If Jim Harbaugh Is Worth $8 Million, Then What Was Vince Lombardi Worth?

Zachary Ball@MLBDraftCntdwnAnalyst IJanuary 6, 2011

If Jim Harbaugh Is Worth $8 Million, Then What Was Vince Lombardi Worth?

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    Rumors are flying around Jim Harbaugh like crazy.

    Some still have him ending up as the head coach at Michigan, but the more credible ones (if there is such a thing as a "credible" rumor) have him finding his way to the NFL.

    The more amazing reports coming out regarding Harbaugh looking at the highest salary of any coach in NFL history has got me thinking.

    If Harbaugh, a somewhat proven college coach with zero experience as an NFL head coach, is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $7-8 million, shattering the head coaches' salary records, then what would someone like Vince Lombardi, and his two Super Bowl victories and five NFL championships, be worth on the open market, in their prime, in a market like we have today?

    Or Chuck Noll (four Super Bowls)? Or Tom Landry (two Super Bowls and five conference titles)? Or heck, even Bud Grant (four Super Bowl experiences)?

    Let's check it out.

Tom Flores

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    The stats

    • 97-87 in 12 years (1979-87, 1992-94) (36th all-time)
    • .527 winning percentage (67th all-time)
    • 8-3 in playoffs (ninth all-time with .727 winning percentage)
    • Two AFC championships
    • Two Super Bowl victories


    Flores had a heck of a run with the Raiders during their transition from Oakland to Los Angeles. He had an epic run from 1982-85, where he won 75 percent of his games, made four playoff appearances, and won the 1983 Super Bowl. 

    And that doesn't even include his 1980 Super Bowl victory.



    Flores is kind of an underrated coach and benefited from coaching in a great organization in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He was more of a caretaker, but would still deserve to be paid more than Harbaugh will command.

    Based on his two Super Bowl victories alone, I'd award him $8.05 million.

Jimmy Johnson

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    The stats

    • 80-64 in nine years (1989-1993, 1996-99) (tied for 49th all-time)
    • .556 winning percentage (tied for 49th all-time)
    • 9-4 in playoffs (13th all time with .692 winning percentage)
    • Two NFC Championships
    • Two Super Bowl victories


    Jimmy Johnson took over one of the most dismal NFL franchises of all-time when he took charge in Dallas in 1989. He then turned them into one of the most impressive comeback stories in NFL history, winning 36 games from 1991-93 and taking home two Lombardi trophies.

    His comeback attempt with the Dolphins appeared to be on a similar tract, but after failing to improve upon his ten wins in 1999, Johnson called it quits.



    Johnson's ability to turn around the Cowboys and lead them to the promised land twice makes me think he would earn at least the same amount that Harbaugh is looking at, but given he has two SB wins, he should garner at least a tad more. I'll give him $8.3 million.

Bill Parcells

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    The stats

    • 172-130-1 in 19 years (1983-90, 1993-99, 2003-06) (10th all-time)
    • .570 winning percentage (45th all-time)
    • 11-8 in playoffs (tied for 26th all-time with .579 winning percentage)
    • Three AFC championships
    • Two Super Bowl victories


    Parcells posted 10 seasons with 10 or more wins during his runs with the Giants, Patriots and Cowboys.

    It was during his time in New York, however, that Parcells was at his best. He posted a winning percentage of .611, went 8-3 in the playoffs and won both of his Super Bowls. And whenever his teams made it to the playoffs, even in the years they didn't bring home a trophy, they still found a way to make it deep into the tournament.



    Parcells' record is weighed down by a couple of tough seasons with New England and a mediocre run in Dallas. Still, it's easy to forget how good he was in New York because it was his first gig. I'd say he's worth at least what Harbaugh is, and certainly more during his prime.

    I'd shell out about $8.5 million for Parcells during his prime.

George Seifert

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    The stats

    • 114-62 in 11 years (1989-2001) (30th all-time)
    • .648 winning percentage (15th all-time)
    • 10-5 in playoffs (tied for 14th all-time with .667 winning percentage)
    • Two NFC championships
    • Two Super Bowl victories


    Seifert may or may not have ridden the coattails of Bill Walsh, but nevertheless what he did with the 49ers in the early 1990s was remarkable. He was at least 10 games every season he was with San Fran, and won 14 games three times in his first four years. He won two Super Bowls, and his teams made an appearance in in six NFC Championship games. With the 49ers he posted a .766 winning percentage. His stock dropped off during his three-year run with the Panthers, the last of which saw his squad finish with a 1-15 record, worst in the league.

    Still, this salary adjusted to 2010 numbers is primarily based on his performance during the prime of his coaching career, which obviously saw a historic run from 1989-1996.



    Based on his ridiculous run from 1989-96, Seifert should definitely earn more than Harbaugh's estimated salary, let's call it $8 million flat. 

    I think Seifert would have to be worth about $8.8 million during his prime.

Bill Cowher

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    The stats

    • 149-90-1 in 15 years (1992-2006) (17th all-time)
    • .623 winning percentage (22nd all-time)
    • 12-9 in playoffs (tied for 28th all-time with .571 winning percentage)
    • Two AFC championships
    • One Super Bowl victories


    Cowher doesn't have anywhere near the championship credentials of most of the guys on this list, but he gets credit for posting a winning record in 11 of his 15 seasons. His teams won their division nine times, made the playoffs ten times, and won two AFC championships and one Super Bowl.

    Cowher had a particularly impressive run from 1994-97, winning 44 games in four seasons, including four division titles, five playoff victories, and an AFC title.

    And he was at it again from 2004-05, going 26-6, posting a 5-1 record in the playoffs and bringing home his only Super Bowl trophy.

    Even now, being out of the game for four years, Cowher's name comes up with every new coaching vacancy, and he's widely considered as one of the top coaches still around.



    Based mostly on the performance of Cowher during his prime (1994-97, 2001-05) and just a tad bit on how in demand his services are, I think Cowher would be worth at least $9 million.

Joe Gibbs

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    The stats

    • 154-94-9 in 16 years (1981-92, 2004-07) (5th all-time)
    • .621 winning percentage (24th all-time)
    • 17-7 in playoffs (12th all-time with .708 winning percentage)
    • Four NFC championships
    • Three Super Bowl victories


    Gibbs is one of four coaches in NFL history to win three or more Super Bowls. He has 17 playoff victories and despite his mediocre comeback-tour with the Skins, still finished 60 games above .500 for his career.

    Starting in 1982, Gibbs and the Redskins put together one of the more impressive runs in NFL history. From that year, until 1987, the Skins won 66 games and lost 22, a .750 winning percentage. In that period, the Skins made three Super Bowl appearances, won two of them and went 11-3 in playoff action.

    But Gibbs wasn't done yet. From 1989-91, the Skins went 34-14, and won four playoff games and the 1991 Super Bowl.



    Gibbs easily ranks as one of the top coaches in the Super Bowl era, and one of the top-five since the AFL-NFL merger. During his prime, there was no one better, and that earns him at least $11 million.

John Madden

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    The stats

    • 103-32-7 in 10 years (1969-78) (34th all-time)
    • .763 winning percentage (Second all-time)
    • 9-7 in playoffs (30th all-time with .563 winning percentage)
    • One AFC championship
    • One Super Bowl victory


    Madden ranks 34th all-time in wins, but all you have to do is check out his winning percentage to now how great of a coach he was. He ranks second all-time in the category and first if you eliminate anyone who coached for less than seven seasons.

    The closest his team ever came to a losing record was a 9-7 mark during his final season in 1978. If you eliminate that season, his teams won at least 70 percent of their games in six of his 10 seasons. 

    It's remarkable that Madden's teams won only one Super Bowl during his tenure.

    From 1974-77, he went on a historic tear, winning 47 of 56 games and the 1976 Super Bowl.



    Madden gets my vote as the guy I would want coaching my team if I was going to lose my job if my team didn't make the playoffs. His teams failed to make it only twice in 10 years. He's worth at least what Gibbs is during both of their primes.

    He'd be worth about $11.5 million.

Paul Brown

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    The stats

    • 213-104-9 in 25 years (1946-62, 1968-75) (fifth all-time)
    • .672 winning percentage (10th all-time)
    • 9-8 in playoffs (38th all-time with .529 winning percentage)
    • Three NFL championships
    • Four AFC championships


    Brown often doesn't get the attention he deserves, but it's hard to overlook a coach who has seven combined championship notches on his belt. His teams made championship game appearances 11 times. And if you eliminate his run with the Bengals from 1968-75, he would have finished his coaching career with a .767 winning percentage, which would have qualified for the second-best of all-time.

    It took until his 11th year for Brown's team to finally post something other than a winning record. And it took another six years after that for him to have another losing season.

    He made ten consecutive playoff appearances, and in 12 of his first 13 seasons.

    Coincidentally, from 1946-1955, Brown's teams finished first in their division every single season.



    If you excise his run with the Bengals, Brown is one of the finest coaches in NFL history. We won at a clip better than anyone with more than seven seasons as a coach and brought home more trophies than anyone during his time.

    He's worth far more than Harbaugh, and should collect at least $15 million.

Bill Walsh

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    The stats

    • 92-59-1 in 10 years (1979-88) (40th all-time)
    • .609 winning percentage (29th all-time)
    • 10-4 in playoffs (tied for 10th all-time with .714 winning percentage)
    • Three NFC championships
    • Three Super Bowl victories


    Bill Walsh was the mastermind of not only the San Francisco 49ers dynasty, but also the west-coast offense. He utilized his system to win three Super Bowls, win nearly 10 games a season for a entire decade, and set all sorts of NFL and team records.

    If you eradicate Walsh's first two seasons, during which he was trying to set up his offense and get the right players for his system, Walsh would have a 84-35 record and a .706 winning percentage.

    His teams won three championships in seven seasons and made the playoffs in all but three years.

    More impressively, and a testament to his system, the 49ers finished in the top 10 in just about every single offensive category during his tenure there.



    Walsh was the ultimate big-game coach, but whenever his 49er teams didn't make it to the Super Bowl, they usually flamed out in the first round. Still, his big-game ability, combined with his innovative offense should earn him around $18 million per year during his prime.

Chuck Noll

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    The stats

    • 193-148-1 in 23 years (1969-91) (Seventh all-time)
    • .566 winning percentage (46th all-time)
    • 16-8 in playoffs (tied for 14th all-time with .667 winning percentage)
    • Five AFC championships
    • Four Super Bowl victories


    Noll may have had a ugly start to his career (1-13 in 1969, blech!) and a mediocre end (60-67 during his final eight seasons), but what he did between was the stuff of legends.

    Utilizing a rag-tag group of Hall of Famers and one of the more menacing defenses in NFL history, Noll led his Steelers to five AFC titles, and five Super Bowl wins in six seasons.

    During that stretch (1974-79), the Steelers won 67 of 87 contests and went 13-2 in the playoffs.

    And it wasn't as if it was always easy. Noll had to keep up the spirits of a quarterback whom most of the city of Pittsburgh loathed, as well as help reign in some of the biggest egos in NFL history.



    Noll has four Super Bowl rings, and that counts for something.

    It makes him one of four guys on this list worth at least $20 mil a year, and he'd rank slightly behind Tom Landry at an even $20 million.

Tom Landry

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    The stats

    • 250-162-6 in 29 years (1960-88) (Third all-time)
    • .607 winning percentage (30th all-time)
    • 20-16 in playoffs (32nd all-time with .529 winning percentage)
    • Five NFC championships
    • Two Super Bowl victories


    Now we're entering rare air with Tom Landry. 

    Landry is epic, historic, iconic.

    During a stretch that ran from 1966-1983, Landry's teams won 189 games and lost only 66 times. During that stretch his teams lost more than five games only once. And it was during this period that the Cowboys won five NFC titles and two Super Bowl trophies.

    His teams also made the playoffs every season except one during that time.

    It's really hard to qualify, much less quantify how great Landry was.

    Unfortunately, Landry suffered through a very ugly stretch during his first few seasons. From 1960-64, his squads went 18-46, bringing down Landry's career winning percentage drastically.



    Landry is truly one of the finest coaches in sports history. His run with the Cowboys is one of the most impressive dynastic runs in sports history, and his fedora will live on forever in Dallas. 

    He is one of four coaches who, if Harbaugh is bringing in $8 million a year, should bring in at least $21 per season during his prime.

Don Shula

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    The stats

    • 328-156-6 in 33 years (1963-95) (First all-time)
    • .678 winning percentage (Ninth all-time)
    • 19-17 in playoffs (39th all-time with .528 winning percentage)
    • Five AFC championships
    • One NFL championship
    • Two Super Bowl victories


    There was simply put, never a better winner in NFL history than Shula, who averaged almost 10 wins per season for 33 years!

    And if that wasn't enough, his teams won at least 10 games 20 times, 11 or more games 13 times, 12 or more games EIGHT times, 13 or more THREE times, and 14 victories twice.

    His teams won their division a ridiculous 19 times and Shula finished an astonishing 172 games over .500. One-hundred and seventy-two! Only 10 coaches in NFL history have won at least 172 games, and Shula is that many games over .500!

    It helped that he had a couple of Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Johnny Unitas and Dan Marino, but nonetheless, what Shula did can hardly be compared to any other coaching feat.



    Shula wasn't the best big-game coach in NFL history, but he has more wins than any other, which earns him a cool $25 million per year.

Vince Lombardi

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    The stats

    • 96-34-6 in 10 years (1959-67, 1969) (37th all-time)
    • .738 winning percentage (Third all-time)
    • 9-1 in playoffs (First all-time with .900 winning percentage)
    • Three NFL championships
    • Two NFC championships
    • Two Super Bowl victories


    You can argue that Lombardi is the greatest coach in NFL history.

    The guy never went more than two seasons without winning some sort of championship.

    He won at least 10 games in five of his 10 seasons.

    He won a Super Bowl (number two!) with only nine victories.

    He won 90 percent of his playoff games and his only loss came in his second season.

    He finished his career winning nine straight playoff games.

    And oh yeah, he's Vince Lombardi!

    Enough said.



    Lombardi is the greatest coach in NFL history. He doesn't have the most wins, or the highest winning percentage, and he doesn't have anywhere near the most Super Bowls.

    No coach in NFL history except for Lombardi can you say, in any given season you have a 50 percent chance of winning a championship.

    Most of all he's Vince Lombardi, and that alone earns him the most money any head coach in the NFL should ever be paid.

    $30 million per year.