Way too early Coach of the Year candidates for 2024

As we wait patiently for the 2024 season to begin. I want to take an early look at some candidates for the Coach of the Year award. 

It’s a complete unknown – each year there will be someone who enters the race from nowhere and that brings me to the first candidate.

Dave Canales, Carolina Panthers

Canales is the newly appointed Head Coach of the Carolina Panthers. He is tasked with propelling last year’s number one overall draft pick Bryce Young into the limelight. Young was out gunned by the very next pick, C.J Stroud, who was electric.

These two will always be compared and this year is a chance for Young to close that gap. Canales was the OC in Tampa last year and he was in charge of putting together the pieces for Mayfield’s best year as a pro. That gives me hope that he could produce some goods quickly in Carolina. The division is wide open and has been for a few years now.

It will be extremely tough for the Panthers to bounce back but then again the same was said for the 2023 Texans. That shows it can be done. Keep a close eye on this young first time HC, he has the pieces to be successful in Carolina. A place that has a revolving door for the coach.

Antonio Pierce, Las Vegas Raiders

Now we come to someone who is shaking things up a little and that is Antonio Pierce of the Las Vegas Raiders. I haven’t been shy in saying that I believe he is a great fit in Vegas. He has recently received some comments on the negative side, but personally I don’t see why that is the case.

Pierce showed that he can get the defense playing to a high level in 2023. He is changing the culture and most importantly he has a locker room that is fully bought in. Yes, they play the Super Bowl champions twice and they are in a division that has been dominated by the Chiefs, however, teams have and will continue to close the gap on the Chiefs.

The Broncos will have a tough time again and the Chargers are more of a work in progress under Harbaugh. Pierce can take this Raiders team to the playoffs and I believe he will do just that in 2024. That would put him firmly in the picture for this award and I would be surprised if he isn’t a candidate.

Matt LaFleur, Green Bay Packers

Next up comes a coach who has a very talented QB at his disposal once again and that is Matt LaFleur. The Green Bay Packers HC did some great work in his first year post Rodgers. He now has a full off season to add more quality to the roster and to analyse how to improve.

The Packers have strength on both sides of the ball and they have built themselves into being a reliable franchise that knows how to get into the playoffs. I think Love will take a huge leap in his second season as a starter and that leap can only propel LaFleur into the conversation.

He is still such a young HC but in that youth, there is someone of real talent at their job. LaFleur is a solid choice to be in or around this conversation each year.

DeMeco Ryans, Houston Texans

Someone who I felt strongly would win the award last season was DeMeco Ryans. In his first  season he completely transformed a team who were nowhere near relevant. He has an exciting and special QB. He has raw talented players at the skill position.

He is a defensive minded coach who put a stamp on that side of the ball and I can’t see how his Texans side won’t improve from last year to this. This team played with zero fear. They took shot after shot, they won in every fashion, they took down big teams and they looked hungry.

The Texans will add some more talent this off-season and I believe they will add real strength in depth, that leads to improved results and performances. Therefore I cannot see a way in which this exciting team doesn’t move up a gear in 2024. The AFC South is up for grabs and I think it’s the Texan’s for the taking. Ryans embodies what a HC in this day and age can do and caught the imagination of his team and he has an extremely bright future ahead of him.

Dan Campbell, Detroit Lions

The last choice on my list is a tough one. The choice of candidates feels endless but one name sticks out, someone who I think will have a fire burning even brighter than it has done before and it’s Dan Campbell of the Detroit Lions.

Their season ended in a way that will make or break a team. I’m betting on it making this team. Questions will continue to be asked about the fashion in which they lost the NFC Championship game, but you also have to credit someone who sticks to their identity and philosophy regardless of the situation. That doesn’t mean the loss will be any easier to take, but the respect his players have and will have for him, that is special.

In that respect I believe has grown and the Lions have tasted success now, they were so close and that will motivate them to do it all over again, but to go past that point and set a new standard. The NFL has cycles where franchises will taste success repeatedly and others will taste defeat time and time again.

As this goes on there comes a point where teams switch and they taste what they haven’t for a long time, the Lions switched last season and they now have many years hopefully of trying to reach the ultimate glory. As long as Campbell is the Lions HC, he will be a top 5 candidate for the coach of the year award. He is simply too tenacious not to be.

Now you need to think about who your top picks are for this award. Is there a coach who has won it before and might do it again? Is there someone who is floating under the radar? Will one of the big guns sweep away the award? Plenty time still to ponder how it all plays out.