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Where is the best place to coach in the NFL in 2013? What about the worst?
Would you rather work for Jerry Jones or the people of Green Bay, Wisconsin? Would you rather live in Buffalo or Denver? Would you prefer to face Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati six times a year or Jacksonville, Tennessee and Indianapolis?
These are the sorts of big picture questions you have to ask when trying to evaluate NFL “jobs.” Depth charts and general managers come and go but, by in large, fan commitment, stadiums, cities and owners stay the same over long periods of time. It is these factors that define how good or bad an NFL head coaching gig is, not who is playing quarterback, how deep the defensive line might be or who is running the front office.
Facilities, commitment to excellence, history, tradition, prestige, ownership, fan support, earning potential, divisional alignment and location is how Athlon ranked each of the current NFL head coaching jobs.
Forbes 2012 total franchise valuation in parentheses
1. Green Bay Packers ($1.161 billion, 10th)
There is only one publicly owned franchise in major American professional sports and it is located in a small, sleepy town in northern Wisconsin. It means as a head coach, you answer to the fans first and foremost above all else and it creates a unique and committed relationship between the Packers and their supporters. No, Green Bay isn’t the best place in the country to live (most of the year) but the most historic and legendary football stadium in the world, Lambeau Field, rises high above the neighborhoods of Green Bay. This organization has won more NFL championships (13) than any other in league history and has won a Super Bowl in three separate decades. The Packers also play in a division with three of the best rivalries in football, including the twice annual bout with the Bears.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers ($1.1 billion, 14th)
Few fan bases and owners are as committed to being successful like Steeler Nation and the Rooney Family. The fans in Pittsburgh are second to none and will travel to great lengths to support their team while three generations of Rooney control has offered unique stability in a transient world. In 2001, the Steelers opened a beautiful new facility in Heinz Field. What it lacks in tradition and history it more than makes up for in technology and amenities. Top it all off with an NFL-best six Super Bowl trophies and 60,000 Terrible Towels and you have the best AFC job in the NFL.
3. New York Giants ($1.468 billion, 4th)
Since 1925, the red, white and blue football Giants have represented the biggest media market in the world. For the first seven decades of operation, the Giants were controlled exclusively by the Mara Family — father and founder, Tim, and his two sons, Jack and Wellington. Since 1991 when Tim Mara passed away, half of the franchise has been owned by the Tisch family. A massive new building has replaced the old Meadowlands and will provide a Northeastern setting for the Super Bowl for the first time in history. The Giants are third all-time with eight NFL championships, including four Super Bowls, and boast some of the most prestigious rivalries in the game.
4. New England Patriots ($1.635 billion, 2nd)
The Pats joined the NFL along with the rest of the AFL in 1970 when the two merged. And few franchises can offer the combination of fan support, quality ownership and team success like the Boston-turned-New England Patriots. This team has played for at least one Super Bowl in every decade since the '70s and Gillette Stadium has been packed since opening in 2002. And owner Robert Kraft proved to be a godsend for the organization when he purchased the team in 1994, likely saving the team from relocation to St. Louis.
5. San Francisco 49ers ($1.175 billion, 9th)
The Niners are the oldest major pro sports franchise to ever call San Francisco home, and starting in 1970, few teams have dominated a sport like the 49ers. Winning five Super Bowls in a 14-year span and dominating headlines west of the Rockies, the Niners own a unique place in the NFL’s hierarchy. And despite a public ownership feud between the two sides of the family — the DeBartolos and the Yorks — that resulted in John York taking control, the support from the owner has been excellent. The fans may not be among the league’s elite but they aren’t too far behind and an ambitious new Levi’s Stadium could push the San-Fran coaching job into Steelers and Packers territory.
6. Denver Broncos ($1.132 billion, 13th)
A great city in a beautiful setting with elite fan support and a rich history of winning football makes coaching in Denver a destination gig. Bought by the Bowlen family in 1984, the current ownership not only saved the franchise from certain bankruptcy but has built a thriving business as well as a new stadium (2001). Playing in the generally timid AFC West, Denver has been a fixture in the playoffs despite battling with rivals Oakland, Kansas City and San Diego since 1960. There is little doubt that Denver is one of the AFC’s preeminent franchises.
7. Chicago Bears ($1.190 billion, 8th)
Located in the Windy City in the heart of the football-crazed NFC North, the Bears are one of the most lucrative, most supported and most historic franchises in the NFL. Chicago boasts the best rivalry in the league with the Packers and trails only Green Bay with nine NFL championships. Originally owned by legendary George Halas, the Bears are now run by Halas’ daughter Virginia and her family. It has proven to be tough to win big in Chicago but when someone does (looking at you Ditka) he becomes a living legend.
8. Dallas Cowboys ($2.1 billion, 1st)
Located in the heart of a football-mad state, the most high-profile and valuable franchise in the NFL also plays in the biggest, baddest venue in the football world. However, coaching the Cowboys isn’t a cakewalk as meddling owner Jerry Jones never lets go of the reigns. The fishbowl of this job can also be too much to handle for most mere mortals. That said, this team has consistently won at an elite level, has great fan support and never is hurting for revenue. The second Jones sells this team (which he won’t ever do), Dallas becomes one of the top 2-3 coaching jobs in the NFL instantly.
9. Indianapolis Colts ($1.154 billion, 12th)
There have been some rocky moments — like leaving Baltimore under the cover of night — but since moving to Indianapolis, the Colts have been a perennial power. Yes, much of that is due to Peyton Manning, but the support from the Irsay family has been excellent. The Colts play in one of the nicest new facilities in the league and Indianapolis has slowly developed into a destination city for many in the Midwest. And getting to face the Jaguars and Titans four times a year would appeal to most any head coach.
10. Baltimore Ravens ($1.157 billion, 11th)
The Ravens haven’t been around for a very long time, but the franchise has proven to be a big winner with more than one coach. Since relocating under owner Art Modell in 1996 from Cleveland, the Ravens have won two Super Bowls under two different coaches and are now owned by Steve Bisciotti. The stadium is solid, the fans are committed and the rivalries in the AFC North are as good as any in the NFL.
11. Kansas City Chiefs ($1.008 billion, 20th)
Despite the small market moniker, coaching in Kansas City is one of the top jobs in the NFL. The fans are extremely dedicated, the town is great, Arrowhead is as historic as any venue in the league and there are games to be won in the AFC West. Plus, have you ever smelled a Chiefs tailgate?
12. New York Jets ($1.284 billion, 6th)
Despite being the second most popular and powerful team in New York, the J-E-T-S job is still an attractive gig. Playing in the biggest media market in the world with excellent fan support and a brand new building makes this job one of the more coveted. The rich history and tradition speaks for itself.
13. Houston Texans ($1.305 billion, 5th)
The Texans have quickly become one of the NFL’s top coaching locations. With loads of revenue and financial support deep in the heart of football-crazed Texas, Houston has become one of the better jobs. A relatively manageable division schedule and gorgeous stadium also help make up for lack of tradition and natural rivals. Owner Bob McNair is also one of the league’s best.
14. Seattle Seahawks ($1.040 billion, 17th)
The stadium is one of the hidden gems in the NFL landscape as the Seahawks fans are among the loudest and best in the league. Seattle is an amazing place to live and owner Paul Allen showed his commitment by saving the team from a move to Southern California when he bought the team in 1997. This gig is moving up the rankings quickly.
15. Philadelphia Eagles ($1.260 billion, 7th)
Powerful, lucrative, steeped in tradition, an excellent stadium and some of the best rivalries are what make coaching in Philly so attractive. Having to deal with Eagles fans every day is a large and taxing, but manageable, drawback.
16. Washington Redskins ($1.6 billion, 3rd)
One of the more powerful and lucrative franchises in the league has all of the bullet points needed for a great coaching job. Excellent fans, rich traditions, an excellent venue and great rivalries make this a great job. Having to work for Daniel Snyder, however, keeps Washington from being a top 10 job.
17. New Orleans Saints ($971 million, 23rd)
Tom Benson bought the Saints in 1985 and has had to deal with multiple hurdles en route to the 2009 Super Bowl championship. The fans are excellent and the city is full of culture, however, a long standing battle to upgrade or replace the Superdome is just one of many ancillary issues the Saints’ headman has to deal with.
18. Minnesota Vikings ($975 million, 22nd)
There is a lot to like about coaching in the Twin Cities. The Vikings have a rich tradition and passionate fan base to go with excellent regional rivalries and a picturesque hometown. However, this team is one of seven without any NFL championship of any kind, and the Vikings are desperately awaiting the completion of their new stadium to move out of the outdated Metrodome.
19. Cincinnati Bengals ($871 million, 26th)
This is a stable franchise with a great stadium located in a great location on the river in downtown Cincinnati. There is plenty of history and excellent rivalries with Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Baltimore. However, this team has zero NFL titles of any kind and has failed to win big for long stretches of time.
20. Atlanta Falcons ($837 million, 28th)
In what isn’t a great pro sports town, the Falcons can dominate the sports headlines. Atlanta isn’t one of the more powerful, successful or lucrative franchises, but winning teams have proven capable of capturing the fans in the area. A massive new stadium could elevate this gig into the upper echelon of NFL jobs.
21. Miami Dolphins ($1.060 billion, 15th)
This is a once proud franchise that has experienced plenty of bad seasons in the last few years. There is plenty of tradition, pockets of winning and it is located in a thriving cultural hotbed in South Florida. But the owner is new to the scene and the stadium has no identity whatsoever.
22. Detroit Lions ($855 million, 27th)
There is stability in the owner’s box, as the Ford Family has controlled the franchise since 1963. Ford Field is an excellent venue and Detroit fans have supported terrible football for decades. However, there is little to no tradition of success and having to face perennial powers in Green Bay, Chicago and Minnesota six times a year is daunting.
23. San Diego Chargers ($936 million, 24th)
Owned by the Spanos family since 1984, the Chargers have never realized their potential in the NFL. The stadium needs an upgrade and there is little to no history of winning big. Yet, the AFC West features long-standing rivalries and few places on the planet offer more comfortable living conditions than San Diego.
24. Cleveland Browns ($987 million, 21st)
The fans in Cleveland are some of the best in all of sports. Without sniffing a Super Bowl appearance in nearly 50 years, the Dawg Pound is consistently packed every Sunday. However, there is new, unfamiliar ownership and no coach has seemed capable of winning games consistently.
25. St. Louis Rams ($780 million, 31st)
The Rams organization has as many NFL titles (3) as it does home towns. There is no long-standing connection to the city of St. Louis after moving from Los Angeles (and Cleveland) and the Edward Jones Dome could use some upgrading.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($1.033 billion, 19th)
Owner Malcolm Glazer threatened to move the team on more than one occasion, but he also has built a new stadium. The gimmicky Sunday experience is lacking and the franchise has a long history of losing football games.
27. Tennessee Titans ($1.011 billion, 19th)
Owner Bud Adams has had plenty of Jerry Jones moments, can be a hassle to work for and has already moved his team from Houston to Nashville via Memphis. Music City is a growing, bustling metropolitan area and LP Field is a solid venue. However, fans are extremely fair weather and the game day experience is severely lacking.
28. Carolina Panthers ($1.048 billion, 16th)
The team is fairly lucrative as the 16th most valuable in the league and it is located in a football loving area of the country. However, with its expansion team roots, there is zero tradition, it has little history of winning and literally claims 15 different owners.
29. Arizona Cardinals ($922 million, 25th)
This is one of the oldest franchises in the league and one that has failed to succeed in any way for most of its 93 seasons. Bill Bidwell might be a quality owner but five playoff appearances during his 47-year tenure indicates winning isn’t a priority.
30. Oakland Raiders ($785 million, 30th)
The stadium is more of a costume party than anything else. And while the late Al Davis was once revered for his savvy influence on football, he had lost his edge for most of his final years. Unfortunately, his son and current owner Mark hasn’t done anything to change that trend.
31. Buffalo Bills ($805 million, 29th)
The fans are great and the atmosphere can be great and Ralph Wilson is largely well-respected. But Buffalo might be the worst NFL city in the league, the team hasn’t won in nearly two decades and the organization is worth less than half of the most prestigious franchises.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars ($770 million, 32nd)
It is the least lucrative team in the NFL. It has tarps covering empty seats. Ownership isn’t exactly committed to the team staying in Jacksonville. And the Jags have posted some of the worst records in recent memory. At least, there will be some new swimming pools and a snazzy new video board at EverBank Field.