A Look at the College Backgrounds of 57 NFL & College Coaches
(List includes all 32 NFL Head Coaches & Head Coaches of Teams in Top #25 Preseason Poll)
So, you want to be a football head coach in the NFL or at a top #25 college program? Join the crowd! Don’t we all feel we could coach as well as Nick Saban and Bill Belichick?!! Doesn’t it look like one of the greatest jobs in the world? How about all the perks associated with being around the greatest sport in our society?
There are, obviously, many factors that go into being named a head coach at one of the 57 head coaching jobs we analyzed. That’s not the point of this blog.
In this blog we are going to only look at the position played and school attended at the collegiate level by all 32 NFL head coaches and 25 coaches in the current preseason top 25 NCAA coaches poll. Does it matter what position you played? How about offense or defense? Or what school you attended?
What you will find is very intriguing! It seems like offenses at the college level are going crazy with a record level of yards gained and points scored hitting peak levels. In the NFL, offense seems harder and harder to come by and many of the best teams have the best defenses in the league. Are these trends influenced by the positions played by the head coaches? The following information might inform your opinions on the matter!
Please remember, this is only a snapshot of the 2018 current crop of 57 coaches at the top of their field. Future blog posts will look for a trend over a longer period of time.
But for now, let’s take a look at the 2018 upcoming season and what position on their college teams the 57 coaches played:
1. Head Coaches by College Position Played:
- Quarterback by far is the position most often played by these head football coaches. In the NFL, 10 (31.3%) of coaches are former QB’s while that number swells to 13 (52%) of head college coaches. In total, a whopping 40.4% (23 of 57) of head coaches are former quarterbacks.
- The 2nd most popular position played by these top coaches was defensive back with 10 head coaches (6 NFL and 4 college) totaling 17% of the head coaches.
- Of particular note, three of the top #5 college teams in the preseason rankings (#1 Alabama, #3 Ohio State and #4 Georgia) are led by head coaches (Nick Saban, Urban Meyer and Kirby Smart) who played defensive back in college.
- Of the 4 current head coaches who played in the trenches on the offensive line, all of these are head coaches in the pro ranks. The top 25 colleges do not have even one head coach who played OL.
- 56 of the 57 head coaches played college football with only one (Adam Gase of Miami) who did not play in the college ranks.
- Ed Orgeron of LSU is the only lineman – offense or defense – to become a head college coach.
II. Head Coaches by Offense/Defense:
- There is a leaning towards head coaches who played on the offensive side of the ball in college with nearly 2/3 of all head coaches having played offense in college. Nearly 60% (19 of 32) of pro head coaches played offense while that percentage swelled to 72% (18 0f 25) in the college ranks.
III. Head Coaches by College Attended:
Let’s take at a quick look at colleges and universities the 57 head coaches attended to determine if there might be a trend here as well. Does it matter you were prepped at a Power 5 Conference School (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10, and SEC)? Or maybe an experience at a smaller school might give you a leg up to becoming a head coach?
Here’s what we found:
- The colleges the head coaches attended were found among all levels – Division I (Power 5 + FBS), FCS Level (former Division I-AA), Division II, or Division III levels.
- A big difference was the high percentage of college coaches (68%) who played at the Division I
level while the pro coaches had a much lower percentage (46.9%) and were scattered
throughout the various divisions.
- Over ½ of the pro head coaches (54%) played at the FCS, Div. II, Div. III and NAIA levels. Only 32% of college coaches played at these levels.
In the Power 5 Conferences, the breakdown is as follows:
- There is no major trend found in which Power 5 Conference produces the most head coaches. The Big 12 has a slight advantage.