Since Phil Estes became head coach of the Bears in 1998, his Brown football teams have captured three Ivy League titles (1999, 2005, 2008), finished second four times, third five times, and overall have finished in the top half of the Ivy League in 16 of his 19 seasons, while compiling an impressive 76-57 Ivy mark (.579), 112-77 (.603) overall.
Estes' 76 career Ivy League wins are the most ever at Brown and rank sixth in the Ivy League record book, while his 112 career wins overall rank 10th all-time in the Ivy League. Estes' 189 career games coached at Brown are ninth in Ivy football history.
Estes may very well be the greatest coach in Brown football history with three Ivy League Championships in his tenure as head coach of the Bears. Prior to his arrival on College Hill, Brown had earned one Ivy League Championship in the previous 42 years of Ivy League competition.
Estes, the 19th head coach in Brown history, is the second winningist coach in Brown football history, guiding the Brown football program to an unprecedented level of success, winning three Ivy League Championship, including Brown’s first ever Ivy outright title in 2005. He has also coached and recruited Brown’s only four Ivy League Players of the Year – Sean Morey ‘99, James Perry ’00, Nick Hartigan ’06 and Buddy Farnham '10.
In the 19 years Estes has coached on the East Side, five of his players have gone on to win Super Bowl rings. The select fraternity includes James Develin of the New England Patriots (2015,2017), two-time winner Zak DeOssie of the New York Giants (2008, 2012), the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Sean Morey (2006) and New England Patriots’ Drew Inzer (2001) and Chas Gessner (2003).
Since the Ivy League was formed in 1956, only two Brown teams have won nine or more games in a season, both teams coached by Estes, in 2005 (9-1) and 1999 (9-1). Prior to Ivy League play, Brown teams won nine or more games just once before, in 1894 (10-5).
Estes has also earned 50 wins faster than any coach in Brown history, taking 78 games to get to the half-century mark. It took coach John Anderson 79 games to reach 50 victories from 1973 through 1982. Edward North Robinson coached 84 games for the Bears before reaching 50 wins from 1898-01 and 1904-1907.
In 2008, Estes was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award as the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS/ I-AA) National Coach of the Year for the third time in his career. He guided the Bears to a 6-1 Ivy League mark, equaling the most Ivy wins ever for a Brown team. His Ivy League Championship squad featured a Brown record 15 All-Ivy players, including eight first team All-Ivy selections. Estes was also honored by the Rhode Island Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame for his “Contribution to Amateur Football."
In 2005, Estes was named the New England Coach of the Year and a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award as the nation’s top coach, following Brown’s remarkable season where his team posted a 9-1 overall record, including a 6-1 Ivy mark, winning their last eight games to earn the Ivy title outright. Brown also earned its highest national ranking ever, being ranked 15th in the final Sports Network poll. Overall, 15 Brown players earned All-Ivy honors that season as the Bears led the Ivy League and ranked 10th nationally in scoring offense with 36.8 points per game.
Estes has also coached the most storied running back in Brown football history, Hartigan, the leading rusher in Brown football history (4,492 yards), who was also a final-three Walter Payton Award Finalist, the 2005 Ivy Player of the Year, the ECAC Player of the Year, the New England Senior Player of the Year, an NCAA Top VIII Award Winner, the National Academic All-American of the Year, a first team All-American (Walter Camp, AP, Sports Network, AFCA), and holder of three Ivy League records, including new marks for career rushing touchdowns (52), career points (324), and career touchdowns (54). He also played in the East-West Shrine Game.
Estes has always been known as an offensive guru, with his teams reaching the 1,000 point scoring mark faster than any coach in Ivy League football history, scoring 1,022 points in his first 32 games as head coach of the Bears, while averaging 31.9 points per game. Estes’ 2000 team set an Ivy League record with 375 points, averaging 37.5 points per game.
Quarterbacks, wide receivers and runningbacks have reaped the rewards of Estes’ successful offense, spinning off three Walter Payton Award finalists, several All-Americans, national record holders, annual NCAA receiving champions, and an NCAA rushing champion.
Among his many All-Americans and record setters are Perry, the Ivy League’s all-time leading passer with 9,284 career passing yards, and a Walter Payton Award finalist. All-American wide receiver Stephen Campbell ‘01, a Walter Payton Award finalist, who set an NCAA record with 120 catches in 2000. All-American wide-out Chas Gessner ’03 finished 6th in the Walter Payton Award balloting in 2002, and led the nation in receiving. All-American RB Mike Malan ’02, finished his career as Brown’s all-time leading rusher twice running for 1,000 or more yards. Quarterback Kyle Slager ’04 took over the Bears offense and tied the NCAA record with 25 consecutive completions against Rhode Island in 2002. Hartigan provided the icing on the cake by placing among the top three of all Payton candidates, the highest finish ever for an Ivy League player.
And let’s not forget two-time All-Pro linebacker Zak DeOssie on the defensive side of the ball, a Buck Buchanan Award finalist for the Bears and a linebacker and long snapper for the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. James Develin '10 was a standout defensive end for Estes, who started at fullback for the 2014 New England Patriots Super Bowl Champion team.
Versatility is the key to Estes’ offense, with the term “Receiver U.” being attached to the program for his first six years. But while the Bears were known for their vaunted passing game, Estes also produced two All-American runningbacks – Hartigan and Michael Malan ’02 - who have turned in the top five single-season rushing performances in Brown football history.
Estes helped the Class of 2001 to become the most successful class in Brown football history, compiling a 30-10 mark, besting the 28 wins won by Brown teams from 1894 to 1897, and 1996 to 1999. The Brown Class of 2002 was just behind, posting a 29-10 four-year mark.
A finalist in 1999 for the Eddie Robinson Award, presented annually to the top coach in NCAA I-AA, Estes guided 1999 Bears to their second-ever Ivy League Championship and first title since 1976, leading the Bears to a 9-1 record and 6-1 Ivy mark, and posting the most wins for a Brown team since the 1926 Iron Men (9-0-1). Estes' squad finished the season with a seven-game winning streak, capturing 15 of its last 16 games over two years, and finishing with a 25th place national ranking.
Brown's 1999 team also set six team and 12 individual records, including team marks for most points in a season (324), touchdown passes in a season (27), single-season passing completion percentage (66.2% - 469 of 310), single game pass completions (42 vs. Princeton), first downs in a season (252), and average gain per play (5.9). Estes was also instrumental in developing Perry '00, the 1999 Ivy League Player of the Year, who finished his career as the finest passer in Ivy League football history, walking away with 10 Ivy League passing records and 18 Brown football records.
In his first season as head coach of the Bears, Brown finished with a 7-3 overall mark, winning its last six games, Brown's longest winning streak since 1949. The Bears also posted a 5-2 Ivy League mark, good for second place in the Ivy League standings, and the most Ivy wins at Brown since 1987.
In 1998, Estes' Brown team defeated league champion Penn, 58-51, in the highest scoring game in Ivy League football history. In addition, Brown's 1998 offense established 25 team or individual records, and five Ivy League team or individual marks. Among the Brown records set were passing yards in a season (3,316), first downs (240), pass completions (292), touchdown passes (26), and passing yards in a game (483 vs. Penn).
Estes was Brown's highly successful recruiting coordinator from 1994 to 1997, coaching the Bears' receivers in 1997 after three years as running backs coach. He was instrumental in bringing many of the talented athletes into the program, who have been the cornerstone of the program's success. One of Estes' protege's, Zach Burns '99, went on to become a first team Associated Press I-AA All-American, the first Brown player to ever earn AP first team honors. Burns also earned a berth in the Blue-Gray Senior All-Star game and was an ESPN/USA Today first team All-American.
As receivers coach in 1997, Estes helped develop Morey, the Special Teams Captain of the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, into the nation's premier wide receiver. After two solid seasons, Morey took a quantum leap into being named the Ivy League's 1997 Player of the Year. In 1997, Morey led the nation in receiving (143.4 yards a game) and set single game Brown records for yards (221 vs. Cornell) and TD receptions (3). He also shattered the Brown and Ivy League record books with 15 touchdown receptions, and 1,434 receiving yards, 6th best in NCAA I-AA history. In 1998, Morey became the first athlete in Brown history to have his number retired. He competed in the Hula Bowl, and finished his career with five Ivy League and 11 Brown individual records.
In three years as running backs coach, Estes helped guide Marquis Jessie '97,then Brown's all-time career rusher, to 910 yards in 1996, the second best rushing performance in Brown history. Jessie's 3,098 career yards was 6th best in Ivy League football history.
Estes arrived at Brown in 1994 after three highly successful years as the offensive coordinator at the University of New Hampshire. During his tenure at New Hampshire, Estes developed the Wildcats into an offensive power. His offense ranked in the top three in the Yankee Conference in total offense from 1991 to 1993. As offensive coordinator in 1991, Estes was instrumental in leading the Wildcats to their first ever appearance in the NCAA I-AA Playoffs and the Yankee Conference Championship.
Estes began his collegiate coaching career as offensive line coach at the University of New Hampshire in 1984 after a successful two-year stint at Concord (NH) High School. While at New Hampshire, Estes worked with former Brown coach Mark Whipple, who was offensive coordinator for two years, from 1986-1987. Estes also developed several All-Americans at UNH, including first team Kodak All-American John Driscoll, who was drafted by the Buffalo Bills, and two-time All-American Barry Bourassa, who led the nation in all-purpose running in 1991.
Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Estes grew up in Laconia, NH. An offensive and defensive tackle at Laconia High School, Estes was team captain and Athlete of the Year as a senior. He is a member of the Laconia High School Hall of Fame. A 1980 graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Estes was a three-year starter and team captain for the Wildcats. He was a first team All-New England and Yankee Conference selection as a senior and played for the Wildcats' 1976 Yankee Conference Championship team.
He and his wife, Katie, reside in East Greenwich, Rhode Island with their two daughters, Meaghan and Kelly, and their son, Brett '18, who plays for the Brown football team.
Phil Estes' Career Coaching Record:
Year School Overall Record Ivy League Record
1998 Brown 7-3 5-2 (Second)
1999 Brown 9-1 6-1 (First) Ivy League Champions
2000 Brown 7-3 4-3 (Third)
2001 Brown 6-3 5-2 (Third)
2002 Brown 2-8 2-5 (Sixth)
2003 Brown 5-5 4-3 (Second)
2004 Brown 6-4 3-4 (Fourth)
2005 Brown 9-1 6-1 (First) Ivy League Champions
2006 Brown 3-6 2-5 (Sixth)
2007 Brown 5-5 4-3 (Third)
2008 Brown 7-3 6-1 (First) Ivy League Champions
2009 Brown 6-4 4-3 (Third)
2010 Brown 6-4 5-2 (Second)
2011 Brown 7-3 4-3 (Second)
2012 Brown 7-3 4-3 (Third)
2013 Brown 6-4 3-4 (Fourth)
2014 Brown 5-5 3-4 (Fifth)
2015 Brown 5-5 3-4 (Fourth)
2016 Brown 4-6 3-4 (Fourth)
All-Time Brown Coaching Wins:
E.N. Robinson 24 seasons (1898-01, 1904-07, 1910-25) 140-82-12
Phil Estes 19 seasons (1998-2015) 112-77
D.O. McLaughry 15 seasons (1926-40) 76-58-5
John Anderson 11 seasons (1973-83) 60-39-3
Estes In The Ivy League
3 Ivy Championships
4 Second Place Finishes
5 Third Place Finishes
4 Fourth Place Finishes