Power Ranking Every Coaching Staff Heading into the 2014 NFL Season
The players ultimately play the game, but coaching staffs certainly have a lot to do with success and failure in the NFL.
Of course, no two coaching staffs are the same. Some are dominated by a strong head coach, while others are dealing with rookie skippers. Some coordinators are more vital to team success, while others are simply there to run the head coach's scheme.
Let's take a look at coaching staffs across the league—at least in terms of the head coach and his top coordinators—and see where they rank.
32. St. Louis Rams
Head coach: Jeff Fisher
Offensive coordinator: Brian Schottenheimer
Defensive coordinator: Gregg Williams
Special teams coordinator: John Fassel
Jeff Fisher is the most overrated head coach in the league.
Outside of one Super Bowl run with the Tennessee Titans 15 years ago, there hasn't been much to Fisher's teams. He may have a 156-137-1 career record as a head coach, but 13 of his 19 seasonal records have ended at or below .500. In other words, Fisher's teams have largely been mediocre throughout his career.
One overrated head coach doesn't make or break a coaching staff, but Fisher's assistants aren't exactly Hall of Famers either.
Brian Schottenheimer has been among the worst offensive coordinators in the league in recent years. His offenses have ranked 22nd in total offense and 18th in scoring offense on average since he ascended to offensive coordinator in 2008, ranking in the top 10 just once in either category.
Gregg Williams was once known for his blitzing defenses, but now he is most famously known for his role in and subsequent suspension from the Bountygate scandal in New Orleans.
31. Dallas Cowboys
Head coach: Jason Garrett
Offensive coordinator: Scott Linehan
Defensive coordinator: Rod Marinelli
Special teams coordinator: Rich Bisaccia
How many years does a team have to go 8-8 before the head coach gets fired?
That's the situation Jason Garrett finds himself in with the Dallas Cowboys, who have been the epitome of mediocrity since he took over in 2010. His first three full seasons as head coach in Dallas have ended in perfect mediocrity, as his teams have gone 8-8 in each year since 20011.
Scott Linehan has been a fine offensive coordinator throughout his career, but his propensity to pass may get Tony Romo killed.
Rod Marinelli is taking over the defense for the aging Monte Kiffin. He had some success in that position with the Chicago Bears after serving as the head coach during the Detroit Lions' abysmal 0-16 campaign in 2008. His defense shouldn't look too different than Kiffin's, either—though whether that's a good thing or not is another story.
It all comes back to Garrett, who appears to be made out of teflon.
Head coach: Jay Gruden
Offensive coordinator: Sean McVay
Defensive coordinator: Jim Haslett
Special teams coordinator: Ben Kotwica
Washington is one of several teams featuring a new head coach. Jay Gruden isn't just a new face in the nation's capital, however; he is brand new to head coaching altogether, at least in the NFL.
For years, Gruden languished as the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati, despite the interviews and speculation surrounding his ascension to a head-coaching gig in years past. Washington finally bit, giving Gruden the reins to a team that had sunk back to the depths after roaring to an unexpected playoff spot in 2012.
It will be interesting to see how Gruden handles first-year head-coaching duties under owner Dan Snyder's spotlight.
Gruden's defensive coordinator is a holdover from the old regime. Jim Haslett's unit fell short of expectations last year, however, and his defense hasn't exactly been a big improvement over what it was before his arrival. The Redskins have ranked in the bottom half of the league defensively since his arrival, which is a big dropoff from where the team was before.
Sean McVay is another holdover, though of a different variety. He was promoted to offensive coordinator after years of being an assistant. It's likely he'll be running Gruden's West Coast offense anyway, so the pressure should be off of him, so to speak.
29. Houston Texans
Head coach: Bill O'Brien
Offensive coordinator: None
Defensive coordinator: Romeo Crennel
Special teams coordinator: Bob Ligashesky
Bill O'Brien is another unproven head coach at the NFL level.
The Houston Texans let Gary Kubiak go after his team fell off a cliff last season, opening the door for one of Bill Belichick's former pupils to get his first chance at a head-coaching job. Bill O'Brien was hired away from the college ranks when the Texans pried him away from Penn State this offseason.
O'Brien overtakes a roster loaded with talent. He went 15-9 during his two seasons with the Nittany Lions, a remarkable record given what he had to overcome in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
He is feeling confident enough to head into the season with no offensive coordinator, a bold move for a rookie head coach.
Defensively, O'Brien picked a pretty good coordinator in Romeo Crennel. For all of his shortcomings as a head coach, Crennel has done a fine job of leading defenses to success over the years, including New England's during their Super Bowl dominance a decade ago.
28. Oakland Raiders
Head coach: Dennis Allen
Offensive coordinator: Greg Olson
Defensive coordinator: Jason Tarver
Special teams coordinator: Bobby April
The Oakland Raiders have been through a lot since getting annihilated by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII, tallying 53 wins to 123 losses over that span.
The past few years have been particularly difficult, as the Raiders have dealt with salary-cap woes that disallowed them from improving the team's roster
Dennis Allen was brought on in 2012 to curate a poisoned team, but he nearly lost his job after consecutive 4-12 seasons. The Raiders gave him one last chance this year, though, especially now that the team has been able to revamp its roster.
He is buoyed by offensive coordinator Greg Olson—whose offenses haven't been particularly good throughout his career—and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver.
27. Cleveland Browns
Head coach: Mike Pettine
Offensive coordinator: Kyle Shanahan
Defensive coordinator: Jim O'Neil
Special teams coordinator: Chris Tabor
How good is a head coach who was the fourth choice for his own ball club?
Mike Pettine arrived in Cleveland after the Browns fired Rob Chudzinski—who had been there for just one year—and faltered in their head-coaching search.
Pettine comes over from the Buffalo Bills, where he had success as the defensive coordinator for one season. Before that, Pettine was the defensive coordinator for the vaunted Jets defense.
He has Kyle Shanahan running the offense, an import from Washington whose offense took three steps backward last season after a torrid 2012. If there is any coordinator who is capable of maximizing quarterback Johnny Manziel's potential as a rookie, though, it's Shanahan, who guided Robert Griffin III to a Rookie of the Year campaign two seasons ago.
26. Detroit Lions
Head coach: Jim Caldwell
Offenisve coordinator: Joe Lombardi
Defensive coordinator: Teryl Austin
Special teams coordinator: John Bonamego
The Detroit Lions had to move on from head coach Jim Schwartz this season. Promise fizzled into disappointment for a team loaded with talent, and Schwartz's brash nature rubbed some the wrong way.
Did they have to overcompensate by hiring Jim Caldwell? By comparison, Caldwell is a wax figure.
The hire was a disappointment given that the Lions offered Ken Whisenhunt the job first, only to see him choose to take a better deal from the Tennessee Titans.
Caldwell, meanwhile, brings his 52-85 career record as a head coach—one that includes two seasons with the benefit of Peyton Manning as his quarterback—to the Lions. He will be buoyed by two first-year NFL coordinators in Joe Lombardi and Teryl Austin.
25. Miami Dolphins
Head coach: Joe Philbin
Offensive coordinator: Bill Lazor
Defensive coordinator: Kevin Coyle
Special teams coordinator: Darren Rizzi
This is Joe Philbin's last chance in Miami.
It's a wonder the embattled head coach of the Dolphins was able to keep his job after a woeful finish to the 2013 season in which the team was in a position to make the playoffs but completely fell apart in the last two games of the season. Even worse, the Dolphins were mired in the controversial bullying scandal that cost general manager Jeff Ireland his job.
Miami's ranking might have been worse had the Dolphins not finally rid themselves of Mike Sherman as offensive coordinator. His replacement, Bill Lazor, does not have any high level experience in the NFL, but he was instrumental in Nick Foles' emergence in Philadelphia last season.
Kevin Coyle has done a decent job at best on the defensive side of the ball, where Miami has been in the top 10 in scoring defense but the bottom 12 in total defense the past two seasons.
24. Tennessee Titans
Head coach: Ken Whisenhunt
Offensive coordinator: Jason Michael
Defensive coordinator: Ray Horton
Special teams coordinator: Nate Kaczor
The Tennessee Titans may have obtained the best head coach available this offseason when they hired head coach Ken Whisenhunt.
As previously mentioned, he nearly joined the Detroit Lions—whose roster he liked—but a better deal from the Titans swayed him. He spent just one season away from head coaching as an offensive coordinator for the surprising San Diego Chargers last season.
Whisenhunt was successful with the Arizona Cardinals until Kurt Warner retired. The Cardinals gave him three years to right the ship, but he was only able to muster a 18-30 record after the signal-caller's departure.
He brought over one of the better defensive coordinators in the league in Ray Horton to run the defense. His offensive coordinator Jason Michael is new at the job, but Whisenhunt will have a have a heavy influence on the offense anyway.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars
Head coach: Gus Bradley
Offensive coordinator: Jedd Fisch
Defensive coordinator: Bob Babich
Special teams coordinator: Mike Mallory
We have entered the second season of a full rebuild in Jacksonville, and the Jaguars seem to be on the right track.
Second-year head coach Gus Bradley did his job with one hand tied behind his back last season while overseeing a roster that was only in the beginning of upheaval.
Moral victories ring hollow in the NFL, however; Jacksonville was 4-12 after all, a couple of nice victories against Houston notwithstanding.
Jedd Fisch's offense wasn't particularly good last year, regardless of roster deficiencies. It was a similar situation at the University of Miami, from whence he came.
Defensive coordinator Bob Babich and special teams coordinator Mike Mallory are also entering their second seasons on the job. That means the coaching staff, on the whole, is young. But if they can put things together quickly, the Jaguars could be turning some heads sooner rather than later.
22. New York Giants
Head coach: Tom Coughlin
Offensive coordinator: Ben McAdoo
Defensive coordinator: Perry Fewell
Special teams coordinator: Tom Quinn
It's not often a two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach with a championship just a few years ago is on the hot seat.
Tom Coughlin's time in New York has been a roller coaster, alternating between hot and lukewarm. It was during two of those lukewarm seasons that Coughlin's team was able to catch lightning in a bottle during the playoffs and win the Super Bowl, however.
Coughlin has been unable to recreate the magic since their last title in 2012, however.
The 67-year-old head coach heads into the 2014 season in a bit of a make-or-break situation. Another 0-6 start could get him fired or, at the very least, put him on the path to forced retirement.
He heads into the 2014 season with a rookie offensive coordinator in Ben McAdoo and a defensive coordinator—Perry Fewell—whose defenses have been less than stellar since he took over in 2010.
21. San Diego Chargers
Head coach: Mike McCoy
Offensive coordinator: Frank Reich
Defensive coordinator: John Pagano
Special teams coordinator: Kevin Spencer
Things couldn't have gone much better for the San Diego Chargers last season.
Norv Turner had brought a team down from lofty 14-2 heights in 2011 to a 7-9 record in 2012, prompting ownership to let him go and hire Mike McCoy away from division rival Denver.
McCoy's inaugural season produced an unexpected turnaround and postseason appearance.
Unfortunately, McCoy lost his offensive coordinator when Ken Whisenhunt took the head-coaching job in Tennessee. McCoy replaced him with Frank Reich, who served as his quarterbacks coach last season.
His defensive coordinator John Pagano is a holdover from the Turner years.
20. Minnesota Vikings
Head coach: Mike Zimmer
Offensive coordinator: Norv Turner
Defensive coordinator: George Edwards
Special teams coordinator: Mike Priefer
Like some of his new peers, Mike Zimmer is new to the head-coaching business.
He finally landed a head-coaching gig with Minnesota after the Vikings let Leslie Frazier go. Minnesota fell from grace after a surprising postseason appearance in 2012, and that was enough to get the organization to move in a new direction.
Zimmer is a good defensive mind who has been able to wrangle some strong personalities over the years. His no-nonsense attitude may have been a hindrance in job interviews over the years, but it should do well for him as the leader of his team.
The rookie head coach brought himself some veteran reinforcements when he got Norv Turner to run the offense for the Vikings. Turner's failings as a head coach have not extended to his offensive prowess, where he is still rather good.
After all, who else could have gotten the tantalizing trio of Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell to combine for over 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns last season?
19. Buffalo Bills
Head coach: Doug Marrone
Offensive coordinator: Nathaniel Hackett
Defensive coordinator: Jim Schwartz
Special teams coordinator: Danny Crossman
There wasn't much difference in Buffalo last season, despite a new coaching staff, in terms of record from 2012.
The Bills have gone 6-10 in each of the past three seasons, and Doug Marrone wasn't quite able to turn things around in his rookie season in the NFL.
The defense was a bright spot in Buffalo last season, however, particularly against the pass. The Bills were second in the league in sacks and fourth in passing defense. Unfortunately, the defensive coordinator responsible for leading that unit is gone.
Mike Pettine took the head-coaching gig in Cleveland, and the Bills replaced him with Jim Schwartz. It wasn't a big downgrade—if at all—so the unit should be fine.
Offensively, the Bills were a bit of a letdown in 2012 under Nathaniel Hackett, his first season as an offensive coordinator in the NFL. He didn't have a loaded roster on that side of the ball, but the Bills failed to utilize some of their best players well.
Buffalo finished in the bottom third of the league in scoring, though they were in the middle of the pack in total offense. Hackett will need to improve upon that this season.
18. Kansas City Chiefs
Head coach: Andy Reid
Offensive coordinator: Doug Pederson
Defensive coordinator: Bob Sutton
Special teams coordinator: Dave Toub
There is an argument to be made that special teams coordinator Dave Toub is the best of Kansas City's coaches.
Toub was considered for head-coaching gigs on a few occasions in recent years, but he was unable to obtain any of them before landing in Kansas City last year, and he turned the special teams unit into one of the best in the league.
Andy Reid has had a few good years himself, though, and he seemed to bounce back into form in 2013 after a years-long decline with the Philadelphia Eagles. Reid took a floundering Kansas City team and turned it into a playoff contender right off the bat.
The Chiefs got off to a torrid 9-0 start, a highly unanticipated development in the 2013 season. The Chiefs stumbled later on and ultimately fizzled in the playoffs, but Reid's first year in Kansas City was a rousing success.
17. New York Jets
Head coach: Rex Ryan
Offensive coordinator: Marty Mornhinweg
Defensive coordinator: Dennis Thurman
Special teams coordinator: Thomas McGaughey
In retrospect, head coach Rex Ryan did a marvelous job in 2013.
Ryan had been undermined by management over the years, having been force-fed Tim Tebow and the circus that came with it. His offense was gutted by injuries and poor management, too.
New York had a second-round rookie starting at quarterback last season, and the Jets were supposed to be one of the worst teams in the league. Instead, a strong finish led to an 8-8 campaign that saved Ryan's job.
The Jets are in good hands as long as Ryan is the head coach, particularly on defense. Dennis Thurman might be the defensive coordinator, but New York's fantastic defense is definitely Ryan's baby.
The offense, however, is a different story. Years of lackluster results with Brian Schottenheimer has seen New York attempt to escape the offensive cellar with Tony Sparano and now Marty Mornhinweg.
The Jets have lacked talent on that side of the ball, but they did some things to address that this offseason. Monhiningweg has headed up some pretty good offenses as a coordinator before, so the Jets are in good hands if the talent is there.
16. Cincinnati Bengals
Head coach: Marvin Lewis
Offensive coordinator: Hue Jackson
Defensive coordinator: Paul Guenther
Special teams coordinator: Darrin Simmons
The Cincinnati Bengals have made the playoffs three years in a row, and Marvin Lewis has been at the helm for over a decade. He is a big reason why Cincinnati has been able to shed the "Bungles" label, as he has compiled a respectable 90-85-1 record despite relative frugality by the team's owner and general manager Mike Brown.
Lewis' staff took a big hit this offseason as Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer left their coordinator positions for head-coaching gigs elsewhere. That leaves Hue Jackson at offensive coordinator and Paul Guenther manning the defense.
Jackson might actually be an upgrade on the offensive side. The last time he was an offensive coordinator, the woeful Raiders ranked in the top 10 in scoring and yardage.
This is Guenther's first run at a prominent position in the NFL, having been an assistant with the Bengals for all but two of Lewis' years there. He has some big shoes to fill; Zimmer had that defense humming, as the unit ranked in the top 10 in scoring and total defense in each of the past three seasons.
15. Chicago Bears
Head coach: Marc Trestman
Offensive coordinator: Aaron Kromer
Defensive coordinator: Mel Tucker
Special teams coordinator: Joe DeCamillis
Marc Trestman's decade-long hiatus from the NFL seems to have done him some good, as he had a decent inaugural season with the Chicago Bears last year. However, injuries derailed the team—particularly on defense—and Chicago limped to an 8-8 record.
Trestman's staff has its work cut out for it this year. Aaron Kromer has it easy given that he is running Trestman's offense. It is an offense that ranked second in scoring and eighth in yardage last season despite losing starter Jay Cutler for five games.
On the other side of the ball, Mel Tucker has the tall task of turning that defense back around. After years of stout play, the departure of Brian Urlacher and injuries to key starters combined to undermine Tucker's first season at the helm of the defense.
Chicago ranked second-worst in scoring and third-worst in total defense last season.
It will be interesting to see what special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis can do without Devin Hester returning kicks and punts for the Bears.
14. Atlanta Falcons
Head coach: Mike Smith
Offensive coordinator: Dirk Koetter
Defensive coordinator: Mike Nolan
Special teams coordinator: Keith Armstrong
Head coach Mike Smith has guided his team to some nice seasons over the years—despite the debacle that was 2013.
Smith has defied the odds from the beginning, taking over a year after Michael Vick put the team in the toilet.
Have the Falcons hit their ceiling, however? Despite his regular-season successes, Smith has only been able to win one playoff game over the past six seasons.
Mike Nolan has had mixed results as a defensive coordinator; his tenure started out quite well, but the Falcons were atrocious on that side of the ball last year.
13. Arizona Cardinals
Head coach: Bruce Arians
Offensive coordinator: Harold Goodwin
Defensive coordinator: Todd Bowles
Special teams coordinator: Amos Jones
The NFC West is treacherous. Good thing Bruce Arians came along for the Cardinals.
Arians parlayed a fantastic season as the interim head coach in Indianapolis in 2012 while Chuck Pagano sought cancer treatment into a fantastic year with Arizona last season.
The Cardinals especially played fantastic defense in 2013, a great sign for defensive coordinator Todd Bowles after a disastrous stint in Philadelphia.
12. Indianapolis Colts
Head coach: Chuck Pagano
Offensive coordinator: Pep Hamilton
Defensive coordinator: Greg Manusky
Special teams coordinator: Tom McMahon
The Indianapolis Colts have been a happy surprise the past couple of seasons.
Of course, they were a bit lucky to draft another franchise quarterback when their one season without Peyton Manning landed them the No. 1 pick in 2012, which was ultimately used to select Andrew Luck.
It hasn't all been Luck, however, as the Colts have done a nice job on both sides of the ball despite a lack of talent in some areas. Indianapolis hasn't been among the league's elite on offense or defense, but the Colts have been good enough to make the playoffs in each of Pagano's first two seasons.
11. Denver Broncos
Head coach: John Fox
Offensive coordinator: Adam Gase
Defensive coordinator: Jack Del Rio
Special teams coordinator: Jeff Rodgers
The Denver Broncos just made the Super Bowl, so what gives?
In truth, Denver made the Super Bowl on the wings of an historic season by Peyton Manning, in spite of the coaching. Head coach John Fox has had a pretty good career, but he is also known for being overly conservative in big situations.
The defense hasn't done much under defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, and how much credit can we truly give Adam Gase for Manning's exploits?
It's not that the Broncos are in bad hands with the coaching staff, but this seems to be a case of a staff being buoyed by the talent rather than vice versa.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers
Head coach: Mike Tomlin
Offensive coordinator: Todd Haley
Defensive coordinator: Dick LeBeau
Special teams coordinator: Danny Smith
Three years ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers had a coaching staff rivaling the best in football. Now? It's tough to say.
Mike Tomlin's team hasn't played up to snuff in recent seasons. The Steelers appear to be in a bit of a decline, having gone 8-8 in the past couple of seasons.
Of course, injuries have played a part, but what team hasn't dealt with injuries?
Tomlin's seat might be warm heading into the 2014 season.
9. Green Bay Packers
Head coach: Mike McCarthy
Offensive coordinator: Tom Clements
Defensive coordinator: Dom Capers
Special teams coordinator: Shawn Slocum
The Green Bay Packers are in good hands under Mike McCarthy. He is 82-45-1 since taking over for Mike Sherman in 2006, winning Super Bowl XLV after the 2010 season.
The Packers haven't been able to replicate that season's success since then, but McCarthy remains among the best head coaches in the league.
The rest of his staff, however, might leave something to be desired.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers did a fantastic job with the Packers defense when he first took over, but his unit has been rather lackluster in the years since the team's last Super Bowl appearance. The Packers were in the bottom third of the league in both total defense and scoring defense last season, and rumblings about Capers' demise caused his players to come out in his defense.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Head coach: Lovie Smith
Offensive coordinator: Jeff Tedford
Defensive coordinator: Leslie Frazier
Special teams coordinator: Kevin O'Dea
No team improved their coaching situation more this offseason than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
They went from having one of the worst head coaches in the league—Greg Schiano—to a coach with a solid-if-unspectacular career.
Lovie Smith spent nine years with the Chicago Bears, many of them successful in the sense that they made the postseason. He went 81-63, and his team somehow made a Super Bowl in 2007 with Rex Grossman at quarterback.
Smith brought rookie offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford over from the college ranks, so it will be interesting to see how that pans out. Leslie Frazier was a fantastic addition to Smith's staff as the defensive coordinator.
7. Carolina Panthers
Head coach: Ron Rivera
Offensive coordinator: Mike Shula
Defensive coordinator: Sean McDermott
Special teams coordinator: Richard Rodgers
No respect for the reigning Coach of the Year, right?
One good season does not make a career, however, and Ron Rivera had a bit of an underwhelming resume until his sparkling 2013 season, at least in terms of being a head coach.
The Panthers were 6-10 and 7-9 in his first two seasons before the big turnaround last year, and a good defense was a big reason why.
Rivera has a tall order to follow up his award-winning 2013 campaign. The Panthers suffered some attrition on the roster this offseason because of salary-cap issues, and the rest of the NFC South has only gotten better.
6. Baltimore Ravens
Head coach: John Harbaugh
Offensive coordinator: Gary Kubiak
Defensive coordinator: Dean Pees
Special teams coordinator: Jerry Rosburg
The Baltimore Ravens have been a stalwart in the AFC North for quite a while now. One of the reasons for that has been head coach John Harbaugh.
Assistants have come and gone, and that's why the Ravens aren't ranked a bit higher here. Gary Kubiak takes over for the departed Jim Caldwell.
If the offense in Houston last season was any indication, the Ravens might have some trouble this year.
5. Philadelphia Eagles
Head coach: Chip Kelly
Offensive coordinator: Pat Shurmur
Defensive coordinator: Billy Davis
Special teams coordinator: Dave Fipp
It was a great inaugural season for Chip Kelly in the NFL, as the Philadelphia Eagles had a fantastic turnaround.
Kelly brought his fantastic offense over from the college ranks, and the Eagles made the playoffs as a result. He proved his doubters wrong in the process.
Pat Shurmer was a curious choice for offensive coordinator when Kelly made it, but he worked out well in the first year. The offense ranked among the best in the league, and it was just the beginning in Philadelphia.
Kelly's offense saved his defense, which was an abject disaster under Billy Davis in his first season as defensive coordinator. Of course, Davis was running a talent-compromised unit, so he gets a bit of a mulligan heading into 2014.
4. New England Patriots
Head coach: Bill Belichick
Offensive coordinator: Josh McDaniels
Defensive coordinator: Matt Patricia
Special teams coordinator: Scott O'Brien
Looking at the coaching staff in New England is always intriguing. On the one hand, head coach Bill Belichick constantly seems to employ quality coaches. On the other, the Belichick coaching tree has had minimal success after branching out.
Charlie Weis, Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel and Josh McDaniels have all had varied levels of failure when plying their trade away from Belichick.
McDaniels is back with the team, the prodigal son having returned last year after wasting his inheritance.
It may not matter much, though, with Belichick running things. He is the Sith Lord. Belichick has piloted his team through almost 15 years of perennial contention despite dramatically different rosters. He is one of the best coaches in NFL history.
3. New Orleans Saints
Head coach: Sean Payton
Offensive coordinator: Pete Carmichael, Jr.
Defensive coordinator: Rob Ryan
Special teams coordinator: Greg McMahon
We all saw what losing a top coach can do to a team.
The New Orleans Saints took a nosedive after the Bountygate scandal broke and head coach Sean Payton was suspended for a year. Payton's suspension wasn't the only reason the Saints faltered to a 7-9 record back in 2012, but it certainly seemed to be a big factor after New Orleans bounced back last year.
The Saints promptly made the playoffs after Payton's return.
While Payton's teams have been great offensively—thanks in large part to quarterback Drew Brees' exploits—the defense has always been a bit problematic. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan had that defense's arrow pointing up last year, though, and that trend should continue going forward.
2. Seattle Seahawks
Head coach: Pete Carroll
Offensive coordinator: Darrell Bevell
Defensive coordinator: Dan Quinn
Special teams coordinator: Brian Schneider
It was a difficult decision to keep Pete Carroll and Co. out of the top spot here, but they narrowly missed out.
The defending champions certainly benefit from excellent coaching, to be sure. Carroll brought his swagger and style from USC, and he has been much better in his second stint in the NFL.
The Seahawks are loaded with talent, which is the only reason why the coaching staff hasn't been ranked higher here. Not that we should hold it against them—other teams have plenty of talent, too. Of course, Carroll has had something to do with guys like Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas playing in Seattle.
Carroll and Co. turned a mediocre team into a great one in the span of a few seasons. Not too shabby.
1. San Francisco 49ers
Head coach: Jim Harbaugh
Offensive coordinator: Greg Roman
Defensive coordinator: Vic Fangio
Special teams coordinator: Brad Seely
How good is Jim Harbaugh? He only took a perennially mediocre team to the NFC Championship Game in each of the past three seasons, including during his inaugural season in 2011. The 49ers came close to winning it all his second year at the helm, and the team figures to be in contention for the foreseeable future.
Harbaugh and his staff have been among the best in the league since 2011, and there is little reason to think that will change going forward.
His staff has been with him all along. Greg Roman and Vic Fangio have been his lieutenants on offense and defense, respectively, and those units have been either good or great over the past three years. The 49ers have ranked among the best defenses in the league, and the offense has begun to catch up.
While there are certainly some star players on the team, Harbaugh has had to do it by cobbling together his roster a bit, which is what put him over the top. He has had a bit of a revolving door in the secondary and at wide receiver in recent years, key areas in today's NFL.