John W. Breen

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John W. Breen
John W. Breen.jpg
Sport(s) Football
Biographical details
Born (1907-05-09)May 9, 1907
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Died February 9, 1984(1984-02-09) (aged 76)
Playing career
1930–1934 Carroll (WI)
Position(s) Quarterback
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1938–1948 Carroll (WI)
1949–1951 Lake Forest
Head coaching record
Overall 43–46–8

John W. Breen (May 9, 1907 – February 9, 1984) was an American football and basketball player, coach, and executive.[1] He was active in the college ranks before becoming an administrator in the American Football League for the Houston Oilers.

Playing career[edit]

Breen grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and played high school football at Milwaukee East Division High School. He then went on to Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin where he was named "most valuable player" and team captain in both football and basketball.[2]

Coaching career[edit]


After graduation from Carroll in 1935, Breen began coaching freshman teams and teaching classes. Breen the 19th head football coach (as well as assuming the position of athletic director) for the Carroll College (Wisconsin) Pioneers and he held that position for eleven seasons, from 1938 until 1948. His career coaching record at Carroll College was 34 wins, 33 losses, and 6 ties. This ranks him fifth at Carroll College in total wins and 14th at Carroll College in winning percentage.[3]

Lake Forest[edit]

In 1949, Breen became the head coach at Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois[4] and held the position for three seasons, through 1951.[5] During his tenure as head coach, he accumulated a record of 9 wins, 13 losses, and 2 ties.[6] While at Lake Forest he received nationwide publicity for defending the interests of small college athletics.[2] In 1974, Lake Forest inducted him into their athletic "Hall of Fame" for his contribution to the football and basketball programs at the school.[7]

Professional sports[edit]

After a successful college career as an educator and coach, Breen went into the professional ranks with the Chicago Cardinals of the National Football League (NFL) as director of player personnel in 1957.[8] He was later the first person hired by the Houston Oilers in 1960 as director of player personnel and was named General Manager in 1971[9] and he held that position until his retirement in 1973.[10]

Breen was instrumental in the building of the Oilers[11] and the American Football League (AFL) itself by being in charge of the league's first draft of players.[12] He is credited with recruiting veteran players George Blanda, John Carson, and Willard Dewveall along with first-year players Billy Cannon, Dan Lanphear, and Charley Hennigan.[13] He recognized that the competing NFL teams would cut good quality players, and he recruited them to play at Houston.[14]

After his retirement from professional football management, Breen worked as a sports broadcaster for radio station KTRH in Houston, Texas.[15]


  1. ^ The Victoria Advocate "Breen Succumbs to Cancer" February 9, 1984
  2. ^ a b Lake Forest College Foresters Archived 2008-05-11 at the Wayback Machine. John W. Breen
  3. ^ Carroll College Pioneers Archived 2006-05-16 at the Wayback Machine. football records
  4. ^ College Conference of Willinois & Wisconsin 2008 Fall Football Guide
  5. ^ Lake Forest College Foresters Archived 2008-05-17 at the Wayback Machine. Coaching Records
  6. ^ Lake Forest College Football Archived 2008-05-17 at the Wayback Machine. Results by year
  7. ^ Lake Forest College Foresters Archived 2008-05-09 at the Wayback Machine. Athletic Hall of Fame
  8. ^ Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Archived 2005-02-12 at the Wayback Machine. "Years ago, Wisconsin was truly the 'Big Cheese'", Cliff Christl, July 29, 2000
  9. ^ Washington Post "Oilers Promote John Breen" May 6, 1971
  10. ^ Tennessee Titans Online Archived 2008-10-06 at the Wayback Machine. History: 1970's
  11. ^ Going Long: The first oral history of the AFL--from the men who made it happen by Jeff Miller, Published by McGraw-Hill Professional, 2003, ISBN 0-07-141849-0, ISBN 978-0-07-141849-2
  12. ^ The Making of the Super Bowl by Don Weiss and Chuck Day, Published by McGraw-Hill Professional, 2003 ISBN 0-07-142949-2, ISBN 978-0-07-142949-8
  13. ^ Pro Football Researchers Archived 2010-10-05 at the Wayback Machine. "WHEN HOUSTON STRUCK OIL" Oirignall ypublished in Pro Football Digest by Stanley Grosshandler
  14. ^ Sports Illustrated "Innocence in Texas" by Tex Maule, November 21, 1960
  15. ^ New York Times John Breen February 11, 1984