Patrick McCaskey’s new book, Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships published by Sporting Chance Press cast light on 10 of the most successful coaches in NFL history. One of those super successful coaches, Guy Chamberlin, has slipped under the radar of other lists such as ESPN’s Greatest Coaches in NFL History.
Greatest Coaches in NFL HistoryMcCaskey’s top ten are those who won the most championships and there are exactly 10 NFL coaches who have won 3 or more. These include: George Halas (the author’s grandfather), Guy Chamberlin, Curly Lambeau, Paul Brown, Weeb Ewbank, Vince Lombardi, Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh, Joe Gibbs, and Bill Belichick. The most prominent top ten coach today is the still-active Bill Belichick who many believe is likely to increase his championship count by a few more before he is finished.
Most Forgotten Great Coach is Guy ChamberlinThe most forgotten top ten champion is Guy Chamberlin who won all his championships in the first decade of the league—the 1920s. Besides winning way back in time, Chamberlin’s championship teams did not survive into the modern era so there are no team web pages extolling his virtues and calling attention to him. Chamberlin also left football when he was still young, making it a little more likely he would slip into football trivia. Chamberlin was a farm boy from Gage County Nebraska and he returned to his family farm. Unlike some of his contemporaries like George Halas and Curly Lambeau, Chamberlin did not believe the NFL was going to last.
From Kidhood to Big RedChamberlin was born outside Blue Springs, Nebraska, on January 16, 1894. His high school was too small to have a football team. When Chamberlin went away to college at Nebraska Weslyan in Lincoln, he got his chance to play football. The talented athlete joined the football team, which was undefeated his first year. After two noteworthy years at Weslyan, Chamberlin moved on to the University of Nebraska--Big Red. Chamberlin could play halfback or end at Nebraska in the days when players played both offense and defense. In his senior year, he led the Cornhuskers to a 20-19 victory against Notre Dame by running for two touchdowns and passing for another.
Four NFL Championships in Five YearsPeople establishing professional football would remember Chamberlin after his school days were over. George Halas recruited Chamberlin for his first Decatur Staley team in 1920 and the subsequent Chicago Staleys (soon to be Bears) championship team in 1921. Chamberlin moved on to become player coach of the Canton Bulldogs where he won championships in 1922 and 1923. He moved to the Cleveland Bulldogs, a team with many of the Canton players, where he won the 1924 championship and then moved on to the Frankford Yellow Jackets where his team was tops in 1926. About this time, his playing skills had slipped and when he took on coaching the troubled Chicago Cardinals, he did not last the full season. Chamberlin’s four championships were won in an incredible 5 year span. But NFL memories dimmed once Chamberlin was back in Nebraska.
More than 30 years after his playing days ended, Chamberlin was enshrined in both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. These honors came before he passed away in 1967. The University of Nebraska later honored his memory by naming a prestigious player award referred to as the Chamberlin Trophy after him.