NFL coaches on the HOT seat

NFL head coaches on the Hot Seat

Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes 

Introduction

Every season, a few NFL teams decide that parting ways with their current head coach are in the team’s best interest. While some coaches retain their job for many years, every bad coach is eventually fired once their flaws are revealed. Even teams with star quarterbacks, like the 2020 Houston Texans, fired their coaches. Whether it be due to an outdated scheme, a lack of interpersonal skills, or the inability to make in-game adjustments, there are a few current men that should be coaching as their lives depend on it.

Kliff Kingsbury

In theory, the Arizona Cardinals have built their team properly. After realizing that Josh Rosen was a failed draft pick, the team went back to the well and took Heisman winner Kyler Murray with the first overall pick. To complement their young quarterback, the Cardinals added college offensive guru Kliff Kingsbury to coach their squad. During the 2020 offseason, the Cardinals added Deandre Hopkins to give Kyler Murray a legitimate alpha wide receiver. This offseason, the Cardinals signed J.J. Watt to shore up their defensive line.

The additions that the Cardinals have made, in addition to Kyler Murray’s lack of major development as a passer, have put Kingsbury’s job security in jeopardy. The Cardinals have yet to have a winning record with Kliff at the helm. The offense that Kingsbury has designed is reminiscent of any college air-raid offense. There were many questions about whether an offense that ran a large portion of their plays with four wide receivers and one running back would work. The Cardinals ran this personnel, called 10 personnel, a record 20 percent last season, 5 percent more than the next team–the Buffalo Bills. Kyler Murray’s lack of major development as a passer has forced many to evaluate if he is the man for the job. If the Cardinals do not post nine wins next season, Kingsbury could be on his way out. 

Zac Taylor

Sean McVay’s disciple Zac Taylor was a surprise hire during the 2019 coaching cycle. The then 36-year-old with no prior experience naturally drew comparison to McVay, his mentor. When McVay was hired to develop Jared Goff, there were doubts. However, once the public saw the transformation Goff underwent, many teams searched for the next young, offensive mastermind. The Bengals took a shot on Taylor, hoping they could find a franchise-changing coach. However, in his first two seasons, Taylor has been underwhelming at best. The Bengals have six combined wins in Taylor’s two seasons and have held a top-five pick in both years. 

After Taylor’s first season, the Bengals selected the heir apparent to Andy Dalton, LSU Heisman winner Joe Burrow. Burrow’s rookie season was cut short when he tore his ACL, but when Burrow played he looked like a franchise quarterback. The issue with Taylor’s tenure is not what he has done at the quarterback position, but rather everything else. The offensive line is among the league’s worst, raising red flags about the viability of the offense long-term. The defensive line lacks edge rush talent, and they let their premier pass rusher, Carl Lawson, walk during free agency. The Bengals still may not have NFL-caliber linebackers, and the secondary is still in shambles. The Bengals are looking at another top ten draft pick, and Zac Talyor will likely be out of a job come January. 

Why Steve Belichick can be the next great head coach

Steve Belichick is primed to be the next legend

By: Reese Nasser

Steve Belichick has been a part of the New England Patriots coaching staff since 2012, when he was hired as a defensive assistant straight out of college. His history predates that as his father has been the head coach of the team since 2000.

While many people know him just as longtime Patriots Coach Bill Belichick’s son, Steve has proven to be much more than that. In his nine years with the team, he has quickly climbed his way through the ranks as he is now the coach of the outside linebackers. But what is the future of Steve Belichick’s career? Let’s take a look at why he can be one of the next great coaches in the NFL. 

What He Does Now

Steve is currently listed as the outside linebackers coach for the Patriots, a position that he has held since 2020. Before this. he was both the coach of the safeties and the secondary.   

But that is not all that he does. It is the NFL’s worst kept secret that Steve also calls plays for the Patriots defense, or at least does occasionally.

Former New England linebacker Jarod Mayo is the inside linebackers coach for the Patriots. It has been reported that he calls plays on defense as well. So there is no clear play caller in New England, but instead a duo that knows all of the ins and outs of the team. 

What the Next Step Is

Bill Belichick, throughout his career, has for the most part always been opposed to officially naming who the defensive coordinator is. There have been few people throughout his tenure that have officially received the title. Even when looking at the Patriots coaching staff right now, there is no defensive coordinator listed. 

But, that could potentially change soon. As noted, Steve has spent time calling plays on the defensive side of the ball, alongside Jarod Mayo. These two are the unofficial defensive coordinator, seemingly splitting the duties.

If Bill Belichick decides to name an official defensive coordinator, it would make sense for it to be Steve. Outside of just being Bill’s son, Steve has achieved a lot during his short time in the NFL.

His coaching helped cornerback Stephen Gilmore have the best season of his career in 2019, which resulted in Gilmore winning Defensive Player of the Year and being named to his second First Team All-Pro team. This 2019 defense also led the NFL in both scoring and yards allowed per game. This success must be attributed to Steve in some way, even if not entirely.

The next step in helping Steve move forward would be to give him the official title of Defensive Coordinator. His proven knowledge on the defensive ball is clearly there but his achievements may be getting lost in the shuffle because he does not have the title of defence coordinator. After receiving this title, if Steve hasn’t already, head coaching looks should begin to roll in.

Why He Can Be Great

Belichick seemingly has all of the intangibles needed to be a great head coach in the NFL. His strong defensive mind will be heavily sought after in a league that is starting to rely so much on offense.

He also, much like his father, seems to live and breathe football. His knowledge and involvement at the highest level of the game can not go unnoticed. He has been in an NFL locker room since 2011 and has already experienced five super bowls and won three. He has been a part of every facet of the game and has become a proven leader. His defensive units have been regarded as some of the best in the NFL.  

The knowledge that his father has passed down to him will only help him become an even better coach. Bill Belichich, when all is said and done, may go down as the best coach in NFL history. His son will undoubtedly learn more about the game through the things that he has already experienced.

The expectations will be high for Steve once he reaches the pinnacle of coaching, whenever that may be. But, if anything that he has shown to this point is real, he will be up to the task. And he might just end up being great. 

3 most entertaining NFL coaches: fun side of the NFL

Pete Caroll is a very cool NFL coach

By: Pat Pitts

The No Fun League has been thrown around to describe America’s most prominent football league. The referees suck the fun out of the event by flagging celebrations, penalizing big hits and even worse wanting to be in FULL control of the game. 

Luckily, this is not always the case. 

Everyone follows the most fun players around the league on social media. They give their fans an all inclusive access to their personal lives. It has evolved into an easy way to fall in love with a certain guy. 

Players are not the only ones who have fun on and off the field. Some of the league’s top head coaches know how to have a good time, especially with some being former players themselves. Sports are fun; don’t ruin that. 

It’s a pleasure to watch mic ’d-up videos of players, but the coaches are just as entertaining. Well, some are entertaining while others are not the best at expressing their emotions during game time. 

Here is a list of some of my favorite coaches in the NFL. 

Pete Carroll (SEA)

Just because he may be the oldest head coach in the league, does not mean he forgets how to have fun. Sometimes, he may have too much fun.

Pete Carroll has coached the Seattle Seahawks for the past 12 seasons. He brought the franchise to two Super Bowls, winning one with his legendary defense, “The Legion of Boom.” Sprinkle in a few conference championship appearances and division titles, it’s been a nice decade for the 69-year-old. 

What qualifies him for this list? He acts like a grandpa at a BBQ with his team. He steps into the office every day with the mentality that football is fun; players should be having fun while playing. 

Before D.K Metcalf’s pre-draft interview, Carroll decided to show off his muscles by standing shirtless as Metcalf walked in. Metcalf laughed. Carroll flexed. The rest is history. 

Jon Gruden (LV Raiders)

Jon Gruden oozes entertainment. If you don’t smile when he appears on television, go to a doctor. 

Hard Knocks gave fans an inside look at Gruden. The cameras following him week after week allowed fans to see Gruden’s true self, not just the scary coach he embodies on the sidelines. 

What makes Gruden a “fun” coach? His love for the game. 

A story to support my claim comes from an episode of Hard Knocks. HBO put together a montage of Gruden at practice in players’ ears asking them if they, “like it or love it?” 

It may seem like a cliche phrase, but Gruden asking that demonstrates to the audience that Gruden loves being out there with his team. He feels joy every time he steps on the turf. He just wants his players to like it, or love it, as much as he does. 

Joe Judge (NYG)

If I left him off this list, I would have had to go and take a lap. 

The Giants hired Joe Judge last season from New England. A lot of “experts” believed that Judge may not be the best hire; shockingly, they were wrong. 

Judge implemented change in the organization within days. Players began to buy in from the start of training camp. His unique mud drill to wrap up practice went viral across social media. Judge found himself in the midst of his own drill, sliding down a sopping wet slide of mud. He secured the ball and the love of Giants nation. 

*Video of Judge mud slide tweet*

The additions signed this offseason have the pleasure of joining a team hungry for a championship, but having fun while doing it. However, Daniel Jones’ success actually determines how much fun can be had in the Big Apple. 

Sports are fun. The coaches are the ones who dictate how much fun a team will have. It’s all about balance. It will be interesting to see which new head coach takes a fun approach to the game, like one of the three above. 

The 2020-fun season of the NFL is projected to be the biggest one yet. It better be the most fun, or else I might have to sing a certain song to bring us back on track. 

*FUN Song Gif*

5 Under The Radar NFL Head Coaching Candidates For 2022

By: Eli Grabanski

Piecing together a quality NFL team is difficult. To win a championship, you generally need quality players, quality management, and quality coaching.

Some popular candidates the last couple of years that have gotten buzz for head coaching jobs but not been hired are…

  • Eric Bieniemy – Offensive Coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs
  • Brian Daboll – Offensive Coordinator, Buffalo Bills
  • Joe Brady – Offensive Coordinator, Carolina Panthers
  • Kellen Moore – Offensive Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys
  • Nathaniel Hackett – Offensive Coordinator, Green Bay Packers
  • Greg Roman – Offensive Coordinator, Baltimore Ravens
  • Matt Eberflus – Defensive Coordinator, Indianapolis Colts
  • Todd Bowles – Defensive Coordinator, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Don Martindale – Defensive Coordinator, Baltimore Ravens
  • Leslie Frazier – Defensive Coordinator, Buffalo Bills

But while most of the top candidates are generally offensive or defensive coordinators, this isn’t always the case. Just this past year, Dan Campbell was hired to be the Detroit Lions head coach after serving as the New Orleans Saints assistant head coach/tight ends coach from 2016-2020, and David Culley was hired to be the Houston Texans head coach despite spending most of his career as a wide receivers coach. Teams are looking to find their franchise’s head coach early on and taking more shots on guys with less experience. This article will dive into five current NFL coaches who aren’t currently being talked about as NFL head coaching candidates but easily could find themselves in a position for a head coaching job within the next couple of years.

Harold Goodwin (Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

There has been a lot of talk about Buccaneers’ coordinators Todd Bowles and Byron Leftwich building resumés that make them strong head-coaching candidates in the future, but the Buccaneers also have a third coach who should be considered for head coaching positions: assistant head coach Harold Goodwin. Goodwin has the traditional experience of being a coordinator prior to applying for head coaching jobs, spending time as the offensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals from 2013 to 2017. During the time that Goodwin was the offensive coordinator of the team, the Cardinals had one of the most dangerous offenses in the league.

Harold Goodwin’s Team Season Offensive Stats (As An Offensive Coordinator)
YearTeamGamesTeam Pass Att.Team Pass Yds.Team Pass TDsTeam Rush Att.Team Rush Yds.Team Rush TDs
2013AZ OC16574429124422154012
2014AZ OC1656839902139713086
2015AZ OC16562477535452191716
2016AZ OC16646442528399173220
2017AZ OC1659839792141013866
Basic Offensive Team Statistics From Harold Goodwin’s Time As An Offensive Coordinator

Having previous success as an offensive coordinator in itself doesn’t indicate that someone is a good fit to be a head coach – after all, Pete Carmichael Jr. (New Orleans Saints Offensive Coordinator) would have been hired years ago if that were the case. Skills like communication, leadership, management, and organization are also very important abilities for a head coach to have if they want to be successful. Back in 2017 when Harold Goodwin received a few head coaching interviews from NFL teams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians emphasized the importance of those skills to those teams stating, “You’re not hiring a playcaller. You’re hiring a leader of men. You’re not hiring a playcaller, you’re hiring a head coach. He will hire a playcaller, but you’re looking for a man to lead your team and lead your organization. There are a few us that call plays, very few, so don’t hire an offensive coordinator. Hire a head coach.”

Harold Goodwin has been developing the skills necessary to be a head coach dating back to his college days at Michigan (graduated with a degree in management and communications) and should be in the mix for a head coaching job in 2022.

Mike Kafka (Quarterbacks Coach, Kansas City Chiefs)

It’s no secret that the Kansas City Chiefs have been one of the best teams in the NFL since Patrick Mahomes became the starting quarterback. And when a team has success, their coaching staff tends to get poached by other teams looking to get a piece of that success. Eric Bieniemy will likely be one coaching staff member that gets poached from the Chiefs in 2022 but do not be surprised if the Chiefs quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Mike Kafka also gets offered a head coaching position. Kafka has been the Chiefs quarterbacks coach for nearly the entirety of Patrick Mahomes’s career thus far, joining the team in 2018. He has the relatability factor with players, having played quarterback in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles (2010-2011) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2014). He also will be just 34 years old at the start of the 2021 season, and some teams may look at him as the next great young offensive-minded coach like Sean McVay, Matt LaFleur, or Kevin Stefanski.

Sean Desai (Defensive Coordinator, Chicago Bears)

Sean Desai will be the Chicago Bears’ defensive coordinator in 2021 after Chuck Pagano retired. Desai has been the Chicago Bears, coaching staff, for a while, previously spending time as a defensive quality control coach (2013-2018) and safeties coach (2019-2020) for the team.

Shane Steichen (Offensive Coordinator, Philadelphia Eagles)

Despite the Los Angeles Chargers’ struggles over the past couple of years, Shane Steichen did a pretty great job as an offensive coordinator in his first 24 games in the role for the team and helped Justin Herbert have one of the best rookie quarterback seasons in NFL history.

YearTeamGamesPass Att.Pass Yds.Pass TDsRush Att.Rush Yds.Rush TDs
2019LAC OC836.375290.751.525.75112.1251
2020LAC OC1639.1875284.251.937529.125111.50.75
Shane Steichen Per Game Statistics As An NFL Offensive Coordinator

Now Steichen is with the Philadelphia Eagles on Nick Sirianni’s coaching staff. If he can design an offense around quarterback Jalen Hurts that helps Hurts improve upon his 52% completion percentage he should get some strong looks as a head coaching candidate in 2022.

Matt Canada (Offensive Coordinator, Pittsburgh Steelers)

Matt Canada College Offensive Coordinator/Head Coach Stats (Per Game)
YearGamesTeam Pass Att.Team Pass Yds.Team Pass TDsTeam Rush Att.Team Rush Yds.Team Rush TDs
1997 Butler1033.20211.801.2037.50*138.00*1.30
2003 Northern Illinois1229.17218.922.0840.75*189.83*1.58
2007 Indiana1334.23236.382.1535.85*158.15*1.38
2008 Indiana1229.83181.250.9236.50*167.92*1.58
2009 Indiana1236.50247.921.4230.42*119.92*1.25
2010 Indiana1242.75287.172.0828.25*101.25*1.08
2011 Northern Illinois1429.00241.862.0741.21*237.29*2.43
2012 Wisconsin1420.64156.931.0744.36*238.93*2.71
2013 NC State1235.17240.831.1742.83*167.42*1.17
2014 NC State1329.23204.001.8538.23*205.62*2.00
2015 NC State1331.62210.771.5440.92*203.54*2.77
2016 Pittsburgh1324.62221.692.1540.62*228.85*2.77
2017 LSU1323.08203.461.3142.46*209.00*1.92
2018 Maryland1220.08141.251.0039.75*232.92*2.08
Canada’s Career Averages (College OC/HC)17529.74214.291.5838.69*187.8*1.89

*College statistics include sacks as a rushing statistic

3 things to know about Norv Turner

What is most impressive about the offensive guru?

Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes 

Introduction

Born in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina in 1952, Norv Turner has spent his whole life around football. Turner attended and played quarterback at the University of Oregon, where he went on to be a graduate assistant in 1975. Turner would then rise through the ranks of the college system until his eventual hire in the National Football League by the Los Angeles Rams. Turner worked around the league, winning super bowls as a coordinator before receiver head coaching offers. Though Turner never had sustained success as a head coach, he is thought of well in the league due to his history as a coordinator. Norv’s son, Scott Turner, is the current offensive coordinator for the Washington Football Team. 

West Coast Start

Turner’s beginnings are rooted on the West Coast of the United States. Immediately after graduating from Oregon, he spent a year working with their football program as a graduate assistant. Pac-12 rival USC poached Turner from Oregon, making him their wide receivers coach from 1976 to 1979. The Trojans promoted Turner to quarterbacks coach for the 1981-1983 seasons, then made him their offensive coordinator for the 1984 season. During Turner’s nine seasons with the Trojans, USC won three conference titles and one NCAA division one title. 

Turner’s achievements with USC made him a target by the NFL. The Los Angeles Rams hired Turner to coach their wide receivers. During his tenure with the Rams from 1985 to 1990, he also was an assistant coach. Due to the Rams’ progress during Turner’s time with them, he received an offer from the Dallas Cowboys to be their offensive coordinator. 

Success In Dallas

Norv Turner’s career took off while he coordinated the Dallas Cowboys offense. In 1990, the year before Turner joined Dallas, the Cowboys’ offense was dead last in the National Football League. They averaged 255.1 yards and 15.2 points per game. In Turner’s first year, the offense jumped to 9th in the league, averaging 318.8 yards and 21.4 yards per game. During the next two years of Turner’s time with Dallas, the Cowboys possessed a top-five offense. The electric Cowboys’ offense possessed multiple Hall of Famers, most notably Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin. In his three-year stint with Dallas, the franchise would go on to compete in two Super Bowls against the Buffalo Bills, defeating them in both matches. 

Turner’s transformation of the Cowboys’ offense landed him a head coaching offer in 1994 with the Washington Redskins. 

Bounced Around The League

Following his time with the Cowboys, the division rival Redskins, now the Washington Football Team, hired him as their head coach. Turner served as Washington’s head coach from 1994 to 2000. His cumulative record as Washington’s coach was 49-59-1. Turner’s team reached the playoffs once during his seven-year tenure. The Redskins fired Norv Turner with three remaining games in the 2000 season, and he has the rare distinction of getting fired as a coach during the season despite a winning record. 

Turner landed an offensive coordinator gig the next season with the San Diego Chargers. Though he was not brought back for the 2001 season, he became the Chargers’ head coach before the 2007 season, and he held that title for six seasons. In his entire career, Turner had four head coaching regimes and served as the offensive coordinator for eight different NFL franchises. He is the only head coach to have a losing record despite winning over 100 games.

Ranking the NFC West Coaches

Who is the best head coach in the NFC West?

By: Drew Feinberg

The NFC West has quickly become one of the most intriguing divisions to follow throughout the entire NFL. With high-powered offenses, hard-hitting defenses and some of the biggest stars in the game, there’s a reason you see NFC West teams so often on primetime games. Not only the on-field talent shines bright in this division; the NFC West is home to arguably the best group of head coaches in the entire league: Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay, Kliff Kingsbury and Pete Carroll.

From the youngest head coach in the league (McVay, 35) to the oldest (Carroll, 69), the NFC West has it all. Most or all of the current NFC West head coaches are known as “football geniuses” and for good reason; they are all among the most innovative play-callers and leaders in the league. However, because this is the internet, one has to be the best, and that, my friends, is what I’m here today to do.

Which coach will reign supreme? Who will be the head coach standing on top of the mountain? Let’s begin ranking the four coaches from worst to best. 

4. Kliff Kingsbury

Kingsbury has had an up-and-down start to his tenure as the Arizona Cardinals head coach.  Prior to his promotion to the NFL, Kingsbury served as head coach of Texas Tech University from 2013 to 2018 where he coached future NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes. Before that, Kingsbury was the offensive coordinator for Texas A&M University where he served as the offensive coordinator for Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel during his historic 2012 season. 

The thing is, while Kingsbury’s track record may be impressive on paper, he has had trouble winning games; a pretty important aspect to keeping your job in the NFL. His record at Texas Tech was 35-40 and he currently boasts a head coaching record of 13-18-1; a somewhat pedestrian record for an “offensive genius”.

Kingsbury has the potential to soar up this list with the roster the Cardinals are building. Arizona’s Kyler Murray-led air raid offense will be in its third year, and Murray will be in his second year with star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

There’s no doubt Kingsbury is a creative football mind who has risen through the ranks to NFL head coaching quickly. Ranked amongst head coaches from other NFL divisions, Kingsbury would surely rank higher than fourth. However, the question of whether or not he is the leader the Arizona Cardinals need is still up in the air.

3. Sean McVay

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay was hailed as the next great offensive mind after he was hired as the youngest head coach in NFL history back in 2017. McVay has had his fair share of highs and lows since his hiring, as he made it to the Super Bowl in his second year as a head coach. Ever since making that Super Bowl, practically every person who coached under McVay has left for their own head coaching gig, leaving McVay to pick up the pieces each season. 

It’s really tough ranking McVay so low on this short list, considering he is easily a top 10 head coach in the entire league. However, I guess that just goes to show how good this division is. McVay’s style is fairly simple. Run the ball and use play-action. While the concept seems so simple to counter, many NFL defensive coordinators have tried and failed.

While seeing his fair share of struggles, McVay has led the Rams to four winning seasons in as many years. With such an impressive resume, why don’t I have him ranked higher, you ask? Well, for starters, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll has won a Super Bowl, and McVay hasn’t; and 49er’s head coach Kyle Shanahan has a 5-3 record against McVay since 2017.

Not a knock on McVay’s abilities at all, moreso an illuminate on how good Carroll and Shanahan are.

2. Pete Carroll

Carroll ranks third amongst active coaches in total wins, with 145. In his ten seasons as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, Carroll and star quarterback Russell Wilson led the Seahawks to a Super Bowl title in 2013, and an NFC Championship in 2014. The man is a walking Hall of Famer.

While he most likely will be seen on the sidelines chewing gum, with a whimsical smile on his face, Carroll has been the poster boy for being a leader in the NFL. He’s a defensive innovator who gets guys to want to play for him; a seemingly difficult task in the league. 

Carroll, however, is not a perfect head coach. He has a knack for being a risky play-caller, which occasionally pays off in his favor. However, when it doesn’t it costs him a Super Bowl title. More recently, Carroll has been criticized for “letting Russ cook” or “not letting Russ cook enough”. Everybody in the NFL is subject for criticism, but overall Carroll exudes consistency. 

Why is he not ranked first on this list, you might ask? Despite an eight year streak of winning seasons, and a Super Bowl ring, time will soon catch up to Carroll. He is the elder statesman in the division, and there is one coach who I believed snatched the crown right from Carroll’s head. There is no doubt in my mind that Carroll is a top 10, even top five head coach in the NFL. However, when ranked strictly within the NFC West, one coach reigns supreme.

1. Kyle Shanahan

Move over McVay, the NFC West has a new offensive guru. Over his four seasons as head coach of the San Francisco 49er’s, Shanahan has been touted as the best play designer in the NFL; and for good reason. 

Before his hiring in San Francisco, Shanahan served as offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons in 2016, where he helped lead quarterback Matt Ryan to an MVP win and Super Bowl appearance. Since being hired in San Francisco, Shanahan has brought an innovative, unseen style to the NFL, and has changed the way the game is played. 

Boasting a new-age, run first offense, Shanahan led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance in 2019, seemingly the only healthy season the Niners have had under Shanahan. There is no denying Shanahan’s level of football genius. It was on display during the 2019 NFC Championship game, where Shanahan correctly predicted a flag that has yet to occur. 

While only 40, and with two Super Bowl appearances under his belt, Shanahan will surely have more success as a head coach in the NFL. The scary thought for other coaches around the NFL, and in the NFC West particularly, is that Shanahan will only get smarter. He will mature as a coach, and it will only make his opponents more confused when he outsmarts them further. Shanahan is a different beast and my top head coach in the NFC West.

Which New Head Coach has the Best Defensive Coordinator?

Ranking the Defensive Coordinators for the new Head Coaches

By: Menachem Ickovitz (Twitter: @menudo_man)

As the old adage goes, “Defense wins championships.” The question on everyone’s mind is which new head coach has the best defensive coordinator. We previously ranked the offensive coordinators and now we will look at the defensive coordinators.

Much like when we ranked the offensive coordinators, none of the defensive coordinators are bad, but some are very unproven and that is what leads to their lower ranking.

7. Jonathan Gannon. Philadelphia Eagles

Jonathan Gannon is a young, relatively inexperienced coach. What he lacks in experience he more than makes up for in intellect.

He started his NFL coaching career with the Atlanta Falcons as a defensive quality control coach in 2007 for Bobby Petrino. Since then he has also worked for Mike Munchak, Mike Zimmer and Frank Reich.

Besides for his time as an assistant coach, he was also a scout for the St. Louis Rams from 2009 – 2011. Having been a scout, Gannon has a slightly different point of view than someone who has just been an assistant coach. 

6. Renaldo Hill, Los Angeles Chargers

 Renaldo Hill is a former NFL defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos. Having been a seventh round draft pick in the 2001 NFL Draft, being able to stay in the league from 2001 – 2010 is pretty impressive.

As a coach, he has worked for Adam Gase in Miami in 2018 and for Vic Fangio in Denver in 2019 and 2020. In 2019, Hill worked with new Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley.

He is as low as he is because of his lack of experience as a coach. However, because he was an NFL player for as long as he was, he isn’t in seventh place.

5. Jeff Ulbrich, New York Jets

Jeff Ulbrich is a former NFL linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers. After his playing career was over he joined the Seattle Seahawks as an assistant special teams coach in 2010 and 2011. In 2011 the Seahawks hired a new defensive quality control coach named Robert Saleh.

After Ulbrich’s time with Seattle, he coached at UCLA for three seasons and then with the Atlanta Falcons from 2015 – 2020. While in Atlanta, Ulbrich worked for Dan Quinn, the longtime Pete Carroll assistant.

Now in New York, Ulbrich will be reunited with Saleh, another longtime Carroll assistant. If Ulbrich would be working for an offensive minded head coach, he probably would be a little higher on the list, but as anything that happens on defense will be credited to the head coach, Ulbrich’s impact is lessened.

4. Joe Cullen, Jacksonville Jaguars

Joe Cullen is an experienced defensive line coach. He has assisted Rod Marinelli, Jack Del Rio, Mike Mularkey, Rob Chudzinski, Lovie Smith and John Harbaugh. Now he is in his second stint with the Jaguars, now as defensive coordinator for Urban Meyer.

The defensive lines that Cullen has worked with have been statistically amongst the best:

  • With Detroit (2006 – 2008): four Lions players recorded career-high sack numbers.
  • With Jacksonville (2010 – 2012): the Jaguars were ranked sixth in yards allowed and fifth in yards per carry.
  • With Cleveland (2013): the Browns recorded 41 sacks, led by Jabaal Sheard’s 5 and 1/2.
  • With Tampa Bay (2014 – 2015): the Buccaneers ranked seventh in sacks and tackles for loss.
  • With Baltimore (2016 – 2020): During Cullen’s time with the Ravens they were in the Top 15 of rushing yards allowed each season.

With all the salary cap space and draft picks that the Jaguars have, Cullen is expected to have an influx of talent helping his defense. Expect to see the Jaguars build up their defensive line.

3. Aaron Glenn, Detroit Lions

Of the seven coordinators on this list, Aaron Glenn is one of the most exciting. Glenn played in the NFL from 1994 – 2008. In 2012 and 2013 he was a scout for the New York Jets and since 2014 he has been an assistant coach.

In 2014 as the assistant defensive backs coach for the 7 – 9 Cleveland Browns, Glenn helped three defensive backs, cornerback Joe Haden and safeties Donte Whitner and Tashaun Gipson make it to the Pro Bowl. In 2016, he joined the New Orleans Saints and worked with new Lions head coach Dan Campbell.

There is already excitement in Detroit that Glenn will have a positive impact on last year’s first round pick, cornerback Jeff Okudah. Okudah only played in nine games in 2020 for a total 41 % of the defensive snaps on the season.

Another big aspect of Glenn’s impending success with Detroit is the hiring of long-time NFL coach Dom Capers. Capers has been a head coach or defensive coordinator for 24 seasons and his knowledge will be a great asset for Glenn and the Lions.

2. Lovie Smith, Houston Texans

Lovie Smith is an experienced coach. From 2004 – 2012 he was the head coach of the Chicago Bears and in 2014 and 2015 he was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then from 2016 – 2020 he was a head coach in college at Illinois.

New Houston Texans head coach David Culley will rely on Smith’s experience. Smith’s coaching ability will be needed in full force as the Texans have already lost defensive end J.J. Watt and are expected to lose numerous other defensive players who are free agents.

The only reason why Lovie Smith is in second place on this list is that his defensive staff in Houston is a bit less experienced than the defensive staff in Atlanta. The truth is, Smith and Dean Pees are on a different level than the rest of the new defensive coordinators.

  1. Dean Pees, Atlanta Falcons

Dean Pees is one of the most respected defensive minds in the NFL. He has worked as a defensive coordinator under Bill Belichick, John Harbaugh and Mike Vrabel. Pees won Super Bowls as an assistant to Belichick and Harbaugh. Pees is coming out of retirement to join new head coach Arthur Smith’s staff.

Before becoming an NFL assistant in 2004, Pees spent 25 years coaching at the college ranks. Most notably, he was the head coach for Kent State from 1998 – 2003. While at Kent State, Pees coached future NFL players Joshua Cribbs and James Harrison.

Falcons head coach Arthur Smith has brought Pees and offensive coordinator Dave Ragone to assist him as they are both coaches Smith has worked with before and has a lot of respect for.

Bruce Arians vs Andy Reid: Head Coaching Timelines and Life Journeys

Andy Reid, Bruce Arians, and their Winding Paths to Super Bowl LV

by Scott Mangan (Twitter: @fantasyspatula)

1974

Fade into a bar in Blacksburg, Virginia, 1974. The bartender — a recent Virginia Tech graduate — is a straight shooting, football loving, blue collar boy from York, PA.  Son of a machinist father and a candy factory working mother.  

Cogs and sugarcane.  Just the kind of mindset a bartender needs.  Grind those gears, keep the machine running, but also know when to charm some drunkard out of descending into darkness.  Any bartender worth his or her weight in whiskey can connect and de-escalate with the best of them.

On this particular evening in Blacksburg, VA a rough and tumble, unstable man who lived in a cabin amongst the Blue Ridge Mountains stumbled down into the bar and declared, “Tonight, I’m going to drink and I’m going to fight!”  The bartender promptly greeted him with a, “Well, then, let’s make the beer free for you, but go fight somewhere else.”  

After a couple of hours of imbibing booze the drunken time bomb from the Blue Ridge Mountains began harassing women at the bar. The young bartender — who weeks earlier had been the starting QB for the Virginia Tech Hokies — now found himself having to ask the man to leave. The inebriated ignoble yokel responded by standing up, pulling out a .22, sticking it into the bartender’s gut and saying, “Throw me out now.”

“At that moment, with the gun pointed at me, I realized that perhaps coaching would be a better career path,” Bruce Arians would later recount.

He never stepped foot behind a bar again.  It’s pretty safe to say he made the correct career choice.  

1985 

11 years later and 2,692 miles away in the middle of the San Francisco State University campus.  28 year old offensive line coach Andy Reid is selling hot dogs in the university commons.  He’s dealing frankfurters just to raise enough money for the school’s football program to afford pads and helmets.  

Since offensive line coaches barely got paid, Reid would umpire baseball games just to get by. Three games per night (after family dinner) for $10 bucks a pop just to make ends meet for his wife and two kids.  

They were poor, but it didn’t stop the Reids from having the entire SFSU offensive line over every week to watch film and study. Tammy Reid’s Mississippi Mud Pie was always on the menu.  It didn’t matter that they couldn’t afford to entertain like this.  He just wanted to include them in his family.  He wanted to create that family energy with them.  He had to.

1982

Three years earlier in Alabama, 30 year old Bruce Arians was sitting across a large wooden desk from the legendary college football coach Bear Byrant.  After working for one season as his running backs and passing game coordinator Arians was hired by Temple University to be their new head coach.  While saying goodbye, Bryant had a piece of parting advice for Arians. 

“Coach them hard,” Bryant said, “and hug them harder later.”  Bear Bryant passed away just three weeks later.  It was the last time the two ever spoke, but Bruce would later say, “Before he left us, he gave me my guiding philosophy.”

“From that day forward I would try to find out what makes a player tick and continually build on the player’s strengths and not prey on their weaknesses—just like Bryant did.”

And it’s obvious that Arians took the advice Bear Bryant gave him to heart.  If you read about him and listen to Bruce Arians talk, one thing constantly rings through: the guy loves people and he’s willing to be real with anyone from any background. 

“Bruce can talk street with anyone, and if he needs to, he can be the most intellectual guy in the room,” says current Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who played for Arians at Temple in the mid-1980s and was his defensive coordinator at Arizona in 2013 and ’14. “Because of his unique background, he can reach absolutely everyone on a football roster, and that’s the key to building chemistry and building a winning team.”

The stories of how he unlocked potential with mind games are countless.  He’s been called a quarterback whisperer for most of his career.  Think about it: he nurtured the early careers of Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, and Andrew Luck.  He helped revive late career Carson Palmer.  He’s helped 43 year old Tom Brady back to the Super Bowl.  

The secret? He’s always been able to understand that there’s a human behind the helmet. 

“My quarterbacks have to be a member of my family, and that has nothing to do with football,” Arians says. “Trust is everything. We have to connect on a deep level in order to really be able to build something together. Trust brings a higher level of communication and a higher level of commitment and accountability. We have to care for one another. It’s all about family, family, family.”

The same guy who had that .22 pressed up against his belly back in Blacksburg, Virginia.  The guy who met his wife in 9th grade.  The guy who was the first white player to ever room with a black player in Virginia Tech history.  The guys who’s staffs have been littered with old friends and ex-players. The guy that listens and cares for the people he meets.  He’s been creating a family everywhere he goes. 

1974

Years before he was selling hot dogs to undergrads in the commons of San Francisco State, Andy Reid was just a sports obsessed Mormon child who grew up only a mile from Hollywood Boulevard.  His father was an artist.  His mother: a radiologist.  He followed around his older brother Reggie like a puppy dog.  He regularly united all the neighborhood kids for games of football.  

Later on he lettered in basketball, baseball, and football at Marshall High School in Los Angeles.  The same High School where the movie Grease was filmed and would later be home to Leo deCaprio and Will.i.am.  But way before their time Andy Reid was wreaking havoc on the courts and fields of Marshall High.

Marshall’s football and basketball coach, Dick Kiwan, recalls coaching Reid on the basketball court, “I put him in at forward and he had four fouls in less than 2 minutes,” Kiwan said laughing. “I remember pulling him out because he was just dribbling down the floor and running over people. I remember taking a timeout and saying, ‘Andy, what are you doing?’ and he looked at me like, ‘What?’

“The competitive juices were flowing so much from leaving football and getting into basketball, he couldn’t help himself.”

That ferociousness was left on the field though.  He was a kind friend to many.  Including his coaches.  To this day he’s still close friends with Coach Kiwan and many from his high school and college years.

“I still talk to my basketball coach, my football coaches—I talk to all these guys from high school. Half of them raised me; half of them were in my brother’s class. They saw me as a baby.”

“One of the things we’ve always said about Andy that is so hard to find, is that Andy never forgot where he came from,” Kiwan said. “He maintains his relationships with the guys he played with in high school and even his old coaches.

“It’s something that you just don’t find with someone in his position. You just don’t find that.”

2007

Bruce Arians had just been promoted front the wide receivers coach to the the offensive coordinator for the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.  He and starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did not really get along at the time.  “He thought I yelled at the wide receivers too much,” Arians said. Bruce knew that the key to success would be connecting with Roethlisberger.  

“Ben lost his mother when he was young, and that was hard on him,” Arians said. “I never want to be a father figure to my quarterbacks. I’ve got my own kids. I want to be the cool uncle you’d like have a drink with.”

Bruce invited Ben to his lake house down in Reynolds Plantation, Georgia. The two spent the day golfing, drinking beers, and talking life. “We built our communication on the golf course,” said Roethlisberger. “I even bought a house down there to be close to Bruce.”

Roethlisberger went on to have the highest rated season of his career that year.  And the two went on to win a Super Bowl together just a few seasons later.

But Arians isn’t just a softy with a penchant for connecting over brews with his players. He can be quite demanding and downright nasty.  

“Like (Bear) Bryant, I would be hard on my players when we’re on the field. But that’s just coaching. The players need to know that I’m probably going to talk to them real ugly out on the field, but that has nothing to do with them personally or with their personality. Their football can suck and they can still be good people. Don’t take it personally. It’s coaching, not a criticism. Don’t worry if I’m hard on you on the field. It’s business, not personal,” Arians said.

“And I vowed that day after leaving Bryant’s office that when I walked off the field with my players, I would hug the ones I had MF’d only moments earlier—just like Bryant did. I’d tell them we’re going to get our football perfect, we’re not going to beat ourselves, and now that we’re done with football for the day we can talk all night long about our personal lives. And I would care about all my players, from the starting quarterback down to the third-string tight end.”

“More than anything, I hope this is what I’m remembered for.”

2019

Kansas City Chiefs backup quarterback Matt Moore had just joined the team after training camp.  In the quarterback meeting room he was getting his first glimpse of the relationship between Head Coach Andy Reid and 3rd year quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

“We were sitting in a meeting room and coach Reid was talking about a “read” and where the [receivers] were, and they were in a triangle formation, and literally at the same time as coach said, ‘there’s a nice little triangle here,’ there was a pause, and then at the same exact time [Mahomes and coach Reid] both said, “isosceles,” Moore laughed. “And I was like, ‘What the hell, I mean, it blew me away. There was no story behind it. There was nothing for them to both think of that word at the same time. It was so strange.

“At that moment, I knew these guys were tight.”

Former Head Coach Bob Stull — who hired Andy Reid back in the 80’s to coach his offensive line at UTEP — recognized Reid’s connection with his players early in Reid’s career.

“He had a way that you always knew he was on your side,” Stull explained. “He’d get on you, but you knew you probably deserved it. He was never a yeller, a screamer or harsh like that, but he’d get on you pretty good if you weren’t doing the right effort and learning what you’re supposed to be learning. The offensive line guys really liked him a lot because, again, he was a great teacher. He wouldn’t let you get away with anything.

“He worked them hard, but he could also laugh. He could see something funny, they could make fun of him about something and he was all right with that. He had a really good sense about him like that.”

2021

We’re on the eve of Super Bowl LV.  Two head coaches with 85 years of coaching experience between them square off for the ultimate prize in professional football.  These are two men with storied histories and countless friendships. And they’re on the verge of creating a new chapter in their lives and careers.  

I can’t remember the last time I watched a Super Bowl where I was rooting for both coaches.  Sure, it’ll be nice to see Andy Reid get a second Super Bowl win in a row (maybe the beginning of the next great dynasty), but if come late Sunday night Bruce Arians is raising his first Lombardi Trophy as a head coach, it’ll not just be a victory for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It will be a victory for every person that has grinded through the years of their life encouraging, evolving, accepting, and enjoying the people they’ve loved along the way.  It’ll be a victory for every one of us that has been that bartender in the dive pub at 2 in the morning, with a .22 caliber pistol stuck in our guts being asked who we want to be and what we want to do with our lives. What we want to live for.  

Yes, NFL football is a gigantic monster of a machine, but for any machine to work even the cogs need to be cared for.  Both of these head coaches know that.  They’ve lived it and they’ve built their own personal machines through hard work and love.  That recipe is tried and true.  And the resulting concoction will be on display on the field come Super Bowl Sunday night.

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