3 Early Candidates for Next Season’s NFL Coach of the Year

Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel is on Matt's short list of early candidates to win the NFL COY award in 2022-23.
Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel is on Matt's short list of early candidates to win the NFL COY award in 2022-23. / George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA

The 2021-22 season is still ongoing, but there's no harm in taking a look forward to the future that is the 2022-23 NFL season.

In this case, I want to take a look at three head coaches to keep an eye on as possible early candidates for the NFL Coach of the Year Award. 

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let's first review the current consensus odds for the award and get up to speed on who to keep an eye on during the offseason.

As of this writing, Cincinnati Bengals Coach Zac Taylor remains the favorite; with the move to the top coming after the Bengals beat the Chiefs in Week 17 to clinch the AFC North title.

Matt LaFleur of the Green Bay Packers is also in the running as is Mike Vrabel of the Titans. Bill Belichick was favored until the Patriots lost to the Bills and fell out of the top spot in the AFC. 

Now that we’re all caught up on this season, let us take a look at a couple of the best early choices for next season’s COY award. 

Who are Potential Candidates to Win NFL Coach of the Year in 2022-23?

Sean McDermott - Buffalo Bills

While McDermott’s team was going strong for the first half of the 2021-22 season, things quickly fell apart after getting beat by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Still, despite the early season success of the Bills, McDermott didn’t get much love in the betting market for COY.

Back in Week 8, the Bills had a 5-2 record and led the AFC East. Since that game, however, the Bills are just 5-4 and while they still lead the AFC East, they're not as scary of a team as they were early on. 

This does not change the fact that, on paper, the Bills are one of the most talented teams in the NFL. They have a great young QB in Josh Allen along with a potent run game featuring Devin Singletary. Their defense was ranked among the top 5 for most of the season and they still have a shot to win the Super Bowl even after a rough second half. None of this is expected to change much in the offseason and there is a good chance this team could get even better. If they can manage to avoid the second-half slump that almost ruined their current campaign, they could lead the AFC from wire to wire. 

Bill Belichick - New England Patriots

This feels like an auto-include now that the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl hunt. I think Belichick deserves better odds this season than what he is getting but it seems the oddsmakers put him out of the running after losing to his AFC East rival Buffalo Bills in Week 16.

Belichick has done a lot in my eyes to bring this team back from the brink of irrelevancy after Tom Brady left. Now, just two years removed from that departure, Belichick has his team in the running for the AFC title once again. While voter and bettors may have a little Belichick fatigue, the fact remains that he is one of the greats and could coach his way to win his fourth COY award. 

Mike Vrabel - Tennessee Titans

Vrabel, a former player under Belichick, had a really good chance to win the COY award this season had it not been for one untimely injury. After struggling in his first two seasons in Tennessee, Vrabel has led this team to two straight AFC South titles and identical 11-5 records in 2020 and 2021. 

While it sounds like the team has hit their ceiling, the opposite, in fact, is true. The Titans managed to win 11 games this season despite being without Derrick Henry in the second half of the season. Had Henry not gotten injured, it's not unreasonable to assume the Titans finish with 12 or 13 wins and a even better record heading into the playoffs.

This type of situation gives me confidence in Vrabel’s chances to be in the running for COY next year come season’s end.