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Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Which coaches were Top 20 snubs?

By Greg Garber
ESPN.com

Schottenheimer/Holmgren
Marty Schottenheimer, left, and Mike Holmgren were influential for many successful coaches.

No one knows more football history than Joe Horrigan. The Pro Football Hall of Fame's vice president of communications can -- and will -- talk about the NFL's great coaches with an endless and unnerving passion.

He is not above lobbying for some of his favorites.

"Take a look at Marty," Horrigan said about Marty Schottenheimer. "He's got 200 wins, which is really saying something. I know the rap on him is that he took teams to a certain level but could never win the big one. Maybe, but there's more to coaching than that.

"He was a highly focused man and a great teacher. Look at all the other coaches he influenced."

In 1975, New York Giants head coach Bill Arnsparger made Schottenheimer his linebackers assistant, and the rest, as Horrigan would say, is history.

In 21 seasons, Schottenheimer's teams won a total of 200 regular-season games. That's the sixth-highest total in National Football League history, accrued with the Browns, Chiefs, Redskins and Chargers. The five men ahead of him -- Don Shula, George Halas, Tom Landry, Curly Lambeau and Paul Brown -- are all enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, along with 16 other men with fewer victories who have been recognized for their coaching excellence.

Not Schottenheimer. His playoff record was 5-13 and he never won an NFL championship. The asterisk? His coaching tree bears no fewer than 14 descendants who went on to become NFL head coaches.

One of them is Bill Cowher. Schottenheimer gave Cowher his first NFL coaching job, in 1985, as the Cleveland Browns' special-teams coach. When Schottenheimer took the head job in Kansas City in 1989, he brought Cowher with him, making him his defensive coordinator. Cowher's next job was head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he won 161 games in 15 seasons -- including Super Bowl XL.

Cowher was named on five of 22 ballots from our ESPN panel. Schottenheimer was named on only four.

Mike Holmgren, who guided teams to three Super Bowl appearances -- winning one -- begat no fewer than 17 descendants who went on to become NFL head coaches. He was named on nine ballots but finished just outside the top 20.

All three men deserve to be mentioned in any discussion of the NFL's greatest coaches.

Below is another handful of coaches who didn't make our top 20 but whose careers are worthy of consideration (listed in order of most wins, including postseason):

Dan Reeves
Dan Reeves took part in nine Super Bowls as a player, head coach and assistant, winning two with Dallas.


Dan Reeves

201-174-2 (.536), 23 seasons, zero titles: There's a Dan Reeves in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he was the owner of the Cleveland Rams. Reeves moved the Rams to Los Angeles in 1946, giving the NFL its first presence on the West Coast. This Dan Reeves is No. 8 on the all-time victory list for coaches, having guided the Denver Broncos, Giants and Atlanta Falcons.

Case for: No one has been to more Super Bowls in his career than Reeves. He played in two for the Dallas Cowboys, was an assistant coach for three more with Dallas and led the Broncos and Falcons to four more.

Case against: As a head coach, he never won the Super Bowl. The win total is terrific, but the winning percentage isn't.


Steve Owen

153-108-17 (.581), 23 seasons, two titles: Owen's NFL career began in 1924, playing for the Kansas City Blues for $50 a game. He was an offensive lineman who later played for the Cleveland Bulldogs and New York Giants. He was the captain of the 1927 Giants team that went 11-1-1 and took the NFL title. He coached the Giants from 1930 to '53, winning 10 division titles and two NFL championships.

Case for: That win total is No. 20 on the NFL's all-time list -- 41 more than John Madden and 48 more than Vince Lombardi.

Case against: Owen played and coached in the early days of the NFL, when there were fewer teams, and his winning percentage falls well short of the numbers fashioned by Madden (.731) and Lombardi (.740).


George Seifert

124-67 (.649), 11 seasons, two titles: Seifert won 114 regular-season games in 11 seasons as a head coach. None of the 27 men above him on the all-time victory list coached fewer than 13 seasons.

Case for: Seifert's San Francisco 49ers won two NFL titles in a span of six years from 1989 to '94.

Case against: Similar to criticisms of Barry Switzer, who won a Super Bowl with a team that Jimmy Johnson had already molded into a champion, a perception exists that Seifert merely rode Bill Walsh's coattails.


Jimmy Conzelman

88-64-17 (.571), 15 seasons, two titles: Back in the nascent days of the NFL, players sometimes coached as well. After debuting as a quarterback/defensive back for the Decatur Staleys in 1920, Conzelman was a player-coach for the Rock Island Independents, Milwaukee Badgers, Detroit Panthers and the Providence Steam Roller. He had two stints as the coach of the Chicago Cardinals, winning the NFL title in 1947.

Case for: If they played 16-game seasons back in the day, his win total would be much higher. He won his first NFL title in 1928 with Providence and was part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's second class in 1964.

Case against: See Owen above.


Guy Chamberlin

58-16-7 (.784), six seasons, four titles: An All-American end at Nebraska, Chamberlin served in the U.S. Army for three years after graduating. He was, remarkably, the player-coach of four NFL title-winning teams in a span of five years: the 1922 and '23 Canton Bulldogs, 1924 Cleveland Bulldogs and 1926 Frankford Yellow Jackets.

Case for: He was part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's third class in 1965 and owns the highest winning percentage in league history.

Case against: He coached only six seasons before retiring to farming and a career as a state livestock inspector.