You already saw the 2019 edition of NFLRank, our annual ranking of the top 100 players in the NFL for the upcoming season. But what about everything else? Football is more than just the players on the field.
We asked 10 NFL analysts — Louis Riddick, Mike Clay, Mina Kimes, Seth Walder, Kevin Seifert, Dan Graziano, Matt Bowen, Field Yates, Jeremy Fowler and Trey Wingo — to give their personal top-10 ranking for another area of the game, from head coaches to referees to uniforms to games you can’t miss this season.
Here are 10 lists of 10 things … from 10 different people.
Louis Riddick’s top 10 head coaches
1. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots: Belichick is simply the greatest game-day tactician of all time, and his six Super Bowls and 261 regular-season wins make him an easy choice for the top spot.
2. Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs: Reid is a terrific offensive innovator who now has potentially the best young quarterback to come into the NFL maybe ever.
3. Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles: He’s an exceptional communicator and playcaller who did what Reid couldn’t do in Philly — win a Super Bowl.
4. Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints: Payton understands how to exploit matchups as well as any other coach in history. And he has seven double-digit-win seasons and a Super Bowl to show for it.
5. Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams: He’s the future. McVay is just a really brilliant football mind, and he’s showing that he can be a passionate quarterback developer.
6. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers: Tomlin is considered one of the best to work for in the business in terms of his leadership style. And his teams have made the playoffs in eight out of 12 years.
7. Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks: I can’t think of anyone who does a better job of using positive reinforcement to make players believe in how good they can be.
9. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens: One of the rare coaches with a special-teams background, Harbaugh’s 104 victories ranks sixth among active head coaches.
10. Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders: I think Gruden is an underrated offensive mind and leader who is poised to make the Raiders relevant once again.
Mike Clay’s top 10 offensive coordinators
1. Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams: McVay serves as both the head coach and OC in L.A. His last four offenses have finished top 12 in points scored (his last two finished top two), and his 2018 Rams unit ranked top five in both rushing and passing yards.
2. Josh McDaniels, New England Patriots: McDaniels didn’t work out as a head coach in Denver, and he’s surely benefited from the presence of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, but there’s a reason opposing teams keep trying to hire him away. For one, the New England offense has ranked no lower than fourth in points scored since he returned to the team in 2012.
3. Pete Carmichael Jr., New Orleans Saints: He’s the league’s longest-tenured OC by three years, and for good reason. The Saints’ offense has finished no lower than eighth in yardage or 11th in points scored since Carmichael took over in 2009.
4. Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers: Another head coach/offensive coordinator, Shanahan has seen nine of his 11 offenses finish in the upper half of the league in yardage, even though quarterback woes have been a major detriment over the past two seasons.
5. Norv Turner, Carolina Panthers: An NFL coach since I was born, Turner’s creativity led the Panthers’ offense to two or more touchdowns in every game through Week 14 and Cam Newton to career-best marks in completion percentage (68%) and off-target rate (14%) last season.
6. Greg Roman, Baltimore Ravens: A longtime NFL assistant, Roman maximized the skill sets of Colin Kaepernick and Tyrod Taylor, leading both to their career-best seasons. He will look to do the same with Lamar Jackson in 2019.
7. Eric Bieniemy, Kansas City Chiefs: Bieniemy has only one season as an offensive coordinator under his belt, but he belongs in the top 10 after guiding the Kansas City offense to 565 points (third-most all time) and Patrick Mahomes to league MVP in his first season as a starter.
8. Ken Whisenhunt, Los Angeles Chargers: Whisenhunt stumbled during head coaching gigs in Arizona and Tennessee, but OC stops with the Steelers and Chargers have been successful. The Chargers have ranked no lower than 14th in offensive yardage and points since Whisenhunt’s return in 2016.
9. Todd Monken, Cleveland Browns: A longtime FBS assistant, Monken progressively improved the Buccaneers’ offense during his three seasons in Tampa Bay, capping off his tenure with a unit that paced the NFL in passing despite problems at the quarterback position. And now he gets Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr.
10. Darrell Bevell, Detroit Lions: Bevell has never been a head coach and was out of the league in 2018. But the former Minnesota and Seattle OC has led five of his past six offenses to a top-11 finish in points scored, good enough to beat out Dirk Koetter (Falcons) and Randy Fichtner (Steelers) for the last spot on my list.
Mina Kimes’ top 10 defensive coordinators
1. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots: He’s not technically the Patriots’ defensive coordinator, but the departure of Brian Flores means that Belichick, the greatest head coach in the history of football, will be calling plays on defense for the first time since 2010.
2. Don Martindale, Baltimore Ravens: Martindale, who took over Baltimore’s defense last year, has devised an incredibly creative scheme to counter the passing explosion in the NFL, relying heavily on pre-snap communication and deception.
3. Wade Phillips, Los Angeles Rams: While the Rams’ defense wasn’t always perfect during the regular season, Phillips put on a clinic vs. Tom Brady in the Super Bowl that was underappreciated because of the outcome.
Josina Anderson, Victor Cruz and Mike TanneNBAum explain the influence defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has had on Rams head coach Sean McVay.
4. Kris Richard and Rod Marinelli, Dallas Cowboys: For all the talk about Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper this offseason, it was the Cowboys’ rising defense — led by Marinelli and playcaller Richard last year — that guided Dallas back to the playoffs.
5. Gus Bradley, Los Angeles Chargers: While Bradley benefits from coaching one of the most talented units in the league, he’s also managed to succeed despite a slew of untimely injuries (his ill-fated DB-heavy approach to the AFC divisional round notwithstanding).
6. Romeo Crennel, Houston Texans: The veteran coach stepped back into the coordinator role last season after Mike Vrabel left for Tennessee, guiding the defense to another top-10 finish in Football Outsiders’ DVOA.
7. Jim Schwartz, Philadelphia Eagles: Since returning to his defensive roots after a stint as the Lions’ head coach, Schwartz, one of the more innovative playcallers in the league, has helmed successful units, including the one that won the Super Bowl in 2018.
8. Leslie Frazier, Buffalo Bills: Bills head coach Sean McDermott, a former defensive coordinator himself, briefly took over playcalling last year before quickly handing the reins back to Frazier. The defense, which has been spectacular at stopping the pass, finished third in expected points added.
9. Dean Pees, Tennessee Titans: Pees coached the Ravens’ defense during their Super Bowl win six years ago and announced his retirement last year. But the Titans convinced him to swiftly change his mind, and he led a unit that finished third in points allowed.
10. Todd Wash, Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars’ defense fell off a bit from its elite status, but still allowed the fifth-fewest yards per game last season.
Seth Walder’s top 10 front offices
1. New England Patriots: It’s boring, but it’s also accurate. The Pats have a knack for knowing when to cash in on a player (Jamie Collins), when to pick one up for cheap (Trent Brown) and when to pay the big bucks (Stephon Gilmore).
2. Indianapolis Colts: Through trade-downs in the draft, the Colts have built a nice core, including a rock-solid offensive line to protect the team’s most valuable asset.
3. Philadelphia Eagles: Howie Roseman built a Super Bowl champion team that remains one of the deepest rosters in the NFL.
4. Cleveland Browns: John Dorsey inherited a slew of assets from Sashi Brown, but he’s capitalized on the opportunity. And he swindled the Giants out of Odell Beckham Jr. after Big Blue handed the wideout a contract.
5. Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens have long mastered the compensatory pick game, and now they are building a team that embraces the strengths of an unorthodox quarterback that was acquired relatively cheaply in Lamar Jackson.
6. Seattle Seahawks: Seattle has had a slew of successes in the trade market, from bringing in Duane Brown to landing a haul for Frank Clark to repeatedly gaining value through draft pick trade-downs.
8. Kansas City Chiefs: It hasn’t been perfect, but one big gamble on Patrick Mahomes can fix a lot of other problems. Kansas City also cashed out on Marcus Peters at what may have been just the right time.
9. Dallas Cowboys: They’ll probably pay Ezekiel Elliott more than they should, but the Cowboys’ investment in the offensive line along with some tricky decisions in recent seasons — like the transition to Dak Prescott at QB and releasing Dez Bryant — have helped the team’s long-term success.
10. Miami Dolphins: Tanking for Tua while taking a shot on a young QB with upside in Josh Rosen are exactly the right moves for Miami. Chris Grier is off to a good start as head of football operations by embracing a rebuild.
Kevin Seifert’s top 10 referees
Note: This list is based on the degree to which each crew chief inspires confidence that he knows what he’s doing, based on his call explanations and the efficiency of his game administration.
1. Bill Vinovich: His crews usually average the fewest penalties per game in the league, producing crisp games with maximum focus on players and coaches.
2. Clete Blakeman: Blakeman handles unexpected events well, most notably in 2016 when he correctly adjudicated a game-ending strategy in which the Ravens intentionally held nine opponents on a punt to drain the final nine seconds from the clock.
3. Ronald Torbert: A Harvard-educated attorney, Torbert carries himself with a confident demeanor that almost never changes — unless he’s warming up with a few jabs to the goal post.
4. Walt Anderson: Although he has stumbled through a few high-profile sequences, Anderson is a 24-year veteran who has seen just about every curveball possible for a football official. He knows the game and usually navigates it well.
5. John Hussey: Promoted to referee in 2015, Hussey has received a playoff assignment in each of the past two years, all while avoiding any major gaffes.
6. Carl Cheffers: He has come a long way since a memorable two-take announcement of multiple penalties in a 2010 game between the Cowboys and Texans. Even then, his calm demeanor and sense of humor served him well.
7. Tony Corrente: The 25-year veteran earned respect from coaches and players during his 2011 treatment for throat cancer, which was originally diagnosed after he suffered injuries trying to separate fighting players. According to Sports Illustrated, Corrente later thanked those players for hastening the diagnosis and improving his chances of recovering.
8. Brad Allen: Hired in 2014 as an umpire, Allen’s game presence prompted the NFL to promote him immediately to referee before he had worked his first game. He remains relatively inexperienced at this level but works his games with confidence.
9. Craig Wrolstad: Wrolstad has been left out of the playoff picture the past two seasons and tends to keep his call explanations to a minimum.
10. Jerome Boger: Boger hasn’t been given a playoff assignment in six seasons, since he headed the crew for Super Bowl XLVII, and his announcements can be difficult to follow.
Dan Graziano’s top 10 stadiums
2. AT&T Stadium, Dallas Cowboys: Jerry Jones built it to hold up for decades, and at the start of its second decade, it’s as awe-inspiring as it was on Day 1. Every part of the experience is first class.
Take a look at the unique and innovative retractable roofing at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of Super Bowl LIII.
4. Century Link Stadium, Seattle Seahawks: The unique roof design that covers fans but not the field … the Seattle skyline in the background … and the noise, man. That’s not just a myth, that place is loud.
5. Lambeau Field, Green Bay Packers: The dirty little secret about NFL stadiums is that most of them look and feel kind of the same. Lambeau stands out because of the history. It feels old, but in all the good ways. It’s a classic.
8. University of Phoenix Stadium, Arizona Cardinals: It’s cool that they slide the playing field out on rails so it can get some sunlight, then roll it in for games and practices. It’s been around for 13 years already but still feels kind of futuristic.
9. Heinz Field, Pittsburgh Steelers: Heinz has a wide-open feel with some views of Pittsburgh’s rivers and underrated skyline, depending on where you sit. It’s not the breathtaker that its baseball-stadium neighbor is, but it has a nice game-day feel.
Matt Bowen’s top 10 uniforms
4. Green Bay Packers‘ home: Just think about Paul Hornung, Reggie White and Brett Favre in the green and yellow. I remember putting that uni on for the first time in the 2001 season, and it feels like you are a part of football royalty.
6. Miami Dolphins‘ home throwbacks: Why did Miami ever change? The helmet, with the old school logo and grey mask, is just awesome. So are the aqua jerseys and striped socks. These need to come back for good.
7. Chicago Bears‘ home: I went to my first Bears game in 1985, a 17-10 win over the Colts. And nothing has really changed with this traditional look since then. The helmet is an all-timer, as are the orange and blue striped socks.
9. Buffalo Bills‘ home: The navy blue jerseys and pants I wore in Buffalo during the mid-2000s? Brutal. We looked like a feeder team for the Montreal Allouettes. But these home unis with white lids and royal blue tops? I love them.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers‘ home: The helmet logo being only on one side is great and unique. Plus, the black and gold jersey/pants combo is a standard in the league. It also looks good in Iowa City. Go Hawks.
Field Yates’ top 10 mascots
1. Swagger and Chomps, Cleveland Browns: The only thing better than a human dressed up as a dog for a mascot is a human dressed up as a dog along with a real life dog as your mascot. Swagger, who is a very good dog, enjoys a meal of fried raven and often chews on Terrible Towels, per the Browns’ official website.
2. Gumbo and Sir Saint, New Orleans Saints: Gumbo was formerly an actual Saint Bernard dog, which was the apex of the team’s mascot history. But the current form (a costume) is still one of the league’s best.
3. Warpaint and KC Wolf, Kansas City Chiefs: Full disclosure: I used to work for the Chiefs, which gave me exposure to some of the best Warpaint and KC Wolf had to offer. Warpaint galloping set the tone at Arrowhead Stadium, while KC Wolf pulled a variety of hijinks, which included body-slamming a person donning the opponent’s jersey (WWE-style, so no harm inflicted). Moreover, KC Wolf does over 150 appearances per year as a motivational speaker. Impressive!
4. Blitz, Seattle Seahawks: Blitz’s hobbies include jumping off of the roof of Century Link Stadium, flying with the Blue Angels and skydiving with Red Bull, per the team’s website. Century Link gets as loud as basically any stadium in football, and Blitz plays a part in making that happen.
5. Billy Buffalo, Buffalo Bills: The recipient of a makeover just prior to last season, Billy has a more excitable demeanor to him now. Buffalo is home to one of the best game-day experiences in the league, with a fan base that bleeds passion and pride. Wikipedia even claims he is 8 feet tall.
6. Staley Da Bear, Chicago Bears: Named after the founder of the franchise, Staley has an incredible ability to toe the line of being both intimidating and fuzzy. His thick fur coat helps him survive the often frigid Chicago winters.
7. Steely McBeam, Pittsburgh Steelers: Both elements of this mascot’s name pay tribute to the Steel City, and, like the Steelers’ helmet that has a logo on only one side, Steely is unique compared to most NFL mascots in that he doesn’t wear a jersey.
8. Swoop, Philadelphia Eagles: No city brings it stronger with mascots than Philly, as the Phillie Phanatic and Gritty have cross-sport appeal. But while Swoop may not generate as much pub, he’s a fixture at one of the best home venues in the sport.
10. T.D., Miami Dolphins: While many NFL mascots don a team uniform as part of the respective get-ups, T.D. takes it a step further. This dolphin wears a football helmet. It’s both protective and stylish.
Jeremy Fowler’s top 10 team traditions
1. Lambeau Leap, Green Bay Packers: Beautiful in its simplicity, the leap into the outstretched arms of Packers fans might be the game’s best touchdown celebration, something other players and even fans dream of doing.
2. Terrible Towel, Pittsburgh Steelers: Thousands of these bad boys swing each Sunday at Heinz Field, and well-traveled Steelers fans have used them as distractions in away stadiums for years.
3. The cork pop, Miami Dolphins: The image of Mercury Morris and Co. downing Dom Perignon with each year’s continuation of no other team matching their 1972 undefeated season is glorious NFL pettiness.
4. Black Hole, Oakland Raiders: From silver-and-black skeletons to bikers in Darth Vader masks, the rowdiest section of Oakland-Alameda County Stadium has a little bit of everything for Raiders brethren.
5. The sleeveless hoodie, New England Patriots: The list feels incomplete without a Patriots tradition, and more impressive than six Super Bowls is Belichick pulling this look off in practices and games.
6. Gjallarhorn, Minnesota Vikings: The massive, mythological horn sounds awesome in the Vikings’ new stadium, especially when former star Vikings such as Randy Moss sound it off.
7. Thunder, Denver Broncos: For nearly three decades, Mile High Stadium gets hyped every time Thunder bursts through the tunnel draped in orange and blue.
8. “Fly Eagles Fly,” Philadelphia Eagles: The NFL wouldn’t be the same without this 1950s songwriting gem by Charles Borrelli and Roger Courtland that inspired Northeast Pennsylvania tailgates everywhere.
9. The 12th Man, Seattle Seahawks: Seahawks fans create such a cacophonous home-field atmosphere that the organization retired the No. 12 jersey back in 1984.
10. Fireman Ed, New York Jets: Now retired from leading the J-E-T-S chant, Ed Anzalone brought much joy and fervor to many dim seasons in New York.
Trey Wingo’s top 10 games to watch this season
Note: This list is ordered chronologically, rather than by straight ranking.
New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Rams, Week 2: In an NFC title game rematch, will New Orleans coach Sean Payton challenge the first non-pass-interference call he sees just to flex on the rule he helped put in place because of what happened last January? I’m about it if he does.
Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals, Week 3: It doesn’t seem like much on paper, but this game could tell us a lot. How is Cam Newton‘s shoulder? What is Christian McCaffrey‘s workload looking like? And how is the Kyler Murray-KIiff Kingsbury offense working in its third game?
Chicago Bears at Oakland Raiders, Week 5: “Hello, my name is Khalil Mack. Remember me?” The Raiders had 13 sacks last season — 17 fewer than any other team and just half a sack more than Mack had on his own in Chicago.
Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots, Week 8: Will the Browns be living up to the hype at the season’s midpoint? And if they are, can they add to it by going into Gillette Stadium and hanging with the champs? Very few AFC teams have had success there.
New York Giants at New York Jets, Week 10: These two teams play only once every four years. In the last matchup (2015), the Jets won in overtime. How will Sam Darnold and Le’Veon Bell be meshing at Week 10, and who will be starting at quarterback for the Giants in this NYC showdown?
New England Patriots at Philadelphia Eagles, Week 11: What happened the last time these two teams met? Oh yeah, a backup quarterback led one of the most improbable upsets in Super Bowl history. A ‘Philly Special’ repeat, anyone?
Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots, Week 14: Amazingly I’ve yet to mention Patrick Mahomes in the first 13 weeks. But I circled this game pretty quickly. Will Mahomes be able to do what he failed to do twice last season: Beat Tom Brady and the Pats?