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How to Become an NFL Coach

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A NFL coach is one of the most high-profile positions in sports. Coaches are shown on television and get quoted in the newspapers. Even assistant coaches are in the spotlight. But there are no set criteria to getting hired. You simply have to impress the owner, general manager or head coach with your ability to succeed. The bottom line is winning. An aspiring NFL coach needs to show a track record of success. How you do it is up to you. Every coach has a unique story.

How to Become an NFL Coach

Gain knowledge through years of study, either as a player or coach, at an advanced level. Don’t expect to get hired by the NFL after success in high school or Pop Warner.

Pick a specialty. NFL staffs typically have up to 20 coaches ranging from the head coach to offensive coordinator to tight ends coach.

Become a college coach. Coaching NCAA Division I is a good steppingstone to demonstrate your coaching ability at a high level. Plus, you get to coach potential NFL players who could put in a good word for you down the line.

Coach in the Canadian Football League. The CFL is a professional league considered a notch below the NFL. It’s not unusual for men to gain experience in the CFL before jumping to the NFL.

Show success. If you coach a college team to an 0-10 record, chances are you have no shot at the NFL. But if you guide a squad to a bowl game while your team allows the fewest points in the country, you’ll gain a reputation as a defensive guru. NFL teams might then be interested in you as a defensive coach.

Play in the NFL. Former players can get coaching jobs in the NFL without having to show their worth at a lower level.

Throw your hat in the ring. Let owners, general managers and head coaches know you’re interested in a NFL coaching job. When there is an opening, there’s a better chance your name will be discussed.


You'll make a lot of money. The average salary heading into the 2003 season for a NFL head coach was $2.5 million a year, according to SportsBusiness Daily. In 2008, the highest-paid coach was the Seattle Seahawks’ Mike Holmgren, who made $8 million a year.

You could gain fame. Coaches often are remembered long after they retire.

If you become a head coach, insist on selecting your own coaching staff instead of having the general manager hire for you.

Not having played in college or the NFL won’t disqualify you from a job. For example, the Kansas City Chiefs hired Todd Haley as their head coach in 2009. He played college golf instead of college football.


Your decisions will be dissected and discussed by fans and media.

Lack of job security. If you lose, expect criticism and calls for you to be fired.