Ranking the Best Fictional Football Coaches in TV-Film History
In most cases, the truth is always better than fiction, but for today we are celebrating the fictional world of football and the coaches who have led their teams to glory within it.
Now for those hoping to see Herman Boone, Knute Rockne or Gary Gaines in this list, you will need to look elsewhere because those men are real, and by making movies about them we have already celebrated them.
In this list, it is the fake coaches who get the credit. Still, it should be no surprise that some of the coaches who are tops on this list have a strong inclination towards reality that makes their characters so believable and enjoyable.
Some of these names are meant to create laughter, and some are meant to be thought provoking, but all of them make up the best fictional football coaches in television and film history.
Feel free to join in on the conversation and post the names who you think should have made the list.
Honorable Mention: R. Lee Ermey as Coach Norton in "Saving Silverman"
This only sneaks in as an honorable mention because at its core, as the movie itself has nothing to do with football.
Still, R. Lee Ermey embodies everything that a player could want in a coach—sticking by his former players side all the way to the end (if you see the movie you'll see that he commits to one of them forever).
Not to mention, the old coach does something with a down marker that many have probably dreamed of doing.
10. Kevin and Danny O'Shea in "Little Giants"
Who knew that RIck Moranis and Ed O'Neill would play such convincing brothers?
O'Neill is spot on as a former Heisman Winner living off past glory in his tiny hometown, but the true meaning of football isn't really learned until both brothers share the field.
Since this duo is coaching kids, they make the bottom of the list, but they still qualify because even grown men and NFL football players will admit to liking Little Giants.
9. Coach Klein in "The Waterboy"
In the end it is Henry Winkler as "Mr. Coach Kline" and the Mud Dogs who triumph, but don't count out Coach Beaulieu as the perfect parody of a legendary coach at a major program.
The two make for great comedy, and a lighter look at how easy it can be to find success as a football coach on the silver screen...provided you have a "little green notebook" to guide the way.
8. Coach Molly McGrath in "Wildcats"
With Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson on the roster, it shouldn't be a surprise that the Wildcats found success in the City Championship, but it took a great coach to mold that talent into winners.
Turning gender roles on their ear, Goldie Hawn played a coach with the right pedigree to be great, but had to overcome a lot of stereotyping, along with her team to find success.
It was a lighthearted comedy, but the messages were a little more meaningful, and Coach McGrath is a worthy member of this list.
7. Coach Hayden Fox in "Coach"
The theme song may be more iconic and memorable than Hayden Fox's record at Minnesota State University with the Screamin' Eagles, but everyone remembers Craig T. Nelson in this television role.
Nelson gets extra credit for his role in All the Right Moves, but it was that role that helped him land this one on a long running successful television series highlighting football coaches.
There wasn't as much football as maybe some die-hard football fans would like, but Coach Fox had an impressive coaching tree considering "Dauber" Dybinski went on to win two Super Bowls with the Orlando Breakers after Fox retired.
6. Coach B.A. Strothers in "North Dallas Forty"
Strothers has been compared to the iconic Tom Landry, but since the character himself is fictional he makes the cut for personifying the "see what you want to see" mentality that some coaches possess.
If this is truly a reflection of what the lockers rooms of the NFL were like in the 1970's, then Strothers was the perfect symbol of how the game grew to what it is today.
5. Coach Jimmy McGinty in "The Replacements"
McGinty makes this list because he uses everything that's cheesy about creating and motivating a football team full of replacements, and actually does it well.
He finds rejects, criminals and players with wasted potential, then he puts it all together to make a winning formula.
Coach McGinty even makes a hero out of Keanu Reeves as "Footsteps" Shane Falco—and that alone is worth a prize.
4. Coach Sam Winters in "The Program"
James Caan is the leader of a major program at ESU, with all the trappings of success and pitfalls that real schools still may face today.
Playing Sam Winters, the coach deals with superstars, improper benefits, steroids and the constant pressure from the school to keep winning in order to keep his job.
It's a great example of how some things never change in college football.
3. Coach Bud Kilmer in "Varsity Blues"
Everybody who played high school football, almost anywhere in the country will swear that Varsity Blues was like an unofficial autobiography of their experience.
Jon Voight plays the part of the "living legend" who has never had his methods questioned and never been asked to answer for any of his dealings perfectly. His evil, self-serving agenda could easily be more fact than fiction when it comes to winning football games in small-town America.
The difference is that in real life, players likely never found a way to lead a revolt like the players in this movie did.
2. Coach Tony D'Amato in "Any Given Sunday"
Oliver Stone delivers his opus in the form of a story about football, and finds the perfect man in Al Pacino to portray his anti-hero in Coach D'Amato.
Coach D'Amato is clinging to a glorious past and has watched the pursuit of football glory turn him into a lonely man who has pushed everyone but his players away.
The game itself is changing and D'Amato is the perfect symbol of trying to combine what football "was" to what football has "become."
This sweeping football epic shows the unglamorous side of the game and what it can do to those who commit their life to it. In one of the most iconic football speeches ever, "Tony D" breaks it down perfectly above.
1. Coach Eric Taylor in "Friday Night Lights"
The Friday Night Lights franchise was born from true beginnings after H.G. Bissinger's classic novel following the Permian Panthers was published. It took on a fictional life of its own when the television show was created to mirror the original story.
This may be one instance where the fiction is better than the facts, at least when comparing the Hollywood treatment that the book was given, compared to the television series that didn't try to tell the same story that Bissinger already nailed in print.
Relatively unknown actor Kyle Chandler plays such a simple and authentic character in the television show, as do most of the cast, that it is hard not to be sucked into the story. Immediately former players have to look at Coach Taylor and the town of Dillon and wish that they had the chance to play in a town like that and for a coach like that.
The stories may be worked up for drama, but in the end Coach Taylor is one of the truest depictions of a football lifer, who finds success and failure all mixed together on the football field and off of it.