When NFL Coaches Were Players
When NFL Coaches Were Players
When Mike Munchak was named head coach of the Tennessee Titans in February 2011, he raised to nine the number of current NFL head coaches who also played in the league. A Hall of Fame offensive lineman, Munchak played his entire 12-year career with the Houston Oilers. He joined the coaching staff in 1994 and stayed with the organization when it relocated to Tennessee in 1997.
What other current NFL head coaches spent their younger days on the gridiron? SI.com takes a look.
In his 15 seasons as an NFL quarterback, Jim Harbaugh showed a knack for the comeback. He was named Comeback Player of the Year with the Colts in 1995, and in 1996, his Colts team was one dropped Hail Mary away from a Super Bowl berth. The San Francisco 49ers hope Harbaugh can show the same penchant for revitalization, after hiring him as their head coach in January 2011.
Despite spending nine seasons in Chicago as a player, Ron Rivera’s time as a coach there did not end well. After elevating the Bears’ defense to an elite level as the defensive coordinator, Rivera was a hot coaching candidate in 2006. When no other team hired him, the Bears cut their losses, announcing they would not renew Rivera’s contract. Rivera landed on his feet as an assistant coach in San Diego, and in 2011 he was named head coach of the Carolina Panthers.
After a knee injury ended his career prematurely, Leslie Frazier moved to coaching, starting at Trinity College before breaking into the NFL coaching fraternity with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999. Frazier was long hailed as the next great head coach and in 2011 he got his chance when the Minnesota Vikings removed the interim head coach label from his title.
Jack Del Rio
A ferocious linebacker in his playing days, Jack Del Rio brings the same intensity to the sidelines as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. On the hot seat for the last several years, Del Rio has two years remaining on his contract.
Though he didn’t experience much success as an NFL tight end, Ken Whisenhunt fared better as a coach. He was hired by the Arizona Cardinals in January 2007 and subsequently led the Cardinals to their first non-losing season since 1998. A year later, he led them to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Drafted by the Broncos in the eighth round of the 1983 NFL draft, Gary Kubiak served as John Elway’s backup for his entire career. After Kubiak retired, it seemed like his coaching career would follow a similar pattern. He served as the offense coordinator in Denver for 11 years, but in 2006 he was named the second head coach in Houston Texans history.
Unlike other coaches on this list, Sean Payton was never drafted by an NFL team. He toiled in the AFL and CFL before catching on with the Bears during the 1987 NFL players strike. His road to a head coaching job was less circuitous, as he rose from quarterback coach to head coach in less than 10 years.
Largely a backup for his entire career, Jason Garrett enjoyed his career highlight in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day 1994. Garrett led the Cowboys to a come-from-behind victory over the Packers, finishing with 311 passing yards and two touchdowns. When he was named the interim head coach of the Cowboys on Nov. 8, 2010, Garrett piloted a similarly shocking upset: a 33-20 victory over the favored New York Giants at the Meadowlands. In January 2011, he was officially named head coach of the Cowboys.