NFL management rankings: Which team has best leadership group?
After evaluating the four main leadership positions within each NFL organization, theScore tallies the results to determine which franchise possesses the best overall management group. Ties were broken by the best individual category finish.
32. Cincinnati Bengals
The good news for the Bengals is they aren't dead last in any category. The bad news is we don't have confidence in any of their leadership. In fairness, it's hard to learn much about a head coach during his two-win rookie season - at least it appears Zac Taylor has potential. We know what to expect, however, from Mike Brown as both an owner and a general manager: tight purse strings, poor judgment of players' character, and a refusal to cede any power.
31. New York Jets
Five of our six voters believe Adam Gase is either the worst or second-worst head coach in the league. He's clearly not the offensive mastermind some pegged him as, and he was lucky to make it through Year 1 in New York. However, the Jets might have landed a good GM in Joe Douglas. He took over in June 2019 - so this was actually his first offseason - and nailed the draft and made a host of shrewd free-agent moves.
30. Detroit Lions
Lions head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn are lucky to still be employed. Quinn's solid first few years have quickly been forgotten and Patricia has won nine games total in two seasons. Losing Matthew Stafford for half of the 2019 campaign gave the duo a reprieve. But, to her credit, owner Martha Firestone Ford seems done allowing the franchise to toil in mediocrity, publicly laying down a playoffs-or-bust mandate for Patricia and Quinn.
29. Cleveland Browns
The Browns haven't had good leadership since, well, ever. The Haslam family is again trying a new management group led by head coach Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry. While both have the qualities to end Cleveland's streak of dysfunction, we said the same about Freddie Kitchens and John Dorsey not so long ago. The Browns need to work to convince us their freshly picked leadership is up to the task.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars
With respect to offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and defensive coordinator Todd Wash, it's worrying that they're by far the best leaders the Jaguars possess. Gruden seems destined to be the interim head coach at some point in 2020, as Doug Marrone is on borrowed time. Jacksonville smartly parted ways with outdated executive Tom Coughlin, but Marrone and GM Dave Caldwell are just as responsible for the quick disintegration of a formerly talent-rich roster.
27. Houston Texans
Few head coaches have as much power as Bill O'Brien, and that's not a good thing. O'Brien is a solid coach, but his first few years directing personnel moves have been nothing short of a disaster. With inexperienced coordinators and an owner who's yet to make his mark, the Texans' leadership is among the most out of sync with the team's on-field talent.
26. Miami Dolphins
Though the Dolphins didn't win many games in 2019, head coach Brian Flores earned widespread respect for his team's surprising competitiveness and willingness to fight for every blade of grass. Flores and GM Chris Grier have Miami on the right track, though they'll fight the historically poor instincts of owner Stephen Ross to keep the AFC East club rolling forward.
25. Washington Redskins
After years of dysfunction caused mostly by owner Dan Synder's erratic decision-making, the Redskins are in good hands with Ron Rivera. Though Rivera has some work to do to show he can lead a front office, he's been a consistently solid head coach. However, Washington already tried handing over control to an accomplished head coach in Mike Shanahan. Synder might just be too much of an anchor to let anyone pull his franchise back to the surface.
24. New York Giants
Until recently, the Giants' ownership had an argument as one of the league's very best. But some of that respect is gone after they went through two head coaches in four years. New York took a big risk hiring a relative unknown in Joe Judge as its next head coach, and though Jason Garrett knows how to rally the troops, he often held back the Dallas Cowboys' offense with conservative calls.
23. Carolina Panthers
It's a new era in Carolina. In just a few short years, the Panthers' leadership has changed from top to bottom, and there are lot of reasons to be optimistic: head coach Matt Rhule rebuilt Baylor in an impressively short time, offensive coordinator Joe Brady was the mastermind behind Joe Burrow's historic 2019 season, and David Tepper has shown signs of being the kind of socially conscious owner the NFL needs right now. But that potential will have to be realized for Carolina to return to the upper echelon of NFL leadership.
22. Los Angeles Chargers
Aside from owner Dean Spanos, who was widely criticized for how the team left San Diego and relocated to a market already stuffed with beloved sports teams, the Chargers have a solid leadership group. Anthony Lynn came in below average but could quickly rebound if Los Angeles rediscovers its form from the head coach's rookie year in 2018. Meanwhile, few GMs have enjoyed a hotter streak in the draft than Tom Telesco has recently.
21. Arizona Cardinals
Kliff Kingsbury is - at least, at the moment - a better offensive coordinator than he is a head coach, but that's to be expected given his relative inexperience. GM Steve Keim has had his ups and downs in Arizona, but he's built a contender before and deserves plaudits for not passing on Kyler Murray just because he used a first-rounder on Josh Rosen the year prior.
20. Las Vegas Raiders
Head coach Jon Gruden might not have yet lived up to his $100-million contract, but there aren't many better natural leaders in the NFL. Gruden has proven his offensive philosophies can be successful in the modern game. While owner Mark Davis is often ridiculed and his low ranking held back the team's overall finish, he smartly played its move to Las Vegas and is far less impulsive than his legendary father.
19. Denver Broncos
A lot of John Elway's shine has been lost since the Broncos' Super Bowl win in 2015, with many giving even more of the credit to Peyton Manning for the team's remarkable four-year run. But the GM did build a championship winner, and his inability to replace Manning can make him fall only so far. It isn't certain that head coach Vic Fangio is the man to lead Denver forward, but he didn't appear to be in over his head in Year 1.
18. Chicago Bears
While we're far from sold on Matt Nagy, who hugely disappointed in his second season after winning Coach of the Year as a rookie, it's clear that GM Ryan Pace is the biggest problem in Chicago. Pace will forever be known as the man who passed on Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson for Mitchell Trubisky, and it's stunning that the all-time terrible decision has yet to cost him his job.
17. Los Angeles Rams
Sean McVay rose to prominence faster than any head coach has in recent memory. Prior to the Rams' Super Bowl loss in 2018, it's fair to say many would've ranked him as a top-five head coach. Last season hurt McVay's reputation somewhat, but we still view him as easily the best leader the Rams have. Los Angeles would have pushed for the top 10 if not for a pair of underwhelming coordinators.
16. Atlanta Falcons
Falcons owner Arthur Blank's biggest weakness is arguably being too loyal. Most owners would've sent head coach Dan Quinn packing after a second straight forgettable season in which the Falcons again failed to play up to their talent level. Maybe Quinn can rebound; the humbleness he displayed by handing over the defensive reigns to Raheem Morris was an encouraging sign. GM Thomas Dimitroff has found more than enough stars to help Quinn succeed.
15. Dallas Cowboys
For all his faults and eccentricities, Jerry Jones knows how to find and retain talent. Of course, it's easy to argue that Jones' ego has been one of Dallas' biggest obstacles over the past two decades, though he did finally relent and let Garrett walk. However, it remains to be seen how much of an upgrade Mike McCarthy is despite his Super Bowl pedigree, and that uncertainty hurts the Cowboys in the overall results.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bruce Arians was once widely considered a top-tier head coach, and he has the awards to prove it. We believe he fell back toward the middle of the pack when he came out of retirement, but the 67-year-old could quickly prove us foolish with Tom Brady at his side. Also, GM Jason Licht deserves some credit for landing Brady and Rob Gronkowski after years of being half asleep at the wheel.
13. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts land just behind their main competition for AFC South supremacy thanks mostly to the strong reputation GM Chris Ballard has built over three seasons. Ballard's 2018 draft class, headlined by Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard, will go down as an all-timer. Frank Reich's standing was seemingly most impacted by Indy's struggles without Andrew Luck, but he could remind the NFL of his play-calling prowess with Philip Rivers.
12. Tennessee Titans
No one arguably boosted their standing more in 2019 than Titans head coach Mike Vrabel. One of the only people who can challenge Vrabel for that distinction is offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, who was a little-known tight ends coach before he turned Tennessee's struggling offense into a juggernaut during his first season. Along with underrated GM Jon Robinson, the Titans have a group of leaders who should keep the team in the mix in the AFC for years to come.
11. Green Bay Packers
The Packers' unique ownership structure, which was topped only by that of the dynastic New England Patriots, helped propel the storied franchise to the cusp of the top 10. But concerns about second-year head coach Matt LaFleur and third-year GM Brian Gutekunst held back Green Bay despite a 13-win 2019 campaign. We'll soon see whether LaFleur's offensive philosophies are a true fit with Aaron Rodgers and if Gutekunst's skills are more represented by his stellar 2019 free-agent class or his widely panned 2020 draft.
10. Buffalo Bills
Bills owner Terry Pegula has the franchise on the right path for the first time in decades, but with only five years at the helm and stadium issues still hanging over the team's head, he's yet to break out of a below-average group. Perhaps Pegula is rated too harshly, as he found a perfect head coach-GM duo for Buffalo. We're particularly high on Brandon Beane, who has yet to put a foot wrong since taking over in 2017, though the jury is still out on Josh Allen.
9. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings have seemed close to breaking through to the next level for some time now, and our ranking reflects that. Minnesota owns some of the most consistent placings across the board, with above-average finishes in all four categories but no standout mark. While far from fighting for their jobs, head coach Mike Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman do need to prove they're capable of being great leaders instead of just good ones.
8. Seattle Seahawks
Pete Carroll is yet to slow down, even at 68 years old. The head coach is the soul of the Seahawks, and his defensive prowess has helped keep Seattle competitive even when its talent began to wane. One of Carroll's few major faults is his stubbornness when it comes to modernizing his scheme. GM John Schneider might have cooled off as a drafter in recent years, but he's still among the best at unearthing gems.
7. San Francisco 49ers
Kyle Shanahan fell at the final hurdle again, but we still consider him to be the best young head coach in the game. His talents as a play-caller are challenged only by the likes of McVay and Sean Payton. With GM John Lynch taking to front-office life far better than most predicted, the 49ers have accumulated an enviable array of talent. Average ownership and the lack of a recent Super Bowl win are the lone knocks against San Francisco.
6. New Orleans Saints
Even after 13 years at the helm of the Saints, head coach Payton remains among the very best offensive minds in the league and one of the best ever regardless of era. He has the perfect front-office partner in aggressive GM Mickey Loomis. The duo has produced eight seasons of double-digit wins, and New Orleans is kept from a top-five finish only by its unremarkable ownership.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers' best quality is their consistency and stability. A more impulsive owner might have recently believed it was time for a fresh start, but Art Rooney II trusted Mike Tomlin, and the head coach proved him right with an outstanding job in 2019 sans Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh's top-to-bottom leadership is why the team is always competitive, regardless of how stacked the roster is.
4. Philadelphia Eagles
The trio of GM Howie Roseman, head coach Doug Pederson, and owner Jeffery Lurie have brought Pittsburgh-level stability to the Eagles, culminating in a Super Bowl win that many fans waited a lifetime to see. A disappointing 2019 season has done little to shake our faith in the organization, which seems to have few faults in terms of direction and leadership.
3. Baltimore Ravens
John Harbaugh restored his reputation as an elite head coach with his impressive malleability when it came to Lamar Jackson and the offense as a whole. But it's the Ravens' coordinator duo of Greg Roman and Don "Wink" Martindale who propelled Baltimore to a top-three finish. The only thing holding the Ravens back from an even higher finish is Eric DeCosta's relative lack of experience as a GM.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
We too often declare Super Bowl winners as the next potential dynasty, but it does feel there's something special brewing in Kansas City, even without considering Patrick Mahomes. Andy Reid is the best offensive mind in the game, and he doesn't even call the plays. That role is filled by Eric Bieniemy, whose inexplicable inability to land a head coaching job is the Chiefs' gain. Meanwhile, owner Clark Hunt's decision to move on from John Dorsey and promote Brett Veach to GM, which some questioned at the time, was brilliant.
1. New England Patriots
It was almost a clean sweep for the Patriots after two decades of unprecedented success and domination over the rest of the league. It all starts, of course, with Bill Belichick, who is nearly always 10 steps ahead of the competition. Though widely acknowledged as the greatest NFL coach in history, Belichick isn't the only standout leader in New England. Robert Kraft's vision has been vital to the Patriots' success, as have Josh McDaniels' talents as a play-caller.