Ranking AFC South head coaches before 2024 free agency

It's a division in flux heading into the 2024 season.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Houston Texans
Jacksonville Jaguars v Houston Texans / Cooper Neill/GettyImages
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3. Shane Steichen, Indianpolis Colts

A lot of people were very wrong about Steichen, whose hiring was met with, to put it lightly, a fair bit of skepticism. Instead, the Colts were way more competitive than people expected, and Steichen seemed to have a good plan in place for developing Anthony Richardson before he had season-ending surgery in October.

They were a top-10 rushing unit in terms of total yards, yards-per-attempt, and touchdowns – their passing offense wasn't nearly as good, but you have Gardner Minshew starting for most of the year, you get what you pay for.

Richardson – and an awful defense – will have to keep improving to keep the skeptics away, but it was a great debut season for the former Eagles' offensive coordinator.

2. Doug Pederson, Jacksonville Jaguars

The irony of Pederson being so high on the list is that he's probably also the only one in danger of being fired soon. Pederson's a great example of the leeway that winning a Super Bowl gets you: in the five seasons since that 2017 season, he's never won more than nine games.

Granted, he's won nine games in four of those five seasons, but it's pretty obvious what he is – and isn't – at this point. What's more concerning is how noticeable of a step back the Jaguars took this year. There's really only one more year left of cheap Trevor Lawrence – even if/when they exercise the 5th year option on his rookie contract, he'll be making north of $20 million.

Being a consistent nine-win team isn't going to cut it when you have a quarterback like Lawrence.

1. DeMeco Ryans, Houston Texans

Winning 10 games with a rookie QB in Year 1 is insane.

Even when Houston didn't have C.J. Stroud, it didn't have much of a problem. The Texans had a bunch of players on this year's team who were also around for 2022's three-win year. In his first season, Ryans established a top-10 passing unit and a defense that ranked 8th in net yards per attempt, 11th in points allowed, and 14th in yards.

While the final score doesn't really reflect it, the Texans went toe-to-toe with the Ravens – who were far and away the best season all year – in this year's AFC Divisional game. No AFC South team has a brighter future than Houston, and Ryan's a big reason for that.