I’ve long been interested in the AFL All-Time Team. From Alworth to Otto, Sestak to Bell, the names on this roster evoke memories of the greatest players in league history. And while there will always be a bit of debate with teams like these, the head coaches position on this team has never quite sat right with me.
Weeb Ewbank was selected as head coach of this mythical AFL all-star team, and while he was undoubtedly a fine coach, I have often wondered how voters chose him for the honor.
After struggling under Harry Wismer and his anemic bank account for three seasons, the AFL’s New York franchise was purchased by Sonny Werblin in 1963. One of the early changes that Werblin made was installing Weeb Ewbank into the head coaching position of his new Jets. Ewbank maintained his position through the 1973 season. During his tenure he compiled a 71-77-6 record, and won the all-important Super Bowl III with Joe Namath leading the charge on the field. Ewbank’s accomplishments are solid, but when stacked against his competition in the area of the AFL’s All-Time head coach, do they really rank above all others?
Take a look at this simple AFL-years-only comparison:
WEEB EWBANK – 50-42-6 record, one division title, one league championship, one super bowl championship
SID GILLMAN – 82-47-6 record, five division titles, one league championship
LOU SABAN – 56-56-4 record, three division titles, two league championships
HANK STRAM – 87-48-5 record, three division titles, three league championships, one super bowl championship
Granted, the Jets victory in Super Bowl III was perhaps the single most important victory in AFL history. Still, Ewbank’s overall statistics do not match up to Gillman, Saban or Stram. Then take into consideration that Gillman and Stram (with Al Davis) were the most innovative coaches in the league. By comparison, Ewbank is widely known for making good use of personnel, but not really changing the game.
It seems to me that Weeb Ewbank was perhaps given an extra nod of appreciation by voters for the AFL All-Time Team because of his Super Bowl III victory. I just don’t see anything else. Sid Gillman won second-team honors, and Hank Stram was left out in the cold. As much as I like Sid Gillman, if I were to cast my vote, I’d go with Stram first, then Gillman. Ewbank would likely be a distant third or fourth. Thoughts?