• Ben Johnson spearheads a surging Lions offense: Jared Goff, a quarterback whose salary dump was once used as a makeweight for a first-round pick in a trade, is all of a sudden putting up elite-looking numbers under Johnson.
• A fresh start for Justin Herbert and the Chargers' offense: Former Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator comes in at No. 2 and will look to unleash the best version of Herbert this season.
• Consistently overlooked, Eric Bienemy takes over Washington's offense: Bienemy has been passed over for head coaching opportunities but now gets a chance to prove his value with the Commanders.
Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes
Ranking NFL offensive coordinators is extremely difficult, given the nature of head coach hirings in the league today. With offense being king, quality coordinators are almost immediately hired away to become head coaches, and those head coaches often muddy the water by keeping in control of their offense when they earn that top job.
Consequently, 14 offensive coordinators in the league right now are either in their first or second seasons in the job, while at least eight more are seriously complicated when it comes to evaluating their performance by the head coach they serve under. That number is even higher if you delve into the issues of Eric Bienemy feeling the need to leave Kansas City to prove he isn’t just a product of his head coach (Andy Reid) or quarterback (Patrick Mahomes).
That leaves us with a list barely long enough to round out a top 10 of any kind of ranking. So while this is a list 10 names long, realistically a ranking of offensive coordinators in the league is just a few names long, with any subsequent names being incomplete grades.
*The San Francisco 49ers don’t have an offensive coordinator. Technically, you can make the case that Kyle Shanahan should be eligible for this list, as the reason they don’t is that he effectively does the job in addition to his own. But for simplicity's sake, he was omitted.
1. Ben Johnson, Detroit Lions
Detroit’s Ben Johnson is doing such a good job with the Lions that he has people believing in Jared Goff again. A quarterback whose salary dump was once used as a makeweight for a first-round pick in a trade is all of a sudden putting up elite-looking numbers, but his PFF grade — a throw-by-throw accounting of his individual performance — remains very close to his career baseline. That difference highlights Johnson's performance as the play caller.
Johnson consistently seemed to be one step ahead of opposing defensive coordinators last season. And with more weaponry added to the offense this year, he could be in line for even better things in 2023. With any kind of repeat performance, he will likely be in a head coaching job this time next year.
2. Kellen Moore, Los Angeles Chargers
Kellen Moore has been hired by the Chargers to finally answer the question of whether Justin Herbert has been held back by his coaches in Los Angeles, or whether he skews toward more conservative play than somebody with his talents should. Herbert has had the lowest turnover-worthy play rate in the NFL for the past two seasons and one of the lowest average depths of target.
Dak Prescott was significantly more aggressive in Dallas with Moore running the offense, and it’s a system that wants to rely on the quarterback as much as possible. Moore’s reputation is already high, but unleashing the best version of Herbert this season will only enhance it.
3. Bill O’Brien, New England Patriots
Bill O’Brien the coach is excellent. He was undone somewhat by Bill O’Brien the personnel man, and so his tenure in Houston is, perhaps, unfairly remembered, but the Patriots secured a major upgrade at offensive coordinator this offseason. O’Brien has had success in the NFL in multiple stops, including New England, and was coaching an outstanding Alabama offense in college before his return to the professional ranks.
While the perception about O’Brien right now may be unfairly tainted by his stint as a head coach, it’s possible that it gets overly inflated this season by virtue of how good he might look in comparison to the disastrous plan that went before him. Either way, in a league low on proven commodities, O’Brien deserves a high ranking.
4. Shane Waldron, Seattle Seahawks
When Shane Waldron was initially hired, the focus was on how he was going to help unlock the best play from Russell Wilson. As it turns out, he was to preside over a breakout season from Geno Smith instead. It’s very difficult to parse where the credit for that unexpected season belongs, or even how real it was, but transforming a journeyman quarterback into a top-10 starter is a seriously impressive thing to put on a resume. Waldron’s offense last season ranked 13th in expected points added per play and 12th in successful play percentage.
5. Ken Dorsey, Buffalo Bills
Ken Dorsey stepped into the offensive coordinator role last season in Buffalo after the departure of Brian Daboll. Clearly, the foundation laid by Daboll and the personnel were already good, but the offense kept on trucking with little sign of change. Buffalo’s offense ranked top five in most meaningful offensive categories, and only the Chiefs were better in successful play rate. Dorsey can further cement his reputation with another strong season this year.
6. Eric Bienemy, Washington Commanders
One of the most difficult evaluations out there, Eric Bienemy has become an annual discussion point as he gets consistently overlooked in head coaching searches. We know Andy Reid is an incredible offensive mind in Kansas City, and we know Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback in the game. So how good Bienemy is within his role as coordinator is an open question, so much so that he felt he needed to prove he can thrive outside of their influence in Washington. Unfair as it may be, this season could be one that makes or breaks Bienemy’s reputation as a coordinator.
7. Todd Monken, Baltimore Ravens
Todd Monken is another coordinator who has had stints in the NFL and college levels already. He returns to the professional ranks to take charge of the Baltimore offense and present Lamar Jackson with his first new offense at this level after enjoying so much success under Greg Roman. Monken's last coordinator role in the NFL was under Freddie Kitchens in Cleveland when the entire season unraveled in a hurry, but he was also in charge when Ryan Fitzpatrick played some of his best football in Tampa Bay. The Georgia Bulldogs' offense had also been cooking under his tutelage. This is a huge season for Monken, given Jackson's unique abilities.
8. Matt Nagy, Kansas City Chiefs
Matt Nagy was hired by the Chicago Bears on the back of his work as a coordinator in Kansas City. Now, with Bienemy leaving to prove he can succeed elsewhere, Nagy steps back into that role. Realistically, it’s difficult to determine how much of the Chiefs' success on offense is due to Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes, and it’s noteworthy that Bienemy hasn’t been given the chance that Nagy received. But the chances are that Nagy will once again be at the helm of one of the best offenses in the game.
9. Jim Bob Cooter, Indianapolis Colts
One of a number of offensive coaches to temporarily unlock the best of Matthew Stafford when he was in Detroit, Jim Bob Cooter was also part of the huge growth shown by Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville last season as the team’s passing game coordinator. That may have helped rebuild his reputation, and in Anthony Richardson the Colts have a very focused goal on offense for him to turn his attention to. This is a big chance for Cooter to show that he can consistently get the best out of his quarterback and build an offense around one.
10. Brian Schottenheimer, Dallas Cowboys
This will be Brian Schottenhemer’s fifth stint as an offensive coordinator between the NFL and college football — and his first since he was let go by the Seattle Seahawks. With Kellen Moore departed from Dallas, the Cowboys and Mike McCarthy clearly have defined ideas about where they want this offense to go, and Schottenheimer has always leaned toward the run game (in part, seemingly in search of the magic number 53).