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Golden Era of Coaching?

Posted by Chase Stuart on July 30, 2006

Something that's always interested me was how many active coaches owned Super Bowl rings at any given time. For example, in 1995 only three active coaches had won a Super Bowl -- Bill Parcells, George Seifert and Don Shula. In 1983, 1984 and 1985, the same group of six coaches (Tom Flores, Joe Gibbs, Tom Landry, Chuck Noll, Shula and Bill Walsh) were the only guys on the sidelines with Super Bowl rings. Flores had already won in '80 and Walsh in '81, so no new coaches won in '83 or '84, and none of the six coaches were fired or retired.

At this point I should probably clarify a few things.

  • I'm counting a Super Bowl winning season as that season, not the following January or February when the team actually won. So Weeb Ewbank gets his ring for coaching the 1968 Jets, and not the 1969 Jets.
  • I'm only counting seasons when the coach already had won the Super Bowl. So the NFL gets no credit because John Madden coached in 1970, since he didn't win the Super Bowl until 1976.
  • I'm not counting the year when the coach first won a Super Bowl. This is just artistic preference, since I think it gets at what I want better. So when listing all the coaches that had won a Super Bowl for the year "2005", I'm not going to count Bill Cowher. If you like, feel free to insert the phrase "the summer of" before each year. That way it's easy to remember that during "the summer of 2005", Bill Cowher had zero rings.

As it turns out, the summer of 2006 ranks 1st on the list, along with three other years. As of right now, eight head coaches have won the big game: Bill Belichick, Brian Billick, Bill Cowher, Joe Gibbs, Jon Gruden, Mike Holmgren, Bill Parcells and Mike Shanahan. In (the summers of) 2004 and 2005, you've got the same list except with Dick Vermeil instead of Bill Cowher. Here's the full list of the number of active coaches that had won Super Bowls as of each given season:


    Year Number of coaches
    1967 1
    1968 0
    1969 2
    1970 2
    1971 3
    1972 4
    1973 5
    1974 3
    1975 3
    1976 4
    1977 5
    1978 4
    1979 3
    1980 3
    1981 4
    1982 5
    1983 6
    1984 6
    1985 6
    1986 7
    1987 8
    1988 7
    1989 5
    1990 6
    1991 5
    1992 5
    1993 5
    1994 4
    1995 3
    1996 4
    1997 5
    1998 5
    1999 6
    2000 3
    2001 5
    2002 5
    2003 7
    2004 8
    2005 8

Here's the list from 1987: Mike Ditka, Tom Flores, Joe Gibbs, Tom Landry, Chuck Noll, Bill Parcells, Don Shula and Bill Walsh. So for you trivia buffs, Joe Gibbs and Bill Parcells are the only two coaches active during the four NFL seasons where the most active coaches had won a Super Bowl.

As you'd expect, the numbers are smaller in the early years, and after Lombardi won the first two Super Bowls and left coaching, no active coaches had won a Super Bowl. There was also a dip in 1995 and then in 2000, when Mike Ditka, Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells left the coaching ranks.

Five times a head coach won the Super Bowl but then did not coach the next season: Vince Lombardi (1967), Bill Walsh (1988), Bill Parcells (1990), Jimmy Johnson (1993) and Dick Vermeil (1999). Interestingly enough, only Walsh left on top, as Lombardi (Washington), Parcells (New England, New York, Dallas), Johnson (Miami) and Vermeil (Kansas City) all returned with new teams, but didn't win another Super Bowl. That might change, of course, this year in Dallas.

1999 was an interesting year. You've got six head coaches -- Mike Ditka, Mike Holmgren, Jimmy Johnson, Bill Parcells, George Seifert and Mike Shanahan -- that had won Super Bowls. But you also had four other coaches in the league that would go on to win one: Brian Billick, Bill Cowher, John Gruden and Dick Vermeil. That might seem like a lot, but there have been times where five active coaches hadn't yet won a Super Bowl, but would go on to.

In 1995, Belichick, Cowher, Holmgren, Shanahan and Barry Switzer manned the sidelines without Super Bowl rings, but all would one day win one (To the dismay of Browns fans, Belichick was the only one that wouldn't win it with his team at that time). Not surprisingly, the early years of the Super Bowl Era also had a quintet of active coaches that would go on to win their first Super Bowl rings. In 1969, Tom Landry, John Madden, Chuck Noll, Don Shula and Hank Stram hadn't yet won Super Bowls. By 1970, Stram had won of course, but Don McCafferty joined the league in 1970, and promptly won Super Bowl V while coaching the Baltimore Colts. (George Seifert is the only other coach to win the Super Bowl in his first season. Of course, two Hall of Fame coaches -- Shula and Walsh -- left those teams in pretty good shape.)

Here's the full list showing how many coaches had Super Bowl rings at the time, how many had none but would go on to win one, and how many active that season would ever (past or future) win one.


    Year Had Would At any
    Won Win time
    1967 1 4 5
    1968 0 4 4
    1969 2 5 7
    1970 2 5 7
    1971 3 4 7
    1972 4 3 7
    1973 5 2 7
    1974 3 2 5
    1975 3 1 4
    1976 4 2 6
    1977 5 1 6
    1978 4 1 5
    1979 3 3 6
    1980 3 3 6
    1981 4 3 7
    1982 5 3 8
    1983 6 2 8
    1984 6 2 8
    1985 6 2 8
    1986 7 1 8
    1987 8 0 8
    1988 7 1 8
    1989 5 3 8
    1990 6 1 7
    1991 5 2 7
    1992 5 4 9
    1993 5 3 8
    1994 4 4 8
    1995 3 5 8
    1996 4 3 7
    1997 5 3 8
    1998 5 3 8
    1999 6 4 10
    2000 3 4 7
    2001 5 3 8
    2002 5 2 7
    2003 7 1 8
    2004 8 1 9
    2005 8 1 9

For those curious, Bill Parcells was the "1" in 1986 that would go on to win a Super Bowl. After Parcells' Giants won that season, there were no active coaches in 1987 that hadn't yet won who would go on to win. Think about that for a minute. Doug wrote Friday about how many QBs could win the Super Bowl. Teams give chances to new coaches all the time in the hopes that they'll lead them to Super Bowl victory, but none of the new guys that year would ever do it. That changed when Mike Shanahan joined the head coaching ranks in 1989.

That brings us to the question of the day. Is this the golden era of coaching? Eight active coaches have won a Super Bowl, and they have fourteen rings among them. This might not be the best group of coaches the NFL has ever seen. But if it's not, it's pretty close.

This entry was posted on Sunday, July 30th, 2006 at 11:34 pm and is filed under History. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.