The NFL’s coaching ranks are littered with former players. Todd Bowles spent eight seasons as a defensive back. Doug Pederson started nine games at quarterback for the Eagles before leading them to their first Super Bowl title as a second-year head coach. Frank Reich led the greatest comeback, non-Falcons division, in NFL history.
On Sunday, we’ll get the rare opportunity to see one of these veterans stare across the field at the man for whom he played the bulk of his career. Tennessee head coach Mike Vrabel did a little bit of everything for Bill Belichick in his eight years in New England. He pestered quarterbacks as an All-Pro outside linebacker, pulled his weight as a special teams stalwart, and even caught eight touchdown passes as a goal line tight end.
That raises a logical question; who’s next?
The current NFL landscape is littered with players — quarterbacks, defensive backs, linemen, and more — whose next step after retirement will be to begin the long climb from underpaid assistant to leading a pro team? We’ve got some ideas.
The case for: Pierre Garcon
I pray for a world where Philip Rivers is a new generation’s Jim Harbaugh, overseeing a staff made entirely of his 27 children and screaming near-obscenities at the opposing sideline. But also I can’t imagine the man so uncomfortable with moving from San Diego to Los Angeles that he’d pay $200,000 for a custom film-room SUV rather than relocate would be up for more travel once his playing career is over. Phil’s gonna make one hell of a pee-wee coach, though.
Instead, let’s go with a veteran player whose understanding of offenses across the sport ranges from Division III fields all the way to Santa Clara — Pierre Garcon.
The NFL has held no surprises for Garcon, who has adapted to a myriad of different offensive philosophies and strategies in an 11-year career. He’s been a key part of every offense he’s ever been a part of, developing from a sixth-round flyer out of Mount Union College into a league-leading receiver thanks to his innate understanding of the game. Over that span, he’s worked to create plays for quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Kirk Cousins, Robert Griffin III, and Jimmy Garoppolo. He’s worked with coaches like Kyle Shanahan, Tony Dungy, Frank Reich, Jim Bob Cooter, Mike Shanahan, and Sean McVay.
So over that decade-plus, he’s had the opportunity to absorb lessons from a true variety of coaches and passers, and he’s been a lauded teammate at each stop. When he leaves his cleats behind, he’ll have no shortage of opportunities to pass that knowledge on as a coach. And if his coaching career is anything like his playing days, he won’t need long to level up from quality control assistant to a big-time job. — Christian D’Andrea
The case for: Marshawn Lynch
Lynch’s career with the NFL may already over and that’s too bad, because that’d mean it ended in a storm of incompetency in Oakland. He already called it quits once, but came back for another go with his hometown Raiders. But now he’s on injured reserve and the Raiders still have no clear plan where they’ll be in 2019.
It’d seem like the time is right for the 32-year-old running back to ride off into the sunset for good.
That’s a sad thought, but if his first retirement showed us one thing, it’s that he probably won’t be too far out of sight. During his 2016 season away from the NFL, Lynch hiked in France with Bear Grylls, rode camels in Egypt, and handed out Skittles in Scotland. But we’d really get our daily dose of Lynch if he ended up an NFL head coach.
Hear me out.
Marshawn Lynch continues to be the best pic.twitter.com/Y0qo7PoVzo— Jasmine (@JasmineLWatkins) March 6, 2018
Prepared for the job? Lynch coaches with dang chicken wings in his socks. Don’t tell me he doesn’t come prepared.
And lastly, he’s one of the most accomplished backs in NFL history. Jokes aside, he’s one of 31 players to crack 10,000 career rushing yards and he’s 16th all-time in rushing touchdowns. His teammates have always seemed to love him and you could probably do a lot worse than putting Lynch in charge. — Adam Stites
The case for: Tyrod Taylor
All offseason, the Browns insisted that Tie/Tuh-rod Taylor was their starting quarterback. They didn’t want to No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield to suffer the same gruesome fate as their previous rookie quarterback, DeShone Kizer, who threw 22 picks and went 0-15 as a starter the year before.
That seemed a bit like Hue Jackson “logic.” Mayfield was a Heisman Trophy winner, the top pick in the draft, and clearly more ready for the NFL than a project like Kizer. But it was also understandable if you ever paid attention to what the coaches, and the Browns players, said about Taylor.
It wasn’t just about what they said, either. It was the way they said it. They flat-out gushed about him. About his leadership, his thoughtfulness, his worth ethic, his steadiness, and yes, his play too.
Because make no mistake: Taylor can still play. In a league where Brock Osweiler, Nathan Peterman (or Matt Barkley), and Nick Mullens are starting games — and that’s THIS week only — Taylor is more than worthy of a spot on an NFL roster. His brief time as the Browns’ starting quarterback doesn’t change that.
And what else hasn’t changed, even if he’s Mayfield’s backup now, is Taylor’s demeanor in the locker room. He’s still a leader and still the guy his teammates can turn to when they need a pick-me-up.
That ability to read people, and know what they need to hear and when they need to hear, is an underrated skill. So is Taylor’s ability to be a walking motivation quote and just a plain ol’ good dude.
And if you have questions about his coaching chops, he seems to have those too:
My favorite part of Hard Knocks this year was when Tyrod Taylor was teaching Hue Jackson how to coach pic.twitter.com/BKtHxPPugF— Adam Stites (@AdamStites_) October 29, 2018
Come to think of it, the Browns really should’ve just made him the player-coach this year. — Sarah Hardy
The case for: Josh McCown
Josh McCown has been a journeyman quarterback since entering the league in 2002 (he’s played for 10 teams!) and he’s played in a myriad of different systems and schemes. While he’s currently not the active starter for the New York Jets, he’s played an invaluable role in the development of rookie quarterback Sam Darnold.
In practice, McCown often watches Darnold from an unlikely vantage point, standing over the center like a blitzing linebacker and tracking his every move. He and coaches make identical hand gestures diagnosing the trajectory of Darnold’s passes, like stock traders following the market on the floor of the exchange. McCown will also help identify the fat in the weekly game plan—extraneous verbiage, for example—that can be cut so as not to overload the rookie. And on game day, McCown stays right next to offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates on the sideline, reminding the play-caller not to get conservative just because Darnold had thrown another head-scratching interception.
McCown is already acting as a coach for Darnold, so why not let him do the real thing when it’s time for him to hang it up? He already has some experience in the area, so the learning curve wouldn’t be very high for him. — Charles McDonald
The case for: Sam Bradford
Nine seasons, four teams, five different head coaches and no fewer than 100 offensive coordinators ... it’s safe to say the guy’s seen a veritable buffet of styles and philosophies, even a couple of successful ones.
He’d also be a great fit for a team all set to draft their franchise quarterback. Who better than Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick in 2010, to know what NOT to do with a can’t-miss kid like himself?
Still not convinced? Jon Gruden, labeled an offensive guru himself (lol) is making $100 million to be a head coach. HOW HARD CAN IT BE!?!?!
— Ryan Van Bibber
Which current NFL player would make the best NFL head coach?
Pierre Garcon(36 votes)
Marshawn Lynch(102 votes)
Tyrod Taylor(55 votes)
Josh McCown(146 votes)
Someone else — let us know in the comments!(65 votes)