Cleveland Browns well represented on list of best NFL head coaches
The Cleveland Browns have their fingerprints all over the list of the NFL’s greatest head coaches, thanks to the influence of Paul Brown.
Since returning to the NFL in 1999, the Cleveland Browns have cycled through head coaches almost as quickly as they have starting quarterbacks.
Hue Jackson is the team’s eighth full-time head coach in that timeframe, and the list of names that preceded him includes such low points as Chris Palmer (.156 winning percentage), Eric Mangini (.313), Pat Shurmur (.281) and Rob Chudzinski (.250).
Despite a 1-15 record in his first season in Cleveland, Jackson appears to be on the road to settling the position (although the quarterback search continues). And just like the quarterback position, the history of the head coach role in Cleveland has actually seen some high points.
That is why it is no surprise to see a pair of former Browns head coaches, along with several other head coaches they influenced, on a Bleacher Report list of the 25 best head coaches in NFL history.
The first representative for the Browns clocks in at No. 20 with none other than Marty Schottenheimer, who coached Cleveland from 1984 to 1988, making the playoffs in four of those years and leading the Browns to the AFC Championship Game twice.
Mention “Marty Ball” to Browns fans of a certain age, however, and they will know exactly what you are talking about, which Mike Tanier touches on in the story:
"If it’s late January and you need to win a big game to earn a trophy, let’s be frank: Marty Schottenheimer is not the coach you want."
"But what if your organization has been in the doldrums for years? Your team lacks cohesion; your players lack fundamentals. You need a system that will get you to that big January game, year after year. And let’s say Vince Lombardi and Bill Parcells already turned you down. Well then, Schottenheimer may be the coach you need."
"Schottenheimer made some bad decisions in the postseason. He certainly had abysmal luck. But the problem was never a lack of planning or preparation. Schottenheimer’s teams were always ready to compete. And while his playoff losses made him a punchline for some fans, his peers took their duels with Schottenheimer, in the regular season and postseason, very, very seriously."
Schottenheimer never fully got the credit he deserved for the job he did with the Browns, especially in his final season when he guided the team to the playoffs while having to start four different quarterbacks due to injury. Overall, Schottenheimer posted a winning percentage of .620 with the Browns and was a big part of an era that still resonates with fans.
The next pick is an obvious one as Paul Brown checks in at No. 3. A case could be made that Brown should be higher on the list as he took the Browns to 10 consecutive championship games, winning seven, and created the modern NFL while coaching the Browns from 1946 until 1962.
He also was a major influence on several names on the list (more on that in a moment) and it remains a mystery why the league does not have an award in his name.
Here are the highlights from Tanier’s section on Brown:
"Paul Brown invented the playbook when he was a high school coach. Inventing the playbook is the football equivalent of inventing the wheel. Brown modernized the sport before anyone outside of Eastern Ohio had ever heard of him. Brown went on to invent or revolutionize just about everything else associated with modern football, from the 40-yard dash to the facemask to the draw play."
"He also integrated professional football, signing two black players to the AAFC without drawing attention to them or himself. Ranking Paul Brown on a countdown of football coaches is like ranking Moses on a list of all-time community organizers. What Brown did for football transcends categorization. The men who rank ahead of him didn’t just stand on his shoulders. They were born unto a world he made. Modern football is Paul Brown’s game."
Brown’s fingerprints are all over the list as his extended coaching tree is legendary: Chuck Noll (No. 8) and Don Shula (No. 5) played for Brown in Cleveland, Bill Walsh (No. 4) was on Brown’s staff with the Cincinnati Bengals, Tony Dungy (No. 21) was on Noll’s staff with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Mike Holmgren (No. 11) was on Walsh’s staff with the San Francisco 49ers.
Schottenheimer even gets in on the action as Bill Cowher (No. 25) was on Schottenheimer’s staff in Cleveland from 1985 to 1988.
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That puts the total at eight coaches on the list with ties to Brown or Schottenheimer.
And just like how no one will ever match Brown’s championship pedigree, it is extremely unlikely that anyone will match the success of his coaching tree.