The AFC North has featured some outstanding performances from quarterbacks, rookies and defensive playmakers this season. The division has also had some strong efforts from coordinators, too.
The coordinators in the AFC North have turned around units, maintained excellence through injuries to star players and groomed rookies.
Here are the candidates for the best coordinator in the AFC North this year:
Jay Gruden, offensive coordinator, Bengals: Cincinnati got rid of two of the most productive offensive players in team history, quarterback Carson Palmer and receiver Chad Ochocinco, and replaced them with rookies, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. While it's easy to see the talent of the first-year players now, that transition is a challenge for anyone especially a new coordinator. The Bengals rank 12th in scoring (23.5 points) and 18th in yards per game (334.6).
Dick Jauron, defensive coordinator, Browns: Jauron changed Cleveland's style while taking over a young defense. He went from Rob Ryan's helter skelter schemes to a more simplified one that relied on discipline. The result: the Browns went from No. 22 in defense last year to No. 6 this year. In Cleveland's four wins, the defense has given up an average of 12 points.
Chuck Pagano, defensive coordinator, Ravens: Baltimore ranks third in both fewest yards allowed (292.3) and fewest points given up (16.5). But Pagano's influence in his first year as coordinator has been increasing the pressure. The Ravens lead the NFL with 38 sacks, 11 more than they had all of last year. More hits on the quarterback has led to more turnovers. Baltimore is tied for the most takeaways in the AFC with 22.
Dick LeBeau, defensive coordiantor, Steelers: LeBeau often gets overlooked because it's assumed that Pittsburgh will always be among the elite defenses in the NFL. The Steelers haven't created as many turnovers as in years past, but they're still second in fewest yards (277.5) and fourth in fewest points (17.1). LeBeau's impact has been his ability to keep the Steelers playing strong defense despite six starters in the front seven missing at least one game.
So, who has done the best job at coordinator this year? Go ahead and register your vote or let me know what you think in the comments section below. I'll follow up by the end of the week.