Football is a team sport, but two roles in particular have a heavy sway on a team's success: quarterback and head coach. If you possess Chiefs and Patriots, who built -- or still maintain -- recent NFL dynasties thanks to impeccable QB-HC pairings.or play-caller, odds are you'll still need a solid supporting cast to contend for a title. But at least you'll have a running start. Just ask the
There is little debate, going into 2023, which of the NFL's QBs belong in the uppermost tier: Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen are among the bona fide studs under center. But what about the head coaches? Which chief of staff makes the biggest difference with his strategy, his experience, his leadership?
Here's our pecking order of all 32 head coaches going into this season:
32. Matt Eberflus (Bears)
Season: 2nd with CHI, 2nd as HC
Career record: 3-14 | Playoffs: N/A
It's not all Eberflus' fault he debuted with a stripped-down roster, but if you're gonna be a defensive HC in today's NFL, you'd prefer not to shepherd one of the league's worst units on that side of the ball. A big leap from QB Justin Fields would help.
31. Jonathan Gannon (Cardinals)
Season: 1st with ARI, 1st as HC
Career record: N/A | Playoffs: N/A
He's a unique and energetic character, to be sure, and that may help Arizona weather its slow-burn rebuild. But his defensive approach is quite passive, as sore Eagles fans will be quick to note, and he could be working with a barren roster for years.
30. Josh McDaniels (Raiders)
Season: 2nd with LV, 4th as HC
Career record: 17-28 | Playoffs: N/A
We know he can run a Patriots offense, which is probably why he basically remade the old Patriots in Las Vegas this offseason. But adversity has tended to dent, not strengthen, his teams in two different gigs as a head man. And his handpicked new QB, respected but fragile old flame Jimmy Garoppolo, is an extended absence waiting to happen.
29. Arthur Smith (Falcons)
Season: 3rd with ATL, 3rd as HC
Career record: 14-20 | Playoffs: N/A
The man can draw up a ground game, which should only be bolstered by Bijan Robinson's arrival. But his "D" has been consistently porous, he's yet to taste second place in a weak NFC South, and he's now three years in without much of a promising plan at QB, where Desmond Ridder will be tasked with captaining a widely expected breakout.
28. Todd Bowles (Buccaneers)
Season: 2nd with TB, 6th as HC
Career record: 34-50 | Playoffs: 0-1
Here starts the run on respected defensive minds with questionable HC results. Bowles has led two "successful" seasons -- a 10-6 blip with the Jets and last year's sluggish playoff cameo -- and can still guide an aggressive "D." But his safe, predictable approach with everything else threatens to make 2023 even tougher on a lineup now devoid of Tom Brady.
*Note: Bowles also served as interim head coach for the Dolphins in 2011.
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27. Dennis Allen (Saints)
Season: 2nd with NO, 5th as HC
Career record: 15-38 | Playoffs: N/A
Like his NFC South counterpart in Bowles, Allen may be a proven D-coordinator -- a New Orleans mainstay who tends to get the best of his vets. But he also leans conservative in crunch time, and his reunion with QB Derek Carr doesn't necessarily promise more than another wild-card bid, considering the rest of the cast.
26. Robert Saleh (Jets)
Season: 3rd with NYJ, 3rd as HC
Career record: 11-23 | Playoffs: N/A
He oversaw a three-win improvement from Year 1 to Year 2, and he's now got a reasonably well-oiled defensive machine with building blocks like Sauce Gardner. But his offensive decisions and staffing accelerated Zach Wilson's quick flop at QB, leading to Aaron Rodgers' blockbuster arrival. If anyone can skyrocket Saleh's stock, of course, it's the new guy under center.
25. DeMeco Ryans (Texans)
Season: 1st with HOU, 1st as HC
Career record: N/A | Playoffs: N/A
The former star linebacker brought energy and smarts as the 49ers' D-coordinator. Now he's back where his own NFL career started. Supporting QB C.J. Stroud will be key, but no one's ever had anything but praise for Ryans' natural leadership.
24. Shane Steichen (Colts)
Season: 1st with IND, 1st as HC
Career record: N/A | Playoffs: N/A
He's got a potentially tall task on his hands, satisfying owner Jim Irsay while turning raw rookie QB Anthony Richardson into a comfortable NFL passer, and yet Steichen was calm, collected and strategically adaptable shepherding both Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, respectively.
23. Brandon Staley (Chargers)
Season: 3rd with LAC, 3rd as HC
Career record: 19-15 | Playoffs: 0-1
Two years, two winning seasons for Staley as a HC, but even with all-star lineups, his trademark defensive unit has been very mercurial. Worse yet, his teams have folded at the worst possible times, with ugly back-to-back elimination losses in 2021-2022.
22. Dan Campbell (Lions)
Season: 3rd with DET, 3rd as HC
Career record: 17-28-1 | Playoffs: N/A
A walking embodiment of testosterone, Campbell's fiery optimism finally translated to wins in 2022, and his late-year staffing changes helped fuel defensive strides. Now his challenge will be meeting expectations, ensuring QB Jared Goff is protected while the Lions try to capture their first NFC North title in 30 years.
*Note: Campbell also served as interim head coach for the Dolphins in 2015.
21. Ron Rivera (Commanders)
Season: 4th with WAS, 13th as HC
Career record: 98-90-2 | Playoffs: 3-5 (0-1 in Super Bowls)
His fatherly leadership has helped ground an oft-dysfunctional organization, and he knows how to deploy a talented defensive front. But the annual flirtation with middling QBs has a cost. Rivera hasn't led a winning season in six years, and he hasn't coached a playoff victory since 2015, when Cam Newton won MVP and the Panthers made the Super Bowl.
20. Kevin Stefanski (Browns)
Season: 4th with CLE, 4th as HC
Career record: 26-24 | Playoffs: 1-1
He perfectly catered to Baker Mayfield in a promising debut playoff run, but since then, things have gradually gone downhill. Stefanski's done it long enough to spark an offensive turnaround, but his trajectory depends almost entirely on a rebound by Deshaun Watson, the polarizing QB for whom he and the franchise pushed in all the chips.
19. Mike McCarthy (Cowboys)
Season: 4th with DAL, 17th as HC
Career record: 155-97-2 | Playoffs: 11-10 (1-0 in Super Bowls)
It takes more than just an elite QB to oversee 10 different double-digit winning seasons across two teams, so McCarthy deserves more credit than he gets. What keeps him from the upper echelon here is the recent crunch-time resume: an old-school play-caller with a conservative bent, he hasn't guided any of his elite rosters to an NFC title game appearance since 2016.
18. Mike McDaniel (Dolphins)
Season: 2nd with MIA, 2nd as HC
Career record: 9-8 | Playoffs: 0-1
In terms of calculated charisma, this guy's up near the top. His 49ers-like script certainly helped unlock Tua Tagovailoa early in 2022, and Vic Fangio's arrival as his new defensive coordinator should go a long way. The key is how he manages Tua's next steps, and whether he can -- or should -- trust the young QB to stay upright and survive a tough AFC East.
17. Kevin O'Connell (Vikings)
Season: 2nd with MIN, 2nd as HC
Career record: 13-4 | Playoffs: 0-1
His friendly aura was instantly a good fit for Minnesota (and a locker room coming off Mike Zimmer's tenure), and his more contemporary offensive approach wisely allowed Kirk Cousins to keep slinging it, feeding Justin Jefferson and keeping the club more resilient than expected. With a transitioning roster, however, it'll be tough for him to replicate, let alone build off, his debut.
16. Frank Reich (Panthers)
Season: 1st with CAR, 6th as HC
Career record: 40-33-1 | Playoffs: 1-2
Unceremoniously exiled by the Colts in 2022, it's a small marvel Reich kept Indy above water with such annual QB turnover. Though he's yet to run a true contender, managing one playoff win in just over four years as a HC, he's a widely respected leader with a championship offensive pedigree, making him an ideal mentor for No. 1 pick Bryce Young and the upstart Panthers.
15. Brian Daboll (Giants)
Season: 2nd with NYG, 2nd as HC
Career record: 9-7-1 | Playoffs: 1-1
One year isn't enough to crown him the next big thing, but Daboll took a fledgling roster almost entirely devoid of proven offensive weapons, only to revive both Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley while securing an upset road playoff win. A strong run game won't be enough to lift them all the way, but his infectious confidence has brought new life to what had become a stale franchise.
14. Zac Taylor (Bengals)
Season: 5th with CIN, 5th as HC
Career record: 28-36-1 | Playoffs: 5-2 (0-1 in Super Bowls)
There isn't a good spot for Taylor on this list. On one hand, his record unsurprisingly looks glaringly different before and after Joe Burrow's arrival. He deserves credit for letting his QB lead the way and shepherding two different AFC title-game bids. But there isn't necessarily one thing he does as an offensive mind that separates him from the pack.
13. Mike Vrabel (Titans)
Season: 6th with TEN, 6th as HC
Career record: 48-34 | Playoffs: 2-3
His commitment to a retro, bruising, run-first approach is both his blessing and curse: the man's reliance on vets like Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry hasn't really yielded more than early-round playoff bids, and yet year in and year out, he gets more out of his physical teams than you'd expect, always good for at least wild-card contention in the AFC South.
12. Nick Sirianni (Eagles)
Season: 3rd with PHI, 3rd as HC
Career record: 23-11 | Playoffs: 2-2 (0-1 in Super Bowls)
In two quick years, the ex-Colts assistant has gone from uniquely quirky to impressively brash, adopting a league-pacing aggression that mirrors his city's reputation. He enjoyed a loaded roster courtesy of Howie Roseman during his 2022 Super Bowl bid, but if he keeps Jalen Hurts on his MVP trajectory, he'll keep ascending the ranks with ease.
11. Matt LaFleur (Packers)
Season: 5th with GB, 5th as HC
Career record: 47-19 | Playoffs: 2-3
Yes, he had an MVP-level Aaron Rodgers for part of his tenure, but he gets too much flak for a guy who's literally won 69 percent of games coached, including playoffs. His makeshift 2022 attack featuring a flailing Rodgers wasn't too encouraging, but his ability to draw up a ground game bodes well for new QB Jordan Love, whose arm might just revitalize the entire program.
10. Doug Pederson (Jaguars)
Season: 2nd with JAX, 7th as HC
Career record: 51-45-1 | Playoffs: 5-3 (1-0 in Super Bowls)
Just like in Philadelphia, where he led the injury-riddled Eagles over Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, Pederson is rarely mentioned among the game's most trustworthy HCs, but he should be. His career record may hover above .500, but his teams never quit and almost always save their best for last, with his bold situational strategy paving the way. In one year on the job, he's already redefined the Jaguars' trajectory, with Trevor Lawrence on track for MVP candidacies under his watch.
9. Pete Carroll (Seahawks)
Season: 14th with SEA, 18th as HC
Career record: 161-112-1 | Playoffs: 11-11 (1-1 in Super Bowls)
It's been almost a decade since he's advanced past the Divisional Round, and his strong allegiance to a run-first offense only works long-term if the QB and/or defense is elite. That said, unlocking Geno Smith in 2022 was a surprise feather for his staff's cap, and his personal sway on the culture is a big reason Seattle's at least tasted the postseason in nine of the last 11 years.
8. Sean Payton (Broncos)
Season: 1st with DEN, 16th as HC
Career record: 152-89 | Playoffs: 9-8 (1-0 in Super Bowls)
If anyone can rejuvenate Russell Wilson and restore the Broncos in the process, it's probably Payton. Regular-season stardom didn't translate to January results as often as you might like late in his Saints tenure, but he got the best of all his QBs, from Drew Brees to Teddy Bridgewater to Jameis Winston. And his stern vision should ensure there's legit buy-in from all onboard.
7. Sean McDermott (Bills)
Season: 7th with BUF, 7th as HC
Career record: 62-35 | Playoffs: 4-5
It's fitting that he hails from the Andy Reid tree, because his run as Bills HC has been somewhat reminiscent of his old boss' first steps, guiding elite contenders who can't quite get over the hump. Poke at the runner-up playoff record if you wish, but four straight years of 10+ wins, MVP-level growth from Josh Allen and consistently good "D" means he belongs in the upper class.
6. Mike Tomlin (Steelers)
Season: 17th with PIT, 17th as HC
Career record: 163-93-2 | Playoffs: 8-9 (1-1 in Super Bowls)
Much like Sean Payton, he's searching for the postseason glory of old, going just 3-8 in the playoffs since 2010's Super Bowl loss. And his ground-and-pound philosophy tends to be better at producing wild-card fighters than Lombardi contenders. But no one will ever count his teams out, both because of his unwavering fortitude and unmatched track record of 16 straight non-losing seasons.
5. John Harbaugh (Ravens)
Season: 16th with BAL, 16th as HC
Career record: 147-95 | Playoffs: 11-9 (1-0 in Super Bowls)
The recent playoff results haven't been overly encouraging (notice a theme here?); his Ravens have won just a single postseason contest in the last eight years. But his last half-decade has proven he's more adaptable than most, building around Lamar Jackson while maintaining a stingy "D." Should Jackson make another leap of his own, Harbaugh could finally contend for a second ring.
4. Sean McVay (Rams)
Season: 7th with LAR, 7th as HC
Career record: 60-38 | Playoffs: 7-3 (1-1 in Super Bowls)
Recency bias would say he deserves a steep drop after a hapless 5-12 campaign ruined by injuries, and certainly L.A.'s transitioning roster could mean more bumps are on the horizon. But this is still one of the game's cleanest offensive schemers; his setup enabled Matthew Stafford's Super Bowl run and previously almost did the same for Jared Goff.
3. Bill Belichick (Patriots)
Season: 24th with NE, 29th as HC
Career record: 298-152 | Playoffs: 31-13 (6-3 in Super Bowls)
All-time great? Obviously. Still-respected defensive strategist? No doubt. But for all his stringent and resilient qualities, Belichick has to be held responsible for the 25-26 mark (including playoffs) since Tom Brady's exit. His curious staffing and personnel choices hurt the Patriots' offensive growth in 2022, and he's still betting on a control-the-clock approach with an unproven QB. The reason he's still this high? To this day, no opponent comes to New England expecting anything less than a Grade-A challenge.
2. Kyle Shanahan (49ers)
Season: 7th with SF, 7th as HC
Career record: 52-46 | Playoffs: 6-3 (0-1 in Super Bowls)
Three losing seasons in six years, plus back-to-back NFC Championship losses, proves he's not a cure-all for his own team. But he's awfully close to it. Consider that in the last four years alone, San Francisco has reached the conference title game three times; the one time they didn't, QB Jimmy Garoppolo missed 10 games. When QB injuries struck even harder in 2022, his space-creating designs allowed rookie Brock Purdy's seamless takeover, plus Christian McCaffrey's seamless deadline integration. A talented "D" has helped, but again, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone better at single-handedly drawing up such effortless offensive production, which is frankly what matters most in today's NFL.
1. Andy Reid (Chiefs)
Season: 11th with KC, 24th as HC
Career record: 247-138-1 | Playoffs: 22-16 (2-2 in Super Bowls)
The gold standard. Whereas Belichick may own this spot on the all-time leaderboard, Reid is far and away the best at what he does in 2023. He's not perfect (insert tired joke about clock management). But he and Patrick Mahomes are the modern-day equivalent of what Belichick and Brady were for the Patriots, except with much more explosive creativity. Like his naturally gifted QB, his biggest threat these days is probably boredom. His Chiefs have won at least 11 games in eight of his 10 seasons since he left the Eagles, and somehow the playoff record is even better: five straight AFC title-game appearances, with two Super Bowl trophies in the last four years. Anyone taking Reid or his guys lightly at any point in the season is doomed to suffer the consequences.