Last Sunday, as I do almost every time I watch the Miami Dolphins lose, I talked with a friend about whom we’d want to replace Joe Philbin. At this point, we decided, a sock puppet with one button-eye missing because a dog chewed it off might be better than Philbin, because that sock wouldn’t give away free timeouts to the other team or get “queasy” when he had to show a little offensive aggression. Ultimately, we decided that even if Philbin is fired after another 7-9 season, Stephen Ross will just hire some guy with a fake mustache, claiming to be Gene Harbaugh, the long lost brother of Jim and John, and he’ll sign a 10-year contract with a strict no termination clause.
After we accepted the inevitability of our weekly Sunday sorrows for the rest of eternity, we asked the question that we’ve asked several times before, as I’m sure other fans have – If you could have one football coach from a TV show or movie coach your favorite team, who would it be? So I decided to do the smart thing and round up my team of crack researchers and scientists to help me determine a very scientific ranking of the best American football coaches from TV and movies. This was a really tough and thorough investigation that caused us to watch a lot of game footage and consider a lot of statistics and factors, so if I tried to explain what went into this, your heads would implode.
You’ll just have to trust my incredibly brilliant team and, most importantly, S-C-I-E-N-C-E.
25) Whoever the L.A. Stallions coach was from The Last Boy Scout
One of the unspoken duties of a coach at any level should be to not let players carry firearms in their uniforms during games. The coach of the Stallions failed to do this, and Billy Cole ended up killing three people and himself during a game. I have to imagine that the coach was fired a short time after this happened, and other teams were reluctant to hire him for any role, what with his inability to stop his players from taking PCP and murdering their opponents.
24) Coach Lambeau Fields, The Comebacks
Sure, Coach Wiseman (Carl Weathers) – SPOILER ALERT, in case you’ve been holding off on watching this turd sammich – was the better coach, but he lost to his rival and the incredibly pathetic Lambeau Fields (David Koechner, above abusing a player) of the titular Comebacks. Wiseman also had the kind of intensity and focus to run his opponent down with a bus in the end, but coaching is not only about setting a good example on and off the field. It’s about doing whatever it takes to win in the end. Last I checked, Wiseman didn’t get hit by a bus, but he also didn’t win.
23) Coach Evans, How I Got Into College
Of all of the fictional coaches, in football and all of the other wussy sports, Coach Evans was probably the worst recruiter, which is a bad thing since getting good players often leads to something the experts call winning. Landing a prized recruit like Ronny “Sure Hands” Rawlson was a huge victory for the otherwise pathetic football program at Ramsey College, but Coach Evans failed to actually get Ronny to play football, which is another pretty significant coaching flaw.
22) Coach Wayne Hisler, Johnny Be Good
Sometimes a high school coach realizes that he won’t ever find a better player than the star that’s about to leave him for college, so if there’s a door that’s open long enough to ride that kid’s coattails through it, then a coach has to take advantage of it. That’s what Johnny Walker’s coach did in this fun 80s movie that explored the temptations of being the No. 1 recruit in the country, as programs all over the nation offered this proud QB everything from money to women to join them. One school went as far as to offer Coach Hisler (classic 80s dickhead Paul Gleason) a job if he could bring his star player with him, but he wasn’t able to do so. Good coach, great speeches, bad businessman.
21) Coach Nickerson, All the Right Moves
A few years before Anthony Michael Hall played the best high school QB in America, Tom Cruise was one of the top defensive backs, which is amazing because he’s like 2-feet tall. Coach Nickerson (Craig T. Nelson) was a pretty intense guy and laid blame for his team’s big loss on a player who fumbled, as well as Cruise’s character for a dumb penalty. One of the primary jobs of a good coach is to really dig into a kid’s brain and let him know that he’s a disgrace to everyone in the locker room, because how will he eventually shed emotion and conscience if his spirit and confidence isn’t shattered early on? Unfortunately for Nickerson, he proved to have a fatal coaching flaw – a conscience of his own. That’s why, after he ruined his star player’s reputation across the country, he gave him a full ride at the college he ended up coaching. If you’re going to bury a kid’s reputation, don’t dig it up. Coaching 101.
20) Coach Harris, Revenge of the Nerds
On one hand, his passion is admirable. Coach Harris loves football, his players and winning, which are all important attributes. On the other hand, he encourages his entire team to commit borderline hate crimes against the school’s smartest students, and while the law enforcement and student government of Adams College might not have cared about such crimes, it would have caught up to Harris in the end. But what was much more concerning about Harris’ “Look the other way” policy is that his players were not only in a fraternity (most coaches do not allow that), but they were also competing in the Greek Games… on homecoming weekend. Sure, let your star players get hammered wasted the day before they play a big game. Nice strategy, coach.
19) Vince Penn, Draft Day
In this year’s NFL propaganda disguised as a dramatic story of heart and making the right decisions, Draft Day, Denis Leary played new Cleveland Browns coach Vince Penn, who joined the team after winning a Super Bowl with another franchise. While we never got to see him coach, he proved in the Browns’ “war room” that he was a no-nonsense guy who wouldn’t put up with GM Sonny Weaver, Jr. tanking the franchise on his way out by trading the No. 6 pick and three future first rounders for the No. 1 pick and “sure-fire” franchise QB, Bo Callahan from Wisconsin. While I’ll be nitpicking this film’s hilarious story in a month or so for a certain annual feature, Penn ended up getting everything he wanted from the No. 6 pick and more, as Callahan was exposed to be the second coming of Ryan Leaf, or something. Coaches should keep their mouths on the field and let the suits do all of the work, is what the NFL would have us believe.
18) Sam Winters, The Program
When it comes to football movies, a lot of people are always like, “Bro, The Program was the f*cking raddest, bro” and James Caan is a badass on many levels, so he can certainly leave a strong impression as a coach. We could criticize Sam Winters for a number of things – his drunk QB, juiced up defensive star, letting his daughter take tests for players – but this is more of a collective finger-wagging. Despite all of the under-the-table deals and piss transplants, Winters still couldn’t keep the heat off and his stars under control. Also, laying in the middle of the street still seems really dangerous. Athletes shouldn’t do that.
17) “Straight Arrow” Ed Gennero, Necessary Roughness
In order to rescue and salvage the Texas State University Fightin’ Armadillos from the college football death penalty, after a number of students were stupid enough to accept gifts from boosters in front of cameras, Coach Gennero was brought in to fix the program the way that only he could. The problem with the “Straight Arrow,” though, was that he wasn’t a “players’ coach” and he handled everything, from academics to off-field transgressions, by the book. That’s commendable, but sometimes a team of afterthoughts, losers and washed up 30-somethings needs a voice who understands what they’re going through. That’s why the ‘Dillos benefited from having Wally Riggendorf as an assistant coach; however, he proved that he wasn’t good enough to be the guy wearing the tie.
16) The Coach, Not Another Teen Movie
Science appreciates a coach that puts up with exactly 0% bulllllllllllsh*t in his locker room and on his sidelines, so The Coach earned high grades in his ability to scream at kids and make sure they knew that he was in charge. But he also lost a few points in allowing one of his players to reach his concussion threshold. Also, Jake Wyler, despite being the popular jock, was a really lousy QB and he contributed greatly to Marty’s murder. I’m not sure that John Hughes High should have even had a program after that.
15) Marty Daniels, Blue Mountain State
All things considered, Coach Daniels did a pretty exceptional job with the program at Blue Mountain State, especially since all of his best players usually started when they were freshmen or sophomores, and everyone was constantly wasted, trying to get laid or being molested in hazing rituals by Thad. I’m not sure the team ever actually practiced, but the Goats managed to make the most of it, playing for a National Championship before the series was ended. Unfortunately, though, Daniels’ best players were suspended for any number of terrible reasons, and that cost the Goats the big game. He also really sucked at using his phone.
14) Bud Kilmer, Varsity Blues
A lot of people probably cheered in their seats as Mox and Tweeder led the locker room coup against Coach Kilmer, after he tried to end Wendell’s career, but that Mox was always up to no good. Just because he was bored with his LAAAAAAHFE, he didn’t have to ruin a celebrated coach’s career. What was West Canaan High School supposed to do with that statue after this act of mutiny? Have the face re-sculpted so that it resembled the school’s stripper teacher? Actually, that’s not a terrible idea. Carry on, West Canaan.
13) Curtis Plummer, The Longshots
For starters, he’s Ice Cube, so he’s already one of the coolest guys who could ever coach a team. But more importantly, he did the unthinkable and talked a girl into utilizing her incredible talents and leading a typically all-boys Pop Warner team to the Super Bowl. I mean, a girl! Playing football! What’s next, a dog that can catch touchdowns?!?!
12) Coach Fanelli, Air Bud: Golden Receiver
Not a lot of high school coaches would ever think to let someone’s dog play on the team, but Coach Fanelli knew that Buddy was filled with – wait for it, because this one is great – paw talent. Damn it, I could have made it on this movie’s poster if I’d evolved the Internet 16 years earlier. Oh well. Due to the interference of some evil Russians (the only good Russians were in Iron Eagle 2 and Police Academy: Mission to Moscow), Buddy was unable to play the first half of the big game, so the Timberwolves had to go without him. Of course, he’d finally arrive for the second half and contribute like a regular Michael Grrrrvin (another great joke), but Buddy would have to leave it to the humans when an a-hole from the opposing team tackled a dog and injured it. Coach Fanelli proved that he was a winner and coached the rest of his humans to victory.
11) Kevin O’Shea, Little Giants
More often than not, the hardest part of being a coach is having to make the decisions to cut players who simply aren’t good enough for the team. A Heisman Trophy winner, Coach Kevin made the right decisions by not letting kids like Fartin’ Rudy and Tad play for his beloved and celebrated Cowboys. He even realized that having his niece Becky on the team could be bad for team morale and her self-esteem, so he saved her the trouble, too. But a better coach would have found a way to win with these kids, and perhaps actually make them better athletes. Or, at the very least, he would have stuck them at the end of the bench and let them play garbage minutes before they all accepted those small trophies at the end of the season.
10) Sean Porter, Gridiron Gang
The 2006 film is only partially based on the actual Kilpatrick Mustangs that were featured in the 1993 documentary of the same name, so my scientists and I agreed to allow Coach Porter into these rankings because of how much he inspired troubled teens in this film. Plus, he’s The Rock, so he’s pretty cool, even if he didn’t fire the kids up with an awesome speech in which he said things like, “Do you gang members like different flavors of pie?” and everyone got rowdy and shouted, “POONTANG PIE!” because Dwayne Johnson is an adult. Hell, he didn’t even need to give a speech. He let the kids do it. Also, he should have given someone the Rock Bottom at the end of the movie, but he didn’t and he loses points for that.
9) Molly McGrath, Wildcats
While our scientific scoring system is being kept under wraps, one of the categories was: “Is this coach played by mid-1980s Goldie Hawn?” Wouldn’t you know it – Molly McGrath scored a 100 in this category. Silly crushes and jealousies of Kurt Russell aside, Wildcats is a classic and one of the best sports comedies ever made, which is why no studio or network should ever consider remaking it, especially with Rebel Wilson. As for her coaching abilities, Molly was not only able to help a team of inner city kids get its act together and win, but she also managed to get custody of her daughters as well. This movie subsequently ranks No. 2 in my two-movie list of sports films with child custody as a main theme, behind Over the Top, of course.
8) Coach Klein, The Waterboy
A big part of coaching is the ability to get creative and inspire your players, especially those who are less talented, to do the same. Coach Klein (played by The Fonz in a movie that really isn’t as good as people give it credit for) had a superhuman ability to hallucinate and imagine his opponents as lesser creatures, like babies and puppies. This allowed him to imagine ridiculous plays that were unstoppable against more talented and typically stronger teams. Klein also received bonus points for cheating and using a student-athlete who wasn’t technically qualified to be playing, and even when busted, the Mud Dogs helped him pass his test so he could play in and become the MVP of the Bourbon Bowl, which would be an awesome actual NCAA bowl game if people weren’t such prudes.
7) Nate Scarborough, The Longest Yard
Remakes lose points in scientific rankings such as this, but the character being played by Burt Reynolds earns back twice as many points. Adam Sandler’s remake of the 1974 film wasn’t nearly as good as the original, mainly because of the presence of Chris Berman, but it had its decent moments, including the coaching of the elder prisoner, Nate Scarborough. It doesn’t take much for a coach to stand on the sidelines and bark plays at his athletes, but when Nate put on the helmet and went into the game, scoring a touchdown against those juiced up a-hole guards, that was some seriously good fake coaching.
6) Tony D’Amato, Any Given Sunday
Coach D’Amato did the unthinkable in leading the Miami Sharks to the playoffs and eventually the Pantheon Cup, which sounds so much cooler than the Super Bowl, but Oliver Stone wasn’t allowed to actually use the NFL’s teams and titles, because the NFL is a squeaky clean property that does not feature the insane things featured in Any Given Sunday (most notably Lawrence Taylor chopping Willie Beamen’s SUV in half). D’Amato might have made the Top 3 if he’d gone on to win the Pantheon Cup, but he didn’t and was therefore a disappointment to us all. But I’ll be damned if he didn’t deliver not only the movie coach speech of a lifetime, but simply one of the best speeches in general.
5) Danny O’Shea, Little Giants
While Kevin O’Shea wasn’t afraid to make the tough decisions, his brother Danny took the Cowboys’ scraps and turned them into a team that could actually beat the city’s Pee-Wee champions. Danny’s Giants utilized creative offense and a lot of trickery to pull off the greatest upset in football cinema history, as “The Annexation of Puerto Rico” has long been a favorite in fantasy football team names because of this movie. In the end, Danny even made the right decision by teaming up with his brother so they could coach the city’s team together, which was basically a moral victory on top of an actual victory, since Danny’s team would have been steamrolled the following year.
4) Hayden Fox, Coach
After leading the Minnesota State Screamin’ Eagles to a National Championship, Coach Fox proved that he was as good as advertised. It was especially impressive because of how seemingly inept his longtime assistants, Luther and Dauber, were. Specifically, Luther seemed like he was incapable of remembering where he parked his car, let alone how to run a defense. Dauber was like a giant toddler, so I have no clue how he was able to handle special teams responsibilities, but Hayden made it work. Unfortunately, like a lot of successful college coaches, Fox tried his hand at coaching my own favorite fake professional franchise, the Orlando Breakers, but he inevitably failed. It wasn’t entirely his fault, because Mona from Who’s the Boss? was the worst owner ever, but bringing Luther and Dauber with him was a terrible mistake of a little weakness I like to call… loyalty.
What’s most interesting about Hayden Fox’s legacy is that Dauber went on to coach the Breakers to two Super Bowl victories. Could Fox have done that if he’d stayed with the team? We’ll never know, which is why he cannot be our No. 1.
3) Coach Eric Taylor, Friday Night Lights
Let me tell you something… Coach Taylor had to put up with a lot of crap from the parents and boosters at West Dillon, which was stupid because he proved he could coach the Panthers to a state championship. But damn those Texas high school fans and their unreasonable demands to win, win, WIN at all costs, every single game. That’s why it was all the more impressive that Taylor was not only able to create a program from scratch at a new school, but also steal the Panthers’ booster and a star player in the process, all on the road to winning another state championship. One of the key aspects to choosing a great fictional coach is how well he got his teams to perform in “F*ck You” games.
2) George McWhimple, Mutant League
The majority of people would probably be very concerned that in the wake of a natural disaster that unleashed arguably the biggest toxic violation of the environment in the history of the world, the priority of humanity would be starting a new professional sports league for our best mutated athletes. But hey, football is a billion dollar industry, so sponsors have to advertise and players have to earn those contracts, especially considering the lack of a clause that makes a franchise exempt from paying its players if they’re suddenly turned into monsters. The Mutant League was interesting in that the athletes didn’t just play football, but when they did, they had to face off against their bitter rivals and deadly landmines and other such wonderful traps. The fact that McWhimple had the spiked testicles to accept coaching duties made him better than just about every coach in the history of football.
1) Jimmy McGinty, The Replacements
Nobody could win with Jimmy McGinty’s bunch of losers. Nobody except Shane Falco. Coach McGinty knew that and he knew he could bring out the best in a washed up college QB and a group of nobodies during the league’s embarrassing strike. Hell, he even got the governor of Maryland to let a convicted felon out of jail to play replacement football. So how did he get the Washington Sentinels to win when nobody thought they could?
*taps chest with rolled up playbook*
*taps chest again*
Miles and miles of heart. In conclusion, The Replacements is one of the best movies ever made.