By Stephen Juza
January 25th, 2023
As the league becomes more geared toward offense, increased importance is placed on hiring the best possible coaching staff to work with the players. As we look around the coordinator landscape, today we dive into what backgrounds the 2022 offensive coordinators came from, and what may make a coordinator successful.
Not every team names an offensive coordinator, and not every team has them carry the same responsibilities. The vast majority of teams name an offensive coordinator to implement the offensive strategy and to call plays during the game. However, there are exceptions to this rule.
Some teams, like the Kansas City Chiefs, may have an offensive coordinator, but the head coach still calls plays most of the time. While offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy carries the title, head coach Andy Reid continues to serve as the primary play caller for the offense. Occasionally when the head coach calls the plays, they do not name an offensive coordinator for the team. Finally, there is one team, the New England Patriots, who had the play calling responsibilities fall to Matt Patricia, their Senior Football Advisor/Offensive Line Coach.
In 2022, the average offensive coordinator or play-caller had 4.75 seasons of experience as an offensive position coach. This ranged from the twelve seasons for Alex Van Pelt of the Browns, down to zero years of NFL position coach experience for Patricia, Liam Coen, and Kliff Kingsbury, of the Patriots, Rams, and Cardinals, respectively.
While experience may not always dictate success, it certainly appears to help. Coordinators with two or fewer seasons of experience led offenses that only managed an average of 325 yards a game and 20 points. In fact, only two had above-average scoring offenses (Dallas and Las Vegas).
On the other end of the spectrum, coordinators with eight or more years as a position coach led offenses averaging 356 yards and 24 points. That four point improvement is the difference between a team ranked 21st in the league and one ranked 9th overall.
The lack of success comes with a price. When looking at the least experienced coordinators, very few of them are returning to their OC role for next season. Among the nine coordinators with two or fewer seasons as a position coach, only Matt Canada, Mick Lombardi, and Kellen Moore are expected to be on their team in 2023.
If there is a premium on position coaching experience, which position dominates the offensive coordinator rank? Not likely a surprise, but quarterback coaches are an abundance throughout the coordinator rank.
Twenty one of the coordinators spent time as an NFL quarterbacks coach, by far the most of any position. This doesn’t include Kingsbury who himself was a NFL quarterback (and NCAA quarterbacks coach for several seasons). After quarterbacks came tight ends coach (nine individuals), wide receivers (eight), with offensive line and running back tied for two a piece. (The number doesn’t add up to 32 since coaches have coached multiple positions over their career).
While it may be a quarterback-driven league, hiring an experienced quarterbacks coach to be your offensive coordinator is not always a guaranteed ticket to quarterback success. Two of the five most experienced quarterbacks coaches-turned-coordinator (Pep Hamilton and Todd Downing) led two of the worst offenses this season.
When looking at the list of inexperienced coordinators, it is heavily populated by teams with young quarterbacks. Teams don’t appear to be setting their future franchise quarterback up for success by pairing them with an inexperienced coach.
When examining the remaining teams in the playoffs, all four offensive coordinators have 4+ years as a position coach, and all four are leading high-scoring offenses led by young quarterbacks. It may be a hard adjustment for a new quarterback coming into the league, and teams may not be giving them every chance of success with an experienced coordinator.
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