Allie Sherman, the diminutive Giants head coach, passed away Monday in Manhattan at 91.
Sherman owed his offensive coordinator position with the Giants, and by extension his head coaching job, to Vince Lombardi departing as New York’s OC to lead the Green Bay Packers. Lombardi’s Packers defeated Sherman’s Giants twice in the early 1960s in NFL championship games, amplifying questions of “what might have been” among Big Blue’s faithful.
In his classic novel of alcoholism and addiction to the New York Giants, A Fan’s Notes, Fredrick Exley wrote of how one Sunday morning he “wanted the Giants coach, Allie Sherman, to be quoted from some unequivocal position of superiority” but since “coaches are notoriously pessimistic, one rarely came across any such statement.”
Sherman, in becoming the first to win the NFL Coach of the Year Award in back-to-back seasons in 1961 and 1962, initially gave New York fans such as Exley hope but as Frank Gifford and other veterans faded, Sherman did, too, finishing his eight-year tenure after the 1968 season with a 57-51-4 record.
Apart from overcoming disadvantages of size to play in the NFL in the 1940s for the Philadelphia Eagles and their wartime incarnation as the Steelers-Eagles amalgam Steagles, Sherman hired African American assistants in the 1960s when staffs appeared all white throughout the league, worked as a studio analyst during ESPN’s first broadcast of an NFL game in 1987, and made off-track betting profitable for New York after Rudy Giuliani appointed the former Giants coach to oversee “the only bookie in the world that loses money every year.”