NFL Head Coach Power Rankings

With training camps right around the corner, a look at how the veteran coaches stack up, and how the rookies rate heading into Year One.
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With players set to report next week to training camps, we’ll be tripping over ourselves to power-rank this and that, judging teams by their overall strength, their quarterbacks, their skill position players and defenses. But it’s obvious that a clear and direct blueprint from a talented coaching staff matters above all else. Kevin Stefanski turned the Browns around in a season. Sean McDermott built the Bills from a wandering, directionless franchise into a powerhouse. All around the league, previous tentpoles of mediocrity are being uprooted and filled with some measure of competence.

So let’s focus our power ranking skills in that direction. First, you’ll find a list of veterans ranked on what they’ve done and where they’re headed, followed by a list of first-year coaches, graded by some slightly different criteria. On the veteran side, we’ll note their staff strength, which is often as critical (if not more) than the head coach alone. We’ll also note which direction the coach is trending; rising coaches may be in the late teens or early 20s on this list, while elite coaches could be at the top with the acknowledgement that they might have reached their apex or plateaued.

VETERAN COACHES

1. Bill Belichick, Patriots
Trending: Downward
Staff strength (out of 10): 9

There is nowhere for Belichick to climb at this point, seeing as, at age 69, he is unlikely to pilot another 20-year dynasty yielding a Super Bowl title almost every other year. That said, he is still the most destructive week-by-week game planner in the sport and has a chance to silence the small chorus of doubters who have arisen in the wake of Tom Brady’s most recent Super Bowl. The Patriots are relatively reloaded after a bustling free agency period and Belichick has a capable, accurate rookie quarterback to groom behind Cam Newton while Josh McDaniels keeps defensive coordinators guessing as to his ultimate plan this year. Newton’s old offenses in Carolina, or at least the theory behind it (spread defenses out with wide receiver–heavy sets and force them to choose between adequate coverage or heft in the middle when the mammoth quarterback decides to leave the pocket) have gained new life in Buffalo and it will be interesting to see if the Patriots, too, can lift themselves up after a down year. Still, there is no one doubting Belichick’s potency or ability to reach the playoffs at this point … with or without Brady.

2. Andy Reid, Chiefs
Trending: Neutral
Staff strength: 9

I’ve seen—and certainly respect—the argument that perhaps Reid is the best head coach in the NFL at this moment. My counter to this would be a story I relay often about Belichick. On a visit to a group of military black ops specialists, he gleaned the ability to truncate sleep so that coaches could get four hours’ worth of rest in about 45 minutes. There are coaches who are brilliant schematically like Reid, and then there is an absolutely, steadfastly devoted savant who will win at any cost. That, to me, is the thin sliver of a difference between Belichick and Reid right now. That doesn’t take away from Reid’s mastery of modern offenses and perhaps his most important contribution to the NFL—a willingness to ignore convention and sample from all levels of football. This set off a cascade of copycat operations across the league that we are better for as a sport.

The Chiefs obviously have some advantages. Reid is just entering his quarterback halcyon days and has a staff that, conservatively, contains at least two coaches who will be head coaches in the very near future (Eric Bieniemy and Mike Kafka) and possibly a third in Steve Spagnuolo if the tide turns on the desire to hire coaches who are a bit older and defensive-minded.

3. Mike Tomlin, Steelers
Trending: Upward
Staff strength: 7

Tomlin has yet to have a losing season as an NFL head coach, and while the new 17-game season will eliminate the .500 season (he has finished 8–8 three times during his tenure) there is little doubt that streak will continue, seeing as he staved off a losing campaign with the Mason Rudolph/Duck Hodges QB tandem. The transition period beyond Ben Roethlisberger will certainly play into Tomlin’s legacy, although his track record as a leader during turbulent times and as a defensive coordinator with a timeless system and keen eye for talent are unmistakable. It is alternately entertaining and frustrating to see some in Pittsburgh compare Tomlin to his predecessor, Bill Cowher, as if Tomlin will never live up to Cowher’s legacy. Meanwhile, Tomlin will likely pass Cowher in wins this year with a higher winning percentage. He has coached just five fewer playoff games and is two years younger than when Cowher retired and both have the same number of Super Bowl titles and appearances. Tomlin’s strength is his remarkable consistency, which was highlighted during a pandemic year when Pittsburgh managed to win 13 games despite an often chaotic, musical-chairs element to their regular-season schedule.

4. John Harbaugh, Ravens
Trending: Upward
Staff strength: 9

There is a theme you’ll notice on this list: coaches who are willing to be flexible and the resulting success. Harbaugh has defined flexibility for the modern NFL coach. In 2017 he was on the verge of losing his job, and now Baltimore is seen as a franchise on the NFL’s cutting edge. The presence of Lamar Jackson aside, Harbaugh leads a team that is responsibly married to its analytics department and is one of the few organizations that often finds itself a step ahead of the league’s middle class. This is what happens when you hire a true CEO and don’t grasp at an offensive wunderkind that you hope will develop into a leader. Harbaugh’s ability to manage some difficult roster transitions, beyond the era of Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs and into the Lamar Jackson era, has been instructive. The Ravens took a broad look at how the league was operating and came as close as any NFL team to truly recreating football’s version of Moneyball by capitalizing on an athletic quarterback with mobility and a stockpile of talented tight ends and running backs, all traditionally undervalued assets.

5. Sean Payton, Saints
Trending: Neutral
Staff strength: 7

Like Mike Tomlin post-Roethlisberger, we’ll get a different perspective on Sean Payton as a coach and a playcaller now that Drew Brees has retired. While we’ve already gotten a taste—a fascinating one at that—via short windows with Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill under center, Payton now has to pilot a season without the kind of elite stalwart at the quarterback position who can digest and carry out his most ambitious ideas. Jameis Winston may end up being a worthwhile reclamation project for Payton, one that could solidify his status as an elite quarterback whisperer far beyond those who claim that title. In fact, much of Payton’s ultimate legacy may hang in the balance here. We have him trending neutral because, as impressive as his final runs with Brees were, it’s a tremendous disappointment that a team with this much talent did not win a Super Bowl in the past decade. Having him win a similar number of games with a converted multi-tool player and a troubled former No. 1 overall pick goes a long way toward changing people’s perception.

6. Bruce Arians, Buccaneers
Trending: Upward
Staff strength: 10

While some coaches’ legacies may be their efforts to control, Arians’s legacy may be a coach who understood the value of letting go. He let go of his offense in a shift that earned the Buccaneers a Super Bowl title. He let go of the idea that coaches need to work 23 hours a day and sleep for one. He let go of the idea that coaching staffs need to be homogenous, comprised largely of friends and friends of friends. Tampa Bay’s coaching staff has at least two future head coaches—defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich—and perhaps a third in Harold Goodwin, who has interviewed for head coaching jobs in the past. Bowles’s masterful performance in the Super Bowl puts him on the short list for next year’s head coaching cycle, as should Leftwich’s deft ability to condense two different offenses during a playoff run. Arians has evolved from quarterback guru to CEO rather effortlessly and may just be getting started at the age of 68.

7. Pete Carroll, Seahawks
Trending: Downward
Staff strength: 6

Carroll and general manager John Schneider are the ultimate anomaly, a paired coach and personnel executive who have found stunning success together despite coming from very different backgrounds. Schneider has fed the pipeline, but Carroll’s once innovative defensive scheme has become commonplace through the NFL, with many of his understudies taking core tenants of the system and blending them with newer, more effective ideas. Seattle seems stuck between a rock and a hard place momentarily. They are struggling to solidify their future with an elite quarterback who has a wandering eye. They are struggling to keep their defense with the times despite a void in talent. They are struggling to balance Carroll’s desire for ball control with Russell Wilson’s ability to take over a game. Carroll prides himself as the ultimate culture creator. Solving all of these issues could be his tallest task yet.

Seattle does boast at least one assistant with immediate future head coaching potential in Shane Waldron. Plucking him from the division rival Rams and injecting the Seahawks’ offense with some of L.A.’s core concepts may have been the most encouraging move they made this offseason.

8. Sean McVay, Rams
Trending: Neutral
Staff strength: 9

McVay’s staff is becoming a hotbed of coaching activity, though some of the more talented names, like defensive passing game coordinator Ejiro Evero, remain a well-kept secret that allows the Rams to maintain their consistency. This year could go a long way toward defining McVay as a head coach. He has proven doubters wrong at every turn. Those who said he was too young to lead a veteran locker room. Those who believed he couldn’t venture out on his own beyond the Mike Shanahan incubator. Now, we wonder if his offense can take a step with veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford, giving the system a less rigid, pre-programmed feel and setting the Rams up with someone who can theoretically broaden the game plan. The Rams are perpetually a Super Bowl-or-bust team, which is fine until the moment the Super Bowl begins eluding them by larger and larger distances. McVay’s team is at a crossroads; maybe the pivot toward Stafford is McVay’s version of Sean Payton acquiring Drew Brees. Maybe the Rams have ensured their spot at the front end of a very difficult division.

9. Kyle Shanahan, 49ers
Trending: Upward
Staff strength: 9

I understand the complaint that Shanahan, a coach with a losing career record who has been responsible for a pair of significant lost leads in Super Bowls, should not be this high. However, any reasonable person looking at his body of work, his teams’ history of injuries and available players at the time of major roster decisions shouldn’t be too eager to dismiss his one Super Bowl appearance as a head coach as a fluke. Future head coaches will be pouring out of his coaching room in the coming years. Robert Saleh took the Jets job and with him brought Mike LaFleur, a name that will start to pop up in head-coaching lists. Mike McDaniel, Shanahan’s offensive coordinator now, is another name that will be buzzing come coaching carousel season. The addition of Trey Lance only serves to deepen the mystery surrounding what this team will look like moving forward, but one thing is for sure: Shanahan has been ahead of the curve offensively for almost a decade now and shows no signs of slowing down.

10. Matt LaFleur, Packers
Trending: Upward
Staff strength: 9

The Packers have gone 13–3 in each of LaFleur’s first two seasons, making trips to the NFC championship game in both years. The overall perception on LaFleur should solidify this year now that he’s gotten the chance to select his own defensive coordinator (even if Wisconsin DC Jim Leonhard, his first choice, didn’t take the job), as defensive breakdowns underlined each of their failures to reach the Super Bowl. Talk to experts and they’ll say that LaFleur and his staff are one of the few who have successfully replicated and built on the Mike/Kyle Shanahan/Alex Gibbs system that owners are buying up at an expedited rate. They have at least one future head coach, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, on staff and, like Shanahan in San Francisco, a stable of talented young assistants who could be rising over the coming years. Success without Aaron Rodgers will ultimately dictate how we truly view LaFleur. We could potentially get a glimpse if his holdout continues. Winning 10 or more games with Jordan Love this year would make LaFleur a top five coach in my mind moving forward.

11. Sean McDermott, Bills
Trending: Upward
Staff strength: 10

McDermott was the most difficult name to place on our list. After some of the game’s blue bloods start to retire I could see him developing into a top five NFL head coach, but for now there is still such a glut of older Super Bowl-winning head coaches who still make the playoffs with regularity hanging on. Buffalo is the kind of place where this type of early success could—and should—keep him there for the long haul where he can rack up Mike McCarthy-Green Bay type numbers in the coming years. McDermott inherited a scattershot roster and organization still reeling from the final chaotic days of the Rex Ryan regime and ironed the entire operation out seamlessly. Unlike other disciplinarians coming to clean up after the fun uncle coach leaves town, McDermott seemed to do it with a certain level of care and awareness. This is a difficult place to keep players long term and set a culture but McDermott has landed top free agents alongside a foundation of solid draft choices.

There are at least two future head coaches on the staff in Brian Daboll and Leslie Frazier. Daboll was expected to be a shoo-in for a pair of jobs in the last cycle before a few unexpected hires shook up the landscape. Should Josh Allen continue his ascent, Daboll will be considered a top-line candidate for an opening in 2022, and may be regardless.

12. Kevin Stefanski, Browns
Trending: Upward
Staff strength: 8.5

Stefanski was long held as the object of Browns chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta’s coaching affection. Cleveland wanted analytically-minded and forward-thinking staff, which complemented Stefanski and his offensive system perfectly. Alongside general manager Andrew Berry, the pair has built a contender in a division that typically swallows and discards middle-tier clubs like Cleveland, making a bad franchise seem far worse than it is. Last year, the Browns were top five in all major rushing categories, possessed the ball longer than all but two teams in the NFL and put developing quarterback Baker Mayfield in a position to eliminate some of the mistakes that arose during the puzzling Freddie Kitchens era. This earned Stefanski a Coach of the Year award, and a well-deserved one given how contested the field was.

Expectations are incredibly high for Stefanski, who was the only first-time, first-year head coach to make the playoffs during the pandemic. Now that he has a full in-person offseason, could the Browns transition from heartwarming story to legitimate Super Bowl contender?

13. Mike Vrabel, Titans
Trending: Neutral
Staff strength: 6

Vrabel has consistently gotten the most out of a roster that, while talented, certainly has its limits. The Titans routinely outperform their Pythagorean win-loss expectations and have caught the league on its heels with their downhill running game and complementary suite of bootleg passing plays. Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown are legitimate, top-of-the-class offensive stars and their offensive line is consistently one of the strongest in the NFL. Where Vrabel shines is in the locker room. It’s clear that, as a recently retired former player, he can acclimate better than coaches who haven’t spent enough time on the other side of the fence. For now, his window of relevance has shown that good coaching can transform a dated operation quickly. In order to climb further up the list, Vrabel’s defense, which has floundered of late, needs to recover.

14. Frank Reich, Colts
Trending: Neutral
Staff strength: 7

We’re in a holding pattern on the Frank Reich regime until we see what Carson Wentz looks like. It’s not entirely fair to ask Reich to fix the bad habits Wentz developed in Reich’s absence, but there is little doubt Reich had input on who he wanted to land this offseason during a rather robust game of quarterback musical chairs. This is their situation, for better or worse, and many of us are expecting the former, with Wentz feeling out the MVP space before Reich left for Indianapolis and the Eagles asked him to shoulder the scattered offensive ideas of a dozen different voices. Regardless, Reich deserves a ton of credit for navigating an unexpected franchise timeline following the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck. Through seasons with Jacoby Brissett and Philip Rivers, the Colts have been competitive, making the playoffs last year and finishing in the top 10 of most major offensive categories.

15. Mike Zimmer, Vikings
Trending: Downward
Staff strength: 6

Zimmer, like some other coaches in his situation, seems to have realized the ceiling his team has based on their current roster status. The Vikings are always going to be good. They’re always going to be competitive on the defensive side of the ball. They’re going to have a sound running game and plan not to turn the ball over much. However, much like the Seahawks or the Steelers, there seems to be a best-case scenario each year for the Vikings of late that doesn’t involve the Super Bowl, but leaves room for the possibility of coming somewhat close. Is Kirk Cousins the player ultimately holding them back despite his perennial resting place as a top 15 quarterback? Did the defense age out too quickly? Was the offensive line a bigger concern than we initially thought? Zimmer gets a chance to iron that out this year armed with some fairly significant additions on the defensive side of the ball, including Dalvin Tomlinson and Patrick Peterson. At some point, Zimmer, who has enjoyed one of the league’s best receiving tandems for half a decade now, needs a little more to show for the résumé than one conference title game berth in order to be considered among the tight circle of elite coaches, and not just a consistently good football coach.

16. Ron Rivera, Football Team
Trending: Upward
Staff strength: 7

Rivera’s second act has been an encouraging one so far. While on-field success doesn’t come close to repairing an organization’s overall health, Rivera has brought a sheen of professionalism to Washington that it hasn’t had since the Mike Shanahan era. Rivera has the clout to get rid of bad picks, a front office loaded with seasoned veterans who have a strong track record of personnel experience and a roster that, while developing at the skill positions, has some of the better bones in the NFL. Washington could easily win the division again this season on the shoulders of Ryan Fitzpatrick and a defensive line that will torture opposing quarterbacks. Rivera has twice won the NFL’s head coach of the year award and while it rarely happens a third time, he would be an interesting bet given that we expect the NFC East to recover and largely view Washington as a middle-tier club because of their plan to roll with a journeyman veteran at QB.

17. Brian Flores, Dolphins
Trending: Upward
Staff strength: 6

Flores showed poise last year when he shifted to Tua Tagovailoa before reverting to Fitzpatrick on several occasions. While there is a fine line to walk between coach holding a player accountable and CEO destroying the confidence of one of his most important players, Flores seems to have a deft touch at the helm. This was obvious when the Dolphins outplayed their expectations during Flores’s first year in 2019 amid an obvious tanking effort. It was obvious when the Dolphins won 10 games last year despite the carousel at quarterback. While the defense may take a step back this year—ultimately, even the best, most opportunistic defenses by nature are not always going to lead the league in interceptions and create as many turnovers as the Dolphins did last year—Flores’s team has a legitimate chance to compete for the AFC East and reach the postseason. This turnaround happened much faster than expected.

18. Matt Nagy, Bears
Trending: Neutral
Staff strength: 5

The Bears giving Nagy a chance to work with another quarterback not named Mitch Trubisky is worth the gamble. I have heard the sentiment that we should start providing the same kind of criticism to Andy Reid disciples as we do Belichick disciples, and that perhaps, away from Reid’s creative orbit, some of the coaches are simply walking around with the Reid playbook but an ultimate inability to play the music that weaves it together. It doesn’t feel like Nagy is that guy … at least not yet. He made the playoffs with Trubisky twice. He elevated an offense that had no earthly business being as good as it was. Now, he’ll tie his ultimate fortunes to Justin Fields. The pick alone bought the Nagy/Ryan Pace power structure some runway and Fields’s skillset—which may trend toward rusher at the outset given typical rookie tendencies but evolve into something more Josh Allen-like—could ultimately keep the pair in Chicago for the foreseeable future. Nagy should have enough playbook depth to make it work early, though the opposite could always be true. If Fields struggles or the Bears miss the playoffs with Dalton at the helm, Fields will have his second head coach for his sophomore season.

19. Mike McCarthy, Cowboys
Trending: Upward
Staff strength: 8

McCarthy’s debut in Dallas landed with a thud, and not just because he seemed to ignore most of the analytically forward lessons he claimed to learn during his time away from the sideline. Dak Prescott was injured. Andy Dalton couldn’t keep the offense afloat. There were reported whispers that he’d lost the locker room. All of this led to a lost season in which there was little to build on. Dallas’s core of stars got a year older. Ezekiel Elliott took on another 250 carries, adding to a lifetime workload that is approaching a significant threshold for veteran running backs. The good in all this? McCarthy came out of the experiment with a new defensive coordinator in Dan Quinn and a handful of role players who can execute his offense. Dallas’s linebacking corps and pass rush were both bolstered with the first-round selection of Micah Parsons. Quinn can help instantly revive the mood in Dallas, and Kellen Moore’s playbook with Prescott under center should look more inspired than it did for most of last season. With success this year in a wide open NFC East, McCarthy can rehabilitate his reputation. Another season in third place likely earns him a pink slip.

20. Joe Judge, Giants
Trending: Upward
Staff strength: 9

In a perfect world, we put Judge much higher on the list with the idea that he’s ascending with a young team in a winnable division and could easily win a coach of the year award this year. (While this isn’t gambling advice, seeing him at 25/1 over at William Hill is noteworthy considering he was an outside candidate just a year ago.) Judge did some heavy lifting last year and brought with him star-in-the-making defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who will soon be a head coach. This offseason, following the additions of Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney along with the return of Saquon Barkley, there seems to be more optimism surrounding the Giants than most of the NFC East, which bottomed out last year in a gruesome slog.

21. Kliff Kingsbury, Cardinals
Trending: Down
Staff strength: 5

We were promised Air Raid and got a kind of watered-down NFL equivalent. Everything about the Cardinals is…fine. The team is competitive. Their quarterback is developing and is steadily a top-15 presence. The receiving core is good, the pass rush is good to great, the secondary is very good. The problem if you are Kingsbury: What are you going to do to differentiate yourself amid the best division in football? The three other teams in front of you all are capable of winning the Super Bowl. The Cardinals have the bones of a fascinating outlier team, almost the polar opposite of the run-heavy Baltimore Ravens. But instead of embracing their differences, there seems to be an effort to blunt them and run a more conventional offense that doesn’t seem all that friendly to Kyler Murray anymore. If you’re Kingsbury, the team’s aggression in free agency would seem to be a sign that they’d like you to follow suit.

22. Jon Gruden, Raiders
Trending: Down
Staff strength: 5

The fact of the matter is that no coach would have survived through Gruden’s first three years had they operated in a similar manner with a different organization. Gruden’s long-term rebuild has taken on so many phases at this point that it’s difficult to keep track of a firm beginning and end. Players who have replaced the good players he jettisoned are now getting replaced themselves. Perhaps the grand reveal is in Year 4 and, indeed, Las Vegas has gotten better every season. But are they anywhere near contending for the AFC West title? Are they anywhere near edging the Chargers or the Broncos for second place and making a run at the wildcard? If Gruden doesn’t reach the postseason this year, it will be a fascinating test of loyalty on owner Mark Davis, who must decide whether he enjoys having Gruden as a coach more than winning over the long term.

23. Vic Fangio, Broncos
Trending: Upward
Staff strength: 7

This is a make or break year for Fangio and the Broncos, but if I were a defensive-focused head coach like him, I wouldn’t hate this team representing my last and best chance to reach the postseason. Denver’s defense is loaded and the secondary may be among the best (on paper) that Fangio has worked with since his time in San Francisco. While the Broncos are still facing some serious question marks at the quarterback position, this offensive line and running game are good enough to complement a world-beating defense and make a run at the postseason.

24. Matt Rhule, Panthers
Trending: Neutral
Staff strength: 7

Rhule’s staff boasts rising star Joe Brady, though Brady has his work cut out for him in 2021. The acquisition of Sam Darnold isn’t necessarily an upgrade over Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers may find themselves back on the QB market at the end of the season, pitted against the resource-loaded Eagles for a shot at Deshaun Watson when and if his legal issues are solved. The Panthers have been ping-ponging between a soft rebuild and moves that theoretically put them closer to contention, though it doesn’t feel like they are any closer this year to making noise in a crowded NFC South.

25. Zac Taylor, Bengals
Trending: Upward
Staff strength: 5

Ask around about Taylor and you’ll hear some optimism: Maybe, finally, the Bengals have enough pieces to compete and we’ll see a clearer picture of Taylor’s vision in 2021. It’s possible, though maybe a little rose-tinged. As good as Ja’Marr Chase might end up being, the bridge between collegiate success and NFL success at the wide receiver position is often a bit longer than others. On the defensive side of the ball, the franchise deserves credit for spending to keep up with their free agency losses, which could lead to some immediate improvement. The Bengals paid $15 million per year for Trey Hendrickson and inked a pair of high-upside corners in Mike Hilton and Chidobe Awuzie that could bolster the back end, led by the extremely talented Jessie Bates. The Bengals’ long-standing relationship with Marvin Lewis leads us to believe that there isn’t a rush to push Taylor out the door any time soon. That said, the presence of Joe Burrow expedites the time frame by which the club will need to flash some real improvement.


FIRST-YEAR COACHES

For the rookie coaches we’ll be evaluating staff strength as well, but instead of a trending meter we’ll rate our general enthusiasm by predicting their playoff odds...

1. Brandon Staley, Chargers
Staff strength: 7
Playoff chances: 80%

It was interesting to see Staley deviate from the McVay coaching tree when he selected his offensive coordinator, long-time Saints quarterbacks coach (and, briefly, Lions offensive coordinator) Joe Lombardi. That said, Staley is a former quarterback himself and will no doubt have input on the offense. Shane Day, recently a quarterbacks coach in San Francisco, is another strong addition to the staff. Ultimately, Staley will be judged on how well Justin Herbert flourishes after winning offensive rookie of the year. Similar to Freddie Kitchens in Cleveland, Staley inherits a slate that is not at all blank; there will be immediate expectations based on the actions of the prior coaching staff. Luckily for Staley, Herbert is talented and the rest of L.A.’s roster is quite good, too.

2. Robert Saleh, Jets
Staff strength: 10
Playoff chances: 10%

Saleh’s biggest coup was securing Mike LaFleur and John Benton, peeling them away from Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco. While the overall setup isn’t perfect (ideally a head coach and G.M. are brought in together), Joe Douglas has been aggressive in his quest to fit players to Saleh’s defensive scheme and the offense LaFleur and Benton are planning to run. In the near term, Saleh will be judged on his ability to get the Jets from a team that gets frequently steamrolled to something resembling the Dolphins over the last two years.

3. Arthur Smith, Falcons
Staff strength: 6
Playoff chances: 30%

Smith was the ultimate win-now choice, pairing an aging Matt Ryan with an offensive coordinator who ran the same kind of Shanahan-style system that led to an MVP award and a Super Bowl berth the last time Ryan ran it. It is similar in feel to when the Giants went after Pat Shurmur at the end of Eli Manning’s career; a fevered attempt to squeeze the remaining best out of a quarterback with clear likes and dislikes. Minus Julio Jones this Falcons team will look vastly different offensively, but should have enough star power to compete in a crowded NFC picture and perhaps dream about a wildcard playoff spot.

4. Urban Meyer, Jaguars
Staff strength: 7
Playoff chances: 25%

Meyer’s staffing has been fascinating thus far. Credit him for taking a leap at the NFL after establishing and solidifying himself as one of the greatest head coaches in NCAA history. That said, his time in the NFL will be far more restrictive than he’s used to and his staff will be shouldered with the task of bringing Meyer up to speed. Trevor Lawrence helps, but also hinders. If the franchise quarterback’s development stalls, the finger points at the head coach … unlike college.

5. Nick Sirianni, Eagles
Staff strength: 7
Playoff chances: 10%

Sirianni is in a difficult spot. Despite what it looks like from the outside, the Eagles want Jalen Hurts to succeed and there is pressure on Sirianni to make that happen. With a decaying veteran base and a messy divorce from Doug Pederson causing some wounds to linger, this was the kind of job for a second-time head coach more used to the game’s political side. If Sirianni can handle the noise and survive into year three, after the Eagles will have spent all of their massive 2022 draft capital (including, as of now, four picks in the top 40), he might be in calmer waters.

6. Dan Campbell, Lions
Staff strength: 9
Playoff chances: 5%

Campbell’s strength is going to be the staff he managed to cull together. While certainly a non-traditional hire, we’ve seen Vrabel-like success from recent player retirees turned head coaches before. Campbell’s schtick—perhaps not a schtick at all, but a lifestyle of kneecap biting—will play well in the locker room. Offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn will have a field day with this offensive line and stable of running backs.

7. David Culley, Texans
Staff strength: 8
Playoff chances: 1%

Culley could very well be one of the best head coaches in the NFL. There’s plenty we don’t know about the longtime Andy Reid sidekick and, most recently, Ravens passing game coordinator. He was not on any of our head coaching radar lists—this, we’re willing to admit. The problem is that his situation is incredibly difficult. Culley inherits a fire that can’t just be doused with water. The situation with their franchise quarterback, even before the wave of sexual misconduct allegations, was difficult to surmount. Houston is in the midst of a complete teardown and, as a first-time head coach at age 65, one has to wonder what exactly his role will be in the operation. On the bright side, the Texans managed to keep offensive coordinator Tim Kelly, who could be one to watch as a future head coach. Pep Hamilton, who guided Justin Herbert through his rookie of the year campaign, is also on staff as the quarterbacks coach.

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