The Carolina Panthers fired offensive coordinator Mike Shula after five years as the team’s offensive coordinator. Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees retired after six seasons. The Seattle Seahawks fired offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell after seven years. The Green Bay Packers fired defensive coordinator Dom Capers after nine years.
The NFL coordinator position is not one for longevity as only six coordinators have held their job for five or more seasons- and that could drop in the coming weeks as some receive head coaching offers.
The short life span of a coordinator makes some sense, too. Either they’re “good enough” at their job that they’ll start receiving head coaching jobs within three or four years, or they’re “not good enough” and either they or the entire staff will be replaced.
When you realize that only 10 head coaches have held their same job for 5 or more seasons, it makes sense that the coordinators would have a similar or more accelerated turnover. Less effective coaches, like, say, Marvin Lewis, are able to hold on to their positions while the coordinators turnover, even if those coordinators are better than the head coach himself (hi Mike Zimmer).
So let’s take a look at those coordinators that have managed to hold on to their jobs for five or more years and discuss how much longer they’ll have that same job.
NOTE: We are not looking at special teams coordinators because teams rarely change those. 12 teams have had the same special teams coordinators for five or more years, including five hired in 2010 or earlier. Six special teams coordinators with five or more years on the job have first names that start with the letter “d”. That’s not a helpful fact, but I thought it was funny.
New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. (2009)
Carmichel has been with the Saints since Sean Payton was named head coach in 2006. After three years as the quarterbacks coach, he received the promotion to offensive coordinator in 2009 and has held the position ever since. He has an incredible familiarity with quarterback Drew Brees - they both were also with the San Diego Chargers from 2002-05 - and he attended Boston College, which is known as the greatest university on the planet so it’s no surprise he’s held on to the job for such a long period of time. (editor’s note: Rich, you attended Boston College, please make that clear)
Carmichael has stayed out of the spotlight because he hasn’t really called the plays during his time as coordinator- but when given the chance, he’s done an outstanding job. While Payton made the calls early on in their tenure, Carmichael called plays down the final stretch of 2011 when Payton suffered a torn MCL and leg fracture during a game. He also called the plays during Payton’s suspension in 2012 and called the plays for a part of 2016 before Payton took the responsibilities back in week 12.
The Saints offense ranked 1st in yards and 2nd in points in 2011; 2nd in yards and 3rd in points in 2012; and 1st in yards and 2nd in points in 2016 with Carmichael calling the shots. Those represent the third (tied) and fifth best performances by the Saints offense under Sean Payton, with the 2008-09 offenses finishing 1st in points. So maybe Carmichael’s learned enough to get a shot.
But I could see Carmichael willing to play out the rest of Brees’ career as the offensive coordinator, just like...
New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels (2012)
...I could also see McDaniels staying with the Patriots for the rest of Tom Brady’s career.
McDaniels is competing for both the Indianapolis Colts and New York Giants head coaching jobs and I’ve already expressed my thoughts on the topic here. I think the odds of his return are better than expected- but there is still a chance he could take the Giants head coaching position and this list could shrink to five names.
New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia (2012)
Everyone expects Patricia to take the head coaching position for the Detroit Lions, except for this report that says he’s the favorite for the Giants job, so this should drop to just four names pretty soon after the season ends.
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley (2012)
Haley spent his childhood in Pittsburgh as his father was the team’s former director of personnel, so he’s in no rush to leave. The Steelers have consistently had a top 10 offense under Haley, just like how his offenses with the Arizona Cardinals were also consistently in the top 10.
Haley told teams that he wasn’t interested in head coaching opportunities during the 2016 offseason and wasn’t contacted for a head coaching job in the 2017 offseason or this current offseason (as far as we know right now), despite a few teams (like the Giants) showing interest in candidates with prior head coaching experience.
There is also apparent conflict between Haley and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, although it clearly didn’t receive the same traction that the recent Tom Brady/Bill Belichick/Robert Kraft story did,
“Roethlisberger approached head coach Mike Tomlin about a month ago and requested to have a buffer between him and Haley on the sidelines, another set of eyes and a sounding board he could turn to,” according to a CBS Sports report. “Specifically, he asked that quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner, who he is close with, no longer stay in the coaching booth in the press box during games but instead join other offensive coaches down to the sidelines. Tomlin quickly obliged, and the Steelers have been operating in that fashion since last month, sources said.”
Perhaps Fitchner, who has been with the Steelers since 2007 and served as the quarterbacks coach since 2010, could move up as the team’s offensive coordinator. Haley’s contract with the Steelers is set to expire, according to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, and is in consideration for the Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator job, so perhaps this could be his last season in Pittsburgh if the Steelers feel a need to make a change.
Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin (2013)
Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians announced his retirement, which puts Goodwin’s place on this list in jeopardy. Goodwin follow Arians from the Steelers (2007-11) to the Colts (2012) serving as the offensive line coach for both teams, before joining Arians with the Cardinals in 2013 as the offensive coordinator.
Arians leads the Cardinals offense through meetings, practice, and play calling, but opened up Goodwin’s responsibilities in the 2016 offseason. Goodwin has interviewed for head coaching jobs in the past for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Los Angeles Rams, but his lack of experience running the offense makes teams hesitate and he wasn’t considered by the Cardinals as a possible replacement for the now-retired Arians.
Goodwin is currently interviewing for offensive coaching positions for AFC teams, according to ArizonaSports.com’s Mike Jurecki, and with quarterback Carson Palmer retiring there’s no need to carry over the prior staff and a very real chance the next head coach of the Cardinals will want a fresh start at offensive coordinator.
So Goodwin could drop from this list over the next couple weeks, too.
Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton (2013)
Sutton is the second-longest tenured defensive coordinator after Patricia and his defenses have ranked 5th, 2nd, 3rd, 7th, and 15th in points allowed over the past five seasons. Sutton turns 67 later this month and isn’t a candidate to take a head coaching job because of his age.
While some are calling for Sutton to lose his job after the Chiefs ugly collapse against the Tennessee Titans, he was without his two defensive stars in SS Eric Berry and EDGE Dee Ford, both on the injured reserve, while star defensive lineman Chris Jones suffered an early injury against the Titans that surely led to second half struggles. The loss isn’t Sutton’s fault.
The Chiefs lost offensive coordinator Matt Nagy this offseason and he is now the Chicago Bears head coach, and I would be surprised if the Chiefs willingly turned over the coaching staff on defense.
So of the six offensive and defensive coordinators with five or more years at their current post, two (McDaniels and Patricia) could leave for head coaching jobs, one is expected to leave due to a coaching change (Goodwin), and two more have a nonzero chance of being on the chopping block if the team decides to go in a different direction (Haley and Sutton).
That would leave Carmichael as the only coordinator still on this list and, guess what, Drew Brees is a free agent after this season and Carmichael has been joined at his hip for the past 16 seasons.
It’s likely that only three or four of these coaches will remain with the team for another season, and that just highlights the incredible turnover at the position.