Ranking the NFL’s top 10 returning head coaches entering 2024

2MAG9GA Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid during an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

• Andy Reid stands atop the returning head coach rankings: Coming off another Lombardi trophy, the Kansas City Chiefs head coach was the obvious choice to top this list.

• John Harbaugh lands in the top three: Even though the Baltimore Ravens haven't been able to get out of the Chiefs' shadow, Harbaugh has proven to be one of the best NFL head coaches. 

• Get a head start on fantasy football: Use PFF's fantasy football mock draft simulator to create real live mock draft simulations to get ready for your live draft!

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

There are different head coaching styles throughout the NFL. Some have a strength on one side of the ball while others are more of a CEO-style approach who let their coordinators call plays on both sides of the ball. 

That, along with separating quarterback success from coach success, makes ranking head coaches in today's NFL pretty difficult. But it’s late June, so rankings are in right now. To make things easier we eliminated anyone who wasn’t a returning coach in their current role. 

Here are the top 10 returning head coaches in the NFL heading into the 2024 NFL season. 

1. Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs

Pairing Reid with Patrick Mahomes has been a cheat code that has led the Kansas City Chiefs to four Super Bowl appearances and three Super Bowl wins. On offense, they have ranked inside the top five in EPA per play every season from 2018-2022, even predating Mahomes’ arrival. They dropped to 12th last season, but with some significant improvements at the wide receiver position, expect them to be back inside the top five again in 2024.

2. Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers 

Shanahan has yet to get over the hump and win a Super Bowl despite holding leads in one as the Atlanta Falcons‘ offensive coordinator and two as the San Francisco 49ers‘ head coach, but he is the main reason why the 49ers are the favorites to come out of the NFC once again in 2024. They led the NFL in averaging 0.161 EPA per play in 2023 and while they ranked 12th on the defensive side of the ball, Shanahan was bold enough to make the change from Steve Wilks to Nick Sorensen at defensive coordinator heading into this season. That’s good news for Sorensen’s future career prospects, as three of Shanahan’s former coordinators are currently NFL head coaches.

3. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens 

Before the Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson in 2018, it looked like John Harbaugh could be on his way out as their head coach. The former Heisman Trophy winner helped turn things around, and Harbaugh has also improved as a coach in recent years. Harbaugh’s strength has been his ability to make the right decisions on coordinators, as the switch to Mike Macdonald in 2022 led to a defense that allowed an average of -0.134 EPA per play in 2023. On offense, he switched from Greg Roman to Todd Monken, which helped them bounce back to eighth in EPA per play in 2023. They have been the No. 1 seed twice in the Mahomes-Reid era in Kansas City but just haven’t been able to make it count in the playoffs yet.

4. Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams

While two Super Bowl appearances and one win are obviously the key highlights of McVay’s time with the Rams, you can make the case that getting the Rams to the playoffs last season, when they were tied for 24th worst odds to win the Super Bowl due to a roster that ultimately ranked sixth and second in snaps by rookies on offense and defense respectively, was up there with his best achievements. There are more challenges upcoming for McVay as the Rams deal with Aaron Donald‘s retirement this offseason while Matthew Stafford is now 36 years old and likely nearing the end of his career. Luckily, McVay has proven himself as a head coach at this point.

5. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers 

The Steelers haven’t won a playoff game in T.J. Watt’s career, which isn’t great considering that he’s heading into his eighth season in the NFL in 2024. That being said, if you look at what Tomlin has had at the quarterback position over the past five seasons, even getting to the playoffs is a huge accomplishment. The Steelers didn’t have a quarterback earn a PFF passing grade above 70.0 in 2023. Kenny Pickett was the best of the bunch at 68.8. With Russell Wilson and Justin Fields arriving this offseason, there’s a big opportunity for the Steelers to finally make an impact in the playoffs once again.

6. Matt LaFleur, Green Bay Packers 

If there was any doubt that LaFleur’s success in Green Bay in his first four seasons with the Packers was simply down to Aaron Rodgers, that narrative was put to bed in 2023. With Jordan Love in his first season as a starting quarterback, the Packers were tied with the Detroit Lions for fourth place in the NFL with 0.086 EPA per play and took down the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs before pushing the San Francisco 49ers all the way. 

7. Dan Campbell, Detroit Lions 

As a head coach, Campbell has gone from the guy everyone laughed at for the comments about biting kneecaps to the guy who has turned the Detroit Lions franchise into a legitimate Super Bowl contender. He, along with offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, has helped revitalize Jared Goff‘s career. The former No. 1 overall pick enjoyed the highest-graded season of his career with an 85.7 PFF grade last year. Campbell's next step is getting the Lions to the Super Bowl, but you wouldn’t bet against them doing that sooner rather than later.

8. DeMeco Ryans, Houston Texans 

Like Campbell in Detroit, Ryans has led a significant turn of fortunes as the Texans' head coach. After bringing fellow former 49ers coach Bobby Slowik to Houston as offensive coordinator, the Texans were able to turn a team expected to be among the worst in the league into a team that made the divisional round of the playoffs, all with a rookie quarterback in C.J. Stroud. A big offseason has increased expectations for the Texans and if they can improve on the defensive side of the ball, where they ranked 19th in EPA per play allowed in 2023, they can contend with the Chiefs in the AFC. Because Ryans’ strength is on the defensive side of the ball, they are more than capable of doing just that.

9. Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland Browns

The NFL's reigning Coach of the Year, Stefanski proved his worth as a head coach by making the playoffs with a Browns team that was really lacking at the quarterback position in 2023. They had four quarterbacks attempt 100 or more passes, and Joe Flacco was the best of the bunch with a 70.6 PFF passing grade. With the talent the Browns have on this roster, their success in 2024 will likely be determined by how Stefanski manages the quarterback position once again. Deshaun Watson hasn’t lived up to the price tag the Browns paid for him when they traded three first-round picks and gave him a fully guaranteed contract, and if things don’t improve early in 2024, they may need to consider a switch. Jameis Winston and Tyler Huntley were brought in for depth this offseason.

10. Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills

Filling the last spot in the top 10 was tough, as numerous coaches were worthy of consideration. Were it not for the late-season turnaround last season, there’s a good chance that I wouldn’t have gone with McDermott here. The Bills ranked third in the NFL with 0.104 EPA per play on offense in 2023 despite a coordinator change midseason. They actually dropped back a little when Joe Brady took over as interim coordinator but still ranked sixth from Week 11 through the end of the season. This upcoming season is a big prove-it year for McDermott, and he likely can’t afford for the Bills to start slow again like they did in 2023.


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