Every ‘Ted Lasso’ character ranked from best to Jamie’s dad
Ted Lasso is the greatest TV show about sports in the history of the medium. If you disagree with that statement and think something like Friday Night Lights is better, well, you either lack taste or haven’t watched Ted Lasso.
With the third season dropping on Apple TV+ later this week it’s the perfect time to look at the character arcs we’ve seen from the main players. There’s so much depth to everyone that the writing makes every single person we meet in Ted Lasso feel like someone we’ve known for years, while only scratching the surface over two seasons so far.
I put out the call to everyone here at SB Nation to rank (almost) every character in Ted Lasso from their favorite to the most-loathed. We averaged out those rankings to give you our definitive character rankings.
It goes without saying that we’ll be discussing significant plot points from the first two seasons of Ted Lasso. So, spoiler alert.
No. 1: Roy Kent
He’s here, he’s there, he’s every-f**king-where! Roy Kent! Roy Kent!
No characters has had a more beautiful and perfect arc over two seasons that Roy. What began as a gruff, aging player incapable of accepting his athletic decline, has morphed into a paragon of masculinity.
Roy is, above all else, unapologetically Roy. He’s a man deeply aware of his own insecurities and weaknesses, who is trying every day to be a little better than the last — while allowing his actions to constantly speak louder than his words.
We see it from his growing relationship with Ted, Beard and Higgins with the “Diamond Dogs,” to how he keeps the locker room honest and accountable. His beautiful, mutually supportive relationship with Keeley (which better not hit the rocks in Season 3 and tear my heart out). How he dishes out his own brand of parenting with Phoebe. Hell, even his reality TV wine nights with his elderly lady friends from yoga. Every single action by Roy is that of a man who doesn’t care what anyone else thinks about him, as long as he loves himself, is kind to others, and he’s happy.
Roy Kent is what every man should aspire to be, and the world would be a better place if we achieve it. — James Dator
No. 2: Sam Obisanya
Sam is perfect in every single way. If you watch Ted Lasso and don’t root for Sam to succeed in anything and everything he does, then I have to imagine you have a problem that should be worked through in therapy.
So much of Sam’s story has been moving from a place of fragility to one of immense strength. Beginning the first season with the struggles every immigrant feels upon landing in a new country, he’s been thrown some of the biggest personal challenges and every single time Sam has found a way to navigate them with courage and grace.
Standing up to AFC Richmond’s sponsor DubaiAir because of damage the company did to Nigeria was a beautiful and meaningful moment. Then Sam follows up by having a major personal crisis when Edwin Akufo comes to England to court Sam, saying he wants to come to play for his new club in Morocco where he’s building an African super team. In the end Sam followed his heart, staying in Richmond to help the Greyhounds. In doing so we see how Sam has moved from being a scared teenager, to a self-assured adult.
Of course, everything is capped off by his relationship with Rebecca — the most unlikely pairing one could imagine, but they absolutely click on every intellectual level.
Sam is the heart of Ted Lasso. His eternal optimism and hope are infectious, and this makes him just a beautiful character portrayed expertly by Toheeb Jimoh. — James Dator
No. 3: Keeley Jones
Keeley is the wonderful firecracker everyone needs in their lives. When we were first introduced to Keeley in season one she seemed destined to exist as a vapid, stereotypical foil for Jamie to play off — but like everything in Ted Lasso, she evolved and became so much more.
There’s no pretention from Keeley. She may be independently wealthy from her modeling career, but it never went to her head. Like Roy, she’s constantly looking for new ways to challenge and better herself, which is why they are so great together as a couple.
It’s astonishing to me how Keeley can be so emotionally stable and nimble that she can help Roy through his various issues, be the ever-reliable shoulder to cry on for Rebecca, assume a pseudo parenting role with Phoebe and still manage to be head of PR for Richmond while trying to launch her own agency.
Keeley Jones deserves all the good things in the world, and she’s going to get them. — James Dator
No. 4: Ted Lasso
A lot is made of Ted Lasso’s endless child-like enthusiasm, but Ted’s greatest trait is his empathy. He’s also the poster child for mental health awareness, and that hits very close to home. As someone who takes medication for generalized anxiety disorder, and has seen my anxiety spiral into depressive episodes in the past, there are just so many times I want to leap though the screen and talk to Ted directly.
Lasso perfectly encapsulates the public face/private face dichotomy that often makes mental illness so difficult to see — especially with those who have trained themselves to cover their emotions with a veneer of wordplay and optimism. The person Ted shows to the majority of the world is the person he wishes he was. The man he aspires to be. Then, when he’s at home, alone, with no eyes or cameras on him everything comes crashing down.
One of the beautiful parts of Ted’s evolution is watching him learn to let people in. To allow himself to appear vulnerable in a career defined by always being required to remain stoic. With each passing episode (and every meeting with Dr. Sharon), Ted slowly allowed himself to comingle his personal and public lives, allowing his friends to see him at his worst, and no longer being afraid to acknowledge when he needs help.
While Ted is very much a work in progress, we can see him on the verge of a major breakthrough that will make him the best version of himself. One that allows him to truly experience joy, not just pretend he’s the happiest man in the world. — James Dator
No. 5: Rebecca Welton
I absolutely love Rebecca. I love her so damn much. Starting Ted Lasso as the apparent villain, I often see arguments that her coming around to Ted’s side was about Ted himself — which isn’t how I read Rebecca’s character.
This is the story of a woman who thought her life came crashing down when her husband was caught with a younger woman, but really it happened far before that. We have slowly learned over time that Rupert’s manipulation and his abuse pulled Rebecca away from those she cared about. Sucked into his orbit, she became an extension of his faux charity, self-aggrandizing lifestyle at the expense of everyone else. Ted’s ceaseless optimism might have been a much-needed shock to the system, but her journey is so much more than an American savior coming in to rescue her.
We’ve learned that Rebecca is real. She’s down to earth. When the chips are down there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for the people she loves. Coming to Ted’s house while he was at his absolute lowest on Christmas, pulling him out of his despair, and delivering toys to needy families showed how much she’d come to love him as a friend. Rebecca doesn’t judge anyone around her, and her transformation has been absolutely wonderful. — James Dator
No. 6: Dani Rojas
Without question, Dani Rojas is the most lovable character in TV history to ever kill a dog. Rojas is a Mexican extension of Ted himself. Ever joyful, eternally playful — there’s nothing that can phase him, outside of possibly killing a dog and realizing football is death.
We don’t know a lot about Dani’s story, but the Christmas episode quietly had some of his best moments. The multicultural holiday feast was all about celebrating their native countries, with Rojas bringing a bowl of ponche (Mexican Christmas punch) loaded with enough tequila to choke a mule. By the end of the episode he can be seen in the background, quietly drinking tequila straight with Julie Higgins amid the joy of holiday kinship. — James Dator
No. 7: Coach Beard
Beard is a polarizing character, but goodness is he needed. Of all the characters in Ted Lasso, Beard almost exists entirely independent of whatever is happening on the pitch. Don’t get me wrong, he’s pivotal as a coach and a strategist, but his path through life relies very little on anyone else, except for Ted himself.
This also allows the show to use Beard as a major reset point. Whenever there’s a need for a break, or have something cook a little longer, we move to a Beard story. This was best seen in “Beard After Hours,” when we got an entire episode dedicated to the strange life he leads outside the team.
One of the show’s deepest characters, we’ve also yet to fully understand what this man is all about. There’s so much room to progress with him. — James Dator
No. 8: Leslie Higgins
Sweet, wonderful, beautiful Higgins. Initially Higgins is introduced as a sniveling right-hand man, but over time he really comes into his own as the classic middle-management type with an absolute heart of gold.
In the game of life, Higgins has won. He has wonderful children, a mutually supportive relationship with his wife, and a job he loves. The only thing initially lacking is friendship, which he finds by becoming a member of the “Diamond Dogs,” and gets the adult male friendships he seeks.
Higgins actions often speak louder than his words. When we’re told at Christmas that it’s his family’s tradition to welcome in players with nowhere else to go, we see how much love he has for fellow humans. Loyal to a fault (as his before-series actions with Rupert show), Higgins has evolved into being one of the most indispensable characters in Ted Lasso. — James Dator
No. 9: Jamie Tartt
Jamie Tartt is the most sympathetic character in Ted Lasso for a lot of reasons. Initially he comes off as the epitome of the “spoiled athlete” stereotype, but we quickly learn why he’s become like that. Jamie is so incredibly damaged from his father’s abuse that football and fame are the only things that keep him moving forward. He’s trapped on a treadmill that forces him to keep running, because stopping forces him to deal with those demons — until he breaks the cycle.
Ted and Jamie are inexorably linked through their shared trauma from their fathers. Neither has mentioned it directly, but Ted has seen how Jamie’s dad acts — and we’re only scratching the surface of Ted’s personal demons. However, we can see that while separated from his son, Ted has gravitated towards being a father figure to those who need him, and Jamie is no exception.
Season 2 was really the debut of the man Jamie can be. Who he can become when he breaks through the trauma and starts to heal. The man we’re seeing is beautiful, and he and Sam will be a story to watch in Season 3. — James Dator
No. 10: Trent Crimm, The Independent
Trent is a really interesting character. It’s also fascinating to discuss Crimm with a group of journalists. He is an exceptionally polarizing character based solely on his actions at the end of Season 2, in which he burned his source, revealing to Ted that it was Nate who told him about Lasso’s panic attacks.
A huge element of how Crimm fits into Ted Lasso is his movement from an ice-cold, brutal critic — to having his heart completely melted by Ted’s kindness. We get a sense that covering football for years has largely left Crimm jaded and cynical, only to discover that not everyone in sports aims for success at the expense of others.
Where this gets really dicey though is that Crimm becomes unable to remain professional with Ted. He’s his Kryptonite. Ultimately he becomes willing to abandon one of the most important tenets of his job, sacrificing his career out of friendship. Part of this is beautiful, but also Trent was so, so wrong in burning Nate’s anonymity. — James Dator
No. 11: Mae
“It’s the hope that kills you.”
Mae is the owner of The Crown & Anchor, the local pub that serves as a conduit between AFC Richmond and their die-hard fans. She has seen everything in the club’s history, the ups and the downs, and it is her line, the above quote, that sets the stage for one more moving pregame speeches of the first season:
How Ted dismantles that, and turns it on its head, is a critical theme to the entire show. Ted Lasso is rooted in the idea of hope, and Mae sets that entire speech up with her years of experience in being let down by the club.
Of course, there is more to her character than just one line. There is how she leans on the locals to give Ted a chance when he takes over, while still harboring her own reservations regarding the new coach and a fondness for the club’s former owner. There is how she snaps Ted straight in a conversation along with Coach Beard, that sure, taking care of the players matters, but winning matters more. She also plays a huge role in helping the team break the “curse” surrounding AFC Richmond.
Then there is how she supports Ted after news of his panic attack goes public.
Mae is the rock of the local community, a conduit between the club and its fans, and in some ways, a reflection of the journey over the past two seasons. From skepticism to believer. Maybe she, too, has begun to hope again. — Mark Schofield
No. 12: Phoebe
Very few things can blunt the harsh, gruff exterior of the legendary Roy Kent.
His niece Phoebe is one of the few things on that list.
Whether it is reminding Roy that there is more to his life than playing football, letting his harsh criticism of her youth team roll off her back, or counting his constant swearing — and counting dollar signs in her head as she does so — Phoebe constantly keeps Roy in check. For that reason alone she could be higher on this list.
Another reason? Her incredible storyline in the holiday episode, culminating in a riff on Love Actually where she warns her classmate Bernard that if he does not apologize to her and make amends, he’ll not only stink forever, but have to deal with Roy. Who simply growls in the schoolboy’s direction. — Mark Schofield
No. 13: Isaac McAdoo
Part barber, part team captain, part enforcer, Isaac McAdoo wears many roles not just for AFC Richmond, but for Ted Lasso.
Given that one of the underlying themes of the show is personal growth, his story is a part of that larger picture. At the start of the series Isaac is more of a follower, hanging on with Jamie and bullying Nate. But over time, he becomes a leader, taking the armband from Roy and becoming the captain of the club, learning empathy along the way. The Isaac we saw at the funeral for Rebecca’s father, singing along to Rick Astley, is not the Isaac we saw at the start of the show. The Isaac we saw relearning his love for the game, under the tutelage of Roy? Is an Isaac experiencing that personal growth.
His plotline might not have the power that we see from other characters, but it is still an essential part of the show. — Mark Schofield
No. 14: Dr. Sharon Fieldstone
One of the more insightful comments I’ve come across regarding Ted Lasso came from Mike Golic Jr. of DraftKings on social media. A huge fan of the show, Golic theorized that the theme of the first season could be described as outlining the kind of empathetic person we should strive to be, in Ted.
A theme of the second season? Highlighting the work it takes to become that person, and the toll it can exact on you mentally.
Dr. Sharon Fieldstone is a massive part of that second season. Brought in by the team initially to help Dani, her mental health work soon extends to the rest of the club, and eventually, to Ted himself. At first it is a tough process, but the two begin to bond, and Ted’s willingness to open up to her — and her own willingness to open up to him — is a massive part of Season 2.
And in many ways, a massive lesson for us all. — Mark Schofield
No. 15: Nate Shelley
We were always going to hit this point. Nate has become the big bad of Ted Lasso, and rightfully so. F*** Nate, for real.
Nate is a lesson in everything that’s wrong with some people in society. Sure, there are some elements that might make him feel like a sympathetic character. We can see that he has deep trauma from his constantly disapproving father, and that earning his love is all Nate has ever wanted. Still, it’s often not about what brings you to a moment — but how you respond.
Nate’s response from the moment he garnered a little bit of fame was to never, even for a second, be introspective and work on improving himself. That’s the prevailing theme of Ted Lasso at its core: self improvement. Nate is the antithesis. Mastering the art of self-persuasion, everything he doesn’t like about his life is someone else’s fault. His 15 minutes of fame not extending into permanence is because of perceived slights by Ted. Any bit of attention from Keeley makes him believe it’s a green light to kiss her.
Instead of opening up and discussing his problems, he seethes and stews in his inadequacies. It would be one thing if this was simply personal, but Nate lashes out by trying to tear apart Richmond on his way out the door and sharing Ted’s mental health struggles with Trent Crimm as a way to damage him. He doesn’t just want to hurt the people who loved him; he wants to absolutely destroy them.
Never once does he stop to think for a second that without Ted taking a chance on him he’d still be ironing uniforms and filling water bottles. — James Dator
No. 16: Jan Maas
For a show centered on understanding and empathy, Jan Maas’s blunt — and sometimes brutal — honesty is at first jarring. Whether it is after a loss, where he tells the team that he has no mistakes to forget, but Colin certainly does. (Which prompted a great line from Sam: “Hey, guys, Jan Maas is not being rude. He’s just being Dutch.”)
Or when he criticizes Zoreaux’s keeping in the critical match against Brentford FC. Or when he brings fried chicken to Higgins’s house on Christmas, and when asked if it was a Dutch tradition, he flatly responds with “no” before just moving on.
But over time, you begin to warm up to that honesty, just as the team has begun to warm up to him. Sometimes, honesty is indeed the best policy. — Mark Schofield
No. 17: Thierry Zoreaux
Every sports team needs its role players, and television shows about sports teams are no different. Thierry Zoreaux, the AFC Richmond keeper, is both an ideal role player in the club, and on the show. He might not have his own storylines, but he has provided some incredible moments of comic relief throughout the first two seasons of Ted Lasso.
One such moment is when the team was discussing the appropriate attire to wear to a funeral, and Zoreaux tried to make the case that red Yeezy’s were just fine. Or when he talked about screenshotting cartoons on his phone, before being reminded by Isaac that such an act was copyright infringement.
But for me his best moment came in the season two holiday episode, “Carol of the Bells,” which is now holiday canon. When he and the bulk of the team show up at Higgins’ house on Christmas, Zoreaux and Dani are locked in a ferocious Nerf war with Higgins’ children. That’s when this happens:
Tremendous. — Mark Schofield
No. 18: Rupert Mannion
Every good show needs conflict, and a villain, and Ted Lasso is no different. For the better part of two seasons Rupert Mannion has been that villain, lurking both in the foreground — and the background — around both AFC Richmond, and the show itself. As the former owner of AFC Richmond, and the ex-husband of Rebecca Welton, Mannion’s presence casts a shadow over the club’s past, present, and it seems, its future.
However, Mannion’s presence in perhaps the ultimate scene from the first season — the game of darts that has become a staple when discussing the show — speaks to his role on Ted Lasso. We want to see our heroes vanquish the villains, and Mannion’s losses become Ted’s, and our, victories. — Mark Schofield
No. 19: Jamie’s Dad
After much back-and-forth with our editors, I have been informed that I cannot swear.
So I will just say this: Jamie’s dad is a very, very, very bad man. Very bad. Perhaps his one saving grace? The fact that every parent watching Ted Lasso immediately feels better about their own parenting skills each time he appears on screen. — Mark Schofield