NFL Coaching Trees – Pt. 2 – The College Years
Posted by Andrew McKillop on July 20, 2011
- Lovie Smith is the only current NFL head coach who was an official assistant in the high school ranks.
- Both of the schools that Pete Carroll played college football at no longer have programs (College of Marin & Pacific).
- The University of Pittsburgh once had four current NFL head coaches (J. Fox, Jo. Harbaugh, M. Lewis, & M. McCarthy) as assistants.
In part two of my series on NFL coaching trees, I’ll breakdown the connections current NFL head coaches made as assistant coaches/graduate assistants in the college ranks.
Six of the current head coaches in the NFL have never spent time as assistants in the college ranks. The group includes Bill Belichick, Jack Del Rio, Jason Garrett, Todd Haley, Mike Munchak, and Ron Rivera. Bill Belichick and Todd Haley are the only coaches in the group to have no NFL playing experience. Jim Harbaugh was never a paid assistant in college. From 1994-2001 while still playing in the NFL, Harbaugh was a certified volunteer assistant coach for his dad (Jack) at Western Kentucky.
Current NFL head coaches spent most of their days as assistants in college at the FBS/I-A level. Check out the chart below which breaks down the level of schools current NFL head coaches were assistants at.
Andy Reid is the only current NFL head coach that was an assistant at the division three level. He was an assistant at San Francisco State from 1983-85. See if you can spot Andy Reid on the San Francisco State sidelines in this video.
Lovie Smith is the only current NFL head coach who was an official assistant in the high school ranks. Smith was an assistant at Big Sandy (TX) HS (1980), and Cascia Hall Prep in Tulsa Oklahoma (1981-82). Rex Ryan and Mike McCarthy were both assistants at the NAIA level. Ryan was an assistant at New Mexico Highlands (1989), and McCarthy was a graduate assistant at Fort Hays State (1987-88).
Colleges Where Current NFL Head Coaches Were Assistants At
The University of Pittsburgh once had four current NFL head coaches (John Fox, John Harbaugh, Marvin Lewis, & Mike McCarthy) as assistants/graduate assistants. The most by any school. Followed by Cincinnati, Morehead State, and San Diego State who all once had three current NFL head coaches as assistants. From Cincinnati came John Harbaugh, Rex Ryan, and Mike Tomlin. From Morehead State John Harbaugh, Rex Ryan, and Mike Smith. From San Diego State John Fox, Sean Payton, and Mike Smith. All of those coaches mentioned above have found success in the NFL.
Despite never becoming NFL head coaches themselves, as college head coaches Mike Gottfried, Paul Hackett, and Rick Minter all had three current NFL head coaches on their staff’s as assistants.
Norv Turner (John Robinson), and Tony Sparano (Chris Palmer) received their first NFL assistant jobs from head coaches they worked for at the collegiate level.
John Fox was an assistant/graduate assistant at seven different colleges, the most by any current NFL head coach. In chronological order, San Diego St, Boise St, Long Beach St, Utah, Kansas, Iowa St, and Pittsburgh.
Fifteen current NFL head coaches spent time as assistants at their alma maters.
There have been five current NFL head coaches that have won national championships as assistants in the college ranks.
Current NFL Head Coaches Who Won National Titles as Assistants
|Mike Shanahan||Barry Switzer||1975||FBS||Oklahoma|
|Mike Shanahan||Dan Mudra||1978||Div 2||Eastern Illinois|
|Norv Turner||John Robinson||1978||FBS||USC|
|John Fox||Jim Criner||1980||FCS||Boise St|
|Marvin Lewis||Dave Kragthorpe||1981||FCS||Idaho St|
|Jim Caldwell||Joe Paterno||1986||FBS||Penn St|