Let’s be honest. Some NFL coordinators work out as head coaches and some simply don’t. There is only one way to find that out. Take DeMeco Ryans, former DC of the 49ers; so far, he is not only kicking ass in Houston but in Coach of the Year discussions. On the other hand, you have Nathaniel Hackett, who was viewed as a failed experiment in Denver last season.
This past offseason we saw a few of the hottest coordinators poached from teams and given a shot at a head coaching gig. Shane Steichen (Philadelphia to Indianapolis), Jonathan Gannon (Philadelphia to Arizona), and DeMeco Ryans (San Francisco to Houston) were the chosen ones going into 2023. These hires followed many big names to transition from Coordinator to Head Coach in prior years:
Some head coaching hot seats could open up doors for some names I will discuss below.
Up And Coming NFL Coordinators
Eric Bieniemy, OC Washington Commanders
It’s just time to put the conversation to rest with the former Chiefs OC who won two rings with Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes. This is a perfect time to get the clipboard and lead Washington out the rest of the season. Then give Bieniemy another year to draft, trade, and develop under his scheme. Ron Rivera‘s time in Washington appears to be closing in.
Howell’s development has looked good aside from needing to clean up mistakes. Potentially, through some personnel changes and different on-field philosophies, this could all be remedied. After years and years of quarterback hell, Howell, the UNC product, might actually be their long-term guy. Howell not only leads the league in passing yards (3,339) but also is only the eighth player to record four 300-plus games within his first 11 starts. Tack on another 300-yard game on Thanksgiving against the Dallas Cowboys.
A lot of people (myself included) have been surprised EB hasn’t had his shot yet, but I do think his time is coming sooner than we think. Maybe he flops, but maybe he flourishes. It would be a wonderful longer-term duo of Howell/Bieniemy in Washington after several failed QBs and Coaches.
Ben Johnson, OC Detroit Lions
Ben Johnson has over a decade of experience coaching quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends. So right off the bat, his success in Detroit right now makes a little more sense. He is able to scheme for multiple areas on the field depending on defensive matchups.
He worked with Dan Campbell in Miami for four years so getting MCDC’s blessing is high praise as he expects a lot of production on the field and a certain mindset in the locker room. Johnson has curated one of the most explosive offenses with Jared Goff-many of whom were doubting his abilities after his departure from LA.
A couple of teams interviewed Johnson this past offseason (Texans and Colts), but then he ultimately decided to return to Detroit to try and make a run. The Lions have an 8-3 record and rank second in overall offense just behind the Miami Dolphins.
Mike MacDonald, DC Baltimore Ravens
In his second year as DC in Baltimore, Mike MacDonald is carving a name for himself. Even in an offense-happy league, he is certainly someone to watch for in future Head Coaching opportunities.
MacDonald’s defense ranks 3rd overall in the league and 2nd in scoring defense. Also, of note, they have been the only unit to shut down the blazing Lions offense (as just mentioned above regarding Johnson). His ability to curate creative game plans week to week put his players in positions to succeed, and MOST importantly making in-game adjustments all springboard him into the conversation. Being adaptable is proving to be one of the most important traits a coach can exhibit these days on any side of the ball.
Bobby Slowik, OC Houston Texans
Slowik, leading a surprising charge with the resurgent Texans, was brought in with DeMeco Ryans his offseason. It’s no surprise when you watch this team explode week to week.
He has worked in the league for about seven total years, as he had a three-year stint as a PFF analyst in between gigs. Before his role as OC in Houston, he was of course working under Kyle Shanahan up in the Bay. Slowik was heavily involved in game-planning and working with quarterbacks as a passing coordinator.
Praised for his high football IQ, it is also important to note that he worked for years on the defensive side of the ball. This makes his approach to game-planning so intriguing. A holistic understanding of the game may be another reason he is successful in his journey. His offense ranks 4th overall and CJ Stroud is in heavy consideration for both Offensive Rookie of the Year and even MVP talks. Is it too early to throw him into a Head Coaching gig? Probably, but watch for his name in the coming years if he continues to shine.
Head coaches, while of utmost importance, typically get both credit and blame. We need to remember that coordinators are often the puppeteers of the flow of games. Let us know some names you are watching @DraftCountdown!