Only 31 head coaches have ever won a Superbowl. Whilst people clamour over getting an elite quarterback, having an elite head coach is perhaps the most sure-fire way of winning an elusive title. Brian Billick won with Trent Dilfer for crying out loud.
So, in our ongoing review of the greatest head coaches every team has ever had, it’s time to stop by the NFC East.
Oh boy. If you thought Miami had it bad replacing Don Shula after 25 years, what about Dallas? The legendary Tom Landry was in charge for 29 years. That’s almost three decades of brilliance. Yet another team that needed to work out how to replace the best they’d ever seen?
Well, the situation in Dallas was slightly different. New owner Jerry Jones made the difficult decision to get rid of Landry who, unlike Shula, had been presiding over a failing team. Jones replaced Landry with the boisterous Jimmy Johnson, who went on to win two Super Bowls. Johnson was a big enough personality to exist under the fading shadow of Landry, and the early 1990s Cowboys became one of the premier dynasties in NFL history.
Still, lets look at the facts. Landry won two Super Bowl titles, five NFC titles, 13 divisional titles and has the second-most playoff victories of any coach in NFL history. Yes, Johnson won as many Super Bowls in almost a sixth of the time. And Barry Switzer has a better regular season winning percentage than either of them.
But Landry coached them for 29 years for a reason. He pretty much invented the 4-3 defense. He was one of the first to bring in specialist strength and speed coaches. And, just in case you weren’t convinced, his 20 consecutive winning seasons from 1966 to 1985 is an NFL record. Let that last bit sink in. 20 consecutive years with a winning record. And you thought you were bored of the Patriots winning all the time.
For these reasons, Tom Landry is far and away the best coach in the history of the Dallas Cowboys.
A 26 year playoff drought is really quite something. So, spare some thought for the relief of Washington’s fans in 1971, as the George Allen-coached Redskins made it back to the playoffs for the first time since 1945. They would make the playoffs three more times under Allen’s stewardship, but never to the Super Bowl.
Getting to – and winning – a Super Bowl would fall to the guy who is head and shoulders the best coach the Washington Redskins ever had. One Joe Gibbs. Some coaches are simply joined in your mind to the team they coached, and Gibbs and the Redskins are peas in a pod. He won three Super Bowls for Washington with three different quarterbacks, in 1982, 1987 and 1991. Most head coaches have a partner-in-crime at the quarterback position (we see you Bill Belichick), but Gibbs won with Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien. All good players, but none of them are hall of famers.
Gibbs’ offenses were just that good. Credited with a number of offensive innovations, and blessed with players like Art Monk and John Riggins, Gibbs developed a system that used a pounding ground game coupled with a deep passing attack. Nowhere did it come together as well as in the 1991 season. Finishing the regular season with a 14-2 record, they crushed the Falcons and the Lions in the playoffs before handing the Buffalo Bills yet another loss in Super Bowl XXVI.
Don’t be distracted by his comeback in the early 2000s. In his first stint as head coach, Gibbs had a .674 winning percentage and won 16 of 21 playoff games. And of course, he won three Super Bowls in ten years and made the Redskins a powerhouse of 1980s football. Joe Gibbs is the best coach in the history of the Washington Redskins.
The New York Giants
The first coach of the New York Giants was one Bob Folwell, back in 1925. Yep, the Giants have been around for quite a while. Pre-Super Bowl era, their best coach would have to be Steve Owen who coached them for 22 years and won two NFL Championships for his troubles. He stills holds the Giants’ record for games played and games won.
But when you think of the Big Blue, do you really think of any coach other than Duane Charles “Bill” Parcells? Coffee and cake, Penn and Teller, Parcells and the Giants. They simply belong together.
Inheriting arguably the best linebacker to ever play the game in Lawrence Taylor probably didn’t hurt, but Parcells was a master of motivation. He got more out of LT – and the rest of his team – than any coach prior or since. In eight years of coaching he won two Super Bowls, eight playoff victories and 77 regular season wins.
Still, it’s close. Tom Coughlin actually coached the Giants for longer, and also won two Super Bowls. Jim Lee Howell has a better win percentage in the seven years he coached from 1954 to 1960. But Parcells was a larger-than-life character, famed for being able to get the very best out of his players. His coaching tree is also one of the most impressive in the NFL, and his legacy on the game is still felt today. The New York Giants should be proud that Bill Parcells is the best coach they’ve ever had.
When you think of the Philadelphia Eagles, the first coach that comes to mind is the moustachioed walrus himself, Andy Reid. Coach of the Eagles for 14 seasons, he holds the team record for number of games played and number of games won.
However, he never won a Super Bowl, and he only won 10 of 19 playoff appearances. Reid’s Chiefs have an equally disappointing playoff record so however impressive his tenure was, he can’t be the best coach in Eagles history.
No, that honour goes to one Earl “Greasy” Neale, who coached the Eagles from 1941 to 1950 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1969. Neale was a multi-sport athlete, playing baseball for the Cincinnati Reds from 1916 to 1924 and football for three Ohio League teams, including the Canton Bulldogs in 1917.
He was a tough coach, with the attitude you might expect from someone who once said, “If you don’t want to win all the time, you’ve got no business holding a job in sports.” But he was also successful. Under Neale, the Eagles won their first ever divisional crown, imitating and improving upon the famed T-Formation used by the Chicago Bears.
He won two NFL titles in 1948 and 1949, and is the only coach in history to win back-to-back titles by shutting out his opponents. They won 7-0 against the Chicago Cardinals, and then a year later 14-0 against the Los Angeles Rams.
The Eagles have never won a Super Bowl. But in Greasy Neale, they’ve got a multi-title winning, pro football hall of fame coach. No matter how long ago he coached, Neale is clearly the best coach in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles.
This is part of an ongoing series on the greatest head coach every team has ever had. Read others in the series here: