Sizing up the coaching situations

Q: I know he's won multiple times already, but why isn't Bill Belichick getting more love for Coach of the Year? Gronkowski has missed most of the year, Brady is having an off year, they have no stars on defense...yet they're 9-3 and fighting for the No. 1 seed.

Bob in Philadelphia

A: Because he has Tom Brady, the expectation is the Patriots will win 11 or 12 games a year. Clearly, Belichick's coaching is part of the reason the Patriots are so successful. Often, Coach of the Year honors go to a first-year coach. Andy Reid has guided a 2-14 team to an 11-3 record. That's hard for any longtime coach to beat. It's like trying to argue Offensive MVP voting when Peyton Manning is putting up record numbers. Belichick can expect to get a later honor five years after he retires. He's the leading candidate from the current group of coaches to go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Q: I have an issue with Mike Tomlin's sideline fiasco, hopefully you can help. We've all seen the play 100 times and he was obviously in the thick white line at the edge of the field. Why aren't Tomlin and the Steelers facing penalties comparable to the Patriots' Spygate saga?

Jeremy in Seattle

A: Simple. Spygate went on for years. Tomlin's sideline act was one play. He is getting penalized severely for the mistake. He loses $100,000. The team could lose a draft choice. It's pretty clear Roger Goodell didn't believe Tomlin's act was intentional because he kept Tomlin on the NFL's Competition Committee. Tomlin made a mistake -- a bad mistake. And the penalty fit the offense.

Q: Do you think the new collegiate playoff system will entice college players to stay in school longer? Maybe Marcus Mariota believes he has a better chance to make the national championship next year.

Charlie in New Canaan, Conn.

A: I don't think it will have much of an impact. Only two teams are getting an additional chance to play for a championship. If a player has a chance to make money and leave school, he's going to leave school. There is a possibility a quarterback or two might stick around. It sometimes benefits guys at that position to stay an extra year. But aside from one or two players, I don't think it will be much of an impact.

Q: There has been a lot of talk about the quality of play being worse in the NFL this season. Some blame it on injuries and others on parity. My question is two-fold: 1) In your opinion has the quality of play been worse than in recent years? 2) If so, could it have something to do with the "mid-market" of quality veterans giving way to a few top-paid stars and increasing numbers of younger, cheaper players?

Thomas in Sweeden

A: I think there is a drop off, but I wouldn't say football has been terrible this season. The salary cap and injuries have played a big role in the slight dip in quality of play. Teams that are tight against the cap are picking younger, cheaper players instead of higher-priced veterans. Because of that, depth at most positions are thin. Injuries are up 12 to 14 percent from last year, so teams are asked to use more backups, and therein lies the problem. Still, games have been close and exciting. The NFL doesn't have a major problem, but it needs to create a developmental league to help ease the depth problems.

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