Don Shula at the Baltimore Colts in 1963

At Baltimore in 1963 for Don Shula.

After winning the NFL Championship in 1958 and 1959, the Colts became an average ball club over the next three years. Eight games into 1960, the Colts stood at 6-2. They proceeded to lose their last four games and finished at .500. Baltimore was only an average team until…

Don Shula came to Baltimore in 1963. In that year, the Colts improved to 8-6. This was only one game better than 1963. The pattern for new and successful coaches appeared again. The Baltimore Colts defeated mediocre teams in Shula’s first year but were losers against the better ones as follows.

Lost to the New York Giants at home 37 to 28. The Giants were 11-3 and Eastern Conference Champions for the third consecutive year.

Lost Both Games to the Chicago Bears…at Chicago 10 to 3 and on the road 17 to 7. The Bears at home defeated the New York Giants in the NFL Championship Game 14 to 10. Chicago’s record in 1963 was 11-1-2.

Lost Both Games to the Green Bay Packers…at Green Bay 30 to 21 and at home 34 to 20. Green Bay was second in the Western Conference at 11-2-1.

In 1963, Don Shula began the trend that made Baltimore a great team once again.

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Chip Kelly vs George Allen in the First Year at Washington

After the death of Vince Lombardi, Bill Austin coached the Redskins to a 6-8 record in 1970. This was a two game drop from the 7-5-1 effort in 1969. Washington then got George Allen from the Los Angeles Rams. In his five season with Los Angeles, Allen had a great record but lost two playoff games. He brought in some veteran players from other teams such as Ron McDole, Billy Kilmer, Myron Pottios, and Jack Pardee. Sports writers called Washington “The Over the Hill Gang.’

In 1971, the Redskins won their first five games but staggered to 4-4-1 thereafter. Washington lost in the playoffs at San Francisco to the 49ers 24 to 20. Washington in 1971 was 2 1/2 games better than the previous year. This was not as good as Chip Kelly; but Allen started from a much better position.

Chip Kelley vs the First Year of George Allen at LA

With the Los Angeles Rams starting in 1966.

Once a perennial contender in the NFL, the team fell off badly after the 1958 season. From 1959 to 1965, the team’s worst record was 1-12-1 in 1962 and its best record was 5-7-2 in 1964. The team had only one hot streak, a three gamer in 1965, which I earlier mentioned.

After a 1-9 start in 1965, Los Angeles defeated:

–at home the Green Bay Packers 21 to 10;
–on the road at St. Louis 27 to 3; and
–at home the Cleveland Browns 42 to 7.

The Rams barely lost to the Baltimore Colts in the final game 20 to 17. Evan so, LA defeated both teams that were in the NFL Championship. The Rams finished 4-10.

Despite this good ending, the Rams fired Harland Savre after the season. George Allen in his first year brought the team to 8-6 a four game advance. They lost two games to the Green Bay Packers. From 1967 to 1970, Los Angeles was among the top teams every year. However, they never won any playoff games.

Chip Kelly in his first year improved the team by six games, two better than George Allen.

Chip Kelly vs. the First Year of Vince Lombardi

Chip Kelly brought the Eagles from 4-12 to 10-6, a jump of six games and three games over .500. He beat only two teams over.500. This was the first season both over .500 and with a playoff appearance since 2010. How does he compare in rookie seasons with coaching legends?

Vince Lombardi

Green Bay Packers in 1959. The team went from 1-10-1 in 1958 to 7-5-0 in 1959; an improvement of 5 1/2 games; the first winning season for the Packers in 12 years; this team was not great, but as we learned, Green Bay was on its way to a dynasty. They lost to both Conference Champions; two games with the Colts; at Baltimore 38 to 21; and at home 28 to 24; and lost an Inter-Conference Game with the New York Giants 20 to 3.

Washington Redskins in 1969. After one year, Vince Lombardi knew he could not stay away from coaching. The team went from 5-9 in 1968 to 7-5-2. As with the Packers ten years previous, Lombardi beat the mediocre teams but did not do well against the better ones. This was, however, the first time the team finished over .500 in 14 years. Here were the teams that defeated the Redskins; two against the Dallas Cowboys (11-2-1) and one each to the Cleveland Browns (10-3-1), Los Angeles Rams (11-3), and Baltimore Colts (8-5-1).

How would the Washington Redskins have done had Lombardi not died? In both cities, Lombardi took over teams that were worse in the recent past than Chip Kelly did at Philadelphia. Kelly fared better in the first year than Lombardi did at either city.