What Does a Defensive Coordinator Do in Football?

A football defensive coordinator is a coaching staff member whose primary job is developing a defensive strategy for their team, relaying that plan to the team and assistant coaches, and implementing the system in practice in preparation for the upcoming game. The offensive coordinator and the defensive coordinator have similar roles on a team, just on different sides of the field. They both report to the head coach during practice and games to help create a winning football strategy.


So, how important is the defensive coordinator on a football team? Do defensive coordinators call the defensive plays during matches? Why do defensive coordinators sit in the booth? How much do defensive coordinators make in the NFL, and who are some of the most famous defense coordinators in NFL history?


Below we will discuss the defensive coordinator and their significance on any team in American football.


How Important is the Defensive Coordinator on the Football Team?

How Important is the Defensive Coordinator on the Football Team

The defensive coordinator is the overseer of everything taking place on the defensive side of the ball. They develop the defensive plan, design plays, and craft the defense into the best it can be for each weekly matchup. They help draw up defensive formations for positions, including their team’s defensive line, cornerback, safeties, and linebackers.


Along with drawing up the defensive plan for each matchup, they must be able to adjust their strategy on the fly during games. For example, they might go into the match with a blitz-heavy mindset but keep getting beat on screen passes in the first half. If that is the case, the defensive coordinator will adjust the strategy to best counterattack those plays from their opponent.


Finally, a defensive coordinator works on developing players to be the best at what they can be at a position. That means they work with the defense to go over video replays and more to give additional insight into miscues on plays and what they can do differently when they go back on the field. Developing players, especially rookies, is a crucial role of a defensive coordinator to get the most out of their players on the field.


Do Defensive Coordinators Call Defensive Plays During a Game?

Do Defensive Coordinators Call Defensive Plays During a Game

Whether a defensive coordinator calls the defensive plays depends on the individual team. Most teams have head coaches who are offensively minded, so they may not be suited to call defensive plays, but in the instances that the coaches are more defensive-minded, they may feel it is within the team’s best interest they call the plays. An example is with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their head coach Todd Bowles who was previously their defensive coordinator, so he tends to call some of those plays during games.


Why Do Defensive Coordinators Sit in the Booth?

Why Do Defensive Coordinators Sit in the Booth

A defensive coordinator sits in the booth mainly to get a different field perspective with a birds-eye view. Having a birds-eye view of the game helps notice lapses in the defense that might be difficult to see on the sidelines. Having that top view of the field can be communicated via the headset to the main coach to let them know what they are seeing and what they propose to counter the opponent’s offense.


Another reason a defensive coordinator will sit in the booth is not to let the players see their emotions during games. Sometimes a defensive coordinator will get frustrated with a miscue during a play, and they don’t want their players to see that as they get to the sideline. Staying up at the booth allows them to watch the defense without letting them see their frustration during a match.


Finally, a defensive coordinator might be in the booth because they are an older coach. Since some games occur in harsh conditions like heat or snow, having them in a booth helps protect them from these elements and perform their job. Along with staying in a climate-controlled booth, sitting down also limits how much they would need to stand if they were on the sideline.


How Much Do NFL Defensive Coordinators Make?

According to Careertrend.com, NFL defensive coordinators make around $1 million each season. This salary is the same as offensive coordinators, as they both hold equal value toward the team’s success.


Who Are Some of the Most Famous Defensive Coordinators in NFL History?

Who Are Some of the Most Famous Defensive Coordinators in NFL History

Tom Landy is one of the most famous defensive coordinators in NFL history. He receives credit for developing the modern 4-3 defense that teams still use today. Additionally, Tom was instrumental in developing the flex defense, which is another popular defensive scheme teams operate in today’s game.


Bud Carson also comes to mind as one of the most famous defensive coordinators in NFL history. During his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he was recognized for building that defense with the nickname “Steel Curtain.” During his time with the Steelers, numerous football players won the award for the defensive player of the year. These awards show how critical his strategy was in developing elite defenders.


Bill Belichick was originally the defensive coordinator under Bill Parcels for the New York Giants in the 80s. During that time, Bill Belichick successfully stopped the Buffalo Bills’ offense during Super Bowl XXV and helped win that game. Bill Belichick would later become the head coach of the New England Patriots. As the head coach of the Pats, he has won numerous Super Bowls. Part of that success came from his time and experience as a defensive coordinator.


Conclusion: What Does a Defensive Coordinator Do in Football?

In summary, winning football games combines excellent defense and offensive plays during matches. A defensive coordinator on a football team focuses solely on what the defense needs to do to stop their opponent from scoring touchdowns against them each week. Defensive coordinators during practice draw up plays to run that they think will limit their opponent from scoring touchdowns against them when they play.


During a game, defensive coordinators play a critical role in how a team performs. Whether on the sideline or in a booth, their job is to watch the strategy they drew up in practice and decide what to do next. If a QB or running back gain many yards on plays, they must pivot with their strategy on the fly to counter their opponent’s offensive drive.


Finally, defensive coordinators in the NFL review video tape with players during and after games to help educate them. The in-game video review helps expose a player’s gap in defense, which can help stop a future offensive drive against them. After the game, defensive coordinators continue to work with their defensive team in the video review, educating them on their formations, where gaps are on the field, and more to make these players even better.


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