Second coming? A look at how retread coaches fared in the NFL

Some coaches, like Don Shula (upper left) were able to find success with two separate teams. But others, like Mike Shanahan (lower right) have had their legacies tarnished by later failures.

USA TODAY Sports/Various Photographers/USA TODAY Sports

Not all retreads are created equal. But with Lovie Smith, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hope they have an experienced man to deliver a super reward.

From Don Shula to Mike Holmgren, four NFL coaches have guided two different teams to Super Bowls and won at least one. Someday, the Bucs want Smith to join the category. His first appearance in the big game occurred when he guided the Chicago Bears to Super Bowl XLI, where they lost to Tony Dungy’s Indianapolis Colts.

Will Smith make another trip happen, this time with the confetti and Lombardi Trophy awaiting him? Time will show.

Here’s a look at the four retread coaches who earned Super Bowl berths at two different stops, plus four others who found life to be hard after early climbs to the top.

DON SHULA

Don Shula

Teams and Records

Baltimore Colts (1963-1969, hired by Miami Dolphins): 71-23-4. Miami Dolphins (1970-1995, retired): 257-133-2. Regular season: 328-156-6. Playoffs: 19-17.

The First Time

Shula led the 1968 Colts to one of the greatest regular seasons in NFL history. They finished 13-1, their lone loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 6. Only two of their victories were by fewer than 10 points. New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath ended Shula’s bid for a championship, though. Namath threw for 206 yards in the Jets’ stunning 16-7 victory in Super Bowl III.

What is Old is New Again

Shula led his new team, the Dolphins, to Super Bowl VI, but his first title in Miami came in Super Bowl VII. The 1972 Dolphins completed their undefeated run with a 14-7 victory over the Washington Redskins, clinching a perfect feat that no other team has matched since. Larry Csonka ran for 112 yards on 15 carries, and Miami’s defense held on after enjoying a 14-0 lead.

The Legacy

Shula is one of league’s all-time coaching greats for good reason. He appeared in a record six Super Bowls, winning two (he also won Super Bowl VIII). His sustained success in Baltimore and Miami solidified his position as one of the game’s legends, and his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997 was well-deserved. Though a third Super Bowl title eluded him — he also appeared in Super Bowls XVII and XIX — his ability to lift Baltimore and Miami to the pinnacle of the sport made him one of the best.

DICK VERMEIL

Dick Vermeil

Teams and Records

Philadelphia Eagles (1976-1982, retired): 54-47. St. Louis Rams (1997-1999, retired): 22-26. Kansas City Chiefs (2001-2005, retired): 44-36. Regular season: 120-109. Playoffs: 6-5.

The First Time

Vermeil’s 1980 Eagles proved to have lasting power in the postseason. They closed the regular season 12-4, but they lost three of their last four games before relatively easy victories over the Minnesota Vikings (15 points) and Dallas Cowboys (13) in the playoffs. They ran into the hot Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XV, though, where Jim Plunkett threw for 261 yards with three touchdowns. Mark van Eeghen added a game-high 80 rushing yards in Oakland’s 27-10 victory.

What is Old is New Again

The wait was long for Vermeil to return to another Super Bowl, but his reward was sweet. His 1999 Rams boasted the NFL’s most prolific offense, averaging 32.9 points per game. They closed the regular season at 13-3, before edging the Vikings (12 points) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (five) to reach Super Bowl XXXIV. There, Kurt Warner torched the Tennessee Titans for 414 yards passing with two touchdowns, and the Rams’ defense denied a Steve McNair-led attack late to preserve a 23-16 victory.

The Legacy

Vermeil will be recalled for giving life to the Rams in his final season there. Before Vermeil’s arrival in St. Louis, the Rams had seven consecutive losing campaigns, and the Rams went 9-23 under him prior to the breakout 1999 season. Later, he produced two more winning campaigns in his time with the Chiefs, with the 2003 team his best chance to reach another Super Bowl. But St. Louis was the site of his proudest moment.

BILL PARCELLS

Bill Parcells

Teams and Records

New York Giants (1983-1990, retired): 77-49-1. New England Patriots (1993-1996, resigned): 32-32. New York Jets (1997-1999, retired): 29-19. Dallas Cowboys (2003-2006, retired): 34-30. Regular season: 172-130-1. Playoffs: 11-8.

The First Time

It took all of four campaigns for Parcells to reach the Super Bowl in his first head-coaching stint. The 1986 Giants went 14-2 in the regular season, led by Phil Simms’ 3,487 yards passing and 21 touchdowns. Joe Morris was New York’s greatest threat on the ground with 1,516 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns. The Giants trailed 10-9 to the Denver Broncos at halftime in Super Bowl XXI, but New York outscored Denver 30-10 in the second half to clinch the victory.

What is Old is New Again

Twice was nice for Parcells in his second Super Bowl trip. The 1990 Giants went 13-3 and captured momentum in the playoffs, despite losing three of their last six games to close the regular season. In Super Bowl XXV, New York squeaked by the Buffalo Bills 20-19, after a 47-yard field goal attempt by Scott Norwood sailed wide right. Parcells also led the New England Patriots to Super Bowl XXXI, but they lost 35-21 to the Green Bay Packers.

The Legacy

Parcells never could repeat the magic he found with the Giants. Leading the Patriots to the Super Bowl was impressive, but later coaching stints with the Jets and Cowboys failed to deliver him another chance to win his third title. Still, he became the first coach to guide four different teams to the playoffs, proof of his vision and endurance. His 2013 induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame was well-earned.

MIKE HOLMGREN

Mike Holmgren

Teams and Records

Green Bay Packers (1992-1998, resigned): 75-37. Seattle Seahawks (1999-2008, resigned): 86-74. Regular season: 161-111. Playoffs: 13-11.

The First Time

Holmgren brought a title back to Titletown in his fifth season. The 1996 Packers went 13-3 before beating the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers in the playoffs by a combined score of 65-27. Brett Favre threw for 246 yards with two touchdowns, and Dorsey Levens added 61 yards rushing in a 35-21 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI.

What is Old is New Again

Holmgren led the Packers to another championship chance in Super Bowl XXXII, but they lost to the Denver Broncos as John Elway claimed his first title by a 31-24 score. Later, Holmgren led the Seattle Seahawks to Super Bowl XL, a run that included the franchise’s lone NFC championship. But the Pittsburgh Steelers won 21-10.

The Legacy

He doesn’t have the profile of Don Shula or Bill Parcells, but Holmgren still produced a notable career. Clearly, his best days came with Favre behind center, and the marriage led to four consecutive seasons with at least 11 victories from 1995-1998. Holmgren fared well with the Seahawks but had less success, leading them to three seasons with at least 10 victories and five playoff berths. Looking back, the Favre era in Green Bay should have produced more than one championship.

TOM FLORES

Tom Flores

Teams and Records

Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders (1979-1987, resigned): 83-53. Seattle Seahawks (1992-1994, fired): 14-34. Regular season: 97-87. Playoffs: 8-3.

The Good Times

Flores guided the Raiders to wins in Super Bowls XV and XVIII, becoming the first minority coach to capture the game’s greatest prize. His career there included five playoff berths in six seasons starting in 1980, lifting the Raiders to their most successful era post-John Madden. His tenure with the silver and black included four seasons with at least 11 victories.

What Went Wrong

Flores found life to be much different in the Pacific Northwest. His time in Seattle was forgettable, as he led the Seahawks to seasons of 2-14 and 6-10 (twice). Flores’ brief stay was part of Seattle’s 10-season playoff drought.

The Legacy

There were the Raiders. Then there was nothing else. No doubt, the Seattle flop tarnishes Flores’ record. It’s a period to forget in an otherwise impressive history.

MIKE DITKA

Mike Ditka

Teams and Records

Chicago Bears (1982-1992, fired): 106-62. New Orleans Saints (1997-1999, fired): 15-33. Regular season: 121-95. Playoffs: 6-6.

The Good Times

He’s Mr. Chicago for a reason. He led the Bears to seven playoff appearances, including a title in Super Bowl XX. From 1984-1991, his teams won at least 10 games a year, except for a 6-10 campaign in 1989. Monsters of the Midway? To opponents, Ditka became a monster of his own on the sideline.

What Went Wrong

The New Orleans Saints. Before Ditka arrived, the bumbling black and gold had four consecutive losing seasons under Jim Mora/Rick Venturi. Ditka failed to change a historically poor franchise’s direction, even with some brief optimism with the selection of Ricky Williams at fifth overall in the 1999 draft. The Saints went 6-10 twice under Ditka, before his tenure in the Big Easy ended in a whimper at 3-13 in 1999.

The Legacy

Again, he’s Mr. Chicago for a reason. The New Orleans stop feels like a bad dream after the dominance he enjoyed by Lake Michigan. Does anyone remember anything about his time with the Saints? Didn’t think so.

JIMMY JOHNSON

Jimmy Johnson

Teams and Records

Dallas Cowboys (1989-1993, resigned): 44-36. Miami Dolphins (1996-1999, resigned): 36-28. Regular season: 80-64. Playoffs: 9-4.

The Good Times

Johnson was the right coach at the right time for the Cowboys. He was the perfect combination of loose and brash, which jived well with a locker room and front office that had no shortage of personality. After early seasons of 1-15, 7-9 and 11-5, Johnson broke through by leading Dallas to Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII. How ’bout them Cowboys? How ’bout that coach?

What Went Wrong

A change in zip code. Johnson never should have added the Dolphins to his resume. He wasn’t a failure in Miami, but he fell short of replicating the high-rolling times in Dallas. He won at least eight games in each of his four years in South Florida, but those seasons serve as a minor footnote to his Cowboys’ haul.

The Legacy

He’ll always be recalled for building the Cowboys’ powerhouse. His time with the Dolphins, by comparison, was unremarkable.

MIKE SHANAHAN

Mike Shanahan

Teams and Records

Los Angeles Raiders (1988-1989, fired): 8-12. Denver Broncos (1995-2008, fired): 138-86. Washington Redskins (2010-2013, fired): 24-40. Regular season: 170-138. Playoffs: 8-6.

The Good Times

Too bad Shanahan couldn’t have John Elway for an entire coaching career. Shanahan’s time in Denver was his high point, and he led the Broncos to four seasons with at least 11 victories in five years from 1996-2000. That run included two titles — in Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII — before a drop-off from there. Since 2001, only four of Shanahan’s teams produced at least 10 victories a season. The amount of Super Bowls won in that time? Zero.

What Went Wrong

Fourteen seasons is a long time to spend anywhere. Shanahan, by the end of his time in Denver, had grown stale. The Broncos had one winning season in his last three in the Mile High City. His stretch in Washington wasn’t much better. His four seasons with the Redskins included bizarre tension with owner Dan Snyder, and a relationship with franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III grew strained. No Elway, few smiles.

The Legacy

It’s impossible to separate Shanahan from Elway. The coach never recaptured his glory years of the late 1990s, and by the end of his career in Washington, he looked beaten, like the game had passed him by. (It did.) Quarterbacks can make a coach look great or awful. Shanahan lived both extremes with Elway and Griffin.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.