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A look back at championship game head coaches for the past 5 years

San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Wow. In the throes of the Washington head coach search, in the lead up to the Super Bowl, there’s potentially a ton to write about, but a very short window during which doing so is relevant. To that end, in the wake of the conclusion of the AFC and NFC championship games, I wanted to go back and look at the head coaching strengths of the teams that had participated in those games in the recent past.

I went back and collected the information on the four coaches who had participated in each championship game over the course of the past five years, including this season. I also highlighted their unique skillset (offense, defense, special teams), taking special care to highlight those head coaches who were/are offensive play callers (OPCs). That information is presented below:

AFC/NFC Championship Game Head Coaches by Year

Year AFC1 Skill AFC2 Skill NFC1 Skill NFC2 Skill
Year AFC1 Skill AFC2 Skill NFC1 Skill NFC2 Skill
2023 Andy Reid OPC John Harbaugh ST Kyle Shanahan OPC Dan Campbell TE
2022 Andy Reid OPC Zac Taylor OPC Kyle Shanahan OPC Nick Sirianni OC
2021 Andy Reid OPC Zac Taylor OPC Kyle Shanahan OPC Sean McVay OPC
2020 Andy Reid OPC Sean McDermott DC Bruce Arians OC Matt LaFleur OPC
2019 Andy Reid OPC Mike Vrabel DC Kyle Shanahan OPC Matt LaFleur OPC

For such a simple exercise, some things really jump out that I hadn’t fully wrapped my head around before:

  • Andy Reid has coached in the past five (actually past six) AFC Championship games. I suspect that may be some sort of record. Lest someone try to minimize that achievement by Reid on account of him having Patrick Mahomes in KC, realize that’s on top of the five NFC Championship games he coached in with the Eagles. Reid is a master.
  • The young (44) Kyle Shanahan has coached in four of the last five NFC Championship games, and he’s done it with Jimmy Garoppolo and Brock Purdy. Shanahan is another master in training.
  • Of the 20 coaching slots in this exercise, 14 (70%) were filled by head coaches who were/are offensive play callers. Two were filled by a head coaches with an OC background who had been offensive play callers as a head coaches in prior roles (Arians/Sirianni), bringing the total OPC-experienced coaches to 80%.
  • All five Super Bowls will have been won by OPC-experienced coaches.
  • One coach had special teams’ experience (Harbaugh) and one was a TE coach (Campbell). Neither made the Super Bowl.
  • Two coaches, 10%, had defensive coordinator backgrounds (Vrabel and McDermott). Neither made the Super Bowl.

I’ll leave this here as something for you to contemplate as we wait on the selection of Washington’s next head coach.


Do you think it matters if an NFL head coach has an offensive play calling background?

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If you do answered yes, do you think an offensive play calling background helps or hurts?

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