The 10 Highest-Paid Coaches in the NFL

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 5, 2018

The 10 Highest-Paid Coaches in the NFL

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    In the NFL, player salaries become public record. It's easy to find the highest-paid player at any position, especially with sites such as Spotrac and Over the Cap available at our fingertips. What about the brilliant minds who mold these talents into million-dollar assets?

    What's the annual pay rate for coaches responsible for an entire locker room and the resultsor lack thereofon the field? How many deserve their lucrative deals?

    Among the top earners in the head coaching ranks, you'll see a common thread. In all cases, they're paired with franchise quarterbacks—some better than others. Several have held their positions for long periods. A few made an immediate impact with a new employer after establishing themselves elsewhere. Like everyone in this world, though, there's room for criticism.

    Based on estimated annual wages, let's go through the top 10 head coaches currently in the league. How much do they make, and what have they done to earn their payouts?

Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys

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    Annual salary: $6 million, per the team's official website


    Why he's worth it

    Many criticize Jason Garrett for mediocre results, but he's only finished with a losing season once from 2010 to 2017. Former Cowboys quarterback and current CBS broadcaster Tony Romo broke his collarbone during the lost season. The Dallas Cowboys have captured two division titles under their current head coach.

    After three consecutive 8-8 seasons from 2011 through 2013, Garrett showed his coaching chops, keeping this team competitive in the NFC East. If not for a controversial non-catch call in the 2014 postseason against the Green Bay Packers, he'd have a better playoff resume.


    Reason to be critical

    It's not enough to field a competitive squad, especially with one postseason win in eight years. As America's team, the spotlight shines brightly on those starred helmets. Garrett must deliver more success in January.

    With a young franchise quarterback in Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott on the field, he doesn't have an excuse not to compete for multiple Super Bowl titles.

Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers

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    Annual salary: At least $6 million, estimated via Money Inc


    Why he's worth it

    Despite Mike McCarthy's 131-78-1 record, which includes 10 playoff wins and a Super Bowl title, the work of the Packers head coach goes underappreciated. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers' stardom eclipses his brilliance.

    Rodgers' mobility allows him to freelance in the pocket, but McCarthy's play-calling deserves some credit—it's not all quarterback magic. When the two-time league MVP missed seven games in 2013, the Packers offense still finished eighth in scoring. Green Bay has six division titles under its ball coach.


    Reason to be critical

    McCarthy transitioned from Brett Favre to Rodgers but only captured one championship. How does a top-tier coach fail to bring multiple titles to Green Bay with one of the best quarterbacks in the game under center? He must do a better job selecting his defensive coaching staff. The Packers' propensity to allow points has offset its high-scoring performances.

John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens

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    Annual salary: Approximately $7 million, estimated via Pro Football Talk, ESPN's Adam Schefter


    Why he's worth it

    John Harbaugh immediately gained respect in Baltimore with trips to the postseason in each of his first five seasons, including a Super Bowl XLVII victory—the second title in franchise history.

    Most importantly, Harbaugh maintained the team's hard-nosed identity that started with his predecessor Brian Billick. That brand of football has kept the Ravens competitive year after year with the Pittsburgh Steelers for AFC North supremacy.


    Reason to be critical

    After going to the playoffs in his first five years, Harbaugh struggled to make it back in the next five with only one more appearance, which suggests his message may be wearing thin with the team.

    After a Super Bowl victory, the Ravens have slipped firmly into second place behind the Steelers and, at times, third behind the Cincinnati Bengals as well. Is it time to light a spark in the locker room through a change at the head coaching position?

Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Annual salary: More than $7 million, estimated per Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


    Why he's worth it

    Through 11 years, Mike Tomlin doesn't have a losing season as the Steelers head coach. He filled Bill Cowher's big shoes with a Super Bowl victory in his second year with the team and has led Pittsburgh to six AFC North titles.

    Despite walking up and down the same sideline for more than a decade, Tomlin's message hasn't faded in the locker room. The Steelers have finished with double-digit win totals each campaign from 2014 through 2017. He's also direct when answering the media whether his team wins or loses and doesn't wilt under heavy scrutiny.


    Reason to be critical

    Tomlin says all the right things at the podium, but his team doesn't always show discipline on the gridiron. The Steelers have been involved in multiple on-field incidents with the Bengals during his tenure. The Steelers skipper also obstructed Jacoby Jones' pathway on a kickoff return.

    Pittsburgh has developed a reputation for playing down to its competition. Just when you expect a blowout, a lesser opponent creates a competitive matchup against this perennial playoff team.

Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Annual salary: $7.5 million, per Spotrac


    Why he's worth it

    Compared to other high-paid head coaches, Andy Reid just arrived on the scene with his current organization, but he won the Kansas City Chiefs fanbase over with immediate results. After the Philadelphia Eagles gave him the pink slip in 2012, he joined forces with quarterback Alex Smith to keep this club atop the AFC West division.

    In his first five seasons, Reid hasn't finished below second place in the AFC West and won two division titles in that span. The Chiefs have been contenders every year under the former Eagles ball coach.


    Reason to be critical

    Kansas City looks great from September to December but falls flat in January when the competition reaches another level. Reid has guided the Chiefs to the postseason four times in five years but only registered one playoff win. Some fans place the blame on limitations at quarterback, and others view Reid's play-calling as a critical flaw. If that trend continues, he'll land on the hot seat.

Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers

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    Annual salary: $6.5 million to $7.75 million, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport (initial deal)


    Why he's worth it

    In the face of pressure, Ron Rivera found success. After a rocky start to his tenure, he led the Carolina Panthers to Super Bowl 50, won Coach of the Year and nearly finished with a perfect season—all in one swoop in 2015. He's guided this team to three seasons of double-digit wins in seven years and won three consecutive NFC South titles from 2013 to 2015.

    Despite polarizing views directed toward franchise quarterback Cam Newton, Rivera has continuously put together coaching staffs to optimize the signal-caller's strengths. The Panthers have established a physical identity on both sides of the ball throughout his term.


    Reason to be critical

    Since the 2012 season, Carolina has alternated winning and sub-.500 seasons. Rivera's 3-4 playoff record also shows inconsistencies. Although Rivera spent six years as a defensive coordinator, the Panthers unit has only ranked in the top 10 in points allowed twice since he took over as head coach. Furthermore, we've yet to see extended consistency from Newton since the 2015 campaign.

Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints

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    Annual salary: Approximately $9 million, per NFL reporter Ed Werder


    Why he's worth it

    Sean Payton's salary serves as the dividing line between well-paid head coaches and big-timers in the ranks. He sits slightly below eight figures and for good reason. The New Orleans Saints finished with seven winning seasons and atop the division twice before Payton. With him, this club has four NFC South titles, six campaigns above .500 and a Super Bowl championship.

    The Saints didn't have a winning pedigree until Payton arrived and changed the franchise's outlook with quarterback Drew Brees as his extension on the field.


    Reason to be critical

    In the 2014 through 2016 seasons, the Saints hit a rough patch, logging 7-9 records in each term with a future Hall of Famer under center. Similar to McCarthy, Payton failed to bring in suitable assistants to develop and fortify his defense. As a result, Brees may have lost some of his best years on a sub-.500 football team.

Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks

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    Annual salary: At least $9 million, estimated via Seattle Times


    Why he's worth it

    Happy-go-lucky Pete Carroll has much to smile about when he's banking at least $9 million. His second stint as an NFL head coach started with back-to-back 7-9 seasons, but he flourished once quarterback Russell Wilson took over the huddle. In the following six terms, the Seattle Seahawks finished first or second in the NFC West each year and won Super Bowl XLVIII.

    In every postseason trip, the Seahawks have won at least one game under Carroll. He's also developed several middle-to-late-round players into household names, such as cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Kam Chancellor and linebacker K.J. Wright.


    Reason to be critical

    Carroll doesn't strike anyone as a disciplinarian, which potentially allows players to push the envelope. An outspoken locker room without an authoritative voice can easily spiral out of control. Former wideout Percy Harvin took part in multiple physical altercations with former Seahawks teammates, including one before the team's Super Bowl victory, per The MMQB's Albert Breer.

    Sherman has repeatedly called out his coaching staff's play-calling on the sidelines, per News Tribune reporter Gregg Bell. A free-spirited locker room may turn on a players' coach when the team falls into losing stretches.

Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders

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    Annual salary: Approximately $10 million, per ESPN's Adam Schefter


    Why he's worth it

    The Oakland Raiders made the splashiest hire in recent memory when owner Mark Davis lured Jon Gruden back to the sidelines with the longest-tenured head coaching contract in history—a 10-year, $100 million deal.

    Clearly, Davis wants to recreate the organization's success from 1998 to 2001, when Gruden went 38-26 as the Raiders head coach without a losing campaign. His time spent in the broadcast booth has allowed him to see the game from a big-picture perspective.

    It's difficult to justify $10 million annually for a guy who's been away from coaching for a decade, but Gruden returns to the grind with the same passion and an expanded working knowledge of the game. At the very least, he's a good draw for a fanbase as the franchise prepares for relocation to Las Vegas.


    Reason to be critical

    Davis overpaid for his dream coach. The franchise patriarch admitted to courting Gruden for six years before the former ESPN broadcaster said yes to the offer. Sometimes it's best to go above and beyond to reach your target, but the 54-year-old isn't an all-time coach with multiple Super Bowl wins.

    As mentioned, he's been away from coaching as social media and politics have permeated the sports world. How will Gruden handle his role as a head coach outside the X's and O's?

Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

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    Annual salary: $10 million-plus to $12.5 million, estimated via ESPN's Chris Mortensen (h/t WEEI's Ryan Hannable), Pro Football Talk


    Why he's worth it

    Whatever Bill Belichick wants, pay him up front. He ranks No. 1 all-time in playoff games coached and won. Through 18 years, the New England Patriots have won 15 division titles and five Super Bowls.

    The organization has become the gold standard for every other NFL entity to follow. There's a reason why Belichick's assistants move on to become head coaches. The strong meaning behind the Patriots Way corresponds with his mantra, "Do your job (well)."

    For the most part, players who suit up in New England have done their jobs well, and it shows in the regular-season standings, hard-fought playoff victories and the sheer disdain from opposing fans when they see the Patriots compete for a Super Bowl year after year.


    Reason to be critical

    There's one knock on Belichick that would apply to every entry on the highest-paid list: How much credit goes to the coach when paired with an exceptional quarterback? Tom Brady took the helm in 2001, and this team has only missed the playoffs twice: in 2002 and 2008. Brady sat out the latter campaign with a torn ACL, though New England still finished with an 11-5 record.

    Nonetheless, would Belichick have experienced all this success—five Super Bowl wins and total domination in the AFC East—with any other quarterback?

    Aside from his unsuccessful run as the Cleveland Browns head coach from 1991 to 1995, we don't have clear answers for that scenario. However, it's fair to think one of the greatest NFL coaches in history would've traveled a tougher road to an elite level without Brady.