≡ Menu

So I went to grab Harbaugh by the neck and...

Unlike Carroll, Kelly has no pro experience

Yesterday, the Philadelphia Eagles announced that Oregon’s Chip Kelly would be their new head coach. In November, I provided my thoughts on Kelly and Chris Brown wrote his definitive piece on Kelly’s offensive system, a must read.

One of the biggest knocks on Kelly is that he has no prior NFL experience, as either a player or assistant coach. The goal of this post is to compile a list — this is where you come in, please chime in using the comments feature — of all first-time NFL head coaches with no prior NFL experience.

Note that Steve Spurrier (former player), Nick Saban (former Browns defensive coordinator) and Bobby Petrino (former Jaguars offensive coordinator) don’t count. So who does? So far, here is the running list, which will be updated once new names are established.

Chip Kelly (Eagles 2013) – college player, assistant/HC for 23 years (last at Oregon)
Mike Riley (Chargers 1999) – college player, assistant/HC for 24 years (last at Oregon State)
Dennis Erickson (Seahawks 1995) – college player, college assistant/HC for 26 years (last at Miami)
Barry Switzer (Cowboys 1994) – college player, college assistant/HC for 28 years (last with Oklahoma)
Jimmy Johnson (Cowboys 1989) – college assistant/HC for 25 years (last at Miami)
Darryl Rogers (Lions 1985) – college player, college assistant/HC for 24 years (last at Arizona State)
Ron Meyer (Patriots 1982) — Dallas Cowboys scout (1971-2), college assistant/HC for 15 years (last at SMU)
Frank Kush (Colts 1982) – college player, college assistant/HC for 25 years (Arizona State), CFL HC for one year
Bud Wilkinson (Cardinals 1978) – college player, college assistant/HC for 26 years (last with Oklahoma but retired for 15 years)
Lou Holtz (Jets 1976) – college player, college assistant/HC for 16 years (last at NC State)
John McKay (Buccaneers 1976) – college player, college assistant/HC for 26 years (last with USC)
Chuck Fairbanks (Patriots 1973) – college player, college assistant/HC for 18 years (last with Oklahoma)
Bill Peterson (Oilers 1972) – high school coach, college HC for 12 years (last with Rice)
Dan Devine (Packers 1971) – college player, college assistant/HC for 21 years (last with Missouri)
Tommy Prothro (Rams 1971) – college QB, college assistant/HC for 29 years (last at UCLA)

I’ll also note that Lane Kiffin, John Robinson, Greg Schiano, Dick Vermeil, and Tom Coughlin did have some NFL coaching experience before becoming head coaches.

{ 11 comments }
  • Richie January 17, 2013, 2:06 pm

    Bobby Ross?

    That is not a very successful list of names you have there. There’s Jimmy Johnson, who had great success. There’s Barry Switzer, who was either OK or just rode on Johnson’s coattails.

    Not sure how to rate McKay. He made the playoffs 3 times (also his only 3 winning seasons), but he only won 10+ games once. The Bucs were terrible under rough expansion rules, but then Seattle was only slightly better under the same rules.

    Reply
    • Richie January 17, 2013, 3:43 pm

      Nope. Bobby Ross was an assistant with the Chiefs before coaching Georgia Tech.

      Reply
  • Chase Stuart January 17, 2013, 3:12 pm

    A couple of people have pointed out Buck Shaw and Paul Brown to me on twitter. I think I would consider them more first-time AAFC coaches without professional experience. By the time they were in the NFL, they had pro coaching experience.

    Reply
  • Brandon January 17, 2013, 3:18 pm

    Frank Kush?

    Reply
    • Chase Stuart January 17, 2013, 3:25 pm

      I’ll allow it. Arizona State was quite launchpad to the NFL.

      Reply
  • Chase Stuart January 17, 2013, 3:28 pm

    Hugh Campbell, who was an NFL player, was a CFL and then USFL head coach before becoming an NFL HC.

    Marv Levy and Bud Grant were also CFL coaches: http://www.thebiglead.com/index.php/2013/01/16/the-chicago-bears-with-the-most-compelling-hire-of-the-offseason-non-chip-kelly-division-go-north-of-the-border-to-get-marc-trestman/

    Reply
    • Richie January 17, 2013, 3:41 pm

      According to wikipedia, “Levy began his professional football coaching career in 1969 as kicking teams coach for the Philadelphia Eagles before joining George Allen’s staff as a special teams coach for the Los Angeles Rams in 1970. He followed Allen to Washington DC in 1971, where he served as the Washington Redskins’ special teams coach for two seasons. Levy then served as the head coach of the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League for five seasons. “

      Reply
  • Don January 17, 2013, 3:47 pm

    If wikipedia is to be believed, Ron Meyer. He was a scout for the Cowboys before coaching SMU.

    Reply
    • Chase Stuart January 17, 2013, 3:51 pm

      I’ll allow it, since scout seems sufficiently immaterial.

      Reply
      • Kibbles January 17, 2013, 4:35 pm

        I would suggest that scout is less immaterial than player.

        Reply

Leave a Comment