In this season of NFL parity, the difference is the coach.
The parity is evident everywhere. There are two divisions that are tied for the top spot and five that have a one game differential for that same position. The Kansas City Chiefs are the sole division leaders that have created some breathing room for themselves.
But Monday night's New England Patriots–New York Jets game aptly illustrated how the coach is the separator. Or as President Bush once said, "The Decider." Both teams went into the game tied for the lead of the AFC East with 9-2 records. The media were singing the praises of Rex Ryan as one of the NFL best coaches.
Coaching the team up.
Three NFL head coaches have been fired from their positions this season, the most recent being young Josh McDaniels of the Denver Broncos on Monday afternoon. Successful head coaches have the ability to coach a team up, to be better than their opponent when the talent is evenly matched. Again, look at the Patriots. This is a team of players - not superstars - who have been taught the fundamentals, and week after week they show progress. This is the Belichick way.
Let's talk about parity ...
As noted by Sports Illustrated on Monday,
Baltimore and Pittsburgh have played four times in the past two years.
Baltimore 2 wins, Pittsburgh 2.
Baltimore 67 points, Pittsburgh 67.
Baltimore 7 touchdowns and 6 field goals, Pittsburgh 7 touchdowns and 6 field goals.
These two teams define the trend.
But it was Head Coach Mike Tomlin who led the Pittsburgh Steelers this week to an impressive win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday which included 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for a come-from-behind victory. Tomlin was able to inspire his team to stay committed to all 60 minutes of the game. He's why the Steelers, not the Ravens, are now atop the AFC North.
He's the difference maker.