Nearly half of the NFL franchises will begin the 2022 season with a different play-caller than last year. Some teams opted to hire veteran headset operators, while others will entrust their offenses to first-timers. Arranged by NFL play-calling experience, here is this year’s contingent of new hires.
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TBD, New England Patriots
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Bill Belichick cannot be excluded from the NFL’s coaching Mt. Rushmore; he has earned the right to experiment. But his 2022 plan may be one of the wackier efforts in recent coaching history. Persistent noise about Matt Patricia morphing from near-career-long defensive coach to offensive play-caller became the Pats’ top offseason storyline. Ex-Giants HC Joe Judge would make for a slightly more sensible choice, but special teams are his area of expertise. Belichick picking between his two longtime aids and not hiring a true OC to replace Josh McDaniels has quickly become more interesting than the actual roster the Pats are fielding.
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Ben Johnson, Detroit Lions
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There are a few teams using first-time play-callers. The Lions could make five. They have not decided on their first-year offensive coordinator calling plays just yet, but Dan Campbell gave Johnson that responsibility during the team’s offseason program. Campbell replaced previous OC Anthony Lynn as the team’s play-caller midway through last year, and Johnson — a Patricia-era hire who was on the 2015 Dolphins’ staff when Campbell was Miami’s interim HC — received a bump to full-time OC this offseason. Johnson, 36, began last season as Detroit’s tight ends coach.
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Ken Dorsey, Buffalo Bills
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Dorsey drifted into relative anonymity after his storied run quarterbacking stacked Miami Hurricane squads in the early 2000s. He will be back on the radar this season. The 10th-year NFL assistant is now the offensive coordinator for a Bills team facing expectations reminiscent of the early part of their 1990s Super Bowl streak. Josh Allen stumped for Dorsey to succeed four-year OC Brian Daboll, and the previous Buffalo QBs coach will step in as a first-time play-caller. Dorsey, 41, has been a QBs coach since 2013. Quite the spotlight he will step into.
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Mike McDaniel, Miami Dolphins
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The new Dolphins head coach spent the past 11 seasons working with Kyle Shanahan. Although this will be McDaniel’s first go-round as a play-caller, the former Washington, Cleveland, Atlanta, and San Francisco assistant will bring expert-level knowledge in the Mike-Kyle Shanahan offense. McDaniel, 39, spent last season as a non-play-calling OC. He ascends to a role of architecting Tua Tagovailoa’s turning-point season and will be tasked with maximizing one of the fastest receiving duos (Tyreek Hill-Jaylen Waddle) in NFL history. If this goes south, McDaniel might hear about it on Hill’s podcast.
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Luke Getsy, Chicago Bears
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Matt LaFleur is starting to have a coaching tree, or at least a sturdier branch off Sean McVay’s. Getsy spent three years as LaFleur’s QBs coach, but the 38-year-old assistant has offensive coordinator experience — just not at the pro level. The new Bears OC served in that role at Mississippi State in 2018 and at two Division II schools in his 20s. The Bulldogs’ role did not come with play-calling responsibilities, however. Getsy does not have nearly as much to work with compared to Dorsey’s Bills set up, but the rebuilding Bears also do not present many expectations.
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Kevin O’Connell, Minnesota Vikings
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The newest McVay tree branch, O’Connell will call plays for a second team. The two-year Rams assistant’s only previous play-calling run came for a 2019 Washington team in chaos. A near-three-month stretch bookended by Jay Gruden’s firing and Bruce Allen’s dismissal featured O’Connell at the controls. Washington ranked last in scoring and 31st in yardage, as Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins struggled in a 3-13 year. O’Connell, 37, has more to work with in Minnesota — in ex-Washington QB Kirk Cousins and burgeoning superstar Justin Jefferson. The Vikings HC should fare better, but he has nowhere to go but up.
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Pete Carmichael, New Orleans Saints
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Although this subplot was not covered in “Home Team,” Carmichael called Saints plays throughout the now-Kevin James-affiliated Bountygate season 10 years ago. But the 14th-year Saints OC also held that title for much of 2011 — a dominant offensive season that featured Drew Brees’ statistical apex — after Sean Payton broke his leg that October. Carmichael retained play-calling duties the rest of the way, and the ’11 Saints set a single-season yardage record (476.1 per game). The NFL’s longest-tenured OC (by far) will be a solid option as Jameis Winston and Co. adjust to post-Payton life in NOLA.
8 of 14
Shane Steichen, Philadelphia Eagles
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Also on team two as a play-caller, Steichen began the 2021 season as a non-play-calling OC. But he finished the year running the show for the Eagles. The midseason switch led to the team embracing a smashmouth attack. After Jalen Hurts attempted 30-plus passes five times in Philly’s first seven games, he got there just once the rest of the way. The Eagles led the NFL in rushing in 2021. Steichen has more play-calling experience than Nick Sirianni, having been the Chargers’ point man for Justin Herbert’s Offensive Rookie of the Year season as well. This season could move Steichen, 37, to the head-coaching carousel.
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Pep Hamilton, Houston Texans
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This is Hamilton’s second opportunity. He initially rode Andrew Luck to an NFL coordinator role, serving as the super-prospect’s OC at Stanford and catching up with him again in 2013 — after the Cardinals hired Bruce Arians. Luck progressed under Hamilton, leading the NFL with a career-high 40 TD passes in 2014. Hamilton’s NFL arrow plunged downward as Luck’s blocking broke down, being fired in 2015. After time at Michigan and XFL 2.0, the 47-year-old assistant resurfaced as Justin Herbert’s position coach in 2020. Davis Mills also played above expectation with Hamilton as his QBs coach last season. A well-earned second chance in Houston.
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Ben McAdoo, Carolina Panthers
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The former Giants head coach has gone a while in between chances to run an offense. Since being dismissed from his Giants HC gig following the Eli Manning benching debacle in December 2017, McAdoo took two seasons off. He coached Jaguars QBs during a 1-15 2020 season and was a Cowboys consultant last year. This does not look like the profile of a coach capable of saving Matt Rhule’s job, but McAdoo did guide the 2016 Giants — an offense largely dependent on Odell Beckham Jr. playmaking — to the playoffs and unleashed OBJ as Big Blue’s OC previously. McAdoo, 44, also spent time as Aaron Rodgers’ position coach in the early 2010s.
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Nathaniel Hackett, Denver Broncos
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The Broncos are the third team to give Hackett play-calling duties. Hackett was most famously at the controls of a Jaguars offense whose out-of-nowhere 2017 rise ended with the team one properly officiating Myles Jack fumble-six from Super Bowl LII. Hackett guiding a Blake Bortles-led attack to top-six marks in points and yards stands out, even if his first try as a play-caller — with the Bills from 2013-14 — is less remembered. Hackett bounced to the HC level because of Aaron Rodgers’ late-career peak, with Matt LaFleur calling plays, but Russell Wilson constitutes a massive QB jump compared to Hackett’s prior gigs calling the shots.
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Doug Pederson, Jacksonville Jaguars
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Frank Reich receives extensive credit for Carson Wentz’s would-be MVP season in 2017, but Pederson called the Eagles’ plays for Wentz and during Nick Foles’ shocking playoff run. The Eagles bottoming out in 2020 dings Pederson, but he deserves credit for Wentz’s 27-7 TD-INT ratio in 2019 — when the Birds’ entire receiving corps broke down — en route to an NFC East title. Trevor Lawrence’s new headset voice is 1-for-5 in top-10 scoring or yardage seasons (2017), but this season will be a much better gauge of the Jaguars QB’s NFL ability than last year’s nightmare. Urban Meyer-to-Pederson marked one of this offseason’s top upgrades.
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Brian Daboll, New York Giants
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Daboll will soon call plays for a fifth team. He was nowhere near the HC radar after his 2012 Chiefs OC gig — his third unsuccessful play-calling opportunity, after helming bad Browns (2009-10) and Dolphins (2011) teams — led to a 2-14 record. But the Giants hired a coach coming off one of the better OC runs in recent years. Josh Allen morphed from raw talent to true superstar under Daboll over the past four years. Daboll’s pre-Buffalo past should be in the back of Giant fans’ minds, but it is hard to deny the veteran deserves a shot. Daniel Jones should at least have his best chance to succeed this year.
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Josh McDaniels, Las Vegas Raiders
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This is McDaniels’ 17th year as an NFL play-caller. For a coach at the controls when Tom Brady transformed from handsome game manager to all-time great, McDaniels has plenty to prove in Vegas. He bombed in Denver and St. Louis, a 2011 OC one-and-done that ended with the Rams offense ranked 32nd and performed that Indianapolis backtrack. But McDaniels’ play-calling chops are undeniable. The Patriots continually displayed creativity and flexibility during McDaniels’ two OC stays, and his fingerprints were all over Mac Jones’ quick climb to NFL competence. Raider weapons are there for McDaniels, whose past might not allow for a third HC chance if this one flops.
Sam Robinson is a Kansas City, Mo.-based writer who mostly writes about the NFL. He has covered sports for nearly 10 years. Boxing, the Royals and Pandora stations featuring female rock protagonists are some of his go-tos. Occasionally interesting tweets @SRobinson25.