Welcome to the Buffalo edition of “Jeopardy!” Our first category: NFL Coaches.
And here’s the first clue:
Who are the winningest coaches in NFL history?
Yes, but that’s not the answer we’re looking for. Please remember this is “Jeopardy!,” Buffalo edition.
Who are the only coaches in NFL history with 300 or more regular-season wins?
Well, true – but still not the answer we’re looking for.
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Who are the greatest coaching villains in Buffalo’s NFL history?
When the New England Patriots upset the Bills the other day, it marked the 300th regular-season win in Belichick’s NFL coaching career. (Not all of them came against the Bills, even if sometimes it feels like that.)
After the game, reporters asked Belichick about his newfound place in history. He responded with the same flat affect he so often brings to his news conferences, mumbling: “It’s great. I’m really more focused on our team and this year. I’ll worry about that later.”
Shula has 328 regular-season wins. Halas has 318. And now Belichick has 300. (Andy Reid’s 253 and Tom Landry’s 250 are next in line.)
Counting the postseason, Shula has 347 wins to Belichick’s 331, with Halas at 324. To be fair, Halas coached for years before the NFL had a postseason, and then for many more years when it had just one such game per season.
But why should we be fair to him? Halas swindled us a century ago.
From the head coach to the quarterback, the offensive coordinator to the cornerback, the tailback to the No. 2 receiver, the pressure has been turned up on this Bills season.
The Buffalo All-Americans won the NFL championship in 1921 – or so they thought. Halas, player-coach of the Chicago Staleys, challenged the All-Americans to an exhibition game after the season was over. Buffalo had already won, 7-6, in Chicago on Thanksgiving Day, but the Staleys won the exhibition, 10-7. Then Halas convinced other owners to crown his team as champs by arguing that the game that should not have counted actually counted for more, as a tiebreaker.
That, at least, is how the story often gets told in Buffalo. (It’s more complicated than that, of course; you can read the details here, in Jason Wolf’s excellent 2020 story for The Buffalo News.)
And then there is Shula. His Miami Dolphins beat the Bills 20 times in the 1970s, which remains the NFL record for consecutive games won by one franchise over another. Bum Phillips (whose son Wade would later coach the Bills) famously said of Shula: “He can take his’n and beat your’n, and take your’n and beat his’n.”
As it happens, the Bills got some measure of revenge when they had the better of Shula during the Jim Kelly/Dan Marino era. In fact, the Bills handed Shula a playoff loss in the last game he ever coached, in 1995. The Bills raced out to a 27-0 lead through three quarters in Orchard Park that day. Final score: Bills 37, Dolphins 22.
Little acrimony lingers given that Shula’s, son, Mike, is now senior offensive assistant coach for the Bills. Moreover, most Bills fans are too young to care about Halas and history. But Belichick remains a villain around here because he still torments the Bills.
Oh, and let’s not forget that he was defensive coordinator for the New York Giants when they found a way to confound the high-scoring Bills on the way to a 20-19 victory in Super Bowl XXV.
Halas took a title from us. Shula took a decade. Belichick took two. (And isn’t done yet.)
OK, time for our next clue. The category: Heartbreakers.
What are three things we would rather not speak of ever again?