Have Many Former Players Made It to Super Bowl as Head Coaches?

Have Many Former Players Made It to Super Bowl as Head Coaches?
Fact Checked by Pat McLoone

If the Detroit Lions reach the Super Bowl, head coach Dan Campbell will be joining a fraternity that has been getting increasingly smaller of late. That would be the group of head coaches who took their teams to the Super Bowl after formerly having been an NFL player.

Campbell’s team has delighted long-suffering Lions fans and invigorated Michigan sports betting. After an 11-season career as a blocking tight end with a three-year stay in Detroit, Campbell has orchestrated a revival of the Lions. Detroit   won the NFC North and are advancing to the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs against Tampa Bay, following a home Wild Card win over the L.A. Rams.

Detroit is a 6.5-point home favorite at BetMGM Michigan against the Buccaneers. Looking ahead, the Lions are +325 to win the NFC Championship and +900 to win the Super Bowl.

Among the eight coaches with teams still in the playoffs, Campbell and just two others are former NFL players: Houston’s rookie head coach, DeMeco Ryans, and the Bucs’ Todd Bowles.

BetMichigan.com – your source for Michigan online casinos – looked at the head coaches at the last six Super Bowls. Notice the lack of former players.

Super Bowl Coaches Since 2017 Season

SeasonAFC CoachNFC Coach
2022Andy Reid (Chiefs)Nick Sirianni (Eagles)
2021Zac Taylor (Bengals)Sean McVay (Rams)
2020Andy Reid (Chiefs)Bruce Arians (Buccaneers) (Eagles)
2019Andy Reid (Chiefs)Kyle Shanahan (49ers)
2018Bill Belichick (Patriots)Sean McVay (Rams)
2018Bill Belichick (Patriots)Doug Pederson (Eagles)

 

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Eagles’ Pederson Last Player to Make It

In an earlier era, it was common for former NFL players to become head coaches. More than a dozen players-turned-head coaches took teams to the NFL title game, including Hall of Fame coaches Don Shula, Tom Landry, Chuck Noll, John Madden and Bud Grant, just to name a handful. Mike Ditka and Raymond Berry were Hall of Fame players before they took teams - Chicago and New England, respectively - to a Super Bowl (actually it was in the same game, Super Bowl XX,  won by the Bears). But lately, that career path, from player to head coach, has been less frequently the case.

The dominant coach of the last 20 season, former Patriots head man Bill Belichick, had a quiet football playing career as a center and tight end at small Wesleyan University in Connecticut. As a player, lacrosse was more his game. Kansas City’s Andy Reid was an offensive lineman at BYU, but he studied the game more than he played in them.

The last former player to take a team to the Super Bowl is current Jacksonville head coach Doug Pederson, who led the Philadelphia Eagles to that franchise’s only Super Bowl title following the 2017 season. Pederson’s time as a player was mostly as a backup quarterback. He spent 10 seasons in uniform, mostly in Green Bay backing up Brett Favre. He even put in a year with the Eagles.

However, since Pederson’s Eagles hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, none of the Super Bowl coaches have been former NFL players.

Now, the Lions’ Super Bowl odds are in the hands of Campbell, whose toughness, perserverance and team-first attitude as a player has been imprinted on Detroit’s current team.

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Author

Bill Ordine, senior journalist and columnist for BetMichigan.com, was a reporter and editor in news and sports for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore Sun for 25 years, and was a lead reporter on a team that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News. Bill started reporting on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for 10 years. He covered the World Series of Poker for a decade and his articles on gaming have appeared in many major U.S. newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald and others.

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