In response to the news that the Panthers will pay coach Matt Rhule $60 million over seven years (with incentives that can kick the total to $70 million), some have begun to rattle off the earnings of other coaches, by way of comparison. But there’s a problem with the numbers that make their way to the media. Many of them are too light.
As one source with direct knowledge of the dynamics explained it to PFT, the highest-paid coaches in the NFL currently are in the range of $15 million. The numbers that are reported to the league office are often incomplete, with other compensation coming not from the team but related entities, for general services like “advertising.”
The objective is two-fold: To avoid the perception that coaches are overpaid (they’re not, especially in comparison to players), and to keep the market from going haywire.
With Panthers owner David Tepper paying Rhule $8.5 million per year (Chris Simms has heard it’s a straight $9 million annually), the market may go haywire. Especially since the prior average for entry-level head coaches resided in the range of $5 million to $7 million.
This could drive up the price to be paid by the Browns for, say, Josh McDaniels. It also could create regret for coaches like Kyle Shanahan (who is committed for three more years to a deal negotiated three years ago) and Sean McVay (who signed a new contract several months ago, before Rhule blew the curve).
Then there’s Jon Gruden. His reported 10-year, $100 million deal is believed to contain plenty of fluff, perhaps not a full guarantee, and perhaps a significant amount of non-guaranteed money in later years. But if/when the Raiders coach has success, he’ll also have significant remorse over a deal that, if Rhule’s deal sparks a spike in the coaching market, could quickly look subpar in comparison.
Gruden won’t be alone. Plenty of coaches will re-examine their own contracts in the aftermath of Rhule’s deal, and plenty will be watching future developments in order to determine whether they should try to finagle a raise. Although the NFL has no salary cap for coaches, the NFL has done a very good job of keeping coaching pay under control.
As noted earlier today, that could result in a frosty reception for Tepper at the next league meeting. As one source explained it to PFT, it could be similar to the reaction by some owners to the late Paul Allen when he spiked the market more than a decade ago by paying $8.5 million per year to Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren.