Coaches and Coordinators: Tracking NFL Decision Makers

Coaches and Coordinators: Tracking NFL Decision Makers

The following is a full accounting of current NFL head coaches, offensive coordinators, and defensive coordinators. The list is meant to be a one-stop quick reference for some historical facts about the coaches in question, as well as some editorializing about how they might affect their teams' approaches in the upcoming season.

TeamHead CoachOffensive CoordinatorDefensive Coordinator
ARIKliff KingsburyKliff KingsburyVance Joseph 
ATLArthur SmithDave RagoneDean Pees
BALJohn HarbaughGreg RomanDon Martindale 
BUFSean McDermott Brian Daboll Leslie Frazier 
CARMatt RhuleJoe BradyPhil Snow
CHIMatt NagyBill LazorSean Desai
CINZac TaylorBrian CallahanLou Anaruno
CLEKevin StefanskiKevin StefanskiJoe Woods
DALMike McCarthyKellen MooreDan Quinn
DENVic FangioPat ShurmurEd Donatell
DETDan CampbellAnthony LynnAaron Glenn
GBMatt LaFleurNathaniel HackettJoe Barry
HOUDavid CulleyTim KellyLovie Smith
INDFrank ReichMarcus BradyMatt Eberflus
JACUrban MeyerDarrell BevellJoe Cullen
KCAndy Reid Eric BienemySteve Spagnuolo
LACBrandon StaleyJoe LombardiRenaldo Hill
LARSean McVaySean McVayRaheem Morris
LVJon GrudenGreg OlsonGus Bradley
MIABrian FloresEric Studesville/George GodseyJosh Boyer
MINMike ZimmerKlint KubiakAdam Zimmer/Andre Patterson
NEBill BelichickJosh McDanielsBill Belichick
NOSean PaytonPete CarmichaelDennis Allen
NYGJoe JudgeJason GarrettPatrick Graham
NYJRobert SalehMike LaFleurJeff Ulbrich
PHINick SirianniShane SteichenJonathan Gannon
PITMike TomlinMatt CanadaKeith Butler

The following is a full accounting of current NFL head coaches, offensive coordinators, and defensive coordinators. The list is meant to be a one-stop quick reference for some historical facts about the coaches in question, as well as some editorializing about how they might affect their teams' approaches in the upcoming season.

TeamHead CoachOffensive CoordinatorDefensive Coordinator
ARIKliff KingsburyKliff KingsburyVance Joseph 
ATLArthur SmithDave RagoneDean Pees
BALJohn HarbaughGreg RomanDon Martindale 
BUFSean McDermott Brian Daboll Leslie Frazier 
CARMatt RhuleJoe BradyPhil Snow
CHIMatt NagyBill LazorSean Desai
CINZac TaylorBrian CallahanLou Anaruno
CLEKevin StefanskiKevin StefanskiJoe Woods
DALMike McCarthyKellen MooreDan Quinn
DENVic FangioPat ShurmurEd Donatell
DETDan CampbellAnthony LynnAaron Glenn
GBMatt LaFleurNathaniel HackettJoe Barry
HOUDavid CulleyTim KellyLovie Smith
INDFrank ReichMarcus BradyMatt Eberflus
JACUrban MeyerDarrell BevellJoe Cullen
KCAndy Reid Eric BienemySteve Spagnuolo
LACBrandon StaleyJoe LombardiRenaldo Hill
LARSean McVaySean McVayRaheem Morris
LVJon GrudenGreg OlsonGus Bradley
MIABrian FloresEric Studesville/George GodseyJosh Boyer
MINMike ZimmerKlint KubiakAdam Zimmer/Andre Patterson
NEBill BelichickJosh McDanielsBill Belichick
NOSean PaytonPete CarmichaelDennis Allen
NYGJoe JudgeJason GarrettPatrick Graham
NYJRobert SalehMike LaFleurJeff Ulbrich
PHINick SirianniShane SteichenJonathan Gannon
PITMike TomlinMatt CanadaKeith Butler
SEAPete CarrollShane WaldronKen Norton Jr.
SFKyle ShanahanKyle ShanahanDeMeco Ryans
TBBruce AriansByron LeftwichTodd Bowles
TENMike VrabelTodd DowningShane Bowen
WASRon RiveraScott TurnerJack Del Rio

ARIZONA

Kliff Kingsbury, HC/OC

Kingsbury heads into his third year as Arizona's head coach with a 13-18-1 record. He was billed as a genius passing game designer and the prototype for the NFL Coach of the Future despite a 35-40 record at Texas Tech in his prior job, but to this point his NFL results look a lot like his work with the Aggies. The Arizona offense is more or less productive, defined by its spread formations and max-tempo playcalling with a generally pass-heavy slant, but its passing designs are too fixated on the short game and the lack of a vertical element allows observant defensive coordinators to bring up the safeties to crash hard on Kingsbury's somewhat repetitive shallow route combos. Kyler Murray has carried the team for Kingsbury, both as a passer but especially as a runner. Kingsbury could improve his offense and make the Cardinals less dependent on Murray's heroics if they would vary the routes more and feature more pre-snap motion to force the defense to adjust its rhythm every so often.

Vance Joseph, DC

Mostly known as a 3-4 guy, Joseph showed a distinctly amoebic defense in 2020, utilizing interchangeable personnel across the front seven to disguise defensive assignments and make it more difficult for quarterbacks to identify coverages pre snap. Rather than a 3-4, the Cardinals often functioned something more like a 2-5-4, 3-3-5, etc., using all of Jordan Hicks, Haason Reddick, Isaiah Simmons, Markus Golden, De'Vondre Campbell, Dennis Gardeck, and Kylie Fitts regularly at linebacker and edge rusher. The results were generally good considering Arizona's weak cornerback personnel – the Cardinals registered 88 tackles for loss (tied for fourth) and boasted the league's fifth-best sack percentage. Perhaps if the Cardinals get better coverage from its defensive backs then the unit as a whole might take off, especially if Chandler Jones can make his 2021 return from injury a triumphant one.


 

ATLANTA

Arthur Smith, HC

A tight end coach before Matt LaFleur left for Green Bay, Smith took over as Tennessee's offensive coordinator the last two years to various measures of success. Ryan Tannehill, previously a discarded bust from Miami, thrived in a Smith scheme that protected Tannehill from the pressure that rattled him so badly with the Dolphins, reducing the game to a shooting-range scenario where Tannehill's natural accuracy could thrive. Smith utilized novel blocking concepts, founding the Tennessee offense on the power ground game but with undersized, speedy motion blockers. Jonnu Smith (TE), MyCole Pruitt (TE) and Khari Blasingame (FB) are all small and fast for their positions, yet Arthur turned all of them into productive contributors in the power blocking game. It's not clear whether Smith is specifically committed to the ground game or if his work in Tennessee is simply a credit to his pragmatic insight, but it's safe to say in the meantime that Atlanta entirely lacks the personnel necessary to do almost anything that Smith did in Tennessee. He might need to adapt, at least until Atlanta can reshape its depth chart a bit.

Dave Ragone, OC

A former standout quarterback at Louisville, Ragone was the quarterback coach and passing game coordinator for the Bears before Smith brought him to Atlanta. Those results were obviously bad with the Chicago quarterbacks, but there's only so much polishing a turd can take. Ragone was otherwise the wide receivers coach (2011-2012) and quarterbacks coach (2013) for the Titans while Smith was working his way up from quality control coach to offensive line coach. Ragone evidently made an impression on Smith at the time, but with Smith being an offensive coordinator himself it will probably leave most of Ragone's work in the quarterback coaching realm.

Dean Pees, DC

Pees retired after the 2019 season and would not return for Mike Vrabel. Pees came out of retirement to coordinate the Atlanta defense for Arthur Smith, though. Make of that what you will. The Tennessee defense went from pretty good in 2019 to abject garbage under Vrabel in 2020 – again, conclude what you must. Primarily a 3-4 guy, working previously under Bill Belichick and John Harbaugh, Pees is especially credible on the subject of coaching linebackers. It will be interesting to see what he does with the very undersized but highly athletic duo of Deion Jones and Foyesade Oluokun.


 


 

BALTIMORE

John Harbaugh, HC

Harbaugh's abilities as a motivator and manager of football teams need no defending – his record speaks for itself at this point. Even as one of the league's best head coaches overall, though, Harbaugh is still as fallible as anyone and should be more concerned with the state of his offensive coaching. Despite a memorably awful coaching effort by offensive coordinator Greg Roman in the 2020 playoffs, Harbaugh emphatically stood by Roman in the offeseason and in the process signed the Ravens up for another year of personnel mismanagement and predictable playcalling. No matter how great Harbaugh does his own job in 2021, he'll need a more dynamic offense for his efforts to bear any fruit. Perhaps he and Roman have wise reforms in mind, but prepare for a replay if not.

Greg Roman, OC

Roman is the NFL's go-to guy for the Running Quarterback Starter Kit, first for Tyrod Taylor in Buffalo, then Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco, and now Lamar Jackson in Baltimore. The problem with Roman is pretty simple: he looks good compared to a predecessor like Marty Mornhinweg, but defenses catch on to his tricks within a year or so in each case. In each of those cases Roman has shown no ability to counter-adjust, instead reaching for the same bag of tricks to diminishing returns. Baltimore's playoff game plan against Buffalo perfectly illustrated Roman's lack of insight – the Bills, undeterred by Baltimore's passing game bluffs, called their defense as if the Baltimore passing game did not exist. In response, Roman retreated further into the run game, making the field smaller on the Baltimore offense and reducing the spectacle to something like teeball for the Bills defense. Despite this failure and the fact that it has happened multiple points previously, John Harbaugh stood by Roman this offseason. Will the show end differently for Roman than the past cases? If so, it's only a testament to Lamar Jackson's superhuman talent. Unless Roman undergoes profound change this offseason he's likely an anchor around Baltimore's neck.


Don Martindale, DC

In contrast to Roman at offensive coordinator, Martindale is about as real as it gets at defensive coordinator. He prefers to lean on aggressive blitzing and press-heavy man coverage as a general rule, but Martindale is pragmatic enough to change his weekly playcalling depending on the opponent. Whereas Baltimore's loss against Buffalo was a dreary illustration of Roman's limitations as a coach, Martindale was highly impressive in the game. Martindale was smart enough to realize Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs thrived against press-man coverage, and he was humble enough to accept that his usual preferences wouldn't suffice. Instead of stubbornly standing by his preferred approach, Martindale had the Ravens run a zone-heavy scheme that denied Allen the chance for pre-snap reads, and the result was Allen's worst game in months. Martindale will need to continue proving his mettle as Baltimore faces the challenge of conceiving a pass rush as both Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue head to unrestricted free agency.


 


 

BUFFALO

Sean McDermott, HC

McDermott finally fully realized in 2020 the potential he had shown leading up to it, and now he's locked in with one of the league's best-designed organizations both in the sense of player and coaching personnel. While McDermott oversees a moneyball defense in the tradition of his mentor Jim Johnson, elite offensive coordinator Brian Daboll makes the most out of Josh Allen and the offense. With Daboll improbably unhired again this offseason, there's no reason to expect regression here. In fact, if McDermott can get a little more speed at cornerback this offseason we might see the Bills go from an overachieving moneyball defense to a properly intimidating one, which would be an explosive combo with the firepower of the offense.

Brian Daboll, OC

Perhaps Josh Allen will regress when he has to play without Daboll's visionary offensive scheming, but in the meantime the two pair like a rotary gun trained by an expert shooter. Daboll is on the cutting edge of offensive scheming, understanding space and leverage better than almost anyone and using Allen's rare physical traits to force the defense to concern itself with the entire field on every play. Even in games where Allen struggles in the face of a strong defense, Daboll usually comes out of halftime with strong adjustments to set up Allen for a blazing second half. This machine is well-built and shows no indications of regression.

Leslie Frazier, DC

Frazier is one of the NFL's most respected elder statesmen and as time-tested coaching the 4-3 as any active coach, but under McDermott he is more of a manager than a true authority figure.


 


 

CAROLINA

Matt Rhule, HC

It was understood before his hire that Rhule would need time to properly rebuild the Panthers, so the first-year results aren't worth obsessing over. Rhule's initial results at Temple and Baylor were both bad, too – his first game at Baylor was a home loss to Liberty, who were more than four-touchdown underdogs! – but in both cases he still succeeded emphatically at turning the programs around. More of a defensive coach than an offensive one, Rhule nonetheless seems to have a good grasp of the broader picture, which if so would help explain why he's been such an effective manager sort of coach. In theory, Rhule should be more of a John Harbaugh type than a coach who puts his hands on the offense or defense especially much.

Joe Brady, OC

Brady's brand still mostly relates to the 2019 LSU offense, but he quietly did some distinctly encouraging work in his first year with the Panthers in 2020. Brady reports to hot shot head coach hire Matt Rhule but likely has some major amount of autonomy all the same – Rhule is likely more of a defensive-minded coach if anything – so what credit there is to go around for the Panthers 2020 offense mostly goes to Brady. Despite a dubious offensive line and generally mediocre play from Teddy Bridgewater, Brady's schemes extracted strong returns from D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson and Curtis Samuel, showing a unique ability to maximize his best receivers. If Brady shows similar results or better in 2021 then there's a good chance he's a head coach elsewhere in 2022.

Phil Snow, DC

Snow is kind of like a middle-class man's Vic Fangio – someone more clever than you'd guess by his crotchety old man appearance, and a time-tested defensive coach well versed on a variety of concepts. Snow built smothering defenses for Rhule at Baylor and Temple, and that's why Rhule didn't hesitate to identify Snow as his ideal defensive coordinator in the NFL. The results for the Panthers were poor in 2020, but considering the dearth of talent there was no reasonable expectation for success anyway. Don't be surprised if the Panthers defense makes rapid improvement if they can give Snow a little more talent and experience in the secondary.


 


 

CHICAGO

Matt Nagy, HC

Hounded by traumatically poor play from kickers and quarterbacks, Nagy has seemingly been a bit rattled since his impressive 2018 debut season with the Bears. Considering the Chicago front office has mostly worked against him with terrible trades and signings, Nagy's 16-16 record over the last two years is a slight miracle. He hasn't been perfect through those seasons, but when he's not disheveled by terrible kickers and quarterbacks this is still the same guy who took over playcalling from Andy Reid in 2017, to significantly improved results.

Bill Lazor, OC

Lazor replaced Mark Helfrich as Chicago's offensive coordinator for the 2020 season and even took over the playcalling duties from Nagy in November. Lazor ran the offenses for Cincinnati (2017-2018) and Miami (2014-2015) previously to mostly poor outcomes, but a critic would have to admit he hasn't had much to work with between his three offensive coordinator stops. Given that he is mostly working within the parameters set by Nagy, though, it's possible that not much of the scheme was devised by Lazor specifically.

Sean Desai, DC

Desai was an in-house replacement for Chuck Pagano, as the 37-year-old previously coached the Bears safeties from 2019 to 2020. Desai will presumably look to run a defense mostly similar to what Pagano ran previously – a 3-4 defense ostensibly meant to carry the example set by Vic Fangio previously. The Bears barely blitzed in 2020 and struggled against the run, so Desai will presumably look to reestablish the Bears in the front seven.


 


 

CINCINNATI

Zac Taylor, HC/OC

If Mike Brown cared at all about the Bengals he might have fired Taylor by now. Two years into his head coaching stint he has a 6-25-1 record, and in 2020 two of the Bengals' most respected veterans – Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins – openly declared their frustration with the Taylor regime. Taylor's hiring was Brown's attempt at finding another Sean McVay, but at a dollar store price, and so far they've gotten what they've paid for. Taylor has generally seen to an uptempo approach with various attempts to jumpstart the passing game, but everything was flat even before Joe Burrow's disheartening injury.

Brian Callahan, OC

Callahan probably isn't qualified for his job but his job responsibilities are probably limited, too. Taylor was hired to be a Quarterback Guru, meaning he has to have his hands on the offense if he wants to prove himself. Callahan is just a buddy he knows from Nebraska, where Callahan's father coached Taylor.

Lou Anarumo, DC

Anarumo has made an earnest attempt to turn the Bengals into a competent modern defense, using amoeba formations in hopes of synthesizing pre-snap confusion for opposing quarterbacks, but the results just haven't been there. Perhaps culpability for that rests more with Taylor than Anarumo, and perhaps both can lean on the excuse of poor personnel, but the Bengals had a number of established standouts going into 2020 with Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, D.J. Reader, Sam Hubbard, Carl Lawson, Jessie Bates and William Jackson, yet the results were as if the defense didn't have a single good player. This staff does not appear long for the NFL.


 

CLEVELAND

Kevin Stefanski, HC/OC

Stefanski could have handled his personnel better – he tried to make Austin Hooper a blocking tight end early in the year and left the talented Rashard Higgins on the bench in favor of special teamer KhaDarel Hodge – but his first year in Cleveland was generally a success as he installed the basics for a culture of competence that certainly wasn't there beforehand. Stefanski's next challenge will be to take the Browns from overachieving underdogs to a team that both has and meets high expectations. The ground game provided by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt established the foundation of the offense, but now Stefanski needs to show the ability to build something more explosive. Stefanski might want to up the tempo a bit, especially if he plans to stick with a two-TE base offense at the expense of downfield explosiveness.

Joe Woods, DC

Woods is a respected defensive backs coach and arrived to Cleveland under previously working under two of the league's all-time best defensive coaches in Wade Phillips and Vic Fangio, but the results for the Cleveland defense were distinctly flat in 2020. He could have benefited from better personnel, but particularly in the case of the pass rush the results were disappointing – the Browns generated very little pressure despite a strong front four of Myles Garrett, Sheldon Richardson, Larry Ogunjobi and Olivier Vernon. The linebacker and defensive back personnel was quite bad otherwise, so Woods is owed some patience, but there's also a need for improved results going forward.


 


 

DALLAS

Mike McCarthy, HC

No one seemed to have especially high expectations for McCarthy as he took over for Jason Garrett in Dallas, yet his 2020 season was surprisingly rough. Dak Prescott's disheartening season-ending injury pretty much put Dallas' season to bed in Week 5, and injuries to tackles Tyron Smith and La'el Collins inflicted another huge toll. It still felt like the season got worse than it needed to, and it's in any case disturbing how poorly Ezekiel Elliott produced, falling apart as a pass catcher (52 receptions for 338 yards and two touchdowns on 71 targets) and losing five fumbles on just 296 touches from scrimmage in 15 games. To McCarthy's credit, he insisted on running a high-tempo offense, a policy that should prove beneficial if they manage to keep Prescott around. McCarthy also probably deserves credit for allowing Kellen Moore to call plays.

Kellen Moore, OC

McCarthy presumably has some sort of veto control over what Moore does with schemes and playcalling, but the 2020 Dallas offense generally looked more like what you'd expect of Moore than McCarthy. Their approach might have worked if Prescott and the tackles had stayed healthy, so if possible it'd make sense for Dallas to rerun the scenario in 2021. Prescott was on pace for massive numbers before his injury, after all. If Prescott returns and stays healthy then Moore might be get a promotion, be it in Dallas or elsewhere.

Dan Quinn, DC

Mike Nolan was a comical bust for Dallas in 2020 and it seems like they used the same reasoning process in hiring Quinn. Like Nolan, Quinn is a former head coach who was hired for his defensive credentials but never actually ran a good defense on their own. Quinn just ran Pete Carroll's program at Seattle, and in Atlanta the Falcons defense improved wildly once Raheem Morris took over. Dallas' defense will probably be bad again.


 


 

DENVER

Vic Fangio, HC

Fangio is one of the best defensive coaches ever, so it's not surprising that he kept the Denver defense decent in 2020 even as it dealt with season-ending injuries to Von Miller and Jurell Casey. More than almost any coordinator, Fangio can plug in mediocre talents at important defensive positions and still get average or better results. Unfortunately for him, Denver's problems on offense aren't going anywhere if they can't get improved quarterback play, and the defense isn't good enough to carry the team in the meantime. Fangio's 3-4 could take another step forward if the team improves its run defense and cornerback personnel.

Pat Shurmur, OC

The Broncos run game improved from 2019 under Rick Scangarello to 2020 under Shurmur, but the passing game took a step back. Considering Courtland Sutton was injured in Shurmur's case, the passing game regression is somewhat excusable. Improvement over Scangarello or not, it's not clear whether Shurmur is 'good enough' for Denver to get where they want to be. A better quarterback than Drew Lock would certainly be helpful, but regardless of who the quarterback is Shurmur will need to secure better results – bad quarterback or not, the lineup of Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, Noah Fant, KJ Hamler and Albert Okwuegbunam is too good to not demand results. Shurmur's 2020 offense generally featured good tempo so if the quarterback production improves this offense could take off quickly.

Ed Donatell, DC

Denver was able to get strong returns out of its pass defense in 2020 despite giving big workloads to rookie corners Michael Ojemudia and Essang Bassey as starters Bryce Callahan and A.J. Bouye dealt with injuries, and Donatell might deserve some kudos for that. While Fangio is the one actually in charge of the defense, Donatell has been Fangio's defensive backs coach for approaching a decade now.


 


 

DETROIT

Dan Campbell, HC

Campbell made a bit of a scene with his introductory press conference, speaking presumably in jest about various acts of barbarism he intends to commit as a head coach. To some observers the most offensive remark of Campbell's was his passing reference to running the football, which is something only bad people do. Of course, Campbell specifically stated the intention to use D'Andre Swift like Alvin Kamara, and it's hard to see why anyone would be discontent with the Sean Payton offense. Campbell also once mentioned that his football worldview is basically the same as that of Bill Parcells, and Parcells' Drew Bledsoe offenses racked up massive passing volume. No one really knows what kind of coach Campbell will be, but after serving as tight ends coach and assistant head coach in New Orleans the last five years he is objectively one of the league's most credible authorities on the Drew Brees offense. The former blocking tight end clearly likes to run the ball, but there's no reason to think he doesn't like to throw it.

Anthony Lynn, OC

Shane Steichen gets a lot of the credit for the Chargers' generally promising 2020 offense, but Lynn likely had his hands on the offense too as a former offensive coordinator himself. Granted, Lynn was offensive coordinator for about three months after Buffalo fired Greg Roman in-season in 2016, and Lynn was only really a running backs coach before that otherwise. Rather than importing any particular detail about the Chargers offense to Detroit, it's possible that Campbell brought in Lynn more as a capable manager of a separate vision Campbell has in mind. The more authority Lynn has, the more we might expect Detroit to keep the ball on the ground.

Aaron Glenn, DC

Glenn was one of the top cornerbacks of the 90s and early 2000s – one of the league's most feared ballhawks even at just 5-9, 180. He's a complete unknown as a defensive coordinator, though, and even as a defensive backs coach it's difficult to tell whether he was especially good. New Orleans' safeties played well in Glenn's tenure, which began in 2016, but the cornerback play was uneven at best. Perhaps none of that really matters for Glenn's projection at defensive coordinator. One thing to watch is whether Glenn and Campbell diverge from the Saints' defensive scheme, which ran a 4-3 under Dennis Allen, in favor of the 3-4 principles used by Bill Parcells, who both Campbell and Glenn were close to as players.


 


 

GREEN BAY

Matt LaFleur, HC

He's not exactly the Next Sean McVay, but LaFleur is the real deal in some sense or another. Everyone knew before almost every play that the ball was going to Davante Adams or Aaron Jones, yet no one could consistently stop the Green Bay offense in 2020. That's a testament to LaFleur's scheme designs and play sequencing, and hopefully portends durable success going forward even with the inevitable shuffling in personnel. LaFleur's pre-snap motion kept defenses tilting all year and one can't help but wonder what might have happened if there were a more convincing WR2 threat than Marquez Valdes-Scantling. If the Packers could reduce MVS to an off-the-bench player and channel Jamaal Williams' usage into A.J. Dillon instead then there are ways to make this offense more explosive yet. LaFleur in any case has a 26-6 head coaching record as he heads into his age-41 season.

Nathaniel Hackett, OC

Hackett was something of a scapegoat for Jacksonville's struggles under Doug Marrone, but his brand has been rehabilitated somewhat after one year with LaFleur in Green Bay. Unfortunately for Hackett, he can only prove himself so much while LaFleur runs the show.

Joe Barry, DC

Mike Pettine turned out to be a dud of a defensive coordinator for the Packers – a costly oversight given the way their NFC Championship loss played out. The Packers now turn to Barry, who LaFleur poached from Sean McVay's staff. Barry served as assistant head coach and linebackers coach from 2017 to 2020 for the Rams, meaning he's had recent exposure to the concepts of both Wade Phillips and Brandon Staley. LaFleur will hope Barry can be to Green Bay what Staley was to the Rams last year, but it should be noted that Barry generally struggled in his first two stints as coordinator in Detroit (2007-2008) and Washington (2015-2016). It's still reasonable to hope Barry turns a corner in Green Bay, where he has more talent to work with than in his prior coordinator stops.


 


 

HOUSTON

David Culley, HC

Who knows where this one is going, but the Texans hired Culley as head coach after burning through every bit of whatever meager credibility they might have had beforehand, an outcome precipitated by the treacherous behavior of the ridiculous Jack Easterby, whose charming behavior drove the normally amiable Deshaun Watson to cut the cord on the team he just signed an extension with the prior summer. Culley has coached quarterbacks and even more so receivers going all the way back to 1994, when Sam Wyche hired him as wide receivers coach out of Texas A&M, where he held the same role. From there he coached wide receivers under Bill Cowher, Andy Reid, Sean McDermott and John Harbaugh at various points. With his work obscured under so many different coaches with no common thread, it's difficult to discern what Culley might do as head coach. He retained incumbent offensive coordinator Tim Kelly, so perhaps the Texans will look to run a scheme similar to what they did in 2020. Of course, you generally need a Deshaun Watson to do that, and the Deshaun Watson store has been on backorder for quite some time.

Tim Kelly, OC

Kelly was brought to Houston by Bill O'Brien, which indicates some sort of like-mindedness with the now disgraced former "GM"/coach, but Kelly's starkly better results in 2020 indicate insights that O'Brien never shared. Plus, Kelly has a fan in Deshaun Watson. Unfortunately for Kelly, the Texans are run by a circus syndicate that has seemingly run Watson out of town, and past instances of mismanagement imply Kelly will have less than ideal working conditions regardless of how this plays out. If Watson's word means anything then Kelly is a name to watch if he can ever escape Houston, though.

Lovie Smith, DC

Smith was one of the better defensive architects of the late 90s and early-to-mid 2000s, but he arrives to Houston under weird, discouraging circumstances. The fact is that this job was generally viewed as a toxic one given the embarrassing state of Texans management, and the fact that Smith took the job might indicate that no one wanted to hire him. Smith's 2014 and 2015 seasons as Tampa's head coach yielded an 8-24 record, and then after his firing he went 17-39 as Illinois' head coach...before being fired. The Texans defense has no major talent other than J.J. Watt, moreover, and Watt wants out.


 


 

INDIANAPOLIS

Frank Reich, HC

Reich largely seems like a double of his former colleague and fellow former backup quarterback Doug Pederson, but in 2020 their fortunes diverged as Pederson got fired while Reich snuck into the playoffs with Philip Rivers at quarterback. The Colts could have made things better on themselves – Reich voluntarily made the offense worse by limiting the playing time of Jonathan Taylor and Mo Alie-Cox despite the two clearly outplaying others who played ahead of them – but it's generally impressive that they made the playoffs with such a dead-armed quarterback. The uptempo Reich/Andrew Luck offense appears to be a thing of the past – Reich's tempo ranked around the league average the last two years – but perhaps Reich will dial up the aggressiveness again if he has a quarterback he can trust. Unfortunately, there's only so much they can do about that from their current position, and Jacob Eason is highly unlikely to be the answer. With a 28-20 head coaching record the pressure is probably about to build on Reich as he heads into his fourth season with the Colts.

Marcus Brady, OC

Brady replaces Nick Sirianni, who takes over as head coach in Philadelphia. Brady is a veteran coordinator by CFL standards -- he called offenses for six years in the CFL before the Colts hired him as quarterbacks coach, a role he's served in the last three years. Now that he's taking over as offensive coordinator he will presumably mostly defer to Reich's instruction.

Matt Eberflus, DC

Robert Saleh and Brandon Staley jumped him in line, but before that Eberflus was probably the league's hottest head coaching candidate among defensive coordinators. Eberflus has shown an unusual knack for calling disciplined and well-disguised zone coverages, and in the front four he's learned from one of the best in Rod Marinelli, who Eberflus coached under in Dallas before Indianapolis hired him as defensive coordinator in 2018. Eberflus is a former linebacker coach who runs a 4-3 built more on deception than aggression – according to Pro Football Reference the Colts ran blitzes at the league's second-lowest rate at 17.1 percent, which is less than half of what the league average hovered around. With that said, Eberflus needs to generate more pressure if he wants the Colts defense to go from good to great.


 

JACKSONVILLE

Urban Meyer, HC

Few coaches in college or pro football are infamous as Meyer, as he's generally spent his time between winning national championships harboring abusive personalities and evading accountability for whatever transgressions he oversaw for the time period in question. Meyer's strength in the college football realm, moreover, pertained especially to the institution of recruiting, and there's no such thing in the NFL. But for as much as Meyer might be another Bobby Petrino-type scoundrel, there's no doubt that he is crafty and cunning, not to mention the heir to the Trevor Lawrence draft pick. Meyer's offensive coaching hires are strange – offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and passing game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer are both fiends for I-formations and the like – but Meyer's college schemes were generally aggressive and spread-oriented.

Darrell Bevell, OC

Bevell was a strange coordinator hire for Meyer, because whereas Meyer's Ohio State offenses were cutting edge spread attacks afforded by the Buckeyes' Evil Empire budget, Bevell hails from the retro Barry Alvarez Wisconsin teams defined by slow-moving I-formation offenses. Bevell was mostly run-heavy in Seattle and Minnesota, too. But it's unlikely that Bevell runs offenses like those, both because there's no evidence Meyer actually identifies with them and because Trevor Lawrence is likely the compelling sort of talent to convince even the fogiest run-obsessed coach to open up the offense. You don't keep a gun like that in a display case.

Joe Cullen, DC

Cullen has been a mercenary defensive line coach for many years and many different teams -- his NFL career has seen him coach most recently the Ravens (2016-2020) but also Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Jacksonville and Detroit before that. He curiously has no history of working with Meyer despite coaching for about 30 years, including 16 in the college ranks. It's anyone's guess what his scheme will look like in Jacksonville, but the fact that he's most recently worked with Don Martindale and the Ravens might make the 3-4 the favorite.


 


 

KANSAS CITY

Andy Reid, HC

Reid is certainly fallible and he'll likely always be among the worst coaches at in-game time management, but his gifts as a football mind of course outweigh those points. Reid might be the best quarterback coach in the league's history and has shown a curious, changing outlook from a scheming standpoint over the course of his 22 years as an NFL head coach. The scheme he runs in Kansas City isn't the same as the one he ran with Donovan McNabb and the Eagles, though other similarly-tenured coaches have stood by old schemes longer and for worse reasons.

Eric Bienemy, OC

Bienemy has been a popular head coaching candidate since taking over for Matt Nagy as Kansas City's offensive coordinator in 2018, but another offseason hiring process passed without him getting a head coaching offer. Perhaps Nagy's struggles in Chicago have led league observers to attribute Kansas City's success solely to Reid at the expense of acknowledging Bienemy and Nagy, but it still feels like Bienemy will get his shot soon enough. With Reid turning 63 in March, though, there might be the possibility of Bienemy hanging around to serve as Reid's successor.

Steve Spagnuolo, DC

Spagnuolo might not get another head coaching shot in the NFL after burning out with the Rams (2009-2011), but if so then he's settled in as one of the league's better defensive coordinators for Kansas City. Spagnuolo is mostly a 4-3 coach who's ambitious in his coverage disguises and blitz designs, and with the Chiefs it's allowed him to forge a strong pass defense despite mediocre edge rush personnel and poor linebacker play. Spagnuolo is one of those defensive coordinators you especially hate to see when you're losing – he's good at making a quarterback look bad in a catch-up situation, and you tend to end up in that exact spot when you go against Patrick Mahomes.


 


 


 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Brandon Staley, HC

Staley sure was a great defensive coordinator hire for the Rams last year, and he impressed the Chargers to the point that they made him their primary head coach target to replace Anthony Lynn. Staley's 2020 Rams defense was arguably the best in the league, and you can't attribute that fact entirely to the personnel – the 2019 Rams defense had Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, too, but no one would confuse those results from those of 2020. Most of the credit for the difference would have to go to Staley, then, and the insights that allowed him to do that as a first-year coordinator indicate a general brightness that hopefully portends good results as a head coach. Although some defensive-minded head coaches carry the risk of running conservative, ball-control offenses, Staley is probably a more analytically-minded defensive coach and should therefore appreciate many of the same offensive principles extolled by McVay and Kyle Shanahan. If so, then we should expect the Chargers offense to be somewhat uptempo and aggressive, especially with motion.

Joe Lombardi, OC

Lombardi was Detroit's offensive coordinator under Jim Caldwell from 2014-2015, which of course didn't end especially well. Lombardi's coordinator stint was sandwiched by quarterback coaching jobs with the Saints (2009-2013 and 2016-2020). Staley hired Lombardi because Staley played as quarterback under Lombardi as offensive coordinator of Mercyhurst University in 2005, though the more publicly stated reason would probably have to do with the Drew Brees offense that Lombardi has spent so much time around. It's interesting that Lombardi's Detroit offenses were the setting of Peak Theo Riddick – perhaps something for Austin Ekeler investors to get excited about, as if Lombardi's familiarity with Alvin Kamara weren't already enough reason.

Renaldo Hill, DC

Hill was an NFL corner from 2001 to 2010, and now he arrives in Los Angeles to rejoin Staley after the two worked together under Vic Fangio in Denver. Staley's defensive background might mean a limited defensive coordinator role for Hill, but if so then Hill would likely focus on the defensive backs. Staley's background is mostly in the front seven. If Hill and Staley adhere to Fangio's principles then the Chargers should mostly run 3-4 concepts.


 


 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Sean McVay, HC/OC

Now a grizzled 35 years old, the wunderkind brand is wearing off slightly as McVay becomes a more recognizable part of the NFL establishment. As much as McVay's 19-13 record over the past two years falls short of the 24-8 record from his first two, he's still doubtlessly one of the league's uniquely strong coaches. McVay's offense, which is more or less variations of various Shanahan principles, did as much as it could to make Jared Goff look like a decent starting quarterback. That, unfortunately, was a hopeless task, which led the Rams to make the painful decision to cough up two first-round picks, a second-round pick, and Goff's brutal contract extension in order to shed some cap liability and add Matthew Stafford at quarterback. If McVay is as good as generally assumed then Stafford should prove a significant upgrade over Goff, giving a chance for the Rams remain contenders despite their cap and draft pick hell in the meantime. Stafford's arrival should bring new downfield passing possibilities to the Rams, which could prove explosive when combined with McVay's playcalling and scheming, which uses deception and tempo to keep defenders on their heels.

Raheem Morris, DC

Morris curiously coached wide receivers in Atlanta from 2016 to 2018, but otherwise he's been a defensive coach specializing in defensive backs coaching. Perhaps his time on both side of the ball was part of the draw to McVay, who quickly targeted Morris to replace Brandon Staley. Morris turned around the Atlanta defense in 2020 following a brutal start under the watch of the since-fired Dan Quinn. McVay will likely entrust Morris with more or less running the same defensive schemes that the Rams did in 2020, though extracting the same results as Staley will be a difficult task.


 


 

LAS VEGAS

Jon Gruden, HC

Gruden will always be good at coaching quarterbacks and he'll always have general insights on play design, but it seems like the peripheral aspects of the modern NFL game have passed him by. Rather than pacing the league like he did in his prime, Gruden's new Raiders feel trapped in an endless rebuild to the point that it's difficult to zero in on a specific problem – nothing is really going right. To be fair to Gruden, Mike Mayock has given him a horribly untalented roster to work with, but to be fair to Mayock, Gruden likely had significant input along the way. Still, it's worth noting that Gruden has coaxed two career years out of Derek Carr in a row now.

Greg Olson, OC

Olson is a longtime operative of the Holmgren coaching tree, which means he knows Gruden's language well. Olson likely has no meaningful authority, though, instead functioning as the supervisor of Gruden's orders.

Gus Bradley, DC

Bradley replaces Paul Guenther, who was fired in December after three brutal years as defensive coordinator. Perhaps Guenther was singularly to blame for the Raiders' poor results on defense, but the talent certainly seemed underwhelming, too. Clelin Ferrell was an indefensible fourth-overall pick in 2019 with Josh Allen, Devin White and Ed Oliver on the board, Cory Littleton and Lamarcus Joyner were both bust free agent pickups, and Damon Arnette (2020) was one of the worst first-round picks going back years. Given the dubious collection of talent it would be very impressive if Bradley can successfully emulate the Legion of Boom defenses that put him on the map in Seattle.


 

MIAMI

Brian Flores, HC

Flores' direction in Miami has been a series of starts and stops with sputters in between, but the multi-year trajectory seems generally promising despite the week-to-week turbulence. It's certainly safe to say that he's already made the Dolphins defense much better, which was arguably his most important task as a defensive-minded head coaching hire. Bill Belichick trusted Flores with the New England defense for a reason, and Flores demonstrated it on his own terms in 2020, turning the Miami defense into the disruptive amoeba rollout that is increasingly present in the league's cutting-edge defenses. With aggressive blitzing, convincing deception throughout the front seven and a handful of playmakers in the secondary, the Dolphins defense could continue to strengthen under Flores. Now he just needs someone to figure out his offense for him.

Eric Studesville and George Godsey, OC

The Chan Gailey experiment failed in 2020, leading Miami to this outcome of installing both Studesville and Godsey as offensive coordinator in title. Godsey in theory should handle some emphasis on the passing game, while Studesville coordinates the run game. Godsey is a quarterback coach with extensive connections to the Belichick/Bill O'Brien coaching trees, while Studesville is an in-house promotion who already coordinated the Miami ground game while coaching running backs. Godsey is therefore the biggest change here, and to what effect remains to be seen. There is a big difference between the static route combos of Bill O'Brien and the varying tactics of Josh McDaniels, so tracing Godsey to the Belichick tree doesn't hint at an obvious path forward.

Josh Boyer, DC

Boyer heads into his second season as Miami's defensive coordinator following a successful debut in 2020. Boyer no doubt defers extensively to Flores given Flores' defensive coordinator background, but Boyer is still one of the league's most interesting defensive backs coaches with a battle-tested history in New England even before following Flores to Miami.


 


 

MINNESOTA

Mike Zimmer, HC

Zimmer is one of the league's most time-tested defensive coaches and is a standout particularly for his ability to coach defensive backs, which bodes well for Minnesota's chances of developing corner prospects Jeff Gladney, Cam Dantzler and Mike Hughes despite struggles to this point. But those guys are major question marks in the meantime, and if Zimmer can't craft a strong defense then it's hard to see what he contributes to Minnesota's contention efforts. Despite a solid 64-47-1 record in Minnesota since 2014, Zimmer might be nearing his last chance with the Vikings. Besides improving those cornerbacks, his most pressing concern is to reestablish the Vikings pass rush after it produced the league's fourth-lowest pressure rate in 2020 according to Pro Football Reference.

Klint Kubiak, OC

Nepotism was what propelled the outcome, but from Zimmer's point of view the Klint Kubiak hiring was an ostensible means of preserving the scheme Gary ran in 2020, which is basically just the Kubiak twist on the Shanahan offenses that raised Kubiak. In Minnesota's case it will likely continue as a two-tight end base, with Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith lining up between Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson.

Adam Zimmer and Andre Patterson, DC

Mike's son Adam theoretically splits the defensive coordinating with Patterson, but the two of them probably just carry out Mike's orders for the most part. To the extent they actually get their hands on the Minnesota defense, Patterson likely focuses on the defensive line while Adam focuses on the linebackers.


 


 

NEW ENGLAND

Bill Belichick, HC/DC

Even after a difficult 2020 rebuild season, there's not much basis to question Belichick as the league's top coach. Perhaps problems are mounting for him, but they have in the past and he's always found a means of adjusting. Granted, New England's biggest problem is a lack of offensive talent and Belichick has never been good at identifying talent on offense, but he'll always be on the cutting edge of defensive scheming and should have the pieces necessary to keep the Patriots defense solid. With a 31-12 career playoff record and nine Super Bowl appearances to his credit, it's probably best to assume he'll find his way back somehow, even as he occasionally undermines himself with picks like N'Keal Harry and trade targets like Mohamed Sanu.

Josh McDaniels, OC

McDaniels had to deal with a lot of change in 2020, most notably the exit of Tom Brady and the introduction of Cam Newton. Newton's results as a passer were brutal, but so was the pass-catching personnel around him. Even if New England needs to improve from Newton at quarterback, it's also true that they need to do better than WR1 Jakobi Meyers and WR2 Damiere Byrd. The offense went into a bit of a shell as McDaniels tried to hide those substandard pass catchers in 2020, but when he has the necessary pieces McDaniels looks to implement an uptempo and varied game plan to dishevel opposing defenses. If the personnel improves there will be reason for optimism, but there is a lot of work to be done in the meantime.


 


NEW ORLEANS

Sean Payton, HC

The Drew Brees Era is likely over, and with that realization the pressure is really on for Payton. Although he's one of the NFL's most accomplished coaches, it might be a scary new terrain for him to coach without Brees for the first time since 2006. Payton was a respected quarterback coach and assistant head coach under Bill Parcells prior to embarking to New Orleans, so Payton has no shortage of pedigree and prior accomplishments to lean on, but Brees was a paradigm in himself and now it's gone. It will be interesting to see if Payton's offensive schemes going forward change without Brees or if he'll instead try to make the next quarterback execute the same concepts, but one way Payton could improve the Saints offense would be to establish a credible downfield element. Payton has proven he can get guys like Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara schemed open underneath, but New Orleans' dependency on short passes increased as Brees aged, and that left them vulnerable to teams with quality defenses, especially Minnesota in 2019 and Tampa Bay in 2020.

Pete Carmichael, OC

Carmichael has been Payton's right-hand man since 2009, coaching quarterbacks all the while, but he probably is more of an assistant to Payton than a true coordinator of the New Orleans offense.

Dennis Allen, DC

Although he burned out badly as head coach for the Raiders from 2012-2014, Allen has quietly been one of the league's more impressive defensive coordinators in recent years. It helps to have a strong defensive line and a shutdown linebacker like Demario Davis, but Allen has long been known for his ability and insistence on establishing pressure. He didn't need to blitz so much in 2020 thanks to that strong front four, but he's willing to throw the kitchen sink at an offense to get some hurries.


 


 

NEW YORK JETS

Robert Saleh, HC

He arrives by San Francisco rather than Seattle, but Saleh is more or less another defensive specialist hired from the Pete Carroll coaching tree. Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn have been conclusive failures as head coaches, but it's possible that Saleh has a helpful additional layer of insight after working with Kyle Shanahan since 2017. There's only so much a defensive coach like Saleh can do about the Jets' profound problems on offense, but he'll at the very least be expected to get the Jets defense in order following an embarrassing stint with Gregg Williams at coordinator. If Saleh is to build something similar with the Jets as he did in San Francisco then he'll need a lot more pass-rushing and defensive back talent.

Mike LaFleur, OC

Mike, brother of Matt, heads to the Jets to run the offense while Saleh handles the defense. After working as Kyle Shanahan's passing game coordinator from 2017 to 2020, LaFleur will presumably look to implement an offense based on the Shanahan scheming principles. Executing it in practice is a separate matter from the understanding of the theory, so LaFleur is assured nothing, but it's hard to knock him as a coaching prospect in the meantime. He has the right pedigree.

Jeff Ulbrich, DC

Ulbrich joins Saleh in New York after the two began their NFL coaching careers under Pete Carroll in Seattle – Ulbrich's path diverging to Dan Quinn's staff in Atlanta while Saleh headed to San Francisco with Kyle Shanahan – and Ulbrich will presumably be more like a right-hand man to Saleh than a true defensive coordinator.


 


 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Joe Judge, HC

Judge's Tough Guy act might be a bit over the top and his feud with former offensive line coach Marc Colombo was a bit of a red flag during the 2020 season, but no one can deny that the Giants played high-motor football in 2020, leading their defense in particular to overachieve to great extents. But whereas Jodge's berserker serum worked well for the defense, the offense needs a more deft guiding hand and a great deal more talent before much can be done about it. It's not clear whether Judge has the means of addressing that particular issue but his choice of Jason Garrett at offensive coordinator is not encouraging on that front.

Jason Garrett, OC

Daniel Jones regressed in 2020, which was predictable given all the red flags in his peripheral stats. For that outcome we can only blame Garrett so much, but there were other details of puzzling concern in his first year with the Giants that gave cause for alarm. Most notably, the usage of Evan Engram made absolutely no sense – despite Engram's 4.42 speed, Garrett utilized him with route combos far more conservative than he ever did even with the aging Jason Witten in Dallas. Perhaps it was Garrett overreacting to Jones' limitations and the struggles of the Giants offensive line, but it's another instance in a long line of poor judgment from Garrett, who might be on a short leash going into 2021.

Patrick Graham, DC

You could see some of Joe Judge's attitude in the Giants defense in 2020 – you don't overachieve like they did unless you have a motor advantage over your opponents – but Graham deserves a lot of credit for the results too. Previously under Brian Flores and Bill Belichick, Graham is well-versed on running a defense and proved it in 2020 despite an underwhelming collection of talent. The Giants generated a good amount of pressure with their 3-4 despite poor pass-rushing personnel and an only moderate amount of blitzing, all of which is a testament to how well Graham disguised his playcalls before the snap.


 


 

PHILADELPHIA

Nick Sirianni, HC

Brutal introductory press conference aside, Sirianni has been on a promising enough trajectory as an understudy from the Frank Reich coaching tree. He coached quarterbacks with the Chargers from 2014-2015 before coordinating Reich's offenses in Indianapolis from 2018 to 2020, and now he'll be Philadelphia's head coach at 39 years old. His exact approach on offense might be pending the team's activity in the draft and free agency, as there's a big difference between Jalen Hurts and Philip Rivers. If the Eagles go ahead with Hurts or draft an athletic quarterback prospect like Justin Fields then Sirianni's 2021 offense won't look much like his ones from the years prior, but at least he has some experience working with a mobile quarterback from Jacoby Brissett's ill-fated 2019 season.

Shane Steichen, OC

Steichen arrives to Philadelphia after coordinating the Chargers offense in 2020, an impressive season for Steichen given the promise showed by Justin Herbert. Herbert was a huge stylistic departure from Philip Rivers the year prior, so Steichen has already showed the ability to adjust at a competent level. Steichen may well show up Sirianni in Philadelphia despite Sirianni's higher title – Steichen's 2020 Chargers offense was more impressive than any called by Siriannni in Indianapolis. In the meantime, the two link up again after working together with the Chargers back from 2014-2017, where Steichen coached quarterbacks and Sirianni coached receivers.

Jonathan Gannon, DC

Gannon coached defensive backs under Mike Zimmer in Minnesota from 2014 to 2017, then he coached cornerbacks for the Colts from 2018 to 2020. Zimmer is one of the league's more established man-coverage coaches and Indianapolis coordinator Matt Eberflus may be the league's leading expert on zone coverages, so Gannon has received a wide breadth of schooling from credible teachers at the very least. It would be a major boost for the Philadelphia defense if Gannon could successfully implement disciplined zone coverage elements to cover for Philadelphia's dubious cornerback personnel.


 


 

PITTSBURGH

Mike Tomlin, HC

Despite Terry Bradshaw's annual whining about whatever, Tomlin is indisputably one of the league's top coaches. He'll go into 2021 looking to make it 15 straight years without a losing record, a span which has otherwise included nine playoff berths and seven divisional titles. Ben Roethlisberger was toast in 2020 and the Steelers are pushed up against the salary cap, so Tomlin is no lock to make it 15 in a row, but they just won the division despite Roethlisberger's 2020 struggles.

Matt Canada, OC

The Steelers shed Randy Fichtner at offensive coordinator after three years in the role, a stint that followed 11 seasons of Fichtner coaching the Steelers in various lower roles. Canada is the replacement, one year after the Steelers hired him as quarterbacks coach. Canada originally called offenses for Paul Chryst at Wisconsin before stints at North Carolina State, LSU and Pittsburgh in varying capacities afterward. Although he hails from a school of strict I-Formation scheming, Canada has shown a tendency to apply variations on the old-school schemes he was raised on. It's not clear whether he'll show the same formational tendencies the Steelers did in 2020, though, when they spread the field excessively to try to create shallow throwing windows for Roethlisberger's busted arm. Canada might look to bring the offense inward a bit and lean on deception more than spacing.

Keith Butler, DC

The Steelers defense is almost a sentient being in itself – its aesthetics, schemes and results have barely changed over the team's entire history – but Butler seems like one of its more notable stewards all the same. For two years now the Steelers have owned the league's fiercest pass rush, and after some years of struggle the Steelers are even enjoying standout production from their cornerbacks. Like all Pittsburgh coordinators Butler is a blitz fiend, and given the sterling results there's no reason to expect a change there.


 

SEATTLE

Pete Carroll, HC

This show might be nearing its end. After a blazing start to the 2020 season raised fervent Super Bowl hopes for Seahawks fans, what seemed like a new high-octane offense for Seattle burned out in the season's second half, and the resulting embarrassment has seemingly taken a toll on Carroll and the Seahawks organization. Previously trusted offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was fired – a bad look for Carroll given how much Schottenheimer deferred to the head coach. It's difficult to find anything that Schottenheimer did wrong that Carroll didn't instruct him to do, in other words. Not just that, but Russell Wilson has taken to the press in ways he never did previously to lobby for change in the team. It indicates a mounting alienation between Carroll and his colleagues, whereas in the past his coaching charisma appeared a distinct strength of his. Perplexed by his team's failures and running out of culprits to blame, Carroll seems to be up against the wall as he heads into his age-70 season.

Shane Waldron, OC

Waldron is the replacement for Schottenheimer, but to what effect isn't obvious. Carroll wants to run the ball more and better and more or less blamed the lack of rushing production for Seattle's second-half collapse, but Schottenheimer was already a believer of run-heavy dogma. It's therefore not clear what Waldron would do differently. Hired away from the Rams, Waldron was previously the passing game coordinator for Sean McVay since 2018. The Seahawks will likely use more zone-blocking concepts if Waldron is given meaningful autonomy, but there's nothing in Waldron's history to suggest he's as run-obsessed as Carroll. Perhaps Waldron can convince Carroll his conclusions are wrong, or perhaps Carroll will limit Waldron's authority instead to keep him grounded.

Ken Norton Jr., DC

Norton's results have never been very good in Seattle but Pete Carroll trusts him. With fewer allies in tow than ever it makes sense that Carroll would value Norton's presence, but Norton's three seasons as defensive coordinator have generally been discouraging.


 


 

SAN FRANCISCO

Kyle Shanahan, HC/OC

Shanahan could probably improve as a talent evaluator, but in terms of scheming ability there might not be anyone better, and it's certain to say that only a few are even close. It's probably just Brian Daboll, Andy Reid, Sean McVay and Matt LaFleur who are anywhere near Shanahan's level in that sense, and both McVay and LaFleur probably would need to cite Shanahan as an influence. Shanahan uses tempo and motion to keep the defense stressed, and the secret third ingredient is his instinct for play sequencing. Shanahan's any one play might not be so intimidating at a glance, but like an elite baseball pitcher he'll display several drastically different outcomes from the same break point, and when you're under the gun it's easy to guess wrong and swing at the wrong pitch. The defense might think they see an obvious run call, but after one step in the wrong direction they realize too late that the ball is going to George Kittle, or they'll sit on the Kittle play only to get bashed out of position with an outside zone run. Shanahan could really leverage his strategic advantages into sustained success if he could get a better quarterback than Jimmy Garoppolo, though Shanahan has probably been his own worst enemy on that front – the Garoppolo experiment probably set the team back from what it could have been by now.

DeMeco Ryans, DC

A former collegiate great at Alabama and an All-Pro linebacker for the Texans and Eagles, Ryans takes over the San Francisco defense with Robert Saleh gone to the Jets. Shanahan delegated the team responsibilities to Saleh so that Shanahan could run the San Francisco offense, so Ryans could have a significant amount of authority at age 36. The 49ers scheme shouldn't change much at all, though, as Ryans has spent the last three years coaching the San Francisco linebackers in that scheme. A healthy amount of blitzing and emphasis on press coverage should be the expectation.


 

TAMPA BAY

Bruce Arians, HC

Arians finally got his first Super Bowl victory as a head coach in 2020, his third if you include his efforts as an assistant coach. Arians conceded quite a lot of control to Tom Brady after previously using a more hands-on approach, so the scheme wasn't quite the same as what he ran in Pittsburgh and Arizona previously. If you believe Arians, he didn't really do much in 2020 aside from take attendance – he said offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich ran the whole show on offense, and the esteemed Todd Bowles of course gets all the credit for Tampa Bay's defense. With most of the team foundation intact for 2021, Arians' new model of success may well carry him into the foreseeable future, though Leftwich looks like a worthy heir if Arians should step away.

Byron Leftwich, OC

A big, downfield quarterback as a player, Leftwich has the same vertical passing tendencies as Arians, making the two a like-minded pair of mentor and mentee. Leftwich had a little exposure running things for Arians in Arizona, too, so the 2021 season will mark roughly his fourth as offensive coordinator. Now 41 years old and with an unmatched quarterback background among NFL coaching prospects, it wouldn't be surprising if Leftwich were soon a head coach, perhaps even in Tampa Bay after Arians.

Todd Bowles, DC

Bowles is one of the best defensive coaches in the NFL, and 2020 was arguably his best work in a career full of accomplishments. Mostly a 3-4 coordinator, Bowles is an aggressive blitzer up front and a strong defensive backs coach for the secondary. Before he was more specifically known as a defensive coordinator Bowles was one of the league's most respected defensive backs coaches as far back as 15 years ago. So long as Tampa brings back Shaq Barrett in free agency Bowles should put forth another elite Tampa defense in 2021.


 


 

TENNESSEE

Mike Vrabel, HC

Vrabel never replaced the retired Dean Pees prior to the 2020 season, so he ended up the by-default defensive coordinator. Who knows why, but the results couldn't have been much worse. Despite returning everyone but Jurell Casey – a loss that should have been offset by the addition of Jadeveon Clowney – the Titans defense went from good under Pees to arguably the worst in the league under Vrabel in 2020. Vrabel showed he can't run the defense and never claimed to know how to run a defense, so his functions in Tennessee seem to relate mostly to player motivation and in-game judgment calls. He heads into his fourth season as head coach with a 29-19 record, and the pressure is on after losing Matt LaFleur and Arthur Smith as offensive coordinators over the past three years.

Todd Downing, OC

Downing takes over for Arthur Smith, who's now head coach in Atlanta. Downing was briefly hyped as quarterback coach with the Raiders in 2016, leading to a promotion to offensive coordinator in 2017, but he was fired after one brutal year in that role. Downing used a lot of two-tight end personnel that year with Jared Cook and Lee Smith, so that aspect of his history is consistent with the multiple-tight end tendencies of Arthur Smith previously. The Tennessee offense shouldn't change much in theory so long as Downing can keep the show moving along.

Shane Bowen, DC

Mike Vrabel was the closest thing Tennessee had to a defensive coordinator as they didn't technically employ one in 2020, and the unit took a big step back from the standard set by Dean Pees previously. Bowen gets promoted from linebacker coach to formally take the task off Vrabel's plate, but it's not clear whether he'll try to change much about Tennessee's 3-4 scheme. If Bowen has any choice he should strive to run things more like Pees and less like Vrabel did in 2020.


 


 

WASHINGTON

Ron Rivera, HC

Rivera is a defensive-minded coach who was originally brought up in the prestigious Jim Johnson coaching tree, but at this point he defers plenty to offensive coordinator Scott Turner and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio in their respective roles. Rivera won't be on the cutting edge of any NFL trend but his players have always played hard for him. His teams will never lose for lack of effort, which you can't say for everyone.

Scott Turner, OC

It's unclear how much Turner might defer to Rivera in the planning of Washington's offensive schemes, but Washington's offense wasn't especially encouraging in 2020. Turner went into the season determined to feature JD McKissic and the results were predictably flat, finishing with a team average of 6.3 yards per pass at just 64.7 percent completed. Turner used a three-wide base in 2020 but the slot receiver was mostly a decoy to subsidize McKissic's usage, so it was a conservative offense despite its spread-like formation tendencies. Terry McLaurin is very good and Logan Thomas was somewhat serviceable in 2020, but Washington needs to take McKissic's reps and reallocate them toward Antonio Gibson and the receivers.

Jack Del Rio, DC

Del Rio has had a hand in a number of memorably strong defenses – specifically the turn of the century Ravens and Panthers, and the DeMarcus Ware-Von Miller Broncos defenses – and he's well-versed on both the 3-4 and 4-3. In Washington he's running a 4-3, which churned out generally good results in 2020. Matthew Ioannidis was a big loss at defensive tackle, but Washington leaned on its still-elite remaining supply of linemen to cover for its only decent secondary personnel. If the Washington offense can improve then Del Rio's defense should have the opportunity for more sacks in 2020 – there's only so much quarterbacks can hide from the likes of Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, especially if Ioannidis can hit the ground running in his return.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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