[Corrections and clarifications: An earlier version of the story below misstated the number of recent championship game appearances by the Packers under Mike McCarthy.]
Which NFL coach would you take for the next few years? These NFL coaching rankings are trying to not only look back, but are also forward-looking. Thus, I am including coaches who have not coached a game yet. I’m trying to predict which coaches I would want and who I think are most likely to have success in the near future and still be coaching in four years
#1 Bill Belichick
Bill Belichick has seven Super Bowl appearances; the rest of the coaches in the NFL combined this year have 13. He’s a clear #1 and doesn’t appear to be slowing his run of dominance at all. Here’s some perspective on how ridiculous it is. At the same age as Bill Belichick now, Tom Landry had been forced out in Dallas after three straight losing seasons, and Don Shula was in his final season in Miami, over a decade removed from his last Super Bowl appearance.
#2 Pete Carroll
The old guys are dominating the top of the coaching ranks. Pete Carroll seems like a young 65, and the Seahawks have won at least 10 games in five straight years. Not bad for a guy that was once fired after one season with the Jets.
#3 Mike Tomlin
Mike Tomlin is still only 45 years old, has 103 career wins, and has never had a losing season in Pittsburgh. He bristles at perception as a “player’s coach” but he’s more than ably succeeded the Cowher decade for more than a decade.
#4 Dan Quinn
Too high? Well, consider that Dan Quinn already reached a Super Bowl in his second season, and was a highly successful coordinator before that. Atlanta will be replacing Kyle Shanahan at offensive coordinator and this season will test Quinn as the Falcons look to bounce back from the Super Bowl collapse.
#5 John Harbaugh
The Ravens have been in a relatively down period in the last few years, after the Super Bowl win. John Harbaugh had reached the postseason in each of the first five years in Baltimore, and is still one of the best there is.
#6 Andy Reid
Yes, Andy Reid has his clock management issues, and he’s not Belichick. He’s also won consistently for 15 years with a slew of different quarterbacks, and the Chiefs just drafted another one for him to develop.
#7 Sean Payton
Sean Payton has his flaws and the team cannot get the defense right, resulting in three straight 7-9 seasons. If he were fired in New Orleans, he would be snapped up quickly elsewhere just like Reid was in Kansas City, for a team looking for an offensive overhaul.
#8 Mike McCarthy
The Packers have made the playoffs eight straight years with Mike McCarthy in charge and Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. How long can the relationship continue? McCarthy reached the NFC Championship Game season last year after a very slow start, the second appearance in three years, and is back off any hot seat set by heightened expectations of always being in contention.
#9 Bruce Arians
Bruce Arians took awhile to get a NFL head coaching job, but he has shown his detractors to be wrong. The Colts best season of the Luck/Pagano era came when Arians was filling in as interim, and last year was his first losing season. Look for the Cardinals to rebound this year.
#10 Jack Del Rio
Jack Del Rio continued chopping wood and got his second chance in Oakland and has rebuilt the team into a contender, and his time in Jacksonville looks very successful in retrospect, in comparison to what has happened with the Jaguars since he was fired.
#11 Ron Rivera
Ron Rivera was still on the hot seat until the Panthers surged to the Super Bowl two years ago, but then the team failed to respond after the Super Bowl loss and got off to a horrible start a year ago. This seems like a crossroads season that will determine if Rivera coaches for awhile or not.
#12 Adam Gase
Adam Gase rose through the coaching ranks quickly, was part of some dominant passing offenses with Peyton Manning in Denver, had a successful season in Chicago, and immediately turned around the Miami Dolphins in his first year as a head coach. The future is bright for Gase and I expect him to make be around for awhile.
#13 Kyle Shanahan
I’m sure putting a guy who hasn’t coached yet is an eye opener, but if we are projecting forward, Kyle Shanahan fits some of the check marks for a successful candidate. A guy who is still young but has been a coordinator in a variety of situation, Shanahan should be able to turn around the 49ers eventually. Many of the most successful hires were hot coordinators in their mid-to-late 30’s (
#14 Ben McAdoo
He would rank much lower on fashion and hipness lists, but Ben McAdooimmediately came in and helped revitalize a Giants team that had been slipping over the last several years of the Coughlin era.
#15 Jason Garrett
I’m sure there are some that would want Jason Garrett much higher, after last season. But that marked only his 2nd playoff appearance in six years, with only one playoff win. Garrett is another disappointing season, with higher expectations, from being out, so I cannot put him higher.
#16 Marvin Lewis
How long will Marvin Lewis continue to coach, while having zero career playoff wins? He falls squarely in the middle of these rankings, ahead of the uncertainties but certainly no lock himself. He did survive an off year last season with injuries, but I’m not sure he will be back if the Bengals don’t rebound.