Honor the Heroes of the Game, Preserve Its History, Promote Its Values & Celebrate Excellence Everywhere
"Teaching and coaching football has been my life for a long time. If I can be instrumental in the development of even one boy that satisfaction is my reward.”
(Phillips University)...Stephen Joseph Owen. . .Great defensive star of the 1920s. . .Captained Giants' 1927 title team which held foe to record low 20 points. . .Coached Giants 24 seasons from 1930 to 1953. . .Coaching record: 155-108-17, eight divisional, two NFL title teams. . .A-formation offense, umbrella defense, two-platoon system among his many coaching innovations . . . Born April 21, 1898, at Cleo Springs, Oklahoma. . .Died May 17, 1964, at age of 66.
To call Steve Owen a pioneer is not an overstatement. The sturdy tackle and head coach was born in Oklahoma before it was a state – it was still a territory in 1898. From little Phillips, a small Oklahoma college, Steve began his pro football career in 1924 with the Kansas City Blues (later Cowboys), a traveling team that played all their games on the road.
After a brief stay with the Cleveland Bulldogs, he was sold to the New York Giants in 1926 for $500. Owen played seven seasons with the Giants, 1926-1931 and 1933. In 1930, he was both a player and the team’s co-coach. Although he continued to play, he was named the sole head coach in 1931.
Then, in 1933, he stopped playing and devoted all his efforts to coaching. Owen and the Mara family, who owned the Giants never had a contract. He coached 24 seasons, 1930-1953, on just a handshake. Stout Steve Owen believed in basic fundamental football, and he was successful with his basic style. His real strength was in coaching defense.
Under his tutelage, the Giants played in eight of the first 14 championship games of the National Football League. The team’s victory in the 1934 “Sneakers Game” is well documented. He coached the Giants to another title in 1938. He originated the “umbrella defense” – the secondary was likened to an umbrella with four deep defensive backs representing the umbrella’s spokes.
The spokes include future Hall of Famers Emlen Tunnell and Tom Landry. He successfully used this defense to contain the powerful pass-oriented Cleveland Browns when they joined the NFL in 1950. Owen left the Giants following the 1953 season, but before he did he developed some of the greatest players and toughest teams in history. His 155 career victories attest to his success.
Steve Owen Enshrinement Speech 1966
Presenter: Mel Hein
Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen, I'm very pleased to be here today to present this award to my old teammate, and good friend Jim Lee Howell who is accepting for our very beloved, former Giants football coach, Steve Owen. I probably knew Steve better than any former New York Giant football player for two reasons; I played longer than any Giant player, and my first year as a player was Steve Owen's last year as a player and I got to know Steve Owen not only as a great coach, but a great man in every respect. In describing Steve you might say that very few of our first year men on the Giants team got to know Steve very well he was he was a task master and rode herd on the first year men pretty good, until they proved that they were the type of player that he wanted on his New York Giant football squad. The older boys got to know Steve as a great coach - a man that they would play their heart out for. Steve was very human in every respect. He was a kindly man, he had a heart of gold, he would do anything to slow down to help his football players and believe me we respected him. We have very fond memories of Steve. I know that his wife Mrs. Owen is sitting here in the front row, and his brother Bill Owen sitting down here are very proud of Steve this day receiving this honor, and I feel it to be an honor just to be here in this ceremony that's honoring Steve Owen and I also know that Jim Lee Howell does too. So, Jim, if you will step up here please.
Jim Lee Howell on behalf of Steve Owen
Thank you, Mel. On behalf of Steve Owen I want to thank the selection committee for picking him to this wonderful honor. I'm sure that his wife and brother Bill join me in that thanks. I'm sure that Steve, if he were here, I wish he could be here, would thank so many of his great players he had with that Giant organization like Mel, Ken Strong, Ed Denausky, Tuffy, Lemans, Tom Landry, Emlen Tunnell and you could go on and on. It was 35 years ago or more that Steve came from Oklahoma to New York and captured the hearts of the people there. He won a hundred and fifty games, he had only one assistant for most of this time and he can take the full credit for all of those victories. I won't burden you with statistics, but they were great games with the Bears, the Packers, the Redskins and later here in Ohio with the Browns. It is entirely fitting that he should be so honored here at this time. Wellington Mara, the president of the Giants, sends his greetings to you and is sorry that he couldn't be here today. I want to say in my own heart that it was a real pleasure and a privilege to know Steve to play under him and to coach for him. Less we forget that 1953, his last year, which has been some time, but the defense that is used as a center defense in all tl1e pro football leagues today by nearly all of the teams is the defensive setup, that Steve introduced several years ago. There's just one little human incident I want to bring to your attention. We were playing the Browns in one of the crucial games and his team had been very stingy in giving up touchdowns to the Browns and here this particular day just before we went in for the half, one of the boys that is now one of the leading coaches in the country, led the kickoff, rolled down to the goal line where it was recovered by the Browns, they scored and we went in at the half. In came this huge 300lb. man and we thought here he would tear this young fell a apart. He walked up to him looked him in his eye and then bent over him and put his arms around him and said "Jimmy, we'll get that one back for you.'' That is a great coach and I want to thank you in his behalf. Thank you very much.