There have been some great coaches in the long storied history of football. From college to the NFL, there are numerous men who have earned the title of “great coach”. Then there are the true legends of the game. Names like Lombardi, Bear Bryant, and Bill Walsh come to the forefront of that group. But there is an even smaller group that has done what even the most worshiped football coaches have not. This tribe is only three strong and they are distinguished by having won a college national title and a Super Bowl.
Winning a college football national title is not easy. A Super Bowl victory is even harder to get. Most football coaches never get to either of these goals. The only three coaches that have achieved the ultimate in football success, winning a Super Bowl and college national championship, are Barry Switzer, Jimmy Johnson, and Pete Carroll. Switzer and Johnson are out of the game but Carroll has a chance to add to his accomplishments. Carroll is at the helm of defending Super Bowl champion, Seattle. His team has the possibility to get another Super Bowl trophy this year.
Some people might say that there have been better coaches than these three guys who happen to have been at the very top in college and the NFL. That would be a good debate to have indeed. There are college coaches who had longer runs at a high level. Similarly in the NFL, there have been coaches who have won over a longer time period. But what Johnson, Switzer, and Carroll have done is truly unique and deserves proper credit.
Out of these three kings of football, I would say that Barry Switzer is the least of the coaches. That takes nothing away from him as a football coach. I just don’t believe he was at the same level as Jimmy Johnson and Pete Carroll. In college, Switzer was “the man” at Oklahoma. His teams ran rough shod over any and everyone for many years. His winning record against other top notch coaches, including Jimmy Johnson and Tom Osborne, is a good indicator of his dominance from 1973-1988. Switzer won three national titles at Oklahoma and one Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys in 1995. His Super Bowl, while impressive, is not on the level of the other two coaches on this short list. He basically took over Jimmy Johnson’s team that had won two Super Bowls already. The roster was full of Hall Of Famers and was one of the greatest NFL teams in history. The fact that Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson could not get along anymore was the only reason Switzer was even in the position to coach a Super Bowl team in the first place. All that being said, he did do what was necessary for the Cowboys to win a third Super Bowl with that same core group of players.
Jimmy Johnson was in charge of one of the most controversial college teams ever assembled. The Miami Hurricanes of the 80’s were a brash group of players who did not shy away from showboating and trash talking. They took it to another level and were hated for it on a national basis for the most part. The Canes won one national title under Johnson and had an incredible regular season record. If there was one criticism of Jimmy Johnson, it was that he couldn’t win the big game in college. He had lost three straight bowl games before the national title year in 1987. When Johnson was hired to take over the Dallas Cowboys, he had a huge task before him. The team was not very good and had few players to build around. His first year in the NFL was a 1-15 disaster, but that turned quickly. In his fourth year, he took the Cowboys to a Super Bowl win and then repeated the next season. Back to back Super Bowls after getting to the top in college was truly an amazing accomplishment. It is a real shame that Johnson did not get to help his Dallas team as they tried for a three-peat in 1994. The team lost in the NFC title game to the 49ers, with Switzer leading the team. Troy Aikman still feels like the team could have made history had Johnson been able to stay with his team. No team has ever won three Super Bowls in a row.
The latest addition to this tiny club of coaching royalty is Pete Carroll. At USC, Carrol created a team that was electrifying and dominated their competition on a regular basis. The Trojans won a BCS college title in 2004 and an AP national title in 2003. They were one yard away from a first down that would have sealed a third college championship in 2005, but failed on that fourth down attempt. After bolting for the Seahawks job in 2010, Carroll was thought of as another college coach who would not be able to hack it in the NFL. He had a rough go of it previously with the Jets and Patriots years earlier. Experts didn’t think his “rah-rah” attitude would transfer to the pro players. But in year four, Carroll surprised the football world by getting his young team into the Super Bowl in the 2013 season. The Seahawks were a gigantic underdog in the big game but ending up destroying the favored Broncos. This win cemented Carroll’s place in history. He is still not done, as the Seahawks are talented and young enough to make another couple runs at another Super Bowl.
Getting another championship in the NFL won’t be easy. Switzer and Johnson can attest to that. One title is hard enough to get in the NFL. If Carroll manages to get two Super Bowl wins, then he and Johnson are equals in my eyes. And I might even put Carroll ahead of Jimmy Johnson as it is much harder to keep a team together and motivated in 2014 than it was in the early 90’s. Either way, these three men have done something that sets them apart from the rest of the pack. They won where they were most comfortable, in college. Then they got into the meat grinder of the NFL and came out with the jewelry to prove they more than belonged. Bragging rights are forever the property of Barry Switzer, Jimmy Johnson, and Pete Carroll.