Ranking the NFL's Top 5 Coaching Staffs Entering 2022 Season
Coaching can be the great equalizer in the NFL.
There's a saying in coaching circles that it isn't about the X's and O's but the Jimmy's and Joe's that make a difference. While that's true in most levels of football, it holds less water in the NFL, where everyone has some level of elite talent.
Still, there are coaching staffs that set themselves above the rest, and there's a shift going on in the league right now.
When setting out to rank the best coaching staffs in the league, it used to be a foregone conclusion that Bill Belichick and his group would sit atop the list.
However, that's not the case anymore. A new wave of coaches are starting to establish themselves as elite options.
Here, we'll break down the top five staffs in the league right now. Rankings are based on recent success (the last three years), continuity and coordinator quality.
Because continuity and recent success were weighed heavily, no first-year head coaches and their staff were considered.
5. New England Patriots
Head Coach: Bill Belichick
Coordinators: Matt Patricia (offense, maybe?), Steve Belichick (defense?)
Bill Belichick is the greatest head coach in NFL history. Let's get that out of the way.
But this is a ranking of the best coaching staffs in the league right now. Belichick's body of work keeps them on the list but near the bottom. It's hard to think much higher of the staff, especially considering how training camp has gone to this point.
With Josh McDaniels giving up the offensive coordinator role to serve as the Las Vegas Raiders head coach, the Patriots don't have an official OC filling the void.
Jeff Howe of The Athletic has reported that Matt Patricia has called the offensive plays in training camp and figures to be the "de facto offensive coordinator" once the season starts. It's an interesting development that hurts their ranking here.
Patricia is coming off a stint as head coach where the Detroit Lions went 13-29-1 under his watch and the offense never finished higher than 18th in scoring offense. The other option is Joe Judge. He went 10-23 as Giants head coach and the offense finished 31st in scoring in both of his seasons in charge.
Patricia has only spent four years of his coaching career as an offensive assistant. Judge was mostly a special teams coordinator and assistant, apart from one year as an assistant wide receivers coach for the Patriots in 2019.
The Patriots have taken the same "no coordinator" approach on defense for years, but Belichick has had a heavy hand on that side of the ball. He's going to have to be heavily involved on both sides to make up for his lack of a bonafide offensive mind on his staff.
Still, it's hard to leave Belichick off the list when he went 10-7 and still made the playoffs with a rookie Mac Jones last season.
4. Baltimore Ravens
Head Coach: John Harbaugh
Coordinators: Greg Roman (offense), Mike Macdonald (defense)
John Harbaugh has won a Super Bowl with Joe Flacco and got an MVP season out of Lamar Jackson. If the true hallmark of a great coach is finding multiple ways to win with different talent, then that's Exhibit A as to why Harbaugh and his staff deserve a spot on this list.
Harbaugh has been remarkably consistent in his 14 years as the Ravens head coach. They've had just two losing seasons in that time frame. One of those was last year when they went 8-9 and didn't have a healthy Lamar Jackson for much of the season.
The Ravens haven't had the recent playoff success of the coaching staffs in front of them on the list, but the continuity and consistency are there to conclude they are still one of the best groups in the league.
Greg Roman is a perfect fit for the Ravens personnel on offense. He has specialized in building potent offenses around athletic quarterbacks, aiding the Collin Kaepernick-led 49ers in getting to the Super Bowl (which Harbaugh won) and making Tyrod Taylor a functional NFL starter in two seasons with the Bills.
Mike Macdonald is the biggest question mark. He'll take over for Wink Martindale as the team's defensive coordinator. However, Michigan was 13th in college football defensive efficiency last season and he spent the previous seven seasons working with the Ravens defense in some capacity.
He should bring enough familiarity to carry on the good things about the Ravens' defense while instilling some of his own flavor.
3. Los Angeles Rams
Head Coach: Sean McVay
Coordinators: Liam Coen (offense), Raheem Morris (defense)
Sean McVay does the heavy lifting for this ranking. There are head coaches who work in the NFL for decades and don't accomplish what McVay has already done in five seasons as the Rams head man.
Since taking over the head coach position in Los Angeles he has taken the Rams to the Super Bowl twice, winning it last year. He's never had a losing season and has had success with both Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff at quarterback.
The only question mark that keeps the Rams from being higher on the list is new offensive coordinator Liam Coen. The former Kentucky offensive coordinator was previously an assistant wide receiver coach and assistant quarterbacks coach for the Rams.
There's some continuity there and McVay has won with multiple offensive coordinators, but he's still more unproven than the other coordinators on the staffs ahead of the Rams.
The defense was not as good in the first year under Raheem Morris as they were in Brandon Staley's final year. Under Staley, the Rams had the No. 1 defense in both yards and points allowed while they were middle of the pack. S
Still, Morris was working to replace John Johnson III and Troy Hill in the secondary and didn't get Von Miller until they traded for him in November.
Ultimately, the defense was good enough to win the Super Bowl and McVay has remained a winner despite losing Zac Taylor, Matt LaFleur and Brandon Staley as coordinators among many other assistants who have been hired away from him.
2. Buffalo Bills
Head Coach: Sean McDermott
Coordinators: Ken Dorsey (Offense), Leslie Frazier (Defense)
This might seem a little high for Sean McDermott's staff because they haven't won a Super Bowl yet. The operative word there is yet, though.
McDermott has now been the head coach in Buffalo for six years. They've posted a winning record in five of those years with an AFC Championship Game appearance and came about 13 seconds away from getting back there this year.
The coaching staff has benefitted from Josh Allen, but they also deserve credit for his progression since coming to the NFL. He didn't start off in the elite tier of quarterbacks, but thanks to his personal improvement and the way he's utilized, he has reached that status.
Losing Brian Daboll hurts. He was the 2020 AP Assistant Coach of the Year. However, Ken Dorsey was the perfect candidate to replace him and brings continuity to the staff. Dorsey has been the quarterback coach since 2019 and has a diverse background as a player, coach and scout, which includes stops in the Canadian Football League, the high school ranks and college.
Given his experience working with Allen already and his knowledge of various offenses, he's a uniquely qualified coach to build on Daboll's work.
On defense, Leslie Frazier gives the Bills a defensive coordinator with head coaching experience. They have finished in the top three of points and yards allowed under his leadership.
The Bills are a Super Bowl favorite in large part because of Allen, but the coaching staff deserves a lot of credit as well.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
Head Coach: Andy Reid
Coordinators: Eric Bieniemy (offense), Steve Spagnuolo (defense)
Having Patrick Mahomes certainly helps, but no coaching staff has proven to be more consistent over the last four years than the Kansas City Chiefs.
Andy Reid and Co. have gone 50-15 in the regular season since 2018 and have least made it to the AFC Championship in the playoffs.
It isn't just Reid that makes the coaching staff great, either. Eric Bienemy has served as the offensive coordinator since 2018, leading the unit to top-six finishes in both points and yards in each season he's been at the helm.
Spagnuolo has been the defensive coordinator since 2019, and while his defenses haven't been dominant, his style and philosophy marries perfectly with the high-octane offense that drives the Chiefs.
For instance, last season the defense was 27th in yards allowed, but finished eighth in points allowed while finishing fifth in pressure percentage.
Reid and Bieniemy's offense is capable of scoring quickly while Spagnuolo's defense creates chaos and makes it difficult to keep up. It's a coaching concert that has proven to be elite time and time again.