On June 30, Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports put out an article that tormented many Detroit Lions fans. It was a NFL head coach rankings list, and Detroit’s Dan Campbell was slotted at 30th overall. He only ranked above Chicago’s Matt Eberflus and Houston’s Lovie Smith.
The rationale was understandable. Campbell only managed a 3-13-1 record his first year as a head coach, all the while looking a bit shaky early on. By the end of the season, however, MCDC looked comfortable in his role as a leader, established a team identity and culture, and inspired hope for the future.
Cody’s rankings inspired me to create my own. Here is Part 1 of my NFL Head Coach rankings (in a unique format), along with a quick explanation:
These guys will be head coaches for the first time in their careers. Since they have not shown anything, they will simply anchor the list, which is neither a discreditation nor an endorsement.
32. Matt Eberflus (Bears)
Eberflus was the defensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts from 2018-2021. I would have preferred the Bears to hire an offensive-minded guy to help develop Justin Fields. Only time will tell.
31. Mike McDaniel (Dolphins)
McDaniel was the offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers in 2021. He is a run-game specialist, but he will first need to figure out if Tua Tagovailoa is the franchise guy. It seemed inevitable that McDaniel would become a head coach since he is from the Mike and Kyle Shanahan tree. There is added pressure since he is following the Brian Flores fiasco.
30. Nathaniel Hackett (Broncos)
Hackett was the offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers from 2019-2021. Even though QB Aaron Rodgers did not follow Hackett from GB to Denver, the Broncos were able to trade for veteran Russell Wilson, who will make Hackett’s job a lot easier. Watch out for the Broncos this season.
29. Kevin O’Connell (Vikings)
Coming off a Super Bowl victory, O’Connell was the offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams from 2020-2021. The Vikings needed a refreshing offensive mind after firing Mike Zimmer, and O’Connell was a late bloomer in the hiring cycle. Minnesota is in a good spot to potentially win the NFC North crown.
28. Brian Daboll (Giants)
Daboll was the offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills from 2018-2021. Daboll has the best chance to be the best coach out of the new crop, especially if he can unlock the untapped potential of Daniel Jones. He helped Josh Allen become one of the best QBs in the league, so if Jones can take a leap in a pivotal season, then the Giants may be one of those surprise teams in 2022.
These are guys who had previous opportunities as NFL head coaches, but it has been a while since they were last in the saddle. Their teams will be the rise or downfall of their new tenures.
27. Lovie Smith (Texans)
Smith was the defensive coordinator and associate head coach for the Houston Texans in 2021. Smith had two previous head coaching stints: Chicago Bears (2004-2012) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2014-2015). I do not expect Lovie Smith to be a difference maker for the Texans, and this hire seems like a lateral move from David Culley. Houston will likely be hiring a new head coach in the next couple years.
26. Dennis Allen (Saints)
Allen was the defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints from 2015-2021. The last time he was a head coach was from 2012-2014 with the then Oakland Raiders. Allen was given this job on a silver platter after Sean Payton stepped down. He was the best candidate for the job because of his familiarity, and I do not expect the Saints to look any different than during the Payton Era. Saints should be fine for now.
25. Josh McDaniels (Raiders)
McDaniels was the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots from 2012-2021. He was formerly the head coach of the Denver Broncos from 2009-2010. Coaches from the Belichick tree usually do not pan out, but the Raiders have a solid roster among a powerhouse AFC West division. McDaniels is an offensive guru, but he will need to take that next step to being a better overall head coach this time around.
24. Todd Bowles (Buccaneers)
Bowles was the defensive coordinator for the Buccaneers from 2019-2021. Before that, he was the head coach of the New York Jets from 2015-2018. Bowles was a very good DC with Tampa and deserved another head coaching gig. That opportunity came this offseason in the form of Bruce Arians stepping down. Tampa should easily win the NFC South, so the team expectations will not chance with Bowles at the helm.
Shown Flashes but TBD
These are newer coaches in the league who have shown some degree of promise, but it is too early to say what they will end up turning into.
23. Arthur Smith (Falcons)
Smith went 7-10 last season in his first year as a head coach. Many saw that as an overachievement. The Falcons had some QB movement this offseason. They traded longtime QB Matt Ryan to the Colts and opted to sign veteran Marcus Mariota, as well as draft rookie Desmond Ridder. Atlanta may be one of the worst teams in the league in 2022. Smith is a decent coach, so with the right QB, he can get the team back on track.
22. Matt Rhule (Panthers)
Rhule is on the hot seat this season. He is 10-23 in two seasons as a head coach, so 2022 will be a big year for him. The Panthers recently traded for former first-overall pick Baker Mayfield, who will compete with fellow 2018 draft QB Sam Darnold for the starting job. There has been some QB chaos in Carolina, but with Mayfield potentially at the helm and a young, upcoming defense, Rhule can save his job.
21. Robert Saleh (Jets)
The Jets went 4-13 under Saleh in his first season as a head coach. However, the Jets have been one of the biggest offseason winners, notably in the draft. Saleh has a much better roster to work with this season alongside sophomore QB Zach Wilson. Saleh was a great DC with the 49ers, and he will need to prove he can revitalize the defense in New York. The future seems bright for the Jets.
20. Dan Campbell (Lions)
Campbell went a measly 3-13-1 in his first season with the Lions. However, he instilled the best culture out of all the new coaches in 2021, proving he has made quite an impact, even if it did not reflect in the record. The Lions were also busy this offseason and will look to take a big step under Campbell in year two. Campbell progressively improved as a coach and as a play-caller last season. There are signs of a good head coach in the making.
19. Nick Sirianni (Eagles)
Sirianni went 9-8 with the Eagles in 2021 and was the only first-time head coach to lead their team to the playoffs. Even though they lost in the wild card round, he proved a lot of doubters wrong. They seem to have their franchise QB in Jalen Hurts. With all the additions Philadelphia made in the offseason, it would not be surprising to see Sirianni lead the Eagles to a division championship in the next couple seasons.
18. Kliff Kingsbury (Cardinals)
This might be a hot take among NFL head coach rankings. Kingsbury is the epitome of doing less with more. In three seasons as head coach, he has a 24-24-1 record despite having a talented team under QB Kyler Murray. The Cardinals made the wild card last season but lost to the would-be champions in the Rams. Personally, the seat is a little warm for Kingsbury, so he will need to have another good season to show he can be their future head coach.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my NFL head coach rankings! Drop your feedback in the comments!