9. Eric Bienemy, Chiefs OC
Bienemy has been at the top of everyone’s list for the past five years, so this is rather low for a coach of his stature. He is 53 and beginning to fight the distressing realization that his time may have come and gone while younger offensive “geniuses” snapped up all the jobs. The knock against Bienemy has been that with Andy Reid as head coach, his contributions as offensive coordinator are difficult to discern, and with Patrick Mahomes as quarterback, your grandmother could design offenses that generated 30 points a game. Both are unfair, but they persist. I think Bienemy will still get his shot, He certainly deserves it.
8. P.J. Fleck, University of Minnesota head coach
Fleck built Western Michigan into a MAC power very quickly. It is taking a little longer in the ultra-competitive Big Ten, but he is having plenty of success at Minnesota as well. He is just 41, and unlike the two previous college coaches on this list, Fleck does have NFL experience, both as a player and as a coach. That experience only amounts to a few years, but it can be invaluable. He knows what goes on in an NFL locker room. He has taken Minnesota to three Bowl games in five years (only missing in his first season and in the COVID-impacted 2020.) And he has won all three, beating teams from the SEC, ACC, and Big 12 along the way.
7. Ryan Day, Ohio State head coach
This is my reach. But if you want to take a stab at a highly successful college coach, I’d like one who is just 43 and has some NFL coaching experience on his resume. Day worked with the quarterbacks in Philadelphia and San Francisco before going to the Buckeyes. He has won over 90% of his games coaching against elite competition in the Big 10.