Every NFL head coach essentially takes the same path to their job. They work their way through the assistant coaching ranks, starting at the bottom of the totem poll, bouncing from place to place in order to move up the ladder, and finally landing a job as a coordinator. In that spot, they flourish, becoming an integral part of a team’s success.
Because of that, a coach becomes a hot commodity; every downtrodden franchise wants to tap into the magic they’ve demonstrated on either the offensive or defensive side of the ball, a formula that has proven successful elsewhere. So, they get tabbed as a head coach, the only remaining level of advancement.
However, some guys simply aren’t ready for that step. As a coordinator, they thrive because the job is about X’s and O’s; that’s where their talent lies. But as a head coach, they struggle because it’s much more about managing every detail of the team than drawing up plays on a chalkboard; that’s not their strong suit.
Norv Turner has been the best recent example of this phenomenon. Wade Phillips is also on the list. Both are great football minds who have had monster success as offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively. But both have struggled as head coaches, lacking some trait that would allow them to flourish as the top guy.
But they aren’t the only ones who fall into this category. Today, there are plenty of head coaches who are no different than Turner and Phillips; they’ve be much better off as a coordinator than the top guy.
So with that in mind, here are 10 current NFL coaches who would be better suited to be a top assistant:
10. Rex Ryan
Ryan’s bombastic personality makes him an engaging guy to cover; he’s always got a great one-liner ready to go. But he seems to lack the buttoned-up, details-oriented traits that make for a great head coach. His emotional approach is sensational as a coordinator, where he can fire up his defensive troops and get them to play for him. But when it comes to leading an entire organization, he’s too all over the board.
9. Jim Caldwell
People want to downplay Caldwell’s success as the quarterbacks coach in Indianapolis because he had the good fortune of leading Peyton Manning. But they have a much harder time discrediting the work he did in Baltimore, where he took over as offensive coordinator late in the 2012 season and helped lead the Ravens to a Super Bowl title. That said, the quiet demeanor that keeps QBs on an even keel doesn’t work when he’s the head coach.