Is Mike Smith an 'ascending' coach?

Check out Herm Edwards’ Insider piece in which he ranks all the NFL head coaches.

I can’t give you the whole rundown here, but let’s just say he’s got the NFC South head coaches about where you would expect. We obviously still are finding out what Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano is all about and, to a lesser extent, I think the same can be said about Carolina’s Ron Rivera.

So let’s talk about where Edwards ranked New Orleans’ Sean Payton and Atlanta’s Mike Smith.

Edwards has Payton in the “elite’’ category. No argument here since Payton has won a Super Bowl and a lot of other games. But Payton is kind of a moot point right now since he’s serving a season-long suspension. I think the real question is if assistant head coach Joe Vitt, who will return from a suspension after six games, and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, who will take on the duties of head coach in the first six games, can come anywhere close to Payton’s level of success.

Despite all the Saints have been through this offseason, I wouldn’t bet against Kromer or Vitt. I think any head coach that has Drew Brees as his quarterback has a chance to look pretty good.

Now, let’s turn to Smith. Edwards ranks him in the “ascending’’ category. I think Smith is a very good coach, but I don’t think ascending is the word I’d use to describe his current status. I do think Smith, who has won 43 games in his first four seasons, could ascend into the elite category if he wins a couple of playoff games this season. But, until Smith does show he can win in the postseason, I think you have to come up with a different category for him. The phrase “holding pattern’’ comes to mind. We’ll find out in January if Smith is cleared for landing.