NFL head coach Mt. Rushmore: who’s on it?

I love this game, but have never written about it. So here goes. They’ve decided to erect a Mt. Rushmore for pro football coaches. What four legendary figures are on it?

The way I see it, three men are automatics.

  • George “Papa Bear” Halas more or less invented the NFL, coached nearly 50 years and won six titles.
  • Vince Lombardi: They didn’t name the trophy after him for nothing. Won five titles.
  • Bill Walsh: Reinvented pro football, creator of the West Coast offense, father of the modern game, and his legacy includes one of the two most prolific coaching family trees in history. Won three titles in eight years, then handed over the reins to protege George Seifert, who won two of the next six.

So really, the question boils down to who gets that fourth spot. There are a number of candidates.

    • Chuck Noll: The only coach to win four Super Bowls.

  • Bill Parcells: Won two Super Bowls, and might have won a couple more if Jerry Jones wasn’t an idiot.
  • Tom Landry: The Cowboy legend and one of the classiest men to ever stride the sideline won two titles.
  • Curly Lambeau: The guy the Frozen Tundra is named after won six titles – tied with Halas for the most all-time.
  • Joe Gibbs: Won three Super Bowls. His QBs were the remarkably pedestrian Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien, so that’s pretty impressive.
  • Don Shula is the winningest coach in NFL history with 328. He won two Super Bowls and was responsible for the only undefeated champ ever, the ’73 Dolphins.
  • Weeb Ewbank: I know, I know, but he won four titles.
  • Sid Gilman: Won one AFL title and is regarded by many as the father of the modern passing game. We mentioned Walsh’s coaching tree above – Walsh is two levels down in Gilman’s tree, which reads like a who’s freakin’ who of coaching.
  • John Fox: Hasn’t won a Super Bowl so far, but he did win a playoff game with Tim Tebow at quarterback, and as ESPN said this morning, that’s like winning the World Series with a hockey team.
  • Some of you will insist that we have to at least include Bill Belichick. Yes, he won three Super Bowls. But then he got caught cheating and since that point is 0-2 in the Big Game. I don’t see how we can assume that any of his wins were clean, and ain’t no cheaters on NFL Coach Rushmore.

But none of those are my choice. I think the fourth face on Coaching Rushmore ought to be…

  • Paul Brown: He won four AAFC titles in four years. Now, that doesn’t count because it wasn’t the NFL, you’re thinking. Normally I’d agree with you, but then the leagues merged and he won three NFL titles in his first six years. And the other three years he made it to the championship game. If you’re doing the math, that’s seven titles and three more finals appearances in ten years. So maybe those AAFC rings count for something after all, huh. Plus he founded two franchises – the Browns and the Bengals, and you have to see his coaching tree to believe it.

There it is, folks. A fun question and one man’s semi-educated opinion as to the answer. The comment box awaits below.


  • How about the most inept coaches in history? Who’d be on that list? (Rule: Can’t make them all Bears.)

  • There’s a great Chuck Noll story about him taking over.

    The team was very excited, they’d gone 1 and 10 the year before or something like that, this young, hotshot analytical coach was coming in, so they really wanted to know his plan. He came in and spent a couple of weeks watching film, watching them practice, etc. Finally he calls a meeting.

    The players crowd in the room, early, and sit on the edges of their chairs, leaning forward.

    Noll walks to the lectern, opens a notebook, coughs, then says, “I’ve found out why you’re not winning games. Most of you are not very good football players. You won’t be here next year.” Closes the notebook and walks out.

  • I am and always will be, a Don Shula guy. Loved me some Colts growing up – and still love me some Colts even though they should have handled the Peyton thing better (the less said about “Irsay’s midnight ride” the better. Still, Peyton went to Denver – and Broncos are Colts of another color for me). DS handled stars well, regular trenches guys even better. Sort of Belichick without the sociopathic cheating. Though I have to admit that Paul Brown is probably the guy by any reasonable measure. Still love me some Shula, though….

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