Norv Turner
Home Latest Top 10 Offensive Coordinators of All Time

Top 10 Offensive Coordinators of All Time

Who are the Best Offensive Coordinators in NFL History?

Coaching, one of the most overlooked points of team success to this day. A good coach can take a decent team and make it great, the same way a bad coach can take a great team and make it bad. While the head coaches of the world get at least a good amount of recognition, the coordinators and position coaches get little to no recognition otherwise. We have spoken previously about the top 10 defensive coordinators to coach in the NFL, so now, let us go to the other side and speak on who are the best to ever be an offensive coordinator.

It is first worth noting that we will be following the same format as last time in these rankings. This is based specifically on their tenure as an offensive coordinator, not as a head coach or otherwise. So while a coach such as Kyle Shanahan could make this list, it would be due to his time as an OC, not due to his current tenure as a head coach. So without further ado, let us begin with #10:

10. Kevin Gilbride – Offensive Coach for 22 seasons

Many people forget how exceptional of an offensive coach Kevin Gilbride was back in the 80s and 90s. He started off his career as a quarterbacks coach with the Houston Oilers, working with Warren Moon, and in their first season together Moon had 3,600+ passing yards and 23 touchdowns. After that, he would be named the offensive coordinator, and every year under his coaching they would finished top five in scoring.

He would go on to have a couple unsuccessful stints around the league, before landing with the team he is most well known for nowadays in the New York Giants. He started off as their quarterbacks coach from 2004-2006, working with Eli Manning before moving up to the offensive coordinator position. This first season at OC led to the largest moment of his career, where the Giants went 10-6, working their way through the playoffs including against one of the prime Green Bay Packers teams to make it to the Super Bowl. They would go on to win 17-14 against the undefeated New England Patriots, shocking the world and creating one of the biggest upsets in history. Gilbride would coach from 2006-2013 with the Giants as the OC, and four of those seasons the team would score 400+ points, signifying offensive success at least.

9. Greg Roman – Offensive Coach for 25 seasons

This one is a tough addition, but frankly, a deserving one overall. Greg Roman is known for two stints in his career primarily, those being with the San Francisco 49ers as OC from 2011-2014, and with the Baltimore Ravens as an assistant & an OC from 2018-2022. The primary reason Roman is on this list was his ability to truly utilize the tight end and quarterback positions to the best of his abilities.

In San Francisco, he was able to draw quality play out of Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick to bring the team to three straight NFC Championships. Despite this being somewhat common with Kyle Shanahan now, getting success out of Jimmy Garoppolo and Brock Purdy, Roman was somewhat of the early version of that, being able to get the best out of his quarterbacks on the field. He employed a multi-TE system that was seen in San Francisco alongside a strong rushing attack, but then even moreso in Baltimore with many tight ends coming in their doors that were used correctly. Mark Andrews, Hayden Hurst, Nick Boyle, and more are included in that group. Roman was also crucial in the development of Lamar Jackson, creating the ability for Lamar to not just be a rusher, but also a quality passer.

8. Mike Martz – Offensive Coach for 13 seasons

The greatest show on turf. It does not get much more influential than that, creating one of the most dynamic and successful offenses in NFL history and scheming it so that all the great players could coexist is something special. This offense scored a whopping 526 points, fourth at the time in NFL history, and truly was a special season.

Rams’ head coach Dick Vermeil had the following to say about Martz, which really emphasizes how crucial he was:

“I can’t think, in my history of coaching, of any assistant who came into an NFL franchise and made the immediate impact that Mike Martz did.”

Vermeil would go on to say, “Kurt Warner came off the street, and he (Martz) made him NFL player of the year…I have great respect for him, and I think he has great respect for me. We took a team to the Super Bowl. Without him we don’t go.”

A head coach stating that if his OC was not on the team, then they would not have gone to the Super Bowl, is the greatest respect you can receive as a coordinator. It is absolutely well deserved for this one season alone. Martz would also go on to OC in Detroit, where he would coach Jon Kitna to his first 4,000 yard season at the age of 34.

7. Dan Henning – Offensive Coach for 22 seasons

Dan Henning is one of the longer tenured coaches in history, as a coordinator/offensive coach for 22 seasons and 32 seasons including his head coaching tenure. His most notable endeavor is with the Carolina Panthers from 2002-2006 however. Henning can be seen as a large part of the reason as to why Jake Delhomme was able to come into his own and succeed to the point where the Panthers would make the Super Bowl in 2003. The Panthers scored 325 points that season, and truly looked to be a quality unit overall.

The most notable moment of his career was his ability to help the Panthers put up 19 points in the fourth quarter of that Super Bowl to be able to keep up with the Patriots. While they did lose that game on a walk-off field goal from Adam Vinatieri, the fact that they were able to keep up with one of the most successful teams in football history was truly impressive nonetheless. He would also lead the Panthers to the NFC Championship Game in 2005, after putting up 23 points against the Giants in the Wild Card Round and 29 points on a stout Chicago Bears defense in the Divisional Round. While they did not ever win the big game with Henning, the success seen during his tenure, and the ability to develop Delhomme into a quality QB, is impressive.

6. Josh McDaniels – Offensive Coach for 16 seasons

Success is success, even if Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are the core pieces known for that success. McDaniels is a hard offensive coordinator to grade, as he was obviously crucial for the six super bowl wins he was a part of. However, he was also overshadowed on offense by the minds of Tom and Bill, who had a ton to do with offensive playcalling as well.

A nice median places Josh at 6th place. Working up from being a personnel assistant to being an offensive coordinator of one of the best offenses the league has seen is absolutely impressive, no doubt. The most obvious display of his talents in my opinion comes from two time periods, one of which was over the course of a season, and the other one singular game. Firstly, the 2008 season, where despite Tom Brady being injured in week 1, and missing all of the remaining season and postseason, McDaniels helped lead the Patriots to an 11-5 record with Matt Cassel. This was a playoff team in every sense except the technicality that got Miami into the playoffs over them, which was better conference record (8-4 to 7-5).

The other experience is the obvious one, 28-3. McDaniels helped lead the greatest playoff comeback we have ever seen, and up until recently the best comeback ever seen in the NFL. The Patriots would go into halftime down 21-63 and even were down 28-9 after three quarters. But then they would pull off the unthinkable, putting up 19 points in the 4th and shutting out Atlanta, going into overtime and scoring the game winning touchdown, ending it 34-28. Josh had a major part in that, and should receive credit for that fact.

5. Bill Walsh – Offensive Coach for 10 seasons

Bill Walsh makes this list for the opposite reasons of Josh McDaniels, those being contributions to the game via scheme building and capabilities to develop an offense around a quarterback with limitations. Bill Walsh, before his successful head coaching stint with the 49ers, was an even more influential offensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals. Walsh worked under legendary coordinator/head coach Paul Brown, who we will mention later.

With this, Walsh came into an offense with Cincinnati’s new starting QB Virgil Carter, who was exceptionally mobile and a good short range passer, but did not have the arm strength to move the ball down the field. This led Walsh to create a modified offensive scheme, now known as the West Coast offense, a primary component of his success with the 49ers later. But this scheme relied heavily on short range horizontal passing, rather than long range vertical passing.

This allowed Virgil Carter to lead the league in completion percentage the following season (1971 – 62.2%) which despite being low by today’s standards, was extremely high for the time period. Walsh also helped create the successful scheme for Ken Anderson and Isaac Curtis. Overall, his time as a coordinator specifically was heavily influential for the NFL, as he single handedly changed how a QB could play the game of football forever.

4. Paul Brown – Offensive Coach for 25 seasons

Speaking of Paul Brown, let us delve into his career as well. This is a hard dignification to place on Paul Brown, as coordinators were not necessarily a thing back when he first began coaching in the 1940s. However, I believe it is crucial to place him on a list such as this, even if he is not specifically labeled as a coordinator. His ability to coach an offense, and his influence to the game of football, is unprecedented, and needs to be recognized. With that said, let us make the one exception due to the lack of clarity on actual coaching positions back in the 40s onwards.

Paul Brown was most well known for his 17 year tenure as a coach for the Cleveland Browns, and many different additions to the game of football. He was the first coach to ever hire a full team of assistant coaches, to use game film to scout opponents, and to test players on their playbook knowledge. Paul invented the “draw”, a form of offensive play in which a run is disguised as a pass, which is still used extensively in today’s offenses. He also helped to create the modern face mask, the practice squad, and played a crucial role in breaking the NFL’s color barrier.

The accolades roll in as well, 3x NFL champion, AP NFL coach of the year, Ring of Honor for both the Browns and Bengals, 213-104-9 record as a coach, and various other honors from UPI and Sporting News. While he was not necessarily liked by his players due to his strict nature of coaching, he truly modernized the game of football, and made offense what it is today with the draw.

3. Ted Marchibroda – Offensive Coach for 24 years

Ted Marchibroda is another intriguing one in terms of where his success lies, as he is most well known for his head coaching tenure with the Indianapolis Colts. However, he was an offensive coordinator or positional coach for 24 years outside that, and created some of the most influential offensive developments in league history.

Most of his developments came with the Buffalo Bills, where he would spend 4 seasons with head coach Marv Levy. Marchibroda was crucial in the development of the hurry-up offense, where with QB Jim Kelly, the offense would rush up to the line of scrimmage and minimize the time the defense had to make adjustments. This forced the league to create a rule allowing time for substitutions shortly thereafter.

The exact form the Bills used was called the “K-Gun offense”, which was extremely quick and prided itself in the ability to audible and get the ball out fast. In 3/4 of his seasons with Buffalo, they would make the playoffs, and in the last of them, they would make the Super Bowl, falling to the New York Giants. Despite a lack of direct success in the form of Super Bowls, his contributions to the game are amazing regardless, and were truly huge in how 2-minute drills are handled today.

2. Todd Haley – Offensive Coach for 19 seasons

Todd Haley is no doubt one of the most overlooked coordinators of all time, and was crucial to a few different teams and their success long term. He first off was crucial in the development of Tony Romo, and scheming that offense around their receivers who at the time were Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn. Haley was critical to the success of that Cowboys offense at the time, from 2004-2006.

His next tenure was his most notable however. He would join the coaching staff of Ken Whisenhunt, and would be part of the offensive staff that led the Cardinals to be near the top of the league in quite a few offensive categories. They were 4th in points for (427), 4th in yards (5,852), 6th in first downs (328), 1st in passes completed (418), 3rd in completion percentage (66.3%), 3rd in quarterback rating (96.1), and 3rd in receiving touchdowns (31). This was one of the more dominant passing offenses of all time, and that mainly came because Haley was able to get Kurt Warner back into form and resurrect his career in a sense.

Despite never winning a Super Bowl, he was a part of the 2008 Cardinals that nearly knocked off one of the most dominant renditions of the Pittsburgh Steelers we had ever seen, and scored 23 points against them in the game. He would go on to coach a couple other quality offenses, most notably the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2012-2017.

1. Norv Turner – Offensive Coach for 20 seasons

Number one is one of the most influential offensive figures in football to date, learning from one of the greatest to do it, that being Jimmy Johnson. Norv was the offensive coordinator to both of Dallas’ back to back ’92-’93 Super Bowls, and was enormous in the ability to win those. Norv was a large reason as to why Troy Aikman developed into who he became, as he was able to scheme the offense to the strengths of Aikman’s game, and make the Cowboys truly dominant on that side of the ball.

In terms of development, he was also a great developmental factor in the game of all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith. Smith would lead the league all three of the seasons Norv Turner was with Dallas, this was the first time the team with the leading rusher had ever won the Super Bowl. It happened twice under Norv. On top of that, when Emmitt ran for 100+ yards while Norv was on the team, the Cowboys were 21-1 in the regular season and 5-0 in the playoffs.

The third part of the offense was Michael Irvin, who never finished below 2nd in the NFL in receiving yards while Turner was on the staff.

When he came into Dallas, the Cowboys had the worst offense in terms of total yards (255.1 YPG) and points per game (15.2 PPG). By the end of his first season, 1991, the Cowboys were 9th in total yards per game (318.8 YPG) and scoring (21.4 PPG). They would then go up even further in 1992, as signified by their success, with 350.9 yards per game and 23.5 PPG (4th in both).

During his Dallas tenure alone, he saw 2 division title wins, 2 NFC Championships, 3 rushing titles, 1 MVP, and 2 Super Bowl victories, in three seasons.

Norv had influence, success, capability, and longevity, going on to coordinate for the Chargers, Dolphins, 49ers, Browns, Vikings, and Panthers in the remainder of his career. But Dallas will always be something enormously special, and he was able to combine all the components you look for in a coordinator to be the best on this list.

Leave a comment

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Related Articles

Brandon Aiyuk Trade
NFL

Is a Brandon Aiyuk Trade on the Horizon?

Brandon Aiyuk is one of the top receivers in the NFL and...

NFL

Why the Carolina Panthers will Bounce Back in 2024

Last March, the Carolina Panthers made the blockbuster trade of the draft....

NFL

What are the 5 Best Signings/Trades of Free Agency?

This year’s free agency was jam-packed full of signings and trades bringing...

JJ McCarthy
LatestNFL

2024 NFL Mock Draft V3

In our previous 2024 NFL Mock Draft, we predicted the Washington Commanders...