Ranting On The 50 Yardline Vol. 6: Ranking The Top 16 Coaches in the NFL

Unlike ranking players from season to season, when you rank the coaches you have to take into account:

1) What they’ve done

2) What they are currently doing

3) What you think they will do in the future.

Having to weigh a short career such as Mike Zimmer against the career of a two time Super Bowl champ in Tom Coughlin was tough, but someone had to do it. Some of these rankings are projections, and that’s perfectly fine.

16. Mike Zimmer:

Minnesota Vikings (2014-Present)

Career Head Coaching Regular Season Record: 7-9

Playoff Record: 0-0

I know it’s only been one season. I know he went 7-9. But over the last 8 months, Mike Zimmer has proved that he’s more than capable of being a leader of men. As a rookie coach, he made Minnesota a competitive team despite being led by a rookie quarterback and despite the fact that he was missing one of the all time great running backs in NFL history, Even throughout all the Adrian Peterson offseason drama, you never saw him talk down on Adrian to anybody. I gained more respect for him by the way he handled this entire situation. As the defensive coordinator in Dallas (2000-2006) and Cincinnati (2008-2013), he has proven himself as a great defensive mind in this league, leading both of those franchise’s top five defense’s during his time in each in city. With the all the young talent has he in Minnesota, it’s only a matter of time before they become playoff contenders.

15. Jason Garrett

Dallas Cowboys (2010-Present)

Career Head Coaching Regular Season Record: 41-31

Playoff Record: 1-1

Okay. This was a tough task for me. I’m going to be completely honest, I don’t know what the hell Jason Garrett is exactly good at. He’s an offensive coordinator by trade, but Bill Callahan called the plays in 2014 so (according to Jerry Jones) Garrett could focus on game management. I will give Garrett credit for finally realizing what his teams strength’s were and finally allowing them to be used to the advantage of the team. Garrett has also been great dealing with the personalities of Jerry Jones, Dez Bryant and Tony Romo. Garrett is long overdue for credit of actually being a pretty good coach.

14. Jeff Fisher 

Houston Oilers/Tennessee Oilers/Tennessee Titans (1994-2010); St. Louis Rams (2012-Present)

Career Head Coaching Regular Season Record: 167-147-2

Playoff Record: 5-6

2012: 7-8-1

2013: 7-9

2014: 6-10

There is no denying that Fisher’s tenure in St. Louis has been mediocre at best. But you still have to give respect to the fact that he has been a head coach in the NFL for over 20 years. Just looking at his track record from his time in Houston/Tennessee, he’s never had more than 3 non-winning seasons. QB has been his Achilles heel in St. Louis (along with offense in general). There is a good chance if Fisher can’t get on the plus side of .500 he’ll be fired.

13. Ron Rivera

Carolina Panthers (2011-Present)

Career Head Coaching Regular Season Record: 32-31

Playoff Record: 1-2

The Panthers may have taken a step back in 2014, but they were still a step ahead of anybody else in that division. They became the first team to repeat as NFC South division champions in 2014. It is now Rivera’s responsibility to make sure his quarterback Cam Newton lives up to his contract and that the entire team can take that next step in the playoffs.

12. Marvin Lewis

Cincinnati Bengals (2003-Present)

Career Head Coaching Regular Season Record: 100-90-2

Playoff Record: 0-6

I don’t think people realize how good of a coach Marvin Lewis really is. But then again, if he was such a good coach he would’ve won a playoff game by now. It’s funny how this works isn’t it? Since 2011, the Bengals have been in the worst possible catch 22 ever. Andy Dalton is your “franchise” quarterback, he’s averaging 10 wins a season yet whenever he plays in primetime or playoff game, he wets the bed. And let’s be honest, it’s not just Dalton. It’s the entire team and every coach on that staff. It’s looking like Lewis will be the Jim E. Mora of this generation. 

11. Chuck Pagano

Indianapolis Colts (2012-Present)

Career Head Coaching Regular Season Record: 33-15

Playoff Record: 3-3

Despite posting the same regular season record and reaching the AFC Championship, I really felt Pagano’s team took a step back in 2014. Despite being a defensive minded coach, his teams wet the bed against some of the top offensive teams in the league such as Denver, Philly, Pittsburgh, New England (twice) and Dallas. With his contract expected to end after this season, Pagano will have to improve in both the regular and post season. His players play hard for him, that’s one thing that’s obvious.

10. John Fox

Carolina Panthers (2002-2010); Denver Broncos (2011-2014) Chicago Bears (2015-Present)

Career Head Coaching Regular Season Record: 118-89

Playoff Record: 8-7

It seems as if Fox doesn’t get the respect he deserves. He took over a shitty Carolina Panthers team that only won 1 game the season before he got there and by the next season they were in the Super Bowl. He won four straight AFC West division titles including one with Tim Tebow under center. While it would be crazy to assume he’ll get the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl (like he did with his last two teams), you shouldn’t rule it out either. We know the defense will get straight, I’m eager to see Fox’s relationship with Jay Cutler.


9. Chip Kelly

Philadelphia Eagles (2013-Present)

Career Head Coaching Regular Season Record: 20-12

Playoff Record: 0-1

Is Chip Kelly a mad genius or is he just mad? You may not agree with the moves he’s made this past offseason, but you can’t deny his ability to win games with “less than talent” behind center. Philly was on the verge of something special in 2014 before a late season collapse due in large part to a porous secondary and a quarterback by the name of Mark Sanchez.

8. Andy Reid

Philadelphia Eagles (1999-2012); Kansas City Chiefs (2013-Present)

Career Head Coaching Regular Season Record: 149-105-1

Playoff Record: 10-10

Injuries have seemed to hold back these Andy Reid Chiefs’ squads. But in 2015, Reid and the Chiefs have two major issues they need to fix. First, they need to beat the Broncos somehow this year. They’ve finished 2nd in the AFC West the last few years to the Broncos and their games have been competitive, but the Chiefs just never had the firepower to finish these games out. And second, although the offense has been effective, it hasn’t been enough to match their very good defense. Reid, who knows how to work an offense, will need to make sure some WRs catch a touchdown this year. Adding Jeremy Maclin, his former receiver in Philly, should help with that.

7. Sean Payton

New Orleans Saints (2006-Present)

Career Head Coaching Regular Season Record: 80-48

Playoff Record: 6-4

Despite being on of the elite football minds in all of the NFL, 2014 was a pretty shitty year. I’ve long had questions about Payton. I have always thought Payton’s team threw the ball too much and never ran enough or in the right moments. Well, I guess Payton heard me because they traded their top receivers in Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills and added CJ Spiller to the backfield to mix in with Mark Ingram. It’ll be interesting to see what direction this offense heads in in 2015, but Payton is too good of a coach to allow his team to have another season like this. They didn’t want to win the NFC South in 2014…. at least that’s what their play on the field told me.

6. Bruce Arians

Arizona Cardinals (2013-Present)

Career Head Coaching Regular Season Record: 21-11

Playoff Record: 0-1

Arians is a two time AP coach of the year, winning the award in 2014 and also in 2012 as he took over head coaching duties for Chuck Pagano, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2012. It’s ashame the wins weren’t credited to him (he led the Colts to a 9-3 record). Fast forward to 2014….. Until Carson Palmer tore his ACL, the Cardinals looked like bonafide Super Bowl contenders. Despite all the injuries the team had endured, they were still competitive. But the losses of Palmer and then second string QB Drew Stanton became too much for this team to overcome. But despite the fact the entire world seemed to know they weren’t going to win it all with Ryan Lindley playing QB, the team continued to play hard for their coach and each other. Arians needs to take the next step and win in the playoffs. He’ll have to do it this year without defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.

5. Mike McCarthy

Green Bay Packers (2006-Present)

Career Head Coaching Record (94-49-1)

Playoff Record (7-6)

Mike McCarthy is one of the most teflon coaches in the NFL. After all, he has 5 NFC North titles and his teams have averaged 10 wins a season since he has taken over. He has a Super Bowl title to go along with two more NFC Championship Game appearances. But my issue with McCarthy has always been these whacky playoff losses. Whether it’s Karlos Dansby returning a fumble for the game winning touchdown in an offensive shootout (51-45 OT) against the Cardinals, Colin Kaepernick running all over the Packers defense in the 2013 Divisional Round (and the 2014 Wild Card) or the 2015 Emerald City Miracle, his teams have found new, innovative ways to blow games they should win. He’s relinquished his pay calling duties so we’ll see how much of a difference this makes in 2015.

4. Mike Tomlin

Pittsburgh Steelers (2007-Present)

Career Head Coaching Regular Season Record (82-46)

Playoff Record (5-4)

I expect some people to question this, but Tomlin deserves to be ranked this high because his resume speaks for itself. Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season since taking over for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s guided the team to 4 AFC North titles, 2 AFC Titles and a Super Bowl win in his second season. But although he is my favorite coach, I can’t deny the fact that under his tenure this team has had a habit of winning the tough games and losing the easy games. In 2014 the team looked to be well on their way to a deep playoff run before the Le’Veon Bell injury. I’m definitely hoping Tomlin’s leadership can put the team back on the pace in 2015 to make some noise.

3. John Harbaugh

Baltimore Ravens (2008-Present)

Career Head Coaching Regular Season Record: 72-40

Playoff Record: 10-5

Although it pains me to admit it, John Harbaugh is a damn great coach and the work he’s done with the Baltimore Ravens has been spectacular. Much like his AFC North counterpart, he’s never had a losing season. But unlike Tomlin, every season that the Ravens have made the playoffs, their team has won at least one game. He already has a playoff record of 10-5 which is good enough for 14th all time. That’s actually the same amount of wins as Bill Walsh and Andy Reid have in their careers.

*It’s also worth noting that each team to beat the Harbaugh led Ravens in the playoffs has gone on to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.

2. Pete Carroll 

New York Jets (1994); New England Patriots (1997-1999); Seattle Seahawks (2010-Present)

Career Head Coaching Regular Season Record: 83-61

Playoff Record: 8-5

Is there any arguments against Pete Carroll being the second best coach in the NFL? What he’s done in Seattle has been amazing. It’s a college style environment with a bunch of elite, badass NFL talent. You can tell his players love playing for him and the fans love cheering him on. He’s already won 3 NFC Division titles and he’s gone to back to back Super Bowl’s, including winning Super Bowl 48. It doesn’t look like these Seahawks will be stopping anytime soon.

And I won’t hold that final play of Super Bowl 49 against Pete Carroll. If it works, he’s a genius. But since it didn’t….you know how that goes.

1. Bill Belichick

Cleveland Browns (1991-1995); New York Jets (January 3rd, 2000-January 4th, 2000); New England Patriots (2000-Present)

NFL Head Coaching Regular Season Record: 211-109

Playoff Record: 22-9

Do I really need to be tell you guys why I think he is number one? I didn’t think so. But please understand this man hasn’t had a losing record since 2000. He may be a cheater and button pusher (he most definitely is both) but he’s arguably the greatest coach in NFL history. Respect this man.


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