NFL coaching rankings has one surprise list has usual suspects first, but then an ex-Colts assistant makes the top 10, four spots ahead of Chuck Pagano.

Where Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano shows up in’s subjective coaching rankings isn’t much of an eyebrow raise.

But the man four spots ahead of him might come as a bit of a surprise.

Former Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who parlayed his impressive interim Colts gig while Pagano was battling leukemia in 2012 into the Arizona Cardinals job, is ranked seventh in NFL Media analyst Elliot Harrison’s NFL power rankings released earlier this week.

Arians was thinking retirement after not being retained as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive coordinator. Then Pagano phoned and while undergoing treatment he watched Arians coach the Colts to nine wins. Arians has since gone 21-12 in two seasons with the Cardinals.

Harrison writes, “Arians just won his second Coach of the Year award in three years — and he wasn’t even officially a head coach when he captured it in 2012 for his work with the Colts as Chuck Pagano’s temporary fill-in. Running his own ship in Arizona, Arians has gone 10-6 and 11-5 in the past two seasons, despite dealing with a flurry of injuries last year that would have deep-sixed many teams. The next step for Arians is to win in the playoffs.”

Technically, all of Arians’ Colts wins count toward Pagano’s record. There’s no denying Pagano has had his share of progressive success with three consecutive 11-5 seasons and a 3-3 playoff record including one AFC Championship Game.

Perhaps Harrison is ranking Arians ahead of Pagano because the Cardinals coach has done more with less. Since the Colts drafted quarterback Andrew Luck with the 2012 No. 1 overall pick, the franchise changed dramatically for the better.

Arians has built a winner without the benefit of having quarterback Carson Palmer stay healthy. It’s been more about great Cardinals defense and just enough offense.

Harrison writes about Pagano, “Back in 2012, no one really knew what to think of Pagano —specifically with regard to what kind of job he could do. He’d implemented a plan for the Colts, only to miss almost the entire season while fighting leukemia. Yet, over the last two seasons, Indianapolis has improved, winning one additional playoff game each season. His players play for him, and that, as much as anything, is indicative of a solid head coach.”

The rest of the list is fairly predictable. Those who have won Super Bowls — or reached that game — in addition to successful longevity crack the top 10. Then come coaches who have won but haven’t been around long or if they have, they’ve been unable to consistently succeed in the playoffs.

That Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis checks in at No. 12 might prompt some second-guessing from people quick to remind that he’s never won a playoff game in a dozen seasons. When media folks comprise hot seat lists, Lewis inevitably makes them.

The New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick, with four Super Bowl rings as a head coach in addition to two more while he was New York Giants defensive coordinator, is the obvious choice for No. 1.

The Seattle SeahawksPete Carroll, who won the Super Bowl two years ago and came within a late interception of repeating in February, is No. 2. John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens and Mike McCarthy of the Green Bay Packers, who have each won a Super Bowl, are third and fourth, respectively.

Rounding out the top 10 are the New Orleans SaintsSean Payton, Steelers’ Mike Tomlin, Arians, Giants’ Tom Coughlin, Chicago Bears’ John Fox and Kansas City Chiefs’ Andy Reid.

The second 10 are Pagano, Lewis, Philadelphia EaglesChip Kelly, Dallas CowboysJason Garrett, St. Louis RamsJeff Fisher, Detroit LionsJim Caldwell, Carolina Panthers’ Ron Rivera, Tampa Bay BuccaneersLovie Smith, Buffalo Bill’s Rex Ryan and Denver BroncosGary Kubiak.

The bottom 12 are the Tennessee Titans’ Ken Whisenhunt, San Diego Chargers’ Mike McCoy, Houston Texans’ Bill O’Brien, Minnesota VikingsMike Zimmer, Miami Dolphins’ Joe Philbin, Oakland Raiders’ Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars’ Gus Bradley, Cleveland Browns’ Mike Pettine, Washington Redskins’ Jay Gruden, New York Jets’ Todd Bowles, Atlanta Falcons’ Dan Quinn and San Francisco 49ers’ Jim Tomsula.

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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