NFL coach power rankings


Long view vs. What have you done for me lately?

That's the issue when attempting to rank the NFL's 32 head coaches. Todd Bowles won 10 games last season. Should he be above a frontman who fared poorly in 2015 but took his outfit to multiple postseason berths in years prior (see: Jim Caldwell or Jeff Fisher)? My sultry editor, @GennaroFilice, leans recent vintage. Many league observers go career résumé, first and foremost. You will see my leanings below.

We do this exercise, the Head Coach Power Rankings, as a spinoff of my usual team treatise. It never gets easier to place some names -- like Marvin Lewis. Where would you put him? Or Rex Ryan? Hit me with your take: @HarrisonNFL.

32) Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles

This isn't fair. Pederson hasn't so much as coached one game yet. But yeah, he offers no NFL head-coaching experience, like some other guys at the bottom of this list. Pederson got off to a rather inauspicious start with the Sam Bradford Start-gate. Of course, you can blame Pederson's assistants for the confusion regarding whether Bradford is the clear No. 1 or will have to compete for the top job. It does get more confusing, however, when the organization signs Pederson's guy, Chase Daniel, to big-time backup money. Seven mil per season is high for a dude who is supposed to be carrying a play chart on Sundays. It should be mentioned here that the front office put Pederson in a difficult position by moving up to draft Carson Wentz, given the two quarterbacks signed this offseason (one apparently told he was the starter, the other a favorite of the coach). We'll see how it goes.

31) Mike Mularkey, Tennessee Titans

Low ranking for a seasoned head coach. Feel bad about it, too. While realizing the Titans could be on the ascent, the organizational process has more to do with the guy who, well, runs the organization -- relatively new GM Jon Robinson, he of the slick offseason moves. Mularkey went 14-18 in Buffalo over a decade ago. Then, in his one season as the Jags' head coach in 2012, Mularkey stumbled to a 2-14 mark. Last year in Tennessee, he took over a 1-6 football team following the midseason firing of Ken Whisenhunt and posted a 2-7 mark down the stretch. Luckily, his discipline is on the offensive side of the ball, and this is not a team devoid of a quarterback. Would love to see Mularkey knock this opportunity out of the park and generate something like a 10-win season.

30) Adam Gase, Miami Dolphins

Gase ranks toward the bottom despite a (well-earned?) reputation as a "quarterback whisperer." You wonder if all these people who toss around the "whisperer" label ever saw the Robert Redford flick that took it mainstream. I didn't. Saw "Pure Country" with George Strait instead. There were horses in that movie. OK, so let's hope Gase's head-coaching debut goes better than Strait's acting debut. So much of Gase's success -- or lack thereof -- will ride the wave of Ryan Tannehill's development. Men's dreams often rise on Miami Beach, or plummet quickly in the bar scene. Worse than plummeting for the Dolphins would be for Tannehill to stay parked in neutral and for this team to go 6-10 again. Time to build up or completely rebuild in South Beach. Offensive line performance and Tannehill's intake of Gase's system will determine such matters.

29) Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Koetter ranks slightly ahead of other newcomers in Gase and Pederson. This isn't because he boasts college head-coaching experience, having served as the top dog at Boise State and Arizona State. No, it's because he's already put in work with the team he's taking over. Koetter served as Tampa Bay's offensive coordinator last season and did a fine job with rookie QB Jameis Winston. In fact, the Bucs finished fifth in total offense. As a first-time NFL head coach, Koetter will be learning the ropes of the buck stopping with him, but with the same group of guys he worked with last season.

28) Ben McAdoo, New York Giants

McAdoo ran the Giants' offense the past two seasons and, frankly, did a darn good job. Scoring points hasn't been the big problem in the Big Apple. Now, though, the defense is McAdoo's baby, too. Heck, they're all his babies to lead: Eli Manning, Eli Apple and a grab bag of free-agent acquisitions brought in to help the D not suck as bad. McAdoo surely will not enjoy the inevitable comparisons to Tom Coughlin, but at least it's different than the old find-a-tailor joke that spawned from his introductory press conference. Enough already with that noise. McAdoo took care of the suit issue. You're gonna like the way he looks. I guarantee it!

27) Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars

You don't hear Bradley disparaged much around the league. How much of that has to do with his days as defensive coordinator in Seattle? While it seems the Jaguars are finally turning things around, there is no getting past his 12-36 record as a head coach. The talent level when Bradley arrived in 2013 was certainly low, which has more than a smidge to do with that horrific mark. At least it seems GM David Caldwell is finally furnishing his head coach with talented dudes on defense. It's only taken three-and-a-half years.

26) Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons

The former Seahawks defensive coordinator ranks just ahead of his predecessor in Seattle. Quinn surely wasn't happy with the way his Falcons finished last season, after starting 6-1. Still, 8-8 was an improvement over the previous regime's latter-day output, and several of the team's losses were close calls. The signature performance in the second half of the season was handing the Panthers their first loss. In order to soar past .500, Quinn must build the defense into a unit that can impose its will situationally. (Get it? Soar ... Falcons ... And that's without a masters in writing.)

25) Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns

Jackson tabbed to turn around the Browns = best coaching hire in the NFL this offseason. Too bad Jackson doesn't possess half the artillery in Cleveland that he owned in Cincinnati. What he does have -- in spades -- is enthusiasm. Reports from OTAs detailed the different vibe circling the Browns these days. Jackson comes with more than energy. His offensive know-how helped the Bengals finish seventh in scoring last year. The Raiders finished sixth in said category during his lone season as offensive coordinator in Oakland. Promoted to head coach the next year, Jackson led the Raiders to an 8-8 finish -- which is like winning the Super Bowl there.

24) Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins

Won't blame fans of the Washington Redskins if they feel their guy should be loftier than 24th. Here's the deal: Gruden is 13-19 in two seasons manning the ship. The RGIII situation was not always massaged properly. That said, Gruden does deserve more credit for Kirk Cousins' development. The former Bengals offensive coordinator's job this season will be to pump life into the ground game.

23) Mike McCoy, San Diego Chargers

McCoy is another head coach who received scant respect last season. Fans unfairly piled on as the Chargers' losses mounted. (Reminds me of when you donate to one charity ... then the Save An Emu In Montana foundation and maybe 9,765 other charities pile on.) I'm sure McCoy, as much as anyone, would like to put much of the frustration from 2015 -- like the loss to Pittsburgh, when the Steelers couldn't complete a pass -- behind him. But McCoy did go 9-7 in each of his first two seasons. Give him a break, please.

22) Todd Bowles, New York Jets

Bowles did a nice job handling the team after IK Enemkpali pizza-rolled Geno's jaw. Despite missing the playoffs -- thanks, in large part, to the underwhelming finish at Buffalo -- the Jets' 10-6 record surpassed just about everyone's expectations. Bowles certainly will climb higher in league circles if he can manage the quarterback saga well enough to post double-digit wins again. New York has a veteran nucleus in Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte, Nick Mangold and Darrelle Revis. The time is now.

21) Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions

After a rough start last season, Caldwell's Lions played well down the stretch. (Does anyone realize Detroit went 6-2 after the bye week last season?) It seems Brock Osweiler gets more love for helping the Peyton Manning Broncos hit Super Bowl 50 than Caldwell does for leading the Peyton Manning Colts to Super Bowl XLIV. Well, Caldwell's signal caller in Detroit no longer has the benefit of simply signaling to Calvin Johnson before letting fly. So, if the head coach can squeeze 10 wins and an improved passing attack out of this squad, he should climb this list.

20) Chip Kelly, San Francisco 49ers

For the flurry of criticism that found its way to Kelly, does anyone realize he was fired short of finishing his third year ... with a 26-21 record? Never mind that the Philly squad he took over had gone 4-12 in the season before his arrival. The issue for Kelly has been twofold: A) The buzz around his revolutionizing the pace of the game (or inability to do the same) blurred the lines of what defines a successful tenure; and B) his personnel decisions. Take him to task all you want on the latter, but if we're talking strictly coaching, hasn't he earned this opportunity with the 49ers?

19) Jack Del Rio, Oakland Raiders

There are many reasons for the Raiders to be a chic pick in the AFC West. Press people for the why, and you'll hear Jack Del Rio's name after 36 other reasons. That's unfortunate, as Del Rio seems to have struck the right chord with his young team. The offense is trending toward explosive with Derek Carr at the helm, so Del Rio's discipline on the defensive side of the ball should be advantageous for this Oakland club. By the way, Del Rio authored a few solid campaigns in Jacksonville, including playoff runs in 2005 and '07.

18) Jeff Fisher, Los Angeles Rams

For many younger fans, Fisher is not known as much of a success story. Which is a shame in that he accomplished quite a bit during his Oilers/Titans tenure. In 16-plus years as the head coach, Fisher took the franchise to the Super Bowl and made the playoffs six times in one 10-year span. Unfortunately, his Rams outfits have gone 27-36-1 with nary a postseason appearance or winning record to this point. With another franchise relocation to manage, as well as a rookie quarterback in tow, Fisher probably won't reach .500 in 2016. Of course, those challenges also probably bought the veteran coach more time with the headset, as well.

17) Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys

Garrett has proven he can win with Tony Romo. Annnnnnnd he's also shown he can lose with Matt Cassel or Brandon Weeden or Kellen Moore. The only backup QB Garrett has won anything with came during his interim season, in which he and Jon Kitna/Stephen McGee partnered to go 5-3. The winning tally furnished a more permanent position for the redhead, himself a former Cowboys backup QB. The perception of Garrett, fair or unfair, is that he is a puppet of owner Jerry Jones. What is more than perception is that this team goes as far as Romo's body can take it, thus keeping Garrett planted in the middle of the pack.

16) Bill O'Brien, Houston Texans

O'Brien might not be top-shelf just yet, but it's hard to argue with his results thus far. The Texans' record under O'Brien -- 18-14 with one playoff appearance -- ain't too shabby, considering Houston was a 2-14 team when he arrived from Penn State. O'Brien also managed to lead the Texans to the postseason with a Brian Hoyer/Ryan Mallett/T.J. Yates/Brandon Weeden concoction at quarterback. Even Jon Voight couldn't pull that off.

15) Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts

Some might be surprised at Pagano placing this high, especially with all the speculation that he could be fired following the most recent season finale. That said, Pagano's "awful" season was 8-8. His other three seasons in Indy? 11-5 with postseason football each time out. Sure, Bruce Arians took over when Pagano's health was of primary concern in 2012 ... But who do you think hired Arians? Give the man credit, for crying out loud.

14) Rex Ryan, Buffalo Bills

Ryan presents a conundrum: How do you weigh past success against present mediocrity? Ryan's teams have been middling for several years, after a fantastic start that saw the coach reach back-to-back AFC Championship Games with the New York Jets. Buffalo competed last year and could be playoff-bound in 2016. But that latter part won't happen unless Ryan is A) right about Tyrod Taylor and B) the D performs for him.

13) Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings

Despite heading into just his third season as a head man, Zimmer is rapidly climbing this coaching mountain. Zimmer improved Minnesota's lot in 2014 from five to seven wins, in spite of the fact that his best player (Adrian Peterson) played just one game. Last year, with Peterson leading the league in rushing, Teddy Bridgewater taking the next step (with a few more to go) and the defense finishing fifth in points allowed, the Vikings won the NFC North. Zimmer's stamp is all over that Minnesota D, yet another reason he is closing in on the top 10 of big cheeses. Well, not the Green Bay kind. Zim beat those guys last season -- at Lambeau -- with the North crown on the line.

12) Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals

Every summer, I am asked to do this list. And every summer, I wonder where the heck to put Marvin Lewis. Cincinnati has made the postseason seven times in Lewis' 13 seasons as head coach (including each of the last five), after reaching the postseason exactly once in the 13 years prior to his arrival. Yet, the hallmark of Lewis' early teams -- lack of discipline -- showed up big time in last season's playoffs. Not to mention, this franchise still hasn't won a postseason game since January of 1991. So where to place Lewis?

11) John Fox, Chicago Bears

Can Fox turn the Bears around? That is the question, as the former frontman for both the Panthers and Broncos has his work cut out for him. Thus far, he's attempting to right things in Chicago the Foxy way, by building a team that wins through the running game and a top-10 defense. Fox's successes at both his previous stops, which included a Super Bowl appearance in both, were due in large part to viable defenses that rarely had poor seasons (and often finished in the top 10 in points allowed).

10) Gary Kubiak, Denver Broncos

One of the harder names to place on this list. Does Kubiak deserve to be in the top 10 because his team won the Super Bowl last year, or are we overreacting to one season? Kubiak took Fox's players and -- despite not having a healthy or effective Peyton Manning -- was able to do what his predecessor could not: give John Elway a ring as an executive. That's why most people thought Elway dismissed Fox in the first place, because the former felt the latter had failed to deliver with a championship roster in hand. Kubiak proved his boss right, and gets this spot by virtue of winning at least 10 games three of his past four seasons as a head coach.

9) Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints

Payton has lost ground during the five years that we have been doing the Head Coach Power Rankings. While he's still the man who turned the Saints around one year after Hurricane Katrina -- and the guy who brought New Orleans a Super Bowl champion -- his inability to figure out his defense has cost him recently. The Saints have struggled mightily the last two seasons. And Drew Brees isn't getting any younger.

8) Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers

Must admit, "Riverboat Ron" is one of the cooler nicknames in football these days. Although, it does make me think of one of Mel Gibson's weirder movies: "Maverick." There was a big riverboat scene with James Garner, so that's cool. Rivera enjoyed a stellar season in 2015, en route to being named AP Coach of the Year. Rivera and Bruce Arians seem to have the award on lockdown, as no one but those two has taken the honor since 2011. Rivera has posted a 47-32-1 mark for a team that had just gone 2-14 when he took over.

7) John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens

A little criticism -- much of it of the pinprick variety -- has landed at John Harbaugh's feet recently. Little things you hear, here and there. Then, at the end of the day, you realize the man has won the vast majority of his games as a head coach, as well as a Super Bowl. Last year was not kind to him and the Ravens, as Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, and Terrell Suggs all went down. The team lost nine one-score games. Expect Baltimore to bounce back in 2016.

6) Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs

Reid has been at it so long that it's easy to take his career for granted. He's just kind of there for some fans, until someone blows up his clock management on Twitter. OK, maybe he's had one (or 28) foul-ups in that area. Yet, Reid has also been to a Super Bowl, five conference championships and 11 postseasons. He's also 51 games over .500 during his career. I'd say that is successful.

5) Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals

Arians won with Andrew Luck as a rookie. He won with Carson Palmer as a veteran. He made do with Drew Stanton. Arians' ability to relate to his players (all of his players: black, white, vet, rookie, Hall of Fame-caliber or special teamer) helps explain his 34-14 record in Arizona, as well as his Coach of the Year tenure -- as an interim coach -- in Indianapolis. He's won two of those things now, which puts him fifth on our list.

4) Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers

It's been a decade since Bill Cowher was roaming the sidelines in Pittsburgh. Since then, Tomlin has won one Super Bowl -- and been to another -- while leading the Steelers to the playoffs six times. Many feel that, had Le'Veon Bell not gone down the last two years, Pittsburgh's offense would've tipped the balance in the postseason. Tomlin's regular-season record of 92-52 is nothing to scoff at.

3) Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers

There might have been a time when Mike McCarthy was lauded a bit much. Now his cup rarely runneth over in praise. Chalk it up to the high standard in Green Bay. (Chalk ... coaching ... mhm ... mhm ... get it? Cue: Ted Knight laughing at his own poem on a yacht.) Entering his 11th season as Packers head coach, McCarthy has already surpassed Vince Lombardi in terms of tenure with the franchise. (Lombardi logged nine years as the Pack's top dog.) Green Bay failed to win the NFC North for the first time since 2010, yet pulled through various injuries to make the postseason and win a playoff game. It took a Herculean effort by Larry Fitzgerald to oust the Pack in the Divisional Round.

2) Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks

Forever young, and still successful. While last season might not have resulted in another Super Bowl run for Carroll, it's hard not to marvel at how his players compete for him. Despite not having Kam Chancellor at the beginning of the season -- and losing Marshawn Lynch and Jimmy Graham to injury -- Seattle still made it to the Divisional Round. No team comes back the way Seattle did in that final game at Carolina if the players aren't grinding for their head coach.

1) Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

This should come as no surprise, given what Belichick has accomplished in his 16 years with the Patriots. What is most daunting, at least in terms of other coaches trying to match Belichick's legacy: New England's remarkable accomplishment of making 10 conference title games in the past 15 years. Only Tom Landry has equaled that kind of run. No other head coach has led his team to six Super Bowl appearances -- or five, for that matter, if we're condensing this to coaches who've been active in the past two decades. That's impressive.

Elliot Harrison is an analyst on NFL Network's "NFL HQ" and can also be seen regularly on NFL Now. Follow him on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.



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