Written by Ben Pogany
They say that those who can't do, teach. When it comes to coaching football, however, a little on-field experience never hurt anyone. Though the sidelines will never boast the skills of say the pregame roundtables, every once in awhile an athlete comes along who finds a way to transmit his own talents to the next generation. Here are the former playing careers of today's NFL coaches.
Mike Singletary (Vikings assistant)- Samurai Mike was a two-time All-American at Baylor University before being drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1981. He went on to start 172 games for the Bears during his 12-year career (second most in club history), amassing an impressive 1,488 career tackles. One of the most frightening "Monsters of the Midway," Singletary was a seven time first team All-Pro and two time Defensive Player of the Year. Elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998, Singletary fared considerably less well on the sidelines, lasting a rough three years at the helm for the Niners from 2008-10. He is currently an assistant for the Minnesota Vikings.
Jack Del Rio (former Jaguars coach)- The longtime Jags coach began his career as an All-American linebacker at USC, during which he would take MVP honors in the 1985 Rose Bowl. Del Rio concurrently excelled on the diamond, batting .340 and catching for a USC squad that included both a young Mark McGwire and Randy Johnson. Del Rio would be selected by the Saints in the 1985 NFL Draft, going on to play 11 years for four teams and earning All-Pro distinction in 1994.
Mike Munchak (Titans)- Munchak was a nine time Pro-Bowl offensive guard for the Oilers, later elected to the 1980's All-Decade team. He entered the Hall of Fame in 2001.
Ken Whisenhunt (Cardinals)- Whiz played for Georgia Tech in the early eighties, where he achieved first team All-ACC honors during his junior and senior seasons. Drafted in the 12th round by the Atlanta Falcons, he would last four years as their tight end before stints with the Redskins and Jets. In all, he spent 9 years playing in the NFL and almost a decade more coaching before taking the head reigns for the Cards in 2007.
Gary Kubiak (Texans)- A member of the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame, Kubiak started behind center for Texas A&M before going on to have the unfortunate position of playing behind John Elway in his nine seasons with the Broncos.
Ron Rivera (Panthers)- The Panthers head man compiled the then record for sacks and career tackles at UCLA before submitting nine years at linebacker for the one of the all time defenses in the Chicago Bears of the mid-eighties..
Jim Zorn (Chiefs Assistant)- After going undrafted from Cal Poly Pomona, Zorn became the starting QB for the Seahawks from '76-'83, becoming the second player ever inducted into the Seahawks Ring of Honor. He spent the next three years serving as backup for the Packers, Buccaneers, and Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Lovie Smith (Bears)- A three-time high school state champion, Smith played college football at Tulsa, where he would garner two All-American nods at linebacker and safety.
Tom Coughlin (Giants)- Coughlin attended Syracuse University where he played running back. In 1967, he set the school's single-season receiving record.
Sean Payton (Saints)- A journeyman in the truest sense, Payton holds the distinction of being the only athlete to ever start in five different football leagues over the course of just two years. A successful quarterback out of Eastern Illinois, Payton would go on to play in the inaugural season of the Arena Football League in 1987. He was subsequently sold for $1,000 to the CFL's Ottawa Rough Riders before landing in the NFL as a Chicago "Spare Bear" scab during the '87 player's strike. Once normal play resumed, Payton fell to the UK Budweiser National League, where he led the Leicester Panthers to the quarterfinals in his first and only year. However, his journey had just begun. Payton would ultimately coach at four different colleges and three different NFL teams before finally finding a home with the New Orleans Saints in 2006.
John Fox (Broncos)- Fox was a defensive back at San Diego State under future NFL head coach Herman Edwards.
Norv Turner (Chargers)- Backed up future Hall-of-Famer Dan Fouts for the Oregon Ducks of the early seventies.
Jim Harbaugh (49ers)- An all time Michigan great, Harbaugh excelled under center for the Bears and Colts, the latter electing him to their Ring of Honor for his winning leadership of their mid-nineties clubs. Despite his success, he is perhaps best remembered around Indianapolis as the guy Peyton Manning replaced.
John Harbaugh (Ravens)- Older brother John was a defensive back at Miami.
Chan Gailey (Bills)- Quarterback at Florida.
Pat Shurmur (Browns)- Co-captained the Rose Bowl Champion 1988 Michigan St. Spartans.
Jason Garrett (Cowboys)- Long time backup to Troy Aikmen during the mid-nineties.
Jim Caldwell (Colts)- Defensive back at Iowa.
Leslie Frazier (Vikings)- Member of the "G Crew" who spent the early '80s as a defensive back with the Bears. Coaches Frazier, Mike Singletary, Jeff Fisher, and Ron Rivera all received rings as players from the 1985 Super Bowl Champion Bears.
Jim Schwartz (Lions)- Schwartz played four years of linebacker for the Hoyas.
Andy Reid (Eagles)- Offensive guard for BYU.
Mike Shanahan (Redskins)- Quarterbacked at Eastern Illinois until a crushing hit on the practice field ruptured one of his kidney's, causing his heart to stop for over 30 seconds. Shanahan was so close to death that a Catholic priest was actually summoned to read him his last rites. Needless to say, that would mark the end of his playing days.
Mike Smith (Falcons)- An All-State linebacker in high school, Smith went on to grab defensive MVP honors twice for East Tennessee State before landing in the CFL for a short stint in 1982.
Rex Ryan (Jets)- Sexy Rexy served as a loyal foot soldier for Southwestern Oklahoma St Bulldogs, playing defensive end opposite his twin brother Rob in 1986.