The Top 10 NFL Coaches For 2021

Stoney Keeley begins his look at the NFL as the 2021 season approaches. Today, we're kicking off the campaign by looking at the top 10 NFL coaches.

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It’s summertime offseason content time! As the season approaches, I’m going to be taking a look at the landscape of the NFL, position by position, over the course of the next several weeks. We’ll be talking about the who’s who of the NFL in our own little version of the NFL Network’s “Top 100 Players” bit they do every year. Up first, we’re talking about the top 10 NFL coaches for 2020!

These pieces are always fun to put together every summer. For one, there ain’t a whole hell of a lot else going on in the NFL, so it gives me a way to talk football in June. For another, it’s fun to dive into the weeds a bit – this is my sort of catch-up period, when I look across the NFL with a lens that isn’t just centered on the Tennessee Titans here in Nashville. I look back at free agency, the draft, coaching changes, and everything that comes along with the first phase of the NFL offseason, and say “okay – this is what the [INSERT NFL TEAM HERE] have heading into next season.” But, let none of us be so pretentious to think that these rankings mean anything – there are so many variables that contribute to success in the NFL that it is nearly impossible to objectively quantify one as better than another. No matter how much experts want to qualify themselves and throw their credentials across the board, to truly understand the depth of the NFL would require extensive knowledge of 32 offensive systems, 32 defensive systems, 32 full rosters, 32 coaching staffs, hundreds of injury situations, etc. etc. Let’s be real with ourselves – this all in the spirit of conversation, community, and fun. So, with that qualification in mind, let’s get to it.

My criteria for the head coaches is pretty simple – it’s an opinion formed off of 2020 success, decision-making, team unity, what a coach’s situation looks like for 2021 (personnel, coaching staff, schedule, etc.), and to a lesser extent, consistency. I’m not ranking these coaches all-time, so please don’t yell at me for not having Bill Belichick, who I would agree is the greatest NFL coach of all time, at number one. To project for 2021 leans heavily on the state of a franchise and that often-uttered phrase, “what have ya done for me lately?

The Top 10 NFL Coaches For 2021

10. Mike Vrabel, Tennessee Titans – Vrabel is the quintessential leader of men, and the results show it. He has a vast knowledge of the NFL rule book, and he’ll use it to exploit an opponent (much to the chagrin of Bill Belichick). He’s there for his players, and they go to bat for him. The fact that he was able to guide a 29th-ranked Titans defense to an 11-5 record and AFC South Championship should tell you all you need to know about his coaching chops.

9. Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints – For all the Brady-Belichick talk the last couple of offseasons, there’s an interesting conversation to be had down in New Orleans. How will Payton fare without Drew Brees? The Saints have a loaded roster, including one of the best offensive lines and running attacks in the game. But, there will be a significant drop off at the quarterback position (and yes, I’m saying that given Brees’ dip in production over the last couple of years). Can Payton coach through it?

8. Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland Browns – No one did a better job of coaching NFL football than Stefanski did in 2020. That ‘Coach of the Year’ Award was well-deserved. Inheriting an undisciplined nightmare, Stefanski was able to stabilize that franchise and guide it towards realizing its potential. The Browns should be considered among the favorites in the AFC this season, and Stefanski may be the biggest reason for it.

7. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers – Tomlin has some real roster issues to sort out this summer, and after seeing the Steelers get smacked around in the playoffs, I think there’s valid reason for concern. But, that doesn’t undo the years that Tomlin has spent among the elite coaches in the NFL. He’ll have this team competing again.

6. Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams – It felt like McVay was the hottest thing on the planet a couple of years ago, but has since cooled off. His offensive brilliance has been touted repeatedly, I dare say shoved down our throat. But, I think McVay showed a nice adaptability in 2020, as the Rams pivoted to become one of the best defenses in football.

5. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens – Harbaugh is a savvy, feisty head coach who is a perfect fit for that Ravens roster that is built to beat people up. His stabilizing nature has turned the Ravens into a contender in the AFC each season.

3. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots – Belichick gets the benefit of the doubt, however the big question is still unanswered – what is Belichick without Brady? I think he actually did somewhat of an underrated job in 2020. The fact that that Pats team was even remotely sniffing the postseason was an accomplishment. He doesn’t slide too far because of it, especially given the significant boost that free agency brought to the roster for 2021.

4. Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills – I’m a huge mark for Sean McDermott. I’ll say it up front. What he has done with the Buffalo Bills during his tenure with the team is nothing short of spectacular. He has turned this franchise into a perennial contender in the AFC, and dethroned the mighty Patriots empire in 2020. It’s time he gets his due as one of the best in the game.

2. Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs – Reid has often been underappreciated, coaching with the stigma of postseason failures in Philadelphia for all those years. But, he and his staff have designed something special. With a hell of a playbook, a hell of a play-caller, and a hell of an offensive roster under him, Reid is on the streak of a lifetime.

1. Bruce Arians, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Look, the man won a Super Bowl, assembled a hell of a staff, helped to lure Tom Brady to Tampa, and most importantly, has all the pieces he needs to go on another run in 2021. I know it’s easy to just say the guy with the trophy is the best in the league, but I believe it – he’s created a vibe down there in Tampa, and has long been considered one of the best offensive minds in the game. He’s on a career-defining run – let the man have the mountaintop!

Other 2021 NFL Top 10s

  • Coming soon. Check back weekly all summer long!

Stoney Keeley is the Editor in Chief of The SoBros Network, and a Dogs Playing Poker on velvet connoisseur. He is a strong supporter of Team GSD and #BeBetter. “Big Natural” covers the Tennessee Titans, Nashville, and a whole wealth of nonsense. Follow on Twitter @StoneyKeeley

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