Top 10 Catholic Super Bowl Coaches
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As Super Bowl Sunday is just days away, we've put together our own list of the Top Ten Catholics ever to make it to the Super Bowl as a coach. The names collected for this purpose represent some of the most talented and legendary names on the gridiron. You may agree with our selections, or you may freely disagree -- so we invite readers to share their own reactions and comments by writing email@example.com.
#10: Pat Schurmur
When the Philadelphia Eagles made it to Super Bowl XXXIX, it was Pat Schurmur who should receive much of the credit. He was quarterbacks coach to Donovan McNabb, but in his six-year tenure there he also helped develop backups A.J. Feeley and Koy Detmer. The Eagles lost the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots 24-21 that day, but his quarterback McNabb threw for 357 yards and three touchdowns. He is an active member of Life Athletes, a Catholic organization that mentors school-age children and teens in the virtues of abstinence and respect for life.
#9: Tom Coughlin
He's known for being a strict disciplinarian in the line of Bill Parcells, whom he once served as an assistant, but New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin reportedly lives his faith off the field. He's taken his teams to the playoffs regularly, including four straight years when he coached Jacksonville, but he has not made it to the Super Bowl until now. Watch for his underrated underdogs to put up a good fight with New England.
#8: Jack Del Rio
Jack Del Rio is best known today as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he previously had distinguished himself as a defensive coach. From 1999 to 2001, he was the linebackers coach for the Baltimore Ravens, a team that set an NFL record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game regular season (165). The Ravens and their efficient, low-scoring offense managed to make it to the Super Bowl XXXV that season, where they defeated the New York Giants handily, 34-7. The MVP of that game was Ray Lewis, a linebacker under Del Rio's tutelage, and the only Giants touchdown came on a kickoff return. Active in Life Athletes today, Jack thanks the late Msgr. Reynolds of New Orleans for "patiently leading me through the Scriptures and answering my many questions about the Catholic faith. I am a proud Catholic man today thanks to him."
#7: Bobby Ross
On Jan. 29, 1995, the San Diego Chargers lost in their first and only Super Bowl appearance to the San Francisco 49ers, 49-26. It was head coach Bobby Ross who piloted them there, and he credits his success to his Catholic faith. "There's a lot of pressure in coaching," he once told the Southern Cross, San Diego's diocesan newspaper. "The good Lord doesn't make you win or lose football games but when you leave it in his hands it takes the pressure off." Faith also has helped Ross and his wife, Alice, through the low points in life, including the death of their first child minutes after birth and the death of their granddaughter after her body rejected a transplanted heart. His wife says of Bobby, "It took a lot out of him, but we feel like we'll see her again. Our religion helps us to view death in a different way." Asked how he'd like to be remembered, Bobby replied, "I'd like to be thought of as sincere, fair, honest and dedicated, but the only thing that's really important is how God sees me."
#6: Bill Cowher
As the never smiling, always scowling head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1992 to 2006, Cowher's perennially had his team in the thick of playoff contention. After the 1995 season, Cowher, then 38, became the youngest coach ever to take his team to the Super Bowl. Where they lost to the Dallas Cowboys 21-17. Ten years later, they were back, defeating the Seattle Seahawks 21-10 in Super Bowl XL. Following that game, Cowher traded in his coach's clipboard for a microphone as a television sports commentator.
#5: Charlie Weis
As the head coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Weis had two excellent and productive seasons that gave Notre Dame fans much hope that the Irish were returning to their former glory. His embarrassing third season, arguably the worst in Notre Dame history, caused heavy criticism and even calls for his firing from some of the most fickle Irish fans. In his previous life, however, Weis was regarded as a genius, the architect of the New England Patriots' offense that took them to Super Bowl victories in three of his last four years there as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. His teams under Tom Brady, whom Weis is credited with developing from a backup into the phenomenal starter that he is today, led teams won Super Bowl XXVI over the St. Louis Rams, 20-17; XXXVII over the Carolina Panthers, 24-21; and XXXIX over the Philadelphia Eagles, 24-21. Weis actually has four Super Bowl rings, however, as he also served as a defensive assistant coach and assistant special teams coach for the world champion New York Giants of Super Bowl XXV.
#4: Mike Ditka
The only individual to make our Top Ten lists for both Catholic players and Catholic coaches in the Super Bowl, Ditka took his phenomenal 1985 Chicago Bears to an impressive victory in Super Bowl XX when they defeated the New England Patriots 46-10. Ditka has the distinction of having won Super Bowl rings as a player (Dallas, VI), an assistant coach (Dallas, XII) and as a head coach. His 1985 Bears are often regarded as the best NFL team ever.
#3: Vince Lombardi
This man is legendary. A former member of Fordham's "Seven Blocks of Granite," Lombardi went on to one of the most successful NFL head coaches in history with a 105-35-6 record. He led the Green Bay Packers to the first two Super Bowl games ever, back in the day when it was the NFL champion playing the AFL champion. His Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in Super Bowl I (Jan. 15, 1967); one day shy of a year later, they returned to beat the Oakland Raiders, 33-14. Lombardi passed away from cancer in his prime a few years later, and he is memorialized today in the form of the Lombardi Trophy, which is given to the winner of each Super Bowl game.
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#2: Don Shula
Don Shula's long and illustrious career as an NFL head coach made him close to a Super Bowl fixture for a couple of spans. In the first eight Super Bowl games, Shula was a head coach in four of them. In Super Bowl III, his Baltimore Colts then in the AFL were the victims of New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath's famous guarantee of victory, 16-7. He would return in Super Bowls VI, VII, and VIII as head coach of the Miami Dolphins during their dynasty years, including the undefeated 1972 season. In that span, Miami would lose 24-3 to the Cowboys, win 14-7 against the Redskins in their 17-0 season, and then crush the Vikings 24-7. It would be nine years before Shula, still with the Dolphins, would bring his team back to the big game, but they would lose to the Redskins this time 27-17. His final appearance two years later also met with defeat 3816 to Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers back in Dan Marino's first season. All along, Shula has had a reputation as a strong, practicing Catholic with a special devotion to the Virgin Mary, a faith he has handed to his son, Mike Shula, who coaches now in the college ranks.
#1: Chuck Noll
The most successful Catholic coach in the Super Bowl era, Chuck Noll retired undefeated in Super Bowl, having led the Pittsburgh Steelers to the world championship four times in the course of six seasons. These dynasty years saw the Steelers defeat the Minnesota Vikings, 16-6 (IX), the Dallas Cowboys twice, 21-17 (X) and 35-31 (XIII), and the Los Angeles Rams, 31-19 (XIV). He remains the only head coach in NFL history to win four Super Bowl games - a record Bill Bellichik is poised to tie should his New England Patriots triumph in the game this coming weekend.
That's our Top Ten list of the greatest Catholics to coach in the Super Bowl.... If you would like to comment or add your own favorites, we'd like to hear from you. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll post some of the best comments received.
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