Do you ever get completely obsessed with something that’s a major timesuck but it’s so fascinating you can’t help yourself? Like bingewatching Netflix. Or working out. (Not.)
This is what happened when I started to do a quick update on the latest NFL coaching hirings/firings. Because a head coach’s demeanor and philosophy are critical components of an entire team’s success, and they often have some or all power over policies and decision-making, it’s helpful to know who leads and where.
But as I researched, I realized these guys are really fascinating. For example, one grew up in a rival team’s city. Some played pro in Canada but most didn’t play pro at all. One preferred lacrosse, and another was drafted for pro baseball. One sold roofing supplies. Another was an Eagle Scout. Two have suffered the loss of a child.
Soooo, here is the latest list of head coaches, along with some interesting factoids. Read on to learn a little more about these (usually) heroes at the helm…
(* indicates new for 2015 season, # indicates still vying for this year’s title).
Arizona Cardinals: Bruce Arians. Named 2012 AP Coach of the Year as an interim coach for Indianapolis when he took over for head coach Chuck Pagano, who had been diagnosed with leukemia. Arians himself is a prostate cancer survivor.
Atlanta Falcons: Vacant
Baltimore Ravens: John Harbaugh. Brother of Jim Harbaugh, who was just released from the San Francisco 49ers and hired by his alma mater, the University of Michigan as the highest-paid college coach ever. John and Jim played one another in Super Bowl XLVII (the one where Beyonce allegedly caused a power outage).
*Buffalo Bills: Rex Ryan. Fired by the New York Jets, Ryan merely moved upstate one week later. Known for being gregarious and having teams with defensive prowess. Son of former Philadelphia and Arizona head coach Buddy Ryan, and fraternal twin of New Orleans defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Uses color-coded playbooks to help with his dyslexia and underwent lap-band surgery in 2010 to combat obesity.
Carolina Panthers: Ron Rivera. Of Puerto Rican/Mexican heritage, he is the fourth Latino to be an NFL head coach (following New Orleans’ Tom Fears, Oakland/Seattle’s Tom Flores and New Orleans/Indianapolis’ Jim E. Mora).
Chicago Bears: Vacant, possibly former Denver coach John Fox
Cincinnati Bengals: Marvin Lewis. He is the second-longest tenured coach (2003) behind New England’s Bill Belichick. Holds a bachelor’s degree in physical education and a master’s degree in athletic administration from Idaho State. Member of Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl XXX team that lost to Dallas.
Cleveland Browns: Mike Pettine. Finished his first season as the Browns’ coach 7-9 despite (or because of?) having Heisman winner “Johnny Football” Manziel for his rookie season. Brian Hoyer, however, was named the starting quarterback.
Dallas Cowboys: Jason Garrett. Despite losing on a controversial call in the playoffs to Green Bay, Garrett was just signed to a five-year contract extension for $30 million. Attended Princeton and Columbia for undergrad.
Denver Broncos: Vacant
Detroit Lions: Jim Caldwell. Hired in 2014, he is the first African-American coach for Detroit, finishing 11-5 regular season. In 2009, became head coach of Indianapolis and led team to a 14-2 record and a Super Bowl appearance (loss to New Orleans). His 14 wins are a NFL record for the best start by a rookie head coach.
#Green Bay Packers: Mike McCarthy. Began his career in hometown of Pittsburgh at University of Pittsburgh, working part-time on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Father was a Pittsburgh policeman, firefighter and bar owner. One of five children. Has led Packers to top-10 finishes in scoring for seven straight seasons (2007-13), joining New England as the only other team to do so. Became the first Packers coach since Vince Lombardi to lead the team to a championship game in his second season (2007).
Houston Texans: Bill O’Brien. A risk-taker, took reins in 2014 of the NFL’s worst team, finishing with winning 9-7 record after coaching two winning seasons at Penn State, on NCAA probation after the Sandusky/Paterno child sexual assault scandal. Named 2013 college coach of the year.
#Indianapolis Colts: Chuck Pagano. Known for ability in the secondary and to stop opposing pass attack. Named Colts head coach in January 2012, then was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia in September. Relinquished coaching duties to Bruce Arians but is now in remission. Players and even two cheerleaders shaved their heads as part of the CHUCKSTRONG campaign. Brother of San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Gus Bradley. Real name is Paul. Youngest of six kids. Played college ball at North Dakota State and was member of 1988 Division II Football Championship team. Earned his bachelor’s and master’s there. Spokesperson for the Ashley Furniture HomeStores Hope to Dream program which provides beds to underprivileged children.
Kansas City Chiefs: Andy Reid. Attended BYU and is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Coached Philadelphia for 14 years and was fired at end of 2012 season. Next hired by the Chiefs, received a standing ovation when Kansas City played at Philadelphia the following season. (Chiefs won 26-16). Like Bill O’Brien, Reid inherited a godawful team and led it to a 9-0 start, a tie for best start in franchise history. Lost his oldest son Garrett to a heroin overdose in 2012.
Miami Dolphins: Joe Philbin. Only played one year of college football (Washington & Jefferson College). Previously spent nine years on Green Bay staff. During his four years as offensive coordinator, Packers offense ranked in NFL top 10 for points scored and total yards. Father of six children, lost son Michael, 21, to drowning in 2012.
Minnesota Vikings: Mike Zimmer. In high school in Peoria, Illinois, earned all-conference honors in football, baseball, and wrestling. Ended 2014, his first season with the Vikings, 7-9, the best record for a first year head coach in the franchise since 1992. Son Adam is the current Vikings linebackers coach.
#New England Patriots: Bill Belichick. Longest-tenured active NFL coach. His three Super Bowls are more than any other active coach. Father Steve was an assistant football coach at the Naval Academy. Lacrosse was his favorite sport as a teen athlete. Fined $500,000 for his alleged role in filming an opposing team’s defensive signals (“Spygate”), the largest ever levied on a coach in NFL history.
New Orleans Saints: Sean Payton. Suspended entire 2012 season for alleged knowledge of “bounty” scandal in which players were paid by coaching staff to injure opponents. Played semi-pro football for the Chicago Bruisers and Pittsburgh Gladiators arena teams and the Leicester Panthers of the UK Budweiser National League. As member of New York Giants staff, landed on September 11, 2001 at the gate next to United Airlines Flight 93, which was later hijacked and crashed in rural Pennsylvania.
New York Giants: Tom Coughlin. Set Waterloo, NY High School’s single season touchdown record at 19, which still stands. Inaugural head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars from 1995-2002. Led team to two AFC championship games. Known as a stern disciplinarian and for meticulous attention to detail.
*New York Jets: Todd Bowles. Former player for eight seasons, primarily the Washington Redskins, and started in Super Bowl XXII. In his most recent job as Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator, he led the top-ranked run defense in the league in his first year. Played college ball at Temple under head coach Bruce Arians, also the Cardinals head coach.
*Oakland Raiders: Jack Del Rio. Hired January 14 to replace the fired Dennis Allen and interim coach Tony Sparano. Coached Jacksonville from 2003-11 without winning a division championship, the longest tenure of any coach. Standout in football and baseball for University of Southern California. Voted MVP of 1985 Rose Bowl. Batted .340 as college catcher with future MLB stars Randy Johnson and Mark McGwire. Drafted by Toronto Blue Jays but did not sign.
Philadelphia Eagles: Chip Kelly. Known for uptempo spread offense. Rumored to stay on top of his players’ nutrition, even changing menus for meals to healthy options. Previously led University of Oregon into becoming perennial powerhouse. One of only three current NFL coaches who hold either the title or powers of a general manager, along with New England’s Bill Belichick and Seattle’s Pete Carroll.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Tomlin. First African-American coach in Steelers history. At age 42, he is the second-youngest head coach in the NFL (San Diego’s Mike McCoy is the youngest). In 2009 he became the youngest NFL coach ever to win a Super Bowl. Specializes in defense. Majored in biology at William & Mary, where he was a standout wide receiver/tight end.
San Diego Chargers: Mike McCoy. Born just two weeks after the Steelers’ Tomlin, McCoy (April 1, 1972) is the youngest NFL head coach and second-youngest head coach in all major American pro sports. Played QB at Long Beach State until school discontinued its program. He transferred to Utah as a backup, but threw a game-winning pass in the final minute of the 1994 Freedom Bowl for a win over Arizona. Played two years in the Canadian Football League with the Calgary Stampeders.
*San Francisco 49ers: Jim Tomsula. Promoted from defensive line coach after Jim Harbaugh’s departure. Previously coached NFL Europe’s Rhein Fire to a 6-4 record in 2006. Was named 49ers’ interim head coach in 2010 after Mike Singletary was fired. Won first and only game 38-7 over Arizona. Began his career as a strength and conditioning coach at Catawba College (NC) in 1989.
#Seattle Seahawks: Pete Carroll. Current Super Bowl title holder. Of Irish and Croatian descent. When he couldn’t play pro level, he sold roofing materials in the Bay Area. Holds a master’s in physical education. Successful coach at University of Southern California (USC) until Heisman winner Reggie Bush and others were found to have accepted gifts from agents and the school was sanctioned heavily by the NCAA. Carroll then departed for Seattle under suspicion. Known for being positive “players’ coach.”
St. Louis Rams: Jeff Fisher. The longtime Tennessee Titans coach was famous for his “mullet.” Played for the USC Trojans 1978 national championship team. Son Brandon is assistant for the Detroit Lions. With Titans, reached Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000 but with no time left fell one yard short of at least tying in a 23-16 loss to the Rams, where he would next coach. In 2014 earned acclaim, and some criticism, for drafting Michael Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay player. Sam was eventually cut.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Lovie Smith. Highly respected African-American coach spent most of his career as head coach at Chicago, but began at Tampa Bay under Tony Dungy. Eventually in Super Bowl XLI, Smith became the first African-American head coach in the event followed just hours later by…Tony Dungy, now with Indianapolis. It was also the first Super Bowl with two black head coaches. Smith is named for his great aunt, Lavana.
Tennessee Titans: Ken Whisenhunt. Former Arizona head coach from 2077-12. An offensive specialist. Earned degree in civil engineering from Georgia Tech. Eagle Scout. So good at golf (65) contemplated playing professionally. In 2012 guided Cardinals to the first 4-0 start since 1974; then endured a nine-game losing streak. Titans finished 2-14 this year.
Washington Redskins: Jay Gruden. Younger brother of former Tampa Bay coach and Super Bowl winner Jon Gruden. Other brother James is a radiologist at the Mayo Clinic. First stint as a head coach. Known as a quarterbacks expert, though this was the position where the Redskins struggled most in 2014, Gruden’s first season. Four-year starter at QB for Louisville. Played in European and Arena Leagues, named MVP as QB for AFL’s Tampa Bay Storm in 1992.