Allie Sherman, who led the Giants to the NFL Championship Game in each of his first three seasons as the team’s head coach and was a two-time NFL Coach of the Year, died Saturday, January 3, in Manhattan. Coach Sherman was 91 years young.
Sherman’s Jewish parents migrated from Russia to New York in 1920. Allie was born in Brooklyn in 1923.. Always playing sandlot sports, especially football, at 13 years old and weighing 125 pounds, he tried out for the football team at Boys High School (Brooklyn) in Brooklyn. He was told by his coach to try handball instead, because of his size. Following his coaches advices Sherman went on to become the captain of the Boys’ High handball team, and win several division titles.
On the weekends, he earned pocket money, by going to the tough side of Brooklyn, and playing doubles with his partner against older big betters. When he was 16-years-old, he graduated from high school with a 96 average and enrolled at Brooklyn College.
Sherman tried out for football again, but this time Coach Lou Oshins took him on as a quarterback, recalling, “His dedication to football was absolute, astonishing.” When Sherman’s mother saw how violent the game was, however, she made him quit. However, He and Oshins were able to change her mind eventually. He became a starting quarterback in 1940. One of the few colleges running the T-formation, he captained the 1941–42 Brooklyn College team that upset the favored cross-town rival City College, and completed seven straight passes in a “scrimmage” against an NFL team then called the Brooklyn Dodgers.
After graduating in 1943 at 19, the Philadelphia Eagles’ future Hall of Fame coach, Earl “Greasy” Neale, took Sherman on as a “prospect” and to help the Eagles and their All Pro quarterback Roy Zimmerman convert from a single wing offense into the T-formation. Neale commented, “Never have I seen a player with a greater understanding of the game. He was so dedicated, he insisted on rooming with a lineman. The team, called the Steagles, finished third in the NFL East with a record of 5–4–1.
Playing both quarterback and defensive back, Sherman spent five seasons with the Eagles, who finished second in the NFL East from 1944 to 1946. In 1946 he completed 17 of 33 passes for 264 yards (241 m), and led the league in yards per passing attempt (8.00). The following year he helped lead the Eagles to the NFL East title with a record of 8–4–0. They tied the Pittsburgh Steelers for first, and then defeated Pittsburgh in a playoff to reach the NFL championship game, which they lost to the Chicago Cardinals, 28–21. In all, he completed 48.9% of his 135 pass attempts for nine touchdowns, while running for four more. After the 1947 season, having played in 51 NFL games, Sherman took Neale’s advice and shifted to coaching.
In his first three seasons as a coach, Sherman took the Giants to three consecutive league championship games from 1961 to 1963. The Giants experienced two losses to the Green Bay Packers and lost a championship to the Chicago Bears. During his first two seasons with the NFL, Sherman was awarded Coach of the Year. Sherman would never coach the Giants to a championship game again but remained the coach up until the week before the 1969 season began, when he was let go by the team. He ended his coaching career with a record of 57-51-4.