As the NFL season is about to begin, consider this a state of coaching in the NFL.
I went through all the head coaches in the league, and ranked them.
As you’ll quickly see, there’s a gap at the top, and some would consider a brain drain compared to years past.
Is the person at the top to blame, or are there just not a lot of great coaches anymore?
You be the judge.
First Year Head Coaches
Vic Fangio (Denver Broncos), Brian Flores (Miami Dolphins), Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals), Freddie Kitchens (Cleveland Browns), Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers), Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals)
No rankings here, it’s just not fair yet. Someone will prove their worth over the course of the season (and hopefully longer), but until then, I’ll keep everyone on an even level.
26. Pat Shurmur, New York Giants
2018 record: 5-11 | Career record: 15-34
Good enough to be a coordinator, not good enough to be a head coach. Not the person I trust to groom Daniel Jones if I’m the Giants. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe Saquon can carry them to relevancy, but I doubt it.
25. Matt Patricia, Detroit Lions
2018 record: 6-10 | Career record: 6-10
He hasn’t done anything to change the narrative that former Belichick assistants can’t become good head coaches. Maybe it’ll take time to completely overhaul the culture in Detroit, but coaching isn’t a profession where a lot of time is given. He needs to figure this thing out, fast.
24. Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders
2018 record: 4-12 | Career record: 99-93
This is a tough one. Gruden obviously has a lot of pedigree in the sport, but after being gone for 9 seasons, last year he came back and went 4-12. More pieces this season, but he has to prove to me the game hasn’t passed him by.
23. Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers
2018 record: 4-12 | Career record: 10-22
He was given a long leash, but will he get a chance if Jimmy G flames out? We saw how much of a difference he can make when he was the OC in Atlanta, and the roster in San Francisco is slowly improving, but once again, it’ll come down to the QB position.
22. Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins
2018 record: 7-9 | Career record: 35-44-1
Jay Gruden is basically the personification of mediocre. He’s not awful, but since his first year in 2014, he’s won 9, 8, 7, and 7 games respectively. Last season the team was 6-3 before Alex Smith got hurt, and they drafted Dwayne Haskins as the future QB, but Gruden probably needs to make the playoffs this season to get a chance to be his coach in the future.
21. Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills
2018 record: 6-10 | Career record: 15-17
He got the Bills to the playoffs for the first time since 1999 (in 2017), which is a pretty good accomplishment, but the team is in the midst of a rebuild. Josh Allen has some potential, and I don’t think McDermott is bad. Still has a lot to prove.
20. Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars
2018 record: 5-11 | Career record: 31-35
Seems to be someone who can get a good season or so out of the team he’s with, but that’s usually it. I’m not too high on him, but he’s not the worst coach. Interested to see what happens this season now that Nick Foles is on the team.
19. Adam Gase, New York Jets
2018 record (with Miami): 7-9 | Career record: 23-25
Great coordinator, and he wasn’t awful in Miami (just didn’t seem like a good fit, even with a playoff appearance in Year 1). I think he has a shot to really help Sam Darnold become something.
18. Mike Vrabel, Tennessee Titans
2018 record: 9-7 | Career record: 9-7
I might be biased since he’s a former Patriot, but he had a solid first year. People speak extremely high of him, and he’s moved up the ranks very quickly (he’s only 44, and retired from the NFL just 8 years ago). He has a chance to be special, but it won’t happen until Tennessee finds a QB (sorry Marcus Mariota).
17. Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans
2018 record: 11-5 | Career record: 42-38
He was able to salvage respectable seasons with mediocre QBs his first few seasons, but Deshaun Watson is the real deal. Last season the team started slow, but finished really strong before losing to the Colts in the playoffs. Houston has a strong team, but can O’Brien be the coach to lead them to the promised land? To be determined.
16. Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys
2018 record: 10-6 | Career record: 77-59
I’ve got to give him credit: he hasn’t been fired yet. Maybe he knows where the bodies are buried, but there’s only been one season Garrett has had a record below .500 since he took over, and that was in 2015 when QB Tony Romo was essentially out all season. If Ezekiel Elliot doesn’t hold out, the Cowboys should be in the mix for a deep playoff run. Just good enough has been Garrett’s specialty. He’s in a contract year, so he’ll need to do just that.
15. Frank Reich, Indianapolis Colts
2018 record: 10-6 | Career record: 10-6
Frank Reich had a slow start last season, but his team won 9 of their last 10 games to just sneak into the playoffs, and were able to win a road playoff game. Life without Andrew Luck will be a huge challenge, but he was the OC in Philadelphia when Nick Foles replaced Carson Wentz en route to a Super Bowl victory. Can he facilitate the same magic with Jacoby Brissett?
14. Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears
2018 record: 12-4 | Career record: 12-4
Great first year, but plenty of that can be attributed to the stellar Bears defense under the helm of Vic Fangio. Hiring Chuch Pagano was a smart choice. He seemed to help Mitch Trubisky immensely in Year 2, and his success will reveal how good Nagy really is, but last season was a great start.
13. Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons
2018 record: 7-9 | Career record: 36-28
I’m a fan of Dan Quinn, and thought the Falcons would be more of a force after their appearance in Super Bowl LI, but it hasn’t happened yet. The Falcons went 7-9 last season amid lots of defensive injuries. He’s been rumored to be on the hot seat, and Matt Ryan now 34 years old, so time is of the essence in Atlanta. I think he can right the ship, but it has to happen fast.
12. Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers
2018 record: 12-4 | Career record: 21-12
Lynn had a great second season, and seems to have a good head on his shoulders. The Chargers divisional round showing last season should serve as a learning experience, but Lynn is Philip Rivers best shot at ever winning a Super Bowl. Hopefully Melvin Gordon plays this season, but I trust Lynn to adapt if he doesn’t.
11. Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings
2018 record: 8-7-1 | Career record: 47-32-1
A longtime assistant coach, since Zimmer became the head coach of the Vikings in 2014, he’s had the team in a respectable position. He’s a good coach, no question, but his career in Minnesota will likely hinge in his ability to lead a team headed by Kirk Cousins over the next 2 seasons. Lets see if Cousins can learn how to win a game against a good team.
10. Bruce Arians, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2018 record: N/A | Career record: 49-30-1 (58-33-1 if interim stint with Colts counted)
I’m a big fan of Bruce Arians. Another longtime assistant, and he had success as the interim coach of the Colts, and as head coach of the Cardinals. I’m not sure he’ll be able to help save Jameis Winston, but he’s one of the better bets to do so. If not, hopefully he gets a chance to groom the next QB to come into the building.
9. Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers
2018 record: 7-9 | Career record: 71-56-1
I think Rivera is underrated, but he has been a solid head coach since he took over the Panthers in 2011. Last season was a bad look, as the team started 6-2 before finishing 7-9. Cam Newton is a special talent, and we’ve seen this team reach the Super Bowl before. Maybe that was the high of Rivera’s coaching career, but with the likes of Newton, Christian McCaffery, and Luke Kuechly, the pieces are present to succeed moving forward.
8. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
2018 record: 10-6 | Career record: 104-72
Harbaugh is the person on this list to have won a Super Bowl as a head coach, which deserves recognition. However, he is only 50-46 in the six seasons since, and the Ravens have only made the playoffs twice in that time. The team finished strong under Lamar Jackson last season, and his future in Baltimore (which almost reportedly ended last season) will be predicated on how good the team will be under the young QB. One of the better coaches in the game however you slice it, higher in the past, but has to show he deserves to be moving forward.
7. Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles
2018 record: 9-7 | Career record: 29-19
Whatever you think of him, Pederson is a Super Bowl champion head coach, and did so under a backup QB. You’ve gotta be good to do that. I like the partnership between him and Carson Wentz, and he’ll likely be in Philadelphia for years to come. Oh, and the team is loaded for this season.
6. Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints
2018 record: 13-3 | Career record: 118-74
If you’ve been in one place doing the same thing since 2006, you must be doing something right. Payton has led his team to a title, but 2009 is a lifetime ago in NFL years. The Saints are always respectable, and Payton’s partnership with Drew Brees has helped Brees etch a Hall of Fame career, but the team has a tendency to leave you wanting more when it matters (even if it’s partially on referees). Regardless, Payton is a great coach.
5. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers
2018 record: 9-6-1 | Career record: 125-66-1
Tomlin has been the coach of the Steelers since 2007, and has a Super Bowl under his belt, as well as another appearance in the game. The Steelers have had institutional success for 50 years, but Tomlin is still one of the better coaches in the game. Another coach that leaves you wanting more at times, but that’s just the reality of the profession and the game today. Regardless, you can’t deny his track record, but adapting without Le’veon Bell nor Antonio Brown around will be a challenge.
4. Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs
2018 record: 12-4 | Career record: 195-124-1
The playoff success is not there, but Reid has been one of the better coaches in the NFL dating back to his days in Philadelphia. His clock management will always be a stain on his legacy, but Reid always seems to coach his teams to the playoffs, and gets the best out of his QBs. His partnership with Patrick Mahomes could be the future of the NFL, but he’ll have to overcome the demons of his coaching past if he ever wants to win a Super Bowl (as a head coach). Still a great coach, but another one that has left a lot on the table.
3. Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams
2018 record: 13-3 | Career record: 24-10
Might be too high, but McVay is special. He took a team that hadn’t won more than 8 games in a season since 2003, and led them to 11 wins in Year 1, and 13 wins (plus a trip to the Super Bowl) in Year 2. Bill Belichick outcoached him in the Super Bowl, but McVay still deserves praise for reaching the game. At 33, he’s one of the smartest minds in the game, and teams have already anxiously tried to emulate his successes thus far. He’ll win a Super Bowl in short order.
2. Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks
2018 record: 10-6 | Career record: 122-85-1
Carroll has had a truly fascinating career, but since 2010, he has been one of the most consistent coaches in the NFL. Seattle is always in the picture, and he had the team on the verge of a dynasty in 2014. Obviously the fallout lays on his shoulders (see: Malcolm Butler INT), but he’s had a great run, and at this time, is one of the best in the game.
1. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
2018 record: 11-5 | Career record: 261-123
Is this even a question? There is a huge gap between Belichick and his peers, and it has only been growing with time. Belichick has made plenty of mistakes (see: benching Malcolm Butler), but makes the least compared to his peers, and has been one half of the greatest coach/player partnership the game has ever seen. The real fight here was for second place, and will be the case until the day Bill hangs the whistle up.
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