CBS Sports expert ranks every 2024 NFL coaching staff

CBS Sports expert ranks every 2024 NFL coaching staff
CBS Sports expert ranks every 2024 NFL coaching staff

Coaching matters in the NFL. Andy Reid once again found his way to the Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs and put his superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes in position to continue to build on his already-remarkable career, while other coaches like Kevin Stefanski of the Cleveland Browns overcame adversity to reach double-digit wins and make the playoffs. We were also introduced to a couple of new head coaches who hit the ground running, such as DeMeco Ryans of the Houston Texans and Shane Steichen of the Indianapolis Colts

Now that almost every NFL team has finalized their head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator positions, let's break down all 32 of the coaching units and place them into tiers. Who are the best of the best, and which staffs could be entering their final seasons together? Let's start with the best in the NFL

CREAM OF THE CROP

(The top coaching units entering the new season, and for good reason.)

Head coach: John Harbaugh | Offensive coordinator: Todd Monken | Defensive coordinatorZach Orr

Harbaugh is undoubtedly one of the best head coaches in the NFL, and the addition of Monken on the offensive side helped Lamar Jackson win his second MVP. Mike Macdonald was another great coach for Harbaugh as he fielded the best defense in the league this year. That led to him being one of the hottest head-coaching prospects, and he has now taken over for Pete Carroll in Seattle. Meanwhile, Orr, who is a former Raven linebacker, appears to be a solid replacement, having been with the organization for several seasons now.

Cleveland Browns

Head coach: Kevin Stefanski | Offensive coordinator: Ken Dorsey  Defensive coordinator: Jim Schwartz

Stefanski was the NFL's Coach of the Year in 2023, and for good reason. Cleveland was decimated by injuries, including at quarterback. But the Browns still went 11-6 and made the playoffs. The Browns became the first team since the 1970 NFL merger to play a playoff game without their Week 1 starting quarterback, running back, left tackle and right tackle. Browns players who consisted of 27% of the team's salary cap ended the year on injured reserve, which was the highest of any playoff team. 

Dorsey called plays for the Bills before getting replaced midway through last season, and joins Cleveland, which wanted to shake up things on the offensive side of the ball, so we will see how improved Deshaun Watson is in this newer system. Schwartz is one of the best defensive coordinators in the league. Overall, a good staff that helped this team stay in the win column in 2023. 

Head coach: Dan Campbell | Offensive coordinator: Ben Johnson | Defensive coordinator: Aaron Glenn

The Lions are going to run it back yet again with Campbell, Johnson and Glenn. Detroit lived up to the hype in 2023 by matching a franchise-high 12 regular-season wins, and the Lions came one good half of football away from playing in the Super Bowl. Johnson and Glenn were both regarded as two of the more popular candidates on the coaching carousel, but ultimately, both are back in Detroit for 2024. Glenn's defense wasn't one of the best units statistically, but NFL players ranked him the No. 1 defensive coordinator on the second annual NFLPA Team Report Card project

With Campbell in charge and consistency across the board at coordinator, the Lions without a doubt have one of the best coaching staffs in the NFL. 

Houston Texans

Head coach: DeMeco Ryans | Offensive coordinator: Bobby Slowik | Defensive coordinator: Matt Burke

Maybe a hot take, but I really like what the Texans have going for them. First-year head coach DeMeco Ryans was a finalist for Coach of the Year after his thought-to-be rebuilding Texans won the AFC South, and even won a playoff game. First-year offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik helped C.J. Stroud win Offensive Rookie of the Year after a historic campaign, and he also got the most out of playmakers like Nico Collins and Tank Dell. Slowik was a head-coaching prospect this offseason, but he's back for 2024. The future is bright in Houston. 

Is having the Texans staff listed as cream of the crop after just one year fair? Maybe not, but call it a projection. 

Kansas City Chiefs

Head coach: Andy Reid | Offensive coordinator: Matt Nagy | Defensive coordinator: Steve Spagnuolo

The reigning Super Bowl champions have to be on top when it comes to coaching staffs. Andy Reid just became the fifth head coach to win three Super Bowls, and is the longest-tenured head coach to win the Super Bowl as well. Matt Nagy is a solid offensive assistant who filled Eric Bieniemy's shoes, and then defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was one of the best coaches of the 2023 season. The veteran defensive coordinator just won his fourth Super Bowl, which are the most Super Bowl victories ever by a coordinator in NFL history. Having Mahomes helps, but the Chiefs coaching staff is elite. 

PRETTY GOOD, BUT COME WITH SOME QUESTIONS

(These are good coaching staffs, but they can't be described as the best of the best for one reason or another.)

Head coach: Zac Taylor | Offensive coordinator: Dan Pitcher | Defensive coordinator: Lou Anarumo

The Bengals lost offensive coordinator Brian Callahan to the Tennessee Titans, but this is Taylor's offense. Cincinnati has won at least nine games in three straight seasons now, despite losing Joe Burrow to a season-ending wrist injury in 2023. Jake Browning stepped in and went 4-3 as the new starter, winning three games in a row. He finished the 2023 campaign ranked first in completion percentage (70.4%) and tied for fourth in yards per attempt (8.0). That's a credit to the offensive coaching staff. As for the defensive side of the ball, Anarumo is a respected defensive coordinator, but his unit finished second worst in 2023. 

Green Bay Packers

Head coach: Matt LaFleur | Offensive coordinator: Adam Stenavich | Defensive coordinator: Jeff Hafley

LaFleur's .675 win percentage ranks best among current NFL head coaches if we discount Jim Harbaugh's four NFL seasons. Some thought Aaron Rodgers carried LaFleur early on, but he and new quarterback Jordan Love led the Packers to a winning record and a playoff spot after Green Bay missed the postseason the previous year. The Packers even upset the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas on Super Wild Card Weekend, and then gave the eventual NFC champion 49ers a run for their money in the divisional round. The Packers became the youngest team to win a playoff game since 1970, and went 7-3 in their last 10 games after starting 3-6. That's a credit to the coaching staff.

The Packers were historically young, and still made the playoffs. They recorded the most receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns by first- or second-year players in a season in NFL history! The Packers defense struggled at times in 2023, leading to the firing of Joe Barry. In comes Hafley, a defensive backs specialist who most recently served as the head coach at Boston College. We'll see if he's an upgrade.

Head coach: Sean McVay | Offensive coordinator: Mike LaFleur | Defensive coordinator: Chris Shula

McVay is an elite NFL head coach, but his assistants are a bit unproven. LaFleur will soon enter his second year as offensive coordinator of the Rams. He previously was with the New York Jets as their OC, and the 49ers' passing game coordinator for a handful of years before that. Shula, the grandson of the legendary Don Shula, is a first-year defensive coordinator, having worked as a defensive assistant for the Rams since 2017.

Head coach: Mike McDaniel | Offensive coordinator: Frank Smith | Defensive coordinator: Anthony Weaver

McDaniel is one of the most intriguing head coaches in the NFL that knows how to scheme on offense, but his Dolphins fell off at the end of the regular season, and looked completely off while playing in the cold conditions Missouri provided. While he's not the architect of this offense, Smith was voted the top offensive coordinator by NFL players this past season, and new defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver, formerly the Ravens' assistant head coach, was a head-coaching candidate and a sought-after defensive assistant. Miami has to be more consistent, and finish out the regular season strong. The Dolphins also defeated just one playoff team this year. 

Head coach: Nick Sirianni | Offensive coordinator: Kellen Moore | Defensive coordinator: Vic Fangio

Sirianni's Eagles took a step backward when they lost Shane Steichen and Jonathan Gannon, as Brian Johnson and Sean Desai/Matt Patricia couldn't fill their shoes. All three of those assistants are no longer with the team. Philly swung for the fences with its coordinator hires in Moore and Fangio. However, Moore couldn't save Brandon Staley in Los Angeles, and then Fangio did not work out in Miami. Can these two help the Eagles get back to the Super Bowl? 

Head coach: Mike Tomlin | Offensive coordinator: Arthur Smith | Defensive coordinator: Teryl Austin

Mike Tomlin has STILL not had a losing season as head coach of the Steelers, which is impressive considering his offense was one of the worst in the league in 2023. Mason Rudolph and Najee Harris did step up late in the year, though. The hiring of Arthur Smith is a controversial one. On one hand, he couldn't get the most out of his talented weapons in Atlanta, but on the other, he's had success as an offensive coordinator -- especially when it came to scheming for the run. As for Austin, he's been a defensive coordinator for three different NFL teams now. Pittsburgh was tied in having the No. 6 scoring defense in 2023 (19.1 points allowed per game). 

Head coach: Kyle Shanahan | Offensive coordinator: N/A | Defensive coordinator: N/A

Kyle Shanahan is basically the 49ers' offensive coordinator, and San Francisco is now in the market for a defensive leader after firing Steve Wilks. Some claim Wilks was a "scapegoat," but who is to say the 49ers wouldn't have made a move even if they won the Super Bowl? The 49ers defense was not as good as in years past, and this unit even allowed the most rushing yards per game (159.0) in a postseason by a team entering the Super Bowl since the 1966 Green Bay Packers.

I think Shanahan is one of the best offensive minds in the NFL, but he now officially has a reputation for blowing double-digit leads in the Super Bowl, and there are some questionable decisions he makes as well. Whether that's not utilizing timeouts at the end of the first half against Kansas City, or electing to receive in overtime. It's also hard to rate this staff given that they don't have an offensive or defensive coordinator. 

PROMISING OUTLOOK

(It's too early to tell for these coaching staffs, but there's reason for optimism with each of them.)

Indianapolis Colts

Head coach: Shane Steichen | Offensive coordinator: Jim Bob Cooter | Defensive coordinator: Gus Bradley

Steichen made an immediate impact as the Colts finished tied for 10th in points per game (23.3) after averaging 17.0 points per game last season. Only the Denver Broncos averaged fewer points in 2022. Steichen did all this while not having his starting quarterback for the majority of the season, and he even turned Gardner Minshew into a Pro Bowl alternate. The Colts failed in their "win-and-in" regular-season finale vs. Houston, and need to be better defensively in 2024. But this is a franchise that is on the right track. 

Head coach: Doug Pederson | Offensive coordinator: Press Taylor | Defensive coordinator: Ryan Nielsen

Pederson took the Jaguars from 3-14 to 9-8 and a playoff berth in his first season as head coach, but followed that year up with another 9-8 season in which Jacksonville missed the postseason. The Jags became just the sixth team since 2000 to miss the playoffs after starting the season 8-3. It was quite the collapse that culminated with an upset loss to the Titans in Week 18, which kept Jacksonville out of the postseason. The play of the defense and injuries were main reasons for the Jags' late-season struggles, as Trevor Lawrence was basically banged up from head to toe. 

We know Pederson has a Super Bowl ring, but maybe the main reason why I have the Jags in the "promising" category is because they replaced defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell with Ryan Nielsen. Nielsen had a hand in the Atlanta Falcons' defensive turnaround last season, taking what was the sixth-worst unit in 2022, to No. 11.

Head coach: Antonio Pierce | Offensive coordinator: Luke Getsy | Defensive coordinator: Patrick Graham

Raiders fans got their wish when Pierce was retained to serve as Vegas' full-time head coach. He went 5-4 as the Raiders' interim lead man, which included a historic defeat of the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 15, and an upset of the Chiefs in Kansas City on Christmas Day. Getsy is not viewed as one of the elite offensive coordinators in the NFL, but he is familiar with Davante Adams from their time together in Green Bay. Meanwhile, Graham's defense ranked in the top half of the league with Pierce's influence, and finished No. 9 in scoring defense with 19.5 points allowed per game. 

Los Angeles Chargers

Head coach: Jim Harbaugh | Offensive coordinator: Greg Roman | Defensive coordinator: Jesse Minter

How could you not be optimistic as a Chargers fan with Harbaugh now in charge? He went 44-19-1 during his four seasons with the 49ers, and was successful at Michigan -- leaving the ranks a college football champion. Maybe Roman wasn't the sexiest hire at offensive coordinator, but he's someone who has familiarity with Harbaugh. The same can be said of Minter, who has never been a defensive coordinator in the NFL. Still, the former Michigan DC did have the No. 2 defense in college football last year, and the No. 1 scoring defense, as the Wolverines surrendered just 9.5 points per game!

Head coach: Kevin O'Connell | Offensive coordinator: Wes Phillips | Defensive coordinator: Brian Flores

O'Connell went 13-4 in his first season as head coach, and 7-10 in his second. However, his Vikings squad was hit hard by injuries in 2023, including star wide receiver Justin Jefferson and quarterback Kirk Cousins. It was an uphill battle for Minnesota, but two years into the O'Connell era, you can't HATE what you've seen despite the 0-1 postseason record. Phillips has been the offensive coordinator for both seasons, and then Flores helped orchestrate a defensive turnaround in 2023. He put Danielle Hunter in position to find success, as the defensive end recorded a whopping 16.5 sacks. The quarterback question looms large in Minnesota, but I lean toward "promising" when it comes to the Vikings' staff.

NEW WITH PLENTY TO PROVE

(It's not easy to rank the new faces in new places. Some of these hires will turn out to be great decisions, while others may be regrettable.)

Atlanta Falcons

Head coach: Raheem Morris | Offensive coordinatorZac Robinson | Defensive coordinator: Jimmy Lake

The Falcons passed on Bill Belichick and Mike Vrabel for Raheem Morris, who is a defensive-minded head coach who has consistently won over his players. Maybe some fans in Atlanta were hoping for an offensive-minded coach who could get the most out of Bijan RobinsonDrake London and Kyle Pitts, but Zac Robinson could be the one to do that. The former quarterback worked his way up the coaching ladder quickly in L.A., and now he gets a huge opportunity to run that side of the ball in Atlanta. Lake was an interesting hire at defensive coordinator, as he was with the Rams for just one year as an assistant. He has a preexisting relationship with Morris, having worked with him in Tampa Bay two separate times. 

Head coach: Dave Canales | Offensive coordinator: Brad Idzik | Defensive coordinator: Ejiro Evero

The Panthers brought in Canales to help with Bryce Young. The 42-year-old quarterback whisperer helped Geno Smith win Comeback Player of the Year in 2022, and got Baker Mayfield back on track with what was a career season in Tampa. Idzik is a first-year offensive coordinator who followed Canales from Florida. Meanwhile, Evero staying in Carolina is a huge win for the Panthers. 

Head coachJerod Mayo | Offensive coordinator: Alex Van Pelt | Defensive coordinator: DeMarcus Covington

Maybe Mayo is the perfect Bill Belichick replacement. Maybe his inexperience will show early. His new defensive coordinator is the Patriots' former defensive line and outside linebackers coach who joined the franchise in 2017, and then the 53-year-old Van Pelt received somewhat of a promotion going from Cleveland to New England. This offense is going to be his, as opposed to Stefanski's. 

Head coach: Mike Macdonald | Offensive coordinator: Ryan Grubb | Defensive coordinator: Aden Durde

Seattle ditched the 72-year-old Pete Carroll for 36-year-old Mike Macdonald, making the former Ravens defensive coordinator the youngest head coach in the NFL. Macdonald appeared to be a sneaky hot candidate who was also wanted by the Commanders, and you can understand why. Baltimore's defense ranked first in the league in points per game allowed (16.5), sacks (60) and takeaways (31) in 2023. Harbaugh made a good decision when he stole him away from Michigan in 2022. 

Grubb was at the University of Alabama for a total of three seconds before taking the job in Seattle as its new offensive coordinator. He was the offensive coordinator/assistant head coach/QBs coach for Michael Penix Jr. at Washington this past season. It's his first NFL job. As for Durde, he was the defensive line coach for the Cowboys from 2021-23, and has received a big promotion to help Macdonald on the defensive side of things. 

Tennessee Titans

Head coach: Brian Callahan | Offensive coordinator: Nick Holz | Defensive coordinator: Dennard Wilson

The Titans are going young in 2024. Callahan will call plays for the first time in his career, while Holz will be his assistant. Wilson was a hot candidate on the defensive side of the ball, and he has an impressive track record working with defensive backs. He helped the Eagles get to the Super Bowl with the No. 1 passing defense in 2022, and helped the Ravens become the first team to ever lead or co-lead the NFL in scoring defense, sacks and takeaways this past season. There's reason for optimism in Music City, but it's tough to figure out where this staff ranks since they are all brand new. 

Head coach: Dan Quinn | Offensive coordinator: Kliff Kingsbury | Defensive coordinator: Joe Whitt Jr.

Maybe Quinn wasn't the No. 1 coaching candidate on Commanders fans' big boards, but he's a great defensive mind who knows how to assemble a staff. Remember that 2016 staff he put together in Atlanta? Kyle Shanahan, Raheem Morris, Matt LaFleur, Mike LaFleur, Mike McDaniel and Jeff Ulbrich. 

It didn't seem like Kingsbury was the most popular offensive coordinator hire, either, but I'm on board with it. He improved the Arizona Cardinals' win total by three wins in each of the two seasons following his first year in 2019, before things fell apart in 2022. Arizona finished with a top-10 offense in two of his four seasons as lead man. Maybe Kingsbury will be a better offensive coordinator than head coach.

Whitt is a longtime pass game coordinator/secondary coach who worked under Quinn for one season in Atlanta, and then three years in Dallas. The Cowboys secondary has featured some of the best playmakers at the cornerback position, including guys like Trevon Diggs and DaRon Bland

2024 TO BE DEFINING SEASON

(What happens this upcoming season will directly lead to how we view these staffs.)

Arizona Cardinals

Head coach: Jonathan Gannon | Offensive coordinator: Drew Petzing | Defensive coordinator: Nick Rallis

The Cardinals are tough to place on this list. They were more competitive than the NFL world probably thought they would be in 2023, and that was in large part due to their very young coaching staff. The 36-year-old Petzing had the No. 4 rushing offense last year, while Rallis just got his feet wet as the youngest defensive coordinator in the NFL at 30-years-old. Maybe Gannon came off a bit goofy at first in the Cardinals' social media videos, but he's not Michael Scott running "The Office." Despite the 4-13 final record, Arizona had the highest strength of victory in the league (.588). Three of the Cards' four victories came against playoff teams. It will be fun to get more of an understanding with this team after another offseason and draft. 

Buffalo Bills

Head coach: Sean McDermott | Offensive coordinator: Joe Brady | Defensive coordinator: Bobby Babich

McDermott registered his fifth straight double-digit win season, but Buffalo was ousted from the playoffs at home for the second straight year. Brady was an upgrade at offensive coordinator, as he helped the Bills win five straight games and clinch the AFC East. McDermott is bringing back the "defensive coordinator" position for 2024, and has promoted Babich from his position of linebackers coach. He has been with the Bills since 2017. 

There are probably fans out there who believe Buffalo has reached its ceiling with McDermott. There may be a different kind of pressure facing him this season.

Dallas Cowboys

Head coach: Mike McCarthy | Offensive coordinator: Brian Schottenheimer | Defensive coordinator: Mike Zimmer

The Cowboys are kind of exactly who we thought they were. They dominated in the regular season, and then embarrassed themselves in the playoffs. McCarthy is 42-25 as head coach in Dallas, but 1-3 in the postseason. He kept his job this offseason, but has just one more year remaining on his contract. To make matters worse, Dallas lost defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to the rival Commanders, and replaced him with 67-year-old Mike Zimmer. Will the Cowboys get over the hump in 2024? What does McCarthy have to do to be back in 2025? 

Denver Broncos

Head coach: Sean Payton | Offensive coordinator: Joe Lombardi | Defensive coordinator: Vance Joseph

Payton is another head coach with a Super Bowl ring, but what did we really learn about him in 2023? With how Payton called games, he never really looked comfortable with Russell Wilson as his quarterback, which is why it appears the former Seahawk will be playing somewhere else in 2024. This offseason is about acquiring a quarterback Payton has faith in, and wants to work with.

The Vance Joseph arc was one of the craziest roller-coaster rides of the NFL season. Denver started the season 1-5, which included a loss to the Dolphins in which the Broncos surrendered 70 points. Then, the defense rebounded and actually became the driving force behind a five-game win streak that got the Broncos to 6-5. I guess it was a good thing that Payton didn't fire Joseph in Miami. 

Payton was brought in by Denver to get the franchise back to the playoffs, something that hasn't happened since 2015, when the Broncos won the Super Bowl with the ghost of Peyton Manning.

Head coach: Brian Daboll | Offensive coordinator: Mike Kafka | Defensive coordinator: Shane Bowen

The Giants had to deal with plenty of injuries, but 2023 was pretty disastrous for former Coach of the Year Brian Daboll. Other than all the losses on the field, there was also reportedly tension between Daboll and his staff, which is a reason why Wink Martindale is now in the college ranks. Kafka received head-coaching interviews this offseason, but is back on staff. Defensively, the Giants brought on former Titans defensive coordinator Shane Bowen after missing out on Dennard Wilson, who actually took Bowen's spot in Tennessee.

New York Jets

Head coach: Robert Saleh | Offensive coordinator: Nathaniel Hackett | Defensive coordinator: Jeff Ulbrich

Head coach Robert Saleh is now 18-33 as head coach of the Jets, and he hasn't made the playoffs yet. New York thought things were about to turn around with the acquisition of Aaron Rodgers, but the four-time NFL MVP tore his Achilles just a handful of plays into the 2023 season. The Jets ignored the backup quarterback position, instead putting their faith yet again in the young Zach Wilson. Yet again, the former No. 2 overall pick struggled, while the quarterback the Jets started in 2022 in Joe Flacco hopped on with the Browns and won Comeback Player of the Year. Saleh is a good defensive mind, but he's bungled the quarterback position multiple seasons now. 

Part of the blame should be assigned to Hackett for how bad the offense was. The 18 offensive touchdowns scored were the fewest by any team since the 2012 Chiefs. But, as we know, this offense was built for Rodgers. As for the defense, that side of the ball was elite for the Jets. New

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