The only other Super Bowl-winning coach to be fired this fast originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
It’s not unprecedented. But it’s darn close.
Before this week, only one head coach in NFL history had ever been fired within six years of winning a Super Bowl.
And it was nearly half a century ago. And with some very unusual circumstances.
This is the story of Don McCafferty. Who was Doug Pederson 48 years before Doug Pederson.
McCafferty was born in Cleveland in 1921, attended James Ford Rhodes High School on Cleveland’s west side, then played football under legendary Paul Brown at Ohio State in the early 1940s.
He was drafted by the Giants in the 13th round in 1943 but his playing career only lasted only nine games. He caught three passes for 38 yards and one touchdown catch – an 8-yarder from Emery Nix in a 24-14 loss to the Eagles at Shibe Park.
Then it was on to coaching for McCafferty, who returned to Northeastern Ohio and spent a decade as an assistant basketball and football coach at Kent State before joining Weeb Ewbank’s Baltimore Colts staff in 1959.
When Ewbank was fired after the 1962 season, new head coach Don Shula promoted McCafferty to offensive coordinator, where one of his main duties was working with quarterback Johnny Unitas.
The Colts went an incredible 71-23-4 in seven years under Shula but only reached one Super Bowl and lost it - to Joe Namath and Ewbank’s Jets after the 1968 season.
A year later, Shula jumped to the Dolphins, a controversial move that wound up with the Colts filing tampering charges against the Dolphins, which cost Miami a 1st-round draft pick.
With Shula in Miami, McCafferty was promoted to head coach after a search that involved more than two dozen candidates and lasted six weeks.
In his first season as head coach, the Colts went 11-2-1, beat the Bengals - coached by Brown, McCafferty’s mentor - 17-0 in the divisional round and John Madden’s Raiders 27-17 in the AFC Championship Game before toppling Tom Landry’s Cowboys in Super Bowl V at the Orange Bowl in Miami.
“Don has a keen knowledge of football,” Shula told the Miami Herald Super Bowl week. “He’s a calm, collected individual. He doesn’t shout and scream and this is what you need to do – look at football objectively without getting carried away emotionally.”
The Colts went 10-4 in 1971, losing to Shula’s Dolphins 21-0 in the AFC Championship Game.
With the 39-year-old Unitas increasingly ineffective, the Colts opened the 1972 season 1-4. Colts general manager Joe Thomas insisted that McCafferty bench Unitas for Marty Domres.
When McCafferty refused, he was fired.
“We can’t keep playing football the way we’re playing football,” Thomas said at a press conference in Baltimore on Oct. 16, 1972. “We have to sort of start a new regime with young players. If we’re going to lose, we may as well lose with young players and let them grow and mature together.”
McCafferty was the only coach in NFL history fired within six years of winning a Super Bowl.
Interestingly, McCafferty was replaced by John Sandusky, a Philadelphia native, South Philadelphia High School grade, all-America at Villanova and World War II veteran. The Colts went 4-5 under Sandusky, but he and his entire staff were fired at the end of the season.
Sandusky then spent three years as an assistant coach with the Eagles under Mike McCormack before coaching for 19 years under Shula with the Dolphins. He died in 2006.
As for McCafferty, he became head coach of the Lions in 1973, going 6-7-1. The summer after the season, he died of a heart attack. He was only 53.