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How past second-year head coaches fared in the Super Bowl

By Matt Albertson, Historical Columnist 

"I understand what it feels like to win in this city. This city hasn't won and this organization hasn't won in quite some time. It's my job to turn that around." Doug Pedersen said at his first press conference as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles back in January 2016. Team owner Jeffrey Lurie said Pederson "checked the box on everything" and was a "smart, strategic thinker".  A lot of fans questioned the decision to hire Pederson. For many, foggy memories of a horrific 1999 season filled their heads: a 2-7 record as a starter with a 52.4% completion percentage, 1,276 passion yards, seven touchdown passes, and nine interceptions. To top that off, Pederson was an Andy Reid disciple who spent several seasons on Reid's staff in both Philadelphia and Kansas City since 2009. Of course, Reid is the winningest coach in franchise history but also known for his poor clock management, lopsided pass-happy play calling, and inability to win the big games. 

Doug Pederson???

Two years later the fan opinion has turned from disgust and/or skepticism to glee and optimism. Doug Pederson, in just his second season as an NFL head coach, has the Eagles just one game from the ultimate goal - a Super Bowl victory nobody envisioned outside the Novacare Complex at the beginning of this season. 

Pederson's goal is close but the task to realize that goal is enormous. A Super Bowl victory is a rare thing, but to win the Super Bowl in just your second season as an NFL head coach? Rarer. Let's jump into the past and see what precedent exists, if any. Overall, there have been ten different coaches to guide their teams to the Super Bowl in just their second season. 

Coach         Team     Super Bowl Result Opponent
Ray Malavasi     SD Chargers XIV (1980) L 31-19 PIT Steelers
Tom Flores     OAK Raiders XV (1981) W 27-10 PHI Eagles
Joe Gibbs WAS Redskins XVII (1983) W 27-17 MIA Dolphins
Raymond Berry NE Patriots XX (1986) L 46-10 CHI Bears
Barry Switzer DAL Cowboys XXX (1996) W 27-17 PIT Steelers
Brian Billick BAL Ravens XXXV (2001) W 34-7 NY Giants
Mike Martz STL Rams XXXVI (2002) L 20-17 NE Patriots
John Fox CAR Panthers XXXVIII (2004)  L 32-29 NE Patriots   
Ken Wisenhunt ARI Cardinals XLIII (2009) L 27-23 PIT Steelers
Dan Quinn ATL Falcons LI (2017) L 34-28 NE Patriots

The table above shows that second year coaches who make the Super Bowl are 4-6 in the big game. Going deeper into this chart, the record for second year coaches to face a coach with 1+ Super Bowl appearances are  1-3 (Malavasi v. Noll, Gibbs v. Shula, Fox v. Belichick, Wisenhunt v. Belichick, and Quinn v. Belichick). Only three of the above coaches led their teams to the playoffs in their first season while only one of the coaches in the chart above failed to post a .500 or better record in their first season (John Fox's Carolina Panthers were 7-9 in 2002). 

Does it mean anything? Sure. The record shows that it's hard to win in the big game and even harder to win against a coach who has been there before. As is shown above, Belichick's Patriots have beaten three different second year head coaches in the Super Bowl. The Patriots are a dynasty and what that franchise has been able to accomplish since 2000 is nothing short of amazing. Doug Pederson, his coaching staff, and the players will have to execute an excellent game plan to defeat New England on Sunday, but it's not impossible, especially considering the quality and attitude in the Philadelphia locker room. 

Oh, and coaches who wear a visor in the Super Bowl are 2-0 (John Gruden and Sean Payton). Stick with the visor, Doug. 

 

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