From the adrenaline-fueled battlegrounds of the NFL, several legends have emerged, not only as players but also as strategic leaders, transitioning from helmets to headsets. The path from an NFL player to an NFL head coach is less traveled. It’s laden with hard decisions, pressure, long hours, and a level of commitment beyond the gridiron.
While it may appear that people who have played the game at its pinnacle would naturally transfer into teaching, the reality is somewhat different. Maintaining competitiveness while teaching young athletes is a tricky balancing act. Furthermore, some excellent players may fail at teaching, just as those who have brief time on the player’s side of the fence may succeed at negotiating the coaching turf.
This article will look at the last five decades of NFL history, with many changes, lessons, successes, and failures to draw from. While there is no ranking, each name on this list has a distinct role in football history. Brace yourselves as we dive into the journey of these NFL legends, from the field to the whistle, from play-making to play-calling. Let’s get started.
Bill Cowher played linebacker and special teams in the NFL for teams such as the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cleveland Browns. Cowher began coaching as a special teams coach for the Cleveland Browns after his playing career ended in 1985. He swiftly ascended to the position of defensive coordinator.
Cowher’s extensive knowledge of the game and strong leadership abilities drew the attention of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who hired him as head coach in 1992. Cowher had tremendous success as head coach, leading the club to many playoff appearances and a Super Bowl win.
Bill currently works in broadcasting after quitting coaching. He went on to work for CBS as a studio commentator for “The NFL Today,” providing pregame, halftime, and postgame coverage. Cowher’s observations as an observer are complemented by his decades of professional football experience as a former player and a highly successful coach. Listening to his analysis will be helpful when checking on FanDuel NFL odds.
Jim Ringo was a well-known NFL center who played for teams such as the Green Bay Packers and the Philadelphia Eagles. Ringo began coaching as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Rams in 1969 after a tremendous 15-year playing career.
He became the Buffalo Bills’ offensive line coach, leading them to two consecutive Super Bowl appearances. His education and experience as a center, combined with his leadership talents, prepared the stage for his transition from NFL player to recognized coach.
Dick LeBeau was a cornerback with the Detroit Lions during his playing career. Following his retirement, he entered the coaching ranks, first as a special teams coach for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1973.
He went on to coach for clubs such as the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers, establishing himself as one of the most regarded defensive coordinators in NFL history. His extensive grasp of the game, strategic thinking, and communication abilities facilitated LeBeau’s move from player to coach.
Larry Wilson began coaching as a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1973 after a great career as a free safety. He later became a defensive backs coach on the coaching staff. His knowledge of the game and good leadership qualities made him an ideal candidate for coaching. Wilson spent his entire coaching career with the Cardinals, rising from assistant coach to interim head coach.
Marty Schottenheimer, a former linebacker with the Buffalo Bills and the Boston Patriots, became a coach when his playing career ended. He began as a linebackers coach with the New York Giants in 1974 before becoming defensive coordinator. His ability to motivate players and tactical savvy propelled him fast through the ranks, and he was named head coach of the Cleveland Browns in 1984.
He went on to coach for other teams, including the Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins, and San Diego Chargers, making an impression at each location. His coaching record is littered with victories and postseason berths, making him one of the most successful coaches in NFL history.
Forrest Gregg was a former offensive lineman who played for the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a coach. His good comprehension of offensive game lines and his driven temperament led to his success as a coach.
He began coaching as an assistant with the San Diego Chargers in 1973 before becoming the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, and Green Bay Packers, demonstrating an exceptional knowledge of team management concepts.
Art Shell was a highly regarded offensive lineman with the Oakland Raiders. Shell remained in football after retiring as a player, beginning as an offensive line coach for his previous team, the Raiders, in 1983. Shell’s coaching ability was rapidly recognized, and he was named head coach of the Raiders in 1989, becoming the NFL’s first African-American head coach in the modern era.
Shell transitioned from player to coach by demonstrating his remarkable understanding of the game, exhibiting leadership characteristics, and effectively encouraging and mentoring players. His illustrious career as a player and coach won him induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Mike McCormack was a Hall of Fame offensive lineman who played with the Cleveland Browns most of his career. After an injury terminated his playing career, McCormack began coaching with the Washington Redskins in 1965 as an assistant coach.
He then became the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, the Baltimore Colts, and the Seattle Seahawks. McCormack was well-known for his mastery of the game’s nuances and his ability to advise and encourage his players, which aided his transition from player to coach.
Wrapping it Up!
As we shut the playbook on this article, we’ve explored the exciting paths of eight amazing people who went from helmet-clad players to headset-wearing coaches. Their tales and trials remind us of the game’s highs and lows, and their wins lift the NFL spirit.