has played since 2012. He has also been using the services of quarterback Carson Palmer since he arrived and the veteran QB is playing at a career high right now.
The Bruce Arians Cardinals are an excuse absent, high octane offensive team, that plays solid to great defence.
While perhaps not viewed as big of a candidate as Belichick or Rivera, Arians has to be credited with coaching his team to excellent records in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL.
Uprooting the Seahawks as division leaders is also a great accomplishment.
If Bruce Arians continues his solid coaching, wins the NFC West, and takes the Cardinals on a deep playoff run - which his team is perfectly capable of - then I don't see a reason why Arians won't win his third head coaching award.
Marvin Lewis - Cincinnati Bengals
Marvin Lewis has consistently had the Bengals in the playoffs since 2011.
Marvin Lewis has lost every single one of those playoff appearances.
This is the biggest obstacle Lewis has to face in winning the Coach of the Year award. His coaching record and team is very respectable, but his playoff record is awful.
Nevertheless, a new year presents new opportunities, and 2015 could be the year Lewis leads the Bengals on a deep playoff run.
Lewis has to be credited with the maturation and growth of quarterback Andy Dalton, he also has to be credited with forming one of the best - if not the best - offenses in the NFL.
The Bengals are stacked at all positions, and they have playmakers all over the place.
Lewis also has to be credited with his coaching colleagues. By that I mean the hiring of Hue Jackson - a great addition to the Bengals team and one that has helped their offence tremendously.
Ex-defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and current defensive coordinator Paul Guenther have been great coaches also.
Sad to say though, despite forming one of the most talented rosters, with one of the best records in the league, Lewis will have no shot at Coach of the Year unless he takes the Bengals to at least the AFC Championship game. Dropping another playoff game won't cut it.
Mike Zimmer - Minnesota Vikings
A few weeks ago Mike Zimmer would be nowhere near this list, but right now I think he deserves a mention.
Uprooting the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North and beginning to look like a very dangerous playoff team is something we all must give Zimmer some respect for.
In just two years with the Vikings, Zimmer has turned the franchise around from perennial bottom feeder to serious competitor with a combination of great drafting, great use of current players, and great scheming.
Winning the NFC North and taking his team nowhere less than an NFC Championship game will surely put Zimmer near the top of the Coach of the Year standings.
In all likelihood, he won't win it this year, but with his guidance, the Vikings could be poised for greater things than the coach of the year trophy.
So right now those are my current Coach of the Year candidates and what they must do in order to win the award.
Do you think I got them right? Was there anybody that I missed? Comment below.
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