Ranking the NFL’s best head coaches for the 2021 season from 1-32

There are nine Super Bowl-winning coaches in the NFL heading into 2021. 

Tampa Bay’s Bruce Arians was the latest to join that list, a fraternity that includes Andy Reid, Bill Belichick, Mike McCarthy, Sean Payton, Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh, Pete Carroll and Jon Gruden. Philadelphia’s Doug Pederson would have made it 10, but he was fired after the 2020 season. 

A Super Bowl-winning coach, however, does not necessarily make a top-10 coach heading into this season. Sporting News’ six-person panel voted on their top 10 coaches for this season, and we fleshed the rest of the rankings out from there. 

Where do those Super Bowl-winning coaches rank? A look at our NFL coach rankings:

Last year: 1
Record: 280-136, .673
Playoffs: 31-12, .721

Belichick received five of six first-place votes, and Andy Reid remains the main competition. The Patriots are coming off a 7-9 season; their first postseason miss since 2008. Belichick needs 20 wins to join Don Shula (328) and George Halas (318) in the 300-win club. He remains the standard entering his 27th season as a head coach.

Last year: 2
Record: 221-130-1, .629
Playoffs: 17-15, .531

Reid led the Chiefs to a second straight Super Bowl appearance, and a 38-10 regular-season record the last three seasons is proof the partnership with Patrick Mahomes II should continue to produce Super Bowl chances. Last season, Reid tied Joe Gibbs with his 17th playoff victory. Reid, 63, looks like he’s in his prime.

Last year:3
Record:143-81, .638
Playoffs:9-8, .529

Payton is No. 3 for the third consecutive season. Four straight seasons of 11 wins or more have highlighted the latest run, but Payton now must navigate what life after Drew Brees looks like. New Orleans still remains an every-year Super Bowl contender heading into Payton’s15th season.

Last year: 6
Record: 145-78-1, .650
Playoffs: 8-8, .500

Tomlin broke a three-year playoff drought last season, and the long-term success in Pittsburgh continues to be a hallmark of his tenure. That said, some might feel this ranking is high given the playoff loss to Cleveland and the uncertain forecast around the Steelers and Ben Roetlhisberger. Can Tomlin fend off the many challenges in the AFC North in 2021?

Last year: 4
Record: 129-79, .620
Playoffs: 11-8, .579

Harbaugh has just one losing season the last 13 years, and Baltimore is 35-13 the last three seasons with starting quarterback Lamar Jackson. The star quarterback also got his first playoff win in 2020, but the pressure to return to the Super Bowl in a loaded AFC continues to build. Baltimore last made the Super Bowl in 2012.

Last year: 5
Record: 145-94-1, .606
Playoffs: 11-10, .524

Carroll dropped out of the top five despite leading Seattle to a 12-win season in 2020. The Seahawks have double-digit wins in eight of the last nine years, but the competition has increased in the NFC West. Seattle continues to be a mainstay in the playoff picture, but the Seahawks haven’t been to the NFC championship game since 2014.

Last year: 14
Record: 67-44-1, .603
Playoffs: 5-2, .714

It’s amazing what a Super Bowl championship can do. Arians welcomed Tom Brady last season, and the Buccaneers enjoyed one of the best playoff runs of all time by going through New Orleans, Green Bay and Kansas City to win the Super Bowl. Arians turns 69 this year, but his player-friendly philosophy is clearly working in Tampa.

Last year:9
Record: 43-21, .672
Playoffs: 3-3, .500

McVay is the top-ranked coach without a Super Bowl ring on this list. The Rams have won nine games or more each of the last four seasons, and McVay already has a coaching tree. McVay acquired veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford in the offseason, and that should pair well with a defense led by Aaron Donald. McVay remains a top-10 coach.

Last year: 8
Record: 29-35, .453
Playoffs: 2-1, .667

Detractors might scoff at the sub-.500 record, but injuries plagued the 49ers last season in their NFC championship defense. Shanahan has flipped the franchise into a winner, and first-round pick Trey Lance could be the next key piece in another run to the NFC playoffs. Shanahan has the talent, and he’s among the best young coaches in the game.

Last year: 13
Record: 29-19, .604
Playoffs: 2-2, .500

Vrabel moves into the top 10 after a third straight winning season and second trip to the AFC playoffs. Vrabel’s no-nonsense approach continues to be a hit with the organization, and Tennessee made the bold move of acquiring Julio Jones in the offseason. Tennessee had a 5-1 record in the AFC South last season.

Last year: 19
Record: 38-26, .593
Playoffs: 2-3, .400

McDermott makes a big jump after leading the Bills to the AFC championship game in 2020. The Bills had a top-10 defense in 2019 and the second-highest scoring offense in the NFL last season. If McDermott can pair the two, the long-awaited return to the Super Bowl is possible.

Last year: 10
Record: 26-6, .813
Playoffs: 4-2, .667

Should LaFleur be ranked higher? He’s guided the Packers to back-to-back NFC North championships and appearances in the NFC championship game. He’s 11-1 in division games, too. Yet the fallout from last year’s loss to Tampa Bay is still out there, and how LaFleur handles the uncertainty with Aaron Rodgers will weigh heavily on the 2021 season. It is a tough spot to be in.

Last year: 15
Record: 83-72-1, .535
Playoffs: 3-5, .375

Rivera helped Washington reach the NFC playoffs in his first season, and he did that while battling cancer. Now cancer-free, the longtime coach has the chance to build a winner in an unlikely place. The early returns have been positive, but the fickle nature of the NFC East still stands.

Last year: 31
Record: 11-5, .688
Playoffs: 1-1, .500

What took so long? Cleveland found the right coach in Stefanski, who led Cleveland to the postseason and a franchise-altering playoff victory against the Steelers. Stefanski helped bring out the best in franchise quarterback Baker Mayfield, and the Browns are true Super Bowl contenders. Now, it’s about handling those expectations in a loaded division.

Last year: 28
Record:15-17, .469
Playoffs: 0-0

Flores, like Vrabel, is breaking the thinking that former Belichick assistants do nothave success in the NFL. He increased the Dolphins win total by five in his second season and pushed them to the brink of the AFC playoff picture. Miami also is coming off an impressive draft. It’s a good time to buy in.

Last year:21
Record: 17-15, .531
Playoffs: 1-2, .333

Reich is in that spot of tough coaches to rank. He’s led Indianapolis to a pair of playoff appearances and 10-win seasons in three years, and he is working with his third different quarterback in three years with Carson Wentz. Reich and Wentz paired well in Philadelphia, and the reunion is one of the more-underrated storylines of 2021.

Last year: 12
Record: 64-47-1, .576
Playoffs: 2-3, .400

Zimmer has alternated playoff appearances the last six seasons, but last year was the first time the franchise dipped below .500 in that run. Zimmer is an old-school coach who turned 65 in the offseason, and the Vikings remain tied to Kirk Cousins at quarterback. Minnesota is the only NFC North team to beat the Packers the last two seasons. Can the Vikings compete for an NFC North title?

Last year: 20
Record: 114-110, .509
Playoffs: 5-4, .556

Gruden is the next-to last Super Bowl-winning coach on this list. The Raiders have improved incrementally with each season in his second stint, and he continues to pair with general manager Mike Mayock. The Raiders do things their way, and the second season in Las Vegas should be exciting. The Raiders haven’t won a playoff game since meeting Gruden’s Bucs in the Super Bowl in 2002. Can Gruden bring that playoff success back?

Last year: 11
Record: 131-87-2, .600
Playoffs: 10-8, .556

McCarthy is the last Super Bowl-winning coach on this list, but he dropped after an injury-plagued 6-10 season with Dallas in 2020. The Packers had a losing record in his last two seasons there from 2017-18, and the pressure to build a winner is on with the return of Dak Prescott in 2021.

Last year: 18
Record: 28-20, .583
Playoffs: 0-2, .000

Nagy is coming off the second straight 8-8 season, and Chicago made a second playoff appearance in his third season. The Bears will have another quarterback change, and Nagy will have to pick the right time to move from Andy Dalton to first-round pick Justin Fields. Chicago is 11-7 in the NFC North the last three years, but the 1-5 record against the Packers sticks out.

Last year: 26
Record: 13-18-1, .422
Playoffs: 0-0

The Cardinals improved to 8-8 last season, and with Kyler Murray, the offense ranked sixth in the NFL in total yards. Kingsbury also has a competitive team in the toughest division in the NFC. Arizona also signed J.J. Watt in the offseason. Kingsbury has shown improvement, and a break-through season in 2021 is possible.

Last year: 30
Record: 6-10, .375
Playoffs: 0-0

Judge helped the Giants build a top-10 defense last season, but that was negated by an offense that ranked 31st in points. The return of Saquon Barkley should help, and Judge has added help at receiver with Kadarius Toney. He’s yet another Belichick assistant on this list, and there is more to prove in Year 2.

Last year: 29
Record: 6-25-1, .203
Playoffs: 0-0

Taylor kept the locker room together despite another tough year, and late season victories against Pittsburgh and Houston offered a hint of optimism. The return of Joe Burrow should help, but the Bengals must show real progress in Taylor’s third year to show a rebuild in a tough AFC North is possible.

Last year: 25
Record: 12-20, .375
Playoffs: 0-0

Denver regressed in 2020, and Fangio has presided over an offense that has ranked in the bottom five each of the last two seasons. The Broncos are 4-8 in the AFC West in that stretch, and the quarterback question has yet to be answered.

Last year: 32
Record: 5-11, .313
Playoffs: 0-0

The Panthers finished 5-11 in Rhule’s first season, and the competition in the NFC South did not get easier. Carolina acquired Sam Darnold in the offseason, and Rhule will try to get more out of the former first-round pick. The Panthers were 2-8 in one-score games in 2020.

Last year: NR
Record: 0-0
Playoffs: 0-0

After 17 seasons as an assistant coach, Saleh is getting his first head coaching job. Saleh, 42, brings high energy to the sidelines. He served as the 49ers defensive coordinator the last four seasons, and San Francisco had top-10 defenses the last two years. Of the first-year hires, Saleh has the most upside.

Last year: NR
Record: 0-0
Playoffs: 0-0

Staley has moved up the coaching ranks, and he takes over in Los Angeles after just one season as the Rams’ defensive coordinator. The Rams had the top defense in yards and points allowed last season, and Staley inherits a talented roster that has under-performed the last two seasons.

Last year: NR
Record: 0-0
Playoffs: 0-0

Sirianni replaces Doug Pederson in Philadelphia. He spent the last 12 seasons as an offensive assistant with the Chiefs, Chargers and Colts. Indianapolis had a top-10 offense two of the last three seasons while he was offensive coordinator. The pressure is high in Philadelphia, and it will be interesting to see how Sirianni works with Jalen Hurts.

Last year: NR
Record: 0-0
Playoffs: 0-0

Smith spent the last 10 seasons as an assistant coach with the Titans, and the team ranked in the top 10 in offense the last two years while he served as an offensive coordinator. Smith is yet another under-40 coach who is unproven, and the challenge in the NFC South will not be easy.

Last year: NR
Record: 0-0
Playoffs: 0-0

We finally get to see it. Meyer, who won three national championships at Florida and Ohio State, made the move to the NFL ranks. He is one of the most hyper-successful college coaches of all time, and he doubles as one of the most-polarizing coaches ever. Will Meyer’s style fit the NFL?

Last year: NR
Record: 0-0
Playoffs: 0-0

Culley, 66, has been a NFL assistant since 1994. He gets his first head-coaching job for a franchise that bottomed out with a 4-12 season complete with mind-boggling front-office decisions. Culley still has Deshaun Watson, but that future is uncertain. This is a tough job.

Last year: NR
Record: 0-0
Playoffs: 0-0

Campbell played 11 seasons in the NFL and served as the Saints tight ends coach since 2016. He has been the most quotable first-year coach in the offseason, and he faces the ever-present challenge of turning the Lions into a real contender. Will Campbell bring out the best in Jared Goff? That is the key to the first-year reset.

Source: Read Full Article