2023 NFL Head Coach Trees

By Stephen Juza

July 4th, 2023

Each January and February, the coaching carousel rotates as several head coaches are fired, and new coaches are hired to replace them. Coaching trees expand with these changes, adding new branches or forming their own tree altogether. While coaching trees are often open to interpretation, let’s take a look at the current NFL coaching landscape.

Andy Reid:

Andy Reid continues to boast the largest active coaching tree in the league, with five former assistants currently leading teams. Over the years, we’ve emphasized how superb his coaching tree has been, and each year it continues to get better. It’s not just Reid’s Chiefs that dictated the path to the Super Bowl last season; four of the eight divisions last season were won by either Reid or one of his coaching protégés. Online NFL odds makers suggest that the path to the Super Bowl will again run through Reid’s tree in the coming season.

While four of the five coaches won division championships last season, Ron Rivera was the lone exception. Leading the Commanders to a last place finish in the NFC East in his third season with the team, his time could be cut short in Washington unless he turns around the team this season.

Regardless of Rivera's situation, it's evident that Reid and his coaching tree will continue to exert a significant influence in the league for years to come. Their collective impact ensures a formidable presence on the coaching landscape, shaping the future of the NFL.

Orange coaches not active head coaches

Sean McVay:

The second largest active coach tree belongs to Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay. Despite a difficult 2022 season in Los Angeles, McVay’s first losing season as a head coach, rumors of retirement swirled around the team. McVay decided to return for the 2023 season, along with key veterans Aaron Donald and Matthew Stafford, as the team looks to rebound from their disappointing 5-12 season.

Turning the focus to his coaching tree, the current standard bearer is Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor. After a difficult start to his head coaching career (six wins in his first two seasons), he led the team to a Super Bowl appearance against McVay in Taylor’s third season. The Bengals followed up their AFC Championship with a second division title, the first time in team history they won the division in consecutive seasons.

The coach in the most unknown position may be Matt LaFleur. After winning 13 games in each of his first three seasons, the Packers crashed to third in the NFC North. With Aaron Rodgers now a New York Jet, the Packers face the challenge of reshaping their offense around first-year starter Jordan Love.

Frank Reich:

Tied for the third largest active coaching tree, Frank Reich was fired by the Colts amid his worst season in Indianapolis. Despite enduring consistent quarterback turnover throughout his five-year tenure, with a new quarterback taking the helm each season, Reich managed to lead the Colts to the playoffs in two out of his four full seasons. Reich was not out of work long - he was quickly hired by the Panthers to lead their franchise.

Reich’s coaching tree is small but growing. Nick Sirianni has shown the most promise of the three branches, leading the Eagles to a Super Bowl berth last season after a wildcard berth in 2021. In the latest offseason, another branch emerged as Jonathan Gannon, former defensive backs coach, was hired as the new head coach for the Arizona Cardinals.

Kyle Shanahan:

Kyle Shanahan leads the other third-largest coaching tree with three active branches. 2022 was a tumultuous year for the 49ers. After a slow start, the team reeled off ten consecutive wins to end the season and clinch the NFC West.

Starting quarterback Trey Lance played only two games before going on the injured reserve list. Prior starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo started ten games before he went down injured and shut down for the season. Subsequently, Brock Purdy, the final pick in the 2022 NFL draft, came in and won his first seven starts (two in the playoffs) before hurting his elbow during the NFC Championship. He was forced to continue playing after fourth-string Josh Johnson was knocked out of the game with his own injury.

Shanahan’s tree has shown limited promise, but Robert Saleh hopes to break that trend this upcoming season. The Jets’ trade for quarterback Aaron Rodgers catapulted the team into Super Bowl contention. Meanwhile, DeMeco Ryans was hired for his first-ever head coaching job in the place where his professional career began - Houston.

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Bill Belichick:

Despite his own professional success as arguably the greatest NFL coach ever, Bill Belichick's coaching tree has never made any real impact on the league. With the Patriots continued struggles, missing the playoffs two of the last three years, and fierce competition in the AFC East that may leave the Patriots looking at a last-place finish, we may not see another coach hired from his coaching tree for a while.

That said, Brian Daboll may present the best opportunity to have a successful coach come from his coaching tree. Daboll, the reigning Coach of the Year, led the Giants to only their second playoff berth in the last decade. The other active branch, Josh McDaniels, has a steep uphill climb trying to make his mark in his second head coaching stop. Coming off a 6-11 season, considerable hope is being placed that Garoppolo will be healthy and can lead the offense.

Orange coaches not active head coaches

Remaining Coaches:

Some coaches, such as Mike McCarthy, Pete Carroll, and Mike Tomlin, have simply been coaches long enough that their parent coaches have long since retired from the NFL. Despite their long, successful careers, they have few, or no, active head coaches that have spent time on their coaching staffs.

Methodology: Coaching trees are often open to interpretation, but throughout the website we automatically place any coach in the tree of a head coach up to their first head coaching opportunity. This allows coaches to be in multiple trees, without limiting them to only one coach that they spent the most time with.

Read last year's coaching tree article here.

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