Friday, May 16, 2014

Who Are the Greatest Coaches in NFL History?

Sporting Chance Press author Patrick McCaskey had a quick answer to the question  "Who are the greatest coaches in NFL history?"

The ones who won the most championships.

Patrick McCaskey and Sporting Chance Press starting working on a book that examined the football lives of the greatest NFL coaches long before ESPN came out with their postings and program on same subject: Greatest Coaches in NFL History. We called our book Pillars of the NFL.  Originally, the publisher was considering a book on the folks who really formed the league and got it going--a  book that would include not only coaches, but owners and others like early NFL President Joe Carr.  Patrick wanted to  keep it simple and focus on the coaches.  When ESPN came out with their list, we looked at it, but not too hard because we were focused on our guys--the top champions.  As our author continued to write the book,  research and refinement continued. 

Sporting Chance Press's Pillars of the NFL:

  1. Halas
  2. Chamberlin
  3. Lambeau
  4. Brown
  5. Ewbank
  6. Lombardi
  7. Noll
  8. Walsh
  9. Gibbs
  10. Belichick

The ESPN Greatest Coaches in NFL History:

  1. Lombardi
  2. Walsh
  3. Shula
  4. Halas
  5. Noll
  6. Brown
  7. Belichick
  8. Landry 
  9. Gibbs
  10. Lambeau

Our list is strictly by championships won.  Keep in mind  that the NFL began their first season in 1920--although the NFL was called the American Professional Football Association (APFA).  The first Super Bowl was played on January 15, 1967 although at the time it was called AFL-NFL World Championship Game. Naturally, many modern fans view NFL history from Super Bowl I on.  But we are approaching the 100 year anniversary of the NFL!

Pillars of the NFL was a labor of love for the author.  Patrick McCaskey is a huge fan of his grandfather George Halas and professional football.  Halas "lived and breathed" the Bears and his family is all about the Bears,  faith,  and service to the community.   Patrick McCaskey was pegged early on as an ambassador for the Bears.  He speaks to countless schools, community groups, charities, civic events and more.  Whether it's an opening ceremony for a football field the Bears helped renovate, the unveiling of a new Bears Illinois License plate, or a funeral or memorial service for a Bears veteran,  Patrick is often present.  He is also at his Halas Hall office nearly every day of the year.  He has been working steady for the Bears for 40 years now. 

If you know anything about today's media, you know that there will be more hits on an ESPN posting today on the "Greatest Coaches in NFL History" than we will sell copies of Pillars of the NFL for the life of the book.  Yet, we still believe that Pillars offers a service to football fans who want to understand the story behind these coaches in one place.

Our Pillars of the NFL pays homage to professional football.  The focus is on the football lives of the coaches, their players and teams.  These coaches are an interesting bunch and I would encourage fans to get to know them. 

Below we write about two of the least known and understood.  Neither of these made the top ten ESPN list. 

Guy Chamberlin

On our way to producing Pillars, our greatest challenge was Guy Chamberlin. Outside of Nebraska, few know Guy Chamberlin. Chamberlin was an incredible athlete and he holds a unique place among the top NFL coaches.  First Chamberlin coached the Canton Bulldogs (2) , Cleveland Bulldogs, and Frankford Yellow Jackets to four championships in the 1920s.  His nickname was "Champ."

Of course, some would say that his championships hardly count in NFL history because after all, it was the 1920s and the game was primitive.  But Chamberlin had a special weapon that helped him win and it was anything, but primitive--it  was Chamberlin himself.  Chamberlin was a tremendous offensive end and perhaps an even better defensive end.  In the days when the football was a bloated rugby ball almost impossible to pass and rules made the passing game risky, the young Nebraska farmer was perhaps the best end in the league.  By today's standards, he caught a tiny number of passes, but the end around was used liberally and Chamberlin who was big and lightening fast--was a master at it.  On defense, Chamberlin was disruptive.  Once he was in the opposing team's backfield, chaos reigned.  He played almost a hundred years ago yet he was so fast, strong, and talented that he would likely find a job today in the modern NFL--he was that good. 

When he played at Nebraska as a transfer student from Nebraska Wesleyan, he had been made fun of by some members of the varsity.  At his first opportunity to scrimmage with the varsity, he knocked three opposing Cornhuskers out of action.   His coach had to intervene so that Nebraska would have enough players to compete against opposing teams.  He admired Jim Thorpe and had played for him in Canton before the forming of the NFL.  Chamberlin was good enough to break into Jim Thorpe's inner circle very quickly.  Thorpe and Chamberlin were good friends.  

Chamberlin jumped from team to team in  the early NFL and the practical farm boy told himself there was no future in professional football.  His championship teams would eventually discontinue play so there are no official team archives to commemorate their great coach and player.

When Chamberlin found it difficult to play, he ended his playing and coaching career and found his way back to Nebraska and his family farm.  In those days, a professional football player returning to a rural community was not looked at as an idol.  Folks would have been more interested in knowing what kind of farmer he would become and if he was going to be as good as his daddy.  Through the Depression and Dust Bowl, the Chamberlin family worked their large farm.  Guy shared his responsibilities with his brothers and his father who lived to a very old age.  In time, Guy moved away from farming and lived very humbly. His favorite job was working as a State Livestock Superintendent that put him into contact with the young men at the prison reformatory.  Chamberlin worked with these young men and they appreciated the humble ex-football star so much so that they built a ball field and dedicated it to him.  Chamberlin was a champ for many reasons. 

Weeb Ewbank

Another Pillar of the NFL who receives less attention than many other coaches is Weeb Ewbank.  Ewbank was a special football coach who won championships with two teams--the Colts and the Jets.  He coached two of the greatest quarterbacks: Johnny Unitas and Joe Namath.  What's truly remarkable is that Ewbank had so much success managing his quarterbacks who were so very different.  Unitas was relentless, strong-willed, and a take-charge guy who some coaches might find as someone who infringed on their territory.  Namath was the glamorous face of New York, the king of NY nightlife (although he was very hard-working), and a quarterback who faced physical adversities from day one in the NFL.  Sports fans and reporters were more likely to credit these football superstars (Unitas and Namath) with winning while Ewbank stood in the shadows.   But when you dig deeper, you see that Ewbank was indeed a very special coach.  First, he built his teams from ground zero.  If you were an owner starting out, Ewbank would be your man.  And he was great at controlling the finances.  Second, he was a master at managing athletes. Ewbank was a patient man and unlike many coaches of his time, he was excellent and tireless at working with personalities.  Ewbank was physically a small man, but he loomed large in the history of the NFL.  He worked very hard, maintained a positive attitude, and valued his players-coaches-and fans.  Ewbank enjoyed his 91 years on this earth.  A great guy and a great coach to get to know.

 Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of several excellent sports books, the most recent is Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships by Patrick McCaskey.  Pillars examines the football lives of the 10 top coaches in NFL history.  Patrick McCaskey is a Senior Director of the Chicago Bears who has worked for the club for 40 years.

The ESPN Greatest Coaches in NFL History voting panel consisted of Chris Berman, Jeffri Chadiha, John Clayton, Colin Cowherd, Mike Ditka, Gregg Easterbrook, Herm Edwards, David Fleming, Ashley Fox, Greg Garber, Mike Golic, Suzy Kolber, Eric Mangini, Chris Mortensen, Sal Paolantonio, Bill Polian, Rick Reilly, Mike Sando, Adam Schefter, Ed Werder, Seth Wickersham, Trey Wingo.