Still Questioning the “Coach with a Ring” Approach

Rick Gosselin is a respected sportswriter, and I generally always trust his word. His take on the Cowboys’ imminent (hopefully) coaching hire is that Jerry Jones needs to go after someone with a ring. Here’s the comment:

Is there any chance Jerry Jones decides to change the structure and culture of his franchise?

No. I think there will probably be a new coach in here. They thought this was a Super Bowl team. I think the next hire has got to be a credibility hire. It’s got to be like bringing in a Parcells. He’s going to have to go out and get a Cowher, a Gruden; somebody with a name, somebody with a ring. And he’s going to have to give up some of the power. Now what he’d like is a situation where he can continue being a GM, at least in name and have a say. But to get a Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden, you’re going to have to give up some of that power. And I do think he’s going to need a credibility hire with this next one. He’s got to bring somebody the public trusts.

I get the credibility part, and as a general matter, I wouldn’t mind seeing a Cowher or Gruden on the sideline in Dallas. The problem, though, is what everyone would expect of this hire. That expectation is that the team had better win and it better win immediately.

Now consider this:

Since the Super Bowl era began in 1966, there have been a total of 237 head coaches in the NFL. A total of 27 of these coaches have won Super Bowl titles. Only 12 of them have won multiple Super Bowl titles. How many of them won Super Bowl titles with more than one franchise?


We can take this a step further. In the 90-year history of the NFL, there have been 450 head coaches, with 53 winning at least one championship. Of these 53, 24 have won multiple championships. How many coaches in the entire history of the league have won championships with more than one team?

Two—Guy Chamberlain with the Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Bulldogs, and Frankford Yellow Jackets during the 1920s; and Weeb Ewbank, who won NFL titles in Baltimore before winning Super Bowl III with the Jets in 1968.

(Okay, technically the answer is three, because Don Shula won the NFL title as the coach of the Colts in 1968 before winning Super Bowl titles in 1972 and 1973 with the Dolphins. However, Shula’s Colts lost to Ewbanks’ Jets in SB III, so I’m not counting Shula on this list).

Sure, Cowher or Gruden could become the first to win titles with two different teams, making all of this moot. However, history would suggest that the initial excitement surrounding the big-name hire might quickly turn into frustration when the championships don’t materialize as quickly as everyone would like. Given the tremendous pressure that head coaches are under in any situation, one can only imagine the pressure a coach would be under when the expectations are as high as what Cowher or Gruden could expect.

Here’s a look at the 12 previous Super Bowl winners who tried to duplicate their success with different teams:

1. Vince Lombardi

Old: Green Bay Packers (Won SB I and II)
New: Washington Redskins (1970)

Result: Lombardi only coached one season in Washington, leading the Redskins to a 7-5-2 record. He died in 1970 of cancer.

2. Hank Stram

Old: Kansas City Chiefs (Won SB IV)
New: New Orleans Saints (1976-1977)

Result: After winning 124 games with the Texans/Chiefs, Stram tried his luck in New Orleans. His teams only managed seven wins in two years.

3. Don McCafferty

Old: Baltimore Colts (Won SB V)
New: Detroit Lions (1975)

Result (corrected): McCafferty may be the most obscure Super Bowl winner on the list. He coached for less than three full seasons in Baltimore before moving on to coach for one season in Detroit. During the offseason after his first year in Detroit, he suffered a heart attack and died. Here is the Wikipedia entry with more of an explanation.

4. Tom Flores

Old: Oakland/L.A. Raiders (won SB XV and XVIII)
New: Seattle Seahawks (1992-1994)

Result: Flores had significant success in Oakland and Los Angeles, but he never got the Seahawks past six wins in his three years there. After posting a 14-34 record, he was out.

5. Joe Gibbs

Old: Washington Redskins (won SB XVII, XXII, and XXVI)
New: Washington Redskins (2004-2007)

Result: Gibbs may have been the best coach of the 1980s. His teams won even with constant changes at the skill positions. However, his Redskin teams in the 2000s were as mediocre as Bill Parcells’ Dallas teams. After recording just one playoff win in four years, Gibbs stepped down for good.

6. Mike Ditka

Old: Chicago Bears (won SB XX)
New: New Orleans Saints (1997-1999)

Result: Between 1993 and 1997, Ditka’s name was thrown around as a possible successor at several places. When he finally returned to coach the Saints, though, the results were pretty bad: 15-33 record in three years.

7. Bill Parcells

Old: New York Giants (won SB XXI and XXV)
New: New England Patriots, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys

Result: Parcells led the Patriots to a Super Bowl appearance in 1996, and two years later, his Jets made it to the AFC Championship Game. He boosted the talent base of the Cowboys, but he never managed a playoff win.

8. Jimmy Johnson

Old: Dallas Cowboys (won SB XXVII and XXVIII)
New: Miami Dolphins

Result: Miami made the playoffs three of the four years Johnson was there, but the team’s best record during that time was 10-6. After Jacksonville completely destroyed Miami in the 1999 playoffs, Johnson was done.

9. George Seifert

Old: San Francisco 49ers (won SB XXIX)
New: Carolina Panthers (1999-2001)

Result: Seifert never got much credit for winning two titles in San Francisco. He received plenty of blame in Carolina, though, as the Panthers only won 16 games in three years. In his final season, Carolina went 1-15.

10. Dick Vermeil

Old: St. Louis Rams (won SB XXXIV)
New: Kansas City Chiefs (2001-2005)

Result: Vermeil retired after leading the Rams to the title in 1999. He changed his mind and returned to coach the Chiefs for five seasons. His best year was 2003, when Kansas City posted a 13-3 mark. However, Vermeil never led the Chiefs to a playoff win.

11. Mike Holgrem

Old: Green Bay Packers (won SB XXXI)
New: Seattle Seahawks (1999-2008)

Result: Like Parcells, Holmgren led his second team to a Super Bowl apperance but lost. He had a .670 winning percentage in Green Bay, but that fell to .538 in Seattle. Nevertheless, the Seahawks won four playoff games during Holmgren’s tenure.

12. Mike Shanahan

Old: Denver Broncos (won SB XXXII and XXXIII)
New: Washington Redskins (2010-)

Result: It only took two years for Shanahan to return to the sideline after the Broncos fired him in 2008. Thus far, Shanahan is 4-3 in Washington, which is pretty good considering the team went 4-12 in 2009.

  • fgoodwin

    Vermeil also led the 1980 Eagles to the Super Bowl (beating the Cowboys 20-7 in the NFC Champiobship Game). The Eagles lost to the Raiders, 27-10.rnrnAnyway, I agree with everything Goose wrote; but of course, Goose never says Jerry will actually give up any of his GM power.rnrnI’m convinced Jerry will never do it. I believe his ego has eaten away any semblance of rational thought. Jerry badly wants to prove to Jimmy, the NFL and the whole world that he can build a Super Bowl championship team without Jimmy. If he ever does, he’ll say those three wins in the 90s were unambiguously his doing, not Jimmy’s.rnrnOf course the flaw in such thinking is that Jerry actually sucks as a GM. He would’ve never tolerated a similar lack of results in anyone else as GM. rnrnSo Cowboy fans are doomed to cheer a team that defines mediocrity; the Cowboys will become as irrelevant as they were in the late 90s and early 2000s.rnrnThat may shock Jerry into making a change, because I think he can handle having a bad team, but he won’t tolerate the Cowboys ever being viewed as irrelevant.rnrnOTOH, his grip on the reins of power is pretty tight and perhaps NOTHING will ever convince him to share it.

  • Anonymous

    As a GM, Jerry reminds me of the fantasy football owner who spends half his draft trying to find sleepers and then spends the entire year proposing every trade imaginable. The Cowboys in the past four years have spent half their time trying to manufacture more picks by trading picks for other picks. Occasionally the strategy has worked, but in 2007 and 2009, for instance, the entire process netted a series of player who didn’t last more than two or three years (if that). Compare that with a team like the Steelers, who only make occasional trades. Their picks are almost always solid, and they don’t resort to a flurry of trades to get the job done.nnMy concern with the head coach isn’t that I want Wade here any longer or that I wouldn’t be excited about Cowher or Gruden. My concern is that we are going to demand that either one of them do something that nobody has ever done before. And our demands are going to be such that we will expect a title within two or three years, which isn’t at all realistic.nnI should have noted that Vermeil led the Eagles to the Super Bowl. He’s among only five coaches who have led two different franchises to the Super Bowl.

  • Seattlehawk94

    MaCafferty wasn’t “out” he died of a heart attack during that offseason..

  • Anonymous

    I didn’t know that and obviously neglected to look it up. I’ve updated the post. Thanks.