What makes a good player? One who gives everything they have despite their talent level.
What makes a good coach? One who leads and cares for his players and staff as if they are more important than himself.
Often you will see excellent players who aren't very good coaches, and excellent coaches who weren't very good players.
Just ask Bill Belichick, who on A Football Life (NFL Films) said the following about Jimmy Johnson: "I mean, I can't think of too many other coaches like that, that were successful at all three levels: as a player, as a college coach and as a pro coach. That's pretty rare."
So if you looked at the best players in the game today, and if you took your best guess, who would make the best coach? What would the ideal coaching staff be, consisting of active NFL players?
Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator: Drew Brees
In the face of personal and cultural devastation, Brees has stood steadfast with a rare resolve to return to prominence.
He's been a Super Bowl MVP and has helped restore hope to an entire city. He has multiple major passing records and shows no signs of slowing down.
His best quality is probably his leadership. Brees always incorporates his teammates and coaches when someone offers him praise. He's not soft though, and is determined to give his best every play, while expecting nothing less from his teammates.
Besides Ray Lewis, no other player has the combination of talent and leadership that Brees has.
In short, Brees' people skills coupled with his football I.Q. would make him the perfect candidate for this job.
Defensive Coordinator: Ed Reed
About a month ago, Lardarius Webb complimented Reed on how good of a teacher he was and how he studies film so well. Reed mentioned he does all of that because he wants to coach when he's finished playing.
Like Brees, Reed holds multiple records. Reed is essentially the quarterback of the defense in that he sees the whole field on every play. He knows what to expect and has beaten the game's best, time and time again.
Reed doesn't just play defense. He wants to and knows how to score on defense. That's the type of coach every owner should pursue.
Special Teams: Devin Hester
Like Reed, Devin Hester sees the whole field. On kick and punt returns he knows what to look for in blockers and schemes. Hester leads the NFL all-time in punts returned for a touchdown (12) and is tied for eighth in kickoffs returned for a touchdown (5).
His 17 returned touchdowns are by far the most ever. I think players will listen to him. If not, they ought to look up one of his many spectacular highlights.
Quarterbacks/Assistant Offensive Coordinator: Aaron Rodgers
As the defending league MVP, it's easy to make a case for Aaron Rodgers being the best player in professional football. But what good is talent unless it's tested by adversity?
The Packers are 31st in the league in sacks allowed (29). They have also had to deal with multiple injuries to key offensive players. Everyone knows Rodgers is elite, meaning every defense knows they have to throw everything they have at him.
How has he responded? By throwing for 7,026 yards, 70 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in the last season and a half.
Everything he does is efficient. Mechanics, footwork, pocket presence, audibles, etc. Rodgers is the best player in a league where the most important and toughest position is the one he plays. Still getting better, he's developed strong leadership and demands accountability without having to use many words.
Wide Receivers: Larry Fitzgerald
There may not be a better all-around wide receiver in football than Larry Fitzgerald. Crisp routes, separation, beating double-teams, catching the ball at its highest point, sideline catches and gaining yards after the catch are all areas Fitzgerald excels at.
Similar to Brees, Fitzgerald is passionate about people. Even though he's constantly double-teamed and doesn't have a lot of success compared to other teams, he stays the course and makes sure his best effort is always given.
He's a true leader whom others seek to emulate.
Running Backs: Adrian Peterson
Of course Adrian Peterson has mind-boggling talent, but it's this year in particular that shows why he may be such an effective coach, if he chooses such a profession.
Eight and a half months after tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee, Peterson rushed 17 times for 84 yards (4.9 average) and two touchdowns in Minnesota's 2012 season-opener versus Jacksonville.
You want to talk about adversity? For a player dealing with such a serious injury, Peterson had plenty of excuses to take it easy.
Instead, he's having the best season of his six-year career. He now knows what it means to overcome trials, push yourself and rely on others.
Tight Ends: Tony Gonzalez
Tony Gonzalez is second all-time in receptions (1,199), ninth in receiving yards (13,833) and eighth in receiving touchdowns (99). In this his 16th NFL season, he's still playing at a Pro Bowl level and is still in great shape.
There is no route combination or concept and no coverage he hasn't seen hundreds of times.
If there's something to be taught about the tight end position, Gonzalez could teach it.
Offensive Line: Marshal Yanda
You may not know who Marshal Yanda is, but opposing defensive lineman know all too well what he is about. Physical, versatile and voluntarily nasty, Yanda seems like the ideal player to coach offensive lineman.
He's played mostly right guard, but has also played extensively at right tackle for the Ravens. Yanda has learned how to play offensive line at an All-Pro level in the league's toughest division and climates.
Defensive Line: Haloti Ngata
Simply put, Haloti Ngata is a physical freak. He's 340 pounds, but possesses exceptional quickness. He's fully capable of playing every defensive line position there is, in any defensive scheme there is.
But that doesn't mean he can't lead. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone in the Ravens organization to say a harsh word about Ngata and how he treats people.
If Ngata wanted to coach, he probably wouldn't wait too long for an offer.
Linebackers: Patrick Willis
Patrick Willis is the next Ray Lewis.
Willis wears the same number and plays the same position as Lewis because of Lewis. Willis has made the Pro Bowl every season he's been in the league and has been an All-Pro every one of those five years except for 2008.
He's the best player on the best defense in football (points per game: 12.9). He organizes his players so well without much margin for error, and he makes it fun to play football.
Who wouldn't want to play for this guy?
Secondary: Charles Woodson
Although his playing days may be over in a couple of years, Charles Woodson has had a Hall of Fame career. Eight Pro Bowls, three All-Pro awards, two Defensive Player of the Year awards and a Super Bowl championship. Woodson also won the Heisman Trophy after the 1997 college football season.
Not a bad resume.
He's played cornerback, nickelback and safety, and probably a few other positions. Over 15 seasons, he's been excellent in coverage, blitzing and tackling.
If there is a player in this league who knows what it takes to be an elite secondary defender, it would be Woodson.
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