The top-10 photos from the New Orleans Saints vs Philadelphia Eagles game on Saturday, January 4, 2014. Photos taken by Michael C. Hebert (New Orleans Saints photos)
- There are two current NFL coaches that are multiple Super Bowl winners. One is Bill Belichickof the Patriots, who has won four. The other? Tom Coughlin, of the New York Giants, whose two Super Bowl wins came at the expense of Belichick and the Patriots. So when the New Orleans Saints host the Giants in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Nov. 1, the Giants will enter with a coach who currently has 175 victories (163 in the regular season) and three Super Bowl rings (one won as an assistant). True, Coughlin has been on the "hot seat" probably more often than any other current coach. But it's a testament to his ability to stay the course, to produce consistent winners, that he's entering his 11th season with the Giants and his 19th as a head coach (remember, he was the first coach for the then-expansion Jacksonville Jaguars, and led that franchise to two AFC championship games). A coach with two rings deserves all the respect he receives.
- If you don't appreciate the job that Bruce Arianshas done with the Cardinals, you haven't been paying attention. Twice in the last three seasons – while employed by two different organizations – the former Saints tight ends coach (1996) has been named NFL Coach of the Year. In 2012, while serving as interim coach for the Colts after Chuck Paganowas diagnosed with leukemia, Arians led Indianapolis to a 9-3 record before handing over the team back to a recovered Pagano. He again was named Coach of the Year when Arizona posted an 11-5 mark last year, tying a franchise record for wins despite losing starting quarterback Carson Palmerafter six games. Others may have more name recognition, but Arians has results.
- Now, about Pagano – he's pretty good in his own right. While Arians has been straightening out the Cardinals the last two seasons, Pagano has been proving that all the good things that happened while Arians was interim coach could be improved upon with Pagano back full time as head coach. In each of the last two seasons, the Colts have gone 11-5. And in each, they've advanced one step farther in the playoffs – from the wild card game in 2012, to the AFC divisional round in '13, to the AFC championship game last season. Pagano has constructed an elite offense around quarterback Andrew Luck and the Colts are Super Bowl contenders.
- It's easy to forget that the Bears rediscovered the road to respectability under Lovie Smith, what with all the criticism he received as coach in Chicago. But Smith proved to be a winner in Chicago (nine seasons, six with at least eight wins, three NFC North Division titles, two NFC championship game appearances and one trip to the Super Bowl). The Buccaneers are counting on the same thing and though Smith's maiden voyage was rocky – Tampa Bay was 2-14 last season – the Bucs believe they have a young, talented quarterback (Jameis Winston) and know that they have an emerging defense, which is Smith's forte. They could be troublemakers in the NFC South Division for years to come.
- Much of the NFL offseason was spent with people questioning whether Chip Kellyknew what he was doing, personnel-wise. It's not often that, in consecutive offseasons, a team parts ways with a game-breaking receiver (DeSean Jackson), a game-breaking running back (LeSean McCoy) and a quarterback (Nick Foles) who, in his first season as a starter, threw 27 touchdowns and two interceptions. And yet, Kelly, in his first two years with the Eagles, produced consecutive 10-6 seasons. His fast-break offense has been a headache for NFL opponents. If he can put a defense on the field that compliments his offense, the Eagles will be even more formidable.