5) Joe Schmidt
Joe Schmidt enjoyed plenty of success as a Hall of Fame middle linebacker for the Detroit Lions. A player who was named to the NFL’s 100th anniversary all-time team. Schmidt created the standard of excellence for the position. He read opposing offenses like a children’s book and made plays all over the field.
After his playing days, he took a turn at coaching the Lions. He led them from 1967-1972 and compiled a record of 43-34-7 with one playoff appearance in 1970 when they lost to the Dallas Cowboys by a final score of 5-0. Perhaps the most bizarre final score in NFL postseason history.
Schmidt’s teams were solid and physical. They lacked a true franchise quarterback but were fundamentally sound and never backed down. Unfortunately, for the first half of his tenure, Lombardi’s Packers were still ruling the roost.
Yet even after Lombardi stepped down following the Packers victory over the Raiders in Super Bowl II, Schmidt’s Lions still couldn’t take control of the division.
Schmidt retired after the 1972 season and was one of the very few coaches in Lions history to finish his career with a winning record. The belief is that Detroit may have gotten over the hump had Schmidt been given a franchise quarterback to work with, but once again we’ll never know.