The Associated Press announced five finalists on Wednesday for its Coach of the Year award, as it usually does. The quintet of candidates—the Giants‘ Brian Daboll, the Bills‘ Sean McDermott, the Jaguars‘ Doug Pederson, the 49ers‘ Kyle Shanahan, and the Eagles‘ Nick Sirianni—are each deserving in their own right. Daboll and Pederson led amazing first-year turnarounds. Shanahan led a team down to its third-string quarterback to the the NFC championship, McDermott steered his squad through one of the most frightening injuries in NFL history and Sirianni piloted Philadelphia to a franchise-record 14 wins.
However, three other coaches can plausibly claim to have been snubbed for the league’s most prestigious coaching award. Here’s a look at who else could have slotted into the slate of AP Coach of the Year finalists.
Pete Carroll, Seahawks
The Seahawks were left for dead by many ahead of the 2022 season. In March, Seattle dealt quarterback Russell Wilson—the face of the franchise for a decade—to the Broncos for an assortment of players and draft capital. Seattle looked to be starting over in a minefield of an NFC West that included three 2021 playoff teams, including the defending Super Bowl champion Rams.
Then, domino after domino fell the Seahawks’ direction. Los Angeles fell off the face of the earth. The Cardinals floundered. Quarterback Geno Smith became a revelation while Wilson played the worst football of his career. The result was a playoff bid for a young team and vindication for Carroll in his 13th season in Seattle.
Dan Campbell, Lions
Coaching stability is something that has been severely lacking in Detroit in recent decades. Since the end of Wayne Fontes’s tenure in 1996, the Lions’ longest-lasting coach has been Jim Schwartz, who led the franchise from 2009-13.
Dan Campbell appears destined to change that pattern in the near future. In his second year with Detroit, Campbell engineered a turnaround from 3-13-1 to 9–8. With the help of offensive coordinator Ben Johnson—a finalist for the AP’s Assistant Coach of the Year honor — Campbell wrung out the league’s fifth-most points per game from of an attack quarterbacked by Jared Goff.
Mike Tomlin, Steelers
Even before 2022, Tomlin was acclaimed as one of the most consistent regular-season winners in NFL history, if not the history of American sports. That reputation grew after guiding the first Steelers team of the post-Ben Roethlisberger era to a turnaround for the ages.
On Oct. 30, Pittsburgh was a miserable 2–6, caught in a quagmire as quarterback Kenny Pickett worked through rookie growing pains. Taking advantage of a soft stretch in late November and early December, the Steelers caught fire. Wins over the Panthers, Raiders and Ravens in late December and early January put them in postseason contention in the season’s final week, and even elimination couldn’t dull the shine of a 16th non-losing season in 16 years for Tomlin.