Here we are again. Another Top 10 list courtesy of Full Press Coverage. In this article, we look at the Top 10 Offensive Coordinators in the NFL right now. The ranking are based on how well they perform as offensive coordinators.
This article is a collaboration between Shareef Alnachoukati and Kyle Senra.
10. Jim Bob Cooter – Detroit Lions
Jim Bob Cooter has been a solid offensive coordinator for the Lions since he took over. He had a big task in 2015 as he inherited offensive coordinator duties for a 0-5 Lions team that struggled in the pass and the run game, thanks to Joe Lombardi.
Since Cooter took over, the Lions have a decent 25-21 record. They have also been in the top 10 passing offense since he arrived. They were 6th in passing yards last year but left more to be desired from the running game. Cooter’s big negative has been the lack of a good running game due to his very simple run plays. He still hasn’t had a 100-yard rusher in a game which is BAD. Cooter still (barely) makes the list due to his strong passing attack, which some consider to all be in the shoulders of QB Matt Stafford, but he has also developed a receiving tandem that can be argued to be the best in the league.
9. Norv Turner – Carolina Panthers
Norv Turner had success early starting with two Super Bowl victories as the Dallas Cowboys OC. He also ran a productive offense as the head coach in Washington, afterwards. However, his stints in Miami, Oakland, San Francisco, and Clevland left a lot to be desired.
What saved his reputation was how he helped shaped Troy Aikman and Philip Rivers into great QBs with the Cowboys and the Chargers respectively. Turner was able to help limit Rivers’ mistakes as the veteran QB had his three worst interception seasons after Turner left the Chargers.
Why so low? Perhaps this is recency bias, but the way his tenure ended in Minnesota left a bad taste. He resigned during the 2016 regular season leaving the team to scramble. What is even worse for Tuner is the fact that the Vikings actually improved significantly after Turner left. As most remember, career journeyman Case Keenum took the team to last season’s NFC Championship game. Could Turner have held that team back? Has he failed to adapt to the new NFL? After a full season outside of the league, Turner has had time to refocus and now he gets one of the game’s ultimate weapons: Cam Newton. Turner’s reputation hinges on his ability to develop QBs. Can he salvage his and take Newton’s game to the next level?
8. Marty Morhinweig – Baltimore Ravens
Marty Mornhinweg’s ranking on this list has more to do with his past endeavors and experience rather than his latest, uninspiring tenure with the Baltimore Ravens. Some of the lackluster offense could be blamed on QB Joe Flacco. However, Mornhinweg hasn’t been creative with this offense, other than the way he utilizes the running backs.
He was the offensive coordinator at Philadelphia from 2006-2012 with Andy Reid. He got some good years out of Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick then headed off to New York which he was decent as best as a play caller. Those Jets teams just never had enough talent. Mornhinweg still gets his respect from a lot of coaches in the league and he is looked at to be a great offensive mind by many in the league.
7. Pete Carmichael – New Orleans Saints
There are strong reasons for Pete Carmichael to be included on this list and equally strong arguments for his exclusion. The obvious cons to his inclusion are Sean Payton and Drew Brees. Having one of the greatest offensive minds in the game as his boss certainly makes Carmichael’s job easier. At the same time, it says something that someone as demanding as Payton would have Carmichael as his OC for a decade.
Payton trusts Carmichael, as evidenced by the fact that he ran the offense during Payton’s 2012 suspension. In that season, the Saints not only stayed afloat but excelled by scoring 461 points, more than the team had in any of the three subsequent seasons.
Carmichael has had the advantage of having Drew Brees during his entire tenure as Saints OC. That is why, even with a sustained period of excellence, he is not higher than 7. The coordinators below him have had some great QBs to work with, but Carmichael distinguishes himself by his consistency, and that 2012 season when he did it without Sean Payton.
6. Nathaniel Hackett – Jacksonville Jaguars
Nathaniel Hackett has followed Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone from Syracuse to Buffalo and now to Jacksonville. Hackett had a great a year in 2014 when he made the human meh Kyle Orton look fabulous in his final year. Then he left with Marrone and headed to Jacksonville where he made another mediocre QB look good.
The Jaguars offense was awful, to say the least in 2016, thanks to Gus Bradley. Then Nathaniel Hackett took over for a fired Greg Olson in mid-season, which didn’t really change much considering the offense was still dreadful. But that all changed in 2017. The wacky part about this whole ordeal was that Chip Kelly was heavily considered to take over offensive coordinator duties before 2017 started. The Jags decided to keep Hackett and that proved to be the right decision as the Jaguars transcended into the top of the league in the rushing category. With the help of Leonard Fournette, T.J. Yeldon, and Corey Grant, the Jaguars were the number one in rushing yards. It also helps that Hackett facilitated a better looking Blake Bortles.
Hackett’s calls were especially good and clutch in the AFC Divisional Round game against the Pittsburgh Steelers where his offense put up 38 points (the defense scored 7) and he had to fight off a Hall of Fame performance by Big Ben Roethlisberger. Although Hackett gets criticized for conservative play calling, he is still the right man for the Jaguars offense.
5. Todd Haley – Clevland Browns
While Todd Haley has helped run offenses since 2007, it was not until he became the Pittsburgh Steelers OC that we truly saw his brilliance. After average numbers in 2012 and 2013, the Steelers have become an offensive juggernaut since 2014. The team has finished top 10 in total yards and total points in four straight seasons. While the level of talent is obvious (especially Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown), it says something about Haley that he is able to maximize their skills.
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Haley’s most notable talent is weekly game planning. Hayley has mentioned in interviews that he prefers to go into a game with a limited number of plays that he believes are most effective against that particular opponent. This allows the players to focus primarily on the execution of plays.
As a master in game planning, you’d expect him to be higher than #5 on this list. This is true, but we should also focus on his weaknesses, specifically in play-calling. Sometimes Haley relies too much on his preparations from the week and does not always make the best decisions. The example most brought up by Steelers fans especially is the lack of running the football. If Haley identifies that an opponent is weaker against the pass, he may call very little run plays.
One element of Haley’s offensive design is the amount he throws to running backs. This will be an advantage for his new team, the Clevland Browns. They already have two excellent RBs in the passing game in the form of Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson. There are enormous possibilities in the way Haley can use those two and it will be exciting for football fans to watch.
4. Bill O’Brien – Houston Texans
Bill O’Brien is high on this list for a ton of reasons. First of all, he is the head coach of his team as well as the offensive play caller. He also has a stacked resume dating back to when he was the offensive coordinator for the Patriots and helped Tom Brady reach his first 5,000-yard season. He then coached at Penn State for a couple of years.
Although he’s never had a decent QB before he hit gold with Deshaun Watson, he still managed to get the best out of the likes of Brian Hoyer, T.J. Yates and Ryan Mallet. Then came Deshaun Watson who was averaging nearly 350 yards a game from scrimmage. The way O’Brien had to adjust his whole playbook to suit Watson’s abilities was vital to his tremendous rookie year (before it ended in heartbreaking fashion).
3. Ken Whisenhunt – L.A. Chargers
Ken Whisenhunt has a reputation for turning offenses around. He led the Arizona Cardinals to their only Super Bowl appearance in 2008 and was helpful in quarterback Kurt Warner‘s late-career resurgence. Whisenhunt became the Chargers OC in 2013 and they had a top 5 finish in total yards. That season earned Whisenhunt Assistant Coach of the Year, as well as giving Philip Rivers Comeback Player of the Year.
Why else is Whisenhunt so sought after? Well, he is quite the Whis as an offensive play-caller. One of his strongest attributes is giving players confidence with his fearless play calling. Arguably the most notable example is from Super Bowl XL. In only his second year as Steelers OC, he called a wide receiver reverse pass mid-way through the 4th quarter. The Steelers were leading 14-10, but that 43-yard TD reception gave them an 11-point lead which they maintained until the end of the game. With all of the talented young players on the Chargers roster, it will be exciting to see what type of interesting plays Whisenhunt will design this season.
2. Josh McDaniels – New England Patriots
Josh McDaniels is one of the more creative play callers of our time and he deserves all the credit in the world. The way he can turn a non-athletic receiver into a serious weapon still gets people wondering how he does it. Tom Brady won his 3rd MVP in 2017 and 2nd with McDaniels. The Patriots run game was also lethal last year with Dion Lewis averaging 5 yards a carry.
McDaniels still gets the criticism of “what he’s done without Tom Brady” which is valid because he’s had unsuccessful runs with other teams like the Broncos and Rams. But there is no question he is still one of the best offensive minds in the game right now, if not ever, with his resume.
1. Kyle Shanahan – San Francisco 49ers
At 38 years old, Kyle Shanahan has already accomplished so much. In 2006, at the age of 26, he was hired to be the Houston Texans Wide Receivers Coach, becoming the youngest positional coach in the NFL. He eventually became the team’s Offensive Coordinator in 2008. In his two seasons on the job, Houston finished 3rd and 4th in total yards.
He then spent four seasons working as OC in Washington with mixed results. The most success he found there was in 2012, Robert Griffin III‘s incredible rookie season. Shanahan spent 2014 as the Clevland Browns OC followed by a 2-year stint in Atlanta. The Falcons and their QB Matt Ryan found unprecedented success in 2016 by finishing 1st in points scored, and 2nd in total yards and making it to the Super Bowl. Last year he began his tenure as Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers.
Why is Shanahan #1 on this list? Yes, part of why 2012 was so successful for Washington was RG3’s talent. But it also takes great coaching and play-calling to best utilize that talent. Shanahan installed the zone-read offense where the decision to run or pass is based upon what the defense was doing. Sound familiar? The Philidelphia Eagles ran a very similar offense all the way to a Super Bowl victory a few months back. This type of offense requires a quarterback to be able to make lightning-quick decisions. Shanahan is a great teacher who is able to instill that skill.
Another element to Shanahan’s coaching is his ability to tailor offensive plays to his players’ skill sets. The most obvious example is how the Falcons running backs were used. Tevin Coleman is an explosive athlete but he is not as good at reading blocks than say, his teammate Devonta Freeman. While most of Freeman’s carries were between the tackles, Coleman was used in space more often.
With an entire offseason to work with QB Jimmy Garoppolo, it will be interesting to see how Shanahan calls the 49ers offense in 2018. Thank you for reading, and enjoy the upcoming season.