Selecting an all-time top 10 list of the best Eagles coaches is challenging in the biggest way possible — who’s No. 1?
Do you take the guy who won the only Super Bowl championship in franchise history but only coached the Eagles for five years?
Or, do you take the guy who coached for 14 mostly successful years, went to the Super Bowl, but lost, and went to five NFC Championship Games — but only won one?
It is a dilemma worth considering. For every case I can make for Andy Reid, I can make a better one for Doug Pederson. And vice versa.
Let’s pace the sidelines for an answer …
TOP 10 GREATEST EAGLES COACHES OF ALL TIME
10. CHIP KELLY (2013-15)
Kelly making the top 10 might be a reach but Chipper got off to a strong start before flaming out. This task is like picking the top Phillies third basemen. Once you get past Mike Schmidt, Scott Rolen and a few years of Dick Allen, you’re left with a lot of Don Money and Don Demeter. Guys who played third but not stars.
- Kelly came into the NFL from Oregon as the innovative, offensive genius.
- When the Eagles put up 33 points in his first game in 2013 — a win at Washington — the fans were all-in with Chip.
- Kelly went 10-6 in each of his first two seasons.
- He replaced Andy Reid, who was 4-12 in his final season.
So, Kelly’s coaching methods worked.
In Kelly’s first season, the Eagles lost to New Orleans in the wild-card game.
Kelly didn’t last his third season. He was fired with one game remaining after a 6-9 season. Kelly’s reputation was fried. His career record was 26-21.
9. NICK SIRIANNI (2021-)
To make a top-10 list after only one season as a coach is a testament to Sirianni’s potential in 2021 and his hot start in 2022.
- That said, Sirianni is off to an impressive start beyond his 15-8 record. A 6-0 start so far in 2022.
- He turned around a 2-5 team that looked headed for a five-win rabbit hole.
- His players clearly have his back — evidenced by their hard play when they were 2-5 and all season.
Another example of Sirianni’s leadership and the team’s potential: His coaching staff remained intact after the season. Sirianni brought along a young quarterback in Jalen Hurts last season. More improvement is expected and if Sirianni helps turn Hurts into a top NFL quarterback, the coach will be quickly rising up this list.
Fans are expecting a big season in 2022 and the pressure will be squarely on Sirianni to make it happen.
8. RICH KOTITE (1991-94)
By the end of Kotite’s four-year stint as Eagles coach, he was widely criticized. But a look at his record shows he wasn’t as bad as people think.
He took over for Buddy Ryan in 1991 and went 10-6, despite losing quarterback Randall Cunningham to injury in Week 1. The Eagles had the top-ranked defense in the NFL — with mostly Ryan players — but their accomplishment under defensive coordinator Bud Carson came with Kotite in charge.
In 1992, Kotite went 11-5. The Eagles defeated New Orleans in the wild-card game but were crushed by Dallas in the divisional round.
Kotite’s final two years were 8-8 and 7-9, for a career mark of 36-28.
7. RAY RHODES (1995-98)
Rhodes was the first head-coaching hire made by new owner Jeff Lurie. He was a defensive specialist, having been a coordinator with Green Bay and San Francisco.
- Rhodes’ first season was 10-6. The Eagles took advantage of their home field with a 58-37 wild card win over Detroit.
- The Eagles lost at Dallas in the divisional game as the Delaware Valley was being blasted by a massive blizzard.
- Rhodes was 10-6 in his second year, which ended in a 14-0 wild card loss at San Francisco.
- His third year was 6-9-1 and his final year was 3-13.
He was 29-34-1 in four seasons.
6. BUCK SHAW (1958-60)
Shaw was the coach of the 1960 world champion Eagles. This was pre-Super Bowl days. The game was played on a Monday afternoon, Dec. 26, at Franklin Field on the Penn campus.
The title season was Shaw’s third and final year with the Eagles. His record was 19-16-1.
The Eagles won the NFL title with a 17-13 win over the Green Bay Packers. The loss was Vince Lombardi’s only defeat in a playoff game.
5. BUDDY RYAN (1986-90)
Ryan was one of the most popular and controversial coaches in Eagles history. His players adored him because he had their backs and they loved his take-no-prisoners attitude.
Ryan coached during the three-game players’ strike in 1987. He openly showed disdain for the replacement players, binding him even more to the on-strike regular players.
Fans loved his gruff ways and folksy language and style. They also loved how he ran up the score against the Cowboys when he had the opportunity. Ryan was 8-2 against Dallas.
They didn’t love him as much at playoff time as the Eagles were 0-3 in the postseason.
- Ryan’s year-by-year records: 5-10-1, 7-8, 10-6, 11-5, 10-6.
- Ryan’s career record was 43-35-1.
Before Ryan was fired, he referred to owner Norman Braman as the “guy from France,” criticizing his vacation habits and what appeared to be a disinterest in his own football team.
4. GREASY NEALE (1941-50)
Earle “Greasy” Neale won the first two NFL championships in Eagles history. Led by Steve Van Buren, the Eagles won titles in 1948 and 1949. In 1947, Neale and the Eagles lost in the title game. In 1949, rookie Chuck Bednarik was on the championship roster.
Another era or not, winning two championships anywhere is quite the accomplishment.
Neale was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1967, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1969, and the Eagles Hall of Fame in 1987.
Neale’s career record was 63-43-5.
3. DICK VERMEIL (1976-82)
Vermeil, who was just elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, arrived in Philly in 1976 from UCLA, which was fresh off a Rose Bowl upset of Ohio State.
When Vermeil was hired, he was all work ethic and enthusiasm. The Eagles had one winning season in 14 years before he arrived. Fourteen years!
Vermeil slowly built the roster.
- He started 4-10 and 5-9 before a 9-7 season in 1978.
- Two years later, the Eagles were 12-4, led by Ron Jaworski, Harold Carmichael and Wilbert Montgomery on offense and Bill Bergey and Jerry Robinson on defense.
- Philly beat the Cowboys, 20-7, in the NFC title game at Veterans Stadium and headed to New Orleans to play the Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl.
The Eagles lost that game, 27-10. Vermeil coached two more seasons before retiring due to “burnout” at age 46. Vermeil’s career record was 54-47.
He went on to win the Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams after the 1999 season.
2. ANDY REID (1999-2012)
OK, anyone can make a case to list Reid as No. 1 on our top-10 list … including me. Reid had a tremendous 14-year career in Philly.
Reid’s strengths were his organizational skills and innovative offensive game plans. Reid was fortunate to have had Donovan McNabb — the best QB in Eagles history — as his quarterback for 11 years.
- The Eagles drafted McNabb in 1999, Reid’s first year as coach.
- The team’s most successful coach-quarterback grew together and the combination led the Eagles to tremendous heights.
- They went to the playoffs nine times and the NFC title game five times.
- That level of success is unprecedented in Super Bowl-era Eagles history.
The downside of Reid’s career is the losses in the biggest games. The Eagles lost four of five NFC title games and they lost the Super Bowl after the 2004 season.
Reid went 130-93-1 in Philly. After he was fired, he went to Kansas City, where the Chiefs won the 2019 Super Bowl.
1. DOUG PEDERSON (2016-20)
Pederson was the head coach in 2017 when the Eagles won their only Super Bowl. Longevity isn’t part of Pederson’s resume in Philly but it’s impossible to overlook the Super Bowl.
- When Carson Wentz was injured in Week 14, the Eagles were 11-2.
- Wentz carried the Eagles in 2017 and, if he remained healthy, was the likely MVP of the league.
- With Wentz injured, former quarterback Pederson turned to backup Nick Foles.
- Eagles fans, understandably, figured the season was over — this wonderful season of such promise.
Except, Pederson and Foles kept the trains moving. Foles went 2-1 to close out the regular season and won all three playoff games as the Eagles celebrated their only Super Bowl in frigid Minneapolis.
Pederson was the architect of one of the Super Bowl’s most famous plays — the Philly Special — when tight end Trey Burton connected with Foles for a 1-yard touchdown pass in the 41-33 win over one of the NFL’s greatest coaches and dynasties, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
Pederson followed up the Super Bowl with two 9-7 seasons that put the Eagles in the playoffs. He was 42-37-1 in five seasons.
Gotta give Pederson the top spot for that magical 2017 season alone.