Power Ranking the Top 20 Assistant Coaches in the NFL Today

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterJune 8, 2011

Power Ranking the Top 20 Assistant Coaches in the NFL Today

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    PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 23:  Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau of the Pittsburgh Steelers watches his team warm up prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers on December 23, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Ge
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    In the NFL, two people receive 99 percent of the credit when a team wins—the quarterback and the head coach.

    While each deserves much credit, there are men working behind the scenes who deserve special mention.

    They are the men filling job openings in Carolina, Cleveland, Oakland and Minnesota. They are the men mentoring and guiding young stars like Sam Bradford, Matt Ryan and LaMarr Woodley. They are the next crop of head coaches in the NFL.

    Meet the 20 best assistant coaches in the NFL.

20. Joe DeCamillis, Special Teams, Dallas Cowboys

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    IRVING, TX - CIRCA 2010: In this handout image provided by the NFL,Joe DeCamillis of the Dallas Cowboys poses for his 2010 NFL headshot circa 2010 in Irving, Texas. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
    Handout/Getty Images

    Special teams coaches used to be the forgotten men when it came time to fill job openings at the head coach level.

    And then John Harbaugh led Baltimore to three straight playoff births.

    Since Harbaugh's move from special teams coach for the Eagles to the big-boy chair in Baltimore, more and more NFL owners are taking a look at special teams coordinators.

    The best in the business is Joe DeCamillis of the Dallas Cowboys.

    DeCamillis is widely regarded as one of the best and brightest coaches in the league. Keep his name in mind for potential job openings after the 2011 season.

19. Brian VanGorder, Defensive Coordinator, Atlanta Falcons

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    FLOWERY BRANCH, GA - MAY 9: Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder of the Atlanta Falcons yells at the defense during minicamp at the Falcons Complex on May 9, 2009 in Flowery Branch, Georgia. (Paul Abell/Getty Images)
    Paul Abell/Getty Images

    The 2010 Atlanta Falcons were fifth in the NFL in points allowed and seventh in turnovers.

    The credit goes to Brian VanGorder.

    A linebackers coach by trade, VanGorder can be thanked for the steady play of the Atlanta front seven over the past three seasons, as well as the development of cornerback Brent Grimes from a relative unknown to a Pro Bowl player.

18. Pepper Johnson, Defensive Line, New England Patriots

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    FOXBORO, MA - JULY 24:  Defensive Line Coach Pepper Johnson of the New England Patriots provides instruction in a drill during the first day of training camp at Gillette Stadium on July 24, 2008 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Image
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Former players always do well when interviewing for head coaching jobs. Former players who have coached under Bill Belichick for the last 10 years will do much better.

    Pepper Johnson has been a coach for Belichick since the 2000 season, working mostly with linebackers and defensive linemen during that time.

    The Patriots structure is such that they do not have a defensive coordinator, but the responsibilities of that job fall to Johnson. And he's done one hell of a job with the young talent on defense.

17. Winston Moss, Assistant Head Coach, Green Bay Packers

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    GREEN BAY, WI - CIRCA 2010: In this photo provided by the NFL, Winston Moss of the Green Bay Packers poses for his 2010 NFL headshot circa 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
    Handout/Getty Images

    There are many things on Winston Moss' resume to get excited about.

    He has played in the NFL, so that's a big plus. He has also worked under one of the game's best defensive coordinators, Dom Capers, in both 3-4 and 4-3 systems.

    Moss' flexibility, knowledge and role as assistant head coach will make his name a hot one when NFL head coaching jobs become available.

16. Mike Singletary, Linebackers, Minnesota Vikings

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    ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 26: Head coach Mike Singletary of the San Francisco 49ers looks on from the sideline at the Edward Jones Dome on December 26, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Rams beat the 49ers 25-17. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Had Mike Singletary not completely wet the bed as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, he would be much higher on our list.

    As one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history, Singletary is revered in the eyes of most NFL owners, writers and fans.

    But as a head coach, he was just not good enough. Here's hoping a return to assistant status will be a nice change for Singletary.

15. Bruce Arians, Offensive Coordinator, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 23:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers talks to offensive coordinator Bruce Arians during their 2011 AFC Championship game against the New York Jets at Heinz Field on January 23, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Bruce Arians may never be a head coach in the NFL, but he'll definitely end his career with more Super Bowl rings than most head coaches will ever see.

    Arians, as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers' coaching staff, has won two rings during his tenure with the team. His first coming in 2005 as the team's wide receivers coach and then again in 2008 as offensive coordinator.

    Arians work with Ben Roethlisberger should have given him more chances at a head coaching position, and perhaps that work will be recognized in the future by an NFL owner looking for a steady hand to run his team.

14. Bill Musgrave, Offensive Coordinator, Minnesota Vikings

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    ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 07:  Quarterbacks John Parker Wilson #4, Matt Ryan #2 and Chris Redman #8 of the Atlanta Falcons look at plays with assistant Head Coach and Quarterbacks Coach Bill Musgrave (R) during the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Georgi
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Here is all you need to know about Bill Musgrave.

    He's the man responsible for getting Matt Ryan ready for the NFL after the Atlanta Falcons made him the No. 3 overall pick in the draft.

    The same Matt Ryan who led his team to the playoffs in his rookie season.

    And that's  the same Matt Ryan who has voted to the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

    Musgrave's name is on our short list of assistant coaches to watch in 2011.

13. Mike Martz, Offensive Coordinator, Chicago Bears

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 16:  Quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears talks with offensive coordinator Mike Martz against the Seattle Seahawks in the 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Soldier Field on January 16, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo b
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Say what you will about Mike Martz, his offense works.

    Martz' offense has produced one Super Bowl win, two Super Bowl appearances and three NFC Championship births.

    The work Martz did in Chicago during the 2010 season was perhaps his best work.

    With the Bears offense struggling early in the year, Martz made changes to his famous spread attack and focused on getting the ball to running back Matt Forte' more often.

    The change paid off. Chicago made it all the way to the NFC Championship game.

12. Mike Pettine, Defensive Coordinator, New York Jets

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    FLORHAM PARK, NJ - CIRCA 2010: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Mike Pettine of the New York Jets poses for his 2010 NFL headshot circa 2010 in Florham Park, New Jersey. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
    Handout/Getty Images

    Pettine is a former high school coach who fought his way to the top of the NFL coaching tree with knowledge, a great background in the game and a way of dealing with players that caught the eye of Rex Ryan.

    Pettine followed Ryan to the Jets, where he has become a reliable defensive coordinator for the Jets' head man.

    Pettine may not get the credit he is due, but his name is on a hot list of assistant coaches in the NFL.

11. Chuck Pagano, Defensive Coordinator, Baltimore Ravens

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    BALTIMORE - 2009:  Chuck Pagano of the Baltimore Ravens poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by NFL Photos)
    NFL Photos/Getty Images

    I have to admit that I had not heard much about Chuck Pagano until chatting with cornerback Fabian Washington last summer.

    Pagano's work with the Baltimore secondary has been superb, especially considering the lack of talent he is working with.

    Pagano will take over the job as defensive coordinator this fall, replacing Greg Mattison, and all eyes will be on how he does with a talented defensive roster.

10. Wade Phillips, Defensive Coordinator, Houston Texans

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 31:  Head coach Wade Phillips (C) and injured quarterback Tony Romo (R) of the Dallas Cowboys look on against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Cowboys Stadium on October 31, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Ima
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    We are now entering a steady stream of former NFL head coaches who have been demoted to coordinator status but are really good at coaching one side of the football.

    Wade Phillips has proven multiple times now that he does not have what it takes to be a head coach in the NFL. What he is really good at is coaching defenses. Particularly his 3-4 scheme.

    Phillips will bring that knowledge to Houston, where the Texans have the offense to win but need help on defense.

    All eyes will be on Phillips as he tries to transform the Texans from a 4-3 to a 3-4 in a matter of months.

9 . Tom Cable, Assistant Head Coach, Seattle Seahawks

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    OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 28:  Head coach Tom Cable of the Oakland Raiders walks the sidelines during the closing minutes of their loss to the Miami Dolphins at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on November 28, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    I am a strong believer that Tom Cable did not get a fair deal in Oakland when owner Al Davis fired him after he led the team to an 8-8 season.

    Cable resurfaced in Seattle, where he will be Pete Carroll's right-hand man and coach the offensive line.

    This is great news for Cable and Seahawk fans.

    In Seattle, Cable will be coaching 2010 top 10 pick Russell Okung, as well as top picks from 2011 James Carpenter and John Moffitt.

    If the line in Seattle can mesh together quickly, Cable will have done an incredible job and have his name back in the running for head coaching spots.

8. Brian Schottenheimer, Offensive Coordinator, New York Jets

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 23:  Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets warms up in front of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2011 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field on January 23, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Penn
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    With a rookie quarterback under his watch in 2009, Brian Schottenheimer's offense scored the 17th most points in the NFL and won nine games.

    In 2010, still with a young quarterback, the Jets were ranked No. 13 in points scored and almost made the Super Bowl.

    Schottenheimer was a surprise no-hire this past offseason. That will not happen again.

    As jobs open up during the 2011 season, Schottenheimer's name will be linked to them all.

7. Rob Ryan, Defensive Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 21:  Cleveland Browns defensive coodinator Rob Ryan watches warmups during a game agaisnt the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on November 21, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The new defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys has two things going for him.

    1. He coaches the Dallas Cowboys and is assured mass media attention because of it.

    2. His brother is Rex Ryan, head coach of the New York Jets.


    Rob Ryan is a fine coach on his own, but it will not hurt that NFL owners think they might be able to tap in to the success of the Ryan family tree by hiring Rob.

    On the flip side, there are some NFL owners who see the brash nature of Rex and Rob and shy away from the coordinator.

    Either way, and whether he ever becomes a head coach or not, Rob Ryan is one of the game's best defensive coordinators.

6. Josh McDaniels, Offensive Coordinator, St. Louis Rams

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 05:  Head coach Josh McDaniels of the Denver Broncos looks on from the sidelines during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs on December 5, 2010 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Ima
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    When the St. Louis Rams lost coordinator Pat Shurmur to the head coaching job in Cleveland, many in the St. Louis area let out a frustrated sigh.

    The hiring of Josh McDaniels should quiet those irritated fans.

    McDaniels' work with quarterbacks Tom Brady, Matt Cassel, Kyle Orton and even Tim Tebow have lended him almost legendary status when it comes to handling quarterbacks.

    And it was under McDaniels that the Patriots scored 75 touchdowns in 2007.

5. Mike Mularkey, Offensive Coordinator, Atlanta Falcons

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    FLOWERY BRANCH, GA - CIRCA 2010: In this handout image provided by the NFL,  Mike Mularkey of the Atlanta Falcons poses for his NFL headshot circa 2010 at the Falcons Football Facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia.  (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
    Handout/Getty Images

    One name that consistently gets mentioned any time there is a head coaching vacancy is that of Mike Mularkey.

    The former NFL player has experience as a head coach but is now the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons. He has also been in the running for top jobs in Detroit and Tennessee in recent years.

    Mularkey's balanced offensive attack in Atlanta has caught the eye of many NFL owners. Barring a deep playoff run in 2011, Mularkey will be among the short-list of the best available coordinators for every job opening.

4. Russ Grimm, Assistant Head Coach, Arizona Cardinals

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    CANTON, OH - AUGUST 7: Russ Grimm and presenter Joe Bugel unveil Grimm's bust during the 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Field at Fawcett Stadium on August 7, 2010 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbin
    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Former player. Super Bowl winner. Hall of Famer. Assistant head coach.

    Russ Grimm has a resume that should attract every owner in the NFL, but he has yet to climb the mountain and sit atop as a head coach in the NFL.

    And we have no idea why not.

    Grimm, who coached under Bill Cowher on the Pittsburgh Steelers staff, was at one time considered for the job opening there once Cowher retired. Turned down for the job, Grimm followed fellow coordinator Ken Whisenhunt to Arizona.

    With the Cardinals the two quickly re-shaped the roster and led the formerly terrible team to the Super Bowl.

    Still, no calls.

    Grimm deserves a chance at a head coaching job. We hope he gets his shot.

3. Perry Fewell, Defensive Coordinator, New York Giants

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 13: Interim Head Coach Perry Fewell of the Buffalo Bills gets excited after a touchdown during NFL action against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on December 13, 2009 Kansas City, Missouri.  The Bills defeated the Ch
    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    If tomorrow I win the lottery and am able to buy an NFL team, should I need a new head coach after the season I am calling Perry Fewell first.

    And it has nothing to do with the Rooney Rule.

    The fact that Fewell is not a head coach in the NFL is somewhat insulting. As a defensive coordinator he has turned around a horrible Buffalo Bills defense and even served as interim head coach before the team hired Chan Gailey.

    As defensive coordinator of the Giants, Fewell led a defense that finished turnovers created and was second in first downs allowed, as well as being No. 7 overall.

    Perry Fewell's day in the NFL is coming.

2. Dom Capers, Defensive Coordinator, Green Bay Packers

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    ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 06:  A Green Bay Packers holds up a sign for defensive coordinator Dom Capers during Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Dom Capers was a miserable head coach (49-81 career record), but history should show that he was never coaching the most talented teams in the NFL either.

    As a defensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers, Capers is experiencing a second-birth in the NFL.

    His 3-4 defense is catching on, and variations of it will be ran in San Francisco this fall under Vic Fangio.

    Under Capers, the Packers' defense went from No. 21 in 2008 to No. 2 in 2009. In 2010, his defense was the backbone of the team's Super Bowl winning season, ranking No. 2 in scoring defense, No. 5 in total defense, No. 2 in interceptions, No. 2 in sacks, and No. 1 in opposing quarterback passer rating.

1. Dick LeBeau, Defensive Coordinator, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 23:  Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau of the Pittsburgh Steelers watches his team warm up prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers on December 23, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Ge
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Dick LeBeau is arguably the best ever to coach defense...He has done it on such a consistent basis over a long period of time.

    - Ron Jaworksi, ESPN Analyst

    Who else could top the list of best coordinators in the NFL than Dick LeBeau?

    LeBeau has led Pittsburgh to eight Division Championships, four AFC Championships and two Super Bowl wins with his trademark 3-4 defense.

    No other assistant coach in NFL history has made the mark that LeBeau has on the NFL landscape. LeBeau is credited with creating the popular "zone blitz" defense used by the Steelers from the mid-90s until today.

    He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.

    And who else could look that good at 73 years old? That still blows my mind.