Eagles Head Coaching Search: NFL Coordinators vs. College Head Coaches | Eagles Addict

Jeff Lurie

No matter who Jeff Lurie and the Philadelphia Eagles select as their next head coach, it is no sure thing that person will succeed.  However, if history is any indicator, Lurie would be betting against severe odds if he goes with a college head coach.

The ultimate goal is to win the Super Bowl.  So with that, I looked at every head coach who has ever won a Super Bowl and looked at their career progression and experience prior to winning the ultimate prize in the NFL.

In the history of the NFL, Super Bowl-winning head coaches were predominantly previous coordinators at the NFL level.  At the least, they had prior NFL experience in coaching in some capacity, but most held coordinator jobs at some point.

The only one that ever jumped right from the college coaching ranks to the head job in the NFL and actually won a Super Bowl in their first stint was ex-Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson back in the early 1990’s.

Think about that for a minute…only one guy has ever done that.  One.  And, that was done in the days of dynasties, not to mention Johnson’s roster was dramatically shaped by acquiring numerous draft picks in the Herschel Walker trade.

Dick Vermeil actually came straight from being a head coach at UCLA to the Eagles and took them to a Super Bowl.  However, he had four prior years as a special teams coach for the Rams.  He also didn’t win a Super Bowl until much later in his career.

The great Bill Walsh came directly from a head coaching gig in Stanford, ala Jim Harbaugh, and won Super Bowls with San Francisco.  But, he had 10 years of prior NFL coaching experience, including some time as an offensive coordinator with San Diego.

Barry Switzer won a Super Bowl with Dallas after not having any NFL experience, so I guess we could technically say there were two guys who have done it.  But, do you really want to count him?

Switzer just babysat the team built by Jimmy Johnson and run by Jerry Jones and didn’t really do a single thing to deserve that ring.  Therefore, he shouldn’t be looked at as a success story in this manner.

Here is a look at the Super Bowl-winning head coaches since Jimmy Johnson’s last title in 1994, and their immediate previous position before becoming a head coach (excluding Switzer, of course):

  • George Seifert, DC for the 49ers
  • Mike Holmgren, OC for the 49ers
  • Mike Shanahan, OC for the 49ers
  • Dick Vermeil, HC for the Eagles
  • Brian Billick, OC for the Vikings
  • Bill Belichick, assistant HC and DB coach for the Jets (prior HC for the Browns)
  • Jon Gruden, HC for the Raiders (prior OC for the Eagles)
  • Bill Cowher, DC for the Chiefs
  • Tony Dungy, HC for Tampa Bay (prior DC for the Vikings)
  • Tom Coughlin, HC for the Jaguars
  • Mike Tomlin, DC for the Vikings
  • Sean Payton, assistant HC for the Cowboys
  • Mike McCarthy, OC for the 49ers

If you go back even further and look at previous Super Bowl winning coaches, you’ll still see the pattern of being a coordinator just before becoming a head coach.  Joe Gibbs, Bill Parcells, Chuck Noll, Tom Landry, Don Shula and of course Bill Walsh all fall under that category.

That’s quite an impressive list.

The list of Super Bowl-winning head coaches who were directly out of college?

  • Jimmy Johnson

That’s quite an unimpressive list.

Given the history here, it does make me take a step back for a moment and wonder what’s with all the hype about Chip Kelly or any other college head coach.  Seems to me, the odds are significantly better if you go with an NFL coach, particularly someone at the coordinator level.

Don’t get me wrong, Chip Kelly (and Bill O’Brien, before he agreed to stay at PSU) were/are certainly intriguing candidates.  However, facts are facts and history says it’s highly unlikely that someone like Kelly would come here and win a Super Bowl in his first stint as a head coach.

This is why I still have Denver OC Mike McCoy as my top choice and still think Seattle DC Gus Bradley should be given consideration.  I am also intrigued by 49ers OC Greg Roman, especially considering the history of coordinators coming out of San Francisco.

In any event, the odds of our next coach bringing us a Lombardi trophy are infinitely better if that guy is a current NFL coordinator.


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