Matt Rhule signed a 7-year, $60 million contract with the Carolina Panthers this week, and his deal got everyone in football talking. With incentives, Rhule could reportedly earn $70 million.
On the college level, the salary of the most head coaches is publicly disclosed or available through FOIA requests. In fact, USA Today maintains a listing of what college football coaches make.
On the NFL side, it kind of played out like this.
As ProFootballTalk details, no one really knows exactly how much NFL coaches make.
In fact, though we know everything there is to know about player salaries, the NFL doesn't reveal much about its finances beyond that.
NFL franchises are not public institutions, and thus their coaches' salaries are not subjected to being FOIA'd like their college counterparts. There is no salary cap for coaches, either, so owners that are significantly underpaying have every incentive to keep that information private.
We do know the league distributed a record $8.78 billion to its teams in 2019 -- $274.3 million per team -- but we only know that because the Green Bay Packers are publicly owned and are thus required to share that information. The amount of money each team earns on top of that $274 million, from everything like PSLs to team-specific sponsorships ("Eat at Jimbo's! The official burger joint of the Denver Broncos!") to game day beer sales, remains with that team.
So, as PFT writes:
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.”
Such a structure is similar to most college coaches, where the school-paid "salary" is in the neighborhood of $500,000 a year and the rest of the $4, or $5, or $7 million comes from promotional appearances with local media and apparel providers.
The $15 million figure is above what's publicly reported. For instance, this Forbeslist puts Bill Belichick as the highest-paid head coach in American sports at $12 million. That list also puts Rhule at more than $750,000 ahead of his predecessor Ron Rivera, who earned a reported $7.75 million.