Coaches and Super Bowl Wins

It’s coach-hiring season in the NFL, and with it comes the annual hand-wringing over whether teams should hire an up-and-coming coordinator (like the Saints did with Sean Payton a few years ago) or a coach with a proven track record (like they did with Ditka a few years before that).

I don’t have a strong opinion about which route teams should take (the likely answer: it depends), but I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at one oft-quoted piece of information that’s often used to justify hiring a no-name coach: no coach has ever won a Super Bowl with two different franchises.

While that statement is certainly true, how meaningful is it? Let’s see if we can find out.

According to Pro Football Reference, [there have been 236 coaches in the Super Bowl era][1]. Of these, only 27 (about 11%) have won a Super Bowl. So, when we say that no Super Bowl-winning coach has guided two franchises to a Super Bowl, we’re really talking about a small subsample of all the coaches in NFL history.

Of those 27 coaches, only 15 coached multiple franchises in the Super Bowl era (Weeb Ewbank coached the Baltimore Colts and New York Jets, and even won an NFL championship with the Colts, but only coached the Jets during the Super Bowl era). Those coaches are:

If you only include coaches who won Super Bowls and THEN coached another franchise, the list shrinks to 10:

Depending on how you consider it, you’re talking about 10 or 15 guys that make up this sample of Super Bowl winning coaches who have disappointed at other franchises. That’s not a big enough group to draw any conclusions from.

Remember, roughly 89% of the coaches hired in the Super Bowl-era NFL never even win a single Super Bowl, and only 12 coaches (4.7%) have won multiple Super Bowls. In light of all of that, the idea that none of these coaches has repeated with a different franchise isn’t really that interesting.

Teams would be best off finding a good coach who is the right fit, regardless of pedigree.

Of course, that’s what teams usually do. They just bring up the “no coach has won a Super Bowl with 2 franchises” thingy to appease their fan base after hiring a no-name over someone like Bill Cowher.

A random fun fact:

The combined record of the 15 coaches with their non-Super Bowl franchises was 563-532 (51.4%). That’s not great, but it’s the approximate career winning percentage of Steve Marriucci (thanks to his stint in Detroit), higher than that of John Fox, and just a little lower than that of Dick Vermeil. Plus, that includes the mail-in jobs like the one that Mike Ditka did, and quite a few coaches taking over teams in really bad shape (Hank Stram with the Saints, for example).