With the NFL season on track to kick off in just a few months, there’s been plenty of coverage of the best players in the league for the upcoming year. However, in a sport that more often resembles chess than any other athletic endeavor, high-level schematics and coaching are relied upon weekly. In that spirit, I set off to dissect which NFL teams boast the best group of coaches heading into this campaign. The head coach obviously carries the most weight in these rankings, but offensive and defensive coordinators are pretty vital as well.
#32: Cleveland Browns
Head Coach: Kevin Stefanski, Offensive Coordinator: Alex Van Pelt, Defensive Coordinator: Joe Woods
This is the most unproven coaching staff in football, arguably. Stefanski led the Vikings to the 8th highest-scoring offense in 2019 but he only served as an offensive coordinator for one year before becoming a head coach. Alex Van Pelt has only been an offensive coordinator for one year, back in 2009, but has spent several seasons as a quarterbacks coach. Joe Woods was a defensive coordinator in Denver for two years after Wade Philips departed, seeing mixed levels of success, but he was the secondary coach for the Broncos’ defense that powered that team to the Super Bowl 50 win.
#31: Carolina Panthers
Head Coach: Matt Rhule, Offensive Coordinator: Joe Brady, Defensive Coordinator: Phil Snow
I really wanted to rank the Panthers higher, but they’re relying on three coaches who have never filled their respective roles in the NFL. Matt Rhule found some success as the Baylor head coach, quickly turning around that program after NCAA sanctions destroyed their short-term outlook, but he’ll find success tougher to come by in the NFC South this season. Joe Brady previously worked under Sean Payton and the Saints’ staff and orchestrated a record-breaking offense at LSU this past season – he has all kinds of upside as an offensive mind. Phil Snow has been a defensive coach since 1976 but he’s never been a DC. This staff has all kinds of upside.
#30: New York Giants
Head Coach: Joe Judge, Offensive Coordinator: Jason Garrett, Defensive Coordinator: Patrick Graham
Prior to becoming the Giants’ head coach, Judge had only ever been an assistant coach. Working in his favor, though, is that he was an assistant coach for two prolific head coaches – Nick Saban and Bill Belichick. Jason Garrett fell out of favor with the Giants but he’s led several top-five scoring offenses in the past and he should elevate what is an underrated offensive corps in New York. Graham is also inexperienced, but he was previously a position coach under Belichick and continues a long trend of coaches under Belichick finding quick success in elevated roles. This is another coaching staff that is unproven but has a high upside.
#29: Cincinnati Bengals
Head Coach: Zac Taylor, Offensive Coordinator: Brian Callahan, Defensive Coordinator: Lou Anarumo
Zac Taylor was hired by the Bengals in 2019 with a whiff of the Sean McVay cologne that has already landed a handful of head coaching jobs in the NFL. His team got off to a 2-14 record last year, but it’s hard to blame him too much given Ryan Finley started multiple games at quarterback. He was previously the quarterbacks’ coach for McVay’s Rams and spent one unsuccessful season as the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator. Taylor has all the offensive talent in the world at his disposal in 2020 with Joe Burrow, Joe Mixon, A.J. Green, and Tyler Boyd, but Brian Callahan is unproven after finishing with the 30th highest-scoring offense in his first season as an offensive coordinator. Rounding out the staff is Lou Anarumo who was the defensive coordinator on the same 2015 Dolphins team which struggled with Taylor and Callahan on the bench. I’m not sure what to expect from this staff, but they have more experience from the final three teams on the list.
#28: Arizona Cardinals
Head Coach: Kliff Kingsbury, Offensive Coordinator: Kliff Kingsbury, Defensive Coordinator: Vance Joseph
I’m very optimistic about the Cardinals’ potential for 2020, but I can’t possibly rank their coaching staff any higher after Kingsbury had an unsuccessful first season as head coach and OC, going 5-10-1. He has been lauded as an offensive mind, but his Texas Tech teams never ranked inside the top-ten of the AP Poll and only finished with a winning record in two of six seasons. Vance Joseph was unsuccessful as a head coach – he went 11-21 in 2 years with the Broncos – but he’s had a solid career as a defensive assistant and DC and he’ll be working with an awesome group of talent in 2020. The Cardinals have some young, high-upside players all over the field and Kingsbury/Joseph should be able to elevate them toward playoff contention.
#27: New York Jets
Head Coach: Adam Gase, Offensive Coordinator: Dowell Loggains, Defensive Coordinator: Gregg Williams
I do not like Adam Gase. Yes, he helped my Broncos create a historic level of offensive production in 2013 with the leading offense in points and yards, but tell me what’s more realistic – that Peyton Manning, one of the best quarterbacks of all time, or Adam Gase was primarily responsible. Gase has averaged just 7.5 wins across his 4 years as the Jets’ and Dolphins’ head coach and I don’t trust him to elevate any kind of offensive talent – his non-Denver offenses have only finished inside the top-20 in scoring once. Dowell Loggains doesn’t exactly have a great resume, either, only finishing with a top-20 scoring offense one time in his five years as an offensive coordinator. Gregg Williams is likely the best coach on the team with his 21 years of experience as a head coach/defensive coordinator and multiple top-ten scoring defenses led. The Jets defense will likely be great in 2020 (unless Jamal Adams departs in the near future) but I don’t trust the offensive coaching to elevate a mediocre group of talent on that side of the ball.
#26: Jacksonville Jaguars
Head Coach: Doug Marrone, Offensive Coordinator: Jay Gruden, Defensive Coordinator: Todd Walsh
It’s hard to know what Doug Marrone’s ceiling as a head coach is. He has put together a 37-45 career record and has only gone 11-21 over the past two seasons in Jacksonville. And yet, just a couple of years ago in 2017, he was leading the Jaguars to a 10-6 record, 2-1 in the playoffs, and 4 points away from a Super Bowl appearance. The wheels have fallen off in Duval County since then, but I love the hire of Jay Gruden to help right the ship. Gruden fell out of favor after a 35-49-1 record as the Redskins’ head coach, but he’s coached up a handful of top-ten scoring offenses and should be able to maximize the offensive talent in Jacksonville. Gardner Minshew should be a great fit for Gruden’s West Coast offense. Todd Walsh played a major role in the Jaguars’ successes a few seasons ago, averaging the 4th-fewest yards allowed as the Jags’ DC from 2016-2018, but he ranked outside the top-20 in both points and yards allowed in 2019.
#25: Houston Texans
Head Coach: Bill O’Brien, Offensive Coordinator: Tim Kelly, Defensive Coordinator: Anthony Weaver
Perhaps Bill O’Brien’s recently questionable performance as a general manager overshadows my opinion of him as a head coach. To his credit, he has earned 8.7 wins per season in his 6 years in Houston. However, he has an uninspiring 2-4 playoff record and doesn’t seem capable of elevating this team to exceed the natural expectations of a talented roster. He isn’t exactly bolstered with elite coordinators – Tim Kelly and Anthony Weaver have one year of experience in their current roles between them. Last season, Kelly led the offense to the 13th-most yards and 14th-most points in his first year as the offensive coordinator. Anthony Weaver has never been a defensive coordinator but he has worked under Mike Pettine, Rex Ryan, and Doug Marrone. It’s unlikely this coaching staff is good enough to elevate what is a mediocre roster outside of Deshaun Watson and I currently don’t have the Texans in the playoffs this season.
#24: Miami Dolphins
Head Coach: Brian Flores, Offensive Coordinator: Chan Gailey, Defensive Coordinator: Josh Boyer
It’s pretty much impossible for a coach with a losing record to have a legitimate case at coach of the year, although I thought Flores might have been the most deserving last season. The Dolphins’ management tried their darndest to trade away all of the talent on the roster – Kenyan Drake, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Laremy Tunsil were all jettisoned – and Flores led a roster devoid of talent to a shocking 5 wins. With an offseason overhaul of epic proportions, Flores is well-positioned to lead the team back to respectability. Chan Gailey hasn’t coached in the NFL since 2016 although he previously led a Jets team with Ryan Fitzpatrick (now the Dolphins’ QB) at quarterback to a top-12 rank in scoring and yardage. He’s been coaching in the NFL in some capacity since 1985 and while he was unsuccessful as a head coach he’s been very successful as an OC at times. Josh Boyer is much less experienced on the other side of the ball, having never been a defensive coordinator, but he worked alongside Flores under Bill Belichick in New England and should help the Dolphins execute a Patriots-lite defensive approach.
#23: Detroit Lions
Head Coach: Matt Patricia, Offensive Coordinator: Darrell Bevell, Defensive Coordinator: Cory Undlin
I would love to rank the Lions’ staff higher, but Matt Patricia just hasn’t proven he can succeed as a head coach. He previously had some success as a defensive coordinator under Bill Belichick, but he’s only been able to get out to a 3-12-1 and 6-10 record in his first two seasons. Darrell Bevell as the offensive coordinator will help matters – he previously led top-5 scoring offenses for the Vikings and Seahawks. Cory Undlin has never been a defensive coordinator, just an assistant coach for the Eagles, Broncos, and Jaguars, but he previously worked under Bill Belichick and will help Patricia carry out his defensive schemes in 2020. The Lions are one of my dark horse playoff teams this season and Patricia, Bevell, and Undlin could help them get there.
#22: Atlanta Falcons
Head Coach: Dan Quinn, Offensive Coordinator: Dirk Koetter, Defensive Coordinator: Raheem Morris
The Falcons might be ranked higher on this list if Dan Quinn’s seat wasn’t so hot heading into this season. The Falcons are coming off two straight losing seasons and if they aren’t able to turn things around, he might be out after this season. He does have a 43-37 career coaching record, to his credit, and he was previously the defensive coordinator for the Seahawks team that finished 1st in scoring defense and 1st in yards allowed in 2013-14 and won the Super Bowl. His Falcons defenses haven’t found the same level of success, although he did reach one Super Bowl with the team. He’ll be helped by Dirk Koetter at offensive coordinator who helped the offense compile the 5th-most yards in the league in 2019. He’s had a handful of top-10 scoring offenses and led the 3rd-highest yardage offense in 2018 with the Buccaneers. Raheem Morris is another former Bucs’ coach and while he hasn’t been anything more than an assistant coach since 2011, he previously led a top-ten scoring offense with the Buccaneers.
#21: Washington Redskins
Head Coach: Ron Rivera, Offensive Coordinator: Scott Turner, Defensive Coordinator: Jack Del Rio
Ron Rivera was fired after a long tenure as the Panthers’ head coach despite a 76-63-1 record. He has put together a 3-4 record in the playoffs and led the Panthers to an appearance in Super Bowl 50. In his 15-year career, he’s led six top-seven scoring defenses. Scott Turner has limited experience in the NFL with only one year as an offensive coordinator (2019 with the Panthers, 20th in scoring). Turner was previously an offensive assistant, specifically a quarterbacks coach, for a number of teams. Jack Del Rio hasn’t coached since 2017, but he had been coaching since 2002 and has led top-five scoring defenses with three different teams – the Panthers, Jaguars, and Broncos. The Redskins have some awesome defensive coaching on the staff which should help a talented roster succeed on that side of the ball.
#20: Denver Broncos
Head Coach: Vic Fangio, Offensive Coordinator: Pat Shurmur, Defensive Coordinator: Ed Donatell
Vic Fangio had a unique journey to becoming a head coach as he had spent 19 seasons as a defensive coordinator and 33 years in the NFL before his first head coaching gig. Fangio previously led several top-five and top-ten scoring defenses, including the leading scoring defense in 2018 for the Chicago Bears. As a first-time head coach, Fangio led the Broncos to a 7-9 record. Pat Shurmur will be coaching his first season in Denver after a 9-23 record in two years as the head coach for the Giants. He previously led a top-ten scoring offense in Minnesota and two top-five scoring offenses in Philly. His zone-blocking scheme and preference for the West Coast offense should benefit the likes of Drew Lock, Melvin Gordon, Courtland Sutton, and Jerry Jeudy. As the defensive coordinator for the Broncos in 2020, Ed Donatell led a top-12 defense in points and yards allowed. He previously worked under Fangio as the secondary coach for the Bears and has spent time under the tutelage of great coaches in Pete Caroll, John Fox, Jim Harbaugh, Jim Mora, and Mike Shanahan. This Broncos’ coaching staff is well-equipped to lead a talented roster back to the playoffs this season.
#19: Las Vegas Raiders
Head Coach: Jon Gruden, Offensive Coordinator: Greg Olson, Defensive Coordinator: Paul Guenther
Jon Gruden hasn’t quite had the level of success with the Raiders many expected when he was hired in 2018 – he’s finished with a 11-21 record across his first two seasons. He did previously win the Super Bowl as the head coach of the Buccaneers, something that can’t be discounted in these rankings. His career 106-102 coaching record is very solid and he’s also among the cooler dudes who are coaching in the NFL – he’s a guy you’d love to grab a beer with. Greg Olson has had an up-and-down career as an offensive coordinator – he’s never finished with a top-ten scoring offense in 12 years in that role – but he also has never really had elite talent to coach. Paul Guenther has finished with the 24th and 32nd scoring defenses in two years as the Raiders’ DC, but he did lead the Bengals to the 2nd-best scoring defense in 2015 on their way to the playoffs. This coaching staff has some untapped potential, as does the roster they oversee.
#18: Tennesee Titans
Head Coach: Mike Vrabel, Offensive Coordinator: Arthur Smith, Defensive Coordinator: Jim Haslett
The Titans were incredibly impressive in the 2019-20 season, finishing with a 7-3 record after making the switch to Ryan Tannehill at quarterback and then beating the Patriots and Ravens in the playoffs. Mike Vrabel has gone 9-7 in both of his first two seasons as the head coach after previously serving as the defensive coordinator under Bill O’Brien on the Texans. Arthur Smith was a longtime assistant coach on the Titans and was awesome last year as the offensive coordinator, leading the 10th-highest scoring team in football. His “exotic smashmouth” offense has been a throwback for the Titans as Derrick Henry has dominated proceedings on the ground. Dean Pees was the longtime defensive coordinator for the Titans but retired after last season – Jim Haslett will replace him. He is a longtime NFL coach, but he hasn’t been a defensive coordinator since 2014. There’s a good chance Vrabel calls play for the defense in 2020 as Haslett hasn’t done so in several years.
#17: Green Bay Packers
Head Coach: Matt LaFleur, Offensive Coordinator: Nathaniel Hackett, Defensive Coordinator: Mike Pettine
I was tempted to place this Packers team higher in the rankings after Matt LaFleur’s highly successful first season as head coach – the team went 13-3 in the regular season and 1-1 in the playoffs. However, LaFleur is inexperienced at just 40 years old and hasn’t spent too much time in the NFL. He was the offensive coordinator for the 2017 Rams which led the NFL in scoring and previously worked under Gary Kubiak, Sean McVay, Dan Quinn, Mike Shanahan, and Mike Vrabel. Nathaniel Hackett is also relatively inexperienced, but as the offensive coordinator for the Jaguars in 2017, he helped a Blake Bortles-led team somehow finish 5th in the league in scoring. The Packers only finished 15th in scoring last year under his direction. Mike Pettine spent several seasons as the defensive coordinator for the Jets, finishing with the top scoring defense in his first year as the defensive coordinator. He’s been coaching in the NFL since 2002 and is pretty experienced on the defensive side of the ball.
#16: Los Angeles Rams
Head Coach: Sean McVay, Offensive Coordinator: Kevin O’Connell, Defensive Coordinator: Brandon Staley
This was widely regarded as one of the best coaching staffs in football after their Super Bowl appearance in 2018, with Sean McVay one of the brightest offensive minds in the NFL. Wade Philips supported him on the defensive side of the ball with decades of experience in the NFL, but he was not brought back for this season. Brandon Staley replaces him as the defensive coordinator after a couple of years as an outside linebackers coach – it’s unclear how well he will do in a role he has never filled. The Rams are bringing on an offensive coordinator for this season – Kevin O’Connell, who previously spent one season as an offensive coordinator for the Redskins in 2019. Sean McVay has traditionally called the plays for this team, but the offense didn’t function properly last year and he expressed a desire to bring in some extra help. McVay is an awesome offensive coach but this is an unproven set of coordinators and it’s hard to know what to expect for this season.
#15: Los Angeles Chargers
Head Coach: Anthony Lynn, Offensive Coordinator: Shane Streichen, Defensive Coordinator: Gus Bradley
Anthony Lynn has compiled a 26-22 record as the Chargers’ head coach after serving as the offensive coordinator for the Bills. As the Buffalo OC in 2016, he led the 10th highest-scoring team in the NFL. He’s only led his team to the playoffs once in his 3 years as head coach, compiling a 1-1 record that year. Gus Bradley is likely one of the more polished defensive coordinators in football, previously creating the Legion of Boom defense in Seattle and finishing with the leading defense in points allowed in 2012. After struggling as the head coach of the Jaguars, he’s been pretty successful as the Chargers’ defensive coordinator – his defenses have ranked inside the top ten in points or yards allowed every year. Shane Streichen took over as the offensive coordinator midway through last year after Ken Wisenhunt was fired, and the team improved, but he’s not even in the Pro Football Reference database so it’s unclear how he’ll perform this season. Lynn’s history on the offensive side of the ball will help ease that transition.
#14: Buffalo Bills
Head Coach: Sean McDermott, Offensive Coordinator: Brian Daboll, Defensive Coordinator: Leslie Frazier
Sean McDermott is one of the younger head coaches in football at 46 years old, but he has impressed in his three years in Buffalo with a 25-23 record, including two playoff appearances. McDermott was previously a defensive coordinator for the Panthers under Ron Rivera and the Chiefs under Andy Reid. Brian Daboll has served as the team’s offensive coordinator for just a couple of seasons and was the OC for the Browns, Dolphins, and Chiefs prior to that. Over his 6 seasons as an offensive coordinator, his teams have never finished higher than 20th in points scored and 22nd in total yardage. Leslie Frazier has much more experience than Daboll, having previously served as a defensive coordinator or head coach for 14 seasons. Frazier’s Bills defenses finished 2nd and 3rd in points allowed each of the past two seasons. While he wasn’t a particularly good head coach, his defenses have always been solid and he’s helped turn the Bills into one of the very best defensive teams in football. The AFC East is wide open this season and these coaches should help the Bills get back to the playoffs.
#13: Indianapolis Colts
Head Coach: Frank Reich, Offensive Coordinator: Nick Sirrani, Defensive Coordinator: Matt Eberflus
In less than a decade, Frank Reich has evolved from the Colts’ offensive assistant coach to a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for the Chargers to the Super Bowl-winning offensive coordinator for the Eagles and, now, back to Indianapolis as the head coach. He’s certainly impressed in such a short time finishing with a top-10 scoring offense in three of six seasons as an offensive coordinator/head coach. Joining Reich in Indy are two coordinators without a ton of experience. Nick Sirianni is entering his third season as the offensive coordinator, having finished 5th in scoring one year and 16th the other year – adding Philip Rivers at quarterback should certainly help matters. Sirianni previously worked with Reich in San Diego and has been with him since 2013. Matt Eberflus was previously the linebackers coach for the Cowboys and has fairly limited experience but led the 10th-best scoring defense in 2018. The defensive talent is improving and he has the tools at his disposal to impress this season. All the Colts coaches do, and a return to the playoffs would go a long way in establishing them as one of the fastest-rising coaching staffs in the league.
#12: Chicago Bears
Head Coach: Matt Nagy, Offensive Coordinator: Bill Lazor, Defensive Coordinator: Chuck Pagano
Matt Nagy has only been the head coach of the Bears for two seasons, but he has compiled a 20-12 record in that span with a 1-1 playoff record in his first season. Nagy was previously the offensive coordinator for Andy Reid’s Chiefs for one season – his offense was the 6th-highest scoring in the league that year. Joining Nagy as the offensive coordinator for the Bears this season is Bill Lazor who was previously the OC for the Dolphins and Bengals. He didn’t have stellar offensive personnel to work with on those rosters and never really found success as an OC but he’s spent plenty of time in the NFL previously. Chuck Pagano has been coaching in the NFL since 2001 and was previously the longtime head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. He specializes in the defensive side of the ball and helped the Bears ease their transition away from highly successful DC Vic Fangio last year, maintaining a top-five scoring defense in Chicago.
#11: Minnesota Vikings
Head Coach: Mike Zimmer, Offensive Coordinator: Gary Kubiak, Defensive Coordinator: Andre Patterson, Adam Zimmer
Since becoming the head coach of the Vikings in 2014, Mike Zimmer has led his team to a 57-38-1 record. He had bid his time for 13 years as a defensive coordinator for the Cowboys and Bengals, a role he’ll likely resume in some capacity this season. George Edwards, the Vikings’ defensive coordinator since 2014, is now an assistant coach for the Cowboys, so Zimmer will likely take over the defensive coordinator role in some capacity. Officially, Andre Patterson and Adam Zimmer are the co-defensive coordinators. Patterson is the team’s former defensive line coach and Zimmer, the head coach’s son, is the former linebacker coach for the team. Gary Kubiak has had much more experience on the other side of the ball as the team’s new offensive coordinator. He has led several top-ten and top-five offenses for the Broncos, Texans, and Ravens. The highlight of his career was winning Super Bowl 50 as the head coach of the Denver Broncos. He had temporarily retired since 2016, but he’s back in action to help lead the Vikings’ offense after they lost Kevin Stefanski (now the Browns’ coach). If it weren’t for the relative question mark at defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer and Gary Kubiak could make a strong case at being the best offense-defense coaching tandem in football.
#10: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Head Coach: Bruce Arians, Offensive Coordinator: Byron Leftwich, Defensive Coordinator: Todd Bowles
There’s no doubt about it – the strength of the Tampa Bay coaching staff was a major factor in Tom Brady’s decision to join the team. Arians doesn’t have quite the career longevity of the coaches ahead of him on this list, but he has compiled a 56-39-1 record in his 6 seasons and has gone 1-2 in the playoffs in that span. He’s produced several elite offensive units including a top-3 offense in scoring and yardage this past season in Tampa. His best season came as the head coach of the Cardinals in 2015 with a 13-3 record – the Cardinals had the top-scoring offense that year. Arians has previously worked with some upper-echelon quarterbacks including Peyton Manning, Kelly Holcomb, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, and Carson Palmer – now he adds Tom Brady to that list. Byron Leftwich has worked with Arians since 2016 and will be his righthand man in building an elite offense around Brady, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, and others this season. Todd Bowles doesn’t have an illustrious resume, but he helped the Buccaneers finish with the top rushing defense in football last season. While Bowles struggled as a head coach with the Dolphins and Jets, he has led a top-ten scoring defense with three different teams in will be integral in coaching up a talented unit this year.
#9: Philadelphia Eagles
Head Coach: Doug Pederson, Offensive Coordinator: Doug Pederson, Defensive Coordinator: Jim Schwartz
This is the same Eagles’ coaching staff that won the Super Bowl in 2017 apart from one key difference – the offensive coordinator on that staff, Frank Reich, is now the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Doug Pederson has impressed in his run as head coach in Philly, though, compiling a 38-26 record overall along with his 4-2 playoff record. Pederson was previously responsible for a couple of top-ten scoring offenses as the offensive coordinator in Kansas City (before Patrick Mahomes) and while the offense hasn’t performed as well since Reich’s departure, I believe part of that is due to the inconsistent health of Carson Wentz, the offensive line, and the team’s receivers. With a healthy Wentz and a full complement of receiving talent heading into this season, along with Miles Sanders in the backfield, I believe there’s a strong chance the offense returns to top-5 scoring range. Jim Schwartz has been nothing but solid as the defensive coordinator, averaging the 10th-best scoring defense over his four years as the DC despite a relative lack of talent to work with (outside of the defensive line).
#8: Seattle Seahawks
Head Coach: Pete Caroll, Offensive Coordinator: Brian Schottenheimer, Defensive Coordinator: Ken Norton Jr.
Pete Caroll has certainly put his mark on the Seahawks’ franchise, going to two Super Bowls and winning one of them in his time in Seattle. He’s compiled a 133-90-1 career coaching record and has averaged 9.5 wins per season. He’s been coaching in the NFL and NCAA since 1990 and is one of the most recognizable coaches in the world. Joining Pete is offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer who has helped the Seahawks finish with a top-ten scoring offense in each of his two seasons with the team. Prior to joining the Seahawks in 2018, Schotty had a pretty shoddy coaching record, leading a top-ten scoring offense just once in his 9 seasons as an offensive coordinator. However, he made a huge impact on the team’s success last season. Ken Norton Jr. has had an unspectacular career, leading some mediocre defenses in Oakland as the defensive coordinator for the Raiders before joining the Seahawks in 2018. In two years with his team, he’s never helped them finish top-ten in points or yards allowed. Pete Caroll would be inside the top two or three head coaches, but the Seahawks’ mediocre coordinators keep the team from ranking higher on this list.
#7: Dallas Cowboys
Head Coach: Mike McCarthy, Offensive Coordinator: Kellen Moore, Defensive Coordinator: Mike Nolan
The Cowboys replacing Jason Garrett with Mike McCarthy might be the most significant staffing switch in football for this upcoming season. Garrett is a great offensive mind, but he was overburdened as a head coach and he objectively held the team back over the past several seasons. McCarthy compiled a 125-77-2 record as the head coach of the Packers, winning 9.9 games per season over his 13 years there. In addition to compiling an impressive 10-8 playoff record, he helped the Packers win a Super Bowl in 2010. Losing Garrett could be classified as an offensive blow for Dallas, but Kellen Moore had been learning under him as a backup quarterback and then offensive coordinator for several years. As a first-year offensive coordinator for the Cowboys, Moore led them to the most yards in the NFL and the 6th-most points. Mike Nolan has been coaching in the NFL in various capacities since 1987, including 17 years as a defensive coordinator. There is an awesome combination of experience and innovation on this Cowboys staff and they should be able to help a talented roster make a significant run this season.
#6: San Francisco 49ers
Head Coach: Kyle Shanahan, Offensive Coordinator: Kyle Shanahan, Defensive Coordinator: Robert Saleh
Oh, what a difference a couple of quarters of football can make. Had the 49ers pulled out a win in the Super Bowl after getting out to a 20-10 lead, I would have been compelled to rank them ahead of any non-Patriots team in terms of coaching. Even still, the combination of Kyle Shanahan and Robert Saleh rivals any offense/defense duo in football. Shanahan is still among the younger head coaches in the league at just 40 years old, but he led the 49ers to a very impressive 13-3 record in 2019. Previously, he’s coordinated some awesome offensive production out of teams like the Falcons (1st in scoring in 2016), Redskins (top-5 in scoring and yardage in 2013), and the Texans (top-5 in scoring 2008-2009). Robert Saleh has worked under an impressive list of coaches in Gus Bradley, Dom Capers, Gary Kubiak, and Pete Caroll. Saleh was a candidate for head coaching jobs this season, but for the time being, he’ll remain as Shanahan’s righthand man on one of the best coaching staff in football.
#5: New Orleans Saints
Head Coach: Sean Payton, Offensive Coordinator: Pete Carmichael Jr., Defensive Coordinator: Dennis Allen
Sean Payton can make a strong claim to being one of the best offensive minds in football as his Saints have finished top-12 in scoring and yards every season he’s been there, leading the league in scoring three times and in yardage six times. Pete Carmichael Jr. is incredibly valuable to the Saints organization, having spent every year but one with franchise quarterback Drew Brees (including in San Diego). Carmichael’s offenses have finished with an average rank of 3.3 in yards and 5.1 in points in his 11 seasons in New Orleans. This elite level of offensive coaching will be heavily important as the team transitions away from Drew Brees likely after this season. Dennis Allen isn’t a prolific defensive coordinator – his defenses have never finished top 10 in points or yards allowed in New Orleans, but that hasn’t mattered as Sean Payton seems to have the Saints in the playoffs each and every season.
#4: Baltimore Ravens
Head Coach: John Harbaugh, Offensive Coordinator: Greg Roman, Defensive Coordinator: Don Martindale
John Harbaugh is firmly entrenched in the tier of the most elite head coaches in football, working on the 4th-longest tenure and having won a Super Bowl with the Ravens. He’s averaged 9.8 wins per season and has only ever had one year below .500. Perhaps more impressively, he’s shown a complete willingness to pivot amongst different styles of play depending on personnel. Greg Roman has helped catalyze that, as he has built a dynamic rushing offense throughout his time in Baltimore. In his seven seasons as the offensive coordinator, Roman’s offense has been a top-4 rushing offense every year but one (his first season). Roman helped Lamar Jackson come through with an MVP season on the highest-scoring offense in football last season. Don Martindale has been awesome in Baltimore as well as his defense has finished top-three in points allowed in each of his two seasons there.
#3: Pittsburgh Steelers
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin, Offensive Coordinator: Randy Fichtner, Defensive Coordinator: Keith Butler
Mike Tomlin is consistently the most underrated head coach in the NFL. In 13 seasons (3rd-longest tenure) as the Steelers’ head coach, Tomlin’s team has never finished with a losing record and has compiled 10.2 wins per season. He has two Super Bowl appearances under his belt during this span, including one win, despite having to contend with Bill Belichick’s Patriots every year. Pittsburgh’s 8-8 record was pretty impressive last year as they worked their way through awful quarterback play from Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. The last time the Steelers had Ben Roethlisberger under center, offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner led them to a 4th-place finish in total yards and 6th in points. They should be much closer to that in 2020. Keith Butler has coached up this defense to three straight top-6 finishes in yards allowed and the team led the NFL in takeaways last season. With a complete coaching staff and talent all over both sides of the ball, the Steelers are a team to watch entering this season.
#2: Kansas City Chiefs
Head Coach: Andy Reid, Offensive Coordinator: Eric Bieniemy, Defensive Coordinator: Steve Spagnulo
I was pretty damn thrilled for Big Red for finally winning the big one this season, as much as I don’t like the Chiefs as a Broncos fan. He’s won 9.8 games per season over the course of his career and has led some excellent Chiefs and Eagles teams, appearing in one Super Bowl previously as well. Reid is one of the best offensive minds in football and he has to take credit for how elite the Chiefs’ offense has been, however, their offensive coordinator in Eric Bienemy has been critical as well. Bienemy has been the offensive coordinator for the past two seasons in Kansas City and he led the offense which produced a Patrick Mahomes MVP in 2018 – that team ranked 1st in both points scored and total yards. Steve Spagnulo has made a massive difference on the Chiefs’ success as the team jumped from 24th in points allowed to 7th in the league. That defense was especially elite down the stretch and was a critical part of the team’s Super Bowl win.
#1: New England Patriots
Head Coach: Bill Belichick, Offensive Coordinator: Josh McDaniels, Defensive Coordinator: Bill Belichick
Was there ever any doubt? The Patriots are going to be worse in 2020, there’s no question about it. Any team would be after losing Tom Brady, the most successful quarterback of all time. What New England does have to go for it is that Bill Belichick is still untouchable at the top of the head coaching ranks. 6 Super Bowl wins, 3 other appearances, and 11.9 wins per season in his 20 years as a head coach are unassailable – he’s also the longest-tenured head coach in football. Belichick’s legacy is going to live on in eternity in Canton eventually, but in the meantime, he’ll have to prove once again that he can win without Brady. Josh McDaniels is still around to help him out which is huge – in McDaniels’ 11 seasons as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator, he’s never had his offense finish lower than 8th in points per game. Belichick is entrenched as the team’s defensive coordinator and one of the better defensive minds in the NFL. Belichick is a favorite for COY this season.