Allie Sherman, who will be remembered as much for the sing-songy end of his coaching career with the Giants as the three straight NFL Championship Games he reached at its beginning, died Saturday in Manhattan. The two-time NFL Coach of the Year, and one of only four men to have coached the Giants for eight or more seasons, was 91.
"Allie was a great coach and an even better man,'' Giants president and CEO John Mara said yesterday. "He was a special friend, and I will miss him dearly.''
Sherman coached some of the greatest Giants ever, including Hall of Famers Frank Gifford, Rosie Brown and Y.A. Tittle. He was, in today's parlance, a players' coach.
"Allie was a friend of mine,'' Gifford said. "There were a lot of times after practice when we were in Yankee Stadium and he would come over if I wasn't looking like I was happy. He wanted to know what was wrong. He would pull up his little stool, we'd sit down and we'd talk. He was a coach and a friend. Coaching was a different kind of role in his life.''
Sherman joined the Giants in 1949 as a backfield coach and spent five seasons on Steve Owen's staff. In 1957, after three years as coach of Winnipeg in the CFL, Sherman returned to the Giants as a scout. Two years later, he was named offensive coordinator when theirs was hired to coach the Packers.
"Can you imagine being the person hired to replace Vince Lombardi on a coaching staff in 1959?'' Giants chairman and executive VP Steve Tisch said. "Allie did it, and he did it well.''
In 1961, Sherman replaced Jim Lee Howell as coach of the Giants. They improved from 6-4-2 to 10-3-1 in Sherman's first season, but they lost the championship to Lombardi's Packers in Green Bay, 37-0. In 1962, the Giants won the Eastern Conference by three games with a 12-2 record, but they again fell to the Packers in the title game, this time at bitterly cold Yankee Stadium, 16-7. Sherman led the Giants to their third straight conference title in 1963. They lost to the Bears in the title game at Wrigley Field, 14-10.
That was his last year with a winning record. He finished his career after the 1968 season with a regular-season mark of 57-51-4 (.527).
During that final campaign, when the Giants went 7-7 after a 4-0 start, fans would serenade him and the team by derisively singing "Goodbye, Allie!'' and calling for his firing. Long before there was firejohnidzik.com and other outlets for frustrated fans to voice their dissatisfaction, Sherman was one of the first coaches -- and perhaps the only one in Giants history -- to be fired based as much on public sentiment as performance.
"He wanted to succeed and he did,'' Gifford said. "He did a great job as far as I'm concerned.''
Sherman found success after leaving the Giants. He was a popular football broadcaster, a pioneer in developing pay-per-view sporting events and cable-based sports programming, and oversaw the revitalization of New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation as its president.
Sherman was born Feb. 10, 1923, in Brooklyn to Russian immigrants. He was a quarterback at Brooklyn College and played quarterback and defensive back in the NFL from 1943-47.
He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Joan, a son, Randy, daughters Lori Sherman and Robin Klausner and two grandchildren. He is a member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame on Long Island and the Brooklyn College Hall of Fame.
A private, family funeral will be held.