Don McCafferty

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Don McCafferty
Personal information
Date of birth (1921-03-12)March 12, 1921
Place of birth Cleveland, Ohio
Date of death July 28, 1974(1974-07-28) (aged 53)
Place of death Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Career information
Position(s) End
College Ohio State
NFL Draft 1943 / Round 13 / Pick 116
Playing stats Pro Football Reference
Playing stats DatabaseFootball
Coaching stats Pro Football Reference
Coaching stats DatabaseFootball
Team(s) as a player
1946 New York Giants
Team(s) as a coach/administrator
1959–1972 Baltimore Colts
1973 Detroit Lions

Donald William McCafferty (March 12, 1921 – July 28, 1974) was an American football coach who, in his first year as head coach of the Baltimore Colts, led the team to a victory in Super Bowl V, and became the first rookie head coach to win the Super Bowl.[1]

McCafferty played college football at Ohio State University under Paul Brown, where he was a key member of the offensive line. Due to World War II, he was one of a select group of players to play twice in the annual College All-Star Game held in Chicago.

After moving on to the National Football League, McCafferty was shifted to wide receiver, playing one season with the New York Giants. After working in the Cleveland, Ohio recreation department the following year, he was hired as an assistant at Kent State University in 1948. He spent 11 seasons with the Golden Flashes until accepting an assistant coaching position with the Baltimore Colts. During that first season at the professional level, McCafferty was part of the Colts' second straight championship team.

When Colts' head coach Weeb Ewbank was fired after the conclusion of the 1962 NFL season, McCafferty remained with the team as offensive coordinator under new coach Don Shula. McCafferty's easy-going personality helped serve as a buffer against the demanding Shula's quest for perfection, a contrast that played a major part in the team's three NFL playoff appearances during the next seven years. Colts' Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas once said about McCafferty, "He doesn't shout and scream. He's able to look at football objectively without getting carried away emotionally." He was referred to in the press and by the Colts players as "Easy Rider".[2]

When Shula left to accept the head coaching position with the Miami Dolphins, McCafferty was chosen to replace him on April 6, 1970, then the following season led the Baltimore Colts to an 11–2–1 record and their second Super Bowl appearance in three years. In that mistake-filled contest against the Dallas Cowboys on January 17, 1971, the Colts won, 16–13, on a last-second field goal by rookie Jim O'Brien.

The Colts once again reached the playoffs in 1971, but were shut out, 21–0, in the AFC Championship game by Shula's Dolphins. The following year, after only one win in the team's first five games, the Colts' general manager, Joe Thomas, ordered Unitas benched as the team's quarterback. When McCafferty refused, he was fired.

On January 26, 1973, McCafferty was hired as head coach of the Detroit Lions and was 6–7–1 in his first year on the sidelines. On July 28, 1974, while spending some time at his nearby home in West Bloomfield, Michigan, he suffered a heart attack while cutting his grass. He died after being transported to a Pontiac, Michigan hospital. He was buried three days later following services at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium, Maryland.


  1. ^ "Mind-blowing stats for the Super Bowl". National Football League. January 29, 2014. Retrieved February 27, 2014. 
  2. ^ Callahan, Tom (2006). Johnny U. New York, NY: Crown. p. 219. ISBN 978-1-4000-8139-4. 

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