Recently, the role of the defensive coordinator has been thrust head first into the NFL limelight.
This is due in part to the unfortunate passing of longtime Eagle Jim Johnson as well as the senior election of the Steelers’ Dick LeBeau into the Hall of Fame.
Both were commended for their excellent mastery of defenses. As a result many individuals – including myself – included them amongst the best defensive minds of all time. However, is this really true?
And if so where do they rank all-time amongst the best defensive minded individuals, whether coach or coordinator?
Comparing these two individuals to others that are considered great defensive minded coaches and coordinators is a problem because of trouble quantifying greatness.
However, after a while I worked out a system through utilizing the following 12 things as criteria:
• Number of times that a defense affiliated with the individual placed in the top five at either points per game allowed or yardage per game allowed. (Doing both in one season counted twice)
• Placing first in either points per game allowed or yardage per game allowed over a season.
• Being affiliated with a defense that is considered by numerous factions as one of the ten best single-season defenses in the history of the NFL.
• Inventing a defensive scheme that predominately had strong success in its era and some success in subsequent eras.
• Being affiliated with a defense when a player on that respective defense won an “NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award” or “Defensive Rookie of the Year Award” from the Associated Press.
• Having a coaching tree with strong defensive coaches that could have been considered for placement on this list.
• Being affiliated with an infamous defense such as “The Steel Curtain”, “The Purple People Eaters”, or “The Monsters Of The Midway”
• Being on a defense that has reached numerous Super Bowl, NFL Championship or Conference Championship Games.
• Winning a Coach or Coordinator of the Year accolade from The Associated Press, The Sporting News, The UPI or Pro Football Weekly.
• Having defenses that average over 40 sacks per season throughout your tenure.
• Being affiliated with one of the best units of all time at the defensive line, linebacking corps or secondary in addition to things listed above.
• Having a gameplan within the Hall of Fame.
With that said this is an opinionated list and the chances remain that I may have missed somebody or that one person could be argued to jump a few spots up or moved a few spots back so please bare that in mind.
With that said, here are 25 individuals that I feel can make valid cases for being the 25 best defensive minds both pre- and post-merger.
Honorable Mentions: Joe Collier, Mike Ditka, John Fox, Dave Wannstedt