9 Oldest Coaches In NFL

The National Football League is the highest level of pro American football, and the NFL season is one of the most beloved and anticipated sporting events in the United States. With every passing season, the coaches in the NFL get younger and younger, but there are some coaches who stuck around well past the usual retiring years. Here are nine of the oldest NFL coaches in history.

Note: In the listed information for each coach, we’re only focusing on these coaches’ careers within the NFL, so we won’t be listing teams they coached or years they spent coaching outside of the NFL.

9. Paul Brown

Age while coaching: 67
Retired?: Yes
Years active in the NFL:  1946-1975
Teams: Cleveland Browns (1946–1962), Cincinnati Bengals (1968–1975)

Paul Brownphoto source: Wikipedia

Paul Eugene Brown coached across different levels before he arrived at the NFL, where he founded the Cleveland Browns. He would later also be one of the co-founders of the Cincinnati Bengals. He was known for being strict and controlling as a coach[11], but also for being one of the key icons in modern football.

Brown played an instrumental role in pioneering plenty of football tactics, including the modern face mask, the draw play, and the taxi squad. He was also the first coach in NFL history to routinely test his players on their playbook knowledge[12], hire full-time staff, and scout opponents using game footage. He also brought some of the first African American football players into his teams, helping break down the race barriers in sports[13].

Brown took home the NFL championship three times and was named UPI NFL Coach of the Year three times, AP NFL Coach of the Year twice, and Sporting News coach of the year thrice. Outside of the NFL, he won the AAFC championship for four consecutive years, the NCAA national championship once, and a high school national championship four times.

Brown was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967. He passed away on August 5, 1991.

8. Joe Gibbs

Age while coaching: 67
Retired?: Yes
Years active in the NFL: 1973-2007
Teams: St. Louis Cardinals (1973–1977), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1978), San Diego Chargers (1979–1980), Washington Redskins (1981–1992), (2004–2007)

Joe Gibbsphoto source: Wikipedia

Despite making our list for oldest NFL coaches, Joe Jackson Gibbs was actually one of the youngest coaches in the NFL when he first took on the position of the Washington Redskin’s head coach. He is most known for his time spent with the team, during which they made eight playoffs, four NFC titles, and three Super Bowl titles.

Gibbs is responsible for creating an era of football dubbed by Steve Sabol as the most diverse dynasty in NFL history. Known for his strong work ethic and tendency to work long, hard hours, Gibbs is credited as being the pioneer of the single back, double or triple tight end set.

After retiring from coaching football, Gibbs went on to own an NHRA drag racing team and then a highly successful NASCAR racing team, Joe Gibbs Racing, which has taken the championship title in four Sprint Cups.

Gibbs is currently the special advisor to the Washington Redskins’ head coach. He has been named the NFL Coach of the Year twice and was indicted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996.

7. Weeb Ewbank

Age while coaching: 67
Retired?: Yes
Years active in the NFL: 1949-1973
Teams: Cleveland Browns (1949–1953), Baltimore Colts (1954–1962), New York Jets (1963–1973)

Weeb Ewbankphoto source: Wikipedia

Wilbur Charles “Weeb” Ewbank coached high school and then college football before taking his career to the professional leagues. He was typically brought in to coach teams that were struggling and successfully improved their playing style and brought them better placings in future seasons.

Ewbank was a fan of simple yet effective strategies on the field, reflective of his laid-back and humble personality[8], though he could be harsh on his players[9]. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978.

Ewbank is, so far, the only coach to successfully bring two different pro football teams to championships, and he is also the only person who has an NFL championship, an AFL championship, and a Super Bowl win all to his name[10]. He passed away on November 17, 1998.

6. Dick Vermeil

Age while coaching: 69
Retired?: Yes
Years active in the NFL: 1969-2005
Teams: Los Angeles Rams (1969, 1971-1973, 1997-1999), Philadelphia Eagles (1976–1982), Kansas City Chiefs (2001–2005)

Dick Vermeilphoto source: Wikipedia

Richard Albert “Dick” Vermeil has coached at every level from high school to the big leagues, and he won “Coach of the Year” awards for each of these levels. In the NFL, each team that he took on had a losing streak before going under his wing, and he coached them all to the playoffs.

Vermeil is known for being highly supportive of his team, both players and staff, and for his emotional speeches and appearances at interviews and press conferences. In between coaching different teams, he worked as a sports announcer for CBS and ABC.

Vermeil has also earned the unofficial record breaking title of the oldest coach to ever win a Super Bowl. He was 63 at the time, and over the course of his career has accumulated two Super Bowl wins.

Now retired, Vermeil has been chasing his second biggest passion after football: wine. He has even produced his own wine in honor of his father.

5. Tom Coughlin

Age while coaching: 69
Retired?: Yes
Years active in the NFL: 1984-2015
Teams: Philadelphia Eagles (1984–1985), Green Bay Packers (1986–1987), New York Giants (1988–1990), Jacksonville Jaguars (1995–2002), New York Giants (2004–2015)

Tom Coughlinphoto source: Wikipedia

Thomas Richard “Tom” Coughlin is currently the Jacksonville Jaguars’ executive vice president of football operations. Known for being very meticulous and detail-oriented as well as a strict disciplinarian, Coughlin was given the nickname Colonel Coughlin due to his rigidness.

Coughlin has won two Super Bowl championships and has been awarded the New York Giants Ring of Honor. Outside of football, Coughlin is a charitable man. In 1996, he founded the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation, known more commonly as the Jay Fund, which is dedicated to providing support to families whose children have cancer. As of 2017, they have helped over 4,000 families[7].

4. Gunther Cunningham

Age while coaching: 70
Retired?: No
Years active in the NFL: 1982-Present
Teams: Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts (1982–1984), San Diego Chargers (1985–1990), Los Angeles Raiders (1991-1994), Kansas City Chiefs (1995–2000, 2004-2008), Tennessee Titans (2001–2003) Detroit Lions (2009–2017)

Gunther Cunninghamphoto source: Deadline Detroit

Gunther Cunningham’s career began in college football, and then in the Canadian Football League, before he began working in the NFL.

Like Saunders, Cunningham is not currently a head coach, nor has he spent his last few years in the league in that position. However, he has been an NFL head coach for the Kansas City Chiefs in the past.

Cunningham was a college football player, playing the positions of linebacker and placekicker. He usually ranks well in the league when it comes to most statistical categories and has led two highly successful defenses.

3. Al Saunders

Age while coaching: 70
Retired?: No
Years active in the NFL: 1989-Present
Teams: San Diego Chargers (1983–1988), Kansas City Chiefs (1986–1998, 2001-2005), St. Louis Rams (1999–2000, 2008), Washington Redskins (2006–2007), Baltimore Ravens (2009–2010), Oakland Raiders (2011-2014), Miami Dolphins (2015), Cleveland Browns (2016–present)

Al Saundersphoto source: Alchetron

Alan Keith Saunders is an outlier in this list, as while he is an NFL coach, he hasn’t been a head coach in the league for decades. He started his coaching career in college football and moved on to coach in the NFL as a head coach in 1986.

Saunders was named the NFL Offensive Coach of the Year and 2005 and helped develop two of the most renowned and best receiving corps in the history of the NFL with the St. Louis Rams and the San Diego Chargers. He has one Super Bowl championship to his name and five division titles.

2. Marv Levy

Age while coaching: 72
Retired?: Yes
Years active in the NFL: 1969-1997
Teams: Philadelphia Eagles (1969), Los Angeles Rams (1970), Washington Redskins (1971–1972), Kansas City Chiefs (1978–1982), Buffalo Bills (1986–1997)

Marv Levyphoto source: Celebrity Bio

Marvin Daniel Levy’s coaching career began in 1951 when he began coaching college football and basketball, and surprisingly, it was the latter sport where he coached a team to championship[5].

He began coaching professional football as a special teams coach, gradually rising in rank as time went on. Between working with different teams in the NFL, he spent some seasons here and there coaching in the United States Football League and the Canadian Football League, the latter in which he won two championships and the Annis Stukus Trophy for Coach of the Year.

Levy is known for his creation of the famous no-huddle offense known as the Jim Kelly-led K-Gun. Although he has never won an NFL championship, he has four consecutive AFC Championship titles to his name and has been named Sporting News NFL Coach of the Year once and UPI NFL Coach of the Year twice. He is officially the only coach to ever bring his team to four Super Bowls in a row.

Levy is also an author and has written four books[6]. He was indicted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

1. George Halas

Age while coaching: 72
Retired?: Yes
Years active in the NFL: 1920-1967
Teams: Chicago Bears (formerly Decatur Staleys/Chicago Staleys)

George Halasphoto source: Wikipedia

Fondly nicknamed “Papa Bear”, Halas is one of the most legendary figures in the NFL. He was one of its founders and also one of the founders and owners of the Chicago Bears, a team that he played for in his youth.

Halas has eight NFL championship titles to his name – six championships as a head coach, officially the most held[1] – and a whopping 324 total wins, the second highest in all of NFL history[2]. He was named NFL Coach of the Year twice by The Sporting News and was one of the first inductees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

He has also provided a long list of contributions to the league, including the invention of the T-Formation, the usage of tarp on the fields and press boxes for assistant coaches, and the idea of shared revenue between teams[3]. Whis coaching, the Bears was the first team to have daily practice and to analyze film of their opponents.

Apart from his career in football, Halas also was an inventor, radio producer, and philatelist, and even spent a very brief period as a Major League Baseball player[4]. He was also involved in philanthropy. Halas passed away from pancreatic cancer on October 31, 1983 at the age of 88.

[1] http://www.coldhardfootballfacts.com/content/lords-the-rings-the-nfls-10-greatest-coaches/7391/
[2] http://www.chicagobears.com/multimedia/videos/Bears-coaching-history/e4ed5a17-b7b5-4b0e-8ee5-6edd2db956b3
[3] http://www.chicagobears.com/multimedia/videos/Bears-coaching-history/e4ed5a17-b7b5-4b0e-8ee5-6edd2db956b3
[4] Names, Larry D (1987). “The Myth”. In Scott, Greg. The History of the Green Bay Packers: The Lambeau Years. 1. Angel Press of WI. p. 31.
[5] http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20120714/SPORTS/120714009/Marv-Levy-named-to-Des-Moines-Sunday-Register-s-Iowa-Sports-Hall-of-Fame?Frontpage&nclick_check=1
[6] Mawicke, Megan (January 19, 2017). Marv Levy Pens Children’s Book About Cubs’ World Series Win. WBBM.
[7] http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/jaguars/2017-05-18/tom-coughlin-back-jacksonville-jay-fund-working-grow-awareness-keep
[8] “Colts Vindicate Weeb Ewbank”. Dayton Beach Morning Journal. Baltimore. Associated Press. October 31, 1958. p. 12.
[9] Gifford, Frank; Richmond, Peter (2008). The Glory Game:How the 1958 NFL Championship Changed Football Forever. New York: Harper Collins
[10] “Ewbank, Wilbur “Weeb””. Indiana Football Hall of Fame.
[11] Keim, John (1999). Legends by the Lake: The Cleveland Browns at Municipal Stadium. Akron, Ohio: University of Akron Press, pp 17-18.
[12] Cantor, George (2008). Paul Brown: The Man Who Invented Modern Football. Chicago: Triumph Books, p. 3.
[13] Cantor, George (2008). Paul Brown: The Man Who Invented Modern Football. Chicago: Triumph Books, p. 4.

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