Who has the NFL’s best offensive mind?

2015 New Orleans Saints Carolina 27 - New Orleans 22 (L) 0-3

(Bruce Arians photo on cover courtesy of Arizona Cardinals)
(Sean Payton photo courtesy of the New Orleans Saints)

Talk of Fame Network

Find a great quarterback, and you’ll generally find a great offense. But that quarterback — be it Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers — is  just executing the plan.

The men with those plans are head coaches and offensive coordinators, who build the playbook and script the plays that gain yards, score touchdowns and win games on Sunday afternoons in the fall. Find a great offense, and you’ll generally find a great play-caller.  And that’s the subject of this week’s Talk of Fame Network poll — who is the best offensive mind in the NFL today? Here are your six options:

Bruce Arians, HC, Arizona. A former quarterback at Virginia Tech, Arians has developed a reputation as a quarterback guru, having worked with Peyton Manning at Indianapolis, Ben Roethlisberger at Pittsburgh and now Carson Palmer at Arizona. He finally became an NFL head coach in 2013 when the Cardinals hired him at the age of 62. Arians was named the NFL’s Coach of the Year in 2012 and 2014 — first, as an interim head coach in Indianapolis, then as the head coach who led the Cardinals to the playoffs. He took the Colts to third in the NFL in offense with Manning in 2000, the Steelers to seventh with Roethlisberger in 2009 and the Cardinals to first with Palmer in 2015.


(Bruce Arians photo courtesy of the Arizona Cardinals)

Todd Haley, OC, Pittsburgh. A long-time NFL receiver coach, Haley finally got the chance to call plays in 2007-08 with the Arizona Cardinals and Kurt Warner at quarterback. The Cardinals finished fourth in the NFL in offense in 2008 and won the NFC title, losing to the Steelers in the Super Bowl. He spent three years as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs from 2009-11, winning an AFC West crown in 2010 with Matt Cassel at quarterback. In 2012 he returned to his hometown of Pittsburgh to call the plays for the Steelers, who finished second in the NFL in offense in 2014 and third in 2015 with Roethlisberger at quarterback.

The Pittsburgh Steelers practice at Saint Vincent College during the 2016 Training Camp.

(Todd Haley photo courtesy of Karl Roser/Pittsburgh Steelers)

Gary Kubiak, HC, Denver. Kubiak spent nine seasons as John Elway’s backup quarterback in Denver, then went into coaching. He was quarterback coach of the 49ers in 1994 when they went to the Super Bowl with Steve Young, then back moved to Denver in 1995 as offensive coordinator where he picked up two Super Bowl rings. He served as head coach of the Houston Texans from 2006-13, then spent a year with Joe Flacco as offensive coordinator of the Ravens in 2014. He again returned to Denver as head coach in 2015, working with Peyton Manning and winning another Super Bowl.

Denver Broncos Head Coach Gary Kubiak reviews his play scripts during a time out in the second quarter against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL game at Sports Authority Field in Denver,Colo. October 9, 2016.

(Gary Kubiak photo courtesy of Eric Bakke/Denver Broncos)

Mike McCarthy, HC, Green Bay. McCarthy broke into NFL coaching with Kansas City in 1993 as an offensive q1uality-control coach, but by the end of the decade he had worked as a quarterbacks coach with both the Chiefs and Packers, giving him the chance to work with Rich Gannon in Kansas City and Brett Favre in Green Bay. He moved on to New Orleans and San Francisco as offensive coordinator in the 2000 decade before becoming the head coach at Green Bay in 2005. He again worked with Favre and Aaron Rodgers, winning a Super Bowl with Rodgers in 2010. McCarthy has produced eight top-10 offenses in his 11 seasons as head coach of the Packers.


(Mike McCarthy photo courtesy of the Green Bay Packers)

Josh McDaniels, OC, New England. McDaniels was a low-level assistant with the Patriots for three years until 2004 when he got his break, earning a promotion to quarterbacks coach. He worked with Tom Brady, and the Patriots won the Super Bowl that year. He was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2006 and called the plays in 2007 when the Patriots went 16-0 and Brady had a career year, passing for 4,806 yards and 50 TDs. That earned him a head-coaching opportunity with Denver in 2009, but he didn’t last two seasons. He’s been back in New England since 2012 and called the plays for another Super Bowl championship team in 2014.


(Photo courtesy of New England Patriots/Keith Nordstrom)

Sean Payton, HC, New Orleans. A former Arena League quarterback, Payton served as a quarterback coach with the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles in the 1990s and the offensive coordinator on New York’s 2000 NFC champions. He moved to Dallas in 2003 to serve as quarterbacks coach on the staff of Bill Parcells and was on the ground floor of Tony Romo’s career. He was hired as head coach by the Saints in 2006 and, working with Drew Brees, gave New Orleans its first Lombardi Trophy in 2009. There have been eight 5,000 yard passers in NFL history. Brees has been the author of four of those seasons, all under Payton. No other quarterback has done it more than once.

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