Someone read yesterday's blog post about technical experts as leaders, and they asked me if I had done a similar analysis for NFL coaches. In yesterday's blog post, I showed that most NBA championships have been won either by non-players or players who never made an All-Star team. That finding stood in contrast to a scholarly study that showed former All-Stars achieving a higher winning percentage than non-stars or non-players. The scholars used those findings to argue that technical experts thrive as leaders, contrary to conventional wisdom. My results regarding championships didn't fully support their conclusion.
What about the NFL? What do the data show there? I reviewed the list of Super Bowl winning coaches from 1966-2016. 32 coaches have won the 51 Super Bowls (several coaches have earned multiple championships, including Bill Belichick and Chuck Noll, who both won 4 times). Of those coaches, only 1 man made the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a player (Mike Ditka). Only two men earned Pro Bowl status as players (Mike Ditka and his mentor, Tom Landry, who made it to one Pro Bowl as a punter for the New York Giants in the 1950s). None of the other Super Bowl winning coaches earned Pro Bowl status as a player. Thus, in football, it appears that the findings are even more pronounced. Championships are generally not won by coaches who were formerly superstar players.