Play-calling is one of the more underrated aspects of professional football, but it is important for any team to have a great play-caller on the offensive end. I’ll take a look at the top five play-callers in the NFL right now, head coaches and offensive coordinators inclusive.
Without further ado…
1. Sean Payton, Head Coach, New Orleans: He’s been out of football for a full year, but that doesn’t stop him from earning the top spot on this list. Payton is a gambler who loves trying out new things, whether that is in practices or the game. His infamous bunch onside kick in Super Bowl XLIV nicknamed “Ambush” helped New Orleans win the game. Payton is always studying the game and is the best play-caller in the NFL.
2. Kyle Shanahan, Offensive Coordinator, Washington: If coordinators could have a breakout season, 2012 would’ve been just that for Shanahan. His hocus-pocus kept defenses out of sync and off balance last year. Shanahan is also a good situational play-caller, especially when his team is in critical situations, calling the right plays whenever needed (see: RGIII 76-yard touchdown run). Shanahan is right behind Sean Payton as the best play-caller in the league.
3. Bruce Arians, Head Coach, Arizona: Last season, Arians and Andrew Luck did a tremendous job resurrecting the Colts and filling the void of Chuck Pagano. Arians, like Shanahan, is a very good situational play-caller, willing to dial up anything in the playbook. He didn’t call dink-and-dunk passes – Andrew Luck was stretching the field, setting the rookie record for passing yards in a season. Arians can prove himself to be the best play-caller, if not one of the best head coaches, in the league.
4. Mike McCarthy, Head Coach, Green Bay: It certainly helps when Aaron Rodgers is your quarterback, but Mike McCarthy deserves a ton of credit up in Wisconsin. He is somewhat underrated, but sets the tone every day in practice. He has the freedom to call a play knowing that Rodgers can change it at any time, which is what makes him such a good play-caller. He has that natural instinct of knowing what to call at a certain point in the game.
5. Greg Roman, Offensive Coordinator, San Francisco: Although he was questioned as to why Colin Kaepernick didn’t run a keeper at the end of Super Bowl XLVII, Roman is still an excellent play-caller. He may not be the best situational play-caller such as Sean Payton and Kyle Shanahan, but he deserves credit for utilizing Kaepernick effectively during the season, especially during the divisional round playoff game against Green Bay.
Honorable Mention – Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Denver: I had to include Manning somewhere on this list, and he sure deserves to be more than an honorable mention. However, this list is constricted to head coaches and coordinators. Manning is a coach on the field, with his extensive knowledge of the game topping that of several coaches. His mind makes up for whatever he can’t do physically.