With the recent news of Sean Payton getting traded over to the Denver Broncos, one of my least favorite lines of argument flooded my Twitter timeline: “it’s never happened before.” In this case, no Head Coach has ever won a Super Bowl with two franchises. File this under the category of something that’s true until it isn’t. It’s a fun fact, not exactly useful in predicting the future.
Sometimes when you see something enough, you need to investigate. Maybe the game passes coaches by or maybe the formula that worked once won’t do in another city. Maybe expectations of bringing in a Super Bowl champion suck the oxygen out of the room, smothering the fire. Maybe. But let’s see if we even have enough of a sample size to work with in this question. I have my doubts.
This Sunday will be the 57th Super Bowl, and if Nick Sirianni’s Philadelphia Eagles win, he’ll be just the 36th Head Coach to win whereas Andy Reid already has one on his resume. For now, we will consider our sample size at 35 individuals to claim the title of Super Bowl Champion Head Coach.
Of those 35, six are with currently with the team they won a Super Bowl with: Bill Belichick (6), Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh, Pete Carroll, Reid, and Sean McVay. Down to 29.
A whopping 14 of the 29 retired after ending their tenure with the team they won the Super Bowl with and never returned to coaching: Weeb Ewbank, Tom Landry (2), Don Shula (2), Chuck Knoll (4), John Madden, Bill Walsh (3), Joe Gibbs (3), Barry Switzer, Brian Billick, Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy, Tom Coughlin (2), Gary Kubiak, and Bruce Arians. Joe Gibbs did come back, but to coach the same franchise so even if he had brought Washington back to glory (he didn’t), it wouldn’t have counted. Down to 15.
Three of those remaining 15 are currently coaching their second team. In addition to Payton taking over the Broncos, Mike McCarthy with the Cowboys and Doug Pederson with the Jaguars are in their second stints. I’m no fan of McCarthy, but both of those guys have done well with their opportunities thus far. Still, we need to eliminate them here. Down to 12.
The dozen remaining coaches that won a Super Bowl with one team got another shot down the road. However, two of them I will eliminate for unfortunate circumstances of dying in their first off season with their new squads. Vince Lombardi took over the Washington football team and Don McCafferty took over the Detroit Lions after their stints with their original clubs concluded. Lombardi died of cancer while McCafferty suffered a heart attack mowing his lawn. I’m eliminating them from the pool. Down to ten.
Only ten? Yes, this is what I’m saying, but let’s dig into it.
· Hank Stram: 7-21 in 2 seasons with New Orleans
· Tom Flores: 14-34 in 3 seasons with Seattle
· Mike Ditka: 15-33 in 3 seasons with New Orleans
· Bill Parcells: 32-32 with New England, SB appearance (XXXI); 29-19 with New York Jets; AFCCG appearance, 34-30 with Dallas
· George Seifert: 16-32 in 3 seasons with Carolina
· Jimmy Johnson: 36-28 in Miami, 2-3 playoff record
· Mike Holmgren: 86-74 in Seattle, 6 playoff appearances including SB XL loss to Pittsburgh
· Mike Shanahan: 24-40 in Washington
· Dick Vermeil: 44-36 in Kansas City
· Jon Gruden: 22-31 with Raiders after 9 year absence, resigned in 2021 after emails surfaced
For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a record of 359-410. It’s 16 playoff teams in 48 seasons and two trips to the Super Bowl, the Seahawks and Holmgren being the best and closest chance at breaking this fun fact. Obviously, many of these teams were bad when these coaches took over and many of those that failed with their hires persisted in the cellar once these coaches left. I won’t go through and make excuses for individual circumstances or preach about losing franchises stuck in the muck. What I will say is that half of the teams on this list likely do not regret their coaching hires. The Patriots, Jets, and Cowboys with Parcells, Dolphins with Johnson, Seahawks with Holmgren, and Chiefs with Vermeil likely make those moves again. Oh, and if you think the Patriots have a bad taste in their mouth from the SB loss with Parcells, remember, no Parcells means no Belichick.
Will it work for Denver and Payton? I have no idea. He’s a creative offensive mind but it’s not going to be clear until he gets there and gets his hands dirty. He’s in a tough division with the uber talented Patrick Mahomes and another offensive genius in Reid, not to mention the talented Justin Herbert. Payton is older than you might think, set to celebrate his 60th birthday at the end of the calendar year.
One wildcard in his favor is his mentor is none other than Parcells. Big Tuna helped turn around three franchises and point them in the right direction. The Patriots (2-14), Jets (1-15), and Cowboys (5-11) were among the worst teams in the league the year before Parcells arrived. The 5-12 2022 Denver Broncos have the talent for a quick bounce back season.
Whatever the case is for the three coaches currently on their second team or maybe a couple of the coaches that are still with their championship club but have some time left in their careers (McVay, Tomlin, Harbaugh), let’s all agree to stop using the fun fact as a reason why hiring these guys is a bad idea. Many of these guys are fantastic coaches and this silly fact will get broken at some point down the road.
Find me on Twitter @gridironborn if it’s still there in the morning.