Ranking the 2024 Head Coaching Hires

By Stephen Juza

March 8th, 2024

As teams around the league finalize their coaching staffs, our latest blog post looks at the eight new head coaching hires for the 2024 season. With a mixture of new head coaches and experienced head coaches, some offensive minds, and some defensive minds, we take a quick look at how we think the coach will do in the coming years. We look not just at their prior book of work, but also their ability to hire critical roles for their coaching staff.

With such a critical hire, it can make-or-break a team’s success for years to come, and Super Bowl betting odds constantly adjust to reflect how people feel the team will fare in the upcoming season. The right coach can transform a team from forgotten to Super Bowl contender in a single offseason. So, who is positioning their new team the best?

#1 Jim Harbaugh: Prior Head Coaching Record: 44-19-1 (5-3 in the Playoffs)

Arguably the crown jewel of the 2024 coaching carousel was Jim Harbaugh. Fresh off a college National Championship at his alma mater (Michigan), he decided now is the right time to jump back into the NFL. After taking several interviews over the last few years, 2024 Harbaugh will return to the NFL sideline, bringing his strong track-record of success as a coach and a quarterback-mentor. He brings a successful pedigree (winner of 2011’s Coach of the Year) and reconnects with his long-time offensive coordinator Greg Roman to help bring the Los Angeles Chargers to the top of the AFC West.

One major roadblock to the Chargers’ hopes of winning the division is the current defending Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs. Tasked with the tall order of slowing down the high-powered Chiefs offense, led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, is new defensive coordinator Jesse Minter, who hasn’t been a defensive coordinator at the NFL level before. While he led the defense to slow down Heisman runner-up Michael Penix, Jr., Mahomes will represent a significantly more difficult challenge.

#2 Brian Callahan: Zac Taylor Coaching Tree (Five Seasons)

Former Bengals offensive coordinator is next on our list after he joined the Tennessee Titans this offseason. Callahan is the first coach from the Zac Taylor coaching tree to be hired as a head coach, and all eyes in Nashville will be on Callahan to bring an offensive coaching pedigree that will hopefully help mold their quarterback of the future, Will Levis.

Levis sees similarities between himself and Callahan’s last quarterback, Joe Burrow. However, Callahan has experience around many great quarterbacks, and the Titans should be excited about what that experience can yield for their offense. One of the critical coaching hires he made for his inaugural coaching staff was getting his father, Bill Callahan, as the team’s offensive line coach. Bill has long been considered one of the greatest OL coaches in the league, and having his talents to help take pressure off the young quarterback will be key moving forward.

If Brian is successful in Tennessee, the AFC South may become the most exciting and competitive division in the NFL for the foreseeable future.

#3 Antonio Pierce: Interim record: 5-4

Coming in third of our ranking is former interim head coach Antonio Pierce, promoted to the top job after a successful audition for the top job in 2023. After stepping in for the disastrous Josh McDaniels-tenure, the Las Vegas Raiders were able to salvage the 2023 season with an 8-9 record and a second-place finish in the AFC West.

Pierce was a big hit with the players on the Raiders, with several like Davante Adams publicly advocating for the job to be Pierce’s. Pierce comes in with a lot more playing background than he does coaching background. Pierce played nine seasons in the NFL and only has two years of NFL coaching experience. However, experienced NFL players have recently made the jump to NFL head coaches rather quickly, with great success. Mike Vrabel and DeMeco Ryans are two examples of those who were hired as head coaches after a few seasons as assistant coaches.

While Pierce may be a great coach, he and the Raiders will struggle in a division with the Chiefs (and now potentially the Chargers).

#4 Dan Quinn: Prior Head Coaching Record: 43-42 (3-2 in the Playoffs)

Taking the fourth spot in our ranking is the new Washington Commanders’ head coach, and former Falcons head coach, Dan Quinn. Quinn led the Falcons between 2015 and 2020, before he was let go in the middle of the season. While his Falcons experienced some successful years, two playoff berths in his first three seasons and a Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, it was a slow downward slide for the Falcons from his peak. After going 11-5 in his second season, each year was slightly worse than the prior, until the team opened up 2020 with an 0-5 record -- and Quinn’s firing.

However, since his Falcons days, he has been the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys. After three consecutive 12-5 records, Quinn is ready for his second shot at the top job. Quinn represents a “Mike” - type rebound head coach: Winning record in their first stint, with an assistant role between head coaching gigs. These coaches frequently regress in their second head coaching role, and in a tough NFC East, expect the same to happen with Quinn.

#5 Mike Macdonald: John Harbaugh Coaching Tree (Nine Seasons)

Fifth on our list is former Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, taking over the top job for the Seattle Seahawks. After spending the first nine seasons of his coaching career under John Harbaugh, Macdonald had several opportunities for head coaching positions this offseason. Defensive coaches have generally had success as head coaches coming from the Harbaugh coaching tree, so that bodes well for Macdonald.

Coming from a defensive background though, his initial offensive coordinator is an important hire. His pick, former Washington Huskies offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb, has no NFL experience and only two seasons at a Power-5 conference. However, during his two seasons at Washington, he coached Heisman runner-up quarterback Michael Penix, Jr. en route to a national championship berth.

A skilled offensive coordinator to help set the offensive strategy has been the undoing of several coaches from the Harbaugh Tree, such as Rex Ryan and Chuck Pagano. The Seahawks’ Macdonald can be the coach to break through.

#6 Dave Canales: Pete Carroll Coaching Tree (Thirteen Seasons)

From the coach replacing Pete Carroll, to the fourth coach from Pete Carroll’s coaching tree to become a head coach, our sixth entry in our list is new Carolina Panthers coach Dave Canales. After following Carroll to the NFL in 2010, Canales spent the next thirteen years of his career working in various roles for the Seahawks before finally getting his shot as an offensive coordinator last year for the Buccaneers.

Coaching changes can be crucial for young quarterbacks, and Canales’ top goal for his first season will be to help Bryce Young take a similar leap to Trevor Lawrence in his second season. The Panthers are on a streak of six consecutive sub-.500 seasons, and last year posted the lowest average offensive yards per game in the league. Canales offensive experience could be crucial for the team to turn it around.

#7 Jerod Mayo: Bill Belichick Coaching Tree (Five years as a coach)

Seventh on our list is the new New England Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo. No one likes being ‘the guy’ who follows a great, and Mayo is in a tough spot. Anyone following the greatest coach ever would have difficulty bringing the changes necessary. The Patriots are just a few years removed from the greatest sports dynasty ever, but the years since their last Super Bowl victory have been tough for the fan base’s high expectations. While Mayo has been considered a future head coach for a few years, I’m not envious of the task ahead of him. Belichick is the only coach he ever played for, or coached for, in the NFL.

While Mayo knows defense and comes from one of the greatest defensive masterminds to coach in the NFL, this is a great opportunity to shake up the Patriots organization. Draft rumors have the Patriots looking at a quarterback in the first round, and should they move on from Mac Jones, they have a great new offensive coordinator in place. Alex Van Pelt, who spent last season with the Browns, has a great history of working with quarterbacks of a wide range of abilities. If they take a quarterback in the first round, it will be a great way to help the Patriots move beyond the Belichick era.

#8 Raheem Morris: Head Coaching Record: 21-38 (0-0 in the Playoffs)

Coming in last in our 2024 ranking is new Atlanta Falcons coach Raheem Morris. After a poor first attempt as a head coach for the Buccaneers, Morris spent the next decade working his way back up the coaching ranks from a position coach to coordinator. And while he was moderately successful during his short tenure as an interim head coach for the Falcons in 2020, it’s not hard to improve on the 0-5 start to the season that led to Quinn’s firing.

After spending his last several years as the defensive coordinator for the Rams, he was hired by the Falcons after shifting focus away from hiring Belichick. During his time in LA, the team won one Super Bowl (2021), his second of his assistant coaching career. Among the other coaches coming from LA is new offensive coordinator Zac Robinson, a potentially great hire who will bring the offensive mind and scheme that Morris can hope to win with.

Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/official_PFH