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Published: June 27, 2018 at 10:19 a.m.
Updated: June 27, 2018 at 12:01 p.m.

2018 NFL coach rankings: Bill Belichick and then ...

Front men. That's what NFL head coaches have become. Gone are the days of assistants doing TV interviews. GMs rarely take the mic, unless it's at league meetings. Head coaches are THE face of the product, attached to successes and pitfalls in a way that perhaps only real front men can understand. Guys like Axl Rose, Mick Jagger and whoever those brothers were from Oasis. Lions fan Kid Rock doesn't count. But while we're here ... Detroit features a new front man: Matt Patricia, one of seven new coaches -- the group that makes these annual NFL Head Coach Power Rankings a slippery undertaking. (Patricia also looks like he could play bass for Metal Church.) How do you rate coaches who've never done the job? How do those who have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy stack up? And what about Doug Pederson, who pulled it off as a sophomore? Answers below. Your take is not, so send along: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

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  • It is not an exaggeration to claim that Belichick is possibly the greatest head coach in NFL history, much less in the league today. He's won five Super Bowls while coaching his team to a record eight appearances. Oh, did I mention that Belichick won two more rings as the top young defensive coordinator in the NFL in 1986 and 1990? And he was also a key defensive assistant under Bill Parcells when the Patriots made it to Super Bowl XXXI. What a catalog. 32

    Perry Knotts/Associated Press

    1) Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

    It is not an exaggeration to claim that Belichick is possibly the greatest head coach in NFL history, much less in the league today. He's won five Super Bowls while coaching his team to a record eight appearances. Oh, did I mention that Belichick won two more rings as the top young defensive coordinator in the NFL in 1986 and 1990? And he was also a key defensive assistant under Bill Parcells when the Patriots made it to Super Bowl XXXI. What a catalog.

  • Don't be surprised. Sean Payton is one of just eight head coaches on this list with a Super Bowl ring. Going beyond that, Payton pulled off the rare feat of reaching the postseason (and winning there) after embracing a major philosophical shift, from a Drew Brees-centric team to one that relied on its running backs and defense. Payton was on the verge of another NFC Championship Game this past January ... before his Saints were hit by <a href="http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-cant-miss-plays/0ap3000000906711/Can-t-Miss-Play-Diggs-MIRACULOUS-last-second-TD-SEALS-Vikings-win">a Lake Minnetonka miracle</a>. 31

    Peter Read Miller/Associated Press

    2) Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints

    Don't be surprised. Sean Payton is one of just eight head coaches on this list with a Super Bowl ring. Going beyond that, Payton pulled off the rare feat of reaching the postseason (and winning there) after embracing a major philosophical shift, from a Drew Brees-centric team to one that relied on its running backs and defense. Payton was on the verge of another NFC Championship Game this past January ... before his Saints were hit by a Lake Minnetonka miracle.

  • Few coaches have enjoyed the kind of success in the salary cap era that Carroll has with the Seahawks. Moreover, last year represented a "down" year for Seattle -- you know, when the Seahawks <i>only</i> went 9-7. Don't forget Carroll's two postseason appearances as the Patriots' front man in 1997 and '98, or is fine work as the 49ers' defensive coordinator. In 1995, his unit <a href="http://www.nfl.com/stats/categorystats?tabSeq=2&defensiveStatisticCategory=GAME_STATS&conference=ALL&role=OPP&season=1995&seasonType=REG&d-447263-s=TOTAL_YARDS_GAME_AVG&d-447263-o=1&d-447263-n=1">led the NFL in total defense</a>. Fun fact. 30

    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    3) Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks

    Few coaches have enjoyed the kind of success in the salary cap era that Carroll has with the Seahawks. Moreover, last year represented a "down" year for Seattle -- you know, when the Seahawks only went 9-7. Don't forget Carroll's two postseason appearances as the Patriots' front man in 1997 and '98, or is fine work as the 49ers' defensive coordinator. In 1995, his unit led the NFL in total defense. Fun fact.

  • The Steelers are always in contention. And Tomlin has shepherded Pittsburgh to two Super Bowl appearances -- and a total of eight postseasons -- in 11 years on the job. The key to Tomlin's success is not X's-and-O's handiwork -- it's getting his players to play for him. A testament to that ability is how his team has stayed viable even when key parts (like Ben Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bell) haven't been available. 29

    Paul Jasienski/Associated Press

    4) Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers

    The Steelers are always in contention. And Tomlin has shepherded Pittsburgh to two Super Bowl appearances -- and a total of eight postseasons -- in 11 years on the job. The key to Tomlin's success is not X's-and-O's handiwork -- it's getting his players to play for him. A testament to that ability is how his team has stayed viable even when key parts (like Ben Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bell) haven't been available.

  • For whatever reason, Harbaugh is never mentioned among the NFL's elite head coaches. While the Ravens haven't enjoyed a ton of success over the past three seasons, mitigating circumstances have played a huge role. Massive injuries derailed the 2016 campaign, and yet Baltimore might have taken the division if it weren't for <a href="http://www.nfl.com/videos/pittsburgh-steelers/0ap3000000763622/Can-t-Miss-Play-Brown-s-reach-wins-division-for-Steelers">an Immaculate Extension</a> on Christmas. Last season, the Ravens were again beset by scores of injuries -- starting with the season-ender to all-world guard Marshal Yanda -- but still would've made the postseason field if it wasn't for <a href="http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-cant-miss-plays/0ap3000000901260/Can-t-Miss-Play-Dalton-s-CLUTCH-fourth-down-TD-pass-gives-Bengals-lead">that meddling Andy Dalton</a>. 28

    Gary Landers/Associated Press

    5) John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens

    For whatever reason, Harbaugh is never mentioned among the NFL's elite head coaches. While the Ravens haven't enjoyed a ton of success over the past three seasons, mitigating circumstances have played a huge role. Massive injuries derailed the 2016 campaign, and yet Baltimore might have taken the division if it weren't for an Immaculate Extension on Christmas. Last season, the Ravens were again beset by scores of injuries -- starting with the season-ender to all-world guard Marshal Yanda -- but still would've made the postseason field if it wasn't for that meddling Andy Dalton.

  • Admittedly, McCarthy is difficult to place on this list. He has profited from having both Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers under center. On the other hand, Favre saw an uptick in his performance when the Packers went from Mike Sherman to McCarthy. And the latter deserves a parcel of credit for Rodgers' development from backup to one of the game's elite. Without Rodgers for the majority of 2017, Green Bay failed to make the playoffs, with an ugly end to the season. But for the most part, they were competitive with Brett Hundley until mid-December. There aren't many head coaches in NFL history who've won big with a certifiable backup, so let's not be too hard on McCarthy. 27

    Ric Tapia/Associated Press

    6) Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers

    Admittedly, McCarthy is difficult to place on this list. He has profited from having both Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers under center. On the other hand, Favre saw an uptick in his performance when the Packers went from Mike Sherman to McCarthy. And the latter deserves a parcel of credit for Rodgers' development from backup to one of the game's elite. Without Rodgers for the majority of 2017, Green Bay failed to make the playoffs, with an ugly end to the season. But for the most part, they were competitive with Brett Hundley until mid-December. There aren't many head coaches in NFL history who've won big with a certifiable backup, so let's not be too hard on McCarthy.

  • Reid has won consistently and has a large body of work, with the only true blemish on his record being the lack of a Super Bowl ring. The Chiefs head coach was able to shift Kansas City's offense last season (with help from Matt Nagy), providing K.C. with both an effective ground game and vertical pass offense. Especially crucial when you factor in the sub-mediocre performance from the defense. Reid will have to change up the attack again with Patrick Mahomes taking over for a steady vet like Alex Smith. 26

    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    7) Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs

    Reid has won consistently and has a large body of work, with the only true blemish on his record being the lack of a Super Bowl ring. The Chiefs head coach was able to shift Kansas City's offense last season (with help from Matt Nagy), providing K.C. with both an effective ground game and vertical pass offense. Especially crucial when you factor in the sub-mediocre performance from the defense. Reid will have to change up the attack again with Patrick Mahomes taking over for a steady vet like Alex Smith.

  • Winning the most recent Super Bowl sure doesn't hurt. Pederson managed what could have been a calamitous situation -- MVP-in-waiting Carson Wentz going down late in the regular season -- and produced a winner with journeyman Nick Foles at the helm. Pederson's trust in his players, and the confidence he placed in Foles, cannot be underestimated. He became the first head coach since Mike Tomlin in 2008 to win the Lombardi Trophy before his third year on the job. 25

    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    8) Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles

    Winning the most recent Super Bowl sure doesn't hurt. Pederson managed what could have been a calamitous situation -- MVP-in-waiting Carson Wentz going down late in the regular season -- and produced a winner with journeyman Nick Foles at the helm. Pederson's trust in his players, and the confidence he placed in Foles, cannot be underestimated. He became the first head coach since Mike Tomlin in 2008 to win the Lombardi Trophy before his third year on the job.

  • You thought Gruden would be higher, right? As storied as his initial 11-year run as a head coach was (check that -- it somehow became <i>mythical</i>), the former color analyst was, well, doing color for the last decade. During the nine seasons Gruden has been off the sidelines, the game has changed. A lot. Player-safety rules, spread offense and situational defense have all morphed strategy. That's not to say Gruden can't successfully navigate these developments. He took the Raiders to the AFC Championship Game once (should have been twice, <a href="http://www.nfl.com/videos/new-england-patriots/0ap2000000146416/The-Tuck-Rule">for tuck's sake</a>), and won a Super Bowl with the Bucs. Then again, he produced a losing record (45-51) over his last six years in Tampa. 24

    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    9) Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders

    You thought Gruden would be higher, right? As storied as his initial 11-year run as a head coach was (check that -- it somehow became mythical), the former color analyst was, well, doing color for the last decade. During the nine seasons Gruden has been off the sidelines, the game has changed. A lot. Player-safety rules, spread offense and situational defense have all morphed strategy. That's not to say Gruden can't successfully navigate these developments. He took the Raiders to the AFC Championship Game once (should have been twice, for tuck's sake), and won a Super Bowl with the Bucs. Then again, he produced a losing record (45-51) over his last six years in Tampa.

  • Zimmer proved his mettle once again last season, leading the Vikings to an NFC Championship Game appearance despite losing his starting quarterback and tailback early in the season. Even without Sam Bradford and Dalvin Cook, Minnesota won the NFC North with ease. Zimmer rode a fine season from Case Keenum, while keeping the media from building up his backup QB too much. Managing the locker room, as well as building a championship-level defense, are two big reasons Zimmer is in the top 10 on this list. 23

    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    10) Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings

    Zimmer proved his mettle once again last season, leading the Vikings to an NFC Championship Game appearance despite losing his starting quarterback and tailback early in the season. Even without Sam Bradford and Dalvin Cook, Minnesota won the NFC North with ease. Zimmer rode a fine season from Case Keenum, while keeping the media from building up his backup QB too much. Managing the locker room, as well as building a championship-level defense, are two big reasons Zimmer is in the top 10 on this list.

  • Following up a Super Bowl berth with a win in the postseason keeps Quinn in the discussion as one of the top head coaches in the NFL. The Falcons didn't fold last year, despite suffering what might be <a href="http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000785247/article/super-bowl-li-pain-train-anatomy-of-falcons-collapse">the most painful loss in Super Bowl history</a>. Atlanta <a href="http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2018010601/2017/POST18/falcons@rams">won on the road</a> in Wild Card Weekend, then came <a href="http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/0ap3000000905968/Eagles-make-pivotal-fourth-down-stop-as-ball-goes-through-Julio-s-hands-in-end-zone">a ball through Julio Jones' grasp</a> from reaching the NFC Championship Game. Quinn has surely surpassed Arthur Blank and Thomas Dimitroff's expectations, given the state of affairs following the 2014 season. 22

    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    11) Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons

    Following up a Super Bowl berth with a win in the postseason keeps Quinn in the discussion as one of the top head coaches in the NFL. The Falcons didn't fold last year, despite suffering what might be the most painful loss in Super Bowl history. Atlanta won on the road in Wild Card Weekend, then came a ball through Julio Jones' grasp from reaching the NFC Championship Game. Quinn has surely surpassed Arthur Blank and Thomas Dimitroff's expectations, given the state of affairs following the 2014 season.

  • Rivera actually could be higher on this list, given his accomplishments to date: Two-time AP Coach of the Year, a Super Bowl appearance and an overall record that currently sits 17 games north of .500. The competition gets pretty tough toward the top 10, and fair or not, the perception of Cam Newton as a one-man band persists. A Super Bowl win, or succeeding sans his franchise quarterback, would nudge Rivera even higher. 21

    Mike McCarn/Associated Press

    12) Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers

    Rivera actually could be higher on this list, given his accomplishments to date: Two-time AP Coach of the Year, a Super Bowl appearance and an overall record that currently sits 17 games north of .500. The competition gets pretty tough toward the top 10, and fair or not, the perception of Cam Newton as a one-man band persists. A Super Bowl win, or succeeding sans his franchise quarterback, would nudge Rivera even higher.

  • McVay deserves this high of a ranking after only one season due to the Rams' instant turnaround and the savvy development of Jared Goff. The No. 1 overall pick in 2016 performed miserably in miserable circumstances during his rookie campaign, but under McVay's tutelage (and leadership), Goff tossed 28 touchdown passes against a minuscule seven interceptions. As impressive: McVay's poise in the postgame, assuming accountability for losses while deflecting credit after the team's 11 wins. He's already put his stamp on the franchise. 20

    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    13) Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams

    McVay deserves this high of a ranking after only one season due to the Rams' instant turnaround and the savvy development of Jared Goff. The No. 1 overall pick in 2016 performed miserably in miserable circumstances during his rookie campaign, but under McVay's tutelage (and leadership), Goff tossed 28 touchdown passes against a minuscule seven interceptions. As impressive: McVay's poise in the postgame, assuming accountability for losses while deflecting credit after the team's 11 wins. He's already put his stamp on the franchise.

  • Could Marrone be the most underrated head coach in the league? He belongs in the top half of this list not only because of the Jags' near-Super Bowl run, but also due to what he accomplished in Buffalo. People forget that Marrone went 9-7 in 2014 before he left the team by his own volition -- <a href="http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000788672/article/doug-marrone-expresses-regret-over-buffalo-bills-exit">a decision he now admits was misguided</a>. Despite being an offensive lineman by trade, Marrone's teams have been defensive in nature. His first year in Buffalo, the Bills went from 22nd to 10th in team defense. The next year they were fourth. Last year, Jacksonville finished second. Marrone might not be drawing up complex schemes, but his hard-nosed approach has rubbed off on his teams. These aren't your older brother's Jaguars. 19

    John Raoux/Associated Press

    14) Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars

    Could Marrone be the most underrated head coach in the league? He belongs in the top half of this list not only because of the Jags' near-Super Bowl run, but also due to what he accomplished in Buffalo. People forget that Marrone went 9-7 in 2014 before he left the team by his own volition -- a decision he now admits was misguided. Despite being an offensive lineman by trade, Marrone's teams have been defensive in nature. His first year in Buffalo, the Bills went from 22nd to 10th in team defense. The next year they were fourth. Last year, Jacksonville finished second. Marrone might not be drawing up complex schemes, but his hard-nosed approach has rubbed off on his teams. These aren't your older brother's Jaguars.

  • Fans and analysts alike have trouble evaluating Garrett's performance through seven and a half seasons as the Cowboys' head coach. The perception is that owner/GM Jerry Jones has always pulled the strings, even seeping down into the manner in which Garrett coaches his team. That may or may not be true, but as more time passes from the end of Tony Romo era, people might wonder why the Cowboys didn't win more with a top-10 quarterback. Last year, Dallas went 9-7, but the team fell apart during Ezekiel Elliott's suspension. 18

    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    15) Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys

    Fans and analysts alike have trouble evaluating Garrett's performance through seven and a half seasons as the Cowboys' head coach. The perception is that owner/GM Jerry Jones has always pulled the strings, even seeping down into the manner in which Garrett coaches his team. That may or may not be true, but as more time passes from the end of Tony Romo era, people might wonder why the Cowboys didn't win more with a top-10 quarterback. Last year, Dallas went 9-7, but the team fell apart during Ezekiel Elliott's suspension.

  • O'Brien resides at the middle of the pack, which feels about right. The Texans head coach just tasted his first losing season, with Houston darn-near unable to win a game once Deshaun Watson went down. What's ironic is that O'Brien had been heralded for being able to put together multiple winning seasons <i>without</i> stellar quarterback play. Tom Savage and the offense were uninspiring under O'Brien in the second half of the season. The 2018 campaign will loom large in determining O'Brien's place on this list -- and standing in Houston. 17

    Gary Landers/Associated Press

    16) Bill O'Brien, Houston Texans

    O'Brien resides at the middle of the pack, which feels about right. The Texans head coach just tasted his first losing season, with Houston darn-near unable to win a game once Deshaun Watson went down. What's ironic is that O'Brien had been heralded for being able to put together multiple winning seasons without stellar quarterback play. Tom Savage and the offense were uninspiring under O'Brien in the second half of the season. The 2018 campaign will loom large in determining O'Brien's place on this list -- and standing in Houston.

  • Impressive debut for Lynn in Los Angeles last year. He's only 17th because he has just one season under his belt. Without a playoff appearance, placing him over Sean McVay or Doug Pederson wasn't happening. Yet, neither of those coaches were forced to deal with motivating a team that was clearly second sister in a town that's lukewarm about its pro football. Won't be surprised to see it get warmer if/when Lynn leads the Chargers to the playoffs. 16

    Greg Trott/Associated Press

    17) Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers

    Impressive debut for Lynn in Los Angeles last year. He's only 17th because he has just one season under his belt. Without a playoff appearance, placing him over Sean McVay or Doug Pederson wasn't happening. Yet, neither of those coaches were forced to deal with motivating a team that was clearly second sister in a town that's lukewarm about its pro football. Won't be surprised to see it get warmer if/when Lynn leads the Chargers to the playoffs.

  • Gruden's time in the league sure has been eventful. The RGIII debacle, taking Washington to the postseason, then watching the Kirk Cousins franchise-tag soap opera take place every offseason ... It's all contributed to make Gruden's time with the Redskins quite stressful. As did last season's injury parade, which torpedoed any hopes of Washington making the most of Cousins' swan song with the organization. Sympathy for that completely decimated offensive line, and experience, are the only reasons Gruden sits above McDermott on this list. Can't wait to see how this offensive-minded coach works with Alex Smith. 15

    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    18) Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins

    Gruden's time in the league sure has been eventful. The RGIII debacle, taking Washington to the postseason, then watching the Kirk Cousins franchise-tag soap opera take place every offseason ... It's all contributed to make Gruden's time with the Redskins quite stressful. As did last season's injury parade, which torpedoed any hopes of Washington making the most of Cousins' swan song with the organization. Sympathy for that completely decimated offensive line, and experience, are the only reasons Gruden sits above McDermott on this list. Can't wait to see how this offensive-minded coach works with Alex Smith.

  • With only a single season of head coaching, 19th is not a bad place to be for McDermott -- not with all the successful veteran head coaches in the league right now. The biggest feather in his Bills ballcap is the fact that he pushed this franchise back into meaningful January football for the first time since <a href="http://www.nfl.com/videos/tennessee-titans/09000d5d81d991bc/Music-City-Miracle">the Music City Miracle</a>. Some folks think that was a miracle in and of itself. The lone blemish was <a href="http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/0ap3000000879662/Watch-all-five-of-Nathan-Peterman-s-first-half-interceptions">the ill-fated decision to start Nate Peterman</a> over a healthy Tyrod Taylor in Los Angeles. It almost cost Buffalo that much-coveted wild-card spot. McDermott has his work cut out for him with Taylor gone and Peterman competing with AJ McCarron and rookie Josh Allen for the starting spot. 14

    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    19) Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills

    With only a single season of head coaching, 19th is not a bad place to be for McDermott -- not with all the successful veteran head coaches in the league right now. The biggest feather in his Bills ballcap is the fact that he pushed this franchise back into meaningful January football for the first time since the Music City Miracle. Some folks think that was a miracle in and of itself. The lone blemish was the ill-fated decision to start Nate Peterman over a healthy Tyrod Taylor in Los Angeles. It almost cost Buffalo that much-coveted wild-card spot. McDermott has his work cut out for him with Taylor gone and Peterman competing with AJ McCarron and rookie Josh Allen for the starting spot.

  • This spot is more a reflection of the direction the Bengals have been trending -- and the situation surrounding Lewis. Cincinnati's longtime head coach has yet to win a postseason game and he's logged a losing mark in each of the last two seasons. While still over .500 for his career (125-112-3 since taking over in 2003), Lewis has been afforded more organizational patience than any coach in this era. This is not to suggest that Lewis didn't completely turn around an ailing franchise that sucked throughout the '90s, but Cincy fans deserve a postseason run. Perhaps no coach needs a successful 2018 season more than Lewis. 13

    Frank Victores/Associated Press

    20) Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals

    This spot is more a reflection of the direction the Bengals have been trending -- and the situation surrounding Lewis. Cincinnati's longtime head coach has yet to win a postseason game and he's logged a losing mark in each of the last two seasons. While still over .500 for his career (125-112-3 since taking over in 2003), Lewis has been afforded more organizational patience than any coach in this era. This is not to suggest that Lewis didn't completely turn around an ailing franchise that sucked throughout the '90s, but Cincy fans deserve a postseason run. Perhaps no coach needs a successful 2018 season more than Lewis.

  • Gase might just be the least-talked-about coach in the business. Not that that's undeserved, per se. He does sit at 16 up, 16 down after two years in the big leagues. He surprisingly took the Dolphins to the playoffs in his first year, but Miami fell back below sea level in 2017. There was <a href="http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000828792/article/ryan-tannehill-to-have-seasonending-acl-surgery">the weird Ryan Tannehill injury situation</a>. Then the weirder Jay Cutler signing. And of course, the Dolphins had season tickets to the Matt Moore experience. The organization performed a little house cleaning this offseason, and welcomes back Tannehill with open arms and healthy knees. Can Gase impart his offensive wisdom on a unit that no longer has Jarvis Landry at its beck and call? If not with Tannehill, maybe Gase can call John Beck to come back. Or Cleo Lemon. Chet Lemon. Never mind. 12

    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    21) Adam Gase, Miami Dolphins

    Gase might just be the least-talked-about coach in the business. Not that that's undeserved, per se. He does sit at 16 up, 16 down after two years in the big leagues. He surprisingly took the Dolphins to the playoffs in his first year, but Miami fell back below sea level in 2017. There was the weird Ryan Tannehill injury situation. Then the weirder Jay Cutler signing. And of course, the Dolphins had season tickets to the Matt Moore experience. The organization performed a little house cleaning this offseason, and welcomes back Tannehill with open arms and healthy knees. Can Gase impart his offensive wisdom on a unit that no longer has Jarvis Landry at its beck and call? If not with Tannehill, maybe Gase can call John Beck to come back. Or Cleo Lemon. Chet Lemon. Never mind.

  • I was thoroughly impressed with how the Jets competed last season. But still, Bowles' team only won five games. For the second year in a row. Thus, it's challenging placing Bowles higher than 22. Yet, his job should be safe, with a rookie quarterback in Sam Darnold and the feisty nature with which New York competed while Josh McCown was healthy. McCown's back, too, and should be the player-coach to Bowles' coach-coach, providing leadership to his younger teammates in and out of the quarterback room. 11

    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    22) Todd Bowles, New York Jets

    I was thoroughly impressed with how the Jets competed last season. But still, Bowles' team only won five games. For the second year in a row. Thus, it's challenging placing Bowles higher than 22. Yet, his job should be safe, with a rookie quarterback in Sam Darnold and the feisty nature with which New York competed while Josh McCown was healthy. McCown's back, too, and should be the player-coach to Bowles' coach-coach, providing leadership to his younger teammates in and out of the quarterback room.

  • There are a few head coaches included in this league pecking order who are quite tough to evaluate. Shanahan is front and center in that regard, as he took over a team offering both upside and a host of potential growing pains. The 49ers also had no quarterback until Jimmy Garoppolo came on board. San Francisco started winning at that point. So, was the five-game winning streak all Jimmy G, or does Shanahan deserve praise for catering his system to the young quarterback? Leaning toward the latter, but we need more volume than one third of a season to evaluate. 10

    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    23) Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers

    There are a few head coaches included in this league pecking order who are quite tough to evaluate. Shanahan is front and center in that regard, as he took over a team offering both upside and a host of potential growing pains. The 49ers also had no quarterback until Jimmy Garoppolo came on board. San Francisco started winning at that point. So, was the five-game winning streak all Jimmy G, or does Shanahan deserve praise for catering his system to the young quarterback? Leaning toward the latter, but we need more volume than one third of a season to evaluate.

  • Patricia deserves much credit for the way the Patriots' defense responded to a rocky start in 2017. After allowing a whopping 128 points through the first four weeks of the season, New England hunkered down -- giving up just 168 points over the last 12 games of the regular season. What an improvement. The Patriots finished first in scoring defense in 2016, an integral factor in the franchise's fifth Lombardi lift. In fact, Patricia's defenses finished in the top 10 in points allowed during each of his six seasons as DC. Now, name the impact players he had on defense in New England? Right. Patricia will have an impact player at the most important position in football this year in Matt Stafford, which is partially why he ranks higher than the other rookie head coaches on this list. (Yes, I'm projecting a bit.) 9

    Detroit Lions/Associated Press

    24) Matt Patricia, Detroit Lions

    Patricia deserves much credit for the way the Patriots' defense responded to a rocky start in 2017. After allowing a whopping 128 points through the first four weeks of the season, New England hunkered down -- giving up just 168 points over the last 12 games of the regular season. What an improvement. The Patriots finished first in scoring defense in 2016, an integral factor in the franchise's fifth Lombardi lift. In fact, Patricia's defenses finished in the top 10 in points allowed during each of his six seasons as DC. Now, name the impact players he had on defense in New England? Right. Patricia will have an impact player at the most important position in football this year in Matt Stafford, which is partially why he ranks higher than the other rookie head coaches on this list. (Yes, I'm projecting a bit.)

  • Nagy is the second-highest ranked of the first-time head coaches. Part of the reasoning is the situation he inherits. I'm bullish on the Bears, and from the looks of Mitch Trubisky's play last year, it seems a quarterback guru (or at least someone who will bring his talent out of him) is precisely the right fit for what the organization needs now. Nagy was a well-respected quarterbacks coach (and, for a season, offensive coordinator) in Kansas City. He jump-started a deep passing game with Alex Smith behind the wheel, something thought not possible before. In doing so, Nagy improved upon the work of Brad Childress and Doug Pederson (you know, the guy who just won the Super Bowl). Nagy could be this year's Sean McVay, even if in lesser form. 8

    Scott Boehm/Associated Press

    25) Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears

    Nagy is the second-highest ranked of the first-time head coaches. Part of the reasoning is the situation he inherits. I'm bullish on the Bears, and from the looks of Mitch Trubisky's play last year, it seems a quarterback guru (or at least someone who will bring his talent out of him) is precisely the right fit for what the organization needs now. Nagy was a well-respected quarterbacks coach (and, for a season, offensive coordinator) in Kansas City. He jump-started a deep passing game with Alex Smith behind the wheel, something thought not possible before. In doing so, Nagy improved upon the work of Brad Childress and Doug Pederson (you know, the guy who just won the Super Bowl). Nagy could be this year's Sean McVay, even if in lesser form.

  • This might seem to be a low ranking for Reich, who just picked up a much-sought-after Super Bowl ring last season. (Reminder: Reich had to watch from the sidelines for the bulk of all those Bills Super Bowl losses.) But 26 is actually not that low when you figure that only two newbie head coaches are ahead of him on this list, and Andrew Luck's status is still murky. Reich was instrumental in pushing both Carson Wentz and the Eagles' offense to soaring heights. His temperament should fit well with a Colts organization that is playing the long game. The main question mark for this former quarterback is the overall health of his current quarterback. 7

    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    26) Frank Reich, Indianapolis Colts

    This might seem to be a low ranking for Reich, who just picked up a much-sought-after Super Bowl ring last season. (Reminder: Reich had to watch from the sidelines for the bulk of all those Bills Super Bowl losses.) But 26 is actually not that low when you figure that only two newbie head coaches are ahead of him on this list, and Andrew Luck's status is still murky. Reich was instrumental in pushing both Carson Wentz and the Eagles' offense to soaring heights. His temperament should fit well with a Colts organization that is playing the long game. The main question mark for this former quarterback is the overall health of his current quarterback.

  • Shurmur's run in Cleveland didn't go as planned. Those were the Brandon Weeden/Trent Richardson Browns, if you are scoring at home, with some young Colt McCoy sprinkled in for good measure. Shurmur last walked the sidelines as a head coach for one game as an interim front man, after Chip Kelly was fired in Philly. (Shurmur did win that game.) Now he inherits a Giants offense that has been retooled, with a shiny new back (Saquon Barkley) and some notable O-line turnover. Not to mention, a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. and a hopefully-rejuvenated Eli Manning. Shurmur earned much kudos for his exemplary work running the Vikings' offense sans Dalvin Cook, including building on Case Keenum's strengths. But the lower ranking stems from his poor record thus far. 6

    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    27) Pat Shurmur, New York Giants

    Shurmur's run in Cleveland didn't go as planned. Those were the Brandon Weeden/Trent Richardson Browns, if you are scoring at home, with some young Colt McCoy sprinkled in for good measure. Shurmur last walked the sidelines as a head coach for one game as an interim front man, after Chip Kelly was fired in Philly. (Shurmur did win that game.) Now he inherits a Giants offense that has been retooled, with a shiny new back (Saquon Barkley) and some notable O-line turnover. Not to mention, a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. and a hopefully-rejuvenated Eli Manning. Shurmur earned much kudos for his exemplary work running the Vikings' offense sans Dalvin Cook, including building on Case Keenum's strengths. But the lower ranking stems from his poor record thus far.

  • Koetter battled through a trying 2017 season that saw the Bucs disappoint. His kicking games did him no favors. Nor will Jameis Winston's suspension. Tampa's poor 5-11 record combined with the situation Koetter inherits to begin 2018 (Fitzmagic, everyone) places him 28th. Koetter must reproduce what made him a strong offensive coordinator in Jacksonville: Running the football never goes out of style. Sure will help if Ronald Jones II can be a Maurice Jones-Drew or Fred Taylor. 5

    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    28) Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Koetter battled through a trying 2017 season that saw the Bucs disappoint. His kicking games did him no favors. Nor will Jameis Winston's suspension. Tampa's poor 5-11 record combined with the situation Koetter inherits to begin 2018 (Fitzmagic, everyone) places him 28th. Koetter must reproduce what made him a strong offensive coordinator in Jacksonville: Running the football never goes out of style. Sure will help if Ronald Jones II can be a Maurice Jones-Drew or Fred Taylor.

  • With no head-coaching experience, Vrabel wasn't bound to rank high. What Vrabel <i>does</i> have is experience in all facets of the game, from being a mid-tier free agent to a key cog in the Patriots' three Super Bowl teams in the early 2000s. Don't forget coaching linebackers and running the defense in Houston. Now Vrabel will be running the show in Tennessee. The folks in Nashville -- namely GM Jon Robinson -- feel he is ready for this opportunity. Nobody blames Vrabel for the Texans' regression last season, seeing how J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus both suffered season-ending injuries on his defense, while the offense sputtered once Deshaun Watson went down. This Tennessee gig won't be much easier, as the immediate expectation for Vrabel will be playoffs. After all, it's not often a head coach gets run out of town after making the postseason (and even winning a game once there). 4

    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    29) Mike Vrabel, Tennessee Titans

    With no head-coaching experience, Vrabel wasn't bound to rank high. What Vrabel does have is experience in all facets of the game, from being a mid-tier free agent to a key cog in the Patriots' three Super Bowl teams in the early 2000s. Don't forget coaching linebackers and running the defense in Houston. Now Vrabel will be running the show in Tennessee. The folks in Nashville -- namely GM Jon Robinson -- feel he is ready for this opportunity. Nobody blames Vrabel for the Texans' regression last season, seeing how J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus both suffered season-ending injuries on his defense, while the offense sputtered once Deshaun Watson went down. This Tennessee gig won't be much easier, as the immediate expectation for Vrabel will be playoffs. After all, it's not often a head coach gets run out of town after making the postseason (and even winning a game once there).

  • The Broncos took a step back in every phase last season -- but especially on defense, Joseph's area of expertise. Some of that can be blamed on an anemic offense that kept the defense on the field far too long, though Joseph wasn't able to get nearly as much out of his team as his predecessor. He and Steve Wilks are similar in that each coached defensive backs for years, with only one year as a DC before becoming a head coach. In theory, Joseph learned much from the pitfalls of his initial season, so he has an edge in understanding the demands of the job. How much understanding he'll receive from John Elway is another matter. 3

    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    30) Vance Joseph, Denver Broncos

    The Broncos took a step back in every phase last season -- but especially on defense, Joseph's area of expertise. Some of that can be blamed on an anemic offense that kept the defense on the field far too long, though Joseph wasn't able to get nearly as much out of his team as his predecessor. He and Steve Wilks are similar in that each coached defensive backs for years, with only one year as a DC before becoming a head coach. In theory, Joseph learned much from the pitfalls of his initial season, so he has an edge in understanding the demands of the job. How much understanding he'll receive from John Elway is another matter.

  • Like the other first-year head coaches, Wilks is devoid much experience. Like Nagy and Vrabel, Wilks became a coordinator for the first time last year. The reason he is lower, however, is the situation he inherits. (Yes, again, this list does do some projecting on future success.) Arizona lost both Carson Palmer and the Tyrann Mathieu this offseason, and so much of the Cardinals' mentality was built around that of their former beret-wearin' head coach. Whereas Nagy is matched with a young quarterback -- a situation perfect for his skill set -- the defensive-minded Wilks will presumably lean on his staff to augment Josh Rosen's game (not Rosen's ego). Meanwhile, Vrabel took over a playoff team that beat Nagy's Chiefs in the Wild Card Round. 2

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    31) Steve Wilks, Arizona Cardinals

    Like the other first-year head coaches, Wilks is devoid much experience. Like Nagy and Vrabel, Wilks became a coordinator for the first time last year. The reason he is lower, however, is the situation he inherits. (Yes, again, this list does do some projecting on future success.) Arizona lost both Carson Palmer and the Tyrann Mathieu this offseason, and so much of the Cardinals' mentality was built around that of their former beret-wearin' head coach. Whereas Nagy is matched with a young quarterback -- a situation perfect for his skill set -- the defensive-minded Wilks will presumably lean on his staff to augment Josh Rosen's game (not Rosen's ego). Meanwhile, Vrabel took over a playoff team that beat Nagy's Chiefs in the Wild Card Round.

  • Rarely would a head coach with as much experience as Jackson be listed last. No coach in NFL history has gone 1-31 over two seasons, either. Was it all his fault? No. Yet, much of coaching is coaxing the best football out of your players, even if your roster is thinner on talent than others. Bill Parcells took the Cowboys to the playoffs in 2003 with Quincy Carter and Troy Hambrick in the backfield. Doug Marrone took the Jags from 3-13 to the AFC Championship Game. 1

    David Richard/Associated Press

    32) Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns

    Rarely would a head coach with as much experience as Jackson be listed last. No coach in NFL history has gone 1-31 over two seasons, either. Was it all his fault? No. Yet, much of coaching is coaxing the best football out of your players, even if your roster is thinner on talent than others. Bill Parcells took the Cowboys to the playoffs in 2003 with Quincy Carter and Troy Hambrick in the backfield. Doug Marrone took the Jags from 3-13 to the AFC Championship Game.