Power Ranking the Greatest Coaching Trees in NFL History
Since the NFL began in 1920, there have been numerous head coaches with much individual success to their credit.
Then, there's the coaches who planted a seed and the tree kept growing. It's one area that can really measure a coach's legacy and his impact on pro football.
Obviously the more profound descendants, the greater the influence on pro football. So, here's to power ranking the best coaching trees in NFL history.
Great Coaches, but No Tree
Before we begin, here are some of the greatest coaches in NFL history however, their predecessors weren't nearly as successful.
The greatest coach to ever live didn't have someone after him take over and dominate. After Lombardi left Green Bay, the Packers were sludged into mediocrity for quite a while. Lombardi's best descendant, Forest Gregg (also part of Paul Brown's tree), would lead the Cincinnati Bengals to Super Bowl XVI but lose to the legendary Bill Walsh.
Known as Papa Bear, George Halas is easily one of the greatest coaches to ever live. Other than Mike Ditka though, who's also part of Tom Landry's coaching tree, there's George Allen (also part of Sid Gillman's tree).
Allen was most remembered as the Washington Redskins head coach but other than he and Ditka, Halas didn't have much else after him.
For anyone who wants to argue that Hank Stram is the greatest coach to ever live has a legit reason. Stram coached the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs from 1960-1974 and won three AFL titles including Super Bowl IV.
What most forget though, is that Stram coached those 15 years and had that much success without an offensive, defensive or special teams coordinator. That's right, it was all Hank and no one else coaching eventual Hall of Famers in Len Dawson, Bobby Bell, Buck Buchanon and Willie Lanier.
6. Tom Landry
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The heart and soul of the Dallas Cowboys, Tom Landry was the franchise's first head coach in 1960 and remained in the position through the 1988 season.
Prior to the Cowboys, Landry was the New York Giants defensive coordinator along with Vince Lombardi as the offensive coordinator. There, Landry developed the 4-3 defense that revolutionized the game.
During his tenure with the Cowboys, Landry led Dallas to five Super Bowls and won two of them. Coaches that had NFL success after him were Mike Ditka, Dan Reeves and Raymond Berry.
All three combined for six Super Bowl appearances and ironically Super Bowl XX pitted Berry and Ditka against each other.
Two other coaches of note are John Mackovic and Gene Stallings, both of which had great success at the college level. There, Mackovic and Stallings combined for 10 final Top 25 rankings and eight conference championships.
5. Marty Schottenheimer
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Marty Schottenheimer's coaching tree isn't all that big, however, his influence upon coaches who were under him have seen much success.
In fact, all have actually had more success than Schottenheimer himself, who holds a 200-126-1 career record but is just 5-13 in the postseason with three AFC Championship game losses.
Still, Schottenheimer's impact on those after him is quite impressive.
Directly after Marty comes Super Bowl champions Bill Cowher and Tony Dungy, each who have won one ring and continued Schottenheimer's thread.
Under Cowher comes two solid coaches in Marvin Lewis and Ken Wisenhunt, while Dungy had Mike Tomlin and Lovie Smith. Among those four coaches are three Super Bowl appearances and one where two met each other (Wisenhunt and Tomlin in Super Bowl XLIII).
With all the success that Marty planted, here's to hoping he gets back into coaching for one more shot at his own Super Bowl.
4. Paul Brown
Paul Brown would be higher on the list, however, a lot of players/coaches whom he influenced also tie in with the legendary Sid Gillman.
Brown though, had some excellent players/assistants of his own move on to great things such as Weeb Ewbank, Blanton Collier, Don Shula and Sam Wyche.
As the Cleveland Browns head coach from 1963 through 1970, Collier never had a losing season, went to four NFL Championship games while winning it in 1964 (the city's last pro sports title) and finished with a 76-34-2 record over eight seasons.
Weeb Ewbank was under Brown from 1949 until he took over the Baltimore Colts in 1954. There, Ewbank bested Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry and the New York Giants in the 1958 NFL Championship with Johnny Unitas under center.
A decade later, Ewbank would be coaching against the Colts in Super Bowl III for the New York Jets. Arguably the biggest upset in American sports history and two of pro football's most important wins come from an Ewbank coached team.
Don Shula not only played for Paul Brown but also for Ewbank from 1953-1956. Shula would go on to win 328 games and two Super Bowls. Sam Wyche on the other hand, didn't have as much success as the previous three, however, did make a Super Bowl appearance in 1988.
Brown may not have had 10-plus assistants have success after him, but the four mentioned have quite a resume.
3. Bill Parcells
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Much like Tom Landry and Marty Schottenheimer, Bill Parcell's coaching tree isn't too deep.
That being said, Parcells did win two Super Bowl's himself (Giants in 1986 and 1990) and made a third with the New England Patriots in 1996.
As for his three main descendants, an additional six rings come from Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin and Sean Payton.
Both Belichick and Coughlin have met twice in the Super Bowl and combine for seven appearances as a head coach. Payton on the other hand has five non-losing seasons in six years with the New Orleans Saints and is 41-13 including the postseason from 2009 through 2011.
What's even more impressive about these three, is that none are quite finished just yet and much more resume building will happen. The question is who can continue to best the others, because Belichick, Coughlin and Payton are arguably the three best coaches in the NFL right now.
2. Bill Walsh
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Before we get to Bill Walsh's coaching tree, it must be known that he didn't come one any one particular legendary coach.
The man spent time serving under Paul Brown, Sid Gillman, as well as Al Davis (who's under Gillman) before he was hired as Stanford's head coach in 1977.
After two seasons with the Cardinal, Walsh resurfaced in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, won three Super Bowls and has a monstrous coaching tree of his own.
At the forefront is Mike Holmgren, George Seifert, Paul Hackett, Jim Fassel and Dennis Green. Among these coaches alone we have six Super Bowl appearances and three Lombardi Trophies.
Moving on past Walsh's first barrage of coaches we then see guys like Mike Shanahan, Jeff Fisher, Brian Billick, Jon Gruden, Mike McCarthy, Steve Mariucci, Andy Reid, Gary Kubiak and both Jim and John Harbaugh.
That's seven Super Bowl appearances with five rings and countless playoff wins.
Thing is, this coaching tree is only going to continue and the more we see the NFL change, the more it will stay the same because of Walsh's impact.
1. Sid Gillman
Alas we get to Sid Gillman, the man to which virtually everything can be traced back to.
All of Bill Walsh's tree can be connected with Gillman and even part of Marty Schottenheimer's.
Gillman himself though, had enough success to earn a pro and college football Hall of Fame induction, so it's safe to say he can be put in that greatest of all-time discussion.
In college, Gillman had an 81-19-2 record between the Miami Redskins (now Redhawks) and Cincinnati Bearcats. Beginning in pro football with the Los Angeles Rams in 1955, Gillman also coached the Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers and Houston Oilers.
During his time, Gillman compiled a 123-103-7 record, one AFL championship (1963) and six total championship game appearances (five of six came from 1960-65).
As for his coaching tree pre-Bill Walsh, Gillman influenced Chuck Noll, Al Davis, Chuck Knox, Dick Vermeil, George Allen and Don Coryell. Together, that's five Super Bowls and currently three Hall of Famers.
After Gillman's direct line comes other greats such as John Madden, Tom Flores, Joe Gibbs and Tony Dungy (connected from Noll and Schottenheimer). So, add six more Super Bowls not including Dungy and then everything else after Bill Walsh.
In short, all you can do is appreciate the great foundation put forth by Sid Gillman.
John Rozum on Twitter.