NFL Players Who Became Coaches

For many NFL players, once their careers end, they disappear and pursue careers outside the sports arena. But for others, they will make the leap to coaching with some landing as head NFL coaches. Currently, numerous league teams have these players at the helm, some finding more success than others.

Jason Garrett (Dallas Cowboys) - Garrett started his NFL career as a free agent in 1989 with the New Orleans Saints and then spent most of it as a backup at different teams. He landed at the Dallas Cowboys in 1993 as a third stringer in the Troy Aikman era. He returned to the team in 2007 as its offensive coordinator and was named by them as interim coach in November 2010. Garrett got the official nod as head coach in January 2011.

Gary Kubiak (Houston Texans) - Kubiak was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 1983 and spent his entire career as John Elway’s back up. After nine yeas in the league, Kubiak took a stab at coaching and returned to the Broncos in 1995 as their offense coordinator for 11 seasons. He made the jump to Texans in 2006 as their head coach and now there’s expectations for this team to make a Super Bowl run.

Mike Munchak (Tennessee Titans) - Munchak played in the NFL for a dozen years as a Houston Oilers guard. He is a member of their Hall of Fame. Lucky for Munchak, in 1994 he joined the team’s coaching staff and has remained there ever since, including its 1997 relocation to Tennessee. Waiting in the wings, Munchak got the top spot after the team parted ways with Jeff Fisher in February 2011. In his two seasons at the helm, he has a 15-17 record.

Then we have the Chicago Bears alum.

Jeff Fisher (St. Louis Rams) - Defensive back Fisher was drafted by the Bears in 1981 and was a member of their 1985 Super Bowl-winning team. He started his coaching career with them after that season and has been in the NFL coaching ranks ever since. Many thought he’d land as the Bears head coach some day but instead he got his first head coaching gig in 1994 for the Oilers/Titans until 2010. He’s entering his second season as the St. Louis Rams head coach.

Ron Rivera (Carolina Panthers) - Rivera played linebacker for nine seasons with the Bears. He started his coaching career with them and landed as their defensive coordinator in 2004. In 2006, he was a much-talked about head coach candidate but he had to wait until 2011 to get the top spot with the Carolina Panthers. He was on the hot seat last season and needs for his team to improved its record.

Leslie Frazier (Minnesota Vikings) - Frazier was also a member of the 1985 Bears Super Bowl team but he only played for one season as a cornerback/safety after suffering a a career-ending knee injury. Frazier moved to coaching, starting in the college ranks but then going to the NFL in 1999 with the Philadelphia Eagles. He joined the Vikings in 2007 as defensive coordinator and first got the top spot as interim coach in 2010, then the official spot in 2011.

Jim Harbaugh (San Francisco 49ers) - Harbaugh spent 15 seasons as a league quarterback, including seven years with the Bears. He found great success with the Indianapolis Colts as the 1995 as the Comeback Player of the Year winner and in 1996, he almost steered them to the Super Bowl. He brought his competitive nature to the field as a coach, first overseeing Stanford’s team before heading to the 49ers in 2011.

In his first season, Harbaugh led the team from a 2010 6-10 record to a 13-3 record and NFC No. 2 seed before losing NFC Championship; we all know how well Harbaugh’s sophomore season went.

Will the third year be the charm?

Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints) - Payton took a different professional route as no NFL team drafted the quarterback. Instead, he spent time in the AFL and CFL and then landed with the Bears during the 1987 NFL players strike (Harbaugh’s rookie season). His road in coaching started in the college ranks and in 1997, he landed in the NFL as the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback coach. He quickly worked his way up and took over the Saints in 2006.

Mike McCoy (San Diego Chargers) – After a successful college career as a quarterback, McCoy wasn’t drafted in 1995 but signed as a free agent with the Denver Broncos. This was short-lived (cut in the preseason) and next up was a brief stint on Green Bay’s practice squad. McCoy went the coaching route in 2000, starting with the Panthers as an offensive assistant. In 2009, he went to the Broncos as their offensive coordinator until got the head coaching gig with the Chargers earlier this year.

Doug Marrone (Buffalo Bills) – Marrone played for the Miami Dolphins (1987), the New Orleans Saints (1989) and for the London Monarchs of the World League (1991). In 1992, he started his coaching career in the college ranks, then he spent seven years in the NFL under various coaching roles. In 2009, he took over the head coaching gig at his Syracuse–the first alum to do so at the school. Saying it was his dream job, that ended when he accepted the Bills top job in January.

Debbie Baratz

Deb has been writing about the NFL and NCAA football for the last few years. She is a full-time writer and an avid sports fan. Follow her on twitter @ldbar.

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