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Being an NFL player is a sweet gig that allows people to literally play games for a living. However, those who make it to the coaching world, whether after playing or from their early days, get better pay without putting their bodies on the line. Coaches may not have the same NFL salaries as star quarterbacks, but the highest-paid NFL coaches still make more than most NFL players. What is the salary of an NFL coach?

What’s the average NFL salary for coaches?

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, the highest paid NFL coach
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick in the first half against the Washington Football Team at Gillette Stadium on Aug. 12, 2021. | Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

NFL coaches might not be the ones who risk broken bones and head trauma, but with one head coaching job on 32 teams, they’re part of an elite group who, at their worst, live quite comfortably. According to Coaches Hot Seat, the average NFL salary for coaches is around $4.85 million, with younger or less accomplished coaches making up the lower half. Up top, however, there’s a who’s who of the biggest names in football. Let’s take a closer look at the NFL head coach salary that comes out on top.

Who are the highest paid NFL coaches?

5. John Harbaugh: Baltimore Ravens

ESPN 1420 notes that John Harbaugh gets paid a whole lot of money — $9 million, to be exact — to coach one of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the NFL. A perennial hot seat dweller before Jackson changed his fortune, Harbaugh is now back in the contender’s seat.

4. Sean Payton: New Orleans Saints

Sean Payton is No. 4 on the list of highest paid NFL coaches, bringing in $9.8 million. He weathered the “BountyGate” storm to maintain his spot as one of the most consistent head coaches in the NFL. Now, with Drew Brees officially retired, Payton has the chance to show that he doesn’t need his superstar veteran to succeed. However, if there’s one thing Payton has shown the NFL, it’s not to count him out when he has his back against the wall.

3. Jon Gruden : Oakland Raiders

The jury is still out on Jon Gruden‘s 10-year, $100 million deal. Thus far, the Raiders have not responded to the coach who was so unceremoniously let go during his first stint with the team. Gruden is one of the most vocal coaches in the NFL, and while his football knowledge is undeniable, many accuse him of being too in love with his own schemes and concepts. 

Gruden’s likely safe for several more years, but his massive contract — which comes out to $10 million per year — to return to the sidelines has, thus far, been a disappointing dud. 

2. Pete Carroll : Seattle Seahawks

Pete Carroll is an exception to perception that college footballers can’t cut it in the big leagues. Yes, his time at USC already made him a household name after a disappointing stint in the NFL, but his late-career transition back already got him a Super Bowl and a reputation as one of the most beloved coaches in the NFL. Because of this, he’s the second-highest-paid coach in the NFL with $11 million.

Now pushing 70, Carroll might not have much longer in the league. However, with so much energy and passion for the game, perhaps it’s also too early to call it quits.

1. Bill Belichick: New England Patriots

Bill Belichick would never settle for being number two on any list. The notoriously fickle curmudgeon doesn’t try to buddy up with other coaches, nor is he known for eloquence. Instead, Belichick has a take-no-prisoners, field-no-losers approach to football that may not be for all. Still, with nearly a third of the Super Bowls in the 21st-century, it’s hard to criticize him for anything — including his $12.5 million salary.

Who are the lowest paid NFL coaches?

According to Gameday News, just because someone isn’t making Belichick money, it doesn’t mean they’re hurting, either. While coaches such as Nick Sirianni and David Culley’s salaries remain unknown, Kyle Shanahan, Kevin Stefanski, and other younger coaches make anywhere from $3 million to slightly more, so one can assume that their salaries are just about there. 

There may be only 32 openings for a job as a head NFL coach, but the pay reflects the profession’s exclusivity. Luckily, even the lower-salaried coaches are living large, and every successful season here on out will likely pad their wallets.