The 10 Most Philly Coaches Ever
03. Gene Mauch
Winning %: .485
Phillyess Quotient: 48.5
The poster boy for coming up just short in the most torturous of ways, Mauch holds ignominious distinction as the winningest manager to never capture a league pennant. He almost singlehandedly gave an entire city PTSD—post-traumatic sports disorder—that for many lingers to this day. In 1964, cruising into September with a seemingly ironclad lead, the Phillies were such a lock to win the National League that World Series tickets had already been printed—perhaps the first self-inflicted Philadelphia jinx. Mauch’s first-place Phils would lose 10 of their last 12 games and hand the pennant to St. Louis. To his credit, Mauch is remembered as an early proponent of “small ball” and the double switch. But that’s not why we honor him. Mauch’s contribution to Philadelphia is the sense, buried deep in our fan DNA and passed on through generations, that we will always, no matter what, find a way to blow it.
02. Charlie Manuel
Winning %: .551
Phillyess Quotient: 49
This isn’t a sympathy award. The Phillies have two World Series championships, and Manuel won one of them. He’s the rare non-player in Philly sports history to achieve one-name status, like a doughy, gray-haired Beyoncé; if someone says “Charlie,” you know who they’re talking about. We were also total assholes to him when he came to town. Stop with the “not me” garbage—you mocked his West Virginia twang or bitched about why the Phils should have hired Jim Leyland.
Yet Charlie never complained, never stormed out of a press conference with middle fingers blazing, never pulled a Lee Elia and told us to kiss his bleeping tuchas. When the guy got canned—on the day he was to be honored for his 1,000th win—he told fans to keep rooting for the Phillies, the way he would. If you were Charlie, you’d spend the next month sucking down free booze and eating prime rib in every local restaurant that wouldn’t let you touch a tab. What did Charlie do? Wished he was still in the dugout, managing a team that couldn’t find .500 if you gave it a map. All that, and he nearly strangled Howard Eskin in the clubhouse once. He loved us when we didn’t deserve it, loved the team when it didn’t deserve it, and brought us a parade. He’s not a reflection of ourselves—he’s better than us, and we’re better off for his time in town.
01. Buddy Ryan
Winning %: .551
Phillyess Quotient: 412
There’s a reason Dick Vermeil and Buddy Ryan are on opposite ends of this list. By almost all measures of football, Vermeil was the superior coach. Buddy only made it to three playoff games and lost every stinking one. But when’s the last time you waxed nostalgic about the Vermeil-era Birds? In a league where offense is king, we are, fittingly, a throwback city—touchdowns win games, but defenses win our hearts. And no Eagles team had a nastier D than the Gang Green hit squad Buddy built. He led the men whose names alone inspire concussion-like symptoms: Reggie, Jerome, Andre, Seth, Clyde. Those teams had swag back when the word still had two syllables. Buddy talked shit. He put a price on the head of a kicker—against the Cowboys, in Dallas, on Thanksgiving. Until the Eagles win a Super Bowl, the Bounty Bowls and the Body Bag massacre are our defining moments.
Like us, Buddy had major flaws (including, as we’d later learn, his blowhard sons Rex and Rob) and was often a jerk to his players (albeit a quotable one; on his running back Earnest Jackson: “Trade him for a six-pack. It doesn’t even have to be cold”). But let’s face it—the way we lose has defined our sports more than the way we win. No losing team brought us greater happiness than Buddy’s Birds. He’s the concrete turf at the Vet, the 700 Level, the goal-line stand on fourth down, and the opposing quarterback who’s worried about being decapitated long before the first snap. Buddy as a coach, on paper? Mediocre at best. Buddy as an enduring symbol of Eagles football and the Philadelphia sports fan? Everything.