A coaching tree is similar to a family tree except that it shows the relationships of coaches instead of family members. There are several different ways to define a relationship between two coaches. The most common way to make the distinction is if a coach worked as an assistant on a particular head coach's staff for at least a season then that coach can be counted as being a branch on the head coach's coaching tree. Coaching trees can also show philosophical influence from one head coach to an assistant.
Coaching trees are common in the National Football League and most coaches in the NFL can trace their lineage back to a certain head coach for whom they previously worked as an assistant.
The phrase "coaching tree" has also grown to refer colloquially to any idea or set of ideas originated by an individual or group. For example, an individual may claim an original idiom or phrase as part of his or her coaching tree if used by another individual.
Coaching trees are becoming more prominent in today's NFL culture. They are often referenced by various media outlets, such as ESPN.
In 1998, half of the active head coaches in the National Football League could be traced to Bill Walsh and Tom Landry. Of those fifteen coaches, four (plus Walsh and Landry) had coached a Super Bowl winning team.
20 years later, in 2018, an ESPN article showed visually how 28 of the 32 coaches who would serve as NFL head coaches in the upcoming season were connected to head coaches Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. The only team that wasn't profiled in this particular story was the Indianapolis Colts, who hadn't yet hired a head coach at the time of the article. The Colts would eventually hire Frank Reich. The only 3 NFL head coaches who couldn't be connected to either Parcells or Belichick, according to this said article, were the following coaches: Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs; Matt Nagy of the Chicago Bears; and Doug Pederson of the Philadelphia Eagles. Incidentally, both Pederson and Nagy were once former assistants under Reid before becoming head coaches. Additionally, before Reich became head coach of the Colts, he served as Pederson's offensive coordinator of the Eagles, and helped Philadelphia win Super Bowl LII. Therefore, Reich is connected to Reid through Pederson.
Coaching tree examples (shown visually below) include Bill Walsh, Marty Schottenheimer, and Bill Parcells.
Coaching trees can also show a philosophical relationship between a mentor head coach and their protégé. Below is a list of current and former head coaches and who they primarily developed their philosophy under:
Additionally, many college football coaches worked as assistants for head coaches on the tree. For instance, Bill Belichick can claim Kirk Ferentz, Nick Saban, and Charlie Weis as descendants of his tree, though they are not included in the graphic above.
Adam Gase (born March 29, 1978) is an American football coach who is the head coach of the New York Jets of the National Football League (NFL). He came to prominence as the offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos from 2013 to 2014, whose offense set the NFL record for points scored in 2013 and helped the team reach Super Bowl XLVIII. Gase also served as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins from 2016 to 2018.Al Holcomb
Al Holcomb (born October 22, 1970) is an American football coach who is currently the linebackers coach and run game coordinator for the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League (NFL).Art Shell
Arthur Lee Shell Jr. (born November 26, 1946) is an American former collegiate and professional football player in the American Football League and later in the National Football League, a Hall of Fame offensive tackle, and a two-time former head coach of the Oakland Raiders. He holds the distinction of becoming the second African-American head coach in the history of professional football, and the first in the sport's modern era. Shell was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2013 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989.Bill Parcells
Duane Charles "Bill" Parcells (born August 22, 1941), also known as The Big Tuna, is a former American football coach, best known as a head coach in the National Football League (NFL) for 19 seasons. He rose to prominence as the head coach of the New York Giants, whom he led to two Super Bowl titles. Parcells later served as the head coach of the New England Patriots, New York Jets, and Dallas Cowboys. Throughout his career, he coached teams that were in a period of decline and turned them into postseason contenders. He is the only coach in NFL history to lead four teams to the playoffs and three teams to a conference championship game.
When Parcells became the head coach of the Giants in 1983, he took over a franchise that had qualified for the postseason only once (1981) in the past decade and had only one winning record in their last 10 seasons. Parcells brought new success to the team and within four years, guided them to their first Super Bowl win. His tenure with the Giants spanned eight seasons and concluded with a second championship victory in Super Bowl XXV. After the Super Bowl win, Parcells retired as a coach in 1991.
In 1993, Parcells came out of retirement to become the head coach of the Patriots, another struggling franchise at the time. Once again, Parcells changed the fortunes for the team and led them to an appearance in Super Bowl XXXI during his fourth season as their coach, although the game ended in defeat for the Patriots. Amid conflicts with Patriots owner Robert Kraft, he left the franchise after their Super Bowl loss and became the head coach of the Jets for the next season. Under Parcells, the Jets went from having only one victory in the previous season to obtaining a winning record, and they reached the 1998 AFC Championship Game in his second year with the team.
After three seasons as the Jets' head coach, Parcells retired for a second time in 1999, but came back to football in 2003 to become the head coach of the Cowboys. He coached the Cowboys for four seasons and helped them qualify for the playoffs twice, although the team was eliminated in the first round each time. Following the team's loss in a 2006 NFC Wild Card game, Parcells retired from coaching for good in 2007.
Since his final retirement from coaching, Parcells currently serves as an NFL analyst for ESPN and since 2014, has been an unofficial consultant for the Cleveland Browns. He was also the Vice President of Football Operations with the Miami Dolphins, a position he held from 2008 to 2010. In 2013, Parcells was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.His life story, "Parcells: A Football Life" was co-authored by Bill Parcells and writer Nunyo Demasio, a former Washington Post reporter. The collaboration was released by Penguin Random House in late 2014, and soon became a New York Times bestseller.Bill Walsh (American football coach)
William Ernest Walsh (November 30, 1931 – July 30, 2007) was an American football coach. He served as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and the Stanford Cardinal football team, during which time he popularized the West Coast offense. After retiring from the 49ers, Walsh worked as a sports broadcaster for several years and then returned as head coach at Stanford for three seasons.
Walsh went 102–63–1 with the 49ers, winning 10 of his 14 postseason games along with six division titles, three NFC Championship titles, and three Super Bowls. He was named NFL Coach of the Year in 1981 and 1984. In 1993, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.Brian Flores
Brian Flores (born February 24, 1981) is an American football coach who is the head coach of the Miami Dolphins of the National Football League (NFL). He was previously the linebackers coach, defensive play caller, and de facto defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots. Prior to being hired as the Dolphins head coach, he served in multiple roles with the Patriots. During his tenure with the Patriots, Flores won four Super Bowls and seven AFC Championships.Dave Merritt
David Merritt (born September 8, 1971) is an American football coach for the Kansas City Chiefs for the National Football League and former linebacker who served as the defensive backs coach for the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League (NFL). He was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the seventh round of the 1993 NFL Draft. He played college football at North Carolina State.
Merritt also played for the Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals and has been a coach at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Virginia Military Institute and for the New York Jets.Dean Pees
Russell Dean Pees (born September 4, 1949) is an American football coach who is the defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League (NFL). Pees previously served as the defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots of the National Football League, as well as the head football coach at Kent State University from 1998 to 2003, compiling a record of 17–51.Freddie Kitchens
Freddie Kitchens (born November 29, 1974) is an American football coach and former player who is the head coach for the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League (NFL). He has previously been a coach for the Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, Mississippi State Bulldogs, North Texas Mean Green, and LSU Tigers. With the Cardinals, Kitchens has won one NFC Championship (in 2008) and was the NFC runner-up in 2015.Gene Keady
Lloyd Eugene Keady (born May 21, 1936) is an American basketball coach. Most recently an assistant coach at St. John's University, he is most notable for being the head men's basketball coach at Purdue University for 25 years, from 1980 to 2005.Hardy Nickerson
Hardy Otto Nickerson (born September 1, 1965) is an American football coach and former player. He played as linebacker for four teams over 16 seasons, from 1987 to 2002, in the National Football League (NFL). Nickerson spent the prime of his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The hiring of head coaches Sam Wyche and Tony Dungy allowed Nickerson to play in the middle in a 4–3 defense for both coaches; Nickerson played in a 3–4 defense with the Pittsburgh Steelers. While playing in the 4–3, Nickerson went to five Pro Bowls, and was selected for the National Football League 1990s All-Decade Team.Kirby Wilson
Kirby Keyes Wilson (born August 24, 1961) is an American football coach who served as the running backs coach for the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League (NFL). He also previously coached the Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Redskins and New England Patriots.Kyle Shanahan
Kyle Michael Shanahan (born December 14, 1979) is an American football coach who is the current head coach of the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League (NFL). Previously, he served as the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons, whose offense led the league in points scored in 2016 and helped the team reach Super Bowl LI. In addition to the 49ers and Falcons, Shanahan has coached for the Houston Texans, Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns. He is the son of former NFL head coach Mike Shanahan.Matt Patricia
Matthew Edward Patricia (born September 13, 1974) is an American football coach who is the head coach of the Detroit Lions of the National Football League (NFL). Previously, he served 14 seasons as an assistant coach with the New England Patriots, including six seasons as the team's defensive coordinator from 2012 to 2017. Patricia played college football at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), where he was a four-year letterman as an offensive lineman.Mike Nolan
Mike Nolan (born March 7, 1959) is an American football coach is currently the linebacker coach for the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League (NFL), a former head coach for the 49ers, and a former defensive coordinator for the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, Washington Redskins, New York Giants, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, and Atlanta Falcons.Pat Flaherty (American football)
Pat Flaherty (born April 27, 1956) is an American football coach. He is currently as the offensive line coach for the Miami Dolphins of the National Football League (NFL).Pete Carmichael Jr.
Peter Edwards Carmichael Jr. (born October 6, 1971) is an American football coach who is the offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League (NFL). He was named offensive coordinator on January 12, 2009, replacing Doug Marrone, who left to become the head coach of the Syracuse Orange. New Orleans led the league in scoring in 2008 and 2009.
Carmichael grew up in Medway, Massachusetts and attended Boston College.Tom Izzo
Tom Izzo (, Italian pronunciation: [ˈittso]); born January 30, 1955), is an American college basketball coach. Since 1995, Izzo has been the head coach for the Michigan State Spartans men's basketball team. On April 4, 2016, Izzo was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.Under Izzo, Michigan State has been a successful collegiate basketball program, earning him the nickname of “Mr. March” by some on account of his past success in the NCAA Tournament. Izzo has led the Spartans to the 2000 NCAA Division I National Championship, the 2009 NCAA National Championship Game, seven Final Fours, nine Big Ten championships, and six Big Ten Tournament championships in his 24 years at Michigan State. The coach with the most wins in school history, Izzo's teams have earned invitations to 22 consecutive NCAA tournaments, in addition to setting the Big Ten record for the longest home winning streak. These accomplishments led analyst Andy Katz at ESPN to deem Michigan State the top college basketball program for the decade from 1998 to 2007.Currently the longest-tenured coach in the Big Ten Conference, Izzo, whose teams are often recognized for their rebounding prowess and defensive tenacity, has won four national coach of the year awards and maintains a considerable coaching tree—several of his former assistants are currently head coaches at other Division I schools. Izzo has won nine regular season conference titles, tied for the third most in conference history. He has also won the most Big Ten Tournament titles (six) in conference history. Izzo is second all time in Big Ten wins (288 through 2019), trailing only Bob Knight.Tom Rathman
Thomas Dean Rathman (born October 7, 1962) is a former professional football player, a fullback for the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders of the National Football League. Following his playing career, he became a coach in 1995 and coached the 49ers' running backs through the 2016 season and now will be inducted into the 49ers' hall of fame.
Rathman was a three-sport star at Grand Island Senior High in central Nebraska. In addition to a state Hall of Fame career as a fullback for the Islanders football team, Rathman won a state championship in the high jump in 1980 during his junior year.
Gridiron football concepts
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