Ranking NFL head coaches by tier

There is no way to accurately rank the 32 NFL head coaches, but polling 30 league insiders is a pretty good place to start.

Much like the "QB Tiers" project published earlier in the offseason, I asked what I consider a balanced range of informed voters -- eight current general managers, four former GMs, four personnel directors, four executives, six coordinators and four position coaches -- to provide a 1-5 rating for every head coach. Bill Belichick led the way with 28 votes in the first tier, followed by Pete Carroll (23) and Sean Payton (22). No one else commanded more than a dozen top-tier votes, drawing a clear line after these three coaches in the eyes of the 30 insiders. But another half-dozen coaches were not too far behind, and there were surprises along the way.

Once votes were collected, I averaged the ratings for each coach to produce a 1-32 order. I separated them into tiers at logical cut-off points, based on the voting results (including the tier in which each coach got the majority of his votes, and his average overall score). The general feeling was that NFL coaches tend to be very smart and very good at what they do. We saw that in the ratings. Twenty-three coaches averaged better than a 3.0 on the 1-5 scale (1 was best, 5 worst), and no coaches landed in Tier 5.

Where did every coach rank, and why? We've got the answers below, including some illuminating quotes from the voters on each guy.

Tier 1

1. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots (1.07 average)

Three championships and 11 consecutive seasons with double-digit victories set Belichick apart, as does an 11-5 record when Tom Brady was injured in 2008.

"The most important thing to me is the ability to control the offense, the defense and the special teams," a GM said in describing the ideal coach. "You can change and you can coach multiple things and you have the ability to teach almost every position group. Then you can lose any coach you want and replace from within because the head coach is the talent. Belichick is the ultimate model of that."