Veteran assistant coach Tom Pratt enters his third season with the Cardinals as pass rush specialist and 37th season in the NFL after being hired on 2/5/13. Only Tennessee’s Dick LeBeau (43rd season) has more experience among active NFL coaches. After starting as a coach at his alma mater, the University of Miami, in 1957, Pratt enters his 44th season as an assistant coach in 2015.
Pratt, who began his professional coaching career with Kansas City in 1963, helped the Chiefs win AFL championships in 1966 and 1969 and reach Super Bowl I and Super Bowl IV. He has coached four players who have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Buck Buchanan, Derrick Thomas, Curley Culp and Warren Sapp). He is also the only current coach in the league to own the distinction of coaching in the NFL in six different decades – ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, ‘00s and ‘10s and is the only active NFL assistant to have coached in the American Football League.
Last season, defensive end Calais Campbell was selected to his first Pro Bowl after leading the defensive line with seven sacks. Arizona’s defense allowed just 18.7 points per game, the fifth lowest average in the league, while allowing 20 points or fewer in an NFL-high 13 games. The Cardinals defense allowed just 299 points, the first time the team has allowed fewer than 300 points in a season since 1994 (267).
In 2013, Pratt helped a defense that finished as the NFL’s sixth-ranked overall unit and featured the league’s top-ranked run defense (84.4 yards per game). The Cardinals allowed the fewest rushing yards in team history for a 16-game season (1,351) and collected 47 sacks, the third-highest total in franchise history. Campbell had a career-high nine sacks and joined defensive tackle Darnell Dockett as Pro Bowl alternates.
Pratt returned to coaching in 2013 after spending the previous three years as a defensive coordinator consultant with IMG Academies in Florida, helping to train draft eligible players for the NFL. Prior to joining the Cardinals, his last job in the NFL was the assistant defensive line coach with the Chiefs in 2000, helping out while defensive line coach Bob Karmelowicz was being treated for cancer. That was Pratt’s third different stint with Kansas City (1963-77, 1989-94 and 2000).
During his first stop with the Chiefs (1963-77), Pratt had a hand in molding some of the finest defensive performers to ever wear a Kansas City uniform. In the 1960s, when he served as an assistant under Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram, the Chiefs defensive front helped the club win its lone World Championship in 1969 with a 23-7 victory over Minnesota in Super Bowl IV.
Hall of Fame tackles Buck Buchanan and Curley Culp combined with ends Jerry Mays and Aaron Brown to form arguably the finest defensive line in the AFL’s 10-year history. Buchanan, who passed away in 1992, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990, and Culp was selected as a member of the 2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame class.
After his initial 15-year stay in Kansas City, Pratt coached the defensive line with the New Orleans Saints (1978-80) and Cleveland Browns (1981-88) before returning to the Chiefs for another six seasons (1989-94) under Marty Schottenheimer. While in Cleveland, he worked with defensive tackle Bob Golic, who was a three-time Pro Bowl selection (1985-87), and defensive end Reggie Camp, who had 14 sacks in 1984 and accumulated 29.5 sacks from 1984-86.
In his second stint with the Chiefs as defensive line coach (1989-94), Pratt tutored the late Derrick Thomas, a 2009 Hall of Fame inductee. Even though Thomas was listed as a linebacker, he played the Chiefs “rushbacker” position in 1993 and worked with Pratt on the defensive line. Thomas made his fifth straight Pro Bowl appearance that season as Kansas City advanced to the AFC Championship Game. Defensive end Neil Smith also flourished under Pratt, recording four straight Pro Bowl berths under his guidance (1991-94), while defensive tackle Dan Saleaumua earned first-team Pro Football Weekly All-Pro honors in 1990.
Pratt spent the 1995 season as defensive line coach with Tampa Bay, tutoring Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp in his rookie season, before coaching at the United States Coast Guard Academy in 1997. He then spent two years (1998-99) as a football ambassador in Osaka, Japan for the Asahi Challengers in the Japanese Company League of American football. He returned to work with the Challengers for the 2000 season as they won the Japanese Super Bowl. He also served as a consultant at Kyoto University in Japan from 2002-04.
He played linebacker collegiately at the University of Miami from 1953-56 where Stram was an assistant coach at the time. Pratt earned All-American honors in 1956 and was inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame in 1991. After graduating from Miami in 1957 with a degree in Education, he stayed at his alma mater as an assistant for four years (1957-60). He then coached at the University of Southern Mississippi from 1961-62 before joining Stram’s staff in Kansas City in 1963.
Pratt and his wife, Hope, have three children, daughters Kendra and Shana, and son Tyler, seven grandchildren and one great grandchild.