The 7 Most Legendary Football Families in NFL History

The Manning family represents a rare feat: two multiple Super Bowl champion quarterbacks active in the NFL at the same time. But soon, the Mannings will be out of football.

As unique as their family contributions to the history of the game are, their legacy isn’t completely unprecedented. Here are seven other families that achieved greatness with two or more notable NFL players.

The Hasselbecks

The Hasselbecks reign of NFL success began in the late ’70’s with tight end Don Hasselbeck. Don’s success topped out in his 1981 season with the New England Patriots. He caught 46 balls totaling 808 yards and racked up six touchdowns.

The family legacy turned into something special when his son, Matt Hasselbeck, became the starting QB for the Seattle Seahawks in 2001. The three-time Pro Bowler’s 63-54 winning record speaks for itself. While he didn’t win any rings, he led the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl.

Matt’s brother Tim also had an NFL run. His 1-4 record as QB for various teams isn’t exactly a standout career. However, he successfully leveraged his intimate knowledge of the NFL into a well-regarded career with ESPN.

The Colquitts

Many of the families on this list have Hall of Fame level players. But consider the difficulty of anybody making it to the NFL, and it becomes clear that the Colquitts collective accomplishments are something special.

Punter Craig Colquitt was the first to reach the NFL. His ’70’s run included winning two Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Then his brother Jimmy Colquitt followed in his footsteps, as a punter for the Seahawks in 1985.

Craig’s sons Dustin and Britton Colquitt keep the family tradition of NFL punting alive today. Both are still in the league, playing for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Minnesota Vikings respectively.

The Gronkowskis

Everybody knows Rob Gronkowski. The former Patriots TE was one of the best to ever do it, right up to his sudden early retirement at just 30 years old. But he’s just the most notable product of decades of Gronkowski family athletic success.

Gronk’s great-grandfather was a three-time world record holding Olympic cyclist way back in 1924. Gronk’s father Gordon turned his focus to football. He played three years with Syracuse as an offensive lineman. Gronk’s older brothers Chris and Dan both spent three years in the NFL.

The youngest Gronkowski, Glenn, went unsigned in the 2016 NFL draft. The Buffalo Bills picked him up, and he spent some time on the Patriots practice squad before his release in 2017.

The Ryans

Not all NFL dynasties make their mark as players. The Ryans bring a different kind of familial aptitude to the NFL, with several successful coaches going back to the ’60’s.

Buddy Ryan was the first to break-in. From 1968 to 1995, he worked as a defensive line coach, defensive coordinator, and head coach. His five years leading the Philadelphia Eagles resulted in a 43-35 record.

Buddy’s twin sons Rob and Rex share their father’s knack for leadership. Since 1994 Rob has worked in various defense-focused coaching and coordinating roles for seven different NFL teams. Rex started that same year, and found himself suited to head coach positions through the 2000’s. After the Buffalo Bills fired Rex in 2016, he became an ESPN analyst.

The Paytons

Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton needs no introduction. Nine Pro Bowl appearances. 13 explosive seasons, including 16,726 rushing yards and 110 touchdowns — both records at the time. And of course, his crucial role in winning the 1985 Super Bowl continues to be one of the most cherished sports memories for Chicago Bears fans.

Walter’s son Jarrett attempted to follow in his late father’s footsteps. He met with limited success in the NFL, but the fact that he made the cut with the Tennessee Titans at all counts for something. He is now a sports broadcast journalist with WGN in Chicago.

The Mannings

The Manning legacy at the quarterback position started way back when Archie Manning made his first NFL appearance with the New Orleans Saints way back in 1971. He held on in the league for 13 years — nothing to sneeze at. But the family’s true ascension to legendary status started with Archie’s sons.

Currently, New York Giants QB Eli Manning is officially in the twilight phase of his career. His brother Peyton happily transitioned to commercial acting and TV hosting back in 2016.

Don’t let that erase the fact that both notched two Super Bowl wins apiece. That Peyton was a five-time NFL MVP. That both brothers — misgivings with Eli’s overall performance aside — are likely Hall of Fame choices.

The Matthews

All of these families provided the environment for NFL-level achievements across at least one generation. One family looms above them all: the Matthews.

Clay Matthews Sr. played 45 games with the San Francisco 49ers from 1950 to 1955.

His son, Clay Jr., was a four-time Pro Bowler who played 19 seasons between the Cleveland Browns and the Atlanta Falcons through 1996. Clay Jr. has a son, Clay Matthews III, a Super Bowl champion outside linebacker with the Green Bay Packers. Clay III currently plays for the Los Angeles Rams.

The younger Matthews brother, Bruce, also played 19 seasons. His incredible offensive lineman runs with the Houston Oilers and the Titans culminated in his 2007 election to the Hall of Fame. His sons Kevin and Jake both made it to the NFL, where Jake still plays offensive tackle for the Atlanta Falcons today.