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Ranking the NFL coaches heading into 2021

Ranking the NFL coaches heading into 2021


There might be a more scrutinized job in football than head coach, with constant turnover after every season. Heading into the 2021 NFL season, here’s a look at how the 32 head coaches stack up.

Bill Belichick, Patriots

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Belichick’s track record in New England speaks for itself, with six championships in nine Super Bowl appearances while missing the playoffs just four times in 21 seasons. Of course, one of those four seasons was 2020 after Tom Brady moved on, so all the 69-year-old defensive genius has left to prove is that he can win without Tom Brady. Belichick has 280 regular-season wins and is an incredible 31-12 in the playoffs.

Andy Reid, Chiefs

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Reid quieted the critics who said he couldn’t win a big game when the Chiefs won the Super Bowl two years ago, and they returned last year. He has a great 221-130-1 in 22 seasons as a head coach with the Eagles and Chiefs, and his track record in KC has been stunning. He inherited a two-win Chiefs team in 2013 and has since gone 91-37 with five division titles and eight winning seasons in eight years. His game management still receives criticism, but Reid is rightfully considered one of the best offensive and head coaches in the game’s history.

Sean McVay, Rams

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The Rams got back to the playoffs last year after a one-year hiatus, but McVay and company seemed unsatisfied with Jared Goff. Now the team is all-in on former Lion Matthew Stafford as they try to return to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Pats three years ago. McVay is still only 35, and yet he’s had four winning seasons in four years and is widely regarded as one of the top offensive minds in the game already.

Pete Carroll, Seahawks

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Carroll’s offensive philosophy and game management don’t exactly make Seahawks fans dance in the streets, but his success with the organization is undeniable. Over 11 seasons, the Seahawks have made the playoffs nine times with two Super Bowl appearances and one victory. Seattle has nine consecutive winning seasons with the help of Russell Wilson, but Carroll deserves plenty of credit for masterful player development.

Sean Payton, Saints

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After 14 years, Payton will now be without Drew Brees for the first time in 2021. It’s still disappointing that the team couldn’t get to a Super Bowl in their recent, impressive four-year run of NFL South titles, but the team still has the talent to finish near the top of the conference without the future Hall of Fame signal-caller. In total, Payton has made nine playoff appearances and won one Super Bowl over 14 seasons, solidifying himself as one of the top coaches of his era.

John Harbaugh, Ravens

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Baltimore took an unorthodox step by hiring a special teams coordinator in Harbaugh back in 2008. It was certainly a great hire, as he’s had only one losing season in 13 years with nine playoff appearances and a Super Bowl in 2012. The franchise is seeing a resurgence with Lamar Jackson and a rebuilt, stout defense.

Mike Tomlin, Steelers

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Tomlin successfully returned the Steelers back to the playoffs after two years on the outside looking in, but the team collapsed late in 2020. Tomlin hired a new offensive coordinator in what could be Ben Roethlisberger‘s final season, and the team seems all-in after bringing back JuJu Smith-Schuster and drafting running back Najee Harris in the first round. Remarkably, Tomlin has yet to have a losing season in 14 years with nine playoff appearances and one Super Bowl victory, but the Steelers last won a playoff game in 2016.

Bruce Arians, Buccaneers

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If there were any doubters about Arians’ status as an elite coach, they had to be convinced by last year’s performance, leading the Bucs roster to a championship in only his second season. Through two steps plus an interim stint in Indianapolis, Arians is 67-44-1 in the regular season with three playoff appearances. It’s a credit to Arians that his team was able to improve throughout last season en route to a championship.

Sean McDermott, Bills

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McDermott’s performance has been spectacular since the Bills hired him in 2017, with three playoff appearances after a 20-plus year stretch of futility. He’s helped develop the defense into one of the most consistent in the NFL, while young Josh Allen has become a surprising superstar at quarterback. Buffalo won the AFC East in 2020 for the first time since 1995, and things are certainly looking up for the franchise.


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10. Matt LaFleur, Packers

Matt LaFleur, Packers

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LaFleur has led the Packers to back-to-back 13-3 regular seasons and AFC Championship invites, but the team fell just short in both instances. With the pending Aaron Rodgers saga, with the star quarterback possibly willing to retire, 2021 will be LaFleur’s toughest year yet. He’s been everything the team could have hoped for thus far, but the equation changes with Rodgers potentially on the way out.

Kyle Shanahan, 49ers

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Shanahan was riding high after leading his team to the Super Bowl in his third season, but multiple big injuries caused the 49ers to regress to 6-10 last year. He remains one of the most respected offensive minds in the NFL, but Shanahan also has three losing seasons in four years. The job could get even tougher after losing defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

Ron Rivera, Washington

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After a slow start in Carolina, Rivera made the playoffs in four of five years with one Super Bowl appearance in 2015. Unfortunately, he wore out his welcome in 2019, along with quarterback Cam Newton, but his second chance has already been fruitful by winning the NFC East with Washington last year at 7-9. Rivera’s defenses have regularly been strong performers, and his five playoff appearances in 10 seasons as a head coach speaks for itself.

Frank Reich, Colts

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Reich has found success in Indy under some very difficult circumstances, with three different starting quarterbacks in three years. Despite the musical chairs, the Colts have made the playoffs in two of those seasons and now turn to their fourth quarterback in Carson Wentz. He’s certainly deserved better, but Reich’s success shows that the Colts made the right second hire in 2018 after Josh McDaniels had a change of heart and turned down the job.

Mike Vrabel, Titans

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Vrabel has brought a hard-nosed attitude to the Titans, and his team has shown marked improvement in his three seasons. The squad has finished with a winning record in each season, going to the AFC Championship in 2019 and winning the AFC South at 11-5 last year. After adding Julio Jones, Tennessee has hope of advancing farther this year.

Kevin Stefanski, Browns

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The former Vikings offensive coordinator, Stefanski did exactly what fans hoped for in his first season, leading the Browns to the playoffs and fixing Baker Mayfield‘s issues. The team is loaded with talent after going 11-5 last season and has even higher hopes this year.

Brian Flores, Dolphins

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Flores has yet to lead the Dolphins in the playoffs in two seasons, but Miami’s turnaround has already been much faster than most expected. The tanking roster won five games in 2019, which was seen as overachieving, and managed to go 10-6 with impressive improvement on both sides of the ball in 2020. Flores still has a tough road ahead in a difficult AFC East division, but the early returns are quite promising.

Mike McCarthy, Cowboys

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McCarthy made the playoffs nine times with one Super Bowl win in 13 seasons with Green Bay, but his legacy is complicated. His offense was seen as too vanilla near the end of his time with the Packers, and he was nearly run out of town in 2018. Joining the Cowboys last year, McCarthy’s squad was one of the most disappointing teams of 2020 at 6-10, but part of the issues were injury-related. The team expects him to turn things around this year with an uber-talented core, or he might not last until the end of the season.

Mike Zimmer, Vikings

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Zimmer led a consistent Minnesota defense and made three playoff appearances in his first six seasons with the team, but last year was a sign that the wheels could be coming off. The defense struggled after losing significant talent, and Minnesota finished the year at 7-9. Another losing year from Zimmer could earn him a pink slip.

Jon Gruden, Raiders

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Gruden came out of the Monday Night Football broadcast booth in  2018 after 10 years away from coaching, but his team is only 19-29 in three seasons. While the Raiders have improved with each season, they seem no closer to a championship with a defense that continues to struggle. While Gruden has made five playoff appearances and won one Super Bowl in his 14 seasons as a head coach, he’s only four games above .500 overall during the regular season.

Matt Nagy, Bears

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Nagy has received his fair share of criticism since he was hired in 2018, but it’s somewhat remarkable that he’s yet to have a losing season in three years in spite of the team’s quarterback issues. Chicago hopes those problems are solved after drafting former Ohio State star Justin Fields, giving the former offensive coordinator Nagy more options in the playbook.


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21. Kliff Kingsbury, Cardinals

Kliff Kingsbury, Cardinals

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Kingsbury was promoted to NFL head coach even after getting fired at Texas Tech, with a title as an offensive genius. His team has shown flashes in two seasons, improving to 8-8 last year with Kyler Murray continuing to develop at quarterback. The expectations are much higher in Kingsbury’s third season, with his job possibly on the line if Arizona fails to make the playoffs.

Matt Rhule, Panthers

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Rhule came from the college ranks to go 5-11 for a rebuilding Panthers squad last year. The team did remain competitive in most games despite some major injuries, and Rhule is now betting on former Jets draft bust Sam Darnold to get Carolina back to its winning ways.

Joe Judge, Giants

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New York’s unexpected hire earns an incomplete after his first season as head coach, going 6-10 in 2020 with an injury-plagued team. The Giants were aggressive in free agency during the offseason and will be expecting much better things in Judge’s second year. The success could be riding on the development of quarterback Daniel Jones in his third season.

Vic Fangio, Broncos

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Fangio waited until age 61 for his first head coaching job, and it’s been a tough go in two seasons thus far. The Broncos have had back-to-back losing seasons with poor quarterback play and major injuries. The roster is talented going into his third season, but there remain questions at quarterback that have made the job so difficult already.

Zac Taylor, Bengals

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Taylor was promoted from Rams quarterback coach to Bengals head coach in 2019. The results through two seasons have been bad, with only six wins, but the team’s young offensive talent looks promising, led by Joe Burrow. Now in his third season, Taylor faces the pressure to make a huge jump with a squad that was aggressive in free agency.


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New Hire: Dan Campbell, Lions

New Hire: Dan Campbell, Lions

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Campbell held the interim head coach title with Miami in 2015, going 5-7 after replacing Joe Philbin, but the Lions are his first chance at his own team. The job couldn’t be much more difficult, with a roster that has been stripped of most of his talent and a defense that ranked dead last in 2020. Good luck.

New Hire: David Culley, Texans

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The good news is that Culley finally got his long-earned head coaching opportunity this year at age 65. The bad news is that it’s the Texans. The organization was left in shambles by the last regime, with little cap space or draft capital, and Deshaun Watson‘s off-field issues have complicated matters even more. The long-time offensive assistant in the Andy Reid coaching tree has his work cut out for him.

New Hire: Urban Meyer, Jaguars

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Meyer is one of the best college football coaches ever, but he’s already made some unforced errors since the Jaguars hired him this offseason. Most notable was the hiring of former Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle, who was fired from the school for allegedly making racist remarks toward players. Jacksonville has already moved on, and is hoping the team can forget quickly due to improved play on the field.


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New Hire: Robert Saleh, Jets

New Hire: Robert Saleh, Jets

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Saleh was seen as a home run hire by the Jets after building an elite 49ers defense, but he has a tough rebuild with the Jets coming out of the struggling Adam Gase days. He will be developing a team that goes into 2021 with a lot of holes but hopes rookie quarterback Zach Wilson can be a bright spot.

New Hire: Nick Sirianni, Eagles

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Super Bowl-winning head coach Doug Pederson wore out his time in Philly, and the team turned to Sirianni this year. The former Colts offensive coordinator has a tall task with Jalen Hurts at quarterback and an impatient fanbase that has seen an elite team turn south quickly.

New Hire: Arthur Smith, Falcons

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Smith did a terrific job in two seasons as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator, replacing Matt LaFleur. He inherits a roster with some strong offensive pieces, led by veteran quarterback Matt Ryan, but cap issues and poor drafting have left the overall roster in a bad place. Smith will have to navigate what could be a rough rebuild.

New Hire: Brandon Staley, Chargers

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Staley made the Rams defense elite in one season, but he was a surprising hire for the Chargers with the team developing young Justin Herbert at quarterback. The Chargers are hopeful that Staley’s contribution to the defense could make the team an all-around playoff contender immediately.