One of the discussions that took place when Jack Del Rio took over as Raiders head coach last year was the fact that he and his staff is filled with former NFL players including Del Rio himself who played 11 seasons as a middle linebacker in the NFL.
There is value in having played the game at a high level. It isn't crucial, but players tend to respect you for having been where they are. It also offers a head coach the perspective from the other side of things. In that spirit, ESPN's Kevin Seifert got the idea to rank the NFL head coaches based on their playing careers, and Jack Del Rio took the number one spot.
He patched together a fulfilling career as a do-anything linebacker, special-teams player and on-field leader. Del Rio appeared in 160 NFL games, with 128 starts, and totaled 941 tackles with the Saints, Chiefs, Cowboys and Vikings. He made the NFL All-Rookie team in 1985 as a third-round draft pick, was a two-time All-Pac-10 player at USC and is a member of the USC Hall of Fame.
Something you might not know: Del Rio is the only active head coach to be named to a Pro Bowl as a player, in 1994 while with the Vikings.
Not only is Del Rio a former NFL player, so too have several other members of the staff including defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr who was an All Pro and 3-time Pro Bowler in his playing career. Reggie McKenzie also played in the NFL for five seasons - four of which with the Raiders.
The top ten coaches based on their playing career:
1. Jack Del Rio - Oakland Raiders
2. Todd Bowles - New York Jets
3. Ron Rivera - Carolina Panthers
4. Mike Mularkey - Tennessee Titans
5. Jeff Fisher - LA Rams
6. Jason Garrett - Dallas Cowboys
7. Gary Kubiak - Denver Broncos
8. Doug Pederson - Philadelphia Eagles
9. Sean Payton - New Orleans Saints
10. Mike McCoy - San Diego Chargers
It's hard to say how much this really matters with regard to how these guys perform as head coaches, but it's interesting none the less.
But probably the best part of this article comes at number 18 with Del Rio's coaching mentor, John Fox. Not his placement on the list, but the picture of him.
John Fox from his days as Jeff Spicoli. This picture is worth every bit of this article.