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There have been many, many great, terrible, inspiring, despicable, and interesting players, coaches, and staff in the century-long history of the National Football League. This page is for those individuals who are most famous for their contributions to football made off of the field, either through coaching, business operations, or covering the NFL on television. Individuals who are notable for their on-field accomplishments as quarterbacks can be found in National Football League Quarterbacks; those notable for on-field accomplishments at other positions can be found in NFL Offensive Players and NFL Defensive and Special Teams Players. Coaches and owners who are more infamous than famous can be found on National Football League Notorious Figures. Finally, those whose greatest contributions to the sport have been in the college ranks can be found on Collegiate American Football.

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Individuals in folders are listed alphabetically, by last name, with the exception of commissioners, which are listed in chronological order of their office.


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     Coaches A-L 
  • George Allen holds the fourth-highest career winning percentage in NFL history, never posting a losing record over twelve seasons with the Los Angeles Rams (1966-70) and the team in Washington (1971-77) and won Coach of the Year with both teams; he also never won a playoff game outside of the 1972 season, his sole visit to the Super Bowl in which his team was the final step in the Dolphins' perfect season. Allen was famous for his squeaky-clean persona that would make a '50s TV dad jealous (he never swore, drank, or smoked), his love of veteran players that could immediately keep up with his meticulous playbooks (Washington's team earned the nickname "the Over the Hill Gang" during his tenure), and his Control Freak tendencies and refusal to plan past the current season (he made "the future is now" his catch phrase). This last point led to trouble throughout his career, first and potentially most notably when he was fired after clashing with Rams' owner Dan Reeves (see below) following a winning '68 season, only to be rehired after his players protested the decision. After he was let go by Washington, he returned to Los Angeles and was met by a team and ownership that did not tolerate his autocratic style—he was fired during the preseason. After a few years of broadcasting and a brief return to coaching in the USFL, Allen retired for several years before deciding to come back for One Last Job to try to save Long Beach State's struggling football program. There he became the only known coach to potentially be killed by a Drench Celebration—the 72-year-old coach fell ill after being dunked with ice water in the final December game of the team's winning season, with some believing it contributed to his death from a heart attack not long after. He was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002. His son George Jr. became Governor of Virginia and a U.S. Senator; his other son, Bruce, became a GM whose long and generally unsuccessful stints with various teams, most prominently his father's old team in Washington, was attributed to owners going off his name rather than his record; you can see more about his career on the "Notorious" page.
  • Bruce Arians had a long amd influential coaching career with several programs. After several decades at the college level, Arians entered the NFL in the late '90s, hopping around as an offensive coach for a few teams, most notably the Pittsburgh Steelers during their run of Super Bowl success in the '00s. Around this time, Arians became known as for his risky offensive philosophy of "No risk it, no biscuit," which eventually wound up costing him the Steelers gig in 2011 when the risks stopped paying off. Arians was hired as the OC of the Indianapolis Colts the following season and was unexpectedly thrust into the head coach position when new HC Chuck Pagano, also hired that year, was diagnosed with leukemia early in the season. Arians, himself a cancer survivor, took the reins and went 9-3, the best performance ever for an interim NFL HC, made all the more impressive by the immense turnaround it represented from the team's previous two-win season. Arians won Coach of the Year for his efforts and was immediately offered the HC position by the Arizona Cardinals, where he saw more success and again won Coach of the Year. Arians retired in 2017 due to continued recurrences with cancer, but he couldn't stay away from the field long and signed to be HC of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019. While his medical history put him at greater risk during the COVID-19 Pandemic during the 2020 season, Arians stayed on for his second season and helped lead the Bucs to a Super Bowl victory, making him the oldest head coach to win the Big Game. He retired from coaching after the next season to take a front office role.
  • Bill Belichick is the current HC and de facto GM of the New England Patriots and widely renowned as the greatest coach of the NFL's modern era (if not ever). Prior to his tenure with the Patriots, Belichick was DC for the late '80s New York Giants under Bill Parcells during the team's two Super Bowl wins. This success won him a position as the last head coach for the Cleveland Browns prior to their relocation to Baltimore, where he recorded only a single winning season in five years before being fired. Belichick returned to assisting Parcells during his tenure with the Patriots and the Jets. Infamously, he replaced Parcells as the HC of the Jets for a single day before unexpectedly announcing his resignation during his introductory press conference, opting instead to return to the Patriots. After going 5-11 in his first year with the team in 2000, a sixth-round pick named Tom Brady filled in for injured starting QB Drew Bledsoe at the start of the 2001 season. Belichick didn't have another losing season for 19 years; his Patriots became the NFL's most dominant franchise, appearing in nine Super Bowls, winning six (making them tied for first among all franchises), and putting up a winning record in every season.note  The debate over whether Belichick or Brady deserves more of the credit for this dynasty is a popular one that's likely to rage until the sun burns out, but Belichick has had such extensive control of the organization throughout all of its prolonged success and has such dominant records that even his detractors regard him as one of the greatest coaches of all time. He holds the record for most Super Bowl and playoff coaching wins,note  and most Super Bowl wins for an individual in any capacity with eightnote . He also won Coach of the Year thrice ('03, '07, '10) and ties Curly Lambeau and George Halas for most NFL titles as coach. Belichick's tenure with the Patriots has also been mired in numerous accusations of cheating—for his role in 2007's Spygate, he received a personal fine of $500,000, the highest ever given to a coach.
    • For all his accomplishments on the field, Belichick is almost as well known for his... unique personality. Most of the time, when cameras are rolling, Belichick has presented himself as The Stoic, rarely showing much emotion (at least of the "joyful" variety) and giving some of the most direct yet completely uninformative answers during interviews to bad questions.note  It's often been said that he's something of a "Stop Having Fun!" Guynote , a consummate competitor who is allergic to having a good time in the NFL. However, players, colleagues, and friends consistently say that this is a front and that the real Bill has a pretty good sense of humor, as indicated by his dog Nike taking his place during the 2020 Draft. He's earned the nickname of "The Hoodie" for almost always wearing a personally customized Patriots hooded sweatshirt (sleeveless, bears his initials, often full of holes) on the sidelines; many have speculated this to be his form of a silent protest against the NFL's Product Placement mandates that require staff to wear official team merchandise rather than their own clothes. Despite his quiet nature, his knowledge of the game is unparalleled, and he isn't afraid to give a thorough and detailed answer to what he deems good questions, to the point where he once went off on a ten-minute history lesson on long-snappers when asked a question at a press conference. He's also one of the few NFL personnel to win a daytime Emmy for his role in the NFL Top 100 All-Time Team panel.
  • Brian Billick was HC of the Baltimore Ravens from 1999-2007. Initially a player drafted as a tight end in the 11th round in 1977 by the 49ers out of BYU, he quickly moved into coaching the following year. After a decade in the college ranks, he joined the Minnesota Vikings, first as TE coach and then OC. Under Billick, the Vikings set multiple NFL offensive records in 1998, giving him a reputation as an offensive mastermind. The Ravens hired him in 1999, and the young franchise won its first ever Super Bowl the following season. However, the Ravens had one of the greatest defensive units of all time that year, while the offense is widely considered one of the worst units to ever win a Super Bowl led by draft bust QB Trent Dilfer. The Ravens moved on from Dilfer the following offseason, banking on Billick's reputation to develop a better successor at QB, but they struggled through a list of veteran cast-offsnote  and notable bust Kyle Boller. With Billick on the hot seat, the Ravens traded for former league MVP Steve McNair, who led the team to one final great season under Billick in 2006. Billick was fired after going 5-11 the following year. Despite his disappointing end in Baltimore, he was considered a hot coaching candidate over the next several offseason but never re-entered the coaching ranks. After several years as an analyst for Fox, he currently works for the NFL Network.
  • Paul Brown was the first HC/GM of the Cleveland Browns from 1946-62 (one of the most dominant runs in pro football history) and later owner-coach of the Cincinnati Bengals from their inception in 1968-75 (they were okay). Brown is credited with essentially creating the modern head coach position and, by proxy, the modern football team. He developed several offensive plays that are still in use to this day, is credited with inventing everything from the playbook to the practice squad to film review to the face mask, and helped break the color barrier by signing African-American players and having the team stay in the same hotels while traveling. After leading his former high school football team, the Massillon Tigers, to four national championships in the '30s, Brown was hired to coach his alma mater, Ohio State, and led them to a national title as well. He was subsequently drafted by the Navy in World War II and served as the HC of the Great Lakes Naval Training Station's team. He was then hired by the nascent Cleveland Browns of the AAFC, which were named to honor him (and to attract fans throughout Ohio, where he had already risen to legendary status), something he wasn't enthusiastic about to begin with.note  He won seven professional championships with the Browns in just ten years: all four of the AAFC's titles, then three in his first six seasons in the NFL, proving the effectiveness of his style and making him the only head coach to win national championships at the high school, college, and pro levelsnote . His teams became less dominant as time progressed and more opponents adopted his tactics, eventually leading to him being fired from the team with his name on it when his Drill Sergeant Nasty attributes no longer guaranteed the same results. After a few years of forced retirement, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1967; one year later, he created the Bengals in the AFL so he could return to coaching without being fired again. (See his entry under "Owners" for more.) His vast coaching tree includes fellow Hall of Famers Bill Walsh and Don Shula; see their entries below. For the NFL's 100th Anniversary, NFL Films named Brown the #1 Greatest Game-Changer in the league's history.
  • Pete Carroll is the current head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. Previously a HC for the New York Jets and New England Patriots in a pair of short and forgettable terms in the '90s, Carroll returned to coaching college football and had an extremely successful tenure as HC of the USC Trojans, winning a BCS Championship in 2004. In 2010, he returned to the pros and took the reins for the struggling Seahawks. Given great power and leeway in drafting and personnel decisions as part of his terms for leaving the college ranks, within three years he transformed the Seahawks from one of the worst teams in the league to one that won its first Super Bowl, making him only the fourth head coach to win a championship on the college and professional level... were it not for the NCAA stripping USC of its title shortly after Carroll's departure after determining the school violated rules about financially rewarding players.note  Known league-wide as a defensive mastermind, he helped put together the so-called "Legion of Boom" secondary. He is paradoxically one of the oldest coaches in the NFL and the most energetic—he is extremely hands-on and motivated, almost Keet-like, and can always, always be seen chewing gum on the sidelines.
  • Guy Chamberlin was a player-coach for various teams in the NFL during the 1920s after a standout college career at Nebraska. Generally regarded as one of the best ends of his era (he was selected first team All-Pro three times), Chamberlin was also a very popular coach among his players, usually inspiring them to put on their best performances during games. He won five championships with four different teams as a player-coach, first with the Chicago Staleys in 1921, back to back with the Canton Bulldogs in 1922-23, then his fourth a year later with the Cleveland Bulldogs, and finally leading the Frankford Yellow Jackets to a title in 1926. After a disappointing 3-7-1 campaign with the Chicago Cardinals, Chamberlin retired after 1927. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1965, two years before his death. His .784 winning percentage is the highest of any head coach with at least 50 career wins.note 
  • Blanton Collier was The Lancer to Paul Brown for many years during his run with the Cleveland Browns and was his eventual successor as head coach. After coaching at a high school for 15 years, Collier was brought into the pros after meeting Brown during their Navy service and was part of his staff at Cleveland during their dominating run of the AAFC and NFL from 1946-53. His mild manners made him a favorite among players, as they contrasted dramatically with Brown's often harsh disciplinarian style. After serving a few years in the college ranks as Kentucky's HC (succeeding Bear Bryant), Brown brought his old friend back to the pros in 1961. However, the absence of Brown's Morality Pet had greatly soured his relationship with his players, the team's performance had leveled off during that time, and Art Modell wound up firing Brown at the end of that season. He chose Collier as his replacement, and the team quickly rebounded under their new leader, winning the championship game in 1964 and appearing in three more. Collier's run of success ended in 1970, however, as his worsening deafness made it almost impossible to communicate with his players and staff. He stepped down after a 7-7 year, though he continued to serve as a scout and assistant coach for the Browns for several years. Collier holds one of the best winning percentages of any NFL coach and was much adored by players, though his head coaching run's relative brevity and its proximity to Brown's makes him a long-shot for Canton. He died in 1983 after a long battle with prostate cancer.
  • Jimmy Conzelman was a prominent player-coach during the '20s. He originally played as a QB for the Decatur Staleys before taking a player-coach position with multiple teams throughout the decadenote , most notably guiding the Providence Steam Roller to a championship in 1928. He retired as a player in 1929 and returned to his alma mater, Washington (in St. Louis), as a head coach in 1932, guiding them to three conference titles before returning to the NFL in 1940. He had two three-year stints with the Chicago Cardinals; his first was generally unsucessful, but he guided the team to their second (and still most recent) league title in 1947 before retiring after their loss in the 1948 championship to work at an advertising agency. In between his two stints with the Cardinals, he worked in the front office for the St. Louis Browns, helping them win their only AL Pennant in 1944. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1964 and died in 1970.
  • Don Coryell is most famous for his time with the San Diego Chargers from the late '70s to the mid '80s. After serving as head coach of San Diego State through the '60s, Coryell made the jump to the NFL in 1973, joining the St. Louis Cardinals and winning Coach of the Year while bringing the Gridbirds to their only double-digit winning seasons during their entire stay in Missouri. He stepped down from the Cardinals after a 7-7 season in 1977, was hired by the Chargers in the middle of the next season, and brought that team to its first winning season in over a decade the next year. An offensive innovator, his "Air Coryell" passing attack (led by Hall of Famers in QB Dan Fouts, WR Charlie Joiner, and TE Kellen Winslow Sr.) enabled the Chargers to have the #1 passing offense in the NFL for a record six straight seasons ('78-'83).note  However, Coryell never made it to the Super Bowl (likely because his offensive-minded teams frequently had poor defenses), and he was fired in the middle of the 1988 season after a sharp decline in performance. He passed away in 2010; though his multiple Hall of Fame players, colleagues, and acolytes (including Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs) have all campaigned hard for his bust to join theirs in Canton, Coryell still has yet to be inducted despite having been a finalist nearly every year since his passing.
  • Tom Coughlin is most famous for his time as head coach of the New York Giants. After two decades of coaching at the college and pro levels, Coughlin served as HC at Boston College before being hired as the first head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars from 1995-2002 (who later admitted it was a mistake to fire him, as the franchise saw its greatest success during his first tenure). He went on to win two Super Bowls with the Giants after his hiring in 2004, both against Bill Belichick's New England Patriots (they had previously coached together with the Giants in the late '80s). At the beginning of his tenure with the Giants, he was known as a bit of a Drill Sergeant Nasty, though he reportedly warmed up considerably and become A Father to His Men. During his final season with the Giants in 2015, he was 69 years old and the oldest HC in the NFL. His retirement from coaching after 2015 didn't last long, as he returned to the Jaguars in the role of Executive Vice President of Football Operation in 2016. He was fired from this position just before the end of the 2019 season after three years of declining results and complaints from players about his disciplinarian style.
  • Bill Cowher succeeded the legendary Chuck Noll as HC of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1992 and didn't miss a step, keeping the team just as competitive and winning Coach of the Year in his first year.note  Cowher, a former undrafted "bubble player" who mostly played special teams on the Eagles and Browns in the early '80s, was known as a Large Ham and a players' coach who kept with the Steeler traditions of tough defenses and an offense led by a power run game. While he lost four of six AFCCG appearances, earning him a bit of a reputation as a playoff choker, he made two Super Bowls and won the second, XL, in his second-to-last season before retiring after 2006. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame's Centennial Class and currently serves as an analyst on the CBS pre-game show.
  • Romeo Crennel had a coaching career that stretches back over 50 years, having most notably spent time as special teams coordinator and defensive line coach under Bill Parcells with the New York Giants (where he won two Super Bowls) and later as DC for the New England Patriots for their first three Super Bowl titles under Bill Belichick. Crennel got his first head coaching opportunity with the Browns in 2005 but was fired after four non-playoff seasons. He moved on to be DC of the Kansas City Chiefs, taking over as interim HC late in the season and earning the full-time job the following year, but was again fired after a disastrous 2-14 campaign in 2012.note  He then become DC and later assistant HC of the Texans under fellow Belichick disciple Bill O'Brien before taking over as interim HC once again during the 2020 season after his firing; at 73, this made him the oldest head coach in NFL history, surpassing George Halas.
  • Mike Ditka is most famous for his time as the coach of the Chicago Bears from 1982-92. His 1985 Super Bowl-winning team is sometimes considered the best football team of all time, and he won Coach of the Year twice (1985, 1988) while in Chicago.note  His subsequent tenure in New Orleans was not nearly as successful, due in large part to the ill-fated Ricky Williams trade, in which the Saints gave up their entire set of 1999 draft picks to move up to select Williams. Ditka is still practically a god in Chicago; "Bill Swerski's Superfans" is only a slight exaggeration ("Da Bearss!"). Since leaving coaching, he became a prominent sports commentator and has fought to bring attention to the plight of retired players suffering from chronic game-related injuries. Prior to becoming a coach, Ditka had a Hall of Fame career as a tight end, detailed on the NFL Offensive Players page. Ditka also won another Super Bowl ring with the Cowboys, having been an assistant in the 1977 season that ended with victory in Super Bowl XII. He's one of a small number of players to have won NFL titles as a player and coach, one of only four in the modern era to have won championships for the same team as player and head coach, and one of only two individualsnote  to have won titles as a player, assistant, and head coach. He also appeared in several commercials for the erectile dysfunction medication Levitra, to the amusement of many. Also an interesting bit of What Could Have Been: He briefly considered joining the 2004 Illinois Senate race, where his stature would have dwarfed then-local state politician Barack Obama, changing the latter's career.
  • Tony Dungy is a Hall of Fame coach most famous for his time with the Indianapolis Colts. He got his start with the Pittsburgh Steelers, first as a bench player at the tail end of the franchise's '70s dynasty and later as a coach, where he was mentored by the legendary Chuck Noll and quickly rose up through the ranks, becoming both the league's youngest ever and first African-American coordinator. After a few years moving around the league, Dungy got his first head coaching position in Tampa Bay in 1996, where he became well-known as a defensive guru in his own right who turned around the fortunes of the Bucs, one of the longest struggling teams in the league. He brought the team to the playoffs four times in six years and laid the foundation for the squad that won the Super Bowl in 2002, a year after he was fired from the franchise for falling short in the postseason once again in one of the more controversial firings in recent history. He moved to Indy, which was a heavily offensive oriented team led by Peyton Manning, and the two were a perfect complement—the Colts saw double-digit wins in every season with him at the helm. Unfortunately, Dungy's team continued to be known for capitulating to their opponent during the playoffs, particularly when facing the Patriots... until 2007, when they overcame the stigma to win it all and made him the first African-American head coach to win the Super Bowl.note  He retired after the next year and now works as part of NBC's pregame show.
  • Herm Edwards coached for the New York Jets (2001-05) and Kansas City Chiefs (2006-08), and before that, was a cornerback with the Eagles responsible for the (in)famous "Miracle at the Meadowlands", where he recovered a fumbled handoff from the Giants for a touchdown in the last seconds of the game. Edwards had a middling career as a head coach with a 56-78 record; he is much more famous for delivering the popular "You play. To win. The game!" speech in response to a reporter's question about the team's lack of success following a mid-season loss; this has become a classic soundbyte replayed countless times since. Edwards' Jets rebounded following that Rousing Speech, finishing the season on a hot streak and winning the division. After several years as an analyst for ESPN, he's now the HC at Arizona State.
  • Weeb Ewbank was a Hall of Fame coach most famous for his time with the Baltimore Colts and New York Jets. Much like his quarterback in New York, Joe Namath, Ewbank's numbers don't stand out next to many of his peers in Canton, with only a narrowly positive win percentage of .502 in the regular season. However, his leadership of two of the most iconic mid-century teams at critical moments in the postseason ensured the growth of the game's popularity and success. A long-time assistant to Paul Brown, Ewbank was hired to be the Baltimore Colts HC in the franchise's second season. After a few years of struggles, his team rose to the top of the NFL as he guided the star-filled roster to back-to-back NFL Championships, including a victory in the famed "Greatest Game Ever Played" in 1958. Ewbank was later hired to coach the AFL's rebranded New York Jets in 1963 and led them to their famous upset victory over his former team in Super Bowl III. The mild-mannered coach retired after 1973 and died in 1998.
  • Jim Fassel was head coach of the New York Giants from 1997-2003 after a playing career as a backup QB and a long assistant career in college and numerous pro leagues, plus a brief college HC stint at Utah (1985-89). He took the Giants to the playoffs thrice, including being on the losing end of Super Bowl XXXV against the Ravens, but lost in heartbreaking fashion in the Wild Card round in 1997 and 2002 by blowing leads late. He was fired after a disappointing 2003 and went to work with the Ravens as a consultant in 2004 and as OC from 2005-06. He then worked as a broadcaster for Westwood One for two years before returning to coach the Las Vegas Locomotives in the UFL from 2009-12, winning two titles. He died of a heart attack in 2021.
  • Jeff Fisher coached the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans from 1994-2011 and was owner of a manly stache second only to Ditka's. He was originally a player for Ditka's Bears, a fairly obscure seventh-round defensive back out of USC who entered coaching after being injured during their Super Bowl season. Fisher eventually landed with the Oilers and followed them to Tennessee. His 1999 Titans squad fell literally one yard short of taking the Super Bowl to overtime (or possibly winning, if they'd gone for two). For a long time, he had Ultimate Job Security; he missed the playoffs in 17 of his 23 seasons as a head coach and developed a reputation for regularly coming up with close to .500 records yet inexplicably remained on the sidelines, seemingly coasting off of his early success in the '90s. He was HC of the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams from 2012-16, ironically the same team that beat his Titans in that Super Bowl. He tied the record for most career losses by a HC (165) near the end of the 2016 season, having done so in one year less then fellow number 1, Dan Reeves; the Rams blocked his attempt to break it by firing him the next day. He is currently the HC for the USFL's Michigan Panthers.
  • Ray Flaherty was best known for his years in Washington throughout the '30s and '40s. Originally an All-Pro two-way end for the New York Yankees and Giants (the latter of whom retired his #1 in 1935, the first number to be retired in NFL history), he won a championship with the Giants in 1934 before becoming the head coach of the team in Boston in 1936, guiding them to their first division title that season. The team moved to Washington the following year and won the NFL Championship with Sammy Baugh at quarterback, later appearing in two more title games in 1940 (where they infamously lost to the Bears 73-0) and 1942 (where they avenged their previous loss, beating the undefeated Bears 14-6) before Flaherty went off to serve in World War II. Washington didn't win another championship for decades, and much of their success was attributed to Flaherty's innovative schemes; among other things, he is popularly credited with inventing the screen pass, which opened a whole new element for passing offenses. Upon returning home from the war, he became HC of the New York Yankees in the newly formed AAFC, guiding them to two title appearances before being fired after a 1-3 start in 1948. He coached one more year with the Chicago Hornets, going 4-8 before they folded along with the rest of the AAFC. Flaherty retired shortly afterwards, was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1976, and died in 1994.
  • Tom Flores was a trailblazing player and coach most famously affiliated with the Oakland Raiders. After a junior college career and some time in the semi-pros, Flores failed to land a spot with an NFL team but did manage to sign with the upstart AFL, becoming the first starting QB for the new Oakland Raiders in 1960 and the first ever starting QB of Hispanic descent in pro football. After seven seasons leading the Raiders, Flores spent a few years in Buffalo and Kansas City, ending his playing career as a backup to Len Dawson on the Super Bowl-winning Chiefs. After the NFL-AFL merger, Flores moved straight into coaching and eventually succeeded John Madden as head coach of the Raiders, becoming the first Hispanic HC in NFL history and leading the team to two Super Bowl victories in XV and XVIII. Due to declining performance on the field, Flores moved to the Raiders front office in 1988, then became GM of the Seattle Seahawks the following year. He returned to coaching with his new team in 1992, but he was fired after three poor seasons and retired from coaching for good.note  His fairly middling regular season record (.527) kept him out of Canton until he was finally picked for the Hall of Fame in 2021.
  • Wayne Fontes was the HC of the Detroit Lions from 1988-96. He was one of the first NFL players of Portuguese descent when he played for the New York Titans in 1962 as a DB before a knee injury ended his playing career in 1963. After various coaching jobs at the high school and college level, he was hired by John McKay at USC in 1972 and followed him to Tampa Bay in 1976, where he worked his way up the ranks to the DC job in 1982. In 1985, he was hired by the Lions to serve as the DC and became HC in 1988 after the firing of Darryl Rogers. During his tenure in Detroit, he went 66-67, leading the team to their greatest run of success in the Super Bowl era with four playoff appearances and their sole playoff win in 1991, which saw the team reach the NFC Championship and Fontes win Coach of the Year. He was fired after 1996 due to a lack of playoff success, and his firing is believed to have accelerated Barry Sanders' retirement.
  • Jason Garrett was the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys from 2010-19. He previously was a QB, starting as an undrafted free agent who bounced around the WLAF, CFL, and NFL practice teams for a few years before eventually making his way to the Cowboys in 1992 and becoming a backup to Troy Aikman during the team's '90s dynasty.note  In the 1994 Thanksgiving Day game, with Aikman sidelined with injuries, Garrett stepped in and led the Boys to a memorable comeback win against the Packers. He cycled through several teams as a backup before retiring in 2005 and entering coaching. He quickly rose up the ranks, returned to the Cowboys in 2007 as an OC, was appointed interim HC in 2010 after Wade Phillips was fired mid-season, and was officially appointed HC in 2011. He was the Cowboys' first HC born after the team's establishment in 1960 and its first former player to serve that role. After a shaky start of three straight 8-8 seasons, Garrett's Cowboys began to reach the playoffs, and he even won Coach of the Year in 2016 after impressive showings from two of his rookie players, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot. However, he developed a reputation as an ineffective and uninspiring "sideline clapper" who couldn't get consistent results out of the team, and the Cowboys chose not to renew his expiring contract following a disappointing 2019 season. He is currently a broadcaster for NBC after a few more middling years as an OC.
  • Joe Gibbs was the Hall of Fame coach for Washington from 1981-92, winning three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks (the only head coach to do so). An apprentice to Don Coryell, Gibbs was primarily an offensive line coach prior to becoming a HC. In contrast to his mentor's pass-happy style, his teams famously employed a run-heavy offensive attack behind an elite offensive line group nicknamed "the Hogs". He is also credited with inventing the single-back, two TE set (initially as a counter to Giants' Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor) as well as the "trips" WR formation, with three receivers bunched up to one side in order to create and exploit mismatches; his innovative designs helped earn him two Coach of the Year awards. After his unexpected first retirement from the NFL (citing health issues), he became a major figure in NASCAR as the owner of Joe Gibbs Racing, which has won five Cup Series; Gibbs is the only person to be a member of both the Pro Football and NASCAR Halls of Fame. He later returned for a second, less successful stint as Washington's HC from 2004-07, though he still performed better in that stretch than any other coach they hired after his retirement and led the team to their sole playoff victory in the decades since his dynastic run.
  • Sid Gillman was the first coach to be enshrined in both the Pro and College Football Halls of Fame (later joined by Jimmy Johnson) and a key figure in the refinement and proliferation of the pass in football offense. Gillman briefly playing as an end for the Cleveland Rams after graduating Ohio State in 1936; he then moved into coaching and came to dominate Ohio football, leading Miami (OH) and Cincinnati on strong runs as head coach in the late '40s and early '50s. In 1955, he returned to his former pro team, now located in Los Angeles. He saw mixed results with the Rams, taking them to a Championship appearance in his first season but seeing inconsistent performances in the following years. After a 2-10 1959 season, he crossed town to L.A.'s new team, the AFL's Chargers, becoming the franchise's first (and still winningest) HC. Gillman's pass-centric philosophy caught on throughout the AFL after the Chargers appeared in five of the first six AFL Championships and won one in 1963. He stayed with the Chargers up until the NFL-AFL merger that further spread his offense throughout pro football. He then retired due to health issues... only to return four years later, stepping into the middle of a terrible Houston Oilers season in 1973. In his first full year with the team, Gillman improved them to 7-7 after two straight one-win seasons, but he retired again afterwards. He later returned to the NFL for a few more brief stints as an assistant up through the '80s and passed away in 2001.
  • Jerry Glanville was known for being one of the league's more unique characters in the late '80s/early '90s. After nearly two decades as an assistant at the college and professional level, including devising the 1977 Atlanta Falcons' short-lived but record-setting Grits Blitz, Glanville became head coach for the Houston Oilers for the last two games of the 1985 season. Under his leadership, Houston became a playoff contender for the first time since the Bum Phillips era. On the field, his Oilers were known for being a vicious team that wasn't afraid of taking cheap shots, helping the Astrodome earn the moniker "The House of Pain". Off the field, Glanville was known for being rather strange and for playing into the role of the league's Heel; he famously always left tickets out for Elvis Presley in the hope he'd come out of hiding, wore bizarre leather jackets on the sidelines, and coined the phrase "NFL means 'Not For Long'!" while dressing down a first-year ref. All this earned the ire of opposing coaches, including infamously drawing out a dressing down from the normally reserved Chuck Noll in 1987 after the Oilers defeated Noll's Steelers. Glanville was fired after 1989 despite taking the team to the playoffs for the third straight season due to a late-season collapse, though many speculate it had just as much to do with ownership being sick of him. He next brought his aggressive style back to Atlanta, where he was far less successful, only reaching the playoffs in 1991; he was fired again after 1993. He subsequently attempted a career as a NASCAR driver, achieving only minor success there. He has been in and out of college and semi-pro coaching ever since, and currently still coaches in the Spring League at the cusp of his eighties.
    • At all levels throughout his caeer, Glanville has repeatedly worked with run-and-shoot guru June Jones. Glanville hired Jones as a QB coach in Houston in the '80s in Jones's first NFL gig, and after Jones briefly left for Detroit, the two reunited in Atlanta, where Jones was Glanville's OC and successor upon Glanville's firing. In return, when Glanville returned to college coaching in 2005, Jones, now HC at Hawaii, hired Glanville as a DC for two seasons; in 2018, they reunited in the same arrangement for the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
  • Bud Grant was the HC for the Minnesota Vikings from 1967-83 and again in 1985. Grant made a unique name in American sports as a player by being the only person to concurrently play in both the NBA and NFL, playing for the Minneapolis Lakers from 1949-51 and the Philadelphia Eagles from 1951-52note . After his contract with the Eagles expired, Grant moved to Winnipeg to play for a higher contract with the CFL's Blue Bombers, where he did well for four seasons and set a league record for most caught interceptions in a playoff game that still stands today. When the Bombers' management fired their old coach, Grant successfully applied for the position and won four Grey Cups with the team over the next decade. He was then hired by the Vikings, who saw 11 division titles and 4 Super Bowl appearances during his next two decades with the young team—Grant won Coach of the Year in 1969. His combined CFL and NFL record makes him the fourth most successful HC in pro football history behind only Don Shula, George Halas, and Bill Belichick; that also makes him the most successful coach to have been active during the Super Bowl era to never win the Big Game. He was the first coach enshrined in both the Pro and Canadian Football Halls of Fame (later joined by Marv Levy). Grant was well known for his stoic coaching style that was a good match for the Minnesota weather. Besides showing little emotion on the sidelines, he also had his teams practice outdoors during the winter to get used to the cold, forbade the use of warmers during games, and even had dedicated national anthem practice to ensure all his players could stand in a regimented line during the anthem.
  • Dennis Green was a coach who saw his greatest success with the '90s Minnesota Vikings. A disciple of Bill Walsh, Green was hired by the Vikings in 1992 as only the second Black head coach of the NFL's modern era. He took the Vikings to the playoffs in eight of his first nine seasons, never put up a losing record in that time, and crafted the then-record-setting offense of the '98 team. Green was known as a bit of a Cloud Cuckoo Lander with a tendency for Brutal Honesty and was often criticized by both Vikings fans and ownership (who sought to bring in college legend Lou Holtz to replace him after missing the playoffs in '95). Still, he was generally viewed by his players as A Father to His Men. Unfortunately, he developed a reputation as a playoff choker, especially after the '98 team's historically heartbreaking NFC Championship loss, and when he put up his first-ever losing record in 2001, the team bought out his contract and fired him with one game still left on the season. Many found his firing premature, especially since the team became much less consistent after he left.note  Green spent two years as an analyst before returning to a HC role with the Arizona Cardinals. Though this tenure was much less successful than the one in Minnesota, with Green putting up three losing seasons before being fired, his post-conference rant after a 2006 loss to the Bears ("THEY ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE!") immediately became one of football's most memorable Memetic Mutations. Green coached a few more years in the UFL and died from a heart attack in 2016.
  • George Halas had the longest and one of the most successful careers of any NFL coach; for his career as the coach, player, and owner of the Chicago Bears, see his entry under "Owners/Management".
  • The Harbaugh Brothers: Siblings John and Jim, who have both won Coach of the Year and who faced each other in Super Bowl XLVII, becoming the first set of brothers to do so (John's Ravens beat Jim's 49ers 34-31). Their father, Jack, had a 52-year playing and coaching career in football, mostly at the high school and college levels. Both brothers will still call their father for coaching advice.
  • John Harbaugh: The older brother and current HC of the Baltimore Ravens since 2009. After serving as the special teams coordinator in Philadelphia under Andy Reid for nearly a decade, he became one of the rare instances of a special teams coach being promoted to HC. (Usually it's an offensive/defensive coordinator or college HC.) Coming to Baltimore after a season that saw them lose 9 of their final 10 games, John immediately turned the team around, taking them to the playoffs in each of his first five seasons and culminating in the aforementioned Super Bowl win in his fifth. He also won Coach of the Year in 2019. He has a Friendly Rivalry with Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers (see below); as of 2020, the two have faced off more times than any other pair of coaches in the Super Bowl era.
  • Jim Harbaugh: The younger brother and HC of the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-14. A first round pick in the 1987 Draft by the Chicago Bears, Jim had a moderately successful career as a QB during the '90s, visiting the playoffs a few times and even winning Comeback Player of the Year in 1995 after a Pro Bowl season with the Indianapolis Colts. However, he is now better remembered as a coach. The 49ers had missed the playoffs for seven straight years before Harbaugh's arrival but made the NFC Championship three years in a row after he was hired, and his demonstrative, confrontational leadership had a great deal to do with it. Before the 49ers, Harbaugh was HC at Stanford and a bitter rival of Pete Carroll's USC, a rivalry that carried over into the NFL where Seattle & San Francisco share a division. Despite his huge success in his first few years of coaching pro football, disagreements with the team's ownership (and perhaps with some of their marquee players) led him to leave San Francisco for the college ranks again at his alma mater of Michigan.note 
  • Mike Holmgren was the HC of the Green Bay Packers (1992-98) and the Seattle Seahawks (1999-2008). A QB at USC who was drafted but not ultimately signed into the NFL in 1970, he became a coach at his former high school before entering the college ranks. His experience developing Steve Young at BYU earned him a spot on Bill Walsh's 49ers coaching staff, where he won two Super Bowls as the OC. Holmgren is best known for leading the Packers from division doormat to constant playoff success and Super Bowl XXXI victory with the emergence of Brett Favre. His relationship to Favre was delightful to watch, as Favre's "gunslinger" style often caused him to go off-script from the more conservative plays that Holmgren called. After never posting a losing record in Green Bay, he became the Seahawks' first head coach after the purchase of the team by Microsoft executive Paul Allen. His hiring, which made him the highest-paid NFL coach at the time, lent instant credibility to Seattle's on-field product. Along with being HC, he also served as the team's GM and vice president, letting him shape almost every aspect of the team and turn them into a perennial playoff contender, including a very controversial loss in Super Bowl XL. He left the Seahawks after 2008, taking a one-year sabbatical before accepting a position in the Browns' front office, which was much less successful; he was let go in 2013 after the team changed owners. Over a dozen of his former assistants become future NFL head coaches, including Andy Reid and Jon Gruden. He even had two of his former quarterbacks serve as HCs: Doug Pederson (see below) and Mike McCoy, both of whom were backups to Brett Favre in Green Bay. Despite his sustained success and influence, he has yet to be inducted into Canton, though he is enshrined in the Seahawks Ring of Honor.
  • Mike Holovak had a half-century-long career in football that dated back to his being drafted #5 overall in 1943 after his college career as a star fullback at Boston College. Like most draft picks of this era, Holovak turned out to be a bust as a player due to spending his first years out of college in active WWII military service; after serving three years with the Navy in the Pacific, Holovak played only three seasons (none with the team that drafted him) before returning to coach at his alma mater. When the AFL started up in 1960, Holovak signed with the Boston Patriots as an assistant but was promoted to HC in the middle of the following season after Lou Saban's firing. In his first full season, he took the Pats to an appearance in the AFL Championship game, but later inconsistency led to him being fired after 1968. He continued to work around the AFL and NFL as an assistant (including coaching one game as an interim HC with the Jets) before fully transitioning to a front office role with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans, where he served as an executive vice president, GM, and scout throughout the '80s and '90s. This service earned him a spot in the Titans Ring of Honor. Holovak passed away in 2008.
  • Jim Lee Howell is known for his time with the New York Giants as a player and, more famously, a coach in the mid-to-late '50s. He signed with the team as an offensive/defensive end out of Arkansas in 1937. During his playing career, he won election to the Arkansas state legislature for a single term. After serving in the Marines during WWII as a real Drill Sergeant Nasty from 1943-45, he retired from play in 1947. After a few years coaching at the college level, Howell returned to the team in 1954 to succeed his former coach, Steve Owen (see below), after his legendary 24-year tenure. He proved to be a more than worthy successor, never posting a losing season and leading the Giants to a Championship win in 1956 and two Championship losses (including the "Greatest Game Ever Played"). More even then his own talents as a coach, Howell was known for assembling and leading perhaps the best (and most internally combative) coaching staff the league has ever seen with Vince Lombardi as his offensive coordinator and Tom Landry leading the defense. He resigned his role as HC after 1960 with one of the better career coaching records in NFL history (53-27-4, .663), but the relative brevity of his tenure has kept him out of the Hall of Fame. He continued to work for the Giants office until 1981 and passed away in 1995.
  • Jimmy Johnson is most famous for jump-starting the Dallas Cowboys '90s dynasty (and for his great head of hair). He was hired as Jerry Jones' first HC after he bought the team in 1989, coming off a tenure at the University of Miami where he won a National Championship in 1987. (The two were college teammates at Arkansas in the '60s, winning a national title of their own in 1964.) Though the team went an abysmal 1-15 in his first season, he helped to orchestrate the famous Herschel Walker trade, which netted the Cowboys many of the picks they used to rebuild the team. The team's improvement to a 7-9 record the next year won Johnson Coach of the Year, and he took the team to back-to-back Super Bowls wins in the '92-'93 seasons, making him the first head coach to win a championship on the pro and college level since Paul Brown in the pre-Super Bowl/consensus poll era. However, friction with Jones led the two to part ways in 1994, less than two months after his second Super Bowl victory and just five years after his initial hiring. The Cowboys team Johnson constructed won another Super Bowl under his successor, Barry Switzer (see below), while Johnson returned to Miami to coach the Dolphins in 1996 after a stint on TV. Despite putting up a winning record with the Dolphins and bringing them to the playoffs thrice, he infamously clashed with star QB Dan Marino and repeatedly threatened to retire due to burnout. Johnson retired from coaching completely after suffering a historically lopsided 62-7 loss to the Jaguars in the '99 playoffs. His induction into Canton in 2020 made him only the second coach after Sid Gillman to be enshrined in both the Pro and College Football Halls of Fame. He currently serves as an analyst on the Fox pre-game show. He also appeared on a season of Survivor.
  • Chuck Knox had a 22-year career as a head coach across three teams and won Coach of the Year with each organization, placing him with Belichick and Shula as the only coaches to win the honor more than twice. After getting his start as an o-line coach with the Jets and Lions, Knox got the HC job with the L.A. Rams in 1973. He brought the team to five straight division titles, each with a different starting quarterback, but fell short of bringing them to a Super Bowl. Conflicts with team ownership led Knox to sign with the Buffalo Bills in 1978, which he led to their first playoff victory since the NFL-AFL merger. Another conflict with ownership led him to join the Seattle Seahawks in 1983, where he brought the young team to the playoffs for the first time. He returned to the Rams (now under new ownership) in 1992 seeking to recapture the Glory Days, but he couldn't put up results and was fired shortly before the team packed up for St. Louis. Despite his many accomplishments, Knox's playoff woes stand as a major obstacle for an entrance into Canton. He passed away in 2018.
  • Earl "Curly" Lambeau founded the Green Bay Packers in 1919. He was the team's HC and GM for thirty-one years, a player for the first ten, and represented the players at owners' meetings. He is tied with his rival George Halas (whom he faced 48 times, more than any other pair) and Bill Belichick for winning the most NFL championships as a coach (six in total, three straight from win record from 1929-31 and another three from championship game wins in '36, '39, and '44). He was a pioneer of the passing game both as a player and a coach, and John "Blood" McNally and Don Hutson dominated the receiving stats every year under his stewardship. Towards the end of his career, Lambeau also created the first dedicated training facility in the NFL after he purchased a lodge for the Packers to train in. Its expense didn't translate to better play, however, and it was a costly investment for a cash-strapped franchise. On the verge of bankruptcy, Lambeau sought out investors to purchase the Packers, leading to a falling out with the local public owners who feared the relocation of their team and the dissolution of their ownership structure. After putting up his first consecutive losing seasons, Lambeau was forced out of his coaching job after 1949; his lodge happened to burn down not long after, the insurance money allowing the team to remain solvent (suspicions of Insurance Fraud linger decades later). He had two short and unsuccessful tenures as coach for the Chicago Cardinals and Washington before retiring from football; he died of a heart attack in 1965. Despite his messy departure, Lambeau remains a beloved figure in Green Bay. He is the namesake of the Packers' home stadium, "Lambeau Field", and was a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's charter class.
  • Tom Landry was the first, and for nearly three decades only, head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. An Air Force veteran who flew 30 missions during WWII, Landry returned to school at Texas and entered pro football in 1949, playing one season for the AAFC New York Yankees and six seasons for the New York Giantsnote  as a punter and defensive back, even making a Pro Bowl and leading his league in punting yards thrice. He was hired as the team's DC in 1954 (opposite future rival Vince Lombardi on the offensive side of the ball) while still an active punter, where he was credited with inventing the 4-3 defense. "The Great Innovator" then built an offense to beat his own scheme once he was hired by new division rival Dallas in 1960. Landry slowly built up the new expansion franchise, enduring a winless first season and six more non-winning records before finally building a winning team in 1966 and being named Coach of the Year (expect this to be mentioned whenever a new coach is on the hot seat for not immediately providing results). His 'Boys then put up an amazing 20-year streak of winning seasons from 1966-85. During this period, his team won two Super Bowls and appeared in five; they also appeared in two NFL Championships and ten NFC Championships, giving Landry more playoff victories than any HC when he retired (since passed only by Bill Belichick).note  One of Jerry Jones' first moves as owner was to give Landry the boot in 1988 after three straight losing seasons. This ended the longest continuous tenure of any HC for a single NFL franchise,note  one that Landry built into "America's Team"; needless to say, this remains the main reason many fans hate Jones decades later. Unsurprisingly, Landry was inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Some might recognize him more as Hank Hill's role model or for his iconic appearance as a Sharp-Dressed Man with a sweet fedora; after his death from leukemia in 2000, said fedora was engraved on his tombstone and worn as a patch by the Cowboys for the season.
  • Marv Levy was most famously the Hall of Fame coach of the 4-in-a-row Super Bowl runner-up Buffalo Bills and the creator of the "K-Gun" no-huddle offense. Prior to joining the Bills, Levy coached in college for nearly two decades, briefly worked as a special teams coach for a few NFL teams in the early '70s, led the CFL's Montreal Alouettes to two Grey Cups, had a middling stint as the HC of the Kansas City Chiefs (1978-82), and even coached in the short-lived USFL. He finally saw real NFL success upon joining the Bills as head coach in the middle of the 1987 season. He completely turned around the prospects of the long-suffering franchise, as his team completely dominated the AFC in the early '90s. He won Coach of the Year twice but never managed to coach the team to a Super Bowl win. A veteran of the Second World War and a Harvard grad, he was known for giving quite the elaborate Rousing Speech, though he usually refrained from explicitly comparing football to "battle"; he famously stated about the Super Bowl, "It is not a must-win; World War II was a must-win." After he retired in 1997 as the oldest coach in the league, he was brought back to Buffalo in 2006 at the age of 80 as GM—he retired for good after two seasons. In 2021, he was elected into the CFL Hall of Fame, joining Bud Grant as the only coaches to be enshrined in both the American and Canadian Halls.
  • Marvin Lewis hired to be head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2003 after a successful career as a DC that included a Super Bowl win with the Baltimore Ravens, which boasted one of the greatest defenses in NFL history. Lewis brought the long-suffering Bengals franchise back to respectability, leading the team to its first winning season and playoff berth in 15 years in 2005 and winning Coach of the Year in 2009. However, while Lewis' steady hand made the Bengals competitive in the regular season and secured his spot as the team's HC for 16 years, he eventually became known as the epitome of Every Year They Fizzle Out, bringing the team to the playoffs seven times (including a five-year streak) and failing to win a single game, the worst postseason record in NFL history. He was fired in 2018 after three straight losing seasons and currently serves as an advisor at Arizona State.
  • Vince Lombardi was the face of the NFL during the 1960s, as he led the Green Bay Packers to five NFL Championship victories—three of them came before the Super Bowl era, but he won the first two Super Bowls as well. Following successful tenures as a high school HC, college assistant, and the OC for the New York Giants (opposite DC and future rival Tom Landry), Lombardi coached the Packers for nine years and the Washington team for one and never recorded a losing season as head coach. He holds the best postseason win percentage of any coach with more than one playoff game (.900, having only lost his first championship match), and his combined regular and postseason percentage is likewise the best of any coach (save Guy Chamberlin). He holds the distinction of being the only coach to win three consecutive championships during the modern playoff era.note  He also led two of the greatest single-season turnarounds in sports history, bringing the Packers their first winning season in over a decade after his hire in 1959 (and winning Coach of the Year) and pulling off another one in Washington in 1969 after an even longer drought. Though he was a famously hot-tempered and demanding coach, Lombardi was an anomaly in the '60s-era NFL for his inclusive liberal politics, drawn from his experience as an Italian-American and brother to a gay man; the Packers racially integrated under his leadership, and he hired a number of gay men on his staff and teams. Lombardi was so immensely popular in the '60s that Richard Nixon purportedly floated him as a potential running mate before learning of his politics. Lombardi died suddenly of colon cancer in 1970 at age 57, one year after returning to coaching following a 10-Minute Retirement, cutting short an already legendary career, and was posthumously inducted into Canton the next year. As a result of his legacy, often considered to be the greatest in the sport's history, the trophy given to the winner of the Super Bowl is called the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

     Coaches M-Z 
  • John Madden, while probably better known as a broadcaster, was originally a very successful coach (and even less famously, a player). He became the Oakland Raiders' HC in 1969 at only 32 years old when the previous coach, John Rauch, left due to conflicts with owner Al Davis, making him the youngest professional HC since the end of the player-coach era. Madden had only been the linebackers coach for the Raiders for two years and had previously only coached for small colleges. However, unlike most new coaches, he had the good luck of inheriting a winning team whose system he was well familiar with, and he found immediate success. Madden's Raiders won Super Bowl XI and never posted a losing season under him, though they also lost six out of the seven AFL/AFC Championship Games they played in during his tenure. His regular season winning percentage from his ten seasons as HC (.759) ranks first out of all coaches in the modern NFL.note  The large, jovial coach was beloved by players and fans. After he retired relatively early in 1978, he leveraged his huge personality into an immensely successful career as a broadcaster, which in turn led to him being the face of the Madden NFL video game series (see his entry under "Broadcasters" for more). Madden's abbreviated career kept him from being enshrined in Canton until 2006; he passed away in 2021.
  • Ted Marchibroda had a lengthy coaching career in the NFL primarily spent with the Colts. He originally was a QB drafted #5 overall out of Detroit by the Steelers in 1953; Army service and poor performance shortened his playing career. He became an assistant for Washington in 1961 and gradually worked his way up the ranks, becoming the team’s OC under George Allen before being hired as the HC of the Baltimore Colts in 1975. He turned around a team that had struggled in the post-Johnny Unitas years, guiding the team to three straight AFC East titles and developing Bert Jones into one of the league's top passers but lost in the first round of the playoffs each year. Despite his success, team owner Robert Irsay constantly meddled with the team's roster, and Marchibroda was fired in 1979 after back-to-back 5-11 seasons. He spent the next decade bouncing around the league as an assistant, including a stint with the Bills where he created the K-Gun offense that guided the team to four straight Super Bowl appearances. His success in Buffalo brought him back to the Colts, now playing in Indianapolis, as their HC in 1992. Marchibroda helped them rebound from years as a bottom-feeder and later make a surprise appearance in the 1995 AFC Championship, where they narrowly fell to the Steelers. Following the Cinderella run, he left the team over a contract dispute and returned to Baltimore as the first HC of the expansion Ravens. Although he posted three straight losing seasons there before being let go, he was beloved by his players and helped set up the team that won the Super Bowl in 2000. He then spent several years as a radio broadcaster for the Colts before retiring in 2006 and passing away in 2016.
  • Steve Mariucci was a successful head coach with the San Francisco 49ers from 1997-2002. His first season saw him post a then-rookie-record 11 consecutive winsnote  en route to his best season as a HC, going 13-3 before losing to the Packers in the NFC Championship Game. He remained generally successful with the team but was fired after two straight playoff berths due to a power struggle with the GM (the Niners wouldn't return to the playoffs for another nine seasons). He went on to coach the Detroit Lions from 2003-05, where he was fired midseason after posting two straight losing seasons. He then joined NFL Network as an analyst, a role that he has stayed in ever since.
  • Don McCafferty was the first rookie head coach to win a Super Bowl and a tragic case of What Could Have Been. A former player (an obscure 13th-round pick in 1943 who left the New York Giants after a single season), he coached in college for several years before returning to the pros, joining the Baltimore Colts as an assistant in 1959, the year they defeated his former team in the NFL Championship for the second straight season. He later ascended to OC under Don Shula, where he helped the Colts remain one of the era's dominant teams (despite a shocking loss in Super Bowl III). After Shula's acrimonious departure, McCafferty took the HC job and immediately led the Colts to a victory in Super Bowl V. However, just two years later, he was fired midseason after refusing to bench Johnny Unitas and other veteran players at the demands of new owner Robert Irsay and new GM Joe Thomas. McCafferty promptly signed with the Detroit Lions for 1973 and put up a middling 6-7-1 record in his first year. During the offseason, the 53-year-old coach died of a heart attack while mowing his lawn before he could show if he could improve on that record.
  • Mike McCarthy is the current head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, previously serving as HC of the Green Bay Packers from 2006-18. An offensive-minded coach best known for developing Aaron Rodgers, he also deserves credit for reviving Brett Favre's career.note  After Favre's departure, Green Bay missed the postseason in '08 as Aaron Rodgers played his first action as a starter but made the playoffs every season after (a run that includes winning Super Bowl XLV) until 2017, when Rodgers missed most of the season with a broken collarbone. Interestingly, McCarthy was the OC for San Francisco in 2005 when they passed on Rodgers in the draft. When he came to Green Bay the next year, his first words to Rodgers were, "Yeah, I didn't pick you. Deal with it." Their famously icy relationship improved for a while but broke down near the end of McCarthy's Packers tenure as Rodgers openly criticized his progressively vanilla offensive scheme and playcalling. He was fired midway through the 2018 season as the Packers disappointed again and missed the playoffs. After a year out of football, he returned to take the Dallas job.
  • John McKay was the first head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1976-84. After coaching the USC Trojans to four National Championships, he signed with the expansion team, where he had a "five year plan" to build the Bucs into contenders. Unfortunately, the rules of the expansion draft meant slim pickings for the Buccaneers, and they infamously started their existence 0-26. Despite their horrendous start, McKay’s strategy of developing around his young talent eventually proved successful, as he guided the Bucs to the NFC Championship game in 1979, their fourth year of existence. Following their Cinderella run, the Bucs made the playoffs two more times in 1981 and 1982 before star QB Doug Williams was allowed to walk away to the USFL over a contract dispute. The dispute left McKay thoroughly demoralized, and he resigned after 1984, finishing his NFL career with twice as many losses as he had wins; the Bucs wouldn't return to the playoffs for more than a decade. While his time with the Bucs was ultimately a mixed bag, he was mostly known off the field for his rather aloof behavior and being a Deadpan Snarker. While his scathing sarcasm made him a very polarizing figure across the league and with the media, he provided numerous memorable quotes throughout his careernote  and generally served as somewhat of a distraction from the Buccaneers abysmal on-field performance. He was also known for being "unimpressed" with the NFL and the amount of hype surrounding its games, mostly due to the fact that he had been a successful coach at USC and didn’t see any big differences between the professional and college levels. This nonchalant attitude garnered him a lot of detractors across the league, especially among coaches, who would intentionally run up the score as a way to teach him a lesson. McKay died of diabetes complications in 2001.
  • Sean McVay is the current head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. Nicknamed "the Boy Wonder" or "the Boy Genius", McVay went straight into coaching in the NFL out of college at the other Miami (Ohio), became Washington's OC at age 27, and became the youngest HC of the Super Bowl era when the Rams hired him at age 30 to replace Jeff Fisher. The long-suffering franchise turned around immediately in his first season with the team, making the playoffs for the first time in 13 years and earning McVay Coach of the Year. The next year, he topped himself by becoming the youngest HC ever to go to a Super Bowl, and while his Rams were defeated by the Patriots in that bout, he returned to the Big Game three years later and became the youngest HC to win the Lombardi. Besides his age, McVay is also known for his equally youthful, almost Keet-like energy. His grandfather John also had a successful front office career as VP and Director of Football Operations for the 49ers, guiding them to five Super Bowl wins from 1980-94.
  • Walt Michaels ultimately posted a losing record as HC of the New York Jets from 1977-82 but is notable as an architect of much of the team's early success. A former pro linebacker with the Cleveland Browns from 1952-61,note  Michaels joined the Jets organization in 1963 for a year as a player-coach before transitioning to the DC role, where he served for the next decade and helped guide the team to its sole Super Bowl win. Michaels seemed to be the heir apparent to become the Jets' next head coach when Weeb Ewbank retired after 1972, only for the job to instead go to Ewbank's son-in-law, Charley Winner. Michaels resigned in protest and served as DC with the Eagles until Winner was fired, at which point he immediately returned to the Jets and took the HC job. The team continued to struggle for the first four years of Michaels' tenure but turned around in his final two, reaching the infamous "Mud Bowl" AFC Championship game in the latter. Surprisingly, this was the last game Michaels would coach in the NFL; he retired soon after, citing burnout from the players' strike and a need to care for his ill mother. He returned to coaching a year later with Donald Trump's New Jersey Generals of the USFL and dabbled in coaching a few semi-pro teams afterwards before calling it a career. He passed away in 2019.
  • Robert "Red" Miller had served as an o-line coach in the pros for several years before attaining his first head coaching gig with the Denver Broncos in 1977. In his very first year with the team, the energetic Miller took a franchise that hadn't made the playoffs once in its 17-year history to a Super Bowl appearance, winning Coach of the Year. Though they were soundly beaten by Tom Landry's Cowboys in that game, Miller delivered Denver another two playoff berths but was fired after going 8-8 in his fourth season by new owner Edgar Kaiser, who replaced him with Landry protégé Dan Reeves (see below). Despite never putting up a losing season as a HC, Miller never coached in the NFL again; his popularity in Denver led him to take up the HC job with the USFL's Denver Gold in 1983, but he was fired in the middle of their first season after clashing with ownership. He did not return to coaching afterwards; his abbreviated career gave him one of the better records of any coach not in the Hall of Fame while also ensuring that he'll never enter it. He died of a stroke in 2017.
  • Jim Mora was a long-time coach, most famously for the New Orleans Saints, which he joined in 1986 after he led the Baltimore/Philadelphia Stars to back-to-back championships in the short-lived USFL. He brought the Saints their first ever winning seasons after nearly two decades of failure, winning him Coach of the Year. However, Mora never won a single playoff game in the NFL. This postseason losing streak continued when Mora moved to the Indianapolis Colts in 1998, giving Peyton Manning that same reputation for postseason impotence until after Mora was fired in 2001. Famous for his Hair-Trigger Temper and his Cluster F-Bomb rants in post-game press conferences and interviews, Mora provided several memorable moments during his time in the NFL; his incredulous and mocking response to a reporter asking if the Colts had the chance to make the 2001 playoffs ("Playoffs? Don't talk about- playoffs?! I just hope we can win another game!") has been a soundbite staple in radio and online content for twenty years. Jim's son (also named Jim) was also briefly an NFL head coach for the Falcons and Seahawks.
  • Earle "Greasy" Neale was the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles through the 1940s after several decades in the college ranks (and, before that, a football player in the pre-NFL Ohio League and a successful baseball player, including playing on the 1919 World Series-winning Cincinnati Reds team). Considered one of the offensive masterminds of his era, he perfected the T-Formation with the play of QB Tommy Thompson and Hall of Famers Steve Van Buren and Pete Pihos. The Eagles had never had a winning season prior to him joining the team in 1941, but they turned around to win the Eastern Division three years in a row (1947-49) and claim consecutive NFL Championships in ‘48 and ‘49, both of which were shutouts in poor weather. Following a 6-6 season in 1950, Neale retired and was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1969. He passed away in 1973.
  • Dick Nolan started his career as a DB during the '50s, winning a title with the Giants before transitioning to coaching with the Cowboys in 1962 as a DC. Following Dallas' loss in the Ice Bowl, Nolan became head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, rebuilding them into a strong defensive unit and resurrecting QB John Brodie's career. They won their division three years in a row from '70-'72 but fell to Dallas in the playoffs each year, including consecutive NFC Championship losses. He was fired in '75 after posting three straight losing seasons, after which he became the Saints HC in '78. He went 7-9 and 8-8 his first two seasons, at that point the best seasons in the miserable team's history, but they collapsed spectacularly in 1980, with Nolan being fired after an 0-12 start. He spent the rest of the '80s as an assistant until a disastrous season with the San Antonio Force in the Arena Football League led to his retirement. He passed away in 2007, during the short and unsuccessful HC tenure of his son Mike Nolan for the Niners (2005-08).
  • Chuck Noll was the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1969-91. Noll was a defensive mind who himself played as a linebacker during his playing career in Clevelandnote  where he mainly served as Paul Brown's messenger boy. After serving as a DC for Sid Gillman's Chargers and Don Shula's Colts, Noll was hired as the latest in a long line of Pittsburgh coaches tasked with improving the then-worst team in the NFL. "The Emperor" succeeded beyond anyone's wildest expectations, becoming the architect of the feared "Steel Curtain" defense that broke the team's four-decade playoff drought; ever since his tenure, Pittsburgh has had a reputation as an excellent defensive team. He earned four Super Bowl rings as a HC during the '70s, the most of any HC for decades and still second behind only Bill Belichick, and visited seven AFC Championship Games. Despite being one of the most successful and long-tenured coaches in league history and a pioneer for racial inclusivity (most notably giving black players like Tony Dungy the chance to coach on his staff), Noll was never honored with the AP's Coach of the Year award, an oversight generally attributed to his quiet, even shy public persona. He was at least inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first eligible year. His longevity contributed to the Steelers having more stability at HC than almost any team in professional sports; the current HC, Mike Tomlin, is only the third (all of whom have won Super Bowls) since 1969. Noll died in 2014 after a long battle with Alzheimer's.
  • Bill O'Brien was the coach for the Houston Texans from 2014-20. After coaching at the college level for over a decade and serving as an offensive coach for the Patriots for five seasons, O'Brien was selected to succeed the disgraced Joe Paterno at Penn State and help redeem the school's reputation after the horrific Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. O'Brien promised that he wasn't a "one-and-done" coach and would guide the program in the long term despite its loss of scholarships and four-year postseason ban, which was half-true—he stuck around one more season before taking the HC job with the Texans. He narrowly recorded a winning record with the team and led them to four division titles, but he also garnered a reputation for clashing with players, poor decision-making, and being a bit of a Control Freak. O'Brien was appointed GM in 2020 after another trip to the playoffs but was responsible for numerous questionable trades in the offseason, most notably trading away star receiver DeAndre Hopkins for well below market compensation, which left the team strapped both for talent and future draft picks. O'Brien was fired after starting 2020 0-4, with many analysts suggesting that he likely could have held on to the coaching job had he not bitten off more than he could chew as a GM and left them without draft capital in a down year. O'Brien is now back in the college ranks as OC at Alabama.
  • Steve Owen was a Long Runner head coach of the New York Giants from 1930-53. After completing his WWI military service, Owen began his time in the NFL in 1924 as a lineman. He eventually landed with the Giants, where he won a championship in 1927 before being promoted to HC in 1930. One of the top defensive coaches of his era, Owen guided the Giants to eight division titles and two NFL Championships during his 24 seasons as HC and still holds the most wins of any coach in the team's long history. He coached a few more years in the CFL, died from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1964, and was posthumously inducted to the Hall of Fame two years later.
  • Bill Parcells, aka "The Big Tuna", is a two-time Super Bowl-winning coach and two-time Coach of the Year who was a HC in the NFL for 19 seasons. Well known for his emphasis on tough defenses, Parcells most famously coached the New York Giants and their "Big Blue Wrecking Crew" from 1983-90 (both Super Bowl rings are with them). He had a 10-Minute Retirement after the second Super Bowl before he returned to coach (and be de facto GM of) the New England Patriots in 1993. Parcells lost his GM privileges when Robert Kraft bought the team, and though he led them to another Super Bowl appearance, he left the very next season to the Jets, who gave him the dual role he sought. Parcells retired a second time after a disappointing '99 season, though he stayed the GM for another year. He was lured out of retirement a third time by the Cowboys in 2003 but finally retired from coaching after 2006. For a while, signing him was akin to the franchise Growing the Beard; he turned Dallas around after three 5-11 seasons, then did the same in Miami when they hired him to a front-office position in 2007, taking them from 1-15 to 11-5 in one year. He formally retired in 2010 and was enshrined in Canton in 2013. Parcells' coaching tree most famously includes Bill Belichick, who followed him as a coordinator and #1 assistant for most of his HC career, and also includes Sean Payton and Tom Coughlin. Fun fact: Parcells was the first recipient of the famous Gatorade shower.
  • Raymond "Buddy" Parker was best known for his championship years with the Detroit Lions during the '50s. After a playing career with the Lions and Chicago Cardinals in the '30s and '40s, Parker entered into coaching with the Cardinals, quitting after a 1949 season where he was named a co-head coach to predictably bad results. He made his way back to his other former team and became HC in Detroit in 1951, where he developed Bobby Layne into one of the league's premier passers while assembling a rugged defense that helped the Lions reach the NFL Championship game three years in a row from 1952-54, winning the first two and losing the third. However, Parker was also notorious for his Hair-Trigger Temper and for cutting players out of the blue to assert control over the team.note  He abruptly resigned during the 1957 preseason, citing difficulty controlling his players. He signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers shortly afterwards and was given total control over the team's roster; he soon became infamous for constant trades, usually involving high draft picks or younger players that he didn’t have the patience to develop, most notably trading away Earl Morrall and two first round picks in order to reunite with Layne in 1958. Although the Steelers experienced some of their best seasons up to that point in franchise history, they never won a championship, their closest finish coming in 1963 when they dropped their final game against the Giants to finish 7-4-3.note  Parker resigned during the 1965 preseason over frustration with increased Executive Meddling. He died of a ruptured ulcer in 1982; despite his successful coaching record, his name was not put forward for Hall of Fame induction until 2020, possibly due to the number of players and executives he rubbed the wrong way in life.
  • Sean Payton was the winningest head coach in the history of the New Orleans Saints. A college QB at Eastern Illinois, Payton went undrafted in 1987 but bounced around four different teams across three leagues in just one year—after playing for two teams in the Arena Football League's inaugural season, Payton signed with the Ottawa Rough Riders of the CFL before getting the opportunity to play as one of Chicago's "Spare Bear" replacement players during the 1987 player strike (where his performance was, understandably, abysmal). Payton soon gave up his ambitions as a player and moved into coaching, where he established himself as one of the sharpest offensive minds in football. After successful tenures as the OC for the Giants and Cowboys, Payton became the Saints HC in 2006 while both the team and the city of New Orleans were still reeling from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He helped shed the team's reputation as "The 'Aints" by leading them to their first conference championship appearance in his first year, winning him Coach of the Year. Payton later brought the city its first Super Bowl title at Super Bowl XLIV. He was temporarily suspended from his HC position in 2012 when the "Bountygate" scandal revealed that the team ran a "bounty" program from 2009-11 seasons (see Gregg Williams' entry in "Notorious Figures") but returned the following season after spending the off-year coaching his son's sixth-grade football team (a period dramatized in the Netflix film Home Team, where he is played by Kevin James). Payton resigned from the Saints after 2021.
  • Doug Pederson is the current HC of the Jacksonville Jaguars after serving with the Philadelphia Eagles from 2016-20. A former journeyman QB who spent time with the Dolphins under Don Shula and the Packers under Mike Holmgren, he is most notably a long-time protege of Andy Reid as both player and coach and even started for the Eagles in 1999 before Donovan McNabb took over. After a stint as the Chiefs' OC under Reid, the Eagles hired him to be their HC after their disastrous 2015 season under Chip Kelly. Initially, Pederson seemed to be a very underwhelming hire as a watered-down version of Reid's West Coast offense that had already failed to bring the Eagles a championship, and his humble "golly-gee-shucks" personality was taken by the sports media and many cynical fans to mean he was in over his head. However, within just two seasons, Pederson completely reversed the Eagles' fortunes, culminating in a hard-fought victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, their first league championship win since 1960. However, Pederson and the Eagles struggled to follow up the win, and he was fired after 2020 due to disagreements with the front office and backlash over an apparent "tanking" effort in which he benched the team's starting QB when facing off against Washington, who was fighting for a playoff berth, in the last game of the season. After a year off from football, he took the job with the Jags.
  • Oail Andrew "Bum" Phillips never coached for the Cowboys but was indisputably the real Cowboy coach of the NFL in the late '70s and early '80s. Besides coming from a lengthy career as a high school and college coach in Texas, Phillips wore blue cowboy boots, blue jeans, and a giant Stetson hat on the sidelines during his head coach tenure for the Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints, a sharp contrast to Tom Landry's suit, tie, and fedora.note  Phillips was beloved by players and fans alike for his folksy demeanor and had a short streak of success with the Oilers during the "Luv Ya Blue" era, but he retired back to his Texas ranch in 1985 after becoming the eighth coach to fail to have a winning season in New Orleans. He enjoyed a long retirement, passing in 2013 shortly after turning 90.
    • Bum's son Wade Phillips got his start coaching for his dad and even filled in as the Saints' head coach for half a season after his father's retirement. This was the beginning of a 30+ year journeyman coaching career in the NFL. He had relatively short stints as HC for the Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, and Dallas Cowboys, and filled in as an interim coach two more times with the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans. Wade saw most of his success as a DC, a title he held on eight different teams; he won Assistant Coach of the Year for his role in coaching the Denver Broncos defense that won Peyton Manning his final championship. He is currently slated to be a HC in the XFL.
  • Dan Reeves was a head coach for three teams over 23 consecutive seasons ('81-'03) in the NFL. An athletic college QB at South Carolina, Reeves joined the Dallas Cowboys under Tom Landry in 1965 as an undrafted free agent and switched to halfback. In 1969, he became one of the last player-coaches in the NFL, working as an offensive assistant while continuing to play RB in certain packages. He formally joined the coaching staff as an offensive assistant in 1972 and was part of both of the Super Bowl-winning Cowboys teams in the '70s. In 1981, he became the youngest HC in the league at age 37 when he was hired by the Denver Broncos, which he led to three Super Bowl appearances in the '80s only to lose each time. He moved on to the New York Giants in 1993, winning Coach of the Year after his first season there. However, after putting up back-to-back losing seasons, he was fired by the Giants in 1997 and hired by the Atlanta Falcons. He then won Coach of the Year again as he led the Falcons to their first Super Bowl appearance in 1998, only to face John Elway's Broncos and lose to his former team and QB. Reeves was fired by the Falcons during the 2003 season when the team fell well below expectations after losing superstar QB Michael Vick to a pre-season injury. His nine total Super Bowl appearancesnote  in any capacity is third only to Bill Belichick's 12 and Tom Brady's 10. Reeves' 190 wins are the 10th most by a HC all time, though his 165 losses are tied for the most in league history with Jeff Fisher (see above). This latter fact, combined with his 0-4 Super Bowl record as a head coach, has largely kept him out of serious Hall of Fame discussion. He passed away on New Year's Day in 2022.
  • Frank Reich is the current head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Reich had a notable career as a QB for twelve seasons in the NFL, though he only started for a total of 22 games in that time span. He gained a reputation as one of the greatest backups in the sport's history, backing up Jim Kelly for nine seasons through the Buffalo Bills' dominance of the AFC and their tragic loss of four straight Super Bowls. His greatest career moment was unquestionably his heroic performance in the 1992–93 AFC Wild Card Playoff. After the Houston Oilers had trounced the Bills and injured Kelly in the final game of the regular season, Reich stepped in the very next week and led the team to a still-record comeback from a 32-point deficit to defeat the Oilers in overtime.note  Later that postseason, after Kelly was injured in Super Bowl XXVII, Reich called signals for most of the team's loss to the Cowboys. He later became the Carolina Panthers' first starting QB, though he lost the job after only three games. After brief stints with the Jets and Lions, Reich retired in 1998 and became a pastor, preaching for nearly a decade before deciding to return to the NFL as a coach. He worked his way up the ranks for the next ten years and finally won a Super Bowl as the OC of the Philadelphia Eagles. Reich earned his first HC job with the Colts the next season, leading the team to a playoff appearance after a 1-5 start in his first year.
  • Andy Reid is the current head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs and the only HC to win 100+ games with two different franchises. After several years as an o-line coach in college, Reid joined the Packers staff and worked his way to be The Lancer to coach Mike Holmgren. This won Reid the HC job with the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2012. While he is the winningest coach in Eagles history, helping turn them around from mediocrity and winning Coach of the Year in 2002, fans had a love-hate relationship with him because he was unsuccessful in delivering the Super Bowl title the city so very much wanted during his time there. Despite his successes, he has often been accused of costing his teams winnable games due to poor clock management and an aggressive run/pass ratio that skews toward the much-riskier pass; the Eagles visited the NFC Championship five times under Reid and only moved on to the Super Bowl once (and then lost that game, too). On a more positive note, he developed a reputation as a creative offensive mind and a good leader who saw the best in players that other programs dismissed or judged to be too risky for on- or off-field reasons, and his coaching tree spawned many individuals who went on to successful HC careers themselves. After moving on from the Eagles, Reid went on to even greater success with the Chiefs, helped turn the long-struggling franchise back into consistent contenders, and finally shed his title of "winningest coach to never win a Super Bowl" by leading the team to victory in Super Bowl LIV. As a self-professed Big Eater, he celebrated this victory by "getting the biggest cheeseburger you've ever seen", then got right back to work and took them back to the Super Bowl the following season. He also boasts an excellent walrus mustache.
  • Ron Rivera is the head coach of the Washington Commanders and previously served in that role for the Carolina Panthers from 2011-19. He started out as a linebacker for the Chicago Bears from 1984-92, becoming the first player of Puerto Rican descent to be part of a Super Bowl-winning team. After retiring from playing, Rivera worked as a defensive coach for several teams before becoming HC of the Panthers. During his tenure, Rivera ran extremely aggressive play-calling strategies, e.g. an increased tendency to "go for it" on fourth downs, earning him the nickname "Riverboat Ron". His leadership helped the Panthers became the first NFC South team to win back-to-back titles since the division was formed in 2002. In 2015, he led the Panthers to finish 15-1 and make their way to Super Bowl 50, winning Coach of the Year a second time before the team lost to the Broncos. He was fired by Carolina midway through a disappointing 2019 season but was quickly hired by Washington, where he faced perhaps the worst Trauma Conga Line imaginable for anyone brought in to lead an already struggling team. The COVID-19 Pandemic shut down his off-season, the team finally dropped its controversial mascot but was unable to find another, and The Washington Post released an article exposing the organization's previous toxic culture of sexual harassment. All of the responsibility for changing the team's culture was laid firmly on Rivera's shoulders... and then he was diagnosed with cancer weeks before the season and had to undergo chemo during its first two months. Rivera inspirationally powered through and led the team to a division title that season.
  • Bobby Ross had one of the better "college-to-NFL" coaching transitions in the modern NFL. After winning a national championship at Georgia Tech, Ross was hired as HC of the San Diego Chargers in 1992. He immediately brought the team to the playoffs after a decade of struggles and led the Chargers on a Cinderella run to their sole Super Bowl appearance two years later. Despite never having a losing season in San Diego, Ross took a more lucrative contract with the Detroit Lions in '97 and likewise experienced some success there, though frustration with the front office led him to resign in the middle of the 2000 season. He'd return to coaching at Army to poor results before retiring for good.
  • The Ryan Family: Consists of Buddy Ryan and his twin sons, Rex and Rob Ryan.
    • James "Buddy" Ryan is best known as the irascible coordinator of the legendary '85 Chicago Bears defense that won Super Bowl XX, though his time in the NFL stretched across multiple teams from the late '60s to the '90s, during which he also won a Super Bowl as an assistant for the New York Jets and served as head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles (1986-90) and Arizona Cardinals (1994-95). Buddy created the famed 46 defense, a blitz-heavy eight-men-in-the-box strategy designed to apply maximum pressure to opposing passing games that was made famous by his legendary 1985 Bears squad. He was also known for clashing with other coaches, including those on his own teams. He and Bears HC Mike Ditka were involved in a physical fight during halftime at the 1985 Monday Night Football game (in which the Bears suffered their only loss that season). Despite his success with the Eagles, Buddy was fired in part due to his frequent controversies (including allegedly taking out bounties on opposing players) and his clashes with management. Later, as a DC for the Houston Oilers in 1993, Buddy openly criticized OC Kevin Gilbride's "Run and Shoot" offense, which he referred to as the "chuck and duck", and even punched him in the face during a Sunday Night Football game against the Jets. Buddy died in 2016.
    • Rex Ryan started as an assistant for the Baltimore Ravens from 1999-2008 (2004-08 as a DC), including their 2000 Super Bowl-winning season, before more famously becoming the head coach for the New York Jets from 2009-14. Known for being one of the most outspoken coaches in the NFL, Rex gained notoriety in 2009 when he openly challenged Bill Belichick in a radio interview ("I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick's, you know, [Super Bowl] rings. I came here to win."). While his success as an assistant is unquestionable, his tenure as a HC created a Broken Base among Jets fans. Ultimately, his greatest strength (his talent for coaching the defensive side of the ball) may have also been his downfall; his inability to field a consistently productive offense—particularly his failures at finding a QB—resulted in a run of mediocrity that cost him his job. He coached the Buffalo Bills from 2015-16, until he was fired with one week remaining in the season, having finished 7-8. Rex then joined ESPN as an analyst.
    • Rob Ryan was a LB coach for the Super Bowl-winning Patriots in the early '00s, before spinning that off into jobs as a DC for the Browns, Cowboys, and Saints. He is best known for his flowing mane of silver hair (though he and his brother are not identical, it is their most distinguishing feature). Rob joined the Buffalo Bills in 2016 as the assistant head coach, reuniting with his twin, but was fired alongside his brother at the end of that season.
  • Lou Rymkus was the first ever HC of the Houston Oilers. His tenure—specifically his firing—was one of the most bizarre in the annals of pro football. Initially a lineman drafted by Washington in the seventh round out of Notre Dame in 1943, he entered the Navy for WWII after his rookie season. There, he met Paul Brown, who recruited him to join the AAFC's Cleveland Browns after the end of the war. Rymkus served as a key component of the Browns' run of championships before his retirement after 1951. He subsequently entered coaching, eventually landing the job as HC of the AFL's Oilers in 1960 and immediately leading the franchise to the new league's first championship. However, just five games into the next season, Rymkus was fired by owner Bud Adams after posting a 1-3-1 record; Adams expressed dissatisfaction with the on-field product, though Rymkus later claimed it was because he had pushed back against Adams' decision to have the Oilers training camp in Hawaii having predicted it would make it more difficult to prepare the team. Incredibly, the Oilers team he had coached went undefeated after his firing on the way to winning another championship; no Oilers/Titans team has been able to win a national title since. After a 10-Minute Retirement from football, Rymkus was rehired by the Oilers as an assistant in '65. He coached in various levels of the sport for another few years, retiring for good after winning a Super Bowl as a line coach with the Colts in 1970. He passed away in 1998.
  • Lou Saban coached for 20 different organizations throughout his near 50-year career, earning him the nickname "Lou 2.2" as that was his average length of stay. He played linebacker for the Cleveland Browns during their AAFC years before starting his coaching career in 1950. After a decade with several college programs, he was named the inaugural coach of the Boston Patriots in 1960 but was fired five games into his second season. He joined the Buffalo Bills the following year, guiding them to back-to-back AFL Championships in '64 and '65 while winning Coach of the Year in both seasons. Feeling he had accomplished everything he could in the pro ranks, Saban left Buffalo to coach at Maryland in 1966, only to change his mind and sign with the Denver Broncos a year later. After posting a losing record in five straight seasons with the Broncos, he resigned midway through the 1971 season and returned to Buffalo the following year. Although he was more successful than he was in Denver and developed O.J. Simpson into one of the league's best runners, the Bills only made the playoffs once during his second stint, and after feuding with team owner Ralph Wilson, Saban quit again five games into the 1976 season (which kept him off the Bills' Wall of Fame for decades). Other than a couple years in the Arena Football League, he spent the rest of his career coaching high school and college teams before retiring in 2002. He was also known for his sideline temper, with his famous "They're killing me, Whitey!" outburst becoming a popular clip in NFL Films. Saban passed away in 2009.note 
  • Marty Schottenheimer had arguably the worst of case of Every Year They Fizzle Out in NFL coaching history. A former linebacker who played a few years in the AFL and NFL in the late '60snote  before working up the coaching ranks, Schottenheimer was a head coach in the NFL for 23 nonconsecutive seasons from 1984 to 2006. He coached the Cleveland Browns for five seasons in their last era of consistent success in the '80s, then led the Kansas City Chiefs for ten years through the '90s after breaking a two-decade franchise playoff drought. After a 10-Minute Retirement and gig as an ESPN analyst, he spent 2002 in Washington before being replaced by the flashier Steve Spurrier and finished with a five-year stint with the San Diego Chargers in which he won Coach of the Year. In that time, he put up only two losing seasons, went to the playoffs 13 times, and recorded a very strong regular season win percentage of .613. With 200 regular season wins (the seventh most in league history), his place in the Hall of Fame seems like it would be guaranteed... were it not for the fact that he not only never reached a Super Bowl but put up a postseason record of .278, a number drastically below anyone else who reached the playoffs as often as he did. His luck in January was atrocious: he never even made it past the first round nine times, his Browns suffered heartbreaking losses to the Broncos in two straight AFC Championships, and the Chargers fired him after a 14-2 regular season when he again proved he couldn't translate it to a championship run.note  Schottenheimer was known for practicing "Marty ball", an extremely conservative coaching scheme that emphasized the run, so his opponents could pretty consistently count on Marty's 1st-4th downs going, "Run, run, pass, punt" without fail. He was also well known for giving a pretty good Rousing Speech. Though he never made it to the Super Bowl, Marty did eventually win a professional championship in his final season as a coach, leading the United Football League's Virginia Destroyers to the win before retiring due to an Alzheimer's diagnosis and passing in 2021.
  • George Seifert succeeded the legendary Bill Walsh (see below) as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers in 1989, the year after their Super Bowl XXIII victory. Seifert had already coached for the team for nine years, the last six as its DC, and thus was well-equipped to continue the success of the '80s Niners dynasty into a new decade—he led the team straight to another Super Bowl victory, the second HC to do so in his first year on the job. Seifert's tenure was very nearly an Even Better Sequel to Walsh's, with his team winning a second Super Bowl and putting up double-digit winning seasons each of his eight years at the position. However, he was pushed into retiring after the '96 season when ownership sought a change in direction, and he left the NFL with the best HC win percentage in modern league history. After a widely panned stint as an analyst, Seifert was later drawn back to the NFL two years later by the Carolina Panthers with an offer to be HC and de facto GM. He probably regretted that choice—two middling seasons followed by a dreadful 1-15 showing resulted in a .333 win percentage with the Panthers, still the worst in the franchise's history, dropping Seifert's once-stellar record out of the upper echelons and likely keeping him out of Hall of Fame contention for the immediate future.
  • Mike Shanahan was a head coach most famous for his 14 seasons with the Denver Broncos from 1995-2008 with whom he won two Super Bowls following the '97-'98 seasons. From 1996-98, his Broncos set the record for most wins over a three-season span (46) as well as the record for most consecutive home wins (going undefeated and untied at home in all three years). He is also known for popularizing the "zone-blocking" system featuring smaller, more-athletic offensive linemen, which paved the way for Terrell Davis' Hall of Fame career as well as a string of other lesser-known backs who had 1,000+ rushing yard seasons in Shanahan's system. More infamously, he also popularized the tactic of "icing" the opposing kicker by calling a timeout right before the kick, a tactic that usually does more to annoy the spectators than to rattle the kicker; as a result, the tactic is colloquially known as "Shanahanigans". Toward the end of his coaching career, the term instead became applied to Shanahan's tendency to feature different running backs in different games, to the chagrin of fantasy football players. While he is a member of the Broncos Ring of Fame, his success in Denver was sandwiched between unsuccessful stints with the Los Angeles Raiders (1988-89) and Washington (2010-13), hurting his lifetime win record and likely contributing to his exclusion from Canton.
    • Mike's son Kyle Shanahan, who served as OC under Mike while in Washington, is the current HC for the San Francisco 49ers. Though he has seen enough success as an influential play designer to not be accused of coasting on Nepotism, he has developed a reputation for choking away leads in the Super Bowl, first as OC for the Falcons in their infamous loss to the Patriots and later as HC of the 49ers against the Chiefs.
  • Buck Shaw was the first HC of the San Francisco 49ers, taking the position after being a star at Notre Dame and serving many years as a college coach, most prominently for the now-defunct Santa Clara program. Shaw made the Niners one of the more successful teams in the AAFC, helping to win them a spot in the NFL after the league folded. He retired from coaching the Niners after 1954 but soon resumed coaching at the college level, returned to the NFL in 1958, and coached the Philadelphia Eagles to a championship win against the Packers in 1960, in the process delivering the sole postseason defeat of Vince Lombardi's head coaching career. Shaw elected to retire on top, for good this time; he passed away in 1977.
  • Art Shell was a Hall of Fame offensive tackle for the Oakland (later Los Angeles) Raiders from the late 1960s into the early 1980s, winning two Super Bowls and being named to eight Pro Bowls. He is perhaps even more famous for becoming the first black head coach in the modern era of NFL history (and only the second overall). Shell led the team to a winning record in five of his six years during his initial run as HC, including three playoff appearances, and won Coach of the Year in 1990. However, owner Al Davis infamously fired Shell after a 9-7 season, something Davis later admitted was a mistake when his successors didn't provide any better results. Shell got a second stint as Raiders HC in 2006 but was fired again after an abysmal 2-14 season.
  • Don Shula was HC for the most games (509) and the most wins (347) in NFL history over a 33-year HC career. He was an NFL DB before his coaching career, a ninth round pick by the Cleveland Browns out of the obscure John Carroll in 1951. After seven years as a journeyman player and a few more as an assistant in college and with the Lions, Shula became HC of one of his former teams, the Baltimore Colts, in 1963. He immediately broke out as a major talent known for an obsessive attention to detail; he invented the wristband now worn by most quarterbacks so that his backups could keep track of the different play calls. Shula shaped the Colts into one of the strongest teams of the '60s and led them to Super Bowl III, where the underdog AFL champion Jets beat his heavily favored team. Shula gained the most fame after he left Baltimore in 1970 to coach the Miami Dolphins, which gave up a first round pick to the Colts just to get him. The investment was well worth it: Shula took the Dolphins to a Super Bowl appearance in his second year with the team before leading them to back-to-back Super Bowl victories in VII and VIII. The former victory capped off the 1972 team's perfect 17-0 run, which remains the NFL's only undefeated season (regular and postseason) since the merger. Shula kept the Dolphins regular contenders for another two decades, only putting up two losing seasons in '76 and '88, and revisited the Super Bowl two more times (XVII and XIX), though he never claimed another ring. Shula visited the playoffs a record 19 times and won Coach of the Year a record four times, though ironically the AP gave him the first three while he was with the Colts. Shula finally retired from coaching in 1995 with the second-longest NFL HC career behind only George Halas (see below under "Owners/Management"), was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997, and died in 2020.
  • Lovie Smith, the current HC for the Houston Texans, began his NFL coaching career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as their LB coach in 1996, where he became responsible for installing the famed Tampa 2 defense scheme that terrorized the league for the next decade. In 2001, he became the DC for the Rams, guiding the team to a Super Bowl appearance in his first season. In 2004, he got his first HC job with the Chicago Bears and improved the team's fortunes, earning Coach of the Year in 2005 and leading his team to a Super Bowl berth the next year, losing to his friend and mentor Tony Dungy (see above). Unfortunately, his Bears teams subsequently regressed, and he was controversially fired after a 10-win season in 2012. He got his second HC job back with the Buccaneers in 2014 but was soon fired after posting a losing record over two seasons. After a five-year stint in the college ranks as HC of Illinois, he returned to the pros with the Texans.
  • Mike Smith won Coach of the Year in 2008, his first year as HC of the Atlanta Falcons after years of experience as an assistant defensive coach. Coming on the heels of the Michael Vick arrest and the colorful (and controversial) tenures of predecessors Jim L. Mora and Bobby Petrino, Smith's conservative playstyle and personality successfully salvaged a franchise that looked set to unravel as he posted the first consecutive winning seasons in the team's entire four-decade history. After reaching the 2012 NFC Championship game, Smith's team backslid to losing records, leading to his firing after 2014; he remains the winningest coach in Falcons history.
  • Hank Stram was the most successful coach of the AFL during its ten-year run as well as one of its more colorful characters. Stram coached for the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs for 15 seasons, all without an offensive or defensive coordinator, and led them to three AFL championships. Famously, Stram was the first coach to be mic'd by NFL Films during the Chiefs' Super Bowl IV victory, which memorably captured him arguing with officials and ordering his players to "Keep matriculating the ball down the field", permanently entering the phrase into the lexicon of NFL coaches and broadcasters and proving the entertainment value that coaches could provide viewers at home. He was also distinctive for being a Sharp-Dressed Man who wore suits that reflected his team's colors on the sidelines. Stram retired from coaching in 1977 after a brief and unsuccessful stint with the Saints, enjoyed a long career as a color commentator (including calling 16 Super Bowls for CBS Radio), and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003. He died two years later due to complications from diabetes.
  • Barry Switzer coached Oklahoma to three national titles in 1974, 1975, and 1985 before becoming the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys in 1994. His hiring was controversial: Dallas had won the Super Bowl under coach Jimmy Johnson the previous two years, only to be fired when owner Jerry Jones made a play for more organizational control, pushed him out, and replaced him with another former player from Arkansas who had seen championship success at the college level. Despite being considered a Replacement Scrappy by many fans, Switzer led the 'Boys to the NFC Championship in his first year and a victory in Super Bowl XXX the next, making him just the third HC to win championships at the college and pro levels. The season after that, however, he led the Cowboys to a loss in the Divisional Round, and his last season saw the team implode to a 6-10 record, at which point he resigned. Despite his general success (with a 45-26 NFL record), he is often viewed as among the worst head coaches to ever win a Super Bowl, with many believing that his wins came from the luck of inheriting the great team that Johnson had built and pointing to his feuding with Troy Aikman (who he had briefly coached in college) as a key reason for the eroding of the Cowboys dynasty that they've never really recovered from.
  • Mike Tomlin is the current HC of the Pittsburgh Steelers, whom he has taken to two Super Bowls (winning one and becoming the youngest to do so at the time, as well as only the second African-American HC). After a few years as a defensive backs coach for Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden in Tampa, Tomlin had only a single year of experience as a DC on a 6-10 Vikings team and was thus considered a long shot to land the Steelers HC job after the retirement of Bill Cowher. Additionally, he had to beat out two highly qualified incumbents, Cowher's assistant Russ Grimm and OC Ken Whisenhunt. Still, Tomlin got the job and the rest is history; over 15 years in Pittsburgh, he has yet to put up a losing season. However, while he is beloved by players and many fans for his generally amiable but no-nonsense attitude, he has developed a reputation for struggling down the stretch; in the decade since his last Super Bowl visit, he has only taken the Steelers to a single AFCCG berth. He was also notably the subject of a controversial play during a game against the rival Ravens on Thanksgiving Day in 2013, when he stepped onto the field after Ravens return man Jacoby Jones had broken away during a kickoff return. Jones was forced to sidestep Tomlin and was quickly tackled. The NFL later fined Tomlin $100,000 for the act, the second highest fine ever levied against an NFL head coach.note  Despite this, Tomlin has a Friendly Rivalry with Ravens' coach John Harbaugh (see above); as of 2020, the two have faced off more times than any other pair of coaches in the Super Bowl era.
  • Norv Turner had the longest career of any NFL HC to ultimately put up a losing record (118-126-1, .484). A long-time assistant on the college and pro levels, Turner was hired as the HC in Washington in 1994 after experiencing success as the OC of the Cowboys during their early '90s dynasty. During his six-year stay, the team hovered around .500 and only reached the playoffs in his fifth year; new owner Dan Snyder fired him in the middle of the following season while he still had a winning record. After a few more years as an OC, he was picked up by the Raiders in 2004 but was fired after two seasons. After another brief stint as an OC, Turner was picked to succeed Marty Schottenheimer (above) with the San Diego Chargers in 2007. Turner did much better with the talented San Diego roster, taking the Chargers to an AFC Championship appearance in his first season and improving his poor HC record back with a series of winning seasons. However, the team soon descended back to mediocrity, and Turner was fired after a 7-9 2012; he again returned to the OC ranks before retiring after 2019.
  • Dick Vermeil coached for multiple teams on four levels of football—high school, junior college, NCAA Division I, and the NFL—and is the only person known to have received "Coach of the Year" honors at all four. He was also one of the first special teams coaches in the NFL, hired in 1969 by the (then Los Angeles) Rams. After a great run as UCLA's HC, his tenure as a head coach in the NFL began when he was hired by the long-struggling Philadelphia Eagles in 1976 (a period dramatized in the Disney film Invincible, where he's played by Greg Kinnear). Vermeil turned the team around and brought them to their first Super Bowl appearance but retired in 1982 after they regressed, citing occupational burnout. Vermeil spent the next 15 years as an announcer before deciding to return to coaching the Rams (then in St. Louis) in 1997. After two abysmal seasons, the pieces that became the Greatest Show on Turf fell into place. The Rams won the Super Bowl, Vermeil won Coach of the Year, and he retired for a second time to go out on top (a period again dramatized in the Kurt Warner Biopic American Underdog, where he's played by Dennis Quaid). He returned to the NFL two seasons later to coach the Kansas City Chiefs for five more seasons before retiring for good. Vermeil developed a reputation as one of the league's more paternal coaches; he was famously very emotional and prone to Manly Tears during press conferences and locker room speeches. While his career win record was only just above .500, his contributions to reviving three different franchises earned him a Hall of Fame induction in 2022.
  • Mike Vrabel is the current HC of the Tennessee Titans, following a playing career as a defensive end/linebacker that saw him win three Super Bowls with the Patriots. After a few years as a successful assistant, he got the Titans job in 2018 and revived the struggling franchise's prospects, taking them to an AFC Championship appearance in 2019 and winning Coach of the Year in 2021 after keeping his highly injured roster extremely competitive. He has also gained some notoriety for following his mentor Bill Belichick's footsteps as a prominent Rules Lawyer, using technically legal though rather underhanded tactics of clock management that became known as "Vrabeling".
  • Bill Walsh was the architect of the San Francisco 49ers dynasty in the '80s. Well known for his cerebral coaching style and creative scheming, he famously created the "West Coast" offense (using short horizontal passes to set up long passes and runs) during his time as an assistant coach for Paul Brown with the Cincinnati Bengals in the '60s and '70s. Walsh was passed over for the job as Brown's successor and was briefly blackballed from NFL positions, but after a successful stint as the head coach at Stanford, he was brought in to be both HC and GM of the Niners in 1979. After a rough early start with the struggling franchise, his innovative playbook made him the most successful coach of the '80s, winning Coach of the Year in 1981, bringing the 49ers to three championships, and setting them up to win a fourth the season after he retired due to emotional burnout in 1988. Despite a reputation as a Control Freak who attempted to regiment players into play-making automatons, Walsh was generally well liked by players for his intelligence, wry sense of humor, and, of course, his great success. Several teams later attempted to lure him out of retirement, as his ten-year stretch was rather short for a coach of his caliber, but he only returned for a brief stint at Stanford and a briefer one as the 49ers GM. However, Walsh had one of the most expansive "coaching trees" in the sport, with Sam Wyche, George Seifert, Dennis Green, Mike Holmgren, and Ray Rhodes all serving under him as assistants before branching out to become head coaches themselves, ensuring that the West Coast passing style continued to dominate the league for decades to come. Walsh was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993 and died from leukemia in 2007.
  • Charlie Weis was the OC for the early Patriots dynasty years from 2000-04, winning three Super Bowls with the team and helping develop Tom Brady. He began his coaching career as an assistant for the Bill Parcells-led New York Giants in 1990, where he won a Super Bowl. Weis followed the defensive-minded Parcells from the Giants to the Patriots and Jets and was a key part of his success; in 1998, the Jets finished in the top 5 in total offense, two years removed from a 1-15 season. He served the same position after joining fellow Parcells acolyte Bill Belichick with the Patriots in 2000, establishing the offensive system that allowed an obscure sixth-round pick at QB to begin his legendary career. From 2005-09, he served as the HC of Notre Dame, where he produced middling results. In 2010, he returned to the pros and served as the OC of the Kansas City Chiefs, leading the long-struggling team to the playoffs and finishing 1st in rushing and 9th in total offense. He later returned to the college ranks as OC for Florida in 2011 and HC of Kansas from 2012-14, finding success at neither stop.
  • George Wilson was a head coach for 12 years with the Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins. His career record of 68-84-8 falls well below most other coaches on this list, but his notability comes from the odd fact that he is the only HC in NFL history with a perfect post-season win percentage.note  Originally an undrafted player out of Northwestern, he played as a two-way "end" for the Bears for 10 seasons where he was part of their four championship runs in the 1940s and made three Pro Bowls. He then moved into coaching, first as an assistant in Chicago, then as HC in Detroit starting in 1957. That season, he led the Lions to the franchise's last championship, going 2-0 in the postseason and being named the first AP Coach of the Year. However, this was also the only time in his coaching career that his team made the playoffs. After seven more seasons in Detroit, he was hired as the first coach of the AFL's expansion Dolphins, where he served for four more losing seasons and fielded his own son as a starting QB. He died from a heart attack in 1978.
  • Sam Wyche was most famous for his time with the Cincinnati Bengals. Initially an undrafted QB out of Furman, Wyche played in the Continental Football League before signing with the expansion Bengals in 1968, playing a few games as the starter in assistant coach Bill Walsh's prototype West Coast offense. He retired in 1976 after a few years as a journeyman backup and was later hired to serve as Walsh's assistant with the San Francisco 49ers, where he helped to develop Joe Montana within the West Coast scheme. Their Super Bowl success earned him the HC gig back in Cincinnati. "Wacky Wyche" became known as one of the league's more colorful characters, both for his big personality and his eccentric playcalling (including running the no-huddle "hurry up" offense as a default and placing more than 11 players on the field when they did huddle to confuse opponents and draw out penalties). This brought the team some success, and Wyche led the Bengals to their second Super Bowl appearance, only to be defeated by his former mentor's 49ers in Walsh's final game. New owner Mike Brown fired Wyche in 1991 after the team slid to a 3-13 record, seeking a new direction; the Bengals would not win another playoff game for 30 years. Wyche next coached four seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, never posting a winning record before being fired. He spent most of the following years as a high school coach before dying from cancer in 2020.

     Presidents/Commissioners 
  • Ralph Hay (1920) was the owner of the Canton Bulldogs who organized the first meeting in NFL history and is recognized as the first head of the league (though he took the title "Temporary Secretary"). The Canton native ran a successful automobile dealership when he purchased the Bulldogs in 1918, led by his friend and superstar athlete Jim Thorpe. Although the Bulldogs were successful on the field, games were sparsely attended and salaries were increasing as players jumped from team to team. Hay sought to improve upon these issues by forming a league and, on August 20, 1920, met with representatives from three Ohio League teams at his office in Canton to lay the foundation for what eventually became the NFL, originally known as the APFA (American Professional Football Association). The owners met again on September 17, with representatives from six other teams also joining the new league; so many people were present that the meeting had to be moved from Hay’s office to his dealership's display room. Hay was elected secretary of the league while Thorpe was elected league president. Although Hay built the Bulldogs into an early powerhouse, winning consecutive titles in 1922-23, he continued to lose money investing into the team, ultimately selling them to a group of local businessmen prior to the 1923 season. Hay passed away in 1944. The Pro Football Hall of Fame was built in Canton in large part due to Hay’s contributions to forming the NFL; despite this, Hay has yet to be inducted to the Hall himself.
  • Jim Thorpe (1920) was picked by Hay to be the league's first president. He did next to nothing to actually run the league, being too busy actually playing in it, and the owners quickly decided they needed a full-time professional for the second season. For his much more interesting life outside of his presidency, see Thorpe's dedicated folder on National Football League Names to Know.
  • Joe Carr (1921-39) started out as a machinist and sports writer who organized the Columbus Panhandlesnote  in 1907. They played in the Ohio League before they became a charter franchise of the APFA in 1920. A year later, Carr was elected as the second president of the nascent league, where he was critical in helping building a more stable National Football League (which adopted the moniker under his presidency). He wrote the first constitution of the NFL, which established territorial rights, membership criteria, and player contracts, and also organized the tracking of league standings and banned the use of college players, all with the ultimate goal of evolving the NFL from a loose circuit of midwestern teams to a league with a strong national presence and capable teams in large markets. As a result, many of the league’s smaller teams wound up folding or relocatingnote  while Carr focused on finding large market teams with fully supportive ownership. His efforts helped the NFL to survive the 1920s and the Great Depression while also establishing a base for the massive national presence that the league has maintained to this day. He died of a heart attack in 1939 at just 59 years old; the league's first MVP award was posthumously named in his honor. Many owners from his era considered him one of the biggest factors behind the NFL’s growth and success, as he was part of the charter class of the Hall of Fame in 1963, with the Hall referring to him as "the Father of Professional Football".
  • Carl Storck (1939-41) was one of the NFL's founders, a former owner-player-coach of the Dayton Triangles, and Carr's secretary-treasurer throughout his tenure as president. Storck succeeded Carr after his death. Shortly thereafter, the owners amended the league's constitution to create the position of "Commissioner" as its chief executive office, following the MLB's example. This change didn't get rid of the president's office but effectively replaced it, and after they appointed someone else to the new office, Storck resigned rather than attempt a fruitless power struggle. It was a sad end for someone who had served the league tirelessly for two decades, most of that time without pay; he passed in 1950.
  • Elmer Layden (1941-46) was the first commissioner of the NFL. One of Notre Dame's legendary Four Horsemen of the early 1920s, Layden played on a few NFL teams himself before entering college coaching and was serving as the head coach at his alma mater when he was selected by the NFL owners for the new position. He steered the league through the lean years of WWII, when most of the best athletes were serving in uniform overseas. Significantly, he instituted the singing of the American national anthem at the start of each game in part to protect players from being seen as unpatriotic and keep audiences coming to the stadiums to see somewhat subpar athletic performances. Layden did a solid job as commissioner, but the owners did not extend his initial five-year contract, believing they needed someone a little tougher to compete with the new AAFC. He passed away in 1973.
  • Bert Bell (1946-59) was originally a college player (at Penn) and assistant coach (at Penn and Temple) before he founded the Philadelphia Eagles in 1933 and appointed himself as head coach in 1936 after co-founder Lud Wray failed to put up results and was pushed out of ownership. As the sole owner and with no one able to fire him, he put up an atrocious record of 10-44-2 (.196). Bell's struggle to sign talent to his teams caused him to lead the charge in devising and adopting the Draft in 1936, though the Eagles first #1 pick chose a career in sales over football, meaning even this innovation didn't help the team. The only thing that could end Bell's reign in Philly was selling the Eagles, which he did in 1941 in a complicated event called the "Pennsylvania Polka" in which he and Pittsburgh Steelers co-owner Alexis Thompson switched team ownership. Bell then became coach in Pittsburgh until Steelers co-owner and GM Art Rooney (see below) finally fired Bell from his coaching job after two more losses, lowering his career record to .179, which remains the absolute worst coaching record of anyone with that career length (and will almost certainly remain the worst, unless another owner decides to one day follow in his footsteps). However, in part because of his success in getting teams to agree to the Draft (and also because no one else wanted the thankless job), Bell was appointed the league's second commissioner. Despite his previous struggles as an owner and coach, he did a much better job in this role. Bell introduced the idea of parity in the NFL, saying that "on any given Sunday, any team can beat any other team". He also oversaw the league's merger with the AAFC, firmly establishing the NFL as the dominant American football league. He also recognized the creation of the NFLPA, despite the protests of many owners, ensuring that NFL players would be given some standards in pensions and benefits while protecting the league from potentially being broken up by Congress. He also was responsible for blacking out all home games from local TV markets during his tenure, a widely unpopular decision that probably did help increase revenue and lead to the building of larger stadiums. Poetically, Bell died in 1959 of a heart attack while at an Eagles-Steelers game, watching the team he founded score a touchdown. He was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame's charter class.
  • Austin Gunsel (1959) was a former FBI agent who had initially been hired by Bell in 1952 to head an office that investigated potential scandals. He soon became Bell's secretary and filled in as the interim commissioner after his death. He was the expected frontrunner to assume the office but was unable to gain majority support in subsequent owners meetings; he continued to serve as secretary until 1966 and passed away in 1974.
  • Pete Rozelle (1960-89) was an unassuming 33-year-old PR exec coming off a brief run as the GM of the L.A. Rams who unexpectedly rose to the position of commissioner as a compromise candidate after a drawn out election process. He wound up having the longest tenure of any commissioner at a full three decades, and he helped to greatly expand and transform the league into the strongest sports entity in the country. He successfully led the NFL through the war with the AFL and came out as the winner, added six additional expansion teams, introduced revenue sharing to prevent future teams from folding, lengthened the NFL season from 12 to 14 to 16 games, established the Super Bowl as a massive media event, and, more controversially, faced off against the NFLPA in two heated player strikes. Despite his mild manners, he was known as a bit of a Control Freak; he strengthened the power of the commissioner by regularly reallocating draft picks between teams at his discretion to ensure his idea of competitive fairness. His most famous policy, the "Rozelle Rule", prevented teams from hiring free agents without surrendering draft picks to the team that drafted them, essentially robbing players of any bargaining power with team owners. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985 while still commissioner, an honor even his detractors couldn't argue he hadn't earned, as few did more to expand the influence of football in American business and culture. He is also the namesake of the Hall's Radio-Television lifetime achievement award. Rozelle died of a brain tumor in 1996.
  • Paul Tagliabue (1989-2006) was an NFL lawyer who unexpectedly succeeded Rozelle over assumed favorite Jim Finks (see "Management/Front Office" below) due to political posturing between two factions of owners. He expanded on Rozelle's successes, adding four teams to the league, guiding it through troubles like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, and fully asserting the NFL as the dominant pro sports league in America. He also reversed some of Rozelle's restrictive policies on player agency, opening the door to the current free agency model in 1993. That's not to say he was universally successful. He took great pains to ensure the Cleveland Browns' return after Art Modell's movement of the team to Baltimore but lost Los Angeles as an NFL market when the Rams moved to St. Louis and the Raiders moved back to Oakland, leaving America's biggest media market without a local team for two decades. During his tenure, the NFL made the first serious attempts to expand beyond the US with the World League of American Football, later renamed to NFL Europe when it lost its North American teams. This league lost money in all its iterations and seasons but proved an amount of football enthusiasm in Europe that was previously unthought of. Ultimately, all but one team were based in Germany, and Roger Goodell shut the league down almost immediately after taking office. Tagliabue was inducted into the Hall of Fame's Centennial Class in 2020.
  • Roger Goodell (2006-) is the current commissioner, having been the expected choice to succeed Tagliabue after serving under him in numerous positions, including the league's COO. He has had a very mixed reputation at the position—while popular with the owners and successful at continuing the league's financial growth, he is widely unpopular with many fans and players, to the point where he is always booed during his appearances at the Draftnote . When he got the job in 2006, he stated that he wanted to clean up the league's image by issuing harsher suspensions and punishments for personal conduct violations, as the often illegal behavior of several players was threatening to overshadow the game of football itself in the media. Despite this, Goodell soon came under fire for his poor handling of domestic abuse cases from high-profile players like Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, and Ray Rice, having been accused of seemingly trying to ignore or sweep such major problems away and then coming up with seemingly random lengths of time for the suspension when the league is finally forced to confront them. Other hot-button issues under his tenure have been work stoppage and the ever-growing threat of concussions. While detractors accuse him of being too slow to address the concussion issue, his actions were a dramatic reversal from his predecessor Tagliabue's policy of completely ignoring the problem and hoping it would go away. After shutting down NFL Europe, he replaced the "international outreach" aspect of it but not the "develop players" part by starting the "International Series", which started out as a single "home" game in Wembley Stadium but grew to three games a season and was planned to include other countries. Reactions to the International Series varied; many European fans loved the chance to get a game (relatively) close to home, whereas many American fans hated losing a home game of their team and fans on the West Coast have often complained about the rather early kickoff times (as early as 6:30 AM Pacific time). In the 2020s, Goodell has been in charge of responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic (which largely ground his global expansion plans to a halt and severely impacted many teams' revenues), increased player activism for social justice beginning with Colin Kaepernick's in-game protests in 2016, and expanding the regular season schedule to 17 games.
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     Owners 
  • Running an NFL team is a family affair—over half of the NFL's current teams are represented in owner meetings by a relative or spouse of a now-deceased or inactive owner. Several teams, especially very old ones, have had owners over multiple generations, such as the Chicago Bears' Halas/McCaskey family, the Arizona/Phoenix/St. Louis/Chicago Cardinals' Bidwill family, the Pittsburgh Steelers' Rooney family, and the New York Giants' Mara family note . One particularly interesting case: the Detroit Lions have been owned by the Ford family—yes, Ford, as in Henry—since 1963. The only NFL team without an owner is the Green Bay Packers, who are a publicly traded franchise (see below).

  • Bud Adams was the founder of the Houston Oilers. An oilman himself and an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, the largest of the Cherokee tribes,note  Adams and fellow oilman Lamar Hunt worked closely as partners, first in an effort to enter the NFL, then to start their own competition with the AFL. He was generally viewed as a stubborn "play-by-his-own-rules" type throughout his career with an infamous lack of dedication to his coaches, frequently firing generally winning HCs at the first sign of trouble. In the Oilers' second season, he fired the team's first head coach just five games after he won the team its first championship. This actually worked, as the team went undefeated the rest of the season on the way to a second championship, but it taught Adams all the wrong lessons. Over the next three decades, he fired five HCs that were no more than a season removed from taking the team to the playoffs; four of those firings resulted in catastrophic collapses that completely squandered the franchise's promising start. Most infamously, prior to the 1993 season, he publicly promised to completely dismantle a roster that had made seven straight playoffs if they failed to win a Super Bowl. He stuck to that promise after they merely made the playoffs again, resulting in the worst season-to-season collapse in league history (and explaining why Jeff Fisher got such a long leash for the next 16 years). At the same time, when he was unable to get the city of Houston to pay for a new stadium for the Oilers, he hopped town to Memphis, then Nashville, alienating fans and struggling to sell tickets in each locale. Adams also refused to let the new Houston franchise use the Oilers nickname even though he had renamed his to the Tennessee Titans. Finally, he infamously was fined $250,000 for Flipping the Bird at the opposing team in view of the cameras in 2009. Despite all of his apparent mismanagement, by the time of his death in 2013, Adams had the longest tenure and most wins of any NFL owner. His children and grandchildren (also enrolled Cherokee) inherited the team, with his daughter Amy Adams Strunk now acting as the majority owner.
  • Paul Allen owned the Seattle Seahawks from 1997 until his death in 2018, buying the franchise when then-owner Ken Behring made an unsuccessful gambit to move the team to California and had his public reputation plummet as a result. The sale notably took place with perhaps the shortest turnaround time of any sport team sale in history, with remarkably little due diligence to buy a franchise on the verge of bankruptcy; a Seattle native, Allen bought the team as a risky investment strictly to keep it in the Pacific Northwest. He could afford it—as a co-founder of Microsoft, Allen was by far the wealthiest team owner in the NFL (or any sport, for that matter), with a higher net worth than all other NFL owners combined at the time. Despite this, he had an almost invisible public persona, preferring to run team matters as he did in business: by hiring the best people to do the job and staying out of their way. His first move was to entice star Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren to Seattle, with a free hand to reshape the team roster and operations as he saw fit. A decade later, after multiple division titles and a Super Bowl appearance, Holmgren retired and the team he built floundered in subsequent seasons. Allen hired a new GM and superstar college coach Pete Carroll, again with a blank check. His methods were rewarded with a revitalized franchise and the team's first Super Bowl victory. Fans learned that if Paul Allen made any public statement regarding his team, no matter how calm or even-handed, it meant something had gotten ridiculously out of hand. Allen also owned the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers and was part of the ownership group of Seattle Sounders FC in MLS. His sister Jody Allen inherited control of all of her brother's sports properties.
  • Charles Bidwill was one of the wealthiest owners in the history of the NFLnote . As a minority owner of the Chicago Bears, he helped George Halas keep the team afloat in the early '30s before he purchased their crosstown rival, the Chicago Cardinals, in 1933. Despite Bidwill's enthusiasm for the team, the Cardinals regularly struggled on and off the field, in part due to the Bears being a far more popular team at the time. Bidwill himself remained a fan of the Bears, oftentimes showing more support towards them than his own franchise. After World War II ended and the AAFC placed a third team in Chicago, Bidwill became more serious about running his team, first bringing in Jimmy Conzelman as their HC, then signing Georgia HB Charley Trippi to the largest contract in league history at the time, completing his “Dream Backfield” which featured other All-Pros such as Paul Christman and Pat Harder. The Cardinals would snap their lengthy playoff drought, winning the NFL Championship in 1947 and appearing in the 1948 title game. Unfortunately, Bidwill didn’t get to witness any of this success, as he died of pneumonia prior to the 1947 season. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1967.
    • Charles' wife, Violet Bidwill Wolfner, inherited the Cardinals from her husband upon his passing, becoming the first woman to be majority owner of an NFL team. Violet oversaw the team's move to St. Louis, the hometown of her second husband, Walter, in 1960 and died two years later. Her will left her shares to her and Charles' adopted sons rather than Walter, who managed the team, leading to a protracted and ugly legal battle where Walter attempted to invalidate his stepsons' adoption to claim the team. Elder son Bill Bidwill eventually gained majority ownership of the team, oversaw its move to Arizona, and held the longest tenure of any NFL owner when he passed away in 2019, passing ownership to his son Michael Bidwill.
  • Pat Bowlen was the long-time owner of the Denver Broncos. When Bowlen purchased the team in 1984, it had a reputation as one of the league's bottom-feeders, having only made the playoffs thrice in 24 seasons. Bowlen helped turn the team into one of the strongest in the NFL, with the Broncos winning seven AFC Championships and three Super Bowls under his ownership. Unfortunately, that final Super Bowl victory came the season after Bowlen had officially relinquished control of team operations due to complications from Alzheimer's. Bowlen died in 2018 and was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame the following year.
  • Paul Brown had seen massive success as a head coach for decades (see his entry above) before founding the Cincinnati Bengals as an AFL expansion team in 1968. Having been inducted into the Hall of Fame as a coach the year prior, this made him one of a select few inducted Hall of Famers to remain active in the NFL and the last team owner to coach his own team. Brown won his only Coach of the Year award with the Bengals in 1970 after bringing them to their first playoff berth. He retired after 45 years of coaching in 1973, carrying on as owner through the Bengals' era of success in the '80s before passing away in 1991. The Bengals' current stadium, which opened in 2000 (nine years after Brown's passing), is named Paul Brown Stadium in his honor and is one of the few NFL stadiums likely not to sell its naming rights to a corporate sponsor due to his son succeeding him as the team's owner and manager.
    • Mike Brown is the current owner and GM of the Cincinnati Bengals. Like his fellow owner-managers in this section, Brown has been greatly criticized for his refusal to delegate more of the actual football operations to hired experts. Unlike Jerry Jones or Al Davis, however, Brown has had little-to-no real on-field success to justify his continued leadership—the team has not won a single playoff game during his tenure as owner and, outside of one period in the early '10s, hasn't done much better in the regular season,note  leading to him being regularly criticized for coasting off of his father's accomplishments and inheritance. He's also been criticized for being one of the absolute cheapest owners in the league, rarely committing to expensive signings and refusing to invest in updating many of the Bengals' practice facilities—this may be because he is one of two non-billionaire owners in the league. Brown has his defenders, though—many former players have stated that Mike is a fairly nice man who simply lacks the temperament for the job, regularly refusing to fire employees who aren't putting up results on the field and letting go stars seeking greener pastures without much of a fight.
    • Katie Blackburn is the daughter of Mike Brown and is listed as a co-owner of the team with her father. She has been working in the Bengals front office for over 30 years and currently serves as Executive Vice President of the team. She is the first woman in league history to negotiate player contracts and later became the first female chief contract negotiator in North American pro sports. In 2021, she became the first woman appointed to the league's highly influential Competition Committee, which proposes rule changes, a role both her father and grandfather spent decades in.
  • Jack Kent Cooke was one of the most prolific and successful sports owners of all time, playing critical roles in developing all four major North American sports (and soccer). A savvy owner with a mind for entertainment and spectacle (he made most of his initial money in radio and cable TV broadcasting), Cooke got his start in minor league baseball ownership in his native Canada before emigrating to the U.S. in the early '60s and purchasing a minority stake in the Washington team shortly after owner George Preston Marshall suffered a debilitating stroke. Over the next decade, Cooke secured majority ownership of the team and subsequently turned it back into one of the NFL's strongest and wealthiest franchises, all while simultaneously purchasing the Lakers of the NBA and founding the Kings of the NHL over on the West Coast. An incredibly costly divorce in 1979—in fact, the costliest ever at that point, with a $42 million settlement—forced Cooke to sell his Los Angeles investments and focus on the team in Washington, which won three Super Bowls under his ownership. However, that divorce set off a long-running series of short-lived marriages and personal scandals that largely overshadowed his sports successes in the public eye. Cooke died from heart failure in 1997, shortly before the opening of the team's new stadium, which was renamed in his honor. However, Cooke's often-edited will didn't leave the team to anyone in his family, and his successor Daniel Snyder almost immediately renamed the stadium with a corporate sponsor after buying out the team.
  • Hugh Culverhouse was the founder of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A tax lawyer-turned-real estate investor, he had attempted to purchase a team or franchise several times before winning one in Tampa in 1978. His team was infamously terrible throughout most of his ownership, but the NFL was mostly fine with that; he had been brought into the owners' circle largely because of his financial and business acumen, which helped make the Bucs one of the most profitable teams in the league and earned him spots as chairman on the league's Financial and Management Committees. Culverhouse helped to modernize the league's operations and led the owners' response to both of the NFLPA strikes of the '80s. This gave him an expectedly poor reputation with players, a feeling that fans mirrored—the Bucs' on-field failure and Culverhouse's refusal to invest in improving conditions for fans in their stadium ensured that their games did not sell out through most of the '80s, resulting in TV blackouts for the Tampa market. Culverhouse died from lung cancer in 1994, resulting in a succession crisis when his lawyers essentially tricked his wife into surrendering the estate; the team was eventually sold to Florida businessman Malcolm Glazer.
  • Al Davis was the one-time coach and the longest-tenured owner/GM of the Oakland Raiders. Davis has a complicated legacy with Raiders fans. On the one hand, his persona absolutely set the tone for the entire Raiders franchise—he was a take-charge maverick with a distinct coaching and managing style, summed up by his catchphrase "Just win, baby", Davis emphasized selecting the fastest and most athletic "workout warriors" and specialists over more conventional draft choices while taking chances on players and coaches that other teams wouldn't. He was such a strong personality that, after a few years as the Raiders' coach, he was appointed the commissioner of the AFL the year before the merger with the NFL was finalized. Davis was incensed that he wasn't made commissioner of the merged league and held a long-standing grudge against the rest of the NFL that lasted long after he took ownership of his former team; he even attempted to sue the league several times for anti-trust law violations while trying to relocate the Raiders to Los Angeles. His style and attitude worked wonders for the team in the late '70s and early '80s, when his team won three Super Bowls. Despite his early success, which culminated in a Hall of Fame induction in 1992, by the '00s Davis challenged Jerry Jones (another self-appointed owner-manager) for the title of "most hated figure in the league". He was frequently caricatured by the sports media—and Raiders fans—as an out-of-touch Disco Dan who made bizarre coaching/player decisions on a model of football that had long been rendered obsolete, taking the brunt of the blame for turning the storied franchise he helped build into a perpetual last-place finisher.note  There was also the whole matter of him moving the team out of Oakland, though that was mostly forgiven when he moved the team back. Most of the resentment towards Al Davis has faded since his death in 2011, with even his detractors begrudgingly admitting that he added a great deal of character to the league that has been missing since his passing.
    • Al's son and successor Mark Davis has taken his father's place as one of the more hated owners in the league. He passed off management duties to other executives, so he's taken slightly less of the blame for the team's continued struggles on the field (though this also means that he has fewer defenders than his dad did). More controversially, Mark is responsible for once again moving the team out of Oakland, this time to Las Vegas. He has a reputation for being a Cloud Cuckoolander and boasts one of the most distinct appearances in the league thanks to his trademark ginger bowl cut. He also gained some notoriety during the 2018 Khalil Mack holdout/trade, where he gained a reputation as the NFL's resident Impoverished Patrician—he and his mother Carol own 47% of the team and have a net worth of $250 million, making him (by far) the least wealthy controlling owner in the sport.note  After paying $100+ million deals to both HC Jon Gruden and QB Derek Carr, which typically involves placing future guaranteed money into escrow, there were reports that the Raiders could notnote  afford to pay Mack his asking price, forcing a trade to Chicago. Mark has added women's basketball to his business interests, buying the WNBA's Las Vegas Aces in 2021.
  • Edward DeBartolo Jr. was given the San Francisco 49ers in 1977 after his father, billionaire real estate developer Edward DeBartolo Sr., purchased the long-struggling team from their founding family, the Morabitos (at the same time, his father and sister operated the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins). The diminutive owner (an extremely generous 5'7") played an active role in team management and soon turned the franchise into the most dominant in the league by hiring Bill Walsh as coach and GM in 1979. The Niners won five Super Bowls and posted double-digit win records every season (save the '82 players strike) from 1980-98. That win streak snapped the same year DeBartolo was convicted of bribing the Governor of Louisiana $400,000 for a casino license.note  Entanglement in this corruption case was a bad look for the NFL, and DeBartolo was fined and suspended by the NFL, eventually ceding control of the franchise to his sister, Denise York, and her family. Despite that controversy, DeBartolo was extremely popular with players during his tenure, known for running a tight ship with one of the best organizational cultures in the NFL while also being very personable and generous with players; once the controversy had mostly blown over, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016.
  • Georgia Frontiere was not the first woman to be a majority owner in the NFL, but she was arguably the most active and vocal in team operations and had one of the most interesting personal lives of any owner in the NFL's 100+ year history. Frontiere, born Violet Irwin, was a child entertainer born in St. Louis who traveled much of the U.S. as a singer and actor through the Great Depression. Georgia married five different men through her late teens and 20s before settling in Miami and becoming a local TV host. Through that celebrity, she met then-Baltimore Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom (see below) at a party and quickly fell in love; she remained his romantic partner for over two decades, had two children with him while he worked through an extended divorce negotiation, and married him in 1960 after it was finalized. After Rosenbloom's shocking death in 1979, after he had left Baltimore and acquired the Los Angeles Rams, Georgia unexpectedly acquired the majority stake in the team (the expected heir was Carroll's eldest son from his first marriage). Despite pushback from many in the male-dominated football world, the newly-dubbed "Madame Ram" took a vocal role in the team's management. She was harshly criticized when her seventh husband, Hollywood composer Dominic Frontiere, was sent to jail for fraud after scalping 1,000 tickets to the Rams' Super Bowl XIV appearancenote , then was even more harshly criticized when the team's performance and attendance sharply declined in the early '90s. In 1995, Frontiere made the bold decision to move the Rams back to her hometown of St. Louis, which earned her even more scorn and pushback from fellow owners; many accused it of being a choice driven by homesick sentiment and fear of facing angry L.A. fans. Frontiere thought that fans in St. Louis, who had been abandoned by the Cardinals several years prior, would be more hungry for a team than L.A. fans who already had the Raiders, and successfully pressured the league into allowing the move.note  Her team's victory in Super Bowl XXXIV helped to silence many who doubted that she could effectively run the storied franchise. The Rams' charismatic owner died of breast cancer in 2008.
  • The Green Bay Packers are unique in the league in that they do not have a "traditional" ownership; instead they are collectively owned by 121,012 shareholdersnote  mostly based in Green Bay and the surrounding communities. They have an Executive Committee that makes most of the traditional owner decisions, and its president is sent to owner meetings; the General Manager has sole authority over team-related decisions. The purpose behind this was twofold: when the team was strapped for cash in the pre-revenue sharing days, it allowed the team to survive without being bought or moving. Secondly, due to restrictions in the stock, they will effectively never move from Green Bay.note  Much to the lament of many other teams' fans (especially the Cowboys and Raiders), this ownership setup is actually banned under current league rules (no more than 24 people can be co-owners of a team, and there has to be one person with at least a 30% share); it is allowed to continue in Green Bay due to a Grandfather Clause.
  • George Halas, known affectionately as "Papa Bear", founded the Chicago Bears in 1920 and coached the team for over four decades. A multi-sport athlete, Halas served in the Navy during World War I before becoming an acclaimed college star at Illinois. He played 14 games with the New York Yankees before a hip injury ended his baseball career. Seeking to stay in sports, he signed with the Hammond Pros football team. Still famous from his college days, a local starch manufacturer, the A.E. Staley Company, hired him to serve as a corporate representative, including leading their company sports teams. Halas arranged to have the new Decatur Staleys play in the new American Professional Football Association, becoming a founder of what became the National Football League. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Staley Co. made no money on this venture and ended their sports program after single year, but Halas kept the team, moved it to Chicago, and renamed it the Bears when the Chicago Cubs let them play in Wrigley Field. In the Bears' early seasons, Halas was not only the owner but also the head coach and a player who appeared on both offense and defense, earning him the nickname "Mr. Everything". After ten years of playing and coaching, Halas retired from playing, and his #7 was retired by the Bears. He then hired a new HC...
    • ...only to return to the sidelines a few years later to keep the team financially afloat during the Great Depression. After another ten years of coaching, Halas stepped down again in the middle of the 1942 season to return to his Navy service, helping to organize military recreation in the Pacific theater of World War II and gaining the rank of captain. He returned to coaching the Bears after the war (for another ten years), took another brief break in the '50s, and then kept going until 1967 (just guess). This forty-(nonconsecutive)-year-long coaching career remains the longest of any NFL head coach; should one suspect that was only because no one could fire him but himself, he retired with more wins than any other coach, only since passed by Don Shula,note  won a still-record six championships as a coach with at least one during each stint,note  won Coach of the Year twice, and remains in the Top 10 in winning percentage among those who coached at least 50 games. As an owner, Halas was one of the most influential figures in guiding the NFL from a loose association of ever-changing teams into a stable, coherent league. He became a member of the Hall of Fame's charter class while still an active coach, and the Hall's street address is named after him. His daughter, Virginia Halas McCaskey, inherited the team after his death in 1983. He became the first owner to be permanently memorialized on his team's uniform, with his initials "GSH" gracing the left sleeve stripes of the Bears' uniforms since 1984, the year after his death. The NFC Championship Trophy is named the George Halas Trophy in his honor.
  • Barron Hilton was the founder of the Los Angeles Chargers and one of the founders of the AFL. A business magnate and hotelier, he was among the wealthiest owners of the nascent league, with his deep pockets allowing him to assemble a Chargers team that won the Western Division five times in six years and the 1963 AFL Championship. He moved the team to San Diego after one year in L.A. once he realized the NFL’s Rams had a near stranglehold on the market. In San Diego, they proved to be hugely popular amongst fans, becoming one of the most profitable teams in the league, with Hilton being one of the leading figures in pushing for a merger between the AFL and NFL in 1966. Despite the Chargers success, Hilton’s board of directors forced him to sell the team that same year so he could succeed his father as president of the Hilton Hotels Corporation. Although he was no longer involved in day-to-day operations, he remained a minority owner of the Chargers and was inducted to their Hall of Honor in 1980. He passed away in 2019 as the last surviving member of the Foolish Club, the founding owners of the AFL.
  • Wayne Huizenga purchased the Miami Dolphins in 1994 after the death of founder Joe Robbie. Huizenga was one of the wealthiest owners in the league at the time, being founder of Waste Management Inc (and later AutoNation) and owner of Blockbuster Video; while in Miami, he also founded the Florida (now Miami) Marlins of MLB and the Florida Panthers of the NHL. The Dolphins experienced a brief revival under Huizenga's tenure, but it was short-lived, and the once-proud organization soon descended into several years of mediocrity, culminating in a one-win season in 2007. Huizenga sold the team to Stephen M. Ross the following year and passed away in 2018.
  • Lamar Hunt was the owner of the Kansas City Chiefs and founder of the American Football League. He founded the AFL because the NFL refused to give him an expansion team in his native Dallas after their previous foray into the city crashed and burned (the original Dallas Texans lasted less than a full season in 1952, playing their final "home" game in Knoxville). Hunt gathered like-minded men who were willing to take the risk of starting a second major football league, and the AFL was born, with Hunt owning the Dallas Texans in the AFL. The NFL responded by awarding a Dallas NFL franchise to another group of owners, and the instant popularity of the Cowboys led Hunt to move his team to KC, ironically leaving the AFL without a team in the city it was created to cover. His league was known for many innovations in the game such as more open passing offenses (as opposed to the NFL's reliance on power running games) and was so improbably successful that the AFL and NFL were in an unsustainable competition for the best rookies. The rise of his league forced the NFL to agree to a merger with the AFL, with the creation of the Super Bowl (which he named) as part of the deal. Many believe that today's NFL has much more in common with the old AFL than the pre-merger NFL. Since his passing in 2006, the Chiefs have worn a special AFL commemorative patch bearing his initials in his honor, and his son Clark Hunt inherited majority ownership of the team. The AFC Championship Trophy is named the Lamar Hunt Trophy in his honor.note 
  • Robert Irsay was the owner of the Los Angeles Rams... for less than a day. In a complicated shuffle of assets, Irsay acquired the Rams in 1972 after owner Dan Reeves' death, then immediately offered the franchise to Baltimore Colts' owner Carroll Rosenbloom, essentially trading teams. Irsay quickly became one of the more controversial owners in the league, between his disastrous appointment of Joe Thomas as GM and coach, Control Freak tendencies regarding team operations, and allegedly abusive and discriminatory interactions with players and staff. The Colts, once one of the greatest teams in the NFL, declined precipitously during his ownership, recording only three playoff appearances and zero wins while in Baltimore. In 1984, Irsay began to threaten to move the team after failing to secure stadium improvements. The city of Baltimore threatened to seize the team under eminent domain, leading to Irsay literally packing up the team in moving vans and moving them to Indianapolis overnight, permanently cementing him as one of the most hated owners in NFL history, especially amongst Baltimore's loyal fans. Though Indiana fans welcomed their new team, the Colts didn't improve in Indy for years, not winning a playoff game until 1995... a few months after a stroke hospitalized Irsay. He died over a year later, passing on the franchise to his son Jim Irsay, who also shared responsibility for the Colts' struggles due to being the team's GM during its first decade in Indy. He has fared much better as an owner than his father thanks to competent staff, having the good fortune of drafting Peyton Manning, and his Cloud Cuckoo Lander personality being generally likable, though some legal troubles and struggles with substance abuse have kept him in the spotlight for less favorable reasons.
  • Jerry Jones is the current owner of the Dallas Cowboys. Known for being very, very active in running his team, refusing to appoint a GM and giving that role to himself instead, Jones might just be the most hated figure in the league, even (or rather, especially) among fans of his own team. Despite bringing three championships to Dallas after purchasing the team in 1989 and growing the franchise to be the most valuable in all of sports, many older Cowboys fans have never forgiven him for firing almost every original member of the Cowboys organization, including coach Tom Landry, and then running his popular successor, former Arkansas Razorbacks teammate Jimmy Johnson, out of town two months after winning a second straight Super Bowl. Jones is also rare among both owners and GMs for the regular interviews he gives to local media to publicly discuss team operations, which sometimes gets him in hot water but always ensures the Cowboys are in the news. He is sometimes considered a real-life expy of J.R. Ewing, which was lampshaded in a series of advertisements in the '90s, and he even showed up alongside J.R. in the revival of Dallas. His reputation has led to the extravagant new stadium he had built for his team in 2009 being referred to by such nicknames as "Jerryworld", "the Boss Hogg Bowl", and "Six Flags Over Jerry". Nonetheless, his contributions to the league (especially financially) have been massively influential, and he made it to the Hall of Fame in 2017.
  • Shahid Khan is the current owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Khan is commonly cited as an example of The American Dream made real; born in a middle-class family in Pakistan, Khan worked his way up the corporate ranks of the auto parts manufacturer Flex-N-Gate in the '70s and expanded it into a multi-billion dollar company over the next three decades. He purchased the Jaguars in 2011, making him the first ever NFL owner to not be of European descent. He is also one of the richest owners currently—outside of his ownership of the Jaguars, he also owns Fulham F.C. in the Premier League and the WWE competitor AEW—and sports a massive stache.
  • Robert Kraft is the current owner of the New England Patriots. Before his ownership, the Patriots were something of a laughingstock in the NFL. The franchise was so dysfunctional, that the previous owner, James Orthwein, attempted to move it to his native St. Louis. However, Kraft had acquired their stadium a few years back after the previous owners, the Sullivans, took a financial bath on a mid-'80s Jackson Five tour they financed that bombed (mainly because a career-peak Michael Jackson was rightly annoyed with the whole thing and refused to participate more than he needed to) and took a small stake in the team. Kraft refused to allow Orthwein to ditch the stadium lease and eventually bought the team himself. Upon purchase, Kraft completely revamped the team: new uniforms, a new stadium (almost completely funded out of his own pocket), and top-notch coaches (Bill Parcells, Pete Carroll, and eventually Bill Belichick). These measures led to the Patriots becoming the first Super Bowl dynasty of the 21st century and one of the most valuable franchises in the NFL. Kraft is also the owner of the New England Revolution, one of the founding franchises of Major League Soccer. Kraft is also one of only a few NFL owners paying more than lip service developing the game abroad as he sponsors both the Israeli American Football league and the national team there.
  • Tim Mara was not one of the original NFL franchise owners, but he arguably had a bigger role than any of them save George Halas in expanding and strengthening the league into what it became in the latter half of the 20th century. A successful bookie, Mara created the New York Giants a few years after the league's first attempt at a New York team fell apart. Mara's Giants survived and outlived numerous competitors for the contested crown of New York's football team, largely due to Mara's (often ruthless) business savvy. For example, even though the first AFL's New York Yankees had much greater star power than the Giants thanks to co-owner and player Red Grange, Mara bought out the rights to their stadium in order to determine their schedule, bought the team out after its league's collapse, and even operated both teams for a season. At the same time, Mara also bought the short-lived Detroit Wolverines solely to obtain the rights to their star player, making him briefly the owner of three NFL teams before he dissolved his new acquisitions to focus on the Giants. Mara faced five more pro football teams that attempted to move into his territory in the next two iterations of the AFL and the AAFC (three of which were also named the Yankees)—he came out the victor each time. Mara died in 1959, passing ownership of the Giants to his sons Jack and Wellington (who had been in charge of most of the actual team operations for several decades), and was posthumously made a charter member of the Hall of Fame.
    • Wellington Mara served as a ball boy for the Giants in their first year of operations at the age of nine; he worked for the organization for the rest of his life. After graduating college, Mara immediately moved into high positions in the team's front office and handled many of the franchise's football decisions. Though he and his brother Jack split ownership of the team after their father's death, Jack died soon after, leaving his stake to his son Tim J. Mara. The uncle and nephew clashed constantly for decades over the operation of the team, to the point that they stopped speaking to each other entirely and divided the owner's box so they didn't have to see each other during games. Unsurprisingly, this "house divided" leadership did not result in excellence on the football field; after 15 years of missing the playoffs, Wellington finally conceded to league pressure to hire a GM, George Young, to take control of operations. Their relationship improved after this, but only slightly—Wellington and Tim J. even refused to accept the Lombardi Trophy together during the team's first two Super Bowl wins. Tim sold his share in the team after those victories; Wellington continued to co-own the team until his death in 2005. He and his father are one of two father-son duos in the Hall of Fame, the others being Art and Dan Rooney (see below).
    • The Giants' ownership model remains split, now between two separate families with both owners having inherited their shares in 2005: Wellington's eldest son John Mara retains partial control, while Tim J. sold his share in 1991 to the billionaire Bob Tisch, who died from brain cancer just three weeks after Wellington and passed ownership down to his son, movie producer Steve Tisch.
  • Art Modell was the owner of the Cleveland Browns for over thirty years. He earned many detractors for himself in Cleveland after he purchased the team in 1961, starting when he fired head coach and team namesake Paul Brown.note  Decades later, he went from disliked to outright despised when he moved the team to Baltimore and renamed them the Ravens in order to secure public funding for a new stadium after he had vocally opposed such actions in decades past. Ironically, Cleveland proved willing to put up the funds only after Modell had committed to move back to Baltimore and successfully sued for the rights to the Browns' name, colors, and franchise history. Despite the anger the move caused in Cleveland, Modell was warmly welcomed by Baltimore for bringing football back to the city after they lost their previous storied franchise over a decade prior. He owned the Ravens until 2004, finally witnessing his team win a Super Bowl, and died in 2012. However, he remained so reviled in Cleveland that his son actually requested the Browns not attempt to commemorate or even mention him before their first game after his death out of fear that Browns fans would boo his father's name.
  • Chris O’Brien was the founder of the Cardinals, establishing them in 1898 as the Morgan Athletic Club. A house painter who also played for the team, he bought them their first uniforms in 1903 off the Chicago Maroons, but the uniforms were so faded from use that he quipped “That’s not maroon, that’s cardinal red”, which the team quickly adopted as their new moniker. They played independently for several years before becoming charter members of the NFL in 1920, where they were among the more prominent franchises early on. They won the 1925 NFL Championship, which O’Brien initially turned down due to the controversial nature that they won it.note  His trading away of star QB Paddy Driscoll to keep team costs down contributed to their ensuing decline in popularity, which led to him selling the Cardinals in 1929. O’Brien passed away in 1951.
  • Dan Reevesnote  owned the Cleveland/Los Angeles Rams for 30 years after purchasing the young, struggling franchise in 1941 at age 29. Though the Rams continued to struggle financially, even suspending operations in 1943, they won the championship in 1945. Reeves capitalized on this opportunity and moved the team across the country to Los Angeles, becoming the first professional sports team on the West Coast. This move was an expensive one, as it ensured the Rams would have to travel farther for away games than any other team for many years, but Reeves compensated by taking advantage of the booming metropolis' love of entertainment. Shortly before they won a second championship in 1951, the Rams became the first NFL team to have all their games televised. This popularized the team enough to make their box office income the highest in the league for a time and laid the groundwork for the NFL's future ventures into television that elevated football into America's favorite professional sport. Reeves was also the first owner to employ a full-time scouting staff. Finally, as a term of the Rams' lease in the L.A. Coliseum, Reeves became the first NFL owner to hire black players in over a decade, breaking the "gentleman's agreement" that had previously kept the league segregated. Reeves died of Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1971, four years after he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
  • Joe Robbie was one of the founding owners of the Miami Dolphinsnote . During Robbie's tenure, the Dolphins quickly became a powerhouse of the '70s and '80s, achieving the first perfect season in 1972 and winning another Super Bowl the following season as well as reaching two more Super Bowls in 1982 and 1984. In 1987, after 21 years of playing in the Orange Bowl and suffering through rent increases, he moved the Dolphins to their new home (initially named Joe Robbie Stadium). By the time of his death in 1990, the team had fallen on hard times and his family found it hard to keep the team afloat, selling it to Wayne Huizenga soon after.
  • Art Rooney, aka "The Chief", was the founding owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers (originally named the Pittsburgh Pirates, after the Baseball team Rooney had grown up watching). While his ownership of the team didn't result in much success on the field for years, with the Steelers only making the playoffs once in their first 39 seasons, Rooney was one of the most beloved and respected owners in the league, renowned for his leadership and expertise in negotiating conflicts and for the fairness and kindness he showed his players and staff. Under his ownership, Rooney's Steelers were often the first team in the league to hire and promote African-Americans to key positions, including assistant coach (Lowell Perry, 1957), starting quarterback (Joe Gilliam, 1973), and coordinator (Tony Dungy, 1984). He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1964, years before Chuck Noll turned his team into the perennial contenders they are today. A photo of him chomping on a cigar, captioned with the quote "Believe", is a common sight at Steeler games to this day. He passed away in 1988, passing ownership responsibility to his son...
    • Dan Rooney inherited ownership of the Steelers after his father's death, though he had previously operated as the team's president for over a decade. He is most well known for passing the "Rooney Rule", an affirmative action quota requiring all NFL teams to interview a minority candidate during the hiring process for head coaching jobs, while he was the chairman of the league's diversity committee.note  Since 2008, the Rooney family has sold many of their shares in the team, maintaining control of the organization largely due to a special arrangement with the NFLnote . President Barack Obama appointed Rooney ambassador to Ireland in 2008. Art and Dan are one of two father-son duos in the Hall of Fame. Dan's son Art Rooney II succeeded him as owner just prior to his passing in 2017.
  • Carroll Rosenbloom founded the second iteration of the Baltimore Colts, picking up the assets of the recently folded Dallas Texans and purchasing a franchise for the city in 1953 after the first club folded. Rosenbloom soon became one of the most successful owners in the NFL, as the Colts became one of the league's winningest teams. Rosenbloom entered the NFL as one of the league's wealthiest and most business-savvy owners and played a crucial role in negotiating the NFL's first national TV deal and its merger with the AFL, both critical to the league's growth. Additionally, as a former college player, he became known as one of the few "players' owners" in the league. By the early '70s, however, Rosenbloom grew frustrated with a lack of local government support for updating the Colts' stadium, and he agreed to a historic franchise trade with Robert Irsay to obtain the Los Angeles Rams, which continued to see sustained success under his ownership. Rosenbloom unexpectedly died in 1979 after drowning while swimming alone at a Florida beach, an event that has been surrounded by conspiracies for decades, passing ownership to his wife, Georgia Frontiere (see above). Despite accumulating the best ownership percentage in league history (.660) and revolutionizing NFL ownership, he has not been inducted into the Hall of Fame
  • Edward "Dutch" Sternaman was the first player to sign with the Decatur Staleys before becoming a part-owner of the team in 1921, when the Staleys moved to Chicago and later renamed themselves the Bears. A two-way HB and one of the Bears top scorers, he played a more quiet role within the organization, spending much of his time working several off-field jobs to help George Halas keep the team afloat. He retired as a player in 1927 to focus on ownership, but the Great Depression led to Sternaman selling his half of the team to Halas in 1932. Interestingly, the sale was conducted by each owner submitting a private bid to buy the other half of the team, with Halas' "winning" bid of $38,000 (roughly $771,000 in 2021) buying Sternaman's share. Although he was no longer involved with the Bears, he kept most of his notes and memorabilia from running the team; decades after his passing in 1973, this collection was donated to the Hall of Fame in 2011, providing a wealth of insight to the early years and struggles of the NFL.
  • Leonard Tose was the (often controversial) owner of the Philadelphia Eagles. A member of the "Happy Hundred" ownership group that purchased the team in 1949, Tose consolidated control of the team over the next two decades and became sole owner by 1969. However, the team was one of the worst in the NFL during the first decade of his ownership, and he often drew criticism (including from commissioner Pete Rozelle) for drawing money from the franchise to fuel his own extravagent lifestyle and compulsive gambling habits. The team's success after the hire of Dick Vermeil (dramatized in the 2006 film Invincible, where he is played by Michael Nouri) and some savvy decisions by his GM daughter Susan Tose Fletcher helped turn that reputation around somewhat in the late '70s, but the league eventually forced him to either sell the team or move as his debts kept piling up. Tose sold the Eagles in 1985. He wound up squandering almost every dollar he earned in his life on gambling, eventually being evicted from his mansion and spending his final years living in a hotel room before passing away in 2003.
  • Ralph Wilson was the founder of the Buffalo Bills and a major contributor to the AFL's survival and success, as he supported several other teams with loans in the league's lean early years. His financial savvy helped keep the Bills alive in a small market, but that didn't always translate to on-field success, which he admitted was a secondary concern; he once remarked that winning a championship would just mean the players would all want a raise. Wilson had the longest tenure of any NFL owner short of George Halas and Art Rooney, which earned him a gold jacket in Canton despite the team's long struggles. Wilson was the oldest owner in the NFL at 95 years old when he died in 2014, and was also the last of the "Foolish Club", the principal owners of the original 1960 AFL teams, to be an active NFL owner.

     Management/Front Office 
  • Ernie Accorsi was the GM for the Baltimore Colts (1982-83), Cleveland Browns (1985-92), and New York Giants (1998-2006). He is best known for his central role in several of the most dramatic events in NFL Draft history. While GM for the Colts in 1983, he selected QB John Elway, who had publicly stated that he would not play for them, #1 overall. The Denver Broncos owner then went over Accorsi's head and struck a deal with Colts owner Robert Irsay to trade for Elway. Accorsi resigned after the '83 season just ahead of the Colts' infamous move to Indianapolis and was later named GM of the Browns. There, he convinced Cleveland native Bernie Kosar, considered the top prospect of the '85 Draft, to stay in school, graduate over the summer, and then declare for the Supplemental Draft. Meanwhile, Accorsi struck a deal with the Buffalo Bills, who held the #1 pick, to trade for their 1986 #1 overall pick, which allowed Cleveland to select Kosar #1 overall in the Supplemental Draft by using the pick there. Several NFL teams (including the Vikings and Oilers, who held the #2 and #3 picks) protested the move but commissioner Pete Rozelle allowed it to stand.note  Cleveland experienced a boom with Kosar in the late '80s, making three AFC Championship game appearances but ironically losing to Elway's Broncos each time. Accorsi resigned from Cleveland in 1992 and joined the Giants as assistant and heir apparent to Hall of Famer George Young, taking over as GM after Young's retirement in 1997. In 2004, consensus #1 draft prospect Eli Manning publicly announced that he would not play for the San Diego Chargers if selected #1 overall. They selected him anyway and Accorsi, in a reversal of the Elway situation, traded Philip Rivers (the QB selected with the Giants own #4 pick) and several other draft picks for Manning. Accorsi retired in 2007 after making just one Super Bowl appearance with the Giants, but he laid the groundwork for the teams that won Super Bowls XLII and XLVI with Manning at QB. Since 2016, he has served as a special advisor to the Detroit Lions.
  • Bobby Beathard was the GM for Washington (1978-88) and San Diego (1990-2000), winning two Super Bowls with the former.note  Beathard is famous for assembling winning teams out of players "other teams didn't want", as well as being a major proponent of building up the offensive line. He hired former offensive line coach Joe Gibbs to be HC in Washington and ushered in "The Hogs" era of Washington football, finding late-roundnote  or undraftednote  offensive linemen who led Washington to their three championships. Other notable "misfits" Beathard acquired were Hall of Fame CB Darrell Green (who he selected in the first round despite being undersized and playing at a D-II college), DE Dexter Manley (who was functionally illiterate), and QB Doug Williams (a black QB few other teams were willing to sign after his stint in the USFL). He resigned from Washington 1989 and joined the Chargers in 1990, though this stint was less successful (they did make it to Super Bowl XXIX where they lost to the 49ers). He retired in 2000 and was selected to the Hall of Fame in 2018. His grandson C.J. Beathard is currently a backup QB in the league.
  • Gil Brandt was the chief scout of the Dallas Cowboys for 29 years, from their inception in 1960 until Jerry Jones bought the team and purged leadership in 1989. He was part of a triumvirate with HC Tom Landy (see above) and GM Tex Schramm (see below) as the prototype for the modern NFL front office and helped to pioneer many of the scouting techniques still in use by the NFL today, most notably creating a new system for evaluating prospects that involved an early use of computer analytics. He and his scouting staff applied numerical grades to the physical traits of prospects, weighted by the player's position, then fed those into a computer where a formula was applied to come up with an overall grade. The players were ranked on a "draft board" according to this formula, and the Cowboys built their '70s dynasty by taking the top available player regardless of position. (At the time, other teams often removed players or moved them down the board if they had no need at that position.)note  Brandt also gambled with late round picks, selecting talented players who may never actually play in the NFL due to other commitments (such as Roger Staubach, who had enlisted in the Navy, and Herschel Walker, who signed with the USFL). He also scouted athletes in other sports for their potential as NFL players, famously signing sprinter Bob Hayes and basketball player Cornell Green in this fashion. He was also one of the first to thoroughly scout outside of North America, such as signing Austrian kicker Toni Fritsch (one of the first "soccer style" kickers in the league). After being fired by Jones, Brandt moving into a media career and, at almost 90 years old, still works for the NFL, helping to select prospects for the Combine each year and contributing articles on the draft to NFL.com. He was named to the Hall of Fame as a contributor in 2019.
  • George Whitney Calhoun was a co-founder of the Green Bay Packers. While not as well known as Curly Lambeau, he played an equally vital role to the Packers survival in their early years. An editor for the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Calhoun acted as the team's publicity director, using his connections in the newspaper industry to promote the Packers on the road and recruit new players to play in the small town. He also wrote one of the first official newsletters for an NFL team, titled The Dope Sheet, which not only kept track of the Packers but also kept tabs on the rest of the teams in the league, helping to preserve the early history of the NFL. Lambeau forced Calhoun to resign in 1947, severely damaging their relationship in the process, but he continued to support the Packers off the field; he was part of the board of directors for Green Bay Packers Inc, the non-profit organization that runs the team, from its creation in 1923 until his passing in 1963.
  • Charley Casserly was the GM for Washington (1989-99) and the Houston Texans (2002-05). Joining Washington in 1977 as an unpaid intern and then serving as a scout, Casserly was named assistant GM to Hall of Famer Bobby Beathard (see above) in 1982, winning two Super Bowls in that role. He famously assembled the team of replacement players during the 1987 players strike that went 3-0, including a Monday Night Football win over hated rival Dallas who had the majority of their regular players back. (This team was the basis for the The Replacements.) Casserly took over as GM following Beathard's resignation in 1989, continuing Washington's strong play in the early '90s and winning another Super Bowl (XXVII). He was the GM on the other end of the Saints massive 1999 draft day trade to acquire Ricky Williams in which they gave up all of their draft picks. Casserly was fired in 1999 when new owner Dan Snyder took over the team and moved on to become the first GM in Texans history when the team joined the league in 2002. His time in Houston was significantly less successful, and he resigned in 2006. During this time, he also served on the NFL Competition Committee where he (along with Colts GM Bill Polian) was one of the driving forces behind the rules changes which opened up the passing game leaguewide. Casserly currently serves as an analyst for NFL Network.
  • Jim Finks was an extremely influential NFL executive responsible for changing the fortunes of three teams from the ‘60s up until the early ‘90s. Before that, the Tulsa product played as a QB and DB for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1949-55, earning a Pro Bowl appearance in 1952. Finks later went to the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders, starting the 1957 season as a player-coach before he was promoted to GM midway through the season. He spent the next several years building Calgary into one of the best teams in the CFL. His success landed him the GM spot with the Minnesota Vikings in 1964, where he was instrumental in bringing about the Vikings' success in the late '60s and '70s by bringing in Bud Grant from the CFL as head coach and constructing their famed Purple People Eater defense. He left the Vikings after their loss in Super Bowl VIII and went to the Chicago Bears, where he built the core for their 46 defense that dominated the league throughout the '80s. Finks resigned from the Bears in 1982 to take a job with the Cubs but returned to the NFL in 1986 to become GM of the long-struggling New Orleans Saints, bringing in Jim Mora as their HC, building their "Dame Patrol" defense, and finally reversing nearly 20 years of losing for the franchise. During this time, Finks was also a front runner to succeed Pete Rozelle as league commissioner in 1989 before the job ultimately went to Paul Tagliabue. Unfortunately, Finks was diagnosed with lung cancer after the 1992 season and was forced to retire before succumbing to his illness in 1994. He was posthumously inducted to the Hall of Fame a year later.
  • Ozzie Newsome was a Hall of Fame tight end for the Cleveland Browns for 13 years during the last stretch of that team's success in the 1980s; drafted #23 overall out of Alabama in 1978, he retired with the (since-passed) record for career receptions for a tight end and remains the franchise's all-time receiving leader. After his playing career ended, Newsome went straight into the Browns' front office and went with the team when it traveled to Baltimore and became the Ravens. Newsome was made the first GM for the Ravens and was the first African-American to hold that position on any NFL team. Under his management, the "new" team became one of the dominant franchises in the league and secured two Super Bowl wins. Newsome retired after the 2018 season.
  • Bill Nunn Sr. was a legendary scout for the Pittsburgh Steelers, an organization that he served in some capacity for well over four decades. Nunn, a sports journalist at one of the country's biggest black newspapers, The Pittsburgh Courier, was employed by the Steelers starting in the late '60s for his in-depth knowledge of college players, particularly those playing at often-overlooked Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). He picked many of the obscure players that went on to become NFL legends in the dominant Steel Curtain dynasty, including John Stallworth, Mel Blount, Donnie Shell, and Jack Lambert. Nunn died in 2014 and was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame.
  • Scott Pioli was a long-time front office executive most famous for his time as Director/Vice President of Player Personnel with the New England Patriots during their initial rise to dominance from 2000-08. While HC Bill Belichick was the organization's de facto GM, Pioli ran the teams' front office and played a major part in building their dynasty. A skilled talent evaluator, Pioli regularly found free agents and trade targets who were undervalued by the rest of the league, then brought them to New England at bargain prices. Examples include signing Rodney Harrison and Junior Seau, while trading for veterans Mike Vrabel, Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker. During his nine seasons with the team, the Patriots put up a league-best 102–42 record, won a league-leading 14 post-season games, won three Super Bowls, and put up the NFL's only 16-0 regular season record (though fell short of winning the Super Bowl that year), earning Pioli five NFL Executive of the Year awards. In 2009, seeking full authority over a franchise that he would never have in New England with Belichick, Pioli moved to the Kansas City Chiefs to be their GM. This stint was significantly less successful, making the playoffs just once in four seasons and culminating with his firing following a 2-14 campaign in 2012. Pioli currently serves as an analyst for NFL Network and NBC's Football Night in America. He also heads the league's International Player Pathway program which allocates international players to each team in one division every offseason.
  • Bill Polian was GM and team president for the Indianapolis Colts from 1998 until his firing in 2012. Before that, Polian served as the GM of the Buffalo Bills from 1986-93 (during their three consecutive Super Bowl trips; he was fired after Super Bowl XXVII) and was the first GM of the Carolina Panthers. Polian became the Colts GM in 1998, where he drafted Peyton Manning. Together, they had several winning seasons and made two Super Bowl trips, winning one. Polian was at the forefront of turning the current NFL into a "passing league", when, as a member of the Competition Committee, lobbied the NFL to strictly enforce the holding and illegal contact rules, after the Colts lost to the Patriots in the 2003 AFC Championship Game. He was also known for his tendency to bench starters after locking up a playoff seed to allow them to rest up for the playoffs, his most infamous case being in Week 16 of the 2009 season, when the 14-0 Colts, having already clinched the AFC's top seed, pulled their starters against the Jets and lost to them, ending their bid for a perfect season. Fans naturally hated this, and analysts are divided as to whether it's actually an effective strategy or just something that just makes your starters rusty in their first playoff game. Polian was fired after the Colts went 2-12 without Manning, which convinced many that Polian had coasted off of his QB's exceptional talents without building the team around him (though this tank job earned the Colts a new generational QB in Andrew Luck). Polian still entered the Hall of Fame in 2015, was a co-founder of the short-lived Alliance of American Football, and is currently an NFL analyst for ESPN.
  • John Schneider is the GM for the Seattle Seahawks, serving in that role since 2010 when he was just 38, one of the youngest executives in NFL history.note  As owner Paul Allen was very much a Team Benefactor who was hands-off in team operations (a model continued by Paul's sister Jody after his passing), all football operations are controlled by Schneider and HC Pete Carroll. He assembled the roster that would deliver the Seahawks their first Super Bowl title (XLVIII), with only four players predating Schneider joining the franchise. He has been one of the most successful GMs in recent NFL history at finding stars in the 3rd round of the draft or later, including Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, and Tyler Lockett.
  • Tex Schramm was an immensely important manager and executive in the NFL for over four decades, most notably serving as the GM for the Dallas Cowboys for their first 29 seasons.note  Schramm started out in the NFL as a publicity manager for the L.A. Rams from 1947-56; he critically helped secure the league's first long-term television deals and gave Pete Rozelle his first football job. When Rozelle ascended to the role of commissioner in 1960, Schramm left his job at CBS to take the GM position for the new expansion team in Dallas. He helped to build America's Team alongside Tom Landry as the team's owners left him in charge of almost all team operations, including attending owners meetings. At the same time, Schramm chaired the league's competition committee, where he advocated for rule changes to strengthen the passing game and keep up with the nascent AFL. He later helped to negotiate the NFL-AFL merger, introduced the wild-card playoff bracket, and implemented technological innovations like instant replay and referee microphones. Schramm was fired from the Cowboys along with Landry after Jerry Jones purchased the team in 1989. New commissioner Paul Tagliabue appointed him as president of the short-lived World League of American Football. Schramm retired after that league went on hiatus and was inducted into the Hall of Fame immediately afterwards; however, Jerry Jones infamously refused to put him into the Cowboys Ring of Honor until just before his death in 2003.
  • A.J. Smith was the GM of the San Diego Chargers from 2003-12 during which he was the perfect encapsulation of the franchise's Every Year They Fizzle Out reputation. Initially a player and coach at the high school and college levels in the '70s, he worked for several NFL and even USFL teams as a scout in the '80s before winding up with the Buffalo Bills. He was a scout and later personnel director through the '90s during the team's four straight Super Bowl losing seasons before moving onto the Chargers as assistant GM to John Butler. Butler passed suddenly from cancer in 2003, with Smith promoted to the GM role. Dubbed "The Lord of No Rings", the Chargers under Smith's tenure were generally very successful in the regular season and acquired future Hall of Fame talents like LaDainian Tomlinson, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, and Antonio Gates, but always flamed out (usually in dramatic fashion) in the postseason. They also had a reputation for astounding special teams gaffes, most notably during the 2010 season in which they had the league's #1 offense, #1 defense... and missed the postseason. He was fired in 2013 after several years of declining performances and spent a few years in Washington's front office as a consultant.
  • Susan Tose Spencer is the only woman to serve as GM of an NFL team, doing so for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1983-85. The daughter of flamboyant team owner Leonard Tose, implications of Nepotism were present, but she was qualified in her own right. A law school graduate, she joined the team in the late 1970s as vice president and legal counsel and helped steer the franchise through financial woes owed in part to her father's overspending and gambling addiction, being groomed to eventually become his successor. She also oversaw the Eagles' draft selection of superstars including Hall of Fame DL Reggie Whitenote  and star QB Randall Cunningham. When her father was forced to sell the team in 1985 (see his entry), she negotiated a deal with Veterans Stadium on a 20-year lease for just $1 to keep the team in the city. Still in immense debt but satisfied that the Eagles would not be leaving Philadelphia, Tose sold the team a few months later. New owner Norman Braman replaced her as GM but wanted her to stay with the team in a front office role. She declined and entered a career in meat processing.
  • Amy Trask was hired by Al Davis to serve as CEO of the Oakland Raiders in 1997, becoming the first woman to reach that position. The "Princess of Darkness" served as Davis' right-hand woman and helped return the Raiders to strength after a then-rare lean period for the esteemed franchise. However, the latter half of her tenure saw the team struggle on and off the field as Davis' health declined, and Trask resigned in 2013 to become an analyst.
  • Ron Wolf was the GM of the Green Bay Packers during The '90s, bringing the struggling franchise out of their "NFL Siberia" period that had spanned the previous two decades, during which they had only four winning seasons. After starting out as a successful scout for the Raiders, Wolf was brought in to be the first VP of operations for the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976, building the team's initial 0-26 roster with coach/de facto GM John McKay by focusing on draft acquisitions over veteran talent. Wolf was scapegoated for the Bucs' misfortune and was fired in 1978... only for the team he assembled to develop into strong playoff contenders, leaving his strategy of draft development looking much better from a distance. Wolf made his way back into management and landed in Green Bay in 1991, where his three biggest moves were hiring former 49ers OC Mike Holmgren as HC, trading with the Falcons for little-known second-year QB Brett Favrenote , and signing DE Reggie White during the NFL's first ever free agency period. During Wolf's decade at the helm, the Packers put up a 92–52 record (second best in the NFL in that span), and appeared in two Super Bowls, winning one (XXXI). Wolf also established the Packers as an organization that was great at finding and developing QB talent, selecting one in the late rounds of the draft or signing a top undrafted free agent nearly every year, developing him, and then flipping him to another team for higher picks.note  It is also under Wolf that Green Bay developed a reputation for very rarely signing free agent players, instead focusing on drafting, developing, and re-signing their own talent. This reputation remains to this day, with fans having mixed opinions on its success. Wolf retired in 2000 and was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2015.
  • George Young was the GM of the New York Giants from 1979-97. He took over a team that had failed to make the playoffs for 15 seasons before his arrival and built them up into an elite defensive team led by Hall of Famers in HC Bill Parcells and pass rusher Lawrence Taylor. Young also had a knack for getting offensive production out of unexpected sources, including QB Phil Simms (selected in the first round out of D-II Morehead State) and undersized RB Joe Morris (who, at 5'7" 190 lbs, retired as the franchise's leader in most rushing categories). The Giants won Super Bowls XXI and XXV under his leadership, though Parcells' "retirement" in 1991 signaled a downturn in team success. He brought in Ernie Accorsi (see above) as assistant GM and heir apparent, then retired in 1997. Young died in 2001 and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2020.

     Other Officials 
  • Carl David Baker was president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame from 2014-21. Baker was one of pro football's more colorful characters, a massive 6'9", 400 lbs man who dwarfed many of the giants that he was responsible for enshrining; despite what many believe at first glimpse, he is not a former player, having played basketball rather than football in college at UC Irvine, a school that's never had a football program. After an... interesting career in local politics,note  Baker moved into sports management, eventually serving as the commissioner of the Arena Football League from 1996-2008. He pushed to make the Hall a more visible institution, pushing through numerous renovations and expansions to the structure and introducing/promoting "The Knock" he delivered to Hall hopefuls to give them news of their enshrinement. On the less positive side, Baker was a staunch defender of the Hall of Fame's bylaw which prevents the removal of individuals once inducted, keeping the likes of O.J. Simpson and George Preston Marshall enshrined (even though the latter has been removed from his own team's Ring of Honor). His son Sam Baker was an OT selected in the 1st round in 2008 by the Atlanta Falcons out of USC and played for seven years in the league.
  • Mason "Red" Cashion was an official for 25 years from 1972-96, the last 20 as a referee. He was promoted to referee just as the NFL began equipping them with microphones to make announcements to the stadium and TV audience, putting his distinct southern accent and drawn out "first dooown!" call on display and endearing him to fans. He served as referee for two Super Bowls. Though he retired in 1996, his quirks were introduced to a new generation as Cashion voiced the Madden NFL referee for several iterations around the turn of the millennium. He passed away in 2019.
  • Ed Hochuli was an official for 27 years from 1990-2017, the last 25 as referee. Prior to his NFL officiating career, he played college football at Texas-El Paso and went to law school at Arizona. He was a practicing attorney during NFL offseasons. However, he is perhaps best known for his extreme fitness and muscular arms, putting even some players to shame. He served as referee for two Super Bowls and his son, Shawn, followed in his footsteps, being promoted to referee in 2018.
  • Art McNally was the director of NFL officiating from 1968-91, taking the position after nine years as an NFL referee. McNally oversaw many technical innovations in the game, most notably the integration of instant replay, and served the NFL in some capacity all the way until his retirement after 2015 at the age of 90. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2022, becoming only the second official to be given the honor and the only one to have served as an on-field NFL referee.
  • Hugh "Shorty" Ray was the first technical rules advisor and officials supervisor in the NFL, serving in that capacity from 1938-52. A three-sport college athlete at Illinois despite only being 5'6" and 136 pounds, Ray taught mechanical engineering in a Chicago high school for three decades as his day job while serving as a particularly dedicated sports official in the off-hours. George Halas brought him into the NFL in 1938 to train other officials to match his rigor and to energize an increasingly slow game. Perhaps most significantly, Ray introduced the rules that made the forward pass a viable play option by making incomplete passes stop the clock rather than become an automatic turnover. Ray passed in 1956 and was inducted into Canton in 1966; he was the only football official enshrined in the Hall of Fame for over 50 years until Art McNally joined him.
  • Dan Tehan was the longest tenured field official in league history, 32 seasons, from 1933-64. He served as referee for eight NFL Championship games and one Super Bowl. When Shorty Ray (above) was inducted into the Hall of Fame, Tehan served as his presenter.

     Broadcasters and Producers 
  • Chris "Boomer" Berman has been a sportscaster for ESPN for over four decades and was the face of their football coverage for a large part of that time, particularly as the co-host of NFL Primetime with Tom Jackson and the network's various gameday Countdown programs. Berman is known for his booming voice, equally bombastic personality, and the various catchphrases he coined while performing his memorable highlight recaps of the week's games. He was awarded the Hall of Fame's Radio-Television Award in 2010. He remains with the network today in a more limited capacity, having stepped back from his more omnipresent hosting schedule in 2016.
  • Kyle Brandt is an analyst for NFL Network's Good Morning Football. The Chicago native was a three-year starter at running back at Princeton before appearing on The Real World: Chicago. He then had a recurring role on the soap opera Days of Our Lives before moving into producing for Jim Rome is Burning and Rome's subsequent shows. In addition to GMFB, he hosted the short-lived Kyle Brandt Football Experience in 2018, a cult favorite where he dug into really obscure football highlights and trivia that failed to generate ratings in part due to its Friday Night Death Slot placement.
  • Joe Buck was the top play-by-play announcer for Fox for two decades, having started with the network in 1994 at just 25 years old before partnering with Hall of Fame QB Troy Aikman starting in 2001 and calling six Super Bowls. Despite his Long Runner status, he's not the most well-liked broadcaster, with fans criticizing him for his seeming lack of excitement in big moments and for what they perceive as bias in favor of certain teams (Buck is aware of this complaint, as his Twitter bio started with "I love all teams EXCEPT yours" for a time). As he also covers Major League Baseball for Fox, particularly the World Series, many football fans express their desire that Buck "stick to baseball" to keep him off of NFL broadcasts. (MLB fans retort with the exact opposite sentiment.) In 2022, he made the leap with Aikman to take over Monday Night Football at ESPN.
    • Another reason for Buck's frequent criticism is that he is often accused of benefiting from nepotism; his father, Jack Buck, was a legendary baseball and football broadcaster who got Joe his first jobs in broadcasting (hence the early start to Joe's career). The elder Buck was active in TV and radio from 1950-2001, calling 17 Super Bowls for CBS Radio (the most of any announcer) and performing the television broadcasts for some of the most notable games in NFL and AFL history, including the "Ice Bowl" and Super Bowl IV. Both Jack and Joe have been awarded the Hall of Fame's Radio-Television Award, the only father-son duo with the honor. Jack passed in 2002 after many years of battling through health issues to continue to call baseball games for the St. Louis Cardinals.
  • Nate Burleson is a Canadian-born analyst for NFL Network's Good Morning Football and CBS Sports' The NFL Today. A third-round pick by the Vikings in 2003 out of Nevada, he had an 11-year NFL career as a wide receiver and punt returner for the Vikings, Seahawks, and Lions before retiring to the broadcast booth in 2014. While he had a 1,000+ yard receiving season and four return touchdowns, his playing career is most notable for two strange off-field occurrences. First, he signed as a restricted free agent with Seattle with his deal including a "poison pill" provision in retaliation for the Vikings signing former Seahawks guard Steve Hutchinson with a similar provision that prevented Seattle from matching.note  Later, while playing for Detroit, he suffered a broken arm and missed seven games after a car accident caused by him attempting to save a pizza from falling onto the floor from the passenger's seat.note  In 2021, he won an Emmy for "Best Sports Personality" while also serving as a correspondent for the entertainment news show Extra. Later that year, he became the first original host to leave GMFB when he joined CBS full-time as a host of CBS this Morning.
  • Cris Collinsworth has been the lead color commentator for NBC's Sunday Night Football since 2009. The Florida product was a Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals during the '80s, where he was infamously stripped of the ball in Super Bowl XVI after a catch near the end zone, costing his team the victory. Collinsworth retired after playing in Super Bowl XXIII and entered into broadcasting soon after, traveling across various networksnote  and calling Super Bowl XXXIX on Fox before settling in the NBC booth with Al Michaels, where he has called three Super Bowls. He is also the majority owner of the prominent analytic site Pro Football Focus.
  • Myron Cope was a journalist who covered the Pittsburgh Steelers for over 35 years. During his time as a commentator for the team, he was responsible for coining the most popular nicknames for several players, including Jack Lambert (Jack Splat), Jerome Bettis (The Bus), and Kordell Stewart (Slash). He also was responsible for creating the most famous fan symbol of any team, the Terrible Towel, in 1975. He retired in 2005 due to declining health, received the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award that same year, and died in 2008. He was also the only broadcaster appointed to serve on the Hall of Fame's Board of Selectors, a position he held for 10 years.
  • Howard Cosell was a commentator on ABC's Monday Night Football from 1970-84. An accomplished sports journalist and commentator dating back to the early '60s (he's the announcer behind "Down goes Frazier!"), Cosell was well known for his colorful (and confrontational) personality, inimitable delivery peppered with Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness, and Dodgy Toupee. The Punctuated! For! Emphasis! delivery of "He! Could! Go! All! The! Way!" now used by almost every football commentator was coined by him. Cosell got fired from the program he launched and popularized after a Never Live It Down incident when he referred to a speedy black player (Alvin Garrett) as "that little monkey".note  Cosell continued to cover sports, primarily boxing, until finally retiring in 1988. He died in 1995, and despite all of his contributions to football, he has notably never been recognized with the Hall of Fame's Radio-Television Award.
  • Irv Cross was originally a CB selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the seventh round out of Northwestern in 1961. After a nine-year playing career in which he made two Pro Bowls, he moved into broadcasting in 1971 for CBS, becoming the first black sports analyst in television history. In 1975, he moved to the The NFL Today pregame show, becoming the first black co-anchor of a sports program. He continued in this role until 1989 when the show was revamped and he was let go. He worked in several other television analyst roles including for NBA games, spent time as the Athletic Director of both Idaho State and Macalester College, and was bestowed the Hall of Fame's Radio-Television Award in 2009. He passed away in 2021.
  • Rich Eisen is a journalist and presenter who, after several years as an anchor on ESPN's SportsCenter, was hired by the NFL Network in 2003 as the new network's first on-air talent. He has remained the face of the network ever since, known for his sense of humor and his coverage of the NFL Combine (in which he runs the 40-yard dash every year, in a full suit, for charity).
  • Dick Enberg was an immensely prolific announcer for six decades, broadcasting for pretty much every sport imaginable. In the NFL, he served as NBC's lead announcer for the NFL in the '80s and '90s, calling eight Super Bowls, then moved to CBS to serve as their #2 announcer for the first decade of the 2000s. Famous for his warm and reflective style and his catchphrase "Oh my!", Enberg was bestowed the Hall of Fame's Radio-Television Award in 1999. He passed away in 2017.
  • John Facenda was already a well-known newscaster in the Philadelphia area when he was hired by NFL Films to lend his legendary voice to their highlight films in 1965. His Badass Baritone and Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness was a perfect fit with slow-motion film of modern-day gladiators beating the snot out of each other, and Facenda became known as "the Voice of God" among football fans as his narration accompanied some of the greatest moments of the early Super Bowl era. He died in 1984 from lung cancer, but his vocal style and turns of phrase remain renowned (and widely imitated/parodied) today. He was posthumously awarded the Hall of Fame's Radio-Television Award in 2021.
  • Curt Gowdy was a legendary sports announcer who called both professional and collegiate football, baseball, basketball, and the Olympics for ABC and NBC through the '60s and '70s. Born and raised in Wyoming, "Cowboy Curt's" no-nonsense style accompanied many of the greatest moments of the NFL in the early Super Bowl era. He was also long-time supporter of the AFL due to it being one of his first major announcing gigs. He called seven Super Bowls (including the first and, fittingly, the AFL Jets' upset victory in III), the longest game in NFL history (a Chiefs vs. Dolphins Christmas Day matchup), the "Immaculate Reception", and the "Sea of Hands". Gowdy started a gradual retirement process in the late '70s but made various appearances in the booth until his death from cancer in 2006; he was bestowed the Hall of Fame's Radio-Television Award in 1993.
  • Keith Jackson was an announcer during the AFL days and was notably replaced by Frank Gifford after the first season of ABC's Monday Night Football. Outside of his experience in the NFL, he distinguished himself over a career of 50 years as the most famous college football announcer ever, with his very soothing voice and his peppering of homespun sayings in his commentary. ("Whoa, Nellie!")note  Jackson passed away in 2018.
  • Tom Jackson was a linebacker out of Louisville who spent his entire 14-year career with the Denver Broncos as part of their famed "Orange Crush Defense" of the '70s and '80s, going to three Pro Bowls and leading the team to two Super Bowl appearances. After he retired, he went to work with ESPN, co-hosting both Sunday NFL Countdown and its Monday night variant as well being host of NFL Primetime with Chris Berman (see above) until 2016, winning the Hall of Fame's Radio-Television Award in 2015. After a three-year retirement, he returned to ESPN in 2019 and is hosting a digital-only version of NFL Primetime.
  • Mel Kiper Jr. is an NFL Draft analyst for ESPN, having served in that role since 1984. Kiper's analysis in the months leading up to the draft as well as during the draft broadcast itself has been instrumental in growing the event from what was essentially a non-televised meeting of team representatives to the multi-million dollar television event is is today.
  • John Madden, as mentioned above, remains the definitive pro football broadcaster even after his passing in 2021. Madden spent time as a commentator on all four of the major networks during his nearly three decades in the booth, calling at least one Super Bowl for each (eleven in total). He had a charming, if somewhat... unique commentary style (which contrasted humorously with his partners Pat Summerall and Al Michaels) and a fondness for onomatopoeia. Madden helped pioneer the use of the telestrator and touchscreen technology in general on television, and he used the device to explain complex plays and strategies in a way even casual fans of football could follow. He was also known for a crippling fear of flying, which meant that he never broadcasted for the Pro Bowl back when that was held in Hawaii; he still managed to market this phobia to create one of his signature awards, the Madden Bus, with his players-of-the-week posted on the sides. Speaking of marketing, he was also ubiquitous in advertising, never meeting a wall he couldn't smash through. He was awarded the Hall of Fame's Radio-Television Award before he was inducted as a coach. He retired from broadcasting in 2009, but as the namesake of the Madden NFL series of video games, his name remains familiar with fans of all ages. BOOM!note 
  • Anthony "Booger" McFarland was a DT in the NFL for nine yearsnote  but is more (in)famous for his short-lived stint as the color commentator for Monday Night Football. Brought in with Jason Witten in 2018 to replace Jon Gruden, the Embarrassing Nickname-d McFarland initially reported from the "Booger Mobile", a strange "booth-on-rails" contraption that moved up and down the sideline, accomplishing little more than obscuring the view of fans in the (typically expensive) front rows of seats. After the Booger Mobile was scrapped and Witten returned to football in 2019, McFarland took his spot next to Joe Tessitore in the broadcast booth. He was widely criticized and mocked for his commentary, which veered back and forth from Captain Obvious pronouncements to Cloud Cuckoo Lander statements that made it seem he was watching an entirely different game than the one on the field. McFarland was moved off of MNF the following offseason; he now serves as an analyst for NFL Primetime, which ESPN airs on Monday nights over its ESPN+ streaming service.
  • Al Michaels is one of the most respected broadcasters working today. He is the current voice of Amazon Prime Video's Thursday Night Football and was previously the play-by-play announcer for ABC's Monday Night Football for 20 years (1986-2006, the longest tenure of any broadcaster on that program) and NBC's Sunday Night Football for another 15 (2007-21). When MNF shifted to ESPN in 2006, NBC-Universal offered several of their properties, including PGA Cup coverage, Olympic footage, and the legal rights of the character "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit",note  in exchange for letting Michaels out of his contract so that he could join NBC for SNF. (Michaels himself was bemused by this, comparing it to a team trading a coach for draft picks.) Upon the experation of his NBC contract, he signed a massive deal to launch Amazon's foray into NFL coverage. In total, Michaels has called ten Super Bowls, the third most behind Summerall and Madden (his former partner), and he was bestowed the Hall of Fame's Radio-Television Award in 2013. He is well known for his passionate, earnest excitement for all sports: his most famous call, after all, was not in football... "Do you believe in miracles... YES!!"
  • Jim Nantz is a multi-sport announcer who was worked for CBS since the '80s. He was the host of The NFL Today pregame show for several years before becoming the network's lead NFL play-by-play announcer in 2004, teaming initially with Phil Simms and since 2017 with Tony Romo. He was given the Hall of Fame's Radio-Television Award in 2011. Non-football fans will better recognize him as a longtime fixture of CBS' PGA Tour and college basketball coverage.
  • Ed and Steve Sabol were a father-son duo that founded NFL Films (called Blair Productions in its first two years) in 1962. Many argue that the Sabols did more to make football America's most popular sport than any individual player, coach, or broadcaster. Ed served as the production company's president until 1985, when Steve succeeded him that role. However, Steve was always the creative force behind the production company and is easily the most honored filmmaker in sports, with over 35 Emmys to his name (the most of any individual) and over 100 going to NFL Films overall during his leadership. Steve set the new standard for sports filmmaking, with he and his crew capturing many of the game's iconic moments up-close and on the ground level and then presenting them with cinematic pageantry and artistry. A prominent example is the "Autumn Wind" segment, originally a poem written by Steve and later adopted by the Raiders as an unofficial anthem. One of his cameras was also the only one to capture the "Immaculate Reception" live as the television cameras did not follow the deflection. He joined ESPN shortly after the network's founding in 1979, first with NFL Films as a production company and then as an on-air talent. He proved equally adept on the other side of the camera, with his lighthearted, energetic, and personable nature making him a beloved figure. The Sabols were later instrumental in founding the NFL Network in 2003. Ed was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011; Steve died from brain cancer in 2012, three years before his father's death, and posthumously joined him in Canton in 2020.
  • Adam Schefter, aka "Schefty", is a television analyst known for frequently breaking major news in the sport. After starting his writing career with the Denver Post, he joined the NFL Network shortly after its launch in 2003. In 2009, he jumped ship to rival ESPN where he has become one of the top "NFL Insiders" active today.
  • Ray Scott began calling Green Bay Packer games in the '50s, earning him the commentator job for the "Ice Bowl" and their victories in the first two Super Bowls before networks established firm lead broadcast duos. Once they did, Scott and his commentator partner Pat Summerall became the leads at CBS. Scott called four of the first eight Super Bowls, and his curt and understated style proved to be hugely influential on his partner when he succeeded him as the play-by-play announcer. Scott passed away in 1998 and was posthumously awarded the Hall of Fame's Radio-Television Award in 2000.
  • Sam Spence was a composer most famous for his work with NFL Films. A classically trained music instructor, Spence was hired by NFL Films in 1966 to score football highlights and documentaries with great success. Over 30 years working with the NFL, Spence composed hundreds of scores in his "galloping and heroic" Signature Style which had made their way into every form of media that the NFL has been involved with. Iconic examples of his scores include "Classic Battle", "Round Up", and "Magnificent Eleven". He passed away in 2016.
  • Pat Summerall was best known as John Madden's regular broadcasting partner at CBS and FOX in the '80s, '90s, and '00s, though his career in broadcasting spanned nearly half a century. Originally a journeyman placekicker drafted in the fourth round out of Arkansas in 1952, Summerall became a sportscaster in 1961 after retiring from play. He quickly became one of the most prolific TV broadcasters ever, becoming known for his matter-of-fact, understated style of commentating, which contrasted humorously with Madden's more animated style. Summerall sat in the booth for a record 15 Super Bowl TV broadcasts.note  He was bestowed with the Hall of Fame's Radio-Television Award in 1994 but continued to call football games up until 2002. He continued to occasionally work, especially in golf and tennis, up through his death in 2013.
  • Mike Tirico was a longtime anchor and broadcaster at ESPN starting in 1991, most prominently featured as the announcer on Monday Night Football from 2006-15. He made a Channel Hop to NBC in 2016, where he has served as the main host of Football Night in America while also backing up the aging Al Michaels on play-by-play duties for Sunday Night Football.
  • Bob Trumpy entered color commentary in 1978 after a prolific career as a tight end with the Cincinnati Bengals,note  serving at NBC for thirty years and calling two Super Bowls with Dick Enberg. He received the Hall of Fame's Radio-Television Award in 2014.
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