A defensive coordinator is a coach responsible for a gridiron football (American football) team's defense. Generally, the defensive coordinator and the offensive coordinator represent the second level of a team's command structure, with the head coach being the first level. The primary role of the defensive coordinator is managing the roster of defensive players, overseeing the assistant coaches, developing the defensive game plan, and calling plays for the defense during the game. The defensive coordinator typically manages multiple assistant coaches, each of whom are responsible for various defensive positions on the team (such as the defensive line, linebackers, or defensive backs).
While the job of defensive coordinator is largely similar at the collegiate and professional level, college coaches are more involved in the recruitment process. A successful defensive coordinator is often a stepping stone to the position of head coach.
Other major sports with strong delineation between offensive and defensive positions use similar coaching positions. For example: Phil Housley served as a defensive coordinator for the National Hockey League's Nashville Predators from 2013 to 2017.
Russell Dean Pees (born September 4, 1949) is an American football coach who is the defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League (NFL). Pees previously served as the defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots of the National Football League, as well as the head football coach at Kent State University from 1998 to 2003, compiling a record of 17–51.Dick LeBeau
Charles Richard LeBeau ( lə-BOH; born September 9, 1937) is an American football coach and former cornerback, who was last an assistant head coach and defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League (NFL). He was active at field level in the NFL for 59 consecutive seasons – 14 as a player with the Detroit Lions and 45 as a coach. He is considered to be one of the greatest defensive coordinators of all time. Considered an “innovator” and “defensive football genius”, LeBeau popularized the "zone blitz" when he was defensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals in the late 1980s.
On February 6, 2010, LeBeau was selected into the 2010 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The entire 2010 Steelers team attended the induction ceremony.Dom Capers
Ernest Dominic "Dom" Capers (born August 7, 1950) is an American football coach working as a defensive assistant for the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League. Capers served as the head coach for the National Football League (NFL)'s Carolina Panthers from 1995 to 1998 and for the Houston Texans from 2002 to 2005 during both teams' first years in the league. He is the only individual to serve two different NFL expansion teams as their inaugural head coach. Capers has also served as an assistant coach, most prominently as the defensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers from 2009 to 2017, with whom he helped win a Super Bowl title in XLV.Don Martindale
Don "Wink" Martindale (born May 19, 1963) is the defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League. He was promoted to defensive coordinator on January 9, 2018, after spending the previous six seasons as the team's linebackers coach.Martindale has previously been a coach for Defiance College, the University of Notre Dame, University of Cincinnati, Western Kentucky University, and the Oakland Raiders. He served as the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos in 2010.
Before the 2009 season, Martindale interviewed for the Oakland Raiders head-coaching job.On February 2, 2012, the Ravens signed Martindale as linebackers coach.Martindale was part of the Ravens' coaching staff that won Super Bowl XLVII.Ed Donatell
Ed Donatell (born February 4, 1957 in Akron, Ohio) is an American football coach who is currently the defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos of the National Football League (NFL).Eric Mangini
Eric Anthony Mangini (born January 19, 1971) is an American football coach who last served as the defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League (NFL). Mangini had been with the 49ers since 2013 and served as the team's tight ends coach for two seasons before being promoted to defensive coordinator in 2015, only to be fired in 2016 by new head coach Chip Kelly.Mangini, facetiously known as "the Mangenius," is a former head coach, having served as the coach of the New York Jets from 2006 until 2008 and the Cleveland Browns in 2009 and 2010. Prior to taking his position with the 49ers, Mangini was an NFL analyst for ESPN. Since being fired by the 49ers, Mangini has become an analyst for Fox Sports 1.Mangini is known for being a former assistant under Bill Belichick, serving under him as a defensive assistant while Belichick was the defensive coordinator with the Jets and later following him to the New England Patriots, where he succeeded Romeo Crennel as defensive coordinator in 2005 after Crennel took the head coaching position with the Browns (a position he would also be succeeded in by Mangini).Gregg Williams
Gregg Williams (born July 15, 1958) is an American football coach who is the defensive coordinator for the New York Jets of the National Football League. Previously, he was head coach of the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League (NFL), and defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints with whom he won Super Bowl XLIV, and the Cleveland Browns, acting as an interm head coach in the 2018 season. Williams is known for running aggressive, attacking 4–3 schemes that put heavy pressure on opposing quarterbacks and for his key role in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal.In March 2012, Williams was suspended from the NFL as a result of his admitted involvement in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, under which bounties were paid for causing injuries that would take targeted players on opposing teams out of games. Williams' suspension was lifted a year later, and he returned to the NFL.Leslie Frazier
Leslie Antonio Frazier (born April 3, 1959) is an American football coach and former cornerback who is the defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills. He served as the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings from 2011 to 2013.Lou Spanos
Louis G. Spanos (born March 27, 1971) is a football coach, and the current defensive coordinator for the Connecticut Huskies football team. He was a defensive quality control and assistant linebackers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers for many years, the linebackers coach for the Washington Redskins, and the defensive coordinator for the UCLA Bruins football team.Mike Nolan
Mike Nolan (born March 7, 1959) is an American football coach is currently the linebacker coach for the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League (NFL), a former head coach for the 49ers, and a former defensive coordinator for the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, Washington Redskins, New York Giants, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, and Atlanta Falcons.Monte Kiffin
Monte Kiffin (born February 29, 1940) is an American football coach. He is currently a defensive assistant at Florida Atlantic for his son, Lane Kiffin (HC). He is widely considered to be one of the preeminent defensive coordinators in modern football, as well as one of the greatest defensive coordinators in NFL history. Father of the widely imitated "Tampa Cover 2" defense, Kiffin's concepts are among the most influential in modern college and pro football.Before taking the role as Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator, Kiffin served as assistant head coach for the University of Southern California where his son Lane Kiffin was named head coach on January 12, 2010, and before that he served under his son as the defensive coordinator at the University of Tennessee. Possibly due to the mounting pressure on his son's poor coaching records, on November 29, 2012, Kiffin resigned from his position to pursue other opportunities in the NFL. He previously served 26 years as an NFL assistant coach, including 13 years as defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with whom he won Super Bowl XXXVII. His defensive units have finished ranked in the top 10 in points allowed and yards allowed 10 times during that period, an NFL record.Kiffin was paid about $1.2 million per year by Tennessee, which made him the highest paid assistant coach in college football. He earned a reported $2 million annual salary from the Buccaneers and has turned down several NFL head coaching jobs during his career. To this day, Kiffin's only head coaching job was at North Carolina State University from 1980 to 1982.Randy Shannon
Randy Leonard Shannon (born February 24, 1966) is an American football coach and former player. He is currently the defensive coordinator at the University of Central Florida (UCF). Previously, Shannon was the head football coach at the University of Miami from 2007 to 2010, and has served as an assistant coach or defensive coordinator for the National Football League's Miami Dolphins and for several college teams, including at the University of Miami, where he won the Frank Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach in 2001.Shannon was born and raised in Miami, Florida. As a football player, he was a linebacker for the Miami Hurricanes from 1985 to 1988 and played two seasons professionally for the Dallas Cowboys, all under head coach Jimmy Johnson.Rob Ryan
Robert Allen Ryan (born December 13, 1962) is an American football coach for National Football League’s Washington Redskins. He has served as a defensive coordinator or coach for seven different NFL teams, and served as the linebackers coach for the New England Patriots when they won both Super Bowl XXXVI and Super Bowl XXXVIII. He is the son of former defensive coordinator and head coach Buddy Ryan and the twin brother of Rex Ryan. Ryan was hired by the Washington Redskins in 2019.Romeo Crennel
Romeo Crennel (born June 18, 1947) is an American football coach who is the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach for the Houston Texans of the National Football League (NFL). He has been the head coach of the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs, as well an assistant coach for six different NFL teams and four different college teams. He also has over 40 years of coaching experience which has included consistently being employed as a coach for all but two seasons 1970, only taking the 2009 and 2013 seasons off following both of his tenures as a head coach. He has had success as an assistant coach, winning 5 Super Bowls, however he has not found the same success as a head coach. His overall record in five seasons as a head coach and three games as an interim head coach is 28–55, with only one winning season and no playoff appearances.Steve Spagnuolo
Stephen Christopher Spagnuolo (; born December 21, 1959) is an American football coach who is the defensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League (NFL). Spagnuolo was hired by the Giants after two seasons as a defensive assistant with the Baltimore Ravens. This was his second stint as the Giants' defensive coordinator, having held that job from 2007 to 2008 after spending eight years on the defensive staff of Jim Johnson of the Philadelphia Eagles. He was named interim head coach upon the firing of former head coach Ben McAdoo on December 4, 2017.
Spagnuolo was hired by the St. Louis Rams in 2009 to be their head coach, but was fired after three seasons. He became the defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints in 2012 but was fired after only one year.
Spagnuolo has also worked as a college football assistant coach for the University of Connecticut, the University of Maine, Lafayette College, Rutgers University, Bowling Green University, and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He also spent time in the original World League of American Football and its successor, NFL Europe.Ted Monachino
Ted Monachino (born October 15, 1966) is an American football coach for the Chicago Bears for the National Football League. He coached for Missouri in 2018, as well as the defensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League (NFL) for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. He was also formerly the linebackers coach for the Baltimore Ravens from 2010 to 2015. He was part of the Ravens' coaching staff that won Super Bowl XLVII.In December 2018, he joined Kansas State to serve as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach under first-year coach Chris Klieman. A month later, however, he departed the position to become the Chicago Bears' senior defensive assistant and outside linebackers coach, reuniting him with Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano whom he worked with in Baltimore and Indianapolis.Todd Bowles
Todd Robert Bowles (born November 18, 1963) is an American football coach who is the defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League (NFL), as well as a former player. He played eight seasons in the NFL as a safety, mainly for the Washington Redskins, and started in Super Bowl XXII against the Denver Broncos. Bowles was the interim defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012, and then for the Arizona Cardinals in 2013 and 2014. He was the interim head coach for the Miami Dolphins for the final three games of the 2011 season with a 2-1 record after the firing of Tony Sparano, and served as the heach coach of the New York Jets from 2015-2018.Vic Fangio
Victor John Fangio (born August 22, 1958) is an American football coach who is the head coach of the Denver Broncos of the National Football League (NFL). A 40-year coaching veteran with 32 seasons of NFL experience, Fangio has been a defensive coordinator for 20 of the last 24 seasons at the NFL or college level. He most recently served as the Chicago Bears' defensive coordinator for the last four years (2015–18) after leading the defenses for the San Francisco 49ers (2011–14), Stanford University (2010), Houston Texans (2002–05), Indianapolis Colts (1999–2001) and Carolina Panthers (1995–98).
Fangio’s defenses have consistently been among the most productive in the NFL in a number of categories, including scoring defense, total yards allowed and fewest penalties. His defenses have ranked in the league’s top-five in yards allowed in eight of the last 12 years while placing in the NFL’s top-5 in fewest points allowed seven times over that span.Wade Phillips
Wade Phillips (born June 21, 1947) is an American football coach who is the defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League (NFL). He also served two stints as defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos, where his team was Super Bowl finalists in his first stint and champions in his second stint. He has served as head coach of the NFL's Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, and Dallas Cowboys. He was also an interim head coach for the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, and the Houston Texans. His career winning percentage as a head coach is .546. Phillips is considered to be among the best defensive coordinators in the NFL.
*Serves as defensive coordinator under different title