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Giants reflect on coaching great Allie Sherman

Posted Jan 6, 2015

President and CEO John Mara shared his thoughts on coaching legend Allie Sherman

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Allie Sherman, who led the Giants to the NFL Championship Game in each of his first three seasons as the team’s head coach and was a two-time NFL Coach of the Year, died Saturday in Manhattan. He was 91.

"Allie was a great coach and an even better man,” said John Mara, the Giants’ president and chief executive officer. “He was a special friend, and I will miss him dearly."

“Allie was special,” said Steve Tisch, the team’s chairman and executive vice president. “Like my father (Bob), Allie was from Brooklyn. Allie was one of us. Can you imagine being the person hired to replace Vince Lombardi on a coaching staff in 1959? Allie did it, and he did it well.”

Sherman was the Giants’ head coach from 1961-68. His regular-season record was 57-51-4 (.527). The Giants won the Eastern Conference Championship in 1961, ‘62 and ‘63 but lost twice to Green Bay and then to Chicago in the league title game. Sherman, Hall of Famers Steve Owen and Bill Parcells, and current coach Tom Coughlin are the only men to coach the Giants for at least eight seasons.  

In 1961 and ‘62, Sherman was elected the league’s Coach of the Year, the first coach to receive the honor in consecutive seasons. Hall of Famers Don Shula and Joe Gibbs are the only coaches to duplicate the feat.

“He wanted to succeed and he did,” Frank Gifford said today. “He did a great job as far as I’m concerned.”

Sherman coached some of the greatest players in Giants history, including Hall of Famers Gifford, Rosie Brown and Y.A. Tittle.

“Allie was a friend of mine,” Gifford. “There were a lot of times after practice when we were in Yankee Stadium and he would come over if I wasn’t looking like I was happy. He wanted to know what was wrong. He would pull up his little stool, we’d sit down and we’d talk. He was a coach and a friend. Coaching was a different kind of role in his life.

“He taught me a hell of a lot. I came from USC as a single-wing tailback and defensive player. Tom Landry wanted to keep me on defense, and Allie wanted me on offense, so I caused a little bit of a riot there. He was a great guy.”

In 1966, Pete Gogolak joined the Giants – from the AFL’s Buffalo Bills - as the NFL’s first soccer-style kicker. Gogolak played nine seasons for the Giants and 40 years after his final game, he is still the franchise’s career scoring leader with 646 points.

“He always treated me well,” Gogolak said. “He didn’t try to change my form. Back then, everybody tried to coach everybody else, but my kicking style was so new that I think he was very decent from that point of view. He said, ‘I don’t know too much about what you do,’ so he kind of left me alone, because there was no comparison to anybody else. He was a really good guy to play for.”

Sherman first joined the Giants in 1949 as a backfield coach under Owen, the Hall of Famer who owns the franchise record with 153 victories in 23 seasons as head coach. When Owen retired after the 1953 season, Sherman left the Giants to become the head coach of the Canadian Football League’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who he led to three consecutive playoff berths. In Canada, Sherman enhanced his reputation as an outstanding offensive coach.

In 1957, he returned to the Giants as a scout. Two years later, he was named offensive coordinator, replacing Lombardi, who left to become the Packers’ head coach. Lombardi wanted Sherman to join him in Wisconsin, but the latter wanted to be head coach of the Giants. He got his wish in 1961, replacing Jim Lee Howell.

The Giants improved from 6-4-2 to 10-3-1 in Sherman’s first season as head coach. But they lost the championship to Lombardi’s Packers in Green Bay, 37-0.

In 1962, the Giants won the Eastern Conference by three games with a 12-2 record. But they again fell to the Packers in the championship game, this time in bitterly cold Yankee Stadium, 16-7.

The following year, Sherman led the Giants to their third straight conference title. But the Giants couldn’t win the elusive championship, falling in the title game to the Bears in Wrigley Field, 14-10.

Saddled with an aging roster, the Giants fell to 2-10-2 in 1964. They improved to 7-7 the following year, but dropped to 1-12-1 in 1966, the only time in their history the Giants won just a single game.

Sherman led the Giants to 7-7 marks in both 1967 and ‘68. But when the team went 0-5 in the 1969 preseason, he was let go and replaced by Alex Webster, who was a standout halfback on Sherman’s first four teams.

After leaving the Giants, Sherman enjoyed a long and successful broadcasting career and was a popular football analyst. He was also a pioneer in developing pay-per-view sporting events and, for a time, was president of Off Track Betting (OTB) Corporation, which he helped return to profitability.

Alex “Allie” Sherman was born on Feb. 10, 1923 in Brooklyn. Sherman was a quarterback at Brooklyn College and later played quarterback and defensive back for the Philadelphia Eagles for five seasons.

Sherman is survived by his wife of 63 years, Joan, son Randy, daughters Lori Sherman and Robin Klausner and two grandchildren. He is a member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame on Long Island and the Brooklyn College Hall of Fame.

A private, family funeral will be held.