By Peter Engler and Robert Simpson
The 2021 coaching carousel is in full swing and several top candidates have already been identified. Here are a 10 coaches who could be in the conversation next offseason, six offensive coaches and four defensive coaches:
Matt Campbell, Iowa State head coach
Building his reputation as an offensive line coach with Mount Union, Bowling Green and Toledo, Campbell was successful enough to be hired or internally promoted six times in eight years, including the Toledo head coach role, where he won 35 games and two bowls in four years. Moving to his current job leading Iowa State, his Cyclones have been ranked in the AP Top 25 poll each of the past four years despite previously not making the Top 25 since 2005. He made the top 10 in 2020 with a Fiesta Bowl win behind an offense that finished 18th in the country in rushing TDs per game and was in the top 35 in both total and rushing offense.
Ken Dorsey, Bills QB coach
Developed QB Josh Allen, who this season has broken single-season franchise records for passing TDs (37), total touchdowns (45), completion percentage (69.2%) and quarterback rating (107.2). Before his time in Buffalo, Dorsey developed Cam Newton as the QB coach for the Panthers — coaching him through his MVP season in 2015. He also had a six-year career as a quarterback in the league with both the Browns and 49ers.
Luke Getsy, Packers passing game coordinator
In his first season as the Packers’ passing game coordinator, he has helped Aaron Rodgers to an MVP-caliber season, with the top passing offense in the NFL. He made his return to Green Bay last season after a stint as the offensive coordinator at Mississippi State, where the Bulldogs were second in the SEC in rushing yards and yards per carry. As the Packers’ WR coach from 2016-17, he coached standouts Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams. Prior to that, he coached Corey Davis at Western Michigan when Davis was named Freshman of the Year.
Mike LaFleur, 49ers passing game coordinator
The brother of Packers’ head coach Matt LaFleur is in his third season as the passing game coordinator for the 49ers. Last season, San Francisco tied the NFL record with 13 different players catching a touchdown. He has also helped with the development of TE George Kittle, who was voted to the Pro Bowl in two consecutive seasons and became the first tight end in franchise history to record 1,000 receiving yards in a season.
Byron Leftwitch, Buccaneers offensive coordinator
In 2019, his second year as offensive coordinator with the Buccaneers, Leftwich produced one of the most explosive offenses in the league with WRs Chris Godwin and Mike Evans both earning Pro Bowl selections. He has helped transition the offense to fit Tom Brady’s skill set, and Brady threw the second-most TD passes of his illustrious career, behind only his 50-TD performance in 2007, when he was voted the NFL MVP. Prior to his time in Tampa Bay, Leftwich was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Arizona Cardinals and he played quarterback for 10 seasons in the league.
Nick Sirianni, Colts offensive coordinator
After leading Keenan Allen to his career-best season and WR Tyrell Williams to over 1,000 receiving yards in support of the Chargers’ league-leading passing attack in 2017, Sirianni joined the Colts in 2018 and immediately led the offense to top-10 rankings in total offense and pass offense in Andrew Luck’s Comeback Player of the Year season. In 2019, Luck’s retirement forced the offense to change tact and Sirianni’s offense boasted the league’s seventh-ranked rush offense while maintaining the fifth-best yards per carry in franchise history. Even in 2020, he incorporated a new QB while finishing top 10 in both scoring and total offense while rookie RB Jonathan Taylor finished third in the NFL in rushing yards while adding 11 TDs.
Aaron Glenn, Saints defensive backs coach
The former first-round pick is relatively new to coaching after a lengthy playing career and a few seasons in football administration with the Jets, but he put together the eighth-ranked pass defense in his first coaching season as the assistant DBs coach for the 2014 Browns. He’s been the DBs coach for New Orleans since 2016, playing a key role in player development for Pro Bowler and former Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore as well as rookies and midseason acquisitions like Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Eli Apple. In a superb 2020 season, the Saints had the fifth-best pass defense and recorded the most interceptions in the NFL as five different players in the secondary recorded multiple interceptions and four managed 10-plus passes defensed.
Chris Hewitt, Ravens pass defense coordinator
Although he isn’t as well-traveled as some of his compatriots on this list, Hewitt has been a loyal coach and priority to retain during his 17-year career, including the last eight with Baltimore. Under Hewitt’s tutelage, the Ravens are consistently one of the top defenses in INTs forced. He’s also produced a top 10 pass defense every year since 2016, despite facing one of the highest numbers of pass attempts. Seamlessly inserting high-cost acquisitions like Marcus Peters into his homegrown units of All-Pros such as Marlon Humphrey, Hewitt has shown consistent ability to stop the league’s top passing attacks.
Jimmy Lake, University of Washington head coach
Even before UW was selected for the Pac-12 Championship Game in Lake’s first season as a HC, he masterfully overcame adversity as the team’s four-year defensive coordinator and two-year defensive backs coach. From starting multiple true freshmen in the secondary to repeatedly producing one of the top passing and scoring defenses in the country, he’s replicated his 2012-2013 success from Boise State (fifth nationally in pass defense in 2012) and has 5-plus years of NFL experience as a DBs coach with Tampa Bay and Detroit.
Brandon Staley, Rams defensive coordinator
Although he’s only just finishing his first year as an NFL defensive coordinator after three seasons with the Bears and Broncos as an OLB coach and following his DIII-coordinating days, Staley managed to put together the league’s best defense by a wide variety of metrics. First in points allowed, first in yards allowed, first in pass defense, and third in rush defense, he took a unit that hadn’t ranked top 5 in any of those categories since 2001 and coaxed career-best seasons out of DBs, LBs, and DL alike.