The offensive player is often the most scrutinized and acclaimed member of an NFL coaching staff. At the start of the 2021 season, here's a look at the play-callers from top to bottom.
Reid has called plays since he first became a head coach with the Eagles in 1999. His overall success as a head coach is historic, and his play calling on offense is a big reason. Reid's creativity and pass-heavy scheme were way ahead of its time, and his teams have finished top in 10 scoring 14 times in 23 seasons. He finally has the most phenomenal pupil in Patrick Mahomes to allow his offense to reach its full potential.
Payton has become an elite head coach and play-caller in 14 seasons with the Saints, leading what has been annually one of the league's top offenses with Drew Brees under center. That changes this year following Brees' retirement, but Payton has an interesting project trying to revitalize former No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston's career with minimal receiver help. His high-percentage passing offense could evolve with the strong-armed Winston.
McVay has been crowned a football prodigy, immediately turning around the Rams offense after he was hired as head coach at age 31 in 2017. He spent the previous three seasons as the Washington offensive coordinator under Jay Gruden. McVay's Rams offenses have gone downhill quickly with the loss of Todd Gurley and poor play from Jared Goff, but he hopes to turn things around with Matthew Stafford under center.
Shanahan has proven to be much more than a nepotism hire, as the son of accomplished former NFL head coach Mike Shanahan. Kyle served as offensive coordinator of the Texas, Washington, Cleveland, and Atlanta before the 49ers hired him in 2017, and through that time he's drawn up brilliant run plays and schemes similar to his father. Some Falcons fans weren't fond of Shanahan's play-calling in the team's notorious Super Bowl loss after holding a 28-3 lead against the Patriots, but Shanahan is undeniably one of the best play-callers in the game.
LaFleur had two offensive coordinator jobs before taking the Packers head coaching position. He helped the Rams offense, albeit behind play-caller Sean McVay, finish first in scoring in 2017, but didn't reach expectations the following year in Tennessee due to quarterback issues. It's hard to see how LaFleur could do better running Green Bay's offense after the team led the NFL in points with MVP Aaron Rodgers last season. His major challenge could come if and when Rodgers decides to move on.
McDaniels' NFL coaching career has been an interesting ride. He was promoted to Patriots offensive coordinator in 2005 and led one of the greatest NFL offenses in history in 2007 before taking the Broncos head coaching job in 2009. That short tenure included a falling out with previous franchise quarterback Jay Cutler and the drafting of Tim Tebow in the first round. After being fired, he struggled in one season as the coordinator in St. Louis before returning to New England. McDaniels was again leading elite offenses with the Patriots in 2012 but took the Colts head coaching job in 2018 before having a change of heart and burning more bridges. New England's offense struggled last year without Tom Brady, but McDaniels now has more talent to work with and rookie quarterback Mac Jones.
Reich served as offensive coordinator for the Chargers and Eagles before he was hired to lead the Colts in 2018. He didn't call plays under Doug Pederson in Philly, but has done a nice job in the quarterback musical chairs with the Colts, as the offense has finished in the top 10 in scoring in two of the last three years with three different starting quarterbacks. Now Reich has his fourth starter in four years with Carson Wentz, and very well could be considered an elite offensive mind if he's able to fix the maligned former Eagle.
Stefanski did a great job leading Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense in his one season as the offensive coordinator in 2019, finishing eighth in points scored, and was called upon to fix Baker Mayfield and the Browns last year. The early returns were strong, with the Browns making the playoffs and winning one game, even with a middling offense that finished 14th in points. An Ivy League alum from Penn, Stefanski is able to marry great scheme with analytics, to the appeal of Cleveland's front office.
Gruden has been an NFL head coach in parts of four decades with the Raiders and Buccaneers. Of course, his past has seen more success than his present, leading an elite offense with Rich Gannon early in his career and leading the Bucs to a Super Bowl victory with Brad Johnson in Tampa Bay. It's undeniable that he's made Derek Carr a better quarterback in his current Raiders tenure, but the offense just peaked 10th in scoring last year.
Smith was hired to lead the Falcons after two outstanding seasons as the offensive coordinator in Tennessee. He succeeded Matt LaFleur and led huge gains in the Titans offense, ranked 10th and fourth in points over the last two years while also revitalizing Ryan Tannehill's career. The Falcons are in somewhat of a rebuild, but Smith still has tools to work with, including Matt Ryan and Calvin Ridley.
Roman has done well with mobile quarterbacks and run-heavy offenses in San Francisco, Buffalo, and now the Ravens. He helped Lamar Jackson earn an MVP in 2019 with the top offense in the league before the team regressed last year. Similarly, Roman did a fantastic job calling plays under Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco, leading the team to the Super Bowl with Colin Kaepernick in 2012. Roman isn't for every team, but he's a great fit for Baltimore.
Coming over from Kansas City, Nagy has somehow led the Bears to a .500 or better record in three consecutive seasons despite shaky quarterback play from Mitchell Trubisky. Chicago's offense has ranked in the bottom third of the league in consecutive years, but Nagy has also needed better tools for the job. He might have upgraded after the team drafted Justin Fields, though Andy Dalton is set to be the quarterback at the start of the season.
Bevell is one of the NFL's most experienced current coordinators, entering his 15th season with his fourth team. Of course, he's not remembered in a great light by Seahawks fans after Russell Wilson's interception at the goal line in Super Bowl XLIX. Still, there's something to be said for Bevell's success with the likes of Brett Favre, Wilson, and Matthew Stafford as a coordinator. He's now tasked with developing Trevor Lawrence and the young Jaguars' offense.
Mike McCarthy retained Moore as the Cowboys offensive coordinator when he was hired in 2020, and the former college star quarterback leads a high-powered offense that's healthy again after a nightmarish 2020 season. Moore's offense ranked first in yards in 2019 before last year's mess and made a strong showing in Week 1 of the 2021 season.
Kingsbury was crowned an offensive genius at Texas Tech, but the team's defense held them back. Arizona's offense has made a strong step forward since Kingsbury's hiring two years ago, as he develops quarterback Kyler Murray. The team ranked sixth in yards and 13th in points last year, but expect much better this year with a squad that might need to make the playoffs for Kingsbury to stick around.
No coordinator has done a better job of revitalizing his own career than Daboll. He produced offenses with poor results early in his coordinator career with Cleveland, Miami, and Kansas City. After stops in New England and Alabama, Daboll has new life while calling plays for 2020 breakout quarterback Josh Allen. The Bills ranked second in yards and points last season due in part to Daboll's offense and development.
Garrett's teams disappointed more often than not over 10 seasons as a head coach in Dallas, and he called offensive plays for much of that time. Despite some elite performances by the Cowboys offense, Garrett was often criticized for being too vanilla, and the criticism has carried over to his one season in New York with the Giants finishing second-worst in points and yards.
Brady took the college football world by storm as the passing game coordinator for the National Champion LSU Tigers in 2019 and followed that performance up with a call-up to the Bigs in Carolina. The Panthers' offense was hit-or-miss last season with Christian McCaffrey missing most of the year, but Brady has a chance to reclaim his throne if he can fix Sam Darnold this season.
The son of former NFL head coach and offensive mastermind Norv Turner, Scott was promoted to offensive coordinator with Carolina in 2019, and Ron Rivera brought him to Washington last year. Turner's offenses have mostly struggled, but he's also had to make due in some difficult situations with Cam Newton missing most of 2019 and Washington flipping through quarterbacks last year. He hopes for more stability with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback this season.
Lombardi had two seasons as the Lions offensive coordinator in 2014-2015, helping Matthew Stafford make huge strides. The grandson of legendary Packers head coach Vince Lombardi, Joe has worked under Sean Payton as quarterbacks coach over the last five years and was overdue for another opportunity. He has a great situation with young quarterback Justin Herbert receiving his tutelage.
Shurmur has been there and done that in his NFL coaching career, with two head coaching opportunities and now four offensive coordinator gigs. He's now tasked with stabilizing the Broncos' offense, which has been a major weakness since Peyton Manning's retirement. Shurmur's offensive history has been mixed, but the addition of Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback could help Shurmur scheme his offense back to the middle of the pack, at least.
After only one year as a quarterbacks coach for the Rams, Taylor was hired to lead the Bengals. He's approaching a make-or-break third season at the helm after the offense struggled for the second straight year, albeit with Joe Burrow missing much of his rookie season. Despite a shaky offensive line, Cincinnati's offense is loaded with young talent, and it's now time for Taylor to make them sing.
Sirianni spent the last three seasons as the Colts offensive coordinator, but Frank Reich was the regular play-caller. He has a chance to add a spark to the Eagles offense with Jalen Hurts at quarterback, and did help the Colts offense succeed despite quarterback changes.
A former running backs coach, Lynn has only briefly served as an offensive coordinator in his career back in 2016 with the Bills before taking the Chargers head coaching job. Still, the former running backs coach seemed to emphasize running the ball, to no one's surprise, and that tendency will play to his roster's strengths in Detroit. Fans were often critical of Lynn's game management as a head coach, but his offensive play calling potential remains to be seen.
Downing was Jack Del Rio's offensive coordinator with the Raiders in 2017 and is getting another chance after serving as tight ends coach with the Titans over the last two years. His Raiders offense ranked near the bottom of the league, though Derek Carr did make his third Pro Bowl under Downing.
Kelly enters his third season as Houston's head coach, but his first beyond the shadow of Bill O'Brien. Houston's offense finished in the middle of the pack last year with Kelly gaining experience as a play-caller after O'Brien's firing, but this year will be far more difficult without Deshaun Watson.
After the retirement of Chan Gailey, the Dolphins will have a unique situation in 2021 with Godsey and Studesville serving as co-offensive coordinators. Such a situation is almost unheard of in today's NFL, and it's unclear who will call plays. Godsey does have two years of NFL coordinator experience in Houston, while Stutdesville is getting his first opportunity.
Canada got his first NFL coaching experience as the Steelers quarterbacks coach last year after a long career in the college game and has now been promoted to head coach. Of course, he does have a wealth of experience in the role with Butler, Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, NC State, Pitt, LSU, and Maryland, and not all of the fanbases were thrilled with his performance.
After two seasons as quarterbacks coach, Kubiak was promoted to offensive coordinator. It's a neat situation that Kubiak succeeds his father in the role, but he's also working in what could be a make-or-break season for Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer.
Known by many simply as the younger brother of Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, Matt is getting his first opportunity to call plays with a chance to develop rookie quarterback Zach Wilson in the process. It's a situation that could lead to a quick promotion to NFL head coach if he's successful.
Serving as an assistant coach for the Rams offense has been a great path to further promotion, and Waldron is another example with his first coordinator job after serving as passing game coordinator in LA over the last three years. He's hoping to add a spark to Seattle's offense following Brian Schottenheimer's tenure.
Seth Trachtman is a fantasy sports expert and diehard Kansas City Chiefs fan still hoping for a Super Bowl win during his lifetime. He doesn't often Tweet, but when he does, you can find him on Twitter @sethroto.