The title of defensive coordinator is reserved for the game of football. In both collegiate football and the National Football League -- and some high school teams -- defensive coordinators are responsible for coaching defensive players, developing defensive strategies and working with the head coach to construct a game plan. Defensive coordinators are well-paid and typically earn six-figure salaries in both the major college and professional ranks.
In spite of their titles, defensive coordinators are coaches. As such, the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the average salary of coaches in spectator sports at $60,610 as of 2010, though the bureau notes that coaches in professional sports earn significantly more. It's common for top defensive coaches in college and pro football to eventually become head coaches on both levels.
NFL Defensive Coordinators
NFL defensive coordinators earn six-figure to seven-figure salaries. As of publication, the highest paid defensive coordinator in the NFL, according to an ESPN.com article, is Wade Philips of the Houston Texans, who earns approximately $700,000 per year under a 3-year, $2.1 million deal. A January 2005 article for USA Today, citing figures from NFL Coaches Association executive director Larry Kennen, reports the average salary of NFL defensive coordinators at $600,000 annually with a few at the time earning as much as $1 million annually (as noted above, as of 2011 there are no defensive coordinators earning $1 million salaries annually).
College Defensive Coordinators
As of publication, the highest paid defensive coach in Division I college football earns more than Wade Phillips in the NFL. The University of Alabama's defensive coordinator Kirby Smart earns $750,000 yearly according to a February 2010 article for ESPN. His previous salary was $360,000 yearly. Three other Southeastern Conference defensive coordinators earn $700,000 annually according to the article. They are the University of Georgia's Todd Grantham, Lousiana State University's John Chavis and the University of South Carolina's Ellis Johnson. Defensive coordinators at smaller schools may earn in the mid-five figures.
The Million Dollar Scale
Though it's conceivable for defensive coordinators to earn million dollar salaries annually -- predominantly in the NFL -- this is not a common trend as of publication as NFL teams have reduced costs. Those who go onto become head coaches can earn multi-million dollar salaries as evidenced by NFL head coach Pete Carroll ($7 million annually) a former defensive coordinator with the NFL's San Francisco 49ers. Former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis (head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals as of publication) became the NFL's first million-dollar coordinator for the Washington Redskins in 2002.