Mike Ditka was a one-of-a-kind person, that should be obvious. But he also was a very rare breed of player who not only was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but went on to be a successful NFL coach. Seventeen Hall of Famers became head coaches, and here is how they fared.
Ringo was selected to 10 Pro Bowls and was an All-NFL selection seven times for the Packers and Eagles. Ringo excelled as an offensive line coach for the Bills, as he put together the famed "Electric Company" line that paved the way for O.J. Simpson's record-breaking season in 1973. But Ringo struggled as the team's head coach in 1976, going 3-11.
LeBeau played in one of the most feared secondaries in NFL history, teaming with Dick "Night Train" Lane, Yale Lary and Lem Barney in Detroit. LeBeau struggled as head coach of the Bengals, but his legacy will be as the innovator of the "zone blitz," and possibly the greatest defensive coordinator of all-time.
Waterfield was the first rookie to win the NFL's MVP award with the Rams in 1945 and was known for his long bombs on the field and leading the team to two NFL titles (1945 and 1951). Waterfield did not fare as well as coach of the Rams, lasting three seasons with a record of 9-24-1.
Fears was the beneficiary of many of Waterfield's passes, and he also was a part of the Rams' championship team in 1951. Fears also struggled as coach of the New Orleans Saints (1967-1970) posting a winning percentage of just .277. Fears also would coach the Southern California Sun of the WFL (1974-75).
Clyde "Bulldog" Turner
The Bulldog was the top center and linebacker of his era, playing 13 seasons for the Chicago Bears. And you know when the Jets play in those horrible Titans throwbacks? Turner was the coach of those New York Titans in 1962, posting a 5-9 record.
McCormack was a long-time offensive lineman for the Cleveland Browns, helping pave the way for Browns running back Jim Brown. McCormack was a successful assistant coach, and got his chance to be the head coach for the Eagles in 1973. He lasted three seasons, going 16-25-1. McCormack had a stint as coach of the Baltimore Colts, going 9-23 from 1980-81. Finally, McCormack coached the Seahawks during the strike season of 1982, taking over for Jack Patera to post a 4-3 record.
Norm Van Brocklin
Van Brocklin was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection for the Rams and Eagles, and teamed up with Waterfield in 1951 to lead Los Angeles to its first NFL championship. Van Brocklin thought that he was the heir apparent to retiring Eagles coach Buck Shaw, but instead took over the expansion Vikings in 1961. Van Brocklin went 29-51-4 as coach and famously feuded with quarterback Fran Tarkenton during that time. Van Brocklin would coach the Falcons from 1968-1974 to post a record of 37-48-3.
Christiansen's playing career did not intersect with LeBeau, but he was a member of those famed Lions teams of the 1950s. Christiansen coached the San Francisco 49ers from 1963-67 posting a 26-38-3 record. After that, he would later post a winning record at Stanford from 1972-76 before returning to be an NFL assistant coach.
Starr was one of the NFL's all-time top winners, as he led the Packers to five NFL championships and was selected as the MVP of the first two Super Bowls. But his winning ways did not translate as an NFL coach. Starr would guide the Packers from 1975-1983 and he went 52-76-3. He did lead the Packers to the playoffs in 1982, and even won a game in the expanded NFL playoff tournament that year, but was dismissed in 1983 after going 8-8.
Some might argue that Graham is the greatest quarterback in NFL history. He is if you count championships -- Graham won seven professional championships as quarterback of the Cleveland Browns. Graham won four titles in the AAFC and three in the NFL. In six NFL seasons, he led the Browns to six NFL title games. Graham coached the Redskins from 1966-68, but could not recapture the same magic he had as a player. Graham went 17-22-3 and was replaced by Vince Lombardi.
Slingin' Sammy was one of the premier quarterbacks in NFL history, but he was much more. Baugh set 13 NFL records in three player positions: Quarterback, punter and defensive back. Baugh was the first coach of the New York Titans in 1961 and 1962. He also coached the Houston Oilers in 1964 and finished with a career winning percentage of .429.
Singletary ranks in the top six of former NFL Hall of Fame players turned NFL head coaches, though his coaching career, you may recall, was disastrous. Singletary's NFL coaching career started off with a bang when he sent Vernon Davis to the locker room during the middle of a game. But the same intensity he showed as a player failed to make him a long-term success as a coach.
Gregg was a teammate of Starr with the Packers, and he was chosen to replace him as coach in 1984. Gregg had previously served as head coach of the Cleveland Browns (1975-77) and Cincinnati Bengals (1980-1983). Gregg helped lead the Bengals to their first Super Bowl appearance in 1981, but lost to the 49ers in Super Bowl XVI, 26-21. Gregg had a lifetime winning percentage of .469.
Late Raiders owner Al Davis once said that firing Shell as coach of the Raiders in 1994 was the biggest mistake he made. Well, his second biggest was hiring Shell to coach the Raiders again in 2006. Shell went 54-38 after taking over Mike Shanahan in 1988. But he lasted only one season in his reboot, struggling to a 2-14 mark. Still, he holds an impressive .519 career winning percentage.
Berry was so intent on being a good receiver, he once asked teammate Johnny Unitas to stay after practice and throw him some "bad balls." After Unitas declined, Berry instead had his wife throw him passes. Berry's top performance came in the 1958 NFL Championship Game when he had 12 receptions for 178 yards and a touchdown. Berry was a winner as a head coach, too. Berry went 48-39 as coach of the Patriots (1984-89) and led the team to the AFC championship in 1985, but lost to the Bears in Super Bowl XX.
Schmidt spent his entire playing and coaching career with the Detroit Lions. Schmidt was a member of the famed Lions teams of the 1950s and when his playing career ended in 1965, he became the team's head coach in 1967. Schmidt would retire from coaching after the 1972 season, with a career mark 43-35-7, a nice .558 mark for the Lions.
After a Hall of Fame playing career that included stints with the Bears, Eagles and Cowboys, "Iron" Mike Ditka would serve as an assistant coach for Tom Landry and the Cowboys from 1973-81. The Bears would hire Ditka as coach in 1982 and a legend was born. Ditka led the Bears to six NFC Central titles, but the highlight of his coaching career came in the Bears' 46-10 drubbing of another Hall of Famer turned coach, Raymond Berry, in Super Bowl XX. Ditka's Bears went 106-62 during his tenure. His coaching record took a hit during an ill-advised three years as coach of the Saints. Or, maybe it was just the trade for Ricky Williams that was ill-advised. Still, he is our leader in the clubhouse for Hall of Fame players turned coaches.