For the 16th time in Super Bowl history, a pair of coaches making their debut on football’s biggest stage will face off when Gary Kubiak and Ron Rivera lead Denver and Carolina respectively into Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7. FOX Sports Senior NFL Writer Alex Marvez reflects upon 12 head coaches who experienced memorable Super Bowl debuts, including the successes like Sean Payton (left) and Bill Belichick (right), and the others, like Andy Reid (center).
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Sean Payton, New Orleans, Super Bowl XLIV
No Super Bowl team had ever attempted an onside kick prior to the fourth quarter. So when Payton rolled the dice to open the second half with a special-teams play he called 'Ambush,' kicker Thomas Morstead's squib certainly caught Indianapolis wide receiver Hank Baskett off-guard. Reserve safety Chris Reis recovered Baskett’s fumble to give the Saints possession and New Orleans proceeded to drive for a touchdown to take a 13-10, its first lead of the game, in the eventual 31-17 victory.
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Andy Reid, Philadelphia, Super Bowl XXXIX
The slooooooooow pacing of Kansas City’s offense in the fourth quarter of its divisional round loss at New England two weekends ago invoked memories of Reid’s questionable Super Bowl clock management from 11 seasons earlier, also against the Patriots. The 2004-05 Eagles showed no sense of urgency while trailing New England by 10 points with less than six minutes left in the only Super Bowl played in Jacksonville. Philadelphia finally scored a touchdown but recovering the onside kick became a necessity with 1:48 left on the clock and the Eagles holding two time outs. That didn’t happen, allowing the Patriots to put the finishing touches on a 24-21 victory.
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Bill Callahan, Oakland, Super Bowl XXXVII
In 2013, Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown stirred controversy when claiming Callahan had 10 years earlier committed 'sabotage' against his own team by scrapping the run-heavy game plan installed just six days before kickoff. Brown cited that Callahan was unhappy with Raiders management and also had a strong friendship with opposing head coach Jon Gruden -- who was traded from Oakland to Tampa Bay the previous offseason. Brown’s accusations weren’t supported by his teammates, but nobody would argue that Callahan's abrupt backtracking was reflective of a coach in over his head. It didn’t help either that Callahan failed to change the offensive line calls that Gruden knew from his time with the Raiders. The Buccaneers trampled the Raiders 48-21, and Callahan was fired after just one more season.
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Mike Ditka, Chicago, Super Bowl XX
The 1985 Bears are remembered as one of the best in NFL history, but there is something about that season Ditka does regret: Not giving iconic Bears running back Walter Payton the chance to score on one of three goal-line opportunities in his only Super Bowl appearance. Those touchdowns were instead scored by quarterback Jim McMahon (twice) and defensive tackle William 'The Refrigerator' Perry in a 46-10 Bears rout of New England. The internal feud that had developed between Ditka and defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan was on full display during the game as well. For the first time in Super Bowl history, two coaches were carried off the field by players during the postgame celebration.
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Joe Gibbs, Washington, Super Bowl XVII
Gibbs might not have gone on to win three Super Bowl titles without a gutsy call in his first championship game appearance. The Redskins were trailing 17-13 when facing fourth-and-one from the Dolphins 43-yard line with just over 10 minutes remaining when Gibbs decided to go for it rather than punt. His play-call -- 70 Chip -- has become part of NFL lore. Running back John Riggins took the handoff, ran to his left behind Washington’s vaunted 'Hogs' offensive line, slipped through the grasp of Dolphins cornerback Don McNeal and chugged into the end zone. The play fueled the Redskins to a 27-17 victory and the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy.
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Bill Parcells, New York Giants, Super Bowl XXI
Parcells was worthy of the first Gatorade celebration in Super Bowl history after helping New York bust the open the game against Denver with some third-quarter chicanery. Facing a fourth-and-one at their own 46 on the opening drive of the second half, the Giants sent backup quarterback Jeff Rutledge onto the field as part of the punt unit. Rutledge hustled under center, took the snap and gained two yards against the unsuspecting Broncos. The Giants then drove for a touchdown to take a 16-10 lead. Parcells followed that with a flea-flicker that gained 44 yards that put the ball at the Denver 1 and set up another score as New York pulled away for a 39-20 win marking the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory.
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George Seifert, San Francisco, Super Bowl XXIV
Replacing a legend like Bill Walsh -- who retired after winning the Super Bowl the previous season -- put Seifert immediately under the microscope, with expectations of a second straight Lombardi Trophy with the all-star roster he inherited. Seifert did just that with the 49ers posting the highest point total and largest margin of victory in Super Bowl history by blowing out the Broncos, 55-10.
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Bill Belichick, New England, Super Bowl XXXVI
It took a great game plan and some guts for Belichick to guide a double-digit underdog to an upset victory over the offensive-juggernaut St. Louis Rams. Following a Kurt Warner touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl to tie the game with 90 seconds to play, Belichick faced a decision: play for overtime with an inexperienced quarterback in Tom Brady (left) -- which is what then-FOX Sports television analyst John Madden advocated -- or go for the win. He was rewarded when Brady led New England into range for Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yard field goal as time expired for a 20-17 win.
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Lovie Smith, Chicago, and Tony Dungy, Indianapolis, Super Bowl XLI
One of the league’s last remaining racial milestones was reached when the Colts’ Tony Dungy (right) and Chicago’s Lovie Smith became the first African-American head coaches to reach the Super Bowl. Dungy, who also was the sixth African-American head coach ever hired in the NFL, made history again when Indianapolis topped the Bears, 29-17, behind a strong rushing attack, solid defense and MVP performance of quarterback Peyton Manning.
Hank Stram, Kansas City, Super Bowl IV
On the eve of the game, NFL Films president Steve Sabol agreed to pay Stram $1,000 to wear a microphone for a Super Bowl video that would be produced later. It was a hit. Stram’s banter became the stuff of NFL legend through some of his sayings like, 'Let’s matriculate the ball down the field,' 'This is like stealing,' and the famous '65 toss power trap' he joyously repeated as the call resulted in a touchdown as part of the Chiefs' 23-7 dismantling of the Vikings.
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John and Jim Harbaugh, Baltimore vs. San Francisco, Super Bowl XLVII
Jack Harbaugh, a former college head coach at Western Michigan and Western Kentucky, should be proud. Not only did his sons follow in his footsteps, but John and Jim made NFL history by becoming the first brothers to ever face each other as Super Bowl head coaches. John can claim bragging rights as the Ravens held on for a wild 34-31 victory in a game also remembered by a third-quarter power outage at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.