Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians, ARI

Season: 13-3 1st in NFC West, 1st Total Offense, 5th Total Defense

Ron Rivera did a phenomenal job in 2015–the defense was even more dominant than last year and the offense stepped up when they had to, whether it was through Cam’s arm or Jonathan Stewart‘s legs–but Bruce Arians deserves the Coach of the Year award and here’s why:

For starters, the NFC West is a much tougher division than the NFC South is (for now at least). Arizona had to play Seattle and St. Louis twice, both of which have some of the most talented defenses in the league (though both defenses did suffer dips in production in 2015).

Carolina on the other hand, had the benefit of playing New Orleans, Atlanta and Tampa Bay each twice, all of which have some of the worst defenses in the league.

Before the season, CBS Sports ranked all 32 teams according to strength of schedule by combining the 2014 records of all 16 teams that each team was set to play. There are many shortcomings that come with measuring a team’s strength of schedule, one of which is that NFL teams change vastly from year to year. So, it’s unfair to assume a team is going to be as bad/good as they were the year before. With that being said, this is where Arizona and Carolina ended up in the rankings:

5. Arizona Cardinals: 142-113-1, .557

27. Carolina Panthers: 111-145, .434

According to CBS Sports, Arizona had the fifth toughest schedule heading into the 2015 season, while Carolina had the 27th toughest schedule, or the sixth easiest schedule in the league.

Arizona finished first in total offense and fifth in total defense, while Carolina finished 11th in total offense and sixth in total defense.

Carolina may have finished with the league’s best record (14-1), but they did so in one of the league’s least competitive divisions. Ron Rivera did a great job in 2015 and he’s deserving of this award, just not as deserving as Bruce Arians.

Runner Up: Ron Rivera, CAR

I'm a senior journalism and communications major at THE University of Connecticut, as well as a die hard Jets and Knicks fan. College football and basketball have their place in my heart, but the NFL is my pride and joy.