George Seifert began his coaching career with teh San Francisco 49ers, where he won two Super Bowls and five NFC Championships in eight years. During that span, George Seifert was faced with one of the most difficult quarterback transitions in NFL history, but produced Super Bowl victories with both Joe Montana and Steve Young.
And there have been other challenges that were not so high profile. As a young coach in 1965, Seifert took a head coaching position at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, UT, for a school that did not even have a football program the previous year. Literally starting from scratch, he guided Westminster to a winning season. As an assistant coach with San Francisco in 1981, Seifert had three rookies in his secondary. Despite their inexperience, he molded the group of Ronnie Lott, Eric Wright and Carlton Williamson into a unit that became one of the best in NFL history and was critical to the 49ers winning a Super Bowl that season.
Inheriting a 4-12 team two years ago when Seifert came to Carolina was also a challenge, and the fact that he has coached the Panthers into December as a playoff contender in each of his two seasons with Carolina indicates progress. However, for Seifert there is a greater goal than simply being in contention, and that has led him to the task of guiding one of the youngest teams in the NFL. As Seifert enters his 11th season as an NFL head coach, younger players dominate the roster, and none of his quarterbacks has made an NFL start. The risk is obvious, but for the Carolina coach, the goal is apparent as well, establishing an enduring legacy of success for the Panthers.
“We want to lay a solid foundation that will carry this organization forward for many years,” explains Seifert. George Seifert has already reached milestones that have established his place in history as one of the most successful coaches in the game. He reached 50, 75 and 100 victories faster than any coach ever, surpassing the legendary Paul Brown.
His impact also goes beyond wins and losses. Four current NFL head coaches, Jeff Fisher of Tennessee, Jon Gruden of Oakland, Mike Holmgren of Seattle, and Mike Shanahan of Denver, served as coordinators or assistants under Seifert at San Francisco. George Seifert could have assured his place in history as the coach with the best winning percentage ever, but his decision to return to the game as coach of the Carolina Panthers on January 4, 1999 also went beyond wins and losses.
“Football is one of the few areas of life where people of all religions, races and diverse backgrounds can come together in quest of a common goal, and I missed the camaraderie,” explains Seifert. “I missed the structure of the coaching life. I missed the interaction with the coaches and the players.”
And for Seifert, Carolina was the right fit. “I have to have a sense of commitment,” he explains. “I have to feel comfortable. I understand the expectations, not just from ownership, but from myself.” For some, such high expectations would serve as a deterrent, but Seifert has known great expectations throughout his career and never more so than when he was named head coach of the San Francisco 49ers in 1989. With San Francisco coming off a Super Bowl win, anything less than a title would have been a disappointment. Seifert delivered. The 49ers went 14-2 in his first season and set a Super Bowl record for most points scored in a 55-10 rout of the Denver Broncos. Five years later, San Francisco returned to the Super Bowl. The 49ers were again at their best, defeating San Diego, 49-26, and setting a mark for the third-most points scored in the game.
Not surprisingly, George Seifert was awarded NFL Coach of the Year honors on more than one occasion. After setting a record with victories for a rookie head coach in 1989 and becoming the second coach to win the Super Bowl in his first season, Seifert was honored by several publications, including Sports Illustrated, Pro Football Weekly and Football Digest. A year later, the Washington Touchdown Club, The Sporting News and The National named Seifert the 1990 NFL Coach of the Year. Another Super Bowl victory and a League-best 16-3 record in 1994 brought more accolades as he was named Coach of the Year by The Sporting News, Sports Illustrated and Pro Football Weekly.
In San Francisco, Seifert was challenged with maintaining a standard of excellence. He not only met that standard but also raised it. Unlike many who succumb when entrusted with maintaining success, Seifert built upon the tradition by surpassing the winning percentage and victory totals of his predecessor, Walsh. Prior to assuming the role as head coach of the 49ers, Seifert spent nine seasons under Walsh as an assistant. He joined the team as defensive backfield coach in 1980 and remained in that position until being promoted to defensive coordinator in 1983.
Seifert was in charge of the San Francisco defense for six seasons, and it perennially ranked among the League leaders. In 1987, he oversaw a unit that led the NFL in total defense for the first time in team history as well as ranked first in pass defense.
A coaching career that spans nearly 40 years began in 1964 as a graduate assistant at Utah after Seifert played guard and linebacker for the Utes. In 1965, Seifert was named head coach at Westminster College before moving to assistant coaching positions at Iowa in 1966 and Oregon from 1967-71. Next was a three-year stay at Stanford from 1972-74 as secondary coach where he molded the unit into the PAC-8's best in 1972 and 1973.
Two years as head coach at Cornell from 1975-76 interrupted Seifert's stay on the West Coast, but he returned to Stanford in 1977 as secondary coach on Walsh's staff. The Cardinal pass defense again ranked among the conference leaders, finishing second in the PAC-10 in both 1978 and 1979.