The 2022 NFL offseason was full of big-name movement, and one look around the league confirms it: among the 32 teams, literally more than half of them will enter the year with new pairings at the most important positions. A whopping 17 different clubs will debut new quarterback-head coaching duos. As you may have guessed, some are more promising than others.
Here, we're ranking all 17.
A few clarifiers:
- A team just needs one new starting QB or head coach to qualify (e.g. Daniel Jones has been the Giants' QB for years, but he represents a new duo alongside new hire Brian Daboll). Surprisingly, only one team has both a new QB and HC.
- We're ranking the duos, not their respective teams. That said, QB-HC duos can be a good indicator of a team's standing. Chances are, if your favorite team's pairing is high on the list, they're better positioned to overcome other weaknesses.
- This is a 2022 ranking more than a "draft." We'd much rather gamble on Trevor Lawrence or Trey Lance for the long term, for example, but Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins are already proven starters.
Without further ado, the rundown:
Note: * = new QB/HC
1. Buccaneers: Tom Brady (QB), Todd Bowles (HC)*
TB12 seals it. Bowles is not the proven winner as a head man that Bruce Arians was, but the defense is his game, which basically just means Brady and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich are running the other side. And you can't do much better than Brady, even as he approaches 45. His aura alone is championship-caliber.
2. Broncos: Russell Wilson (QB)*, Nathaniel Hackett (HC)*
The only totally new duo on the list, they represent the brightest beacon of hope for Denver since Peyton Manning in 2012. Wilson shoulders most of the load here; even if he isn't at his peak, he remains one of the most poised dual threats and deep throwers in the game. Hackett, by nature of being an Aaron Rodgers favorite, at least has the offensive pedigree.
3. Browns: Deshaun Watson (QB)*, Kevin Stefanski (HC)
This one comes with a monumental asterisk. Watson is a big upgrade on Baker Mayfield, giving Cleveland an athletic, top-10ish pocket passer. It's very possible he and Stefanski will make multiple playoff runs together, especially if the latter gets back to a run-centric approach. But Watson's legal issues could derail his availability and/or leadership both now and for the long haul.
4. Colts: Matt Ryan (QB)*, Frank Reich (HC)
Both Ryan and Reich have straddled the line of passable production as of late, and in that way they might be perfect for each other. The former is no longer an elite arm, but he's generally reliable. Paired with a coach who's logged three winning seasons and two postseason berths in four years despite annual QB change, they should at least headline a wild-card run.
5. Vikings: Kirk Cousins (QB), Kevin O'Connell (HC)*
No one's betting on Cousins to headline a championship run, but for all the flak he gets, he's still a borderline top-10 passer with underrated efficiency and big-play potential. O'Connell is a relative unknown, but his resume as a former QB and Sean McVay assistant at least makes him a more promising partner for Cousins than the old-school Mike Zimmer.
6. Raiders: Derek Carr (QB), Josh McDaniels (HC)*
Like Cousins, Carr doesn't have the track record as a big-game winner to justify confidence in a title run, and frankly, neither does McDaniels, even coming from the vaunted Patriots program. How much did he actually learn from his failed first try as a head man? Only time will tell. Still, between the two, you're talking about guys who've done their jobs well more often than not.
7. Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence (QB), Doug Pederson (HC)*
Surprised they're so high? Try to remember how unanimously beloved Lawrence was coming out of college just one year ago. Tools-wise, he's all there, and now he's got a coach in Pederson who's proven he can get the best out of young QBs and/or rosters recovering from broken locker rooms. The growing pains are inevitable, but the match makes lots of sense on paper.
8. Steelers: Kenny Pickett (QB)*, Mike Tomlin (HC)
Is Pickett more serviceable than special? If so, he might still be an improvement on the aging Ben Roethlisberger, who slowed Tomlin's persistent playoff teams the last two years. Again, the ceiling at this stage might be a wild-card bid. But that's more than many teams can ask for. Tomlin has literally never had a losing season in 15 years on the job.
9. 49ers: Trey Lance (QB)*, Kyle Shanahan (HC)
This one obviously won't apply if San Francisco retains Jimmy Garoppolo and once again delays the takeover of their most prized 2021 addition. Should Lance actually start, however, he'll be a thrilling, if unpredictable, centerpiece for the run-centric Shanahan, whose teams tend to either drastically exceed or drastically fail to meet expectations.
10. Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa (QB), Mike McDaniel (HC)*
Tua's been OK so far -- nothing crazy on either end of the spectrum. But his tendency for short-area throws should match well with McDaniel, who excelled at scheming up run-based attacks -- and simply getting the ball in play-makers' hands -- as a Shanahan assistant in San Francisco. The question is, what's their ceiling, and how quickly can they reach it?
11. Bears: Justin Fields (QB), Matt Eberflus (HC)*
This is an instance of a curious setup actually impacting a young QB; unlike in Jacksonville, where Trevor Lawrence at least has the offensive resume of Doug Pederson to lean upon, Fields has to nurse his wounds from 2021 under Eberflus, who may keep their defense sharp but is not in town to be a QB whisperer. Doesn't mean the marriage can't work; it just feels lackluster in 2022.
12. Commanders: Carson Wentz (QB)*, Ron Rivera (HC)
Wentz is essentially on his last shot to lock down a permanent QB1 gig. The concern is he's just too volatile; his highs are genuinely admirable, but his lows can sink an offense. Rivera certainly helps keep the team grounded with his proven leadership, but he's not exactly a model of recent success, either. It's been a half-decade since he won more than seven games.
13. Saints: Jameis Winston (QB), Dennis Allen (HC)*
Allen may be a familiar face in New Orleans, running Sean Payton's defense and briefly filling in for Payton in 2021. But he's not exactly the prototype for a head coach these days: a defensively minded retread. Winston, on the other hand, certainly still has potential, but he's coming off a torn ACL, and his mercurial track record makes it unclear how much he can be trusted.
14. Giants: Daniel Jones (QB), Brian Daboll (HC)*
If anyone can tailor an offense to get the most out of Jones, it might be Daboll, who helped oversee the star trajectory of Josh Allen in Buffalo. Jones, however, lacks the rocket arm and durability of Allen, so you wonder just how much improvement is possible. It's certainly an upgrade from the short-lived Joe Judge era. But Daboll could be primed to headline a new duo in 2023.
15. Seahawks: Geno Smith (QB)*, Pete Carroll (HC)
Try as they might to drum up the possibilities of an old-fashioned approach with Smith or Drew Lock replacing Russell Wilson, the Seahawks will realize during their toughest stretches how important it is to have a franchise talent under center. Carroll is smart enough to keep his team surprisingly competitive, but the ceiling at QB feels too low for any legitimate run.
16. Falcons: Marcus Mariota (QB)*, Arthur Smith (HC)
It's just uninspiring. Yes, it's back to square one of a rebuild post-Matt Ryan, but that doesn't make it any less dull. Whether it's Mariota or rookie Desmond Ridder for much of the year, there's too little of the "it" factor there, and Smith's biggest accomplishment from 2021 may have been properly utilizing Cordarrelle Patterson.
17. Texans: Davis Mills (QB), Lovie Smith (HC)*
Mills on his own wasn't bad as a rookie, considering the circumstances. But he certainly didn't warrant entering 2022 as the unquestioned starter. Smith, on the other hand, may be a good man with good leadership skills, but that didn't stop David Culley from getting canned after one year. At 64, he hasn't posted a winning season since 2012 (!) with the Bears.