That was Bob Sutton, the Kansas City Chiefs’ defensive coordinator, holding onto a clipboard stalking the sidelines last week in his team’s 30-0 victory over Houston. The Chiefs will play the Patriots in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs Saturday.
Seems anytime a new coach – college or pro – finds success, he somehow gets around to thanking Bill Parcells for imbuing them with qualities that helped lead to their success. Mike Zimmer, the head coach of the Vikings, is the latest to do so. And perhaps you’ve heard of Vince Lombardi.
All of these – and many more – share one quality. They either gained part of their coaching background — or worked or played for someone who did — at Army. Some cite the mindset of cooperation and loyalty among the players. Some are just amazed that players can do as they’re instructed without fear of fallout. As for unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties for undue celebration following a touchdown or an interception, well, no need to worry if the player has West Point sewn onto the back of his jersey.
Sutton spent eight years as an assistant coach at Army before being named the head coach in 1991. His nine-year run is second longest in team history, surpassed only by Red Blaik. He was part of the Jets’ coaching staff for 13 years before leaving for the Chiefs. He’s in his second year there.
As for Parcells’ coaching background, he was a member of the Army staff for four seasons, and also assisted Bobby Knight on the basketball court from 1967 to 1969. Parcells and Knight on the same coaching staff. Those practices must have been interesting. And despite the Vikings’ 10-9 loss to Seattle last week in the NFC wildcard game, one of Zimmer’s first declarations was to thank Parcells for helping him get so far. Zimmer served as defensive coordinator of the Cowboys when Parcells was the head coach.
Further, three more of Parcells’ pro assistants — Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin and Sean Payton — have combined to win seven of the 49 Super Bowls. Parcells is a Hall of Famer. Coughlin and Belichick will surely join him.
Blaik, of course, remains one of the sport’s definitive legends, and his 17-year run at Army didn’t just produce three national titles, but produced a two-generation run of coaches. Bill Yeoman, Class of ’48, played for Blaik. He was the captain of Army’s undefeated team in 1948 and later became the head coach at the University of Houston, where he played a prominent role in the racial integration of college sports in the South. He’s a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Art Briles played for Yeoman at Houston, and later became the coach of the Cougars from 2003 through 2007. He just completed his eighth year as the boss at Baylor.
Lombardi coached under Blaik for five years before leaving to become an assistant coach for the Giants. He took over at Green Bay in 1958, where his saint-like status was established. His teams won five NFL championships, including the first two Super Bowls. Incredibly, 10 men who played under Lombardi would become NFL head coaches.
Among his many stops in six decades of coaching, Lou Saban ran the Black Knights in 1969. His son, Nick, just won his fifth national championship, four of which have been at Alabama.
Bobby Ross was the head coach for the Chargers and Lions for nine years, but he had made his mark as a college coach, where he won the national championship at Georgia Tech in 1990. He left Tech in 1991, and after a 13-year layoff became Army head coach for three seasons, beginning in 2004. When Ross retired offensive line coach Stan Brock took over for two seasons.
Three other Army graduates made their football mark. Robert Whitlow, Class of 1943, was a fighter pilot in World War II; he later became the head coach and athletic director at Air Force. Charles Whitlow (no relation), Class of 1883, became the head coach at North Dakota. And Dennis Michie, Class of 1890, founded Army football. Army’s football stadium bears his name
The Army connection doesn’t end on the football field. Knight coached Army for six years before moving onto Indiana and quickly developing a national powerhouse. Mike Krzyzewski played for, and later served as an assistant, under Knight, at Army. He was head coach from 1975 to 1981; his next stop was Duke, where he has won five national championships, including last season’s, and has already been elected to the Hall of Fame. Thirteen of his former players and assistant coaches went on to become head coaches themselves.
While Krzyzewski was the only one to play — and coach — under Knight at Army, Knight’s coaching pedigree is astonishing – 27 of his assistant coaches and 14 of his players became coaches, including six in the NBA.
Joseph Stillwell, Class of 1904, organized and became the first head coach of the Army basketball team. Robert Neyland, Class of 1916, won four national championships in 19 years as the head coach at Tennessee. He, too, is a member of the Hall of Fame.
Then there’s Abner Doubleday, Class of 1842. He achieved the rank of Major General, with 31 years of Army service – including the Civil War – but he created something for which he is far greater known. Baseball.