Top 10 NFL Head Coaches and Their Worth in Draft Picks

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How Many Draft Picks are They Worth?

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Did you know that head coaches could be traded? Not many people did, especially since it’s a rather rare occurrence. That didn’t keep the Boston Celtics from trading Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers for a first-round pick this past week, though.

That begs to question how many draft picks a team would be willing to part with in order to attain one of the top head coaches in NFL history?

Over the years, we’ve seen an increase in just how valuable draft picks are to NFL teams, especially first-round picks. The difference that a first-round talent can make on a team has become too big for teams to ignore. And still, the idea of trading a top pick for one of the greatest coaches in league history isn’t as crazy as it seems.

The last time an NFL coach was traded, the Oakland Raiders shipped Jon Gruden off to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for quite a haul. Coming off of an impressive four-year run in Oakland, Gruden swapped coasts for two first-round picks, two second-round picks and $8 million in cash. If the Raiders could get that much for a great (but not elite) head coach, imagine what a team would have to fork over in order to land one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some the best head coaches in NFL history and the type of return they could fetch in terms of draft picks.

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Bill Cowher

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Two Super Bowl appearances and one ring doesn’t do justice to how great Cowher was during his days as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ head honcho. From 1992 to 2005, he led the Steelers to the best record in the NFL, proving season after season that he could keep his team competitive. In terms of draft compensation, Cowher would be worth two first-round picks for the ring, plus an extra first for his amazing winning percentage. If he delves back into coaching after finishing his broadcasting career, Cowher could up his value.

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Mike Ditka

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Is there any coach more synonymous with the Chicago Bears than Ditka, a terrific leader as well as a ferocious linebacker during his playing days? With a career winning percentage of 63.1 and the Super Bowl XX title to his name, Ditka made the most of his 10 years with the Bears. While his impact as a coach warrants at least three first- and third-rounders, he does lose some value for playing a significant role in Kicking and Screaming. Really, Mike? Soccer? You’ve just been downgraded to a three first-round picks and a fifth-rounder.

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John Madden

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It took Madden until only 42 years of age to break the 100 win barrier, the youngest coach in NFL history to do so. He helped the Oakland Raiders win their first Super Bowl in franchise history and quickly became one of the most popular coaches to ever grace the gridiron. The best part of his legacy, though, was how entertaining he was in the broadcasting booth. There will never be another NFL coach like Madden, whose uniqueness alone warrants three first-round picks. Add in his rapid success and having a legendary video game named after him, and you’ve got yourself four first-rounders and a sixth-rounder.

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Chuck Noll

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Before the Cowher era began, Noll was the face of the Steelers. During his time as their leader, he led Pittsburgh to four Super Bowl victories while turning the Steelers into one of the most successful franchises in league history. He quickly turned a slumping team into a dynasty, which is a rare occurrence. If he could recreate his success in today’s NFL, there’s no reason to think he couldn’t fetch at least four first-rounders and a third-rounder. Wins and championships; that’s what it’s all about, right?

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Bill Belichick

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The architect of the latest NFL dynasty, Belichick took a middle-of-the-road New England Patriots team and turned them into one of the league’s annual contenders. Although the emergence of Tom Brady as a franchise quarterback definitely helped, Belichick has routinely turned average rosters into winning teams and paved the way to three Super Bowl wins in four years. His success makes him worth at least five first-round picks, but his involvement in Spygate drops Belichick’s value to four first-round picks and a fourth-rounder.

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Bill Walsh

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Walsh has a claim as the greatest head coach in NFL history, but had plenty of help along the way. With Joe Montana and Steve Young as his quarterbacks, Walsh enjoyed plenty of success, especially in big games. While the late and great San Francisco 49ers head coach is no longer with us, just about any team would give a king’s ransom to have that type of impact coach calling the shots. If Walsh were still around to impart his wisdom, he’d easily be worth a few first-round picks. Maybe even five if a team was desperate enough.

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George Halas

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As amazing of a coach as Halas was, the things he did to make the Bears relevant don’t exactly translate to today’s NFL. Halas moved the team to Chicago, named them the Bears as a big brother to the Chicago Cubs, played both ways and coached. Talk about multitasking. Still, today, those jobs are delegated to other staff members, players, etc. However, it’s hard to ignore his six NFL titles and astounding 40 years of coaching with the Bears. If he were still around, Halas would be worth giving up six first-round picks.

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Tom Landry

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Who wouldn’t trade in whatever amount of draft picks necessary in return for 20 straight winning seasons? That’s exactly what Landry helped the Dallas Cowboys achieve, along with two Super Bowl victories and an impressive 270-178-6 record. His legend speaks for itself, and would easily be worth six first-round picks. That awesome hat of his might even make it worth throwing in a mid-rounder to sweeten the pot.

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Don Shula

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The NFL is all about winning, and Shula was the master of putting together winning teams. His win total is the largest in league history, helped by the fact that he only recorded two losing seasons in his 32 years with the Miami Dolphins. To top it all off, he was the head honcho of the only team in NFL history to go undefeated. That’s quite an accomplishment in a game where any team can win on any given Sunday. That type of success demands value. I’m thinking somewhere in the range of six first-round picks and a second-rounder or two.

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Vince Lombardi

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Who cares that Lombardi’s coaching career only lasted nine seasons? There’s a reason why his name is on the trophy that goes to the winner of the Super Bowl every year. In those nine seasons, Lombardi helped his Green Bay Packers to five titles. The man won 90 percent of his playoff games. If you really want to argue with that, you need to find a new hobby. Lombardi is worth an entire year’s draft class and another three or four first-round picks. There will never be a head coach as valuable as Lombardi was to the Packers.