Best of NFL: NFC North coaches
By Kevin Seifert
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As part of Best of the NFL Week on ESPN.com, here are five bests for the NFC North:
Best game face, Lovie Smith: Chicago Bears fans have grown frustrated over the years with Smith's placid sideline demeanor. They wonder why Smith isn't more emotional and if he could possibly be as disconnected from the game action as he appears to be. I actually think it's a positive attribute. Smith always projects calm amid the chaos of an NFL sideline. If the head coach is flipping out during the game day roller coaster, what can he expect from players?
Best coach-GM tandem, Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson: All successful NFL men have some level of ego about them, but the important factor in the Green Bay Packers' leadership is that neither McCarthy nor Thompson appears to have ambitions for the other's job. Thompson stocks the team and McCarthy runs it as he sees fit. The best example of their ability to work together: McCarthy has never, ever expressed any public dissatisfaction with Thompson's reluctance to participate in veteran free agency. Many coaches would be outraged. Thompson, meanwhile, doesn't appear interested in questioning McCarthy's strategic decisions or inserting himself into daily operations of the locker room in any way.
Most excitable, Gunther Cunningham: The Detroit Lions' defensive coordinator has always had a fiery personality. (Don't believe me? Check out his star turn on HBO's Hard Knocks a few years ago when he was with the Kansas City Chiefs.) Cunningham is a hoot to watch on the sideline, often literally spitting out his words and leaving little left to the imagination. One of Lions coach Jim Schwartz's primary game day tasks is to keep Cunningham below the boiling point.
Best schemer, Dom Capers: The Packers' defensive coordinator has enjoyed a career renaissance in two years with the Packers. It might be too late to earn him another shot as a head coach, but Capers has re-certified himself as one of the most innovative minds in the game. The Packers seemingly have a different defense for every game, and Capers isn't afraid to reveal a new look at any time. One of many examples: A new zone blitz call in the NFC Championship Game surprised Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie and led to nose-tackle B.J. Raji's interception return for a touchdown.
Best aura, Leslie Frazier: The Minnesota Vikings' new coach carries himself with an admirable combination of confidence, humility, passion and patience. Mix it all together and the subconscious message is this: I'm in control. Make no mistake, that aura is a crucial ingredient of leadership. Frazier is neither overconfident nor nervous. Like any coach, Frazier will have to demonstrate that his initial impression is accurate. He'll also have to prove himself as an administrator and from a global scheme standpoint. But from the start, players will have no question about the authenticity of their leader.