After taking a look at the top 10 NFL head coaches in the profession, it’s time to turn our eyes to the men in the second tier as we continue out counting with Nos. 11-20.


Last season: 7-10

Career record and accomplishments: 93-87-1, 1 NFC Championship, 2-time NFL Coach of the Year

The next three head coaches on the list could probably go in any order, but I’ve picked this one and now I’ll justify it a little. Rivera built a juggernaut in Carolina, taking a franchise that people probably forget is still in the NFL half the time and turning them into a consistent playoff squad and a one-time NFC Champion. The Panthers have eight playoff seasons in their entire team’s history, half of them belong to Rivera. They made the Super Bowl twice in their history, losing both times, and one of those also belongs to Rivera. He is, unquestionably, the best head coach in the history of the Carolina Panthers.

When Carolina stupidly fired him with a month to go in the 2021 season, the stage was set for a real Rivera renaissance with the team that should have hired him on the spot, the Dallas Cowboys. Instead, while Jerry Jones futzed around with Jason Garrett, the Washington Commanders swooped in and hired Rivera and Dallas was stuck with Mike McCarthy who is significantly further down this list.

In Rivera’s first season with the Commanders, they made the playoffs. They won the same number of games last year with less than stellar quarterback play, but if there’s anybody outside of Doug Pederson who can get the most out Carson Wentz, it’s probably Rivera.  


Last season: 9-8

Career record and accomplishments: 38-30

Frank Reich really got handed a raw deal with the Colts. He came in as the second choice (which he should not have been) after Josh McDaniels backed out of the job. Then, after a season coaching Andrew Luck, learned that the best young QB in the league wanted to hang up his spurs for good. So, with Jacoby Brissett under center Reich had his worst season as a head coach, going 7-9.

Over the next two years with two different quarterbacks of varying ability, Reich has led Indianapolis to consecutive winning records, another playoff berth, and built one of the most talented rosters in the NFL.

Reich isn’t blameless on how last season fizzled out. Wentz was his handpicked guy and, if you watched the in-season version of Hard Knocks, he practically claimed Wentz as his son. Matt Ryan is a significant upgrade and what will be interesting to see is how much that frees Reich to really run his offense with a more disciplined man under center.


Last season: 12-6

Career record and accomplishments: 43-27, 2021 NFL Coach of the Year

I’m going to go out on a little bit of a limb to say Mike Vrabel is already arguably the best head coach in Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers history, for whatever that’s worth. This has not been a franchise that has historically kept it together. There’s a reason that Jeff Fisher’s tenure there lasted 16.5 years. It’s not the most well run machine.

Vrabel has led the Titans to four consecutive winning records, something only one other head coach ever did in their entire history and it won’t surprise you to learn that it wasn’t Fisher. It was the guy Fisher replaced, Jack Pardee.

Vrabel and the Titans’ 2019 playoff run was one for the ages, where the former New England Patriots linebacker bested his old head coach in the divisional round and nearly pulled off the upset against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship. In retrospect, for how Vrabel’s teams have underperformed since, it probably set a bad precedent.

Still, it’s hard to knock on a guy that just wins and gets you into the bracket, but I’ll still do it anyway. Vrabel obviously has no control over the personnel decisions on his team and that’s a bad look for a head coach. After claiming there was no way wide receiver AJ Brown would be traded in lieu of getting a new deal, Brown was traded by general manager Jon Robinson anyway and Vrabel, obviously, wasn’t pleased. But he could just go kick rocks, I guess.

I’m thinking when his contract is up with Tennessee, he should probably walk as well. There’s no real winning history with this franchise for a reason.


Last season: 8-9

Career record and accomplishments: 20-15, 2020 NFL Coach of the Year

Since the Cleveland Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, they have yet to put together back to back winning campaigns. Under Kevin Stefanski, who led the “new” Browns to their first playoff win, they still haven’t. But they actually got pretty close.

The truth is, even going back to the “old” Browns, the last back to back winning seasons came under Marty Schottenheimer from 1986-1988 and even he only stretched the streak to three.

The deck was stacked against Stefanski a year ago and it’s not looking much better for 2022. He significantly upgraded his quarterback with Deshaun Watson, but there’s a real chance Watson might not see the field at all this season thanks to 24 (as of this writing) civil cases. If he doesn’t, Stefanski will really get to show what he can do (or can’t do), fielding an absolutely loaded team with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. The AFC is is a grindhouse and the AFC North in particular might be the second toughest division in all of football.

But Stefanski can boast one thing. His 20 head coaching wins in Cleveland over two years are more victories than they had in the previous five seasons combined.


Last season: 11-7

Career record and accomplishments: 24-25-1

In his third season at the helm of the Cardinals, Kliff Kingsbury finally broke through the NFC West quagmire to land his team in the playoffs. They were promptly removed from the postseason by the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, but that’s hardly a shame considering the teams LA beat to hoist the trophy after.

On the bright side, Kingsbury did break his own personal losing streak to the Rams, defeating them for the first time, 37-20 in their first meeting of the season. It was the first winning season (11-6) for Arizona in six years and just the seventh in the franchise’s history since 1984. You can see why they were so eager to get Kingsbury signed to an extension.

The year before, the Cards finished 8-8 so there’s reason for optimism for the coach entering his fourth season. With Russell Wilson exiting the NFC West, his path to get the Cards to the playoffs should be a little clearer. The Seahawks, with Wilson, cost Arizona an NFC West title a year ago. Ironically, the 49ers have presented little trouble to Kingsbury and the Cards. Arizona is 3-1 against San Francisco over the last two seasons including a sweep last year.

For Kingsbury to start moving up the list and out of the mediocre middle, he’ll have to experience some kind of postseason success.


Last season: 9-9

Career record and accomplishments: 9-9

Nick Sirianni didn’t need three years to lead the Eagles back to the postseason. He guided them to a Wild Card appearance in his first year. To be fair, he was handed a pretty decent team from a fired Doug Pederson. This squad wasn’t that far removed from the group that won the Super Bowl in 2017 and made the playoffs for three consecutive seasons.

But Sirianni still got the job done and he did with a week to spare so Philadelphia got to rest starters in their season finale game for all the good it did them in the Wild Card round. Expectations are much higher this season with one of the easiest schedules in the league and one of the more talented young rosters in the NFC. A playoff appearance won’t cut it to move Sirianni up the list. He’s going to need to lead this team to a victory in late January.


Last season: 9-8

Career record and accomplishments: 9-8

With a playoff spot on the line in his first year as an NFL head coach, Brandon Staley fell just short, playing for the win instead of a tie against the Las Vegas Raiders in their season finale game. The Raiders, who were prepared to just take a knee and end the game with both teams making the bracket, took that personally and sent the Chargers home for good.

And that is on Staley.

The Chargers didn’t sit on their hooves this offseason, taking an already loaded team and adding talent to it. Now, for Staley and the step-child of LA, expectations are high. The trouble is, and this is where Staley can really show his mettle, his team now plays in the toughest division in all of football.


Last season: Was not a head coach

Career record and accomplishments: 26-41

Our second head coaching retread makes an appearance on the list as Todd Bowles was handed the reigns from Bruce Arians, who supposedly retired so as to not leave his protégé with a bad roster. I’m not sure I buy that.

Either way, the deck is stacked in Bowles’ favor. His big problem in New York, in addition to banging his head against a Tom Brady led Patriots team twice a season, is that he never had a real NFL quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick was the best guy he ever put on the field and that got him all of one winning season, a 10-6 finish in 2015, his first season as an official (not interim) head coach. The other guys? Josh McCown, Bruce Petty and Sam Darnold as a rookie could not cut it and Bowles was canned. With that murderer’s row of losers, he never had a chance.

Now he’s got that guy who dominated him in the AFC East, Tom Brady, as his QB. There are plenty of people out there who think Bowles will be an upgrade over Arians, which should be an insult to a guy who won a Super Bowl two seasons ago. I don’t see it that way, but Bowles will have every chance to prove them right and me wrong.


Last season: Was not a head coach

Career record and accomplishments: 11-17

This is Josh McDaniel’s second shot as a head coach, or maybe you could view it as shot No. 2.5. A few years ago, the failed Denver Broncos head coach and Super Bowl winning Pats offensive coordinator was supposed to take over the Indianapolis Colts, only to back out at the last minute. The Colts ended up with Frank Reich and I can’t believe they’ve felt bad about it since.

McDaniels, for whatever reason, decided this was the year to finally exit New England and set out on his own again. His time in Denver started hot, then fizzled out hard. He’s also the guy that led the charge to draft Tim Tebow in the first round and that albatross should still be dangling around his neck.

Las Vegas made the playoffs last year with an interim head coach and were a play away from knocking off the eventual AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card round at the game’s end. Anything less in McDaniel’s first season, with a significantly better roster (and one without all the insane off-the-field distractions) than last year should be considered a failure.


Last season: 7-10

Career record and accomplishments: 163-115-1, 2-time NFC Champion, Super Bowl XLVIII Champion

Believe it or not (and you will if you’ve been keeping track of the rankings), this is not the lowest ranked Super Bowl winning head coach on our list. Pete Carroll has been an elite NFL coach for over a decade. Last year’s 7-10 finish was just his third losing campaign in Seattle since 2010.

The knock on Carroll is that he’s not changing with the times, he’s too old school and failed to make the most of his chances while coaching the best quarterback, Russell Wilson, in the history of the franchise. Because of that, Carroll has consistently hired some of the worst, most backwards, offensive minds to run his offense, including current OC Shane Waldron. Before Waldron there was Brian Schottenheimer, Darrell Bevell and Jeremy Bates.

Carroll’s style of play would have worked great in the late 80s and early 90s. It can also work when you have a Pro Football Hall of Fame running back like Marshawn Lynch and one of the best defenses in the league. Not so much when you’re fielding a cash strapped team with cast offs at quarterbacks. Make no mistake, Carroll was more than fine with trading away Wilson. The team you see take the field in 2022and finish 5-12  is all his.  

Follow Adam Greene on Twitter @TheFirstMan.

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