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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 National Football League Names To Know. Those coaches and owners who are more infamous than famous can be found on National Football League Notorious Figures.

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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 was a Hall of Fame head coach for the Los Angeles Rams from 1966-1970 and the team in Washington from 1971-1977. Allen holds the third highest winning record in modern NFL history and won Coach of the Year twice despite never winning 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 famously had a squeaky-clean persona that would make a '50s TV dad jealous: he never swore, drank, or smoked, and led his locker rooms in chants of "Hip hip hooray!" after victories. He was also a near obsessive worker who popularized the current 16+ hour days that most NFL coaches are expected to maintain and demanded an almost complete level of control over all team operations. His teams became famous for the high number of trades made at Allen's request to bring in 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 Allen made "the future is now" his catch phrase. His Control Freak tendencies and refusal to plan for the future led to trouble later in his career. 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 Allen, became a general manager 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.note 
  • Bruce Arians is the current coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After several decades of coaching 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 head coach 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 head coach, 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 head coach 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 head coach 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.
  • Bill Belichick is the current coach and de facto general manager of the New England Patriots. Prior to his tenure with the Patriots, Belichick was defensive coordinator for the late '80s New York Giants under head coach 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 head coach 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 quarterback Drew Bledsoe at the start of the 2001 season. Belichick didn't have a losing season for nearly two decades; his Patriots became the NFL's most dominant franchise, appearing in nine Super Bowls, winning a total of 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.note  Nonetheless, Belichick has had such extensive control of the organization throughout all of its prolonged success 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, won Coach of the Year thrice, ties Curly Lambeau and George Halas for most NFL titles as coach, and holds the record for most Super Bowl wins for an individual in any capacity with eightnote . 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. He's also known for being even more secretive with the media than most coaches, for giving giving some of the most direct yet completely uninformative answers during interviewsnote , and for almost always wearing a customized Patriots hooded sweatshirt (sleeveless, bears his initials) on the sidelines. Players and colleagues all say he's got a pretty good sense of humor behind his outwardly stoic façade, as indicated by his dog Nike taking his place during the 2020 Draft.
  • Paul Brown was coach/general manager of the Cleveland Browns from their inception in 1946 to 1962 (one of the most dominant runs in pro football history) and later owner-coach of the Cincinnati Bengals from their inception in 1968 to 1975 (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 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. He won seven professional championships with the Browns in just ten years, all before the Super Bowl era. The Browns were named in his honor, something he wasn't enthusiastic about to begin withnote  and something that particularly stung when he was fired from the team with his name on it—the Bengals owes its existence to Brown wanting to return to coaching without risking this happening again. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame just a year before he created the Bengals, making 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. He won Coach of the Year only once, with the Bengals. 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 Paul's son Mike (see below under "Owners/Management") succeeding him as the team's owner and manager. His vast coaching tree includes fellow Hall of Famers Bill Walsh and Don Shula, see their entries below.
  • Pete Carroll is the current head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. Previously a head coach for the New York Jets and New England Patriots in a pair of short and extremely forgettable terms in the '90s, Carroll returned to coaching college football and had an extremely successful tenure as head coach of the USC Trojans. He took the reins for the Seahawks in 2010, taking on the job of dealing with a franchise in shambles. Given great power and leeway in drafting and personnel decisions, within three years he transformed the Seahawks from one of the worst teams in the league to a team that won its first Super Bowl. Known league-wide as a defensive mastermind, he helped put together the so-called "Legion of Boom" secondary. Carroll is paradoxically one of the oldest coaches in the NFL and the most energetic—he is extremely hands-on and motivated, almost Keet-like. He 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. 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, winning with the Chicago Staleys in 1921, back to back with the Canton Bulldogs in 1922-1923, winning his fourth a year later with the Cleveland Bulldogs, then leading the Frankford Yellow Jackets to a title in 1926. After a disappointing 3-7-1 campaign with the Chicago Cardinals, Chamberlin retired after the 1927 season. He was later inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1965, two years before he passed away. His .784 winning percentage is the highest of any head coach with at least 50 career wins.note 
  • Jimmy Conzelman was a prominent player-coach during the '20s. He originally played as a quarterback 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, 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, guiding them to their second and most recent championship 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 passed away in 1970.
  • Don Coryell was a head coach 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. Coryell 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, then again in '85 for good measure.note ) However, Coryell never made it to the Super Bowl (likely because his offensive-minded team 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 was the head coach of the New York Giants from 2004 until stepping down at the end of the 2015 season. After two decades of coaching at the college and pro levels, Coughlin served as head coach 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). He went on to win two Super Bowls with the Giants, 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, he was 69 years old and the oldest head coach 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 head coach 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 players coach who kept with the Steeler traditions of tough defenses and an offense led by a power run game. He made two Super Bowls and won one, XL, in his second-to-last season. 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 has 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 defensive coordinator 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 defensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs, taking over as interim head coach late in the season and earning the full-time job the following season, but was again fired after a disastrous 2-14 campaign in 2012.note  He then become defensive coordinator and later assistant head coach of the Texans under fellow Belichick disciple Bill O'Brien before taking over as interim head coach 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 was the coach of the Chicago Bears from 1982 to 1992. His 1985 Super Bowl-winning team is sometimes considered the best football team of all time, and he won Coach of the Year twice while in Chicago. His subsequent tenure in New Orleans was not nearly as successful, due to the Ricky Williams trade detailed below. He is practically a god in Chicago; "Bill Swerski's Superfans" is only a slight exaggeration ("Da Bearss!"). Since leaving coaching, he's been a prominent sports commentator and has fought to bring attention to the plight of retired players suffering from chronic game-related injuries. Ditka is so well-known for his career as a coach and commentator that most modern fans don't know that he was also an immensely successful tight end and was the first player from that position to be inducted to the Hall of Fame. He played 12 seasons with the Bears, Eagles, and Cowboys, winning a pre-merger NFL title with the Bears (1963) and a Super Bowl with the Cowboys (VI, 1971 season), made All-Pro five times, and was named to the NFL's 50th, 75th, and 100th Anniversary Teams. Ditka also has 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 individuals (Tom Flores being the other) 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 head 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. 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 would win 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 compliment—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. He's also an outspoken Christian.
  • Herm Edwards was a coach for the Jets and Chiefs in the '00s, and before that, a cornerback with the Eagles responsible for the (in)famous "Miracle at the Meadowlands", where he recovered a fumbled handoff from the New York 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 would rebound 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 head coach at Arizona State.
  • Weeb Ewbank was a Hall of Fame head 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 coach in the franchise's second season. After a few years of struggles, Ewbank's team rose to the top of the NFL as he coached the star-filled roster to back-to-back NFL Championships, including a victory in the famed "Greatest Game Ever Played" in 1958. Ewbank was 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 the 1973 season and passed away in 1998.
  • Jeff Fisher coached the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans from 1994 to 2011 and was owner of a Badass Mustache second only to Ditka's. 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 yet inexplicably remained on the sidelines, seemingly coasting off of his early success in the '90s. He was head coach of the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams from 2012-2016, ironically the same team that beat his Titans in that Super Bowl. He tied the record for most career losses by a Head Coach (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.
  • 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 head coach 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.
  • Jason Garrett was the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys from 2010-2019. He previously was a quarterback, 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, where he became 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 team to a memorable comeback win against the Green Bay Packers. He ended his career as a backup QB for the Giants and Buccaneers. After retiring from playing, he became a QB coach for the Miami Dolphins and returned to the Cowboys in 2007 as an offensive coordinator. In 2010, he was appointed interim head coach after Wade Phillips was fired mid-season and was officially appointed head coach in 2011. He was the Cowboys' first head coach 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 see the playoffs, and he even won Coach of the Year in 2016 after an impressive showing 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 currently serves as offensive coordinator for the Giants.
  • Joe Gibbs was the Hall of Fame head coach for the Washington team from 1981 to 1992, winning three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks (the only head coach to do so). Primarily an offensive line coach prior to becoming a head coach, 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. Gibbs later returned for a second, less successful stint as Washington head coach from 2004-2007. After his first retirement from the NFL, he also 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.
  • Bud Grant was the head coach for the Minnesota Vikings from 1967 to 1983 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 1949-1951 and the Philadelphia Eagles from 1951-1952note . 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 would see 11 division titles and 4 Super Bowl appearances during his next two decades with the team—Grant won Coach of the Year in 1969. His combined CFL and NFL record makes him the third most successful head coach in professional football history behind only Don Shula and George Halas; that also makes him the most successful coach to have been active during the Super Bowl era to never win the Big Game. He is also the only coach enshrined in both the Pro and Canadian Football Hall of Fame. 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 head coach who saw his greatest success with the '90s Vikings. A disciple of Bill Walsh, Green was hired by the Vikings in 1992 as only the second African-American 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 head coach 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 heartbreaking 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 passed away from a heart attack in 2016.
  • Jon Gruden is once again head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders after he previously coached the team from 1998 to 2001 in Oakland. He also served in the same role with the Tampa Bay Bucs during the '00s, winning a Super Bowl in his first year there against his former team. Gruden is known as something of a quarterback guru, as he frequently revitalized the career of older veterans (Rich Gannon, Brad Johnson) or got better-than-expected performances out late round draft picks at the position. He earned the nickname "Chucky" for his reddish hair, fiery temperament, and for the psychotic scowl he frequently sported while on the sidelines. From 2009 through 2017, he served as the color commentator for ESPN's Monday Night Football. He gained fame for his popular pre-Draft show Jon Gruden's QB Camp where he interviewed the top-rated draft prospects at QB in addition to reviewing film with them and working them out on the practice field. Until he was brought back by the Raiders, rumors circulated every offseason that some team (usually in the NFL, but sometimes college programs as well) would hire Gruden to be their head coach. This inevitably led to comparisons between Gruden and John Madden. (Both won Super Bowls as head coaches before entering careers in broadcasting at relatively young ages.) His younger brother Jay Gruden was the head coach for Washington in the '10s, though he saw much less success in the position than his elder sibling.
  • 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 head coach 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 head coach. (Usually it's an offensive or defensive coordinator, or college head coach.) 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 5th season. 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 head coach of the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-2014. A first round pick in the 1987 Draft by the Chicago Bears, Jim had a moderately successful career as a quarterback 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 head coach 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 head coach of the Green Bay Packers for seven years and of the Seattle Seahawks for nine. He is best known for leading the Packers from division doormat to constant playoff success with the emergence of Brett Favre. His relationship to Favre was delightful to watch, as Favre's "gunslinger" style would often cause him to go off-script from the more conservative plays that Holmgren called and instead either throw high-risk long bombs or just take off running. He was also 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 to date at the time, lent instant credibility to Seattle's on-field product and dedication to winning. Along with being head coach, he also served as the team's GM and vice president, letting him shape almost every aspect of the team and turning Seattle into a perennial playoff contender, including a very controversial loss in Super Bowl XL. Had he won, he would've been the first head coach to ever win two Super Bowls with two different teams. He left the Seahawks after the 2008 season, taking a one-year sabbatical before accepting a position in the Cleveland Browns' front office, which was... not as successful as his stint with the Seahawks; he was let go in 2013 after the team changed owners. He is also a disciple of the Bill Walsh coaching tree and has had over a dozen of his former assistants become future NFL head coaches including (just from those listed here alone) Andy Reid and Jon Gruden. He even had two of his former quarterbacks serve as head coaches: Doug Pederson (see below) and Mike McCoy, both of whom were backups to Brett Favre in Green Bay.
  • Jimmy Johnson is a Hall of Fame coach most famous for his time with the Dallas Cowboys where he helped jump-start the team's '90s dynasty (and for his great head of hair). He was Jerry Jones' first head coach after he bought the team in 1989, bringing Johnson from the University of Miami where he won a National Championship. (The two were famously 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, the largest in the NFL history in terms of draft picks exchanged, 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. However, friction with Jones led the two to part ways. The Cowboys team Johnson constructed won another Super Bowl following the 1995 season under his successor, Barry Switzer, while Johnson would go on to a less-stellar tenure with the Miami Dolphins. Despite not putting up a losing 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 playoff loss to the Jaguars. He currently serves as an analyst on the Fox pre-game show and 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 head coaches to win the honor more than twice. After getting his start as an offensive line coach with the New York Jets and Detroit Lions, Knox got the head coach 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 head coach and general manager for thirty years, a player for the first ten, and represented the players at owners' meetings. He is tied with his rival George Halas (who he faced 48 times, more than any other pair) and Bill Belichick for winning the most NFL championships as a coach (six in total). He was a pioneer of the passing game, both as a player and a coach, and under his stewardship John "Blood" McNally and Don Hutson dominated the receiving stats every year. 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 losing seasons in well over a decade, Lambeau was forced out of his coaching job after the 1949 season; 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). Lambeau had two short and unsuccessful tenures as coach for the Chicago Cardinals and the Washington team 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 played six seasons for the New York Giants as a punter and defensive back before he was hired as the team's defensive coordinator (opposite future rival Vince Lombardi on the offensive side of the ball), where he was credited with inventing the 4-3 defense. Landry then built an offense to beat his own scheme once he went to division rival Dallas. His 'Boys put up an amazing streak of winning seasons that lasted 20 years from 1966 through 1985note . During this period, his team only missed the playoffs twice—for comparison, that is one fewer miss than Bill Belichick managed in the same timespan with the Patriots, all during an era where fewer teams made the postseason. His Cowboys made it to the Super Bowl five times in the '70s, winning twice. One of Jerry Jones' first moves as owner was to give Landry the boot, which remains the main reason many fans hate him decades later. Unsurprisingly, he 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.
  • Dick LeBeau was only a head coach for two-and-a-half unremarkable seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals but had an extremely long and impactful career in the NFL that spanned nearly six decades. LeBeau started out in 1959 as a defensive back for the Detroit Lions—in his 14 seasons with the team, LeBeau became one of the league's all-time great DBs, setting the then-record for consecutive starts at the position (since passed by Ronde Barber) and putting up 62 interceptions (still in the Top 10 all-time). After retiring as a player, LeBeau moved straight into coaching. Upon landing with the Bengals in 1980, LeBeau developed the zone blitz defense as a counter to the increasingly popular West Coast offense, a strategy that helped bring the Bengals to two Super Bowl appearances and promoted him to his first of many tenures as a defensive coordinator. LeBeau spent most of the '90s as the Pittsburgh Steelers DC, coaching them to a Super Bowl appearance. He returned to the struggling Bengals at the turn of the century, where he was thrust into the head coach position after Bruce Coslet's resignation, then came back to Pittsburgh in 2004 to help coach the team to two Super Bowl wins. LeBeau was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010 in recognition of his playing career but remained an active coach until he retired in 2017 after a brief stint with the Tennessee Titans. Besides being known as one of the best defensive coaches in league history, LeBeau was also an extremely beloved paternal figure in the league—many of his players referred to him as "Coach Dad", and he even had a tradition of reciting "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" from memory to his players at Christmas time (a big morale-boost, considering the Christmas season coincides with the end of the regular season and active players rarely get the chance to enjoy it themselves).
  • 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 head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, and even coached in the short-lived USFL. He finally saw real NFL success upon joining the Bills as head coach in 1987—his team completely dominated the AFC in the early '90s and he won Coach of the Year twice, though he never managed to coach the team to a Super Bowl win. A veteran of the Second World War, he refused to use the common metaphors of "war" and "battle" for the game and 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 general manager—he retired for good after two seasons.
  • Marvin Lewis was a head coach hired by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2003 after a successful career as a defensive coordinator that included a Super Bowl win with the Baltimore Ravens. Lewis brought the long-suffering 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 head coach 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 putting up three straight losing seasons and currently serves as defensive coordinator 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 a successful tenure as the offensive coordinator for the New York Giants (opposite defensive coordinator 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 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 professional 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, 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' head coach in 1969 at only 32 years old when the previous coach, John Rauch, left due to conflicts with owner Al Davis, making Madden the youngest professional head coach 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 overall winning percentage from his ten seasons as head coach (.759) ranks first in league history. His Raiders won Super Bowl XI and never posted a losing season under him. He retired early in 1978 to became a famous 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.
  • Mike McCarthy is the current head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, previously serving as head coach of the Green Bay Packers from 2006 to 2018. 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 offensive coordinator 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.
  • Josh McDaniels is the current offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots. McDaniels got his start in New England as a personnel assistant during their first Super Bowl victory and was on the coaching staff during the next two before being elevated to OC. His position as a disciple of Belichick helped him land the head coaching job with the Denver Broncos in 2009, which was by most accounts a disaster, as he first alienated starting QB Jay Cutler so badly that the team had to trade him to Chicago, then got caught in a cheating scandal (not dissimilar from Belichick's "Spygate" controversy) that led to him being fired in the middle of his second season. McDaniels salvaged his career after returning to the Patriots and helping to win three Super Bowls (and appear in two more) through the '10s. He was offered and accepted the head coaching job of the Indianapolis Colts in 2018, only to once again mimic Belichick by withdrawing from the offer the day of its announcement and staying with the Patriots.
  • John McKay was the first head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1976 to 1984. 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 quarterback Doug Williams was allowed to walk away to the USFL over a contract dispute. The dispute left McKay thoroughly demoralized, and he resigned at the end of the 1984 season, 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 currently the 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, became Washington's offensive coordinator at age 27, and became the youngest head coach 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 the Coach of the Year award. The next year McVay topped himself by becoming the youngest head coach ever to go to a Super Bowl, though his Rams were defeated by the Patriots. Besides his age, McVay is also known for his equally youthful, almost Keet-like energy.
  • Jim Mora was a long-time coach for the New Orleans Saints. Mora was brought into the Saints organization 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, he never won a single playoff game in the NFL. This losing streak continued when Mora moved to the Colts in 1998, giving Peyton Manning that same reputation for postseason impotence until 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. Considered one of the offensive masterminds of his era, he perfected the T-Formation with the play of quarterback Tommy Thompson and Hall of Famers Steve Van Buren and Pete Pihos. The Eagles won the Eastern Division three years in a row from 1947 to 1949, as well as 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.
  • Chuck Noll was the coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1969 to 1991. He earned four Super Bowl rings as a head coach during the '70s, putting him second behind only Bill Belichick. A defensive mind who himself played as a linebacker during his playing career in Cleveland, Noll was the architect of the feared "Steel Curtain" defense; ever since his tenure, Pittsburgh has had a reputation as an excellent defensive team. Despite being one of the most successful and long-tenured coaches in league history, Noll was never honored with the Coach of the Year award, something generally attributed to his quiet public persona. He was at least inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first eligible year. His longevity also contributed to the Steelers having more stability at head coach than almost any team in professional sports; the current head coach, Mike Tomlin, is only the third head coach (all of whom have won Super Bowls) since 1969. Noll passed away in 2014.
  • Bill O'Brien was the coach for the Houston Texans from 2014 to 2020. 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. O'Brien narrowly recorded a winning record with the team and led them to four division titles in the AFC South, 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 team GM in 2020 after another trip to the playoffs but was responsible for making numerous questionable trades in the offseason, most notably trading away star receiver DeAndre Hopkins for well below market compensation, that left the team strapped both for talent and future draft picks. O'Brien was fired after starting the 2020 season 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.
  • Steve Owen was a Long Runner head coach of the New York Giants from 1930 up until 1953. 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 head coach 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 years as head coach and still holds the most wins of any coach in the team's long history. He coached a few more years in the CFL, passed away 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 head coach 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 1983-1990 (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, with him finally retiring from coaching after the 2006 season. 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 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 head coaching career, and also includes Sean Payton and Tom Coughlin. Fun fact: Parcells was the first recipient of the famous Gatorade shower after winning Super Bowl XXI.
  • Raymond "Buddy" Parker was a coach mostly 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 became head coach in Detroit in 1951, where he developed Bobby Layne into one of the league's premier passers while also 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  Parker abruptly resigned during the 1957 preseason, citing difficulty controlling his players, and signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers shortly afterwards and was given total control over the team's roster. Throughout his tenure in Pittsburgh, Parker 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  Dan Rooney soon got more involved in team operations, and when he made it clear that all player decisions would have to go through him, Parker wound up resigning during the 1965 preseason. He died of a ruptured ulcer in 1982; despite his successful coaching record, his 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 is the current head coach of the New Orleans Saints. A college quarterback 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 offensive coordinator 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 head coaching position in 2012 when the "Bountygate" scandal revealed that the team ran a "bounty" program during their 2009 through 2011 seasons (see Gregg Williams' entry in "Notorious Figures") but returned the following season.
  • Doug Pederson was the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles from 2016-2020. A former journeyman quarterback 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 the 1999 season before Donovan McNabb took over. After a three-year stint the Chiefs' offensive coordinator under Reid, the Eagles hired him to be their head coach 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 from his hiring, Pederson completely reversed the Eagles' fortunes, culminating in a hard-fought victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII, their first league championship win since 1960. However, Pederson and the team struggled to follow up the win, and he was fired after the 2020 season due to disagreements with the Eagles' 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.
  • Oail Andrew "Bum" Phillips never coached for the Dallas Cowboys but was indisputably the real Cowboy coach of the NFL in the late '70s and early '80s—in contrast to Tom Landry's suit, tie, and fedora, 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.note  Phillips was beloved by players and fans alike for his folksy demeanor and had a short streak of success with the Oilers, 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 head coach for the Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, and Dallas Cowboys, and would fill in as an interim coach two more times with the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans. Wade saw most of his success as a defensive coordinator, 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.
  • Dan Reeves was a head coach for three teams over 23 consecutive seasons ('81-'03) in the NFL. An athletic college quarterback, Reeves joined the Dallas Cowboys under Tom Landry in 1965 as an undrafted free agent and switched to halfback. In 1969, Reeves 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 head coach in the league at age 37 when he was hired by the Denver Broncos, who 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. After putting up back-to-back losing seasons, Reeves was fired by the Giants in 1997 and hired by the Atlanta Falcons; he won Coach of the Year again as he led the Falcons to their first Super Bowl appearance in 1998, only to lose to John Elway's Broncos, his former team and quarterback. 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 11 and Tom Brady's 10. Reeves' 190 wins are the 10th most by a head coach 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.
  • Frank Reich is the current head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Reich had a notable career as a quarterback 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, if not the greatest backups in the sport's history, backing up Jim Kelly for nine seasons through the Bills' dominance of the AFC and their tragic loss of four straight Super Bowls. Reich's 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  Reich 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. Reich worked his way up the ranks for the next ten years and finally won a Super Bowl as the offensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles. Reich earned his first head coaching 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. After several years as an offensive line coach in college, Reid joined the Green Bay Packers staff and worked his way to be The Lancer to coach Mike Holmgren. This won Reid the head coach job with the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2012. While he is the winningest coach in Eagles history, helping turn them around from mediocrity and even 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, Reid 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 head coaching careers themselves. After being hired by the Chiefs, he helped turn the long-struggling franchise back into consistent contenders and, in 2020, 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 Football Team and previously served in that role for the Carolina Panthers from 2011 to 2019. He started out as a linebacker for the Chicago Bears from 1984 to 1992, becoming the first player of Puerto Rican descent to be part of a Super Bowl-winning team when the Bears won Super Bowl XX. After retiring from playing, Rivera worked as a defensive coach for several teams before becoming head coach 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 Denver Broncos. He was fired by Carolina midway through a disappointing 2019 season but was quickly hired by Washington at the start of the following offseason, 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.
  • The Ryan Family: Consists of Buddy Ryan and his twin sons, Rex and Rob Ryan.
    • Buddy Ryan was a two-time Super Bowl winner as a defensive coordinator, one for the New York Jets in Super Bowl III & one for the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX, as well as a former head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals. He 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. Buddy was known for clashing with other coaches on his own teams; he and head coach Mike Ditka were involved in a physical fight during halftime at the 1985 Monday Night Football game against the Miami Dolphins (in which the Bears suffered their only loss that season). Later, as a defensive coordinator for the Houston Oilers, Buddy openly criticized offensive coordinator 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 in 1994. Buddy died in 2016.
    • Rex Ryan started as an assistant coach for the Baltimore Ravens from 1999-2008 (2004-2008 as a defensive coordinator), including their 2000 Super Bowl-winning season, before more famously becoming the head coach for the New York Jets from 2009-2014. 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."). He also antagonized the Giants, with whom the Jets share a stadium, when the two teams met to play each other, though he ultimately only ended up hitting the Giants' Berserk Button. While his success as an assistant is unquestionable, his tenure as a head coach has 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 quarterback—resulted in a run of mediocrity that cost him his job. He coached the Buffalo Bills from 2015-2016, until he was fired with one week remaining in the season, having finished 7-8. Rex then joined ESPN as an NFL analyst.
    • Rob Ryan was a linebackers coach for the Super Bowl-winning Patriots in the early '00s, before spinning that off into jobs as a defensive coordinator 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.
  • Marty Schottenheimer had arguably the worst of case of Every Year They Fizzle Out in NFL coaching history. Schottenheimer was a head coach in the NFL for 23 seasons, starting with the Cleveland Browns in 1984 for five seasons, leading the Kansas City Chiefs for a full decade, spending one year in Washington, and finishing with a stint with the San Diego Chargers in which he won Coach of the Year. In that time, he recorded 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), Marty's place in the Hall of Fame seems like it would be guaranteed... were it not for the fact that his postseason record was .278, a record that is drastically below anyone else who reached the playoffs as often as he did. 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 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 defensive coordinator, 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 only head coach 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 head coach win percentage in modern league history. Seifert was later drawn back to the NFL two years later by the Carolina Panthers with an offer to be head coach 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. During the '96-'98 seasons, his Denver teams 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). This tenure was sandwiched between unsuccessful stints in Oakland and Washington. 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.
    • Mike's son Kyle Shanahan, who served as offensive coordinator under Mike while in Washington, is the current head coach for the 49ers. Though he has seen enough success outside of his father's wing to not be accused of coasting on Nepotism, he has developed a reputation for choking away leads in the Super Bowl, first as offensive coordinator for the Falcons in their infamous loss to the Patriots and later as head coach of the 49ers against the Chiefs.
  • 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. Shell 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 head coach, 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 head coach in 2006 but was fired again after an abysmal 2-14 season.
  • Don Shula was the winningest coach in NFL history (347 games) and coached more games than any other over a 33-year career as a head coach. Shula was an NFL defensive back before his coaching career, having notably played for Paul Brown in Cleveland. After a few years as an assistant in college and with the Detroit Lions, Shula became head coach of the Baltimore Colts in 1963, which he coached during Super Bowl III, where the underdog AFL champion Jets beat Shula's heavily favored team. Shula gained the most fame after he left Baltimore in 1970 to coach the Miami Dolphins. Shula took the Dolphins to a Super Bowl appearance in his second year with the team, before leading them to win two back-to-back Super Bowls, VII and VIII. The former victory capped off 1972 team's perfect 17-0 run, which remains the NFL's only undefeated season (regular and postseason) to date since the merger. Shula kept the Dolphins regular contenders for another two decades, only putting up one losing season in '76, and revisited the Super Bowl two more times, though he never claimed another ring. He 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 ever head coaching career behind only George Halas (see below under "Owners/Management"), was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997, and passed away in 2020.
  • 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, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003. He passed away two years later due to complications from diabetes.
  • Mike Tomlin is the current head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, whom he has taken to two Super Bowls (winning one and becoming the youngest head coach to ever do so in the process, as well as only the second African-American head coach). 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 defensive coordinator on a 6-10 Vikings team and was thus considered a long shot to land the Steelers head coaching job after the retirement of Bill Cowher. Additionally, he had to beat out two highly qualified incumbents, Cowher's assistant head coach Russ Grimm and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. Still, Tomlin got the job and the rest is history; over 14 years on the job, Tomlin has yet to put up a losing season in Pittsburgh. He was also notably the subject of a controversial play during a game against the rival Baltimore Ravens on Thanksgiving Day in 2013. Tomlin 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 Ravens argued that they should be awarded with a touchdown based on the palpably unfair act rule, but the TD was not awarded. The NFL later fined Tomlin $100,000 for the act, the second highest fine ever levied against an NFL head coach. 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.
  • 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 coach 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 head coach, 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... only to return 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.
  • Mike Vrabel is the current head coach of the Tennessee Titans, following a playing career as a defensive end/linebacker that saw him win three Super Bowls with the Patriots. He gained acclaim during his second season as Titans coach, when he led his team as the #6 seed to road victories over the defending champion Patriots and #1 seed Ravens (with league MVP QB Lamar Jackson) but ultimately fell short of the Super Bowl with a loss to the Chiefs in the AFC Championship. 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 that became known as "Vrabeling"note .
  • Bill Walsh is a coach most famous for building up and leading the San Francisco 49ers dynasty in the '80s. Walsh 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. After a short but successful stint as the head coach at Stanford, Walsh was brought in to be both coach and general manager of the Niners in 1979. His innovative playbook made Walsh 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 in 1988. Several teams later attempted to lure Walsh out of retirement to coach, but he only returned for a brief stint at Stanford and a briefer stint 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 would continue to dominate the league for decades to come. Walsh was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993 and passed away in 2007.

     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 would eventually become 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 (1921-1939) 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. Carr’s 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 (1939-1941) 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 Storck'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 (1941-1946) was the first commissioner of the NFL. A college star from Notre Dame, 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 (1946-1959) was originally a college football player and coach before he founded the Philadelphia Eagles in 1933 and appointed himself as head coach. As the owner and with no one able to fire him, he put up a winning record of 10-46-2 (.179), which remains the absolute worst coaching record of anyone with that career length and will almost certainly remain the worst (unless Jerry Jones decides to one day follow in his footsteps). The only thing that could end Bell's reign was selling the team, which he did in a complicated event called the "Pennsylvania Polka" in which Bell and Pittsburgh Steelers co-owner Alexis Thompson switched team ownership. Bell became coach of the Steelers until Steelers co-owner and general manager Art Rooney (see below) finally fired Bell from his coaching job after more losses.note  Bell's struggle to sign talent to his teams caused him to lead the charge in devising and adopting the Draft. 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 (1960-1989) was an unassuming 33-year-old PR exec coming off a brief run as the general manager 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, 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. Hunter S. Thompson knew him and had a strong dislike for him. 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. 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. That's not to say he was universally successful. He took great pains to make sure the Cleveland Browns would 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) and increased player activism for social justice beginning with Colin Kaepernick's in-game protests in 2016.
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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.

  • Bud Adams was the founder of the Houston Oilers. An oilman himself, 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. Adams eventually moved the team to Tennessee, where they became the Titans. He was generally viewed as a stubborn "play-by-his-own-rules" type (he infamously was fined a quarter of a million dollars for Flipping the Bird at the opposing team in view of the cameras). At the time of his death in 2013, Adams had the longest tenure and most wins of any NFL owner. His children and grandchildren inherited the team, with his daughter Amy Strunk 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 general manager 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.
  • 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 head coach, then signing Georgia halfback 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.
  • 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 passed away in 2018 and was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame the following year.
  • Mike Brown is the current owner and general manager of the Cincinnati Bengals and the son of the great Paul Brown (see above under "Coaches"). 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  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.
  • 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 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, Culverhouse 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; Culverhouse 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/general manager 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 head coach 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.
  • 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 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 due a Grandfather Clause.
  • George Halas, known affectionately to Bears fans as "Papa Bear", owned the Bears from 1920 until his death in 1983 and coached the team through most of that tenure. A multi-sport athlete, Halas served in the Navy during World War I before becoming an acclaimed college star. He played 14 games with the New York Yankees before a hip injury ended his baseball career. Seeking to stay in sports, Halas got a job with the Hammond Pros football team. Still famous from his college days, a local starch manufacturer, the A.E. Staley Company, hired Halas 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 would become 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 hired a new head coach only to return to the sidelines a few years later. After another ten years of coaching, he stepped down again to return to his Navy service during World War II, helping to organize military recreation in the Pacific 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 Shulanote , won a still-record six championships as a coach with at least one during each stintnote , 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; the Hall's street address is named after him. He also 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.
  • 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. 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 passed away, 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 general manager 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 passed away over a year later, passing on the franchise to his son Jim Irsay, who has fared much better thanks to competent staff and having the good fortune of drafting Peyton Manning, though some legal troubles, struggles with substance abuse, and his Cloud Cuckoolander tendencies have kept him in the spotlight for less favorable reasons.
  • Jerry Jones is the current owner of the Dallas Cowboys and 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 Tom Landry and then running his popular successor, Jimmy Johnson, out of town. He's best known for being very, very active in running his team, refusing to appoint a general manager and giving that role to himself instead. He 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, 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 Badass Mustache.
  • Robert Kraft is the current owner of the New England Patriots. Before his ownership, the Patriots were something of a laughingstock in the NFL akin to the modern day Cleveland Browns. 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. He refused to allow Orthwein to ditch the stadium lease, then agreed to buy the team from Orthwein so the latter could wash his hands of the curse. 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's Giants would face 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)—Mara 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 general manager, 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).
  • 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. 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 and passed away in 2012. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Daniel Snyder is the current owner of the Washington Football Team. While he has managed to make Washington the second most valuable NFL franchise, he is also one of the most hated/ridiculed owners in the league. Snyder is a key figure in the controversy over his team's former name; "Redskin" is a racial slur for Native Americans (now almost never used except to refer to the team, but at the time of its naming almost as common as using the N-word to slur a black person). Despite several tribes putting pressure on the League to force a name change, Snyder stubbornly refused to do so for years until the threat of an advertiser boycott in 2020 finally forced his hand. Even die-hard fans of the team and defenders of the mascot struggle to defend Snyder, whose 21-year tenure as team owner has seen only six winning seasons despite—or because of—his hands-on management style. He's well-known for displaying an odd flux of Aesop Amnesia—one year, he'll snap up loads of (often past-their-prime) expensive free agents, then pledge to cut back in the next offseason, which he does, only to go back to his old tricks in the next offseason after that.
  • 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 passed away 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 
  • Bobby Beathard was the general manager for Washington (1978-1988) 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 head coach in Washington and ushered in "The Hogs" era of Washington football, finding late-roundnote  or undraftednote  offensive linemen who would lead 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.
  • 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, Finks played as a quarterback and defensive back for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1949 to 1955, 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 general manager 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 head coach, 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 years of that team's success in the 1980s. 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 became the first general manager for the Ravens and the first African-American to hold that position on any NFL team. Newsome managed the team during their two Super Bowl wins and retired after the 2018 season.
  • Bill Nunn 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 Currier, 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 would go on to become NFL legends in the dominant Steel Curtain dynasty, including John Stallworth, Mel Blount, Donnie Shell, and Jack Lambert. Nunn passed away in 2014 and was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame.
  • Bill Polian was the general manager for Indianapolis Colts until his firing in 2012, after they went 2-14 without Peyton Manning. Before that, Polian served as the GM of the Buffalo Bills from 1986-1993 (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. Polian 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. Currently an NFL analyst for ESPN, Polian entered the Hall of Fame in 2015. He was also a co-founder of the short-lived Alliance of American Football.
  • 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 1947-1956; 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 to keep up with the nascent AFL. He later helped to negotiate the NFL-AFL merger, and in the following years introduced the wild-card playoff bracket and 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, and new commissioner Paul Tagliabue appointed him as president of the short-lived World League of American Football. Schramm retired after the league went on hiatus and was inducted into the Hall of Fame immediately afterwards; Jerry Jones infamously refused to put him into the Cowboys Ring of Honor until just before his death in 2003.
  • Ron Wolf was the general manager of the Green Bay Packers during The '90s, bringing the struggling franchise out of their "NFL Siberia" period for much of the previous two decades, during which they had only four winning seasons. Wolf's three biggest moves were hiring former 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren as head coach, trading with the Atlanta 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.

     Broadcasters and Producers 
  • Joe Buck is the top play-by-play announcer for Fox, having started with the network in 1994 at just 25 years old, where he has partnered with Hall of Fame QB Troy Aikman since 2001. 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.)
  • Cris Collinsworth has been the lead color commentator for NBC's Sunday Night Football since 2009. He 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  before settling in the NBC booth with Al Michaels. He is also the majority owner of the prominent analytic site Pro Football Focus.
  • Howard Cosell was a commentator on ABC's Monday Night Football from 1970-84. An accomplished sports journalist and commentator from 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.
  • Rich Eisen was 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).
  • Keith Jackson was an announcer during the AFL days and was notably replaced by Al Michaels 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.
  • 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, is the definitive pro football broadcaster. Madden spent time on all four of the major networks during his nearly three decades in the booth, where he had a charming, if somewhat... unique, commentary style and a fondness for the telestrator. He's 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. He also has his name on the Madden NFL series of video games. Retired from broadcasting in 2009. BOOM!
  • Anthony "Booger" McFarland was a defensive tackle 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.
  • Al Michaels is the current voice of NBC's Sunday Night Football and was previously the play-by-play announcer for ABC's Monday Night Football for 20 years (the longest tenure of any broadcaster on that program). When MNF shifted to ESPN in 2006, NBC-Universal traded the legal rights of the character "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit" (a character created by Walt Disney himself in the 1920s but whose rights were purchased by Universal) as well as the rights to one night of the PGA Tour Ryder Cup event and increased Olympic highlight usage to Disney (which owns ABC and ESPN) in exchange for letting Michaels out of his contract so that he could join NBC for Sunday Night Football. Yes, really. (Michaels himself was bemused by the events and compared it to a team trading a coach for draft picks.) His most famous call, however, was in another sport... "Do you believe in miracles... YES!!"
  • Steve Sabol founded NFL Films in 1962 along with his father, Ed, and served as the production company's president until his death in 2012. Easily the most honored filmmaker in sports, with over 35 Emmy Awards to his name, Sabol set the standard for sports filmmaking with he and his crew capturing so many of the game's iconic moments then presenting them with cinematic pageantry. A prominent example is the "Autumn Wind" segment, originally a poem written by Sabol and later adopted by the Raiders as an unofficial anthem. One of his NFL Films 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, then as an on-air talent. He was also instrumental in founding the NFL Network in 2003. Sabol passed away from brain cancer in 2012 and was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame as a contributor 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.
  • 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 John Madden's regular broadcasting partner at CBS and FOX in the '80s, '90s, and '00s. Originally a placekicker for the New York Giants in the late '50s and early '60s, Summerall became a sportscaster in 1961 and continued to call football games up until 2002 (although he continued to occasionally work, especially in golf and tennis, up through his death in 2013). He was known for his matter-of-fact, understated style of broadcasting, which contrasted with Madden's more animated style.
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