One would think that winning Super Bowl coaches must have come from blue-blood college programs. Texas, Ohio State, Southern Cal, Penn State, Alabama … you name it. The football lines would favor it.
But that hasn’t always been the case. Some super-successful head coaches never even played big-time ball, and many never played in the NFL.
Here’s a look at some unique stories … in “quick-hit” format … of coaches who didn’t follow the conventional path to big-time success. Take a look:
Bill Belichick — While his father was an accomplished college coach, Belichick wasn’t a big-time prospect as a young man. He grew up around the United States Naval Academy, where his father coached, and he played football, lacrosse, and even squash in high school.
He did play college football at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, but nobody ever thought he’d end up leading an NFL team to six Super Bowl wins (New Orleans Patriots) and be a coordinator at another franchise for two more titles (New York Giants).
Tom Flores — Flores was the head coach of two Super Bowl teams with the Raiders and was an assistant for another. He played college ball at the University of the Pacific in the 1950s and after playing for the Raiders, Bills, and Chiefs of the old AFL, he was hired by Al Davis to coach with the Raiders in 1972.
He was eventually hired to be the head coach of the Raiders. He was the first Hispanic-American to achieve this role. Flores led the Raiders to Super Bowl wins in 1980 and 1984, and went 83-53 with the organization. He also later coached the Seattle Seahawks.
Joe Gibbs — Gibbs was the two-time head coach of the Washington Redskins, and he made the best of it. Three Super Bowl trophies came during his tenure, and what is more impressive is knowing he never even played football in the pros or college. His Redskins teams went 154-94 during his tenure (two stints combined).
Gibbs has also been a successful NASCAR racecar owner. He was born just north of the epicenter of stock-car racing (Charlotte, N.C.), and Gibbs is still around that sport today.
Vince Lombardi — Lombardi was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. of Italian descent. He eventually earned a scholarship to play football at Fordham University in the Bronx. After a successful college playing career, he began coaching — first at Fordham, later at Army.
Then, he received his big chance with the New York Giants of the NFL. That is what set him up for the job with the Green Bay Packers, where he led the Pack to wins in the first two Super Bowls back in the 1960s. The Packers were the heavy favorites in the first two Super Bowl NFL betting lines.
Don Shula — This Ohio native played his football at John Carroll and was drafted into the NFL in 1951 from his tiny college. By 1960, he was an NFL assistant coach with the Detroit Lions, and he eventually became the head coach for the Baltimore Colts. As head coach, Shula was on the losing end of the famous Joe Namath “guarantee” in Super Bowl III.
By the time Shula was with the Miami Dolphins? He was winning trophies (1972 and 1973) and then fell in two Super Bowls in the 1980s. He finished with an overall pro coaching record of 328 wins, 156 losses, and 6 ties. It was an incredible career.
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Brian McLaughlin is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of BMac and Herd’s FCS Podcast. He has written for The Sporting News, headed up the PARADE Magazine High School All American teams, covered college football for HERO Sports, and wrote for so many newspapers he lost count. Follow BMac on Twitter @BrianMacWriter.