Top 10 Football Coaches in the History of the Sport15
By Chris Littler
Top 10 Football Coaches in the History of the Sport
A great athlete is only as good as his or her coach. Sure, an athlete can probably do most of the work, but a good coach is an invaluable asset. Just ask 50-year-old rookie Gordon Donaldson of the ridiculous Son of a Pitch film Touchdown University.
Being a great coach takes a person of intellect and patience, a full knowledge of the sport, and some experience on the field. To add to this, football, as a sport, is complex. There are drills to be run, formations to create, egos to be kept in check, and budgets to be balanced. A great football coach is a kind of superman. Except instead of flying around pulling babies out of burning buildings, he’s pacing on the sidelines and screaming profanities into a headset.
Every kid wants to throw like Joe Namath, but rare is the kid that dreams of becoming the next Bill Parcells. We think that’s a shame. So let’s salute the men who guided the greats, and in doing so, became greats themselves.
Son Of A Pitch – Touchdown University
1. Vince Lombardi
Lombardi’s name has become virtually synonymous with the NFL… and for good reason. Lombardi was the head coach for the Green Bay Packers for most of the sixties and led the team to victory in the first two Super Bowls. Lombardi emphasized hard work and dedication. He was beloved by his players and coaching staff. His philosophy on football is still quoted today, with the maxim, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing,” being his most famous. He’s responsible for the concept of rule blocking, which introduced the idea of the running back “running towards daylight.”
2. Bear Bryant
During his twenty-five years coaching the University of Alabama, Bear Bryant won six national championships and thirteen conference championships. He was an impressive man on paper, but all the more impressive in life. When he retired in 1982, he had more wins on his belt than any head coach, ever. He won the National Coach of the Year award three times – in ’61, ’71, and ’73. Enough times to have the award named in his honor. How could you argue with a man dressed in a hounds tooth hat?
3. Bill Parcells
Think Jim from The Office is the first Big Tuna? Not so. That distinction belongs to Bill Parcells, who was coined so by the New England Patriots when he was the linebacker’s coach. (It’s a reflection of his body type, imagine that.) Parcells lived up to his name, the “big” part anyway, by leading the New York Giants to Super Bowl victory twice and the New England Patriots there once. In sports, you know the merit of a man by the number of times he’s coaxed out of retirement. Parcells has come out thrice.
4. Paul Brown
Paul Brown was instrumental in the formulation of the National Football League. He’s considered the “father of the modern offense.” So, naturally, he’s a pretty big deal. On top of finding success on the high school, college, and national levels, Brown founded the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals franchises. If that’s not enough, he also brought the facemask, playbooks, the draw play, and year-round coaching staffs to the game. He turned the sport into something big, and it’s only gotten bigger since.
5. Joe Paterno
JoPa! Beyond having a fun name to say, JoPa can take credit for having more wins than any other FBS football coach. On top of that, he’s coached more bowl games in college football history and reached 400 victories before anyone else. He’s one of only three active coaches in the College Football Hall of Fame. The BIGGEST affect JoPa has had on the sport, however, is on its officiating. JoPa has a habit of chasing down officiators. So much so, that his public criticism led to the adoption of instant replays in the Big Ten conference. That then led to almost all Division I-A conferences adopting it too.
6. Don Shula
Dolphins are pretty smart animals, but they’d definitely lose in a game of football against their Miami counterparts. Not just because the Miami Dolphins have hands and feet but because Don Shula was their coach. Shula led the Dolphins to Super Bowl victory twice in his 32-year career. In fact, Shula holds the distinction of being the winning-est coach there is – with an NFL record of 347 career wins. He only had two seasons with a record below .500. In a game full of misleading statistics, you really can’t argue with the simplicity of that.
7. Chuck Noll
Don Shula may have the most wins of any coach in the NFL, but Chuck Noll has the most Super Bowl wins. The ’69-’91 Steelers were Noll’s masterpiece. He had a knack for making the perfect picks in the draft and then crafting those players into stars. Not only was he a great coach, but he also provided opportunities for African American players back when that was frowned upon.
8. Bill Walsh
Walsh is responsible for what is generally referred to as the “West Coast Offense.” It was a system he devised for calling multiple plays at once, usually with a huge emphasis on passing. It wasn’t until Walsh coached the 49er’s (including a young quarterback named Joe Montana) that the system really shined. The 49ers took home three Super Bowls under Walsh. It wasn’t long before other coaches adopted his method, and the West Coast Offense soon became an industry standard.
9. Tom Landry
Any coach that creates something called the “Doomsday Defense” guarantees himself a chapter in the Book of Great Coaches. Tom Landry did just that as the coach for the Dallas Cowboys. Also known as the 4-3 defense, the Doomsday Defense consists of four down linesman and three linebackers, and was created by Landry to put a stop to Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown. But even if Landry hadn’t invented the most used defensive set-up in football, he’d still be known for having the longest winning streak: an unbelievable twenty consecutive seasons.
10. Joe Gibbs
Gibbs created what Steve Sabol calls “the most diverse dynasty in NFL history.” Seeing as Gibbs coached the Redskins to Super Bowl Victory three times using players that had little to no success on other teams, he’s right. The NFL was full of guys who needed a coach like Gibbs, and he was more than happy to supply them with the talent, wisdom, and – most important – hard work they needed to win. Gibbs didn’t stop with the Redskins, however. He then moved into the world of Nascar, winning three championships with Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart. Gibbs proves that a good coach isn’t necessarily a reflection of his sport. Great coaches bring the best out of anyone they truly believe in.
Son Of A Pitch – Werewolf In A Girls Dormitory
Son Of A Pitch – Bear Force One
Chris Littler lives in Hollywood. He has a degree in Dramatic Writing from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, one of the most prestigious writing programs in America, which he totally plans to hang on the wall when he has a Study. Chris currently covers video games at UGO.com when he’s not performing improv at iO, and is currently writing a one-hour TV pilot with his friend Wes. Like everyone else you know, he has an album available to purchase on iTunes and has lots of things to say on his blog: chrislittler[dot]com.