By Robert Weintraub
All the vacant head coaching jobs in the NFL have now been filled, with the exception of the Cleveland gig (the Browns are still accepting applications, in case you haven't sent your résumé to them yet). From Bill O'Brien to Jay Gruden, the newly hired coaches are competent enough, but none fill the heart with awe (in particular Jim Caldwell.) But it's hard to blame the teams that filled vacancies during this silly season -- it's not like the perfect coach was out there waiting for a phone call.
Just what would the perfect coach look like? So glad you asked. Your pigskin Dr. Frankenstein is here to build him out of pieces of active coaches roaming the NFL sideline.
Left brain: Bill Belichick
If there were any doubts Belichick is the finest systematic mind in the league, this season buried them. Our perfect coach will get his personality elsewhere. When it comes to building game plans, varying schemes and making in-game or in-season adjustments, Belichick is the best. This Frankencoach won't be an unthinking monster, that's for sure.
Right brain (passing): Sean Payton
The right side is the creative area of the brain, and no coach is as innovative and imaginative as the Saints offensive wizard -- certainly when it comes to winging it down the field. When it comes to running the ball, however, we'll look to a different medulla oblongata. …
Right brain (running): Chip Kelly
There, that's a combination that can't be bested! As Kelly proved in his debut season, his schemes left gaping holes in opposing defenses for LeSean McCoy, et al, to gallop through.
Adrenal glands: Pete Carroll
No coach is as day-in, day-out enthusiastic as the Seattle ringleader. We want the players on our team to compete every game and every practice; heck, even in minicamp and OTAs. Carroll ensures that with his endless energy. If, like so many of his players, it turns out his boundlessness is chemically enhanced, that's fine -- our perfect coach doesn't have to include morality.
Chameleon skin: Tom Coughlin
Schematic adaptability is crucial to our perfect coach, but so is personal adaptability. Few coaches, especially ones who have tasted success, are able to significantly change their approach when the need arises. Coughlin's martinet style wore thin with the Giants, and to his credit, Coughlin recognized he needed to adapt or die (or get fired, which is the same thing to a head coach). So he stopped pretending he was in the British Navy, and began to relate to his players well enough to spur them to a pair of championships.
Guts: Chuck Pagano
We want our team to have fortitude and a never-say-die attitude, and no coach personifies that like Pagano, who of course fought off a life-threatening disease to coach and win. Usually it's the players who are thought of as brave, but thanks to Chuck, so is our perfect coach.
Affability: Bruce Arians
Most head coaches have some appealing traits, but few are genuine nice guys. Arians fits the bill, having been good buddies with some of the game's great quarterbacks, including Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck. Anyone who can be pals with that diverse group must likeable. There's no reason winning has to be accomplished by the surly -- our coach will win and be liked.
Toughness: John Fox
Sure, this is an easy call in terms of Fox's recovery from heart surgery earlier in the season. Anyone who goes from the intensive care unit to the Super Bowl is one tough hombre (and thankful, too.) But Fox doesn't get enough credit for essentially willing himself to the NFL's top job. Even his first boss and mentor, Claude Gilbert, who hired Fox as a graduate assistant back in the paleolithic days at San Diego State, is surprised the kid who got him coffee once upon a time is now at the top of the profession. He's been fighting for every inch since he walked on with the Aztecs as a player. Our perfect coach needs some of that fighting spirit.
Heart: Rex Ryan
Ryan's heart is sound, and in this case, we want his empathy rather than his fortitude. No coach in the league engenders love from his players like Rex, as is vividly illustrated in the recent book Collision Low Crossers, by Nicholas Dawidoff, who spent a season behind the scenes with the Jets, falling in love with Ryan himself. The scene in the Jets locker room after the team saved Rex's job with a win in the final game ("You'd think we won the Super Bowl," said Geno Smith) was testimony to the way his players feel about him.
Balls: Jim Harbaugh
Nobody let's 'em swing like the Niners head coach. He was swagger-ific as a player, plunging into massive piles after fumbles and coming away with the ball. At Stanford, Harbaugh famously went after the biggest kid on the block, Pete Carroll's USC Trojans, and had the Men of Troy chasing his tail after just a couple of seasons. He took over in San Francisco from a coach who supposedly was the embodiment of toughness, Mike Singletary, and instantly made the red and gold the baddest team on the block. It's hard to quantify just how much success in the NFL comes from attitude, but we definitely want a coach with tons of it.
Lungs: John Harbaugh
Given the hellacious working hours Harbaugh puts in, at least according to this story, he has the stamina and drive to give our perfect coach the ability to outwork the opposition -- while not nodding off mid-game due to lack of REM sleep.
Fingers: Ron Rivera
Our perfect coach will go for it regularly on fourth down, wagging four fingers in the air as his signal to keep the offense on the field. The key to Carolina's success this season, even beyond its howling defense, was Riverboat Ron's pointing to Cam Newton and telling the punter to stay on the bench. Except when he absolutely had to in the divisional game against the Niners that is. Frankencoach won't make that mistake.
Tongue: Mike Tomlin
In victory and defeat, Tomlin always wins the press conference. Anyone who responds to a tough November with, "We will unleash hell in December" can coach my team any day, if only for the rhetorical flourish. Tomlin is like a Samuel L. Jackson monologue come to life. Maybe the importance of the good old-fashioned locker room stemwinder is diminished in the jaded NFL, but you need to have a frontman who inspires confidence and trust when thrust before the camera, even if his team doesn't. That is Tomlin's gift.
Spatial relations, however, not so much.
Girth: Mike McCarthy
We need our coach to have some extra padding for those cold January playoff games, and no perfect coach can wear a puffy down jacket that turns him into the Michelin Man. McCarthy has the weight to ensure nothing more than a sharp windbreaker is required, even when the Alberta Clipper blows in and creates some frozen tundra.
Eyes: Andy Reid
No coach can spot "his" quarterback like Reid. It takes a particular breed of accurate, yet mobile, passer to run his West Coast passing system, and Reid has espied Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick and now Alex Smith. Drilling down, Reid also uses his hawk-like vision to hunt for open spaces in the flats and seams while watching video, the better to create the short passing plays he loves. We'll also take Reid's mustache for our Frankencoach. Fear not -- we'll mine other coaches for the clock-management part.
Ego: Marvin Lewis
For players, a healthy ego is a positive trait. For coaches, it tends to foul things up. In particular, it helps to let assistant coaches, especially coordinators, do their thing. Lewis, of course, was the mastermind behind one of the best defenses ever, the 2000 Ravens, and it would be within his purview if he took control of the defense in Cincinnati. Instead, he not only gave the defense to Mike Zimmer, who did a tremendous job, he eschewed credit when reporters tried to maintain Lewis was still pulling the strings. Now that Zimmer (along with offensive coordinator Jay Gruden) is off to become a head coach himself, it would seemingly be time for Lewis to reinsert himself into the defensive game plans. But he will give new coordinator Paul Guenther all the space he needs to succeed. Our perfect coach will have a happy staff, thanks to Lewis' self-esteem.
Hair: Jason Garrett
For that last splash of color that creates the perfect ensemble.
There you have him -- the perfectly assembled head coach. Now all we need is a massive jolt of electricity and a madman to scream, "It's alive!" and an undefeated season is nigh.
A franchise quarterback wouldn't hurt, either.
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Robert Weintraub is the author of the books The Victory Season and The House That Ruth Built. He writes regularly for the New York Times, ESPN.com, Football Outsiders, CJR, Slate and many others. Follow him on Twitter @robwein.