Weeb Ewbank – First Coach to Lead National and American Football Leagues Teams to World Championships1968
When Weeb Ewbank, Miami 1928, started his National Football League head coaching career with the 1954 Baltimore Colts. He was forty-seven, not the age you ordinarily look for in a rookie coach. But the popular Ewbank stayed in command for the next twenty years, the first nine in Baltimore and the final eleven with the New York Jets. In so doing, he made an impact on pro football that has done much to ensure its emergence as America’s most popular spectator sport.
He is the only coach leading teams from the National and American Football Leagues to world championships. His Colts won NFL crowns in 1958 and 1959, and the 1968 Jets followed up their AFL championship with a victory in Super Bowl III. However, even more important than the victory itself is the effect of these Ewbank championships on the growth of pro football.
Millions of fans watched on national television for the first time as the Colts defeated the New York Giants, 23–17, in overtime in 1958. Many still call this game “the greatest ever played,” and there is no doubt the highly competitive nature of the contest did much to increase fan enthusiasm and anticipation in the years ahead.
A decade later, Weeb’s old team, the Colts, was heavily favored to make three straight Super Bowl victories for the supposedly superior NFL over the overmatched AFL. Instead, spurred by Weeb’s careful prodding, the Jets pulled one of the most stunning upsets in history. The competitive validity of the Super Bowl was never again in doubt.
In both Baltimore and New York, Weeb inherited young, disorganized teams. In both places, Ewbank instituted a patented building program that proved effective. In each city, his skill of judging and handling players was quickly apparent and a predominant factor in his success.