Countdown on coaches: Ranking NFL head coaches

USA TODAY ranked each of the 32 NFL head coaches, but the last two Super Bowl entrants were outside the top seven.

It’s rankings season. Time to rank the odds of each team. Time to rank the over-under for wins and players. And, in the case of USA TODAY, time to rank the head coaches

The newspaper came out this week with its ranking for all 32 head coaches. The top one, Bill Belichick, was hardly a surprise. As the analysis indicated, “It’s not even debatable at this point.” Belichick’s ability to improvise – whether scheme or personnel – from one season to the next or even one game to the next gives him the easy nod for first.

After him, however, beauty is in the eye of the analyst.  According to USA TODAY’s assessment, Pete Carroll is second, in part because “The players buy into his ‘Always Compete’ philosophy, so you won’t ever see the team get complacent.” So far, so good for the Seahawks, who have won at least one playoff game each of the last three seasons and made the Super Bowl in two of the last three, winning one.

Rounding out the top five on this list were:

3. Bruce Arians – Cited for his aggressive nature, “No team captures the personality of its coach more than Arizona,” the analysis read.

4. Mike Zimmer – With his background as a defensive coordinator, it’s no surprise Zimmer was given accolades on that side of the ball in his first head-coaching gig. “Zimmer is the most creative defensive play-caller in the league,” USA TODAY touted.

5. Sean Payton – The Saints fell out of playoff favor last year, but the offense can still be dangerous. The analysis, in part: “There’s no offensive coach in the NFL better at creating favorable matchups than Payton.”

It wasn’t until the No. 8 spot that the one of last year’s Super Bowl entrants, Ron Rivera, got his due, championed as a developer of young talent: “Rivera deserves a lot of credit for not trying to turn Cam Newton into more of a traditional quarterback.”

But Gary Kubiak, who is the defending Super Bowl champion among head coaches, barely made the top half of the list. Kubiak checked in at No. 14 on this list because “Let’s be serious: Most of the credit belongs to defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and his historically great defense.”

Further on down the list, you might think the Browns would be toward the bottom because of their record, but USA TODAY thinks highly of new coach Hue Jackson, who took the job in January. “A year from now, Jackson could crack the top-10 on this list,” wrote Steven Ruiz.

The article lumped all the first-year head coaches together toward the bottom of the list “because no one really knows how they’ll fare as head coaches.”  However, there is one returning coach who ranked below first-timers Adam Gase (Dolphins), Ben McAdoo (Giants), Doug Pederson (Eagles) and Dirk Koetter (Buccaneers). That dubious distinction fell to Mike Mularkey of the Titans. The analysis was pretty straightforward, citing his four wins in the last 25 games he coached. “Mularkey may have a track record as an NFL head coach, but it’s not very good.”

Here is the full ranking:

  1. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
  2. Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks
  3. Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals
  4. Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings
  5. Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints
  6. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers
  7. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
  8. Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers
  9. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers
  10. Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs
  11. Chip Kelly, San Francisco 49ers
  12. John Fox, Chicago Bears
  13. Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans
  14. Gary Kubiak, Denver Broncos
  15. Todd Bowles, New York Jets
  16. Rex Ryan, Buffalo Bills
  17. Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins
  18. Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns
  19. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
  20. Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts
  21. Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys
  22. Jeff Fisher, Los Angeles Rams
  23. Mike McCoy, San Diego Chargers
  24. Jack Del Rio, Oakland Raiders
  25. Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions
  26. Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons
  27. Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars
  28. Adam Gase, Miami Dolphins
  29. Ben McAdoo, New York Giants
  30. Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles
  31. Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  32. Mike Mularkey, Tennessee Titans


Scout NFL Network Top Stories