The NFC East coaches are probably safe from getting the ax this offseason. Nevertheless, I thought it would be good to take a look around the league at the current offensive and defensive coordinators in the NFL, and try to figure out their viability as NFL head coaches. Today we’ll do the defensive coordinators, and at some point I’ll get the offensive coordinators up as well.
Guys we can rule out right off the bat:
Larry Coyer, Colts: Coyer was fired in-season this year.
|Larry Coyer (fired) (69)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Fred Pagac, Vikings: ESPN’s Tom Pelissero reported that Pagac is unlikely to keep his defensive coordinator job in Minnesota next season, and noted two sources that claimed Vikings defensive backs often refused to execute the calls Pagac was calling:
Any decisions are unlikely to be finalized before the season finale on Jan. 1, after which ownership will conduct its annual round of meetings to discuss the state of the franchise, the stadium push and a variety of other issues.
One thing that seems almost certain, though, is Fred Pagac will not return for a second season as defensive coordinator.
That much became apparent when Frazier took over defensive play-calling duties for a stretch last month. But problems surfaced months earlier.
According to two sources, a group of defensive backs raised concerns about Pagac’s play-calling — specifically, the timing and frequency of blitzes and man-coverage calls — within the first month of the season.
At times, some players simply refused to play the defenses called, yelling out their own coverages as they broke the huddle. Tension mounted among players who felt the issues weren’t run up the flagpole and coaches who disagreed on how to proceed with an increasingly depleted group.
“There’s so many different ways to do it to protect themselves, especially with a beat-up secondary,” a source said. “(Players) don’t want to play some of the calls, just because they don’t have confidence in it.”
Obviously, that’s not good.
|Fred Pagac (60)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Juan Castillo, Eagles: After what felt like a really long search, the Eagles shocked everyone by promoting their OL coach to run the defense, and Castillo has been under heavy scrutiny ever since. The Eagles defense got much better as the season progressed, but it remains unlikely he will be the defensive coordinator in Philly in 2012. Obviously, he will not be the head coach anywhere.
|Juan Castillo (52)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Chuck Bresnahan, Raiders: If Eagles fans felt the defensive coordinator search in Philly took a long time, the Raiders didn’t hire theirs until March. (Juan Castillo was hired February 2nd). The Raiders defense has been terrible this season, and Bresnahan’s resume as a DC is anemic, to say the least.
|Chuck Bresnahan (50)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Sean McDermott, Panthers: The McDermott-led 2010 Eagles had the worst red-zone defense in the NFL since the 1988 Houston Oilers. In Carolina, head coach and former Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera is very hands on with the Panthers defense, meaning McDermott isn’t even fully running the defensive show in Carolina, which is probably a good thing considering they didn’t stop many teams this season.
|Sean McDermott (38)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
George Edwards, Bills: The resume simply isn’t good.
|George Edwards (45)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Rod Marinelli, Bears: Much like John Harbaugh in Baltimore, Marinelli is a semi-rare example of a guy that became a head coach without ever first being an offensive or defensive coordinator. Marinelli is unfortunately best known for leading the only team to go 0-16 in the history of the NFL. His 3-year record in Detroit as a head coach was 10-38 (.208).
|Rod Marinelli (63)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Gunther Cunningham, Lions: Opposing teams this season knew that the Lions could be provoked into committing dumb personal fouls. Jim Schwartz has caught most of the shrapnel for that, but Cunningham’s fingerprints are on that as well. Cunningham is also 66 years old, which doesn’t help his cause, not to mention, the Lions defense wasn’t good this season, despite much improved talent.
|Gunther Cunningham (66)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Jim Haslett, Redskins: Two years ago, the Redskins had the 10th ranked defense in the NFL running a 4-3 with players that fit the scheme perfectly. Enter Jim Haslett, who decided to run a 3-4, perhaps setting the defense back at least one year. In 2010, they were 31st. This year, they were greatly improved, at 13, despite an offense that couldn’t keep the football. Still, Haslett’s biggest success came before he got his first head coaching opportunity. His track record after that stint hasn’t been as impressive.
|Jim Haslett (57)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Dick Jauron, Browns: Dick Jauron very quietly led the #5 ranked scoring defense in the NFL with the Browns this season, although he is probably best where he is as a DC.
|Dick Jauron (61)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Long-time defensive coordinator greats best suited to remain defensive coordinators:
Dick LeBeau, Steelers: The legendary LeBeau (marvel at his resume below) was the equivalent of a free agent this past offseason, but put off retirement and re-upped with the Steelers. LeBeau will be 74 years old at the start of next season. It’s probably Pittsburgh DC or retirement for LeBeau from here on out.
|Dick LeBeau (74)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Wade Phillips, Texans: Phillips has had 5 stints as an NFL head coach (2 were interim jobs), and none lasted longer than 4 years. The job he has done in Houston as the Texans’ defensive coordinator has been nothing short of miraculous. That was the 30th ranked defense last season. This year, prior to Phillips having to take a leave due to health-related issues, the Texans were ranked #1. However, Dallas was his last shot as the head guy.
|Wade Phillips (65)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Dom Capers, Packers: Capers has the odd distinction of being the first head coach of two expansion franchises, first with the Panthers in 1995, and then with the Texans in 2002. In his first year with the Panthers, he led them to a very impressive 7-9 record. In the second year, they went to the NFC Championship Game. So he’s had success as the head guy. His stint in Houston didn’t go quite as well – His record there was 18-46. Working against Capers is his age (he’s 62), and the fact that his teams’ offenses were terrible during his head coaching stints. Still, the Broncos reportedly were interested in interviewing Capers for their open HC position last year, and Capers seems to be open to giving a head spot another go-round, but he’s probably best suited to stay exactly where he is.
|Dom Capers (62)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Long-time defensive coordinators that could get a 2nd sniff as the head guy:
Gregg Williams, Saints: Williams is considered one of the best defensive minds in the game, and his contract is up after this season. He has said previously that he would be in New Orleans as long as Sean Peyton and Drew Brees were there. It would probably take an excellent situation/offer to get him to leave the Saints.
|Gregg Williams (54)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Mike Nolan, Dolphins: Nolan might actually be a very intriguing defensive coordinator option for teams looking for a new one, depending on how the Dolphins’ search for a new head coach goes. It wouldn’t be out of the question for him to get a 2nd sniff as a head coach somewhere as well.
|Mike Nolan (53)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Had a sniff:
Greg Manusky, Chargers: Manusky, at the time with the 49ers, interviewed for the Panthers head coaching job last January, but was ultimately beaten out by Ron Rivera. The 2011 season has to be seen as a setback to Manusky, however. In 2010, the Chargers had the #1 ranked defense in yards and 10th in scoring under Rivera. Manusky took over in San Diego, where he led the 16th ranked D in yards, and 26th in scoring.
|Greg Manusky (46)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
A formerly hot name:
Perry Fewell, Giants: Last season, Fewell scored interviews with the Broncos, Browns and Panthers, although many people questioned whether Fewell, an African American, was being used by teams to satisfy their requirement to interview a black head coaching candidate under the Rooney Rule. The Giants’ defense had a bad season, finishing near the worst in the NFL in all the major statistical categories. However, they have a new season after making the playoffs by winning the mediocre NFC East.
|Perry Fewell (50)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Victim of circumstance:
Ken Flajole, Rams: Flajole had been getting buzz prior to this season, but then the Rams defense suffered an absurd number of injuries (they had 10 cornerbacks land on the IR. TEN!). This season probably cost Flajole a shot at a head coaching gig this year, but he’ll get a chance to rebuild his rep somewhere in 2012.
|Ken Flajole (57)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Getting some buzz, but why?
Rob Ryan, Raiders: Rob Ryan has now been a defensive coordinator for 8 seasons. In his entire career, teams that have had defenses led by Ryan have never had a winning season. The bluster and braggadocio far outweigh the actual results.
|Rob Ryan (48)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Not viable candidates right now, but keep them on your radar:
Casey Bradley, Seahawks: Bradley is a Monte Kiffin disciple, and was reportedly given a strong recommendation from Kiffin when interviewing for the Seahawks DC job. He has built sort of a frisky defense up in Seattle. They have a lot of team speed on D, they play hard, and swarm to the football. Bradley is still probably a year or two away from serious head coaching consideration, but he’s someone to keep an eye on.
|Casey Bradley (46)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Jerry Gray, Titans: This was Gray’s first year as a defensive coordinator, and his defense went from 15th in the league in scoring last year, to 8th. He’ll need to prove it over a longer period of time before he gets a legitimate shot at a head coaching job. It should be noted that both Gray and Ray Horton below are both African Americans, so they should get some good experience interviewing for head coaching jobs even before they may be ready.
|Jerry Gray (50)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Ray Horton, Cardinals: Arizona’s defense went from 29th to 18th in total yards from 2010 to 2011, and from 30th in points allowed to 17th. Great start for Horton as a DC.
|Ray Horton (52)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Start paying close attention:
Vic Fangio, 49ers: While Dom Capers is a bit of an oddity in that he has the weird distinction of being the first head coach of two expansion teams (Panthers and Texans), Fangio has the distinction of being the defensive coordinator under Capers during those years. Obviously, expansion teams aren’t going to be stacked on defense right out of the gate, but the numbers are pretty ugly during those seasons and with some bad Colts teams early in the aughts. Those numbers, however, are in stark contrast to the kind of season the 49ers had this year with Fangio at the helm. It’ll be interesting to see if the Niners can continue their defensive success. If so, Fangio could be a head coaching candidate down the line.
|Vic Fangio (53)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Brian VanGorder, Falcons: The Falcons’ defense has improved in each of the 4 seasons under VanGorder’s watch, but it’s still not exactly what you’d call a great unit. He’ll get some looks down the line if the Falcons can continue to improve there.
|Brian VanGorder (53)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Looking to remove the “interim” tag:
Romeo Crennel, Chiefs: Crennel is currently the interim head coach in KC and they canned Todd Haley. How did the team respond? They only ruined the juggernaut Packers’ perfect season. It is believed that the Chiefs are going to remove the interim label and give Romeo his 2nd shot as an NFL head coach.
|Romeo Crennel (65)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Mel Tucker, Jaguars: It certainly wasn’t Jacksonville’s defense that was the cause of their 5-11 season this year. Still, it looks unlikely that Mel Tucker is likely to have the “interim” tag removed from his title. He’s the second youngest defensive coordinator in the league, and the Jags have wasted no time getting their interview process underway, as they’re already linked to Mike Mularkey, Rob Chudzinsky, Brian Schottenheimer, Bill O’Brien, and Mike McCoy. The common theme there is that all 5 of those guys are offensive minded coaches, a strong indication that’s the way the Jags are looking to go.
|Mel Tucker (40)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Good experience, good track record:
Mike Pettine, Jets: Pettine has already reportedly drawn interest from the Miami Dolphins as a head coaching candidate. The Jets had their worst statistical season in the Rex Ryan era, and that came in a season in which Pettine reportedly had a more active role. However, it also came in a year in which the offense was flat-out gross, and the defense had to be near-perfect to win football games.
|Mike Pettine (45)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Chuck Pagano, Ravens: Pagano has a long track record of success as a defensive backs coach. In his second year in Oakland, the defense was first in the league in passing yards allowed, and 3rd in total defense (see Rob Ryan’s resume above). The following year, after he had already left for the University of North Carolina to be the defensive coordinator, Oakland’s defense suffered. In his first year with the Ravens as the DC, (granted, with excellent personnel at his disposal), the Ravens finished in the Top 4 of every major statistical category.
|Chuck Pagano (51)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
The only thing close to a wonderkind:
Dennis Allen, Broncos: Last season, the Broncos were dead last in points allowed and yards allowed. Obviously, there’s nowhere to go but up from there. However, in case you lived in a cave this season and didn’t catch any Broncos games that were shoved down NFL fans’ throats this season due to Tebow-mania, you would know that the Broncos won their (albeit terrible) division on the shoulders of their defense. Allen did a phenomenal job this year. He has respect from his former employers, and he’s only 39 years of age, but once the Steelers bounce the Broncos from the playoffs this week, expect some intrigued team to at least bring in Allen for an interview.
|Dennis Allen (39)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|
Not a matter of “if,” only a matter of “when”:
Mike Zimmer, Bengals: It’s very surprising that Zimmer hasn’t gotten a shot yet. Of the defensive coordinators on this list that have never been the head guy, Zimmer has by far had the most interviews. He was thought to be the eventual coach in Dallas years ago, but it didn’t play out that way. Here’s a good article on Zimmer by Don Banks of SI. I don’t have much to add, other than that aside from Romeo Crennel getting his interim tag removed, I think Zimmer is the most likely of the guys on this list to land a head role.
|Mike Zimmer (56)||Job||Overall||Run||Pass||Points|