This idea hit me out of nowhere. After spending the better part of the week trying to decide what to write about for you fine readers this week, it snuck up on me like a ninja. Granted, it didn’t do what a ninja usual does, but it felt like a ton of bricks hitting my brain. Look, I love lists. I love books of lists. I love countdowns. A lot of my spare time is spent with WatchMojo’s top 10 stuff on in the background. So, without building up too much drama or suspense, here is a simple list of the best fictional football coaches from TV or movies.
To kick this list off is the coach from Any Given Sunday, coach Tony DAmato played by Al Pacino. DAmato is the head man for the Miami Sharks in a fictional football league. He’s an old school coach with an old school mentality and clashes with the front office about every other scene it feels like. DAmato has to mentor a flashy, cocky, and young quarterback in Willie Beaman, played by Jamie Foxx.
DAmato’s ride is an interesting trip through the movie. We see him as a proud coach yet as a broken man. However, this is about his coaching ability and he does a great job with a third string signal caller and an owner who wants him off of the team. DAmato peaks with the infamous “Inches” speech and has a satisfying play call at the end of the film. We also find out through the movie that he’s won their Pantheon Cup (Super Bowl) a handful of times, so we know the guy is a great coach. If anything else, just watch the “Inches” speech and find yourself fired up.
Up next is a quick hitter from the kid’s movie, Little Giants. Danny O’Shea, played by comedic great Rick Moraines, is not a football coach, but gets roped into it with a band of misfits against his older brother’s powerhouse pee-wee team. It falls into all the tropes that a sports movie about kids do, but Danny does well with motivational speeches and having the nerdy kid as his assistant helping him out.
Dropping to the high school ranks, not the first time that will happen as we move forward, is coach Bud Kilmer, portrayed by Jon Voight, in Varsity Blues. Coach Kilmer is a coach that isn’t meant to be a hero. Rather, he’s the antagonist. Kilmer is the ultimate authority, period, in a Texas town where he’s won district title after district title along with a couple of championships. I’m sure a majority of us have heard or known a coach who will do anything to his players in order to win a championship.
Yes, he’s a jerk. Yes, he’d probably get fired if people knew he made Billy Bob play with concussions or kept injecting his players with drugs to keep them on the field, but don’t lose sight that the man did win a host of district titles during his tenure as West Caanan’s head coach. Just, you know, don’t treat your players like interchangeable cogs in a machine like he did.
I enjoy a good sports comedy movie and one of the top ones is probably The Replacements. Earning a spot on this list is Coach Jimmy McGinty, played by fictional coach veteran Gene Hackman. McGinty takes over a team after the league goes on strike, mimicking the NFL strikes of the past. He finds a misfit crew, a typical trope in comedies, and brings them all together. From the fast receiver who cannot catch, a SWAT team officer who is a monster on the field and gentle off, oh and Keanu Reeves playing a quarterback yet again.
McGinty takes all these weird pieces and puts together a winner. Hackman is always great when he gets to be a driving force in a movie and this is no different. It’s very much an ensemble cast movie, but the parts work well together and I don’t think they do without Hackman’s McGinty leading the way. Plus, again, he coaches Reeves’ Shane ‘Footsteps’ Falco and it’s wonderful.
I think five is a good number to end it, right? So, probably the top fictional coach ever is easy to figure out. The series is based on the best selling book which later became a fantastic movie in it’s own right. The show is Friday Night Lights and the coach is Eric Taylor. Taylor, played by Kyle Chandler, is easily the best fictional coach of all time. From the start of the series he’s thrown behind the eight ball with his star quarterback going down and having to rely on a little known backup.
(Sound familiar, Iowa State fans?)
Anyways, Coach Taylor goes through numerous trials and tribulations on and off the field, but it’s how he keeps his composure and handles himself through the times is what endures him as a great coach. He’s there for his players when they need help on or off the gridiron. He’s a family man who wants to do the best for those he loves. He takes an underfunded school and team and builds them up into something great with the talent around him.
Coach Taylor is a guy you want on the sidelines. He’s willing to adjust his scheme, for the most part, in order to maximize the talent on his team. Granted when you have some of the athletes he did, life is easy at some points, but all five seasons he does an amazing coaching job with the kids he’s given. No spoilers on how he does overall, but any coach would enjoy his career.
Plus, you know, he has a great catchphrase for his team of “Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.” Just based on that alone he’s the best.