Ranking Every Defensive Coordinator in the NFL Today

Paul ThelenContributor IIJune 17, 2013

Ranking Every Defensive Coordinator in the NFL Today

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    Who are the best defensive coordinators in the NFL today?

    Much has been made about the constant flux of head coaches in the NFL. Due to the shrinking window of patience NFL teams allow their head coaches, defensive coordinators get even less time.

    The longest tenured defensive coordinator in the NFL right now is Pittsburgh's Dick LeBeau, whose post began in 2004. The second longest is Mike Zimmer in Cincinnati who has been coaching up the Bengals defense since 2008.

    A shocking 12 teams are starting 2013 with a different defensive coordinator then they had in 2012.

    With these coaches only having a few years, if that, with a certain team, how are they supposed to distinguish themselves as sensational DCs?

    For this list a collection of factors is considered to discover who is the best defensive coordinator in the NFL: Stats (How do the DC's defenses rank amongst the league?), experience (How long and how effective has the DC been in the NFL?), roster tools (does the DC benefit from great players or develop them?) and impact (What does this DC do that separates him from the rest?). 

    Also, any of the DCs that are entering their first season at the position in 2013 are automatically ranked last. They might end up being great, but without having coached, they don't deserve to be ranked ahead of experienced DCs.

    Yet.

    So hold on to your seats, here are the best defensive coordinators in the NFL today.   

No. 32 Dan Quinn: Seattle Seahawks

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    Hired: 2013

    Scheme: 4-3

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: NA  YPG: NA

    Dan Quinn comes to Seattle after the Seahawks lost DC Gus Bradley when the Jaguars hired him as their head coach.

    Quinn spent the previous two seasons as the Florida Gators DC, but has been a positional coach in the NFL for four different teams. With respect to Quinn, of the newly-minted DCs he is the least experienced so he begins our list at No. 32.  


No. 31 Todd Bowles: Arizona Cardinals

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    Hired: 2013

    Scheme: 3-4

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: With Eagles 29  YPG: 15

    After spending half of 2012 as the Eagles interim DC, Bowles comes to the Cardinals hoping to continue Arizona's defensive improvement.

    2013 will be his first full season as DC as Bowles has bounced around the NFL as a secondary coach.


No. 30 Tim Walton: St. Louis Rams

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    Hired: 2013

    Scheme: 4-3

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: NA  YPG:  NA

    Walton will join the defensive guru Jeff Fisher for the first time in 2013.

    Walton was the DC for the Dolphins in 2007 and served as the secondary coach for the Detroit Lions from 2009-12.


No. 29 Dennis Thurman: New York Jets

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    Hired: 2013

    Scheme: 3-4

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: NA  YPG: NA

    Thurman awaits his first season as a DC in 2013.

    Since 2009 Thurman has coached the Jets secondary, which has been amongst the best in the NFL during that time frame.


No. 28 Bob Sutton: Kansas City Chiefs

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    Hired: 2013

    Scheme: 3-4

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: NA  YPG: NA

    Sutton was the defensive coordinator for the New York Jets from 2006-08. When Rex Ryan arrived, Sutton was retained but demoted to the team's linebackers coach and held the position until being hired by Kansas City.

    He was the head coach for Army from 1991-99, going 44-55.


No. 27 Mel Tucker: Chicago Bears

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    Hired: 2013

    Scheme: 4-3

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: With Jacksonville 29  YPG: 30

    Tucker has big shoes to fill in Chicago, as he inherits the NFL's No. 3 defense in 2012.

    Tucker was the DC for the Jaguars from 2009-12 and the DC for Cleveland in 2008.

No. 26 Bob Babich: Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Hired: 2013

    Scheme: 4-3

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: NA  YPG: NA

    2013 will be Babich's first season as a defensive coordinator in the NFL. However, Babich has a lot of experience for a first-time DC, as he held various defensive titles for the Bears from 2004-12 and was a valued member of Lovie Smith's staff.

    He was also a head coach for North Dakota State from 1997-02.


No. 25 Billy Davis: Philadelphia Eagles

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    Hired: 2013

    Scheme: 3-4

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: NA  YPG: NA

    Davis joined Chip Kelly's staff this offseason and brings solid DC experience to Philadelphia. He was the DC in Arizona in 2009-10 and in San Francisco from 2005-06.

    He spent the last two seasons coaching linebackers in Cleveland. 


No. 24 Jason Tarver: Oakland Raiders

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    Hired: 2012

    Scheme: 4-3

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: 28  YPG: 18

    Last year was Tarver's first season as a DC in the NFL. 

    Prior to being hired by the Raiders, Tarver was the DC for Stanford. Prior to Stanford, Tarver spent 10 seasons with the 49ers. It's safe to say he loves the Bay Area as this will be his 12th consecutive season coaching in the region. 


No. 23 John Pagano: San Diego Chargers

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    Hired: 2012

    Scheme: 3-4

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: 16  YPG: 9

    The brother of Colts head coach Chuck, Pagano had a solid season as the Chargers defensive boss in 2012.

    He has been coaching with the Chargers since 2005, working primarily with the linebackers before being promoted to DC.  


No. 22 Jerry Gray: Tennessee Titans

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    Hired: 2011

    Scheme: 4-3

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: 32  YPG: 27

    Jerry Gray didn't have much success in 2012, but a good deal of the blame can be shared with the Titans defensive roster. In 2011, with Gray at the helm, the defense was ranked eighth in points allowed per game.

    Prior to arriving in Tennessee, Gray was the assistant coach for the Texas Longhorns. 

No. 21 Greg Manusky: Indianpolis Colts

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    Hired: 2012 

    Scheme: 3-4

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG:  21  YPG: 26

    Indianapolis is Manusky's third DC gig in the NFL, having stops in San Francisco (2007-10) and San Diego (2001).

    Manusky specializes with linebackers. 


No. 20 Sean McDermott: Carolina Panthers

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    Hired: 2011

    Scheme: 4-3 

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG 18  YPG:  10

    Despite Carolina's poor record in 2012, its defense showed improvements across the board ascending as the league's No. 10 defense.

    Prior to Carolina, McDermott was the DC in Philadelphia.


No. 19 Kevin Coyle: Miami Dolphins

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    Hired: 2012

    Scheme: 4-3

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: 7  YPG: 21

    Last season was Coyle's first as a defensive coordinator in the NFL. It's hard to draw a conclusion after one season, but Miami had to have been pleased with Coyle and his No. 7 defense (PPG) in 2012.

    Prior to Miami, Coyle spent 10 seasons in Cincinnati working with the Bengals secondary.


No. 18 Matt Patricia: New England Patriots

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    Hired: 2012

    Scheme: 4-3

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: 9  YPG: 25

    The Patriots are the only team Patricia has been employed by in the NFL. Since 2004 Patricia has been on staff working on both sides of the ball, but primarily with the defense.

    Even though Patricia has only been the official DC since 2012, he has been calling plays in NE since 2010.

No. 17 Bill Sheridan: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Hired: 2012

    Scheme: 4-3

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: 23  YPG: 28

    Sheridan's first season as DC in Tampa was intriuging. He led the NFL's top-ranked run defense but also the league's worst pass defense. Darrelle Revis should help the latter significantly.

    Prior to becoming the DC in Tampa, Sheridan was the DC for the New York Giants in 2009. His coaching resume isn't typical for an NFL DC, as most of his experience is in the college ranks.  


No. 16 Ray Horton: Cleveland Browns

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    Hired: 2013

    Scheme: 3-4

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: (In Arizona) 17  YPG: 12

    Horton comes to Cleveland after a successful season as the Cardinals DC in 2012.

    Horton made his bones in the league coaching up the Steelers secondary from 2004-10 being on the staff for the both of the team's recent Super Bowl victories. 


No. 15 Rob Ryan: New Orleans Saints

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    Hired: 2013

    Scheme: 3-4

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG With Cowboys 24  YPG: 19

    So far in his career, Rob Ryan's vociferous bark hasn't quite matched his bite, but he'll have another chance to improve his pedigree by turning around the NFL's worst defense in New Orleans.

    Ryan has been the DC for Oakland (2004-08), Cleveland (2010-11) and Dallas (2012).


No. 14 Alan Williams: Minnesota Vikings

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    Hired: 2012

    Scheme: 4-3

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: 14  YPG: 16

    Lost in the greatness of Adrian Peterson's exceptional 2012 season was the vastly improved Vikings defense, which is led by Alan Williams.

    Williams coached the Colts secondary from 2002-11.


No. 13 Michael Pettine: Buffalo Bills

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    Hired: 2013

    Scheme: 3-4

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: (with Jets) 20  YPG: (With Jets) 8

    Pittine joins the Bills via divisional rival New York Jets where he was the defensive coordinator since 2009.

    Pittine's path to NFL was an odd one, as he was a highly successful high school head coach until he was hired by Baltimore as an assistant in 2002.

    Pittine, who is a Rex Ryan disciple, was the Jets DC when they were the NFL's highest-ranked unit in 2009.  

No. 12 Perry Fewell: New York Giants

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    Hired: 2010

    Scheme: 4-3

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: 12  YPG: 31

    Fewell has had a good stretch so far in New York, highlighted by a Super Bowl victory two seasons ago.

    Prior to the Giants, Fewell was the Bills defensive coordinator from 2006-09.


No. 11 Jim Haslett: Washington Redskins

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    Hired: 2010

    Scheme: 3-4

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG 22  YPG: 28

    Haslett is coming off a rugged statistical season, but considering the litany of injuries the Redskins endured in 2012 and the exceptional job he's done over his career, we'll give him a pass.

    Haslett has been a DC for the Saints and Steelers and the head coach in New Orleans from 2000-05, going 45-51 overall.  


No. 10 Gunther Cunningham: Detroit Lions

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    Hired: 2009

    Scheme: 4-3

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: 27  YPG: 13

    The third-longest tenured DC in the NFL, Gunther Cunningham has done a spectacular job with the Lions defense. 

    Cunningham, who prides himself on his pass rush, has worked in the NFL since 1982 and was the Kansas City Chiefs head coach in 1999 and 2000, going 16-16.


No. 9 Mike Nolan: Atlanta Falcons

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    Hired: 2012

    Scheme: 4-3

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: 5  YPG: 24

    Mike Nolan's first season in Atlanta was a success as evident by the team's fifth-ranked points allowed ranking and NFC Championship berth.

    Prior to Atlanta, Nolan was the DC for Miami, Denver, the New York Jets, Washington and the New York Giants, and he was the head coach in San Francisco, going 18-37.


No. 8 Dom Capers: Green Bay Packers

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    Hired: 2009

    Scheme: 3-4

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: 11  YPG: 11

    Famous for his bold blitzing schemes, Dom Capers is a proven defensive coordinator in the NFL highlighted by the Super Bowl Run the Packers went on in 2010.

    Capers has been in the NFL since 1986, serving as the first head coach for both the Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers. He is much better suited as a DC, as he was just 48-80 as a head coach.


No. 7 Dean Pees: Baltimore Ravens

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    Hired: 2012

    Scheme: 3-4

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: 12  YPG: 17

    Winning a Super Bowl in his first season as a DC certainly speaks to Pees' ability as a defensive coach.

    Before success in Baltimore, Pees was the DC for the Patriots from 2006-09. During his time in New England, the Patriots defense was very strong, ranking in the top 10 each season.

    The Patriots' defensive struggles since Pees' departure further his credibility.  


No. 6 Jack Del Rio: Denver Broncos

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    Hired: 2012

    Scheme: 4-3

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: 4  YPG: 2

    Even though the Broncos' season concluded with a defensive blunder, Jack Del Rio's unit was among the best in the league in 2012. 

    A former NFL linebacker, Del Rio came to Denver after eight seasons as the Jaguars head coach with an overall record of 67-71.

     


No. 5 Mike Zimmer: Cincinnati Bengals

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    Hired: 2008

    Scheme: 4-3

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: 8  YPG: 6

    Zimmer has had a nice career in the NFL, but since taking the Bengals job in 2008, he has ascended as one of the NFL's top-tier defensive coordinators.

    He held the position in Dallas from 2000-06 and in Atlanta in 2007. 


No. 4 Vic Fangio: San Francisco

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    Hired: 2011

    Scheme: 3-4

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: 2  YPG: 3

    The dominance of the 49ers defense in 2012 was evident by its incredible statistical season and Super Bowl appearance.  

    Fangio came with Harbaugh to San Francisco after serving as his DC at Stanford. He also was a DC under Dom Capers in Carolina and Houston and uses a similar blitz-heavy 3-4 scheme.

No. 3 Monte Kiffin: Dallas Cowboys

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    Hired: 2013

    Scheme: 4-3

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG:  NA  YPG: NA

    Monte Kiffin is the creator of the Tampa Cover 2 defense. His creation was on display during his incredible 12-year tenure in Tampa Bay from 1996-2008.

    Kiffin spent last season coaching for USC under his son Lane. Even though he spent last season in the college ranks, Kiffin comes in at No. 3 as few coaches in the history of the NFL have had the impact that Monte Kiffin has. 


No. 2 Wade Phillips: Houston Texans

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    Hired: 2011

    Scheme: 3-4

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: 4  YPG: 7

    Wade Phillips has revolutionized the Texans defense since arriving in 2011 and has been an instrumental piece to their recent team success.

    Phillips has been a head coach for three different NFL teams, going an impressive 82-59.

    Although Phillips' tenure in Dallas ended badly, the Cowboys defense has been struggling since he left.

No. 1 Dick LeBeau: Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Hired: 2004

    Scheme: 3-4

    Defensive Rank in 2012:  PPG: 6  YPG: 1

    Dick LeBeau is not only the best active defensive coordinator in the NFL, he might be one of the best ever. LeBeau's defensive genius has been evident through his incredible longevity and ferocious pass rush.

    LeBeau has been employed in the NFL coaching defenses since 1973. On Sundays, LeBeau's 40 years of experience haunts opposing offenses.