The Next-Best Coaches

Posted: August 12, 2007

Greasy Neale. He was certainly the greatest character in the history of Eagles head coaches. He played major-league baseball, including a stint with the Cincinnati Reds team that won the tainted 1919 World Series against the Chicago "Black Sox." His childhood nickname of "Greasy" notwithstanding, Neale was a leader of great integrity and an innovator who left a permanent mark on the NFL.

Dick Vermeil. The Eagles were one of the worst teams in the NFL during the 15 years before owner Leonard Tose hired Dick Vermeil away from UCLA for the 1976 season. The fiery, driven Vermeil built a perennial winner out of other teams' castoffs and his late-round draft picks and undrafted free agents. His Eagles went to the playoffs five consecutive times, peaking with an emotional and cathartic NFC championship win over Dallas after the 1980 season. After losing the Super Bowl to Oakland, freefalling at the end of the '81 season, and enduring the 1982 players' strike, a burnt-out Vermeil tearfully bade farewell.

Buck Shaw. It is impossible now to imagine a coach winning the Super Bowl and then retiring to take a job in private industry. But that's just what Shaw did after a three-year stint as head coach of the Eagles, which ended with an upset of Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers in the 1960 championship game. Thrilled to be able to go out on top, Shaw went to work for Georgia-Pacific after that championship season.

Buddy Ryan. What, you were thinking Bert Bell? The NFL founding father went 10-44-2 as a head coach. By comparison, the lightning-rod Ryan was a combination of Lombardi and Bill Belichick. The Eagles' most entertaining coach presided over the late-1980s renaissance of the team and played a key role in igniting fan passions that have burned ever since, but still couldn't manage to win a playoff game. Confounding, but always interesting.

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