Beginning with the 1920 inaugural season of the American Professional Football Association (now the NFL), there have been over 200 different combinations of father-son coaches and athletes. Since then, the NFL has come a long way from its modest start in Canton, Ohio. While there have been some great Hall of Fame caliber players through the years, their offspring haven’t always fared so well. For instance, Jarrett Payton, the son of Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton, played in just one season with the Tennessee Titans as a running back.
Not only have there been great father-son combinations of players, but there have been plenty of combinations of coaches and general managers as well. For example, Bill Belichick spent his youth at the United States Naval Academy while his dad was the coach of the Midshipmen, and now Bill’s son is being groomed to be an NFL coach. Other notable father-son coaching duos today include Mike and Kyle Shanahan and Rex and Rob Ryan whose father Buddy coached the Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Oilers from the mid-1980s until the 1990s.
Here is a list of the greatest player father-son combinations that have played in the NFL. Included on the list are a number of Hall of Fame players and coaches from the last 50 years. Spoiler alert: so far, there has yet to be a father-son combo that has made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
5. Clay Jr., Clay, Casey Matthews – Estimated Net Worth: $11 Million
If there was ever a family that showed football does run in your blood, the Matthews family is a prime example. Five members of the Matthews clan have made it into the NFL. Beginning with Clay Matthews Sr., the family began its NFL lineage in the 1950s, as Clay was a member of the San Francisco 49ers. Clay went on to have his sons Clay Jr. and Bruce make it to the NFL in the 1970s. So far, Clay Jr., has been the most accomplished of the family, recording over 1,500 tackles and 70 sacks in 19 seasons. During his career, Clay Jr. was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time All Pro team member
Clay Jr.’s son, Clay III is currently a menacing linebacker for the Green Bay Packers. After a robust career at the University of Southern California, Clay III was drafted in 2009 by the Packers and has already made the Pro Bowl four times. He has also won Defensive Player of the Year in 2010 and won the Super Bowl with the team that same season.
Clay Jr. has another son, Casey Matthews, who many people seem to forget about. The youngest of the Matthews playing in the NFL, Casey was drafted out of Oregon in the 2011 draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. He has yet to make an impact as big as his older brother’s, but he is certainly no slouch either. During his senior season at Oregon, Casey was named the Ducks Most Outstanding Player, in addition to being named to the first team All-Pac 10 and Second team All-American.
4. Howie, Chris, Kyle Long – Estimated Net Worth: $22 Million
If the name Howie Long sounds familiar, it should. Not only is he a member of the NFL Hall of Fame, but he is also a commentator on FOX NFL Countdown and a former RadioShack commercial figurehead. After 12 seasons in the league with the Oakland Raiders, Long retired and was inducted into the HOF in 2000. In his 12 seasons, he was an eight-time Pro Bowler and was named to numerous All Pro teams.
Howie’s son Chris Long was the number two overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams out of the University of Virginia. He had a decorated career as a Cavalier and was named to the NFL All-Rookie team in 2008. Chris’ younger brother Kyle was drafted by the Chicago Bears with the 20th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft out of the University of Oregon. He made the Pro Bowl in 2013 and was also named to the All-Rookie team. The Long family is known for the fierce competitiveness they each display on the field, which played out during the “Long Bowl” in November of last season when the Bears and Rams faced off. During the game, Chris shoved his brother Kyle out of the way in an attempt to get him out of an on-field scuffle while playing in St. Louis.
3. Bob and Brian Griese – Estimated Net Worth: $28 Million
The final father-son combination on our list is from the Griese family, which has one Hall of Fame member to boast about. The Miami Dolphins with the fourth overall pick drafted Bob Griese in 1967. As a Dolphin, Griese threw for over 25,000 yards and 192 touchdowns in 14 seasons. Among his long list of achievements, Griese was a two-time Super Bowl Champion, two-time NFL MVP, had his #12 jersey retired by the Dolphins organization, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990. After his career, Griese went on to do sports broadcasting for NBC and ESPN; he is currently a radio broadcaster for the Miami Dolphins football network.
Bob’s son, Brian, was a little less fortunate in his short lived NFL career. Drafted in the third round of the 1998 NFL Draft, Brian spent most of his time in Denver behind Hall of Famer John Elway. After coming out of Elway’s shadow in 1999, Brian made the Pro Bowl in 2000 and consistently completed a high percentage of passes. He was unable to sustain any success due to injury and he bounced around the league up until his retirement in 2008. Brian is currently a broadcaster for ESPN and stays busy with his foundation, Judi’s House, in honor of his late mother who died from breast cancer while he was just 12 years old.
2. Don, Dan, Mike Shula – Estimated Net Worth: $35 Million
This next family has one of the most prominent names in football to date. The eldest Shula, Don, is most known for his 30+ years of coaching experience with the Detroit Lions, Baltimore Colts, and Miami Dolphins. As the head coach of the Dolphins, Don won five AFC championships and two Super Bowls. He was also named Coach of the Year six times and inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997.
Don’s son, Mike Shula, followed in the steps of his legend father and became a coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1988 as an offensive assistant. Since then, Don has bounced around the league with the Dolphins, Bears, Jaguars, and Panthers at various positions. He was also the coach of the University of Alabama from 2003-2006. Mike Shula’s son Dan is currently the Assistant Coach/WR Coach at Florida Atlantic University. After working as a Grad Assistant for the University of Miami and Alabama, Dan went to Illinois State and finally FAU. If he is anything like his father or grandfather, he will be a student of the game for the remainder of his career and may have the more promising career between his father and himself.
1. Peyton, Eli, Archie Manning – Estimated Net Worth: $185 Million
Similar to the Long family, the Manning patriarch, Archie, started his family’s football heritage while playing in the NFL during the 1970s. As the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, Houston Oilers, and Minnesota Vikings, Archie never really had a lot of success in the NFL, although he did manage to make it to the Pro Bowl in 1978 and 1979. His love for the game was passed down to all three of his sons, with Peyton Manning being the first one to make it to the NFL.
In 2013, Peyton came off a record-breaking season and led the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl, eventually losing to the Seattle Seahawks. Peyton is arguably the greatest quarterback of this generation, if not all time. He is a 13-time Pro Bowler and has won several MVP, Player of the Year, and Offensive Player of the Year Awards.
Peyton’s younger brother, Eli, clearly has a lot to live up to, even though he already has more Super Bowl rings than his future Hall of Fame brother. Eli is a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl MVP, something Peyton has yet to been able to claim. While he may not have as many records and stats to show for his career as Peyton does, Eli is one little brother you do not want to forget when giving out accolades.