Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

21 Sep 2017

ESPN: Best Coordinators of the Past 25 Years

Or, the Wade Phillips List. The headline here doesn't quite get at what we were trying to do, which was look at coordinators with success at multiple stops. So we only included those coaches who have led units for at least three franchises in the last 25 years. Al Saunders and Ernie (not Ken) Zampese top the offensive list, Phillips the defensive list, and Scott O'Brien the special teams list. (Dave Toub has only worked for two franchises, so he didn't qualify to be listed.)

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 21 Sep 2017

18 comments, Last at 23 Sep 2017, 12:04pm by Shattenjager


by meblackstone :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 12:28pm

No Dick LeBeou? (spelling?)

by Pottsville Maro... :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 12:55pm

The article says that "Coordinators had to work for at least three franchises, and we removed those who ranked well solely because of one team." LeBeau worked for a variety of franchises, but would be on this list pretty much solely due to his work with the Steelers (he was the DC for the 1988 Bengals, who made the Super Bowl, but that's outside this 25-year window).

by Jim C. :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 1:12pm

He just missed the 25 year window, as his last year in Cincinnati was 1991. Frankly, to me that argues for a 26 year window.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 3:28pm

Tom Moore has been a great assistant for a very, very, long time. He probably gets overlooked because of the "Peyton Manning was his own coordinator" factor, but Moore was part of Carson Palmer's late career revival, and did some great work in the 90s with mediocre Lions qbs. If you go back further than 25 years, he did good work with the Vikings and Steelers, including being Stallworth's and Swan's receivers coach.

by Aaron Schatz :: Fri, 09/22/2017 - 4:22pm

Moore is confusing because he doesn't always have the offensive coordinator title.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 3:32pm

A lot of people were not especially entertained by the Broncos/Panthers Super Bowl, but I thought it was fascinating to see Bum Phillips' son grind Don Shula's son to a fine, pulverized, dust.

by dmstorm22 :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 5:19pm

I thought that game was highly entertaining - one of the better defensive slugfests I've seen.

It was amazing seeing that Denver defense slowly overwhelm an offense that put up 49 two weeks earlier.

by Independent George :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 5:30pm

I thoroughly enjoyed it, because after a decade of offfensive dominance, I got to see a caveman with a rock destroy a finely-made Swiss watch.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 5:37pm

It surprised me, in that I thought it obvious that the Panthers best chance was to get a numbers advantage while running, with Cam on about 15 designed rushes, even though it may have taken years off Newton's career. Instead, Shula was really conventional, and Wade clubbed 'em like a baby seal.

by kaesees :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 4:37pm

Can you do a worst coordinators list? I would really appreciate it if you did, so that I could print it out, highlight Dom Capers' name at the top of the list, and mail it to 1265 Lombardi Ave along with a photocopy of my shares. Thanks.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 4:42pm

Hate to break it to you, but Capers is on the best list.

by ChrisLong :: Fri, 09/22/2017 - 12:01am

Agreed, Capers is very good but the Packers haven't had a special talent on D in a long time. Some borderline, maybe even solid Pro Bowlers, but there's no Von Millers or Darrelle Revis' out there. That's why the Packers D hasn't been more than good since 2010; if you're relying on just good players, you need them at pretty much every position. He does the best he can with the hand he is dealt.

by Vincent Verhei :: Fri, 09/22/2017 - 5:20am

I wrote this for FOA 2016, so it's a year and two games out of date now, but:

"Since [Capers] arrived in Green Bay, the Packers lead the NFL with 148 interceptions, 16 more than any other team, and they’re fourth with 288 sacks. And all that pressure and tight coverage has also limited opponents to a 58 percent completion rate, third-lowest in the league."

He's got his weaknesses too, and I went into those. But when you're making life that difficult for opposing quarterbacks, clearly you're doing something right.

by Aaron Schatz :: Fri, 09/22/2017 - 4:24pm

Will consider doing this as an XP post. One interesting finding in this research was that these coordinators with three or more jobs actually had BELOW-AVERAGE ratings on average, suggesting that constant retreads may not be the best strategy to improve your coaching staff.

by Independent George :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 5:33pm

He was a HC and not a coordinator, but what would a similar analysis of Marty Schottenheimer's career tell us?

by Will Allen :: Fri, 09/22/2017 - 10:50am

I became curious, so I did a quick calculation of the DVOA of offenses that either had Tom Moore listed as o-coordinator, or assistant head coach, for the past 25 years, which covers Arizona 2013-2016, Indy 1998-2010, and Detroit 1994-1996. I think the average rank of those offenses was about 8.

by Shattenjager :: Fri, 09/22/2017 - 11:24am

I understand why he was not included, but in case anyone else was curious, Dick LeBeau's average (assuming I did it correctly) was 13.6, which would rank number four.

I had forgotten just how bad his Bengals defenses were, though--never ranked higher than number 26 by DVOA, and that 26-ranked last season was a marked improvement over the previous three. Considering we're talking about the late '90s-early '00s Bengals, I wouldn't blame him for it, but the performance was pretty awful.

by Shattenjager :: Sat, 09/23/2017 - 12:04pm

I was just looking up some others who didn't fit the article for various reasons or just interested me and thought it was fun.

Jim Johnson has an 11.5 that actually beats Phillips. He only coached with two teams and one of them was for two uninspiring years, but it does show how impressive his run in Philadelphia really was. The defense also was awful in the two years that bookend his tenure.

Mike Martz has a 23.2. I remembered his offense being good in Detroit, but it wasn't. He only coordinated a good offense in 1999--the others were all bad.

Chan Gailey has a 16.4 if you go back through his whole career. It's a 17.6 within the last 25 years, which removes two pretty strong seasons in Denver. Of course, what's impressive about a lot of his career is how he's been able to get decent performance out of uninspiring players, especially at QB. His primary starters have been: John Elway (2 years), Mike Tomczak, Kordell Stewart, Jay Fiedler (2 years), Tyler Thigpen, and Ryan Fitzpatrick (2 years). He had Elway for two years and then a dumpster fire from then on.

John Fox has a 10.8 as a DC for the Raiders and Giants. It's not a big sample (6 seasons) and it's only two franchises, but it's at least a fairly strong resume.

Mike Shanhan has a 5.0. It's almost entirely before the last 25 years, it's with only two franchises, and his first season as an OC was before the DVOA era, but it's still pretty damn impressive. It does help to spend literally every season coaching a Hall of Fame QB, but at least he did get great performance out of them.

Kyle Shanhan has spent more time as an OC than his father and does fit within the confines of this article, but his average is only 16.0. He coordinated two above-average offenses in Houston, one very good offense in Washington, and one world-beater in Atlanta, but every other season was below average.