Ted Cottrell
No. 51     
Personal information
Date of birth: (1947-06-13) June 13, 1947 (age 73)
Place of birth: Chester, Pennsylvania
Career information
College: Delaware Valley
NFL Draft: 1969 / Round: 7 / Pick: 164
No regular season or postseason appearances
Career history
 As player:
* Atlanta Falcons (1969–1970)
 As coach:
* Rutgers (1973–1979)
(Defensive line coach)
Career highlights and awards
Stats at

Theodore John Cottrell (born June 13, 1947) is an American football coach and former player. He was formerly the defensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings, and the San Diego Chargers in the National Football League (NFL). In 2009, he served as head coach for the New York Sentinels of the United Football League (UFL). Ten years later, he was the linebackers coach for the Birmingham Iron of the Alliance of American Football (AAF).

Playing careerEdit

Cottrell starred at Delaware Valley College from 1965 to 1968. He was a seventh-round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons in the 1969 NFL Draft and played linebacker for two seasons. He ended his career with the Canadian Football League’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers, where he played for one more year.

Coaching careerEdit

Cottrell began his coaching career at Rutgers University, where he worked as an assistant for eight years. In 1981, he got his first NFL coach job when Marv Levy hired him as linebackers coach for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Considered an innovator in the 3–4 defense, Cottrell was an assistant coach for the Buffalo Bills from 1995 to 2000, the last three seasons as defensive coordinator. From 1998 through 2000, the Bills finished no worse than sixth in the league in total defense. In 1999, the Bills led the league in total defense.

In 2001, he joined the New York Jets as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator, and operated the 4–3 scheme favored by head coach Herman Edwards. He stayed for three seasons.

In 2003, Cottrell was a finalist to become the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.[1] He ultimately lost the job to Dennis Erickson.

Cottrell then spent two seasons (2004–2005) as defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings. In 2005, the Vikings finished fifth in the NFL in takeaways and earned a postseason berth, and defeated the Green Bay Packers in a Wild Card contest. Cotrell was let go, along with Head Coach Mike Tice and the rest of his staff. Cottrell then announced his retirement.

In February 2007, he became the defensive coordinator under new Chargers head coach, Norv Turner. During the regular season, the Chargers led the NFL in takeaways (48), interceptions (30), and passing rating defense (70.0), the first time a Chargers team ever led in any of these categories. In 2008, many fans wanted Cottrell to be terminated.[citation needed] At the midpoint of the season, the team had a record of 3–5 despite having a highly effective offense. Many[weasel words] attributed this poor record to the fact that the Chargers ranked last among NFL teams in defending against the pass. Defenses led by Cottrell had similar problems in New York and Minnesota. At the midpoint of the 2008 season, the San Diego defense, generally considered to have fantastic talent,[weasel words] had gone two entire games without a quarterback sack nor a takeaway.

On October 28, 2008, Cottrell was fired from his position as San Diego's defensive coordinator.[2]

Cottrell was the head coach for the UFL's New York Sentinels in 2009.[3] After one winless season, Cottrell left the organization.

In 2018, Cottrell became the linebackers coach for the Birmingham Iron of the Alliance of American Football.[4]

Personal lifeEdit

Cottrell's son, T. J. Cottrell, played professionally for the Vikings, Chargers and Sentinels, in each case under his father as coach.

Head coaching recordEdit

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
WonLostTiesWin %Finish Won Lost Win % Result
NYS2009 060.0004th in UFL - - - -
Total060.000 - - - -


Sporting positions
Preceded by
Wade Phillips
Buffalo Bills Defensive Coordinator
Succeeded by
Jerry Gray
Preceded by
Mike Nolan
New York Jets Defensive Coordinator
Succeeded by
Donnie Henderson
Preceded by
George O'Leary
Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator
Succeeded by
Mike Tomlin
Preceded by
Wade Phillips
San Diego Chargers Defensive Coordinator
2007–October 28, 2008
Succeeded by
Ron Rivera
Preceded by
New York Sentinels Head Coach
Succeeded by
Chris Palmer (Hartford Colonials)
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