Coaching tree

Last updated

A coaching tree is similar to a family tree except it shows the relationships of coaches instead of family members. There are several 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. [1]


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. [2]

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. [3] 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 later hired Frank Reich. The only three 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.

In October 2018, The Washington Post published their own article about NFL coaching trees, mapping out the roots, influences and origins of every active NFL head coach. [4]

Coaching tree examples (shown visually below) for Bill Walsh & Marty Schottenheimer:

Bill Walsh coaching tree 2015 update.svg
Schottenheimer Coaching Tree.svg

Note: Trees updated through 2020. [note 1]

Philosophical tree connections

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.

The Bill Belichick tree

The Bill Belichick coaching tree is a far-reaching one. [11] [12] [13] During Belichick's long-tenured career as an NFL head coach, 17 assistant coaches under him have gone on to become head coaches in both the NFL and college. They then sprouted their own trees, leading to over 100 total offshoots, which include 13 active NFL head coaches.


  1. Trees compiled with data from Wall Street Journal article from December 9, 2015. [5] Ben McAdoo was hired by the New York Giants as head coach in 2016 after previously being an assistant coach under Mike McCarthy (Schottenheimer's coaching tree). [6]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">New England Patriots</span> National Football League franchise in Foxborough, Massachusetts

The New England Patriots are a professional American football team based in the Greater Boston area. They compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league's American Football Conference (AFC) East division. The Patriots play home games at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, which is 22 miles (35 km) southwest of downtown Boston. The franchise is owned by Robert Kraft, who purchased the team in 1994. As of 2022, the Patriots are the ninth most valuable sports team in the world and have sold out every home game since 1994.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lou Saban</span> American football player and coach (1921–2009)

Louis Henry Saban was an American football player and coach. He played for Indiana University in college and as a professional for the Cleveland Browns of the All-America Football Conference between 1946 and 1949. Saban then began a long coaching career. After numerous jobs at the college level, he became the first coach of the Boston Patriots in the American Football League (AFL) in 1960. He joined the Buffalo Bills two years later, and led the team to consecutive AFL championships in 1964 and 1965. After serving briefly as head coach at the University of Maryland, he was hired as head coach of the Denver Broncos in 1967, where he remained for five years. Saban returned to the Bills—by then in the National Football League following the AFL–NFL merger—from 1972 to 1976, reaching the playoffs once but failing to bring Buffalo another championship.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nick Saban</span> American football coach (born 1951)

Nicholas Lou Saban Jr. is an American football coach who has been the head football coach at the University of Alabama since 2007. Saban previously served as head coach of the National Football League's Miami Dolphins and at three other universities: Louisiana State University (LSU), Michigan State University, and the University of Toledo. Saban is considered by many to be the greatest coach in college football history.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bill Belichick</span> American football coach (born 1952)

William Stephen Belichick is an American professional football coach who is the head coach of the New England Patriots of the National Football League (NFL). Additionally, he exercises extensive authority over the Patriots' football operations, effectively making him the team's general manager as well. Widely regarded as one of the greatest coaches of all time, he holds numerous coaching records, including the record of most Super Bowl wins (six) as a head coach, all with the Patriots, along with two more during his time as the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants, for the record of eight combined total Super Bowl victories as coach and coordinator. Belichick is often referred to as a "student of the game", with a deep knowledge of the intricacies of each player position, as well as a renowned American football historian. Under his tenure with the Patriots, he was a central figure as the head coach as well as the chief executive during the franchise's dynasty from 2001 to 2019.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tony Dungy</span> American football player and coach (born 1955)

Anthony Kevin Dungy is an American former football safety and coach who served as a head coach in the National Football League (NFL) for 13 seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts. Dungy's teams became perennial postseason contenders under his leadership, missing the playoffs only twice with Tampa Bay. He led the Colts to victory in Super Bowl XLI over the Chicago Bears, making him the first African-American head coach to win the Super Bowl.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mike Mularkey</span> American football player and coach (born 1961)

Michael Rene Mularkey is a former American football coach and tight end in the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for the University of Florida, and was drafted in the ninth round of the 1983 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers and lasted until the final round of cuts. Mularkey then signed with the Minnesota Vikings with whom he played for six seasons before playing another three with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mike Shanahan</span> American football coach (born 1952)

Michael Edward Shanahan is a former American football coach, best known as the head coach of the Denver Broncos of the National Football League (NFL) from 1995 to 2008. During his fourteen seasons with the Broncos, he led the team to two consecutive Super Bowl victories in XXXII and XXXIII, including the franchise's first NFL title in the former. His head coaching career spanned a total of twenty seasons and also included stints with the Los Angeles Raiders and Washington Redskins. He is the father of San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mike Vrabel</span> American football player and coach (born 1975)

Michael George Vrabel is an American football coach and former linebacker who is the head coach of the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Ohio State, where he earned consensus All-American honors. Vrabel was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round of the 1997 NFL Draft, joined the New England Patriots as a free agent in 2001, where he became an All-Pro and a three-time Super Bowl champion, then finished his career with the Kansas City Chiefs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marty Schottenheimer</span> American football player and coach (1943–2021)

Martin Edward Schottenheimer was an American football linebacker and coach who served as a head coach in the National Football League (NFL) from 1984 to 2006. He was the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs for 10 seasons, the Cleveland Browns and the San Diego Chargers for five each, and the Washington Redskins for one. Eighth in career wins at 205 and seventh in regular season wins at 200, Schottenheimer has the most wins of an NFL head coach to not win a championship. After coaching in the NFL, he won a 2011 championship in his one season with the Virginia Destroyers of the United Football League (UFL). He was inducted to the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame in 2010.

The American Football Conference – Eastern Division or AFC East is one of the four divisions of the American Football Conference (AFC) in the National Football League (NFL). There are currently four teams that reside in the division: the Buffalo Bills ; the Miami Dolphins ; the New England Patriots ; and the New York Jets. All four members of the AFC East were previously members of the Eastern Division of the American Football League (AFL).

Jim Bates is a former American football coach in the National Football League (NFL), most recently serving as defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He primarily ran a 4–3 scheme, using fast, undersized linebackers. Bates served as interim head coach for the Miami Dolphins during the 2004 NFL season.

Mike Shula is an American football coach who is the senior offensive assistant coach for the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League (NFL). A graduate of the University of Alabama, he was the school's head football coach from 2003 to 2006. He was the offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1996 to 1999, the Carolina Panthers from 2013 to 2017, and the New York Giants from 2018 to 2019.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dean Pees</span> American football coach (born 1949)

Russell Dean Pees is an American football coach who is the defensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League (NFL). He previously served as the defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, and Tennessee Titans. Pees was also the head coach at Kent State University from 1998 to 2003, compiling a record of 17–51.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jim Schwartz</span> American football coach (born 1966)

James J. Schwartz is an American football coach who is a Senior Defensive Assistant for the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League (NFL). He was head coach of the Detroit Lions of the National Football League (NFL) from 2009 to 2013. He was also defensive coordinator for the Titans from 2001 to 2008, Buffalo Bills in 2014, and Philadelphia Eagles from 2016 to 2020. He won Super Bowl LII with the Eagles in 2018.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Matt Patricia</span> American football coach (born 1974)

Matthew Edward Patricia is an American football coach who is the senior football advisor and offensive line coach for the New England Patriots of the National Football League (NFL). He has served 15 non-consecutive seasons as an assistant coach with the Patriots, including six seasons as the team's defensive coordinator from 2012 to 2017. Patricia won three Super Bowls with the Patriots, two as defensive coordinator, and presided over a defense in 2016 that led the league in fewest points allowed. Since 2022, he has served as the Patriots' offensive playcaller. In between his New England tenure, he was the head coach of the Detroit Lions from 2018 to 2020.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Brian Daboll</span> Canadian-born American football coach (born 1975)

Brian Michael Daboll is a Canadian-born American football coach who is the head coach of the New York Giants of the National Football League (NFL). He previously served as the offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs, Alabama Crimson Tide, and Buffalo Bills. Daboll has also served in various capacities as an assistant coach for the New England Patriots from 2000 to 2006 and again from 2013 to 2016.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scott O'Brien</span> American football player and coach (born 1957)

Scott O'Brien is an American football coach and former player who is currently serving as an area scout for the New England Patriots of the National Football League (NFL). A former defensive end/linebacker, O'Brien served as a special teams coach for three college football teams and for five NFL franchises during a 35-year long coaching career. In 2015, O'Brien retired from coaching and began his current role as an area scout.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eric Mangini</span> American football coach

Eric Anthony Mangini is a former American football coach and current television sports analyst. Mangini had been with the San Francisco 49ers since 2013 and served as the team's tight ends coach for two seasons before being promoted to defensive coordinator in 2015, only to be fired in 2016 by new head coach Chip Kelly.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Adam Gase</span> American football coach

Adam Joseph Gase is a former American football coach in 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. Following this success, Gase served as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins from 2016 to 2018 and the New York Jets from 2019 to 2020.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Brady–Belichick era</span> Sports dynasty of the New England Patriots

The Tom Brady–Bill Belichick era, also known as the Brady–Belichick era, the New England Patriots dynasty, or the Patriots dynasty, was a sports dynasty of the New England Patriots in the National Football League (NFL) that lasted from the 2001 to the 2019 season. The dynasty is named after quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick, who are regarded as among the greatest in their respective positions. Belichick and Brady are consistently credited with the Patriots' success and are considered responsible for one of the sport's longest and most dominant dynasties. They are also credited with helping to create and sustain the culture around the team, dubbed the "Patriot Way", where there is an emphasis on personal accountability, consistent improvement, and a focus on team success over personal gain.


  1. Pasquarelli, Len. "All roads lead to Walsh...sort of".
  2. Maxwell, John (1998). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership . Nashville: Thomas Nelson. pp.  134–135. ISBN   0-7852-7431-6.
  3. "The Bill & Bill Connections". ESPN. Retrieved February 28, 2018.
  4. Kilgore, Adam (October 12, 2018). "Branching out: Mapping the roots, influences and origins of every active head coach". Washington Post. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  5. Beaton, Andrew and Camden Hu (December 9, 2015). "The NFL Coaching Tree". Retrieved December 26, 2020.
  6. Wilde, Jason (October 9, 2016). "For Mike McCarthy and Ben McAdoo, quality control jobs were 'the Ph.D. of coaching'". Retrieved December 26, 2020.
  7. Turner article [ dead link ]
  8. Robertson, Dale (August 23, 2007). "Cowboys' Phillips makes name for himself in coaching". Houston Chronicle . Retrieved September 29, 2014.
  9. Bell, Gregg (September 7, 2007). "Seahawks' Holmgren has what former protege Gruden wants with Bucs". USA Today . Retrieved September 29, 2014.
  10. Dungy article [ dead link ]
  11. "The Bill & Bill League: How nearly every coach traces to two men". Retrieved 2020-04-13.
  12. "Bill Belichick's Coaching Tree". Retrieved 2020-04-13.
  13. "Bill Belichick's Coaching Tree Has Branches Both Lush and Barren |". Retrieved 2020-04-13.
  14. Pinak, Patrick (2019-12-26). "Nick Saban's Coaching Tree May Be His Greatest Achievement". FanBuzz - Sports News - NFL | NCAA | NBA | WWE. Retrieved 2020-04-13.