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As Davis shows, great players usually can't cut it as coaches

  • By Vic Carucci NFL.com
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Last summer, Terrell Davis got a first-hand look at what it really means to be an NFL coach.

This view wasn't merely of stern-faced commanders standing on the sidelines, moving all of those helmeted chess pieces around on the field. It wasn't just about seeing how cool it might be to one day wear a headset and become a symbol of authority and get to scream at officials.

It was, in a manner of speaking, the here's-how-we-make-the-sausage perspective, which can easily cause one to find the finished product a whole lot less appetizing. And that's exactly what happened to Davis during an internship at the Washington Redskins' training camp. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who coached Davis for his entire career with the Denver Broncos, pulled the curtain all the way back so his former running back could get a thorough feel for a potential new career.

But Davis wound up seeing a little too much -- the long hours on the practice field, of watching videotape, sitting through meetings, watching more videotape, sitting through more meetings, and watching more videotape. Perhaps the most startling bit of reality for Davis was that when the day ended for players, it was only beginning for the coaches.

Davis told the Denver Post he knew "after a week and a half" that coaching wasn't for him. "I think I knew that going in," he said. "But I wanted to make sure."

I've spoken to many prominent former players who shared Davis' opinion, and most reached the same conclusion about themselves without the benefit of a similar internship. They were able to figure out that they wanted no part of coaching by simply observing the less-than-attractive aspects of the job that were on display on a daily basis. Besides those long hours, there is the constant sense of pressure and insecurity, which, for the vast majority of staff members, comes with much lower compensation than players receive. There is the constant changing of addresses, new schools for the kids, and packing and unpacking.

None of that was enough to discourage Hall of Famer Mike Munchak, who followed the route that Davis began last summer all the way to a head-coaching job with the Tennessee Titans.

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Although this didn't apply to Munchak, the general theory is that the more naturally gifted a player is -- and the more money he made, as a result -- the less likely he'll be to pursue a coaching career because he never developed a true appreciation for the amount of hard work that goes into it. But even players who invested tremendous time and effort in order to perform at the highest level possible couldn't envision being a good fit for the coaching grind. And, as I've heard from any number of highly successful coaches through the years, the willingness to be a true "grinder" is an absolute must.

Some players who have been active in leading workouts during the lockout might very well be doing more than helping to make sure their team will be ready for the season. They could be laying the ground work for a future in coaching.

Of course, that could all change if, like Davis, they get an opportunity to really see how the sausage is made.

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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