Defensive Coordinator – American Football

Most fans know a defensive coordinator plays a huge role in coaching a football team. But many don’t have much of an understanding of what these coaches do. This article is going to answer every question you may have about defensive coordinators in football.

What Does A Defensive Coordinator Do?

A defensive coordinator is responsible for organizing the entire defensive side of the ball. These coaches run the defensive players practices, create game plans, and call defensive plays during the game.

A defensive coordinator is one of the most important positions in a coaching staff. These coaches will also typically decide the defensive formation/system that your defence will run throughout the year.

An easy way to think of a defensive coordinator is the “head coach” of the defence. This is an apt description because the defensive coordinator is responsible for managing several coaches.

The defensive backs coach, linebackers coach, and defensive line coach all answer to the defensive coordinator.

He will help these coaches organize their players for their coming game. The game plan organized with these coaches will allow them to be built their practice schedules based on the coordinator’s suggestions.

On game day the defensive coordinator will most likely call the defensive plays throughout the game. Though some coaches that are defense focused may assume the duties of play calling on game day.

How Much Are Defensive Coordinators Paid?

The pay of defensive coordinators varies greatly depending on which team and league you coach for. College football and the NFL being far and away the most lucrative leagues to be a defensive coordinator in.

The average salary of a defensive coordinator in the NFL is roughly $800,000 a year. Though a defensive coordinators salary can go much higher than that.

The highest-paid defensive coordinator in the league is Don Martindale of the Baltimore Ravens that has a yearly salary of 3.25 million.

Who Is In Charge Of The Defensive Coordinator?

There is only one coach above the defensive coordinator and that is the head coach. The head coach is always going to be involved in the coordinator roles but the relationship can vary depending on the coaches speciality.

If you are a defensive-minded coach like Bill Belichik you are going to be very involved in your defence. Belichick is fairly hands-off with the offense and lets Josh Mcdaniels call the plays. But when it comes to the defence you will often find Bill looking at the play sheet and making calls.

If you have an offensive-minded coach like Andy Reid you will find he will not be nearly as involved in with the defensive coordinator. The head coach will still work and communicate with a coach outside their speciality but they are likely to have a less hands-on approach.

Who Are They Talking To On Their Headsets?

You may have noticed that defensive coordinators have a headset on during the game and always seem to be talking. For those that are wondering these coaches are talking to their assistant coaches as well as their middle linebacker.

There are two positions that coaches will be in on game day. They can either be up in the booth with a birds-eye view of the field. Or they can be on the sideline communicating with the players and coaches there.

If he is in the booth he will be able to more accurately see what is going on in the game. In order to stay in contact with the other defensive coaches, he can use the headset to communicate with them.

As we stated earlier the defensive coordinator is also able to communicate with the middle linebacker. The defense is allowed one player on the field that has a built in mic to their helmet. This mic/headset is turned off ten seconds before the play starts.

The coordinator uses his headset to communicate plays to the middle linebacker who will then signal them to the rest of the defense.

To learn more about coache or staff like the defensive coordinator see our guide to the offensive coordinator or the front office.

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