Dennis Thurman

Coaching Record

Years Coached Record Win % Playoff record Playoff win %
17 134-138-0 49.26% 6-5 54.55%


Career Summary

Dennis Thurman was a football coach in the National Football League (NFL) from 1988 to 2016, finishing his career as the defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills. Over his seventeen years of coaching his teams compiled a cumulative win/loss record of 134-138-0.

Career Awards

During the 2013 season as the defensive coordinator of the New York Jets he coached Sheldon Richardson to the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Personal Information

Thurman was born on Friday, April 13, 1956 in Los Angeles, California.

Table of Contents

Playing Career

Prior to his current coaching career, Thurman also had a successful playing career in college and in the NFL. Thurman was a two time All-American for USC (1976-1977) and was a member of the 1974 USC national championship team. While he carried on to have a successful career in the defensive backfield, he also played on offense as a flanker for the first two years he was at USC.

Upon graduation from USC, Thurman was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the 11th round of the draft. Thurman was with the Cowboys for his first eight seasons, from 1978-1985. During his stint with the Cowboys, Thurman played in one Super Bowl and be selected for one Pro Bowl. In 1986 Thurman was cut by the Cowboys and joined the St. Louis Cardinals for his final season of his playing career. Incredibly, he never missed a game in his nine year playing career.

Coaching Career

Early Coaching Career

After sitting out of football for a season, Thurman was hired by the Phoenix Cardinals as the team’s new secondary coach. Hired by his former position coach with the Cowboys, Gene Stallings, Thurman coached for two seasons for the Cardinals. However, after the 1989 season Stallings was fired and the staff was let go. After sitting out two more seasons, Thurman returned to football in the World Football League. He was hired as the defensive coordinator of the Ohio Glory, but his time with the team was cut short when the league suspended operations after the 1992 season.


After his short stint with the Glory, Thurman returned to his alma mater when his former head coach, John Robinson, hired him as the secondary coach. During his second round with USC, the team could not capture the same level of success as Robinson’s first time with USC. While the team had success early on with three straight bowl victories and three straight seasons of finishing the season ranked in the Top-25, the success did not continue during Thurman’s remaining seasons with the Trojans. In his remaining five seasons with the university, the team only made one bowl game, a loss, and never finish the season ranked in either poll. After the 2000 season, head coach Paul Hackett was fired, and Thurman had to coach elsewhere.

Return to the NFL

After another year hiatus, Thurman took a coaching position with the Baltimore Ravens. This was the first season in which he worked with current New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan. His first two seasons with the Ravens were spent as a defensive assistant to Ryan, who was the Ravens defensive line coach. In 2004, Thurman was promoted to working as the Ravens secondary coach. During his time as secondary coach, Thurman had the opportunity to work with Ed Reed. Reed won defensive player of the year from his Free Safety spot on the field in 2004. In addition to Ed Reed, Thurman also worked with Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. After the 2008 season, Ryan accepted the head coaching position with the New York Jets, and Thurman followed Ryan to New York to continue to coach the defensive backs.

New York Jets

Thurman and Ryan were not the only Ravens to leave the team and move to New York. Joining them was coach Mike Pettine and linebacker Bart Scott. Defensive success followed the group to New York, where the defense allowed the fewest points, the fewest passing yards, and the fewest total yards of any team in the NFL. The defense was the obvious strength of the team as the offense was led by shaky rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. This core led the team to back-to-back AFC championship games, falling short each time. These two seasons was the peak the group achieved in New York.

After two more lackluster seasons in which the team did not make the playoffs, Thurman received a promotion with the departure of Mike Pettine. With Pettine gone, Thurman accepted the position of Defensive Coordinator. This was his first role as a defensive coordinator in more than twenty years. However, his role to maintain an elite defense was made difficult with the off season trade of All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, the team would not replicate the early success, and after a 4-12 in 2014, Ryan was fired and Thurman moved north to Buffalo with him.

Buffalo Bills

For the 2015 season, Thurman will serve as the Defensive Coordinator of the Buffalo Bills.


Year Position Record Playoff record
2016 Buffalo Bills Defensive Coordinator 7-9-0 0-0
2015 Buffalo Bills Defensive Coordinator 8-8-0 0-0
2014 New York Jets Defensive Coordinator 4-12-0 0-0
2013 New York Jets Defensive Coordinator 8-8-0 0-0
2012 New York Jets Defensive Backs Coach / Secondary Coach 6-10-0 0-0
2011 New York Jets Secondary Coach 8-8-0 0-0
2010 New York Jets Secondary Coach 11-5-0 2-1
2009 New York Jets Secondary Coach 9-7-0 2-1
2008 Baltimore Ravens Secondary Coach 11-5-0 2-1
2007 Baltimore Ravens Secondary Coach 5-11-0 0-0
2006 Baltimore Ravens Secondary Coach 13-3-0 0-1
2005 Baltimore Ravens Secondary Coach 6-10-0 0-0
2004 Baltimore Ravens Secondary Coach 9-7-0 0-0
2003 Baltimore Ravens Defensive Assistant Coach 10-6-0 0-1
2002 Baltimore Ravens Defensive Assistant Coach 7-9-0 0-0
2000 USC Trojans Secondary Coach 5-7-0
1999 USC Trojans Secondary Coach 6-6-0
1998 USC Trojans Secondary Coach 8-5-0
1997 USC Trojans Secondary Coach 6-5-0
1996 USC Trojans Secondary Coach 6-6-0
1995 USC Trojans Secondary Coach 9-2-1
1994 USC Trojans Secondary Coach 8-3-1
1993 USC Trojans Secondary Coach 8-5-0
1989 Phoenix Cardinals Defensive Backs Coach 5-11-0 0-0
1988 Phoenix Cardinals Defensive Backs Coach 7-9-0 0-0

Coach history guide

Seasons with a championship win Seasons with a conference championship

Coach facts

Career Highlights:

  • 1974-Nation Champions with USC
  • 1978- Drafted by the Cowboys
  • 1981- Selected to his first and only Pro Bowl.
  • 2004- Coached Defensive Player of the Year Ed Reed (FS)