Heading towards the 2021 NFL season, who are the current defensive coordinators for all 32 teams? Let’s take a look at all of the defensive coordinators and their coaching backgrounds.
Current NFL defensive coordinators in 2021
Who are the defensive coordinators in the AFC and NFC for the 2021 season? First, the AFC.
Baltimore Ravens | Don Martindale
Don “Wink” Martindale has been with the Baltimore Ravens since 2012. They hired him as the linebackers coach before promoting him to defensive coordinator in 2018. His previous experiences as an NFL defensive coordinator came in 2010 with the Denver Broncos. He contended for a head coaching role in 2021, but that did not materialize in the offseason.
Buffalo Bills | Leslie Frazier
The 2021 season will see Leslie Frazier in his fifth season as the Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator. Frazier was the secondary coach of the Ravens in 2016, having been the Minnesota Vikings head coach between 2011 and 2013 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator in 2014 and 2015.
Cincinnati Bengals | Lou Anarumo
When the Cincinnati Bengals hired Zac Taylor as head coach, he brought in Lou Anarumo as the defensive coordinator. Anarumo’s defenses have struggled through his first two seasons but did show signs of improvement later in 2020. Prior to joining the Bengals, Anarumo was the defensive backs coach for the New York Giants. He was also Miami’s interim defensive coordinator in 2015.
Cleveland Browns | Joe Woods
The Cleveland Browns hired Joe Woods as the defensive coordinator when Kevin Stefanski took over as head coach. Woods’ defense ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in his first season in charge. His previous defensive coordinator experience came between 2017 and 2018 with the Denver Broncos. He helped the Broncos win Super Bowl 50 as the defensive backs coach.
Denver Broncos | Ed Donatell
Following the Broncos’ hiring of head coach Vic Fangio, Ed Donatell followed his former defensive coordinator from Chicago to Denver. After a strong performance in 2019, Denver’s defense struggled in 2020. The Broncos’ DC job was the first opportunity that Donatell received since 2006. Between 2000 and 2006, Donatell served as the DC for both the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons.
Houston Texans | Lovie Smith
As one of three new defensive coordinators in the AFC South, Lovie Smith is the first new defensive coordinator on this list. Smith spent the past five years as the head coach of Illinois, having previously spent 11 years as the head coach of the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He will also serve as associate head coach for the Texans in 2021.
Indianapolis Colts | Matt Eberflus
Josh McDaniels hired Matt Eberflus when he accepted a role as the Indianapolis Colts head coach. However, even after McDaniels changed his mind, Eberflus remained the Colts defensive coordinator under Frank Reich. Before the Colts hired him as defensive coordinator, Eberflus was the linebackers coach of the Dallas Cowboys. He was also the defensive coordinator for Missouri between 2001 and 2008.
Jacksonville Jaguars | Joe Cullen
Joe Cullen is our second new defensive coordinator in the NFL in 2021. Moreover, Cullen is the first rookie NFL defensive coordinator we have on the list. He previously served as the DC for Indiana in 2004 and Richmond in 2000. His first NFL experience began as the defensive line coach for the Ravens between 2016 and 2020.
Kansas City Chiefs | Steve Spagnuolo
The lesser-known part of the brain trust in Kansas City, Steve Spagnuolo, has been instrumental in the Chiefs’ recent success. He is entering his third season in the role, and both his first two years have ended with the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Spagnuolo has two Super Bowls to his name: XLII and LIV.
Las Vegas Raiders | Gus Bradley
In 2021, Gus Bradley will transition as a defensive coordinator between two teams in the same division. He spent the previous four seasons as the defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Chargers after being fired by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2016. The role with the Las Vegas Raiders will be Bradley’s third DC job. He has also held the position with the Seattle Seahawks between 2009 and 2012.
Los Angeles Chargers | Renaldo Hill
This was perhaps the most surprising defensive coordinator hire in the NFL in 2021. Renaldo Hill retired in 2010 and has spent six years as a defensive backs coach in the NFL. He worked with Chargers head coach Brandon Staley during their time together at Denver. This is Hill’s first opportunity as a DC in the NFL.
Miami Dolphins | Josh Boyer
After spending 13 years with the New England Patriots, Josh Boyer joined the Miami Dolphins alongside Brian Flores. He was initially the cornerbacks coach and defensive pass game coordinator with the Dolphins before Miami promoted him to defensive coordinator in 2020. His previous experience as a DC came with the South Dakota School of Mines in 2005.
New England Patriots | Bill Belichick
Bill Belichick is the only current NFL head coach who will also serve as the de facto defensive coordinator in 2021. Belichick has not named a defensive coordinator since the departure of Matt Patricia following the 2017 season. Brian Flores called the plays in 2018, and Greg Schiano looked set to fill the role in 2019. Yet, when Schiano suddenly left, Belichick named himself the defensive coordinator.
New York Jets | Jeff Ulbrich
Having spent the previous six years with the Atlanta Falcons, Jeff Ulbrich was hired to be the defensive coordinator for the New York Jets in 2021. He briefly held the defensive coordinator mantle following a midseason change in the coaching staff in Atlanta. Ulbrich’s exact role under defensive-minded head coach Robert Saleh is yet to be reported.
Pittsburgh Steelers | Keith Butler
The longest-serving defensive coordinator in the NFL entering 2021, Keith Butler has held the title since 2015. He was promoted from linebackers coach following the resignation of Dick LeBeau. Butler has been with the Steelers organization since 2003, serving as the linebackers coach for the first 12 years.
Tennessee Titans | Shane Bowen
Another new name in the NFL defensive coordinator ranks for 2021 is Shane Bowen. After the retirement of Dean Pees — more on that later — Mike Vrabel initially took over the role of DC. However, Bowen, who has been the outside linebackers coach since 2018, held most defensive play-calling responsibilities in 2020. That led to his promotion to DC after the 2020 campaign.