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Four Corners: Which NFL coach most overachieved this season?

Baltimore Sun

Surprises in CincinnatiKen Murray, Baltimore Sun

Until the Broncos took their dreadful nose dive, you could have made a case for Josh McDaniels.

But the only guy who can claim this title is Marvin Lewis, who continues to pull surprises out of his hat in Cincinnati, albeit not always good ones.

Lewis lifted his bedraggled franchise again this season, playing through injuries (see Antwan Odom), bad luck (see the opener against Denver) and worst of all, tragedy (see Chris Henry).

Lewis resuscitated Cedric Benson's career, delivered a defense that scared somebody and turned a Carson Palmer team into a run-first team. He swept the AFC North to earn his second division title in six years.

Every other coach who won his division had superior talent, not that the Bengals are devoid. But they carry a lot of baggage.

kmurray@tribune.com

Turner sparked ChargersSam Farmer, Los Angeles Times

I certainly wouldn't have written this through the first five games of the season, when the Chargers were 2-3, but Norv Turner has done this season's best coaching job to this point.

To lose the anchors of your offensive and defensive lines for most of the season - Pro Bowl center Nick Hardwick and All-Pro defensive tackle Jamal Williams - and still tear off a club-record 11-game winning streak is phenomenal.

The Chargers have a lot of talent, true, but many of those were no-name players developed in San Diego's system. You have to be doing something right to win 18 consecutive games in December, beat the red-hot Cowboys in Dallas, blow out Vince Young and the Titans in Tennessee.

The true test, of course, is getting the job done when it counts most. For that, we'll see.

sfarmer@tribune.com

Lewis did more with lessDan Pompei, Chicago Tribune

Winning 10 games and finishing first in the tough AFC North are achievements hardly anyone expected of the Cincinnati Bengals. So Marvin Lewis was the biggest overachieving coach of the 2009 season. Others who did more with less were the Broncos' Josh McDaniels, the Jets' Rex Ryan and even the Saints' Sean Payton.

Lewis reshaped the Bengals' offense by introducing balance to the equation. With Cedric Benson providing a legitimate running game, the Bengals' passing game had more room to breath.

On defense, Lewis allowed coordinator Mike Zimmer to do his thing, and Zimmer rewarded Lewis with an aggressive unit that came up with 29 takeaways. Lewis might not have had as much talent on his roster as some coaches, but he got as much out of his talent as anyone.

dpompei@tribune.com

Not the Bungles this year, Sun SentinelJoseph Schwerdt

So can we say the Raiders' Tom Cable is the NFL's overachieving coach of the year? Let's not. But he deserves a mention for winning five games with Al Davis' flotsam and jetsam.

How about the Packers' Mike McCarthy? Aaron Rodgers was harassed all year, but the Pack won 10 games and have nice momentum heading into the playoffs.

But the clear winner here is the Bengals' Marvin Lewis, who led his band of miscreants to 10 wins and a division title. Could you imagine at the start of the season the Bungles would have dispatched the champion Steelers and the hard-nosed Ravens to sweep the AFC North?

Lewis' demeanor offered a nice balance to Chad Ochocinco's noise, and he helped the team past the death of receiver Chris Henry.

jschwerdt@tribune.com

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