The Average Salary of an NFL Defensive Coordinator

The Average Salary of an NFL Defensive Coordinator thumbnail
Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is one of the league's top defensive coordinators

In the National Football League, defensive coordinators can be as important as head coaches. In fact, a number of head coaches began their careers as defensive coordinators, most notably Bill Belichik and Rex Ryan. While defensive coordinators earn considerably less than head coaches, they are well-paid and top coordinators may earn seven-figure salaries.

  1. Base Numbers

    • NFL defensive coordinators are coaches, responsible for designing game plans for their defensive players during NFL games and working to maximize the performance of each player. As such, the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the average salary of coaches for spectator sports at $60,610 as of 2010. Coaches in professional sports earn a considerably higher salary.

    Million-Dollar Men

    • Current Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis began his NFL career as a defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens, winning a Super Bowl with the team in 2000. Two years later, he became the defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins, becoming the NFL's first million-dollar coordinator according to a February 2005 "Los Angeles Times" article. Noted Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin earned $1.7 million annually until his departure in 2009.

    A Closer Look

    • In spite of the million-dollar salaries of former high-profile NFL defensive coordinators, NFL defensive coordinators typically earn six-figure salaries. As of September 2011, Houston Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is the highest-paid defensive coordinator earning approximately $700,000 yearly under a three-year, $2.1 million deal.


    • A September 2009 "Los Angeles Times" article cites an unnamed NFL source stating that the average salary for NFL coordinators ranges between $450,000 and $3 million. The article adds that the average NFL defensive coordinator salary is approximately $850,000 compared to $800,000 for offensive coordinators. However, as seen by Philips' salary, the salary ranges are a bit higher and may be indicative of a decrease in salaries for the position. The 2011 NFL lockout greatly impacted the salaries of NFL assistant coaches, including coordinators who experienced either a loss of pay or decrease in salary. Though the lockout has ended, NFL salary caps are lower which may explain the league-wide decrease in defensive coordinator pay.

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  • Photo Credit Joe Robbins/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

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