The 7 Head Coaches Who Played in the NFL

Some NFL head coaches helped themselves get their coaching start by playing in the NFL. It is an exclusive list that only seven men are currently on. Most of them had uneventful careers, but a few stuck around long enough to make an impact.

7. Sean Payton, QB, Chicago Bears

For three weeks, Sean Payton got to live his dream of playing in the NFL only because of the 1987 players’ strike when the NFL turned to replacement players. His time with the Bears wasn’t impressive because he only had a 34.8 completion percentage along with 79 passing yards on 23 pass attempts.

6. Doug Marrone, OL, Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints

Marrone only played five career games in the NFL after being drafted 164th overall in 1986 out of Syracuse. His coaching career soon followed.

Ken Whisenhunt, Falcons

Ken Whisenhunt, Falcons

5. Ken Whisenhunt, TE, Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins, and New York Jets

For a 313th overall pick, Whisenhunt had a pretty good NFL career. Between 1985 and 1992 he had a solid career mostly as a blocker. He had several shining moments throughout his career and ended with 596 career receiving yards and five touchdowns.

4. Jason Garrett, QB, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants

Garrett parlayed his NFL career into a coaching career with the Dallas Cowboys. He spent almost his entire career in Dallas where he won Super Bowl XXVII and XXX behind starter Troy Aikman. In eight total seasons, he finished with 2,042 career passing yards and nine career NFL starts.

3. Jeff Fisher, DB, Chicago Bears

Fisher was mainly a special teamer in Chicago but he had some decent moments on defense. He won Super Bowl XX although he was on injured reserve. He was drafted 177th overall in 1981 and played his last game in the 1985 NFL playoffs. He had five career interceptions and 1,125 career punt return yards at a 9.4 average.

Ron Rivera

2. Ron Rivera, LB, Chicago Bears

Rivera was on the Bears with Fisher during Super Bowl XX. After being drafted 44th overall in the 1984 NFL Draft Rivera enjoyed a career that spanned until 1992. Although he didn’t put up spectacular numbers, he was able to pull down a respectable nine career interceptions and 7.5 career quarterback sacks.


1. Jim Harbaugh, QB, Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens and San Diego Chargers

Harbaugh with Legendary Head Coach Mike Ditka

Harbaugh with Legendary Head Coach Mike Ditka

Harbaugh is the only first round pick who is currently a head coach in the NFL. With the 26th overall pick in the 1987 NFL Draft, the Bears selected Harbaugh who had just taken his Michigan Wolverines to the Rose Bowl and won Big 10 Player of the Year. In his NFL career, he was average, throwing for 26,288 career passing yards with 129 touchdowns and 117 interceptions. His best year was 1995 when he was named a Pro Bowler and won NFL Comeback Player of the Year. He went 2-3 in the playoffs with 906 career passing yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions.

You can follow Thomas Frey on Twitter: @ThomasFreyRP

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