Super Bowl: The Worst Coaches To Win Had the Right Team at the Right Time

Dan BooneSenior Analyst IJanuary 27, 2011

16 Aug 1997: Coach Mike Dikta of the New Orleans Saints watches his players during a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Raiders won the game 18-16.
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

Being labeled the worst coach to win a Super Bowl is like being told that your girlfriend is the ugliest Playmate of the month.

A win is a win and the ring, after all, is the thing. 

Still it seems some coaches stumbled into Super Bowl wins by taking over teams at the perfect time or having lady luck smile sweetly on them at key moments.

Many coaches leap from Super Bowl wins to the Hall of Fame but some winning Super Bowl coaches will never hear the Hall's call.

Even a couple of coaches with a pair of rings, Tom Flores and Jimmy Johnson, have yet to hear the Hall's call.

Not all coaches with Super Bowl rings will make the Hall of Fame but were some winning coaches below average or just plain bad?

But a bad win is much better than being an angry Red Miller sitting at home sticking sharp needles into a Craig Morton doll.

1] Barry Switzer 1996 Dallas Cowboys

Switzer, a great college coach at Oklahoma, was plucked from retirement by his good buddy Jerry Jones.

Jones, who fired Jimmy Johnson in a fit of late night drunken rage, wanted to prove that any coach could win with his Dallas Cowboys. 

Switzer did not seem to care much for game planning, personnel, discipline or the pro game itself but he inherited a great, veteran team that was still near its peak.

After losing to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game in his rookie season, Switzer bounced back to beat the Bill Cowher Pittsburgh Steelers, with a big assist from blundering Pittsburgh QB Neil O'Donnell, in his second season. 

Switzer's Super Bowl Bowl week will best be remembered for his epic benderhis bar tab was rumored to top $100,000 for the coach and his thirsty family and friendsand his drunken antics. 

After two more disappointing campaigns, in which team discipline unraveled on and off the field, Switzer was swiftly back into retirement and Jerry Jones began to wreck the remnants of the Dallas Cowboys for the next two decades.    

2] Mike Ditka 1985 Chicago Bears

22 of the 24 starters on the great Bear's Super Bowl team were drafted by General Manager Jim Finks before he left Chicago.

Ditka, a Hall of Fame player and a special teams coach in Dallas, walked into a great team. Ditka did provide a spark of motivation for a depressed franchise but his game day decisions and rash personal picks were often poor.

And Rich Kotite likely could have won a ring with the dominant '85 Bears.

The amazing fact was that those great Bear teams never made much noise after winning a ring in New Orleans.

Save a win over Buddy Ryan's Philadelphia Eagles in the fog and another over ultra conservative Jim Mora and his Saints. the Bears were easily eliminated in every post season appearance after their dominant Super Bowl win.

Joe Gibb's and his Washington Redskins spanked Ditka at home in the first round in '86 and '87 and Bill Walsh's 49ers embarrassed the Bears in a frigid Championship Game at Soldier Field in '88.

Ditka seemed to want to be a showman and salesman rather than a coach, and the Bears owners natural cheapness took a great team and crashed it.

After failing horribly as head coach of the New Orleans Saints, Ditka successfully made the move to television pitchman and television talking head.

Ditka is much better as an ESPN color clown-man than he ever was as a head coach. 

3] Brian Billick 2000 Baltimore Ravens  

Billick, always proclaimed as an offensive genius, had the worst offense and the worst QB to ever win a ring.

The Ravens won with defense and more defense.

During his tenure in Baltimore, Billick never was able to develop even an average QB or offense. Each year a new signal caller was shuffled in and out as the Billick QB project let the defense go to waste.

Trent Difler, now a television talking head, remains the only winning QB cut after a Super Bowl win. Difler was slashed from the Ravens after Billick spotted greatness in Elvis Grbac.

Still, Billick and Difler landed on their feet. Tune in to ESPN and listen to experts Difler and Billick, the worst winning pair ever in a Super Bowl, expressing their opinions on offenses and QB's throughout the league

4] Don McCafferty 1971 Baltimore Colts

The Colts won perhaps the most boring, forgettable Super Bowl in NFL history. 

The Colts and Cowboys combined for only 24 first downs but added six interceptions and six fumbles. The MVP was a linebacker, Chuck Howley, on the losing team.

The game's star player, aging Johnny Unitas, left with an injury.

The Cowboys QB, Craig Morton, is one the worst players ever to lead a team to the big game.

McCafferty, the only rookie head coach to win the big bowl, replaced Don Shula and the year after his sole, "Super" win lost to Shula's Dolphins in the playoffs.

McCafferty was fired five games into his third season in Baltimore for refusing to bench Johnny Unitas after a 1-4 start. 

Sadly, McCafferty died at 53, after only one other season which was spent coaching the Detroit Lions.

Perhaps the easy going McCafferty, a favorite of Unitas as head coach and Colt offensive coordinator, would have become a great head coach if had lived longer.

After all, he did best Tom Landryat the time considered a coach that could not win the big gamein his Super Bowl victory.

Though it would have been tough to turn the Lions around. Anyone sent to coach in Detroit, post Bobby Layne, for football seems destined for doom.

Unitas, who once said he would not cross the street to tinkle down Don Shula's throat if he was on fire, certainly liked McCafferty much better than Don Shula. 

And Johnny U knew football.

5] Jon Gruden

Gruden fell into a ball club that was already built and ready to run for the ring.

Tampa Bay was a veteran filled ball club that just seemed unable to get past the NFC Championship Game.

In the NFC Championship Game, Gruden got the Bucs past the always ready-to-choke Philadelphia Eagles and found a perfect foil waiting for him in the Bowl: his old team, the Oakland Raiders.

Apparently the Raiders offense had not adjusted much since Gruden's time at the helm because it seemed like the Buc's defense knew the Raiders offensive play calls before they were run. 

Gruden's Bucs faded fairly quick after their Super Bowl season but his image has remained high due to his Monday Night Football gig and because he stays on the perpetual coaching rumor-mill tree.

Gruden took the team to a Super Bowl win, something Tony Dungy did not do, but the Buc's collapsed quickly around him.

Honorable Mention

Bill Cowher 

Cowher went 2-4 in AFC Championship games and 1-1 in Super Bowls, and that one Super Bowl win came with a lot of help from the men in stripes.

Tony Dungy

Like Cowher, Dungy always seemed to stall in the post season.

Even against the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl it took a Rex Grossman meltdown to make the ring a sure thing.

And the question always remains: Would Dungy, a defensive minded man, ever have smelled the Super Bowl without the services of Payton Manning?


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