Chiefs (Player) Coaching Tree

Posted Jul 9, 2011

Former Chiefs serving on NFL coaching staffs

We entered the weekend wondering whether or not Mike Vrabel would decide to join his good friend and former college roommate Luke Fickell on the coaching staff at Ohio State?

It’s no secret that Fickell, who was promoted to head coach of the Buckeyes last month, shares a tight bond with Vrabel. Off the field, Vrabel and Fickell are co-founders of the 2nd & 7 Foundation - a non-profit organization located in Columbus, Ohio that promotes literacy throughout the country. On the field, they both have deep ties to their alma mater.

Vrabel made an immeasurable difference after he arrived in Kansas City and, if he chooses to, he’ll no doubt do the same for an Ohio State program so desperate to reshape its culture after a tumulus spring.

But has the time really come for Vrabel to hang ’em up?

Have the demands of NFL football become too much for the 14-year veteran? Did Vrabel’s stint as a player-coach during the 2010 bye week give him an itch to join the college coaching ranks? Is the chance to join Fickell from ground zero simply too much to pass up?

These are questions that only Vrabel knows the answers.

All I know is that Vrabel played over 700 defensive snaps last season and probably has enough left in the tank to gain employment as an NFL free agent if he chooses to.

I also know that when Mike Vrabel leaves the NFL, the exit is going to be on his terms.

While we wait for more on Vrabel’s potential post-NFL career, the idea Chiefs players heading into the coaching ranks came across my mind.

Locally, NAIA powerhouse Mid-America Nazarene University is guided by former Chiefs QB Jonathan Quinn with former Chiefs LB Anthony Davis and DE Duane Clemons also serving on staff. Kevin Porter, a former Chiefs defensive back, was recently the head coach at nearby Avila University and Willie Roaf took an assistant coaching job at Santa Monica College (CA) back in 2009.

There’s a long list of former Chiefs who have gone on to become successful college coaches. Currently, the Chiefs are well-represented on coaching staffs across the NFL as well.

Let’s take a look at some of the former Chiefs currently serving as NFL assistants…

Tom Clements

Quarterbacks, Green Bay Packers (2006-present)

Clements’ one game of NFL playing experience came with the Chiefs when he came off the bench to replace Steve Fuller against San Diego in 1980. The Chiefs lost that game 24-7 and Clements finished 7-of-12 passing with 77 yards and no TDs or INTs.

Following his one-game NFL career, Clements returned to the Canadian Football League where he had previously played from 1975-79. In the CFL, Clements was a star. He’d be inducted into that league’s Hall of Fame in 1994.

Joining the NFL coaching ranks in 1997, Clements has worked with some of the game’s best signal-callers and his recent work with Aaron Rodgers has earned him plenty of respect in league circles.

Clements returned to Kansas City for one season (2000) to serve as quarterbacks coach on Gunther Cunningham’s staff. It was under Clements’ tutelage that Chiefs QB Elvis Grbac received the only Pro Bowl invite of his career.

Perry Carter

Asst. Defensive Backs, Houston Texans (2006-present)

Perry Carter saw action in two games with the Chiefs during the 1995 season after entering the NFL as a fourth-round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 1994. A cornerback, Carter did not record any defensive statistics with the Chiefs.

Following his lone season with the Chiefs, Carter played in 26 games with the Raiders from 1996-98. Carter also played five seasons in the Canadian Football League with the Edmonton Eskimos (2000-01), Montreal Alouettes (2002) and British Columbia Lions (2003-04).

Carter coached the secondary at Texas A&M-Commerce and also for the Hamburg Sea Devils of NFL Europa before joining the Texans staff in 2006.

Jack Del Rio

Head Coach, Jacksonville Jaguars (2003-present)

Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio has made it clear that he doesn’t look back fondly on his two seasons (1987-88) playing for struggling Chiefs teams. Locally, some still aren’t fond of Del Rio after he bloodied the face Chiefs Hall of Famer Otis Taylor in a skirmish during the 1987 strike.

Most have moved on from the incident and Del Rio went on to see plenty of success as both a player and coach. Regardless, Del Rio’s legacy in Kansas City will forever be remembered by one unfortunate event.

Del Rio is currently tied with Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis as the NFL’s third longest tenured coach behind Philadelphia’s Andy Reid and New England’s Bill Belichick. He owns a 3-2 record against Kansas City and is the seventh-winningest active head coach in the NFL.

Cris Dishman

Assistant Secondary, San Diego Chargers (2009-present)

Mostly remembered as an All-Pro cornerback with the Houston Oilers, Dishman did spend one season in Kansas City at the tail end of his career. Dishman would start 16 games opposite James Hasty for the 1999 Chiefs, tallying five INTs. He’d retire from football after playing the 2000 season in Minnesota.

Dishman worked NFL training camps with Miami, Oakland and San Diego before gaining full-time coaching employment with the Chargers in 2009.

Bobby Engram

Offensive Assistant, San Francisco 49ers (2011-present)

Engram spent the final season of his 14-year NFL playing career with Kansas City in 2009. He’d catch five balls in five games before being released mid-season.

After retiring from football in 2010, Engram turned his attention to coaching and was hired by new 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh in late January. One of the NFL’s all-time good guys, Engram finished his NFL playing career with 950 receptions for 7,751 yards and 35 TDs.

Jonathan Hayes

Tight Ends, Cincinnati Bengals (2003-present)

Former Chiefs TE Jonathan Hayes has enjoyed plenty of success in the coaching ranks, spending the past eight seasons as Cincinnati’s tight ends coach. An NFL tight end for 12 years, Hayes played in 136 games (96 starts) with the Chiefs from 1985-93.

Hayes’ finest season came in 1993 where he caught 24 passes for 331 yards with a TD to help the Chiefs reach the AFC Championship Game. He exited Kansas City following the 1993 season and went on to appear in two Super Bowls with the Steelers.

Greg Manusky

Defensive Coordinator, San Diego Chargers (2011-present)

Greg Manusky, a linebacker for the Chiefs from 1994-99, was named San Diego’s defensive coordinator this off-season after Ron Rivera moved on to take over as head coach in Carolina. Manusky had previously served as San Francisco’s defensive coordinator for the last four seasons.

Manusky mostly played a reserve role with the Chiefs during his 96 games with the franchise. The Chiefs have only faced off against a Manusky-led defense once, racking up 457 yards of total offense to defeat San Francisco 31-10 last season.

The Chiefs will square off twice against Manusky in 2011.

Alfredo Roberts

Tight Ends, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2009-present)

Aside from his role as a Chiefs tight end from 1988-90, Alfredo Roberts still has plenty of ties to Kansas City. Before joining the Bucs, Roberts previously served as tight ends coach for Romeo Crennel in Cleveland from 2007-08.

Roberts originally entered the NFL as an eighth-round draft pick of the Chiefs in 1988, splitting time with Jonathan Hayes throughout his three seasons in Kansas City. After leaving the Chiefs, Roberts was part of two Super Bowl championship teams in Dallas. He retired as a player after the 1993 season.

Kevin Ross

Defensive Backs, Oakland Raiders (2010-present)

Even though he works for a rival, the Chiefs will welcome “Rock” back to Arrowhead in 2011 as the newest member of the Chiefs Hall of Fame.

For 10 seasons, Kevin Ross paired with Albert Lewis to form what many would consider the most dominate cornerback tandem in franchise history. The duo went to two Pro Bowls with one another (1989-90) and helped Kansas City lead the league in turnover differential in both 1990 (26) and 1992 (18).

Ross would play in 156 regular season games (144 starts) during an 11-year career with Kansas City (’84-93, ’97). He produced 826 tackles (620 solo), 4.0 sacks, 30 INTs for 551 yards with two touchdowns, 12 fumble recoveries and 12 forced fumbles. He also scored five career TDs with his first coming against the Raiders.

He began his coaching career in 2004 with the Minnesota Vikings.

James Saxon

Running Backs, Minnesota Vikings (2011-present)

Spending time in Kansas City as both a running back (1988-91) and a running backs coach (2001-07), James Saxon (pictured left next to Jonathan Hayes) enjoyed plenty of success with the Chiefs.

As a player, Saxon won the club’s Mack Lee Hill Award as a sixth-round draft pick and played in 54 as a fullback, halfback, receiver, blocker and special teamer. He joined Miami in 1992 as a “Plan B” free agent.

As a coach, Saxon helped Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson re-write franchise record books. Three Chiefs runners (Holmes, Johnson and Tony Richardson) saw seven total Pro Bowl invitations while Saxon coached the running backs.

Under Saxon, Johnson established a Chiefs single-season record 1,789 rushing yards in 2006 while Holmes established numerous Chiefs records including rushing yards (6,070), rushing TDs (76) and total yards from scrimmage (1,572).

Emmitt Thomas

Defensive Backs, Kansas City Chiefs (2010-present)

Pro Football Hall of Fame CB Emmitt Thomas returned to his football roots last season as the Chiefs defensive backs coach. Prior to becoming a coach, Thomas had starred for the Chiefs from 1966-78.

A five-time Pro Bowl or AFL All-Star, Thomas played his entire career in Kansas City and registered 58 INTs in 181 regular season games. Those 58 INTs are the fourth-most among pure cornerbacks in NFL history and his 938 INT return yards are also a Chiefs record.

Thomas spent 42 seasons as a coach before returning to Kansas City in 2010. He owns seven seasons of NFL experience as a defensive coordinator with Philadelphia, Green Bay and Minnesota while also serving as Atlanta’s interim head coach for the final three games of the 2007 season.

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