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In a recent piece on the Coach of the Year award, NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal breaks things down in tiers. The top tier being the top choices for the award. The names on that list include Bruce Arians, Pete Carroll, Mike Smith and Jim Harbaugh. No Belichick.

Here is Rosenthall's reasoning for leaving Belichick off that top tier of coaches.

Belichick's defense hasn't quite made expected strides, but the offense feels years ahead of the competition. He's still the best at situational football and in-game adjustments. A 12-win season for the New England Patriots is taken for granted.

Now he actually does make a good point. One could definitely say the Patriots defense probably has improved in some areas but they haven't made significant strides. Talent wise, they are markedly better. The trade for Aqib Talib and the rise of rookie Alfonzo Dennard has definitely been an upgrade of talent in that secondary. Also, rookies Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower have been heavy contributors. A breakout year for Brandon Spikes has helped as well. The Patriots have also been a top team in terms of turnovers, but that's nothing new.

Still, the Patriots are on pace to give up close to the same amount of yards through the air that they did last year. The Patriots are currently 29th in the league in passing yards per game - whereas they were 31st last year. They've given up 4,133 total yards so far. 4,703 last year.

While, one could argue that's partly a product of Belichick's system, no team wants to just let the opposing offense constantly march up and down the field. The defenses of the early 2000s certainly did not give up this much yardage.

One area where the Patriots have actually gotten worse is with their quarterback pressure. Chandler Jones was a monster in the beginning of the year, but he was all they had to get any kind of pressure. Since his injury in Week 11, he's seen his playing time and contributions dip almost significantly.

Last year, the Patriots ended the season with 40 sacks, good for 14th in the league. They won't be reaching that number in 2012 as they have only 30 with one week to go. Good for 23rd in the league.

Obviously sacks aren't the perfect stat to judge pressure, but it's definitely a more effective measuring stick from an overall team perspective than individual. The goal of the defense is to generate negative plays and sacks are one of the best ways to do that. It's something that will hopefully improve next year.

On a good note, the Patriots run defense has slightly improved (12th this year, 17th last year).

So, no major strides on defense? True enough. However, there's one key factor being overlooked in Rosenthall's argument that should vault Belichick to at least a top candidate for Coach of the Year. Injuries.

The Patriots have been hit hard with extremely major injuries this season. Since Brady has stayed pretty healthy and the Patriots have still been winning games, this hasn't gotten much attention. All the more reason to give kudos to Bill Belichick.

The Patriots offense that Rosenthall gives credit to was virtually reliant on the two tight end set. At least that's what we thought going into the season. That dynamic duo of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski has only been on the field together for three games. And if you want to count games where they've both been healthy, make that one (Hernandez was obviously rushed back in Weeks 6 and 7, and was pulled back). Hernandez suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 2, Gronkowski broke his forearm in Week 11.

That's two major weapons this Patriots offense has been without and yet they've still been able to be the top offense in the league.

That's not even mentioning the other key parts that have missed major time or been placed on injured reserve. Pro Bowler Logan Mankins has missed six games and left early in others. Other key offensive linemen such as Dan Connolly and Sebastian Vollmer have also missed time, yet the Patriots offense hasn't missed much of a beat. Other role players like Julian Edelman who were becoming major contributors went out and Belichick had to fill the void.

On defense, the Patriots have had their share of injuries as well. The aforementioned injury to Chandler Jones was forgotten about after the Patriots went on to hold their next two opponents under 20 points. In fact, aside from the San Francisco game, the Patriots have held all of their opponents to under 20 points since Week 12.

So maybe Bill Belichick won't get a lot of votes for Coach of the Year, but let's not act like he's not deserving. He certainly deserves to be in the discussion with, if not above, an interim coach like Bruce Arians.

The argument that Bruce Arians is working with no talent is a foolish one. Do people forget that the Colts almost completely cleaned out last year's horrible team and injected it with new and young talent? Has anyone thought to consider that the Colts may have replaced their bad players with good players this year? Nope, it's been all about Andrew Luck and Arians. While both deserve a ton of credit, let's stop making it out like the Colts are working with nothing. They're not.

Does Bill Belichick get your vote for Coach of the Year? I think I already know the answer.

Mike Saver 12/28/2012 10:40:00 PM Edit
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