Who are the highest paid coaches in the NFL this season? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Details about player contracts are in the NFL news cycle seemingly every day. There are complicated clauses, guarantees and bonuses that change each player’s money and each team’s salary cap situation.
But what about head coaches? Their money doesn’t count against the cap, and few coaches see the end of a contract. If the team is succeeding, a coach will get an extension before his current deal is up. If the team is struggling, a coach could get fired at any moment.
Former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden resigned Monday following a leak of offensive emails where he used misogynistic and homophobic language. He was in the fourth year of an unprecedented 10-year contract that paid him $10 million annually, which was the third highest of any coach.
How much money do the rest of the NFL head coaches make? The information isn’t always publicly available, depending on the coach and organization. Here’s a look at what we know for how much each coach is making in 2021:
1. Bill Belichick, $12.5 million
With six Super Bowl rings and 22 years of tenure with the New England Patriots, it makes sense that Belichick has the highest salary among coaches. He also makes personnel decisions for the Patriots, including the draft, free agency and trades. Belichick is a three-time AP Coach of the Year and the all-time leader in playoff wins by a coach.
2. Pete Carroll, $11 million
The Seattle Seahawks’ head coach since 2010, Carroll has led the team to the postseason nine times in 11 years. Seattle won Super Bowl XLVIII over the Broncos before losing to the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX the following year. The 70-year-old Carroll is the NFL’s oldest head coach, but last year he signed a contract extension through 2025.
3. Sean Payton, $9.8 million
In the midst of his 15th season with the New Orleans Saints, Payton is the NFL second longest-tenured head coach behind Belichick. He was hired in 2006 and promptly turned the team around, going 10-6 in his first year after the Saints went 3-13 in 2005. Paired with Drew Brees, the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV in February 2010 and haven’t won fewer than seven games during Payton’s tenure.
4. John Harbaugh, $9 million
Hired in 2009, Harbaugh has just one losing season with the Baltimore Ravens. He won Super Bowl LXVII in February 2013 against his brother Jim and the San Francisco 49ers. Recently, he transformed the Ravens’ offense as they moved from pocket passer Joe Flacco to dual-threat Lamar Jackson.
5. Matt Rhule, $8.5 million
It took a lot of money for the Carolina Panthers to poach Rhule away from Baylor University in 2020. The Panthers are in the midst of a rebuild, as they went 5-11 in Rhule’s first year and then replaced quarterback Teddy Bridgewater with Sam Darnold in 2021. The 46-year-old Rhule signed a seven-year deal with the Panthers, so he’ll likely be around through the rebuild.
6. Sean McVay, $8.5 million
At 30, McVay was the youngest head coach in NFL history when the Los Angeles Rams hired him in 2017. Since then, he’s never finished with a losing record and won the NFC title in 2018. He also revolutionized the head coach hiring process, as a new wave of young offensive-minded coaches were hired in the years following his early success with the Rams.
7. Mike Tomlin, $8 million
Now in his 15th consecutive season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tomlin is one of the top coaches in the NFL. He’s never finished below .500, leading the Steelers to the playoffs in nine of 14 seasons and making the Super Bowl twice. Tomlin won the Super Bowl in just his second season, but he hasn’t won a playoff game since 2016.
8. Andy Reid, $8 million
Coming in at eighth on this list, Reid is a bargain for the Kansas City Chiefs. He could never win the big game until he found Patrick Mahomes, but he hasn’t squandered his opportunity with the NFL’s best quarterback since 2018, making three straight AFC title games and two straight Super Bowls. Now in his ninth season with the Chiefs after 14 years with the Philadelphia Eagles, Reid is among the NFL’s great offensive minds.
9. Bruce Arians, $8 million
The defending Super Bowl champion, Arians has succeeded everywhere he’s gone as a head coach. He filled in for Chuck Pagano and won AP Coach of the Year with the Indianapolis Colts, then went 49-30 with the Arizona Cardinals before joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Getting Tom Brady down to Florida certainly helped his case, as he had just one playoff win in seven seasons before teaming up with the GOAT.
10. Ron Rivera, $7 million
Riverboat Ron signed a five-year contract with the Washington Football Team prior to 2020. Even though Washington went just 7-9 in his first season, that was good enough to win the NFC East and make the postseason. His $7 million salary was earned after nine seasons with the Carolina Panthers where he led them to an NFC title in 2015.
11. Kliff Kingsbury, $5.5 million
Despite finishing below .500 in six seasons at Texas Tech, Kingsbury was hired to lead the Cardinals in 2019. Paired with rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, the Cardinals have steadily improved since going 5-10-1 in Kingsbury’s first season. Arizona was 8-8 last year and is off to a fast start in 2021. It looks like Kingsbury will be able to keep his massive house that went viral during the 2020 draft.
12. Robert Saleh, $5 million
A first year coach with the New York Jets, Saleh is already making more money than plenty of veteran coaches. He spent four seasons as defensive coordinator with the 49ers before joining the Jets, and he’s in for a tough job with New York. The Jets haven’t had a winning season since 2015, and it’s up to the 42-year-old Saleh to turn things around.
13. Joe Judge, $5 million
After making a surprising jump from Patriots special teams coordinator to Giants head coach in 2020, Judge immediately collected a nice check. He went 6-10 in his first season, narrowly missing the playoffs in the putrid NFC East. It is fair that the two New York head coaches have the same annual salary.
14. Matt LaFleur, $5 million
A disciple from the McVay coaching tree, LaFleur has shown similar success early in his career. The Green Bay Packers went 13-3 in each of his first two seasons, losing in the NFC title game both years. Now, the challenge for the 41-year-old coach is getting his team over the hump. Aaron Rodgers’ time with the team is definitely coming to an end, so we’ll see how LaFleur responds.
15. Vic Fangio, $5 million
Unlike every other name on this list, Fangio didn’t get his first head coaching opportunity until he was 61 years old in 2019. He spent 19 seasons as a defensive coordinator before the Broncos hired him. Fangio went 12-20 in his first two seasons, making 2021 a potential make-or-break year for the 63-year-old.
16. Frank Reich, $4.5 million
Despite having four different starting quarterbacks in four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, Reich has had solid results. Going from Andrew Luck to Jacoby Brissett to Philip Rivers to Carson Wentz in four years isn’t easy. Yet Reich guided the Colts to a 28-20 record in his first three seasons with one playoff win.
17. Zac Taylor, $4.5 million
Another McVay disciple, the 38-year-old Taylor was hired by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2019 when he was still the age of some players. He struggled through his first two seasons, going 6-25-1, but there’s still hope in Cincinnati thanks to quarterback Joe Burrow. Taylor needs a solid third season in 2021 to solidify his status as the Bengals’ coach of the future.
18. Mike McCarthy, $4 million
This one’s surprising, as McCarthy is a Super Bowl champion coach employed by the most valuable NFL franchise. The Dallas Cowboys hired him in 2020 after he spent 13 seasons with the Packers. Many believed McCarthy should’ve gotten more out of the Aaron Rodgers era, but he did win 10 playoff games and Super Bowl XLV. It’s unexpected to see Jerry Jones’ coach this low on the list, even if it’s probably a fair spot for McCarthy.
19. Mike Zimmer, $4 million
The eighth-year Minnesota Vikings head coach, Zimmer has been solid yet unspectacular at the helm. He’s never won fewer than seven games, but the Vikings only made the playoffs three times in his first seven years. Minnesota is perennial on the playoff bubble, which makes No. 19 a fitting place to be on the list.
20. Kevin Stefanski, $3.5 million
In just his second season with the Cleveland Browns, Stefanski has established himself as one of the most forward-thinking coaches in football. He was AP Coach of the Year in 2020, bringing the Browns to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. At just 39 years old, Stefanski is likely to put an end to the Browns’ perpetual coaching carousel. He’s underpaid already, and whenever he signs an extension his salary is sure to spike.
21. Kyle Shanahan, $3.5 million
Another underpaid coach relative to others on the list, Shanahan is routinely discussed with the league’s best coaches. He had just one winning season in four years with the 49ers, but he brought them to the Super Bowl that year. San Francisco has been bitten by injuries to key players almost every season, too. Shanahan worked wonders as an offensive coordinator in Washington and Atlanta, so we’ll be able to fully judge him once he and rookie quarterback Trey Lance get on the same page.
22. Mike Vrabel, $3 million
Vrabel played 14 seasons in the NFL, so money likely isn’t an issue for the 46-year-old. Still, I’m sure he’d like to be up a bit higher on this list. The Tennessee Titans went 29-19 in Vrabel’s first three seasons, making the postseason twice and winning two playoff games. He’s known as a great motivator with intense and infectious energy.
23. Brian Flores, $3 million
The Miami Dolphins made wholesale changes entering 2019, completely revamping the roster and hiring Flores from the Patriots to coach. Most expected a one- or two-win season, and Flores delivered five to South Beach. He followed that up in 2020 with a 10-6 season, missing the playoffs by one game despite rotating between rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa and veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.
- Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills, fifth year
- Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears, fourth year
- Urban Meyer (reportedly asked for $12 million), Jacksonville Jaguars, first year
- David Culley, Houston Texans, first year
- Brandon Staley, Los Angeles Chargers, first year
- Dan Campbell, Detroit Lions, first year
- Nick Sirianni, Philadelphia Eagles, first year
- Arthur Smith, Atlanta Falcons, first year
- Rich Bisaccia, Las Vegas Raiders, first year (interim)