How Many Times Has an NFL Head Coach Faced His Former Team in a Super Bowl?
Given how many jobs the average NFL head coach has throughout his career, whether it be the big job or as an assistant, it’s certainly not uncommon for a guy to square off against a franchise for which he used to work.
But for an NFL head coach to face a former team for whom he once held the same job in a Super Bowl? That’s certainly more of a rare occurrence. So exactly how many times has it happened?
Weeb Ewbank — Super Bowl 3
The first to do it, Weeb Ewbank, wasn’t even technically an NFL head coach at the time as he led the AFL champion New York Jets into battle with his former employer, the Baltimore Colts, in Super Bowl 3.
Ewbank was the head coach of the Colts from 1954 to 1962. In those nine seasons, he amassed a 59-52-1 regular-season record and a 2-2 mark in the postseason, winning back-to-back NFL Championship Games following the 1958 and 1959 campaigns.
He was fired by Baltimore after going 7-7 in 1962 and joined the AFL’s Jets in 1963. In 1968, he led New York to an 11-3 record and an AFL Championship, defeating the Oakland Raiders in the title game to set up a showdown with the Colts in Super Bowl 3.
And just as Joe Namath guaranteed they would, the Jets upset the Colts, 16-7, to win the franchise’s only Super Bowl. Ewbank remained Gang Green’s head coach through the AFL-NFL merger and stepped down following the 1973 season.
Dan Reeves — Super Bowl 33
The second NFL head coach to face his former team for the Lombardi Trophy was Dan Reeves, whose Atlanta Falcons took on the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 33.
Reeves manned the sideline in Denver from 1981 to 1992, going 110-73-1 in the regular season and 7-6 in the postseason. Behind the strong right arm of John Elway, Reeves took the Broncos to the Super Bowl following the 1986, 1987, and 1989 seasons but lost all three. HeDenver fired him following an 8-8 season in 1992.
After four years with the New York Giants, Reeves became the head coach of the Falcons in 1997 and went 7-9. Things went much better in year two as Atlanta went 14-2 and reached the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history, earning Reeves NFL Coach of the Year honors. But Elway got the better of his former boss in his final game as the Broncos took an easy 34-19 victory.
Reeves requested and was granted his release from the Falcons after 13 games during the 2003 season, and never coached in the NFL again.
Jon Gruden — Super Bowl 37
Jon Gruden was easily the quickest to accomplish the feat as he faced his former squad, the then-Oakland Raiders, in the Super Bowl in his very first season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Gruden became the lead man for the Raiders in 1998 and went 38-26 in the regular season and 2-2 in the postseason in four years. But ahead of the 2002 NFL season, in a rare move, he was traded to Tampa Bay for two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and $8 million in cash.
The move obviously paid off for the Bucs, who won a then-franchise record 12 games in the regular season. Gruden & Co. then knocked off the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles to earn their first-ever trip to the Super Bowl, where they manhandled the Raiders, 48-21. Tampa Bay fired him following a 9-7 season in 2008.
Pete Carroll — Super Bowl 48
Pete Carroll was the fourth to face his former team for the Lombardi Trophy, leading the Seattle Seahawks into battle against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 49.
Carroll was the head coach in New England for three seasons from 1997 to 1999, accumulating a 27-21 regular-season record and a 1-2 mark in the postseason. He was fired following an 8-8 campaign in 1999, at which point Bill Belichick replaced him.
After a lengthy and successful run, albeit a controversial one as well, at the college level with USC, Carroll returned to the NFL in 2010 as the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. In 2013, his fourth season with the franchise, Carroll led Seattle to a 13-3 season and a victory in Super Bowl 48 over the Denver Broncos.
The following season, Carroll & Co. returned to the Super Bowl to face his former boss, Bill Belichick, and the New England Patriots. The Pats, of course, took a dramatic 28-24 victory following a questionable decision by Carroll to throw the ball on the goal line at the end of the game instead of handing it to Marshawn Lynch.
Andy Reid — Super Bowl 57
Andy Reid became the fifth NFL head coach to face his former team in a Super Bowl when his Kansas City Chiefs took on the Philadelphia Eagles following the 2022 season.
Reid was the head coach of the Eagles for 14 seasons from 1999 to 2012 and amassed a 130-93-1 regular-season record and a 10-9 mark in the postseason. He led Philadelphia to the playoffs nine times and took the Eagles to Super Bowl 39 following the 2004 season, where they lost to the New England Patriots.
Reid joined the Chiefs in 2013, and his matchup with the Eagles marked his third Super Bowl appearance with the franchise. In one of the closest title games ever, Kansas City took a 38-35 victory.