NFL Analysis

7/10/24

6 min read

Ranking The top 10 NFL Head Coaches Of All-Time

Feb 4, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick speaks flanked by the Vince Lombardi trophy during Super Bowl LIII winning team press conference at Georgia World Congress Center. The Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 to win an NFL record-tying sixth championship Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time since 1999, Bill Belichick will not be a head coach on an NFL sideline. One of the greatest head coaches of all time will not be directly involved with the game.

With that legacy in mind, let’s rank the top 10 coaches of all time, starting with an active coach building his own dynasty.

Patrick Mahomes Andy Reid

10. Andy Reid

After back-to-back Super Bowl wins over the past two seasons, Reid became the fifth coach to win at least three Super Bowls. He’s currently fourth in all-time wins with 283. No coach has more playoff berths than Reid’s 19 while only Bill Belichick and Don Shula have more conference championship wins.

Reid has been one of the best offensive minds in the game for more than two decades, a run that has spanned multiple teams, offensive philosophies, and quarterbacks. 

9. Paul Brown

Brown was the co-founder and first coach for the Cleveland Browns and later co-founded the Cincinnati Bengals. He was a success on the field with the Browns winning four consecutive AAFC titles before joining the NFL in 1950. The Browns won the NFL championship in their debut season and then back-to-back titles in 1954 and 1955.

Much of Brown’s legacy comes from modernizing how coaches did their jobs off the field. Brown had a full-time staff of assistants, more organized practices, and a scouting system for college players. 

8. Joe Gibbs

Gibbs has one fewer career win than John Harbaugh over the same number of seasons, but that completely undersells the impact he had as Washington’s coach. During his first 12-year run with Washington, his teams finished with fewer than eight wins just once, a 7-9 season in 1988, and that includes an 8-1 record in the strike-shortened 1982 season.

Gibbs led teams to the playoffs nine times with four Super Bowl appearances and three wins. Despite being a Don Coryell pupil and building up an explosive passing game as San Diego’s offensive coordinator, Gibbs’s Washington teams were built through the offensive line and dominant ground game. He’s the only head coach to win a Super Bowl with three different quarterbacks.

7. Tom Landry

Landry was the first coach of the Dallas Cowboys and held that job for 29 years. He’s fifth in all-time wins and fourth with 18 playoff berths. Dallas had 20 consecutive winning seasons from 1966 to 1985, a span that included five Super Bowl appearances and two wins.

On top of winning a ton of games, Landry innovated the flex defense, which was designed to slow down Vince Lombardi’s offense, as well as the shotgun offense. 

6. Chuck Noll

The Pittsburgh Steelers had one playoff appearance in franchise history before Noll took over in 1969. He went 1-13 in his first season but shortly turned the Steelers into one of the model franchises in the NFL and one of the top dynasties. Pittsburgh won four Super Bowls in six seasons.

Noll, a linebacker who played under Paul Brown in Cleveland, oversaw the Steel Curtain defense, which included multiple Hall of Famers. Noll’s ability to stabilize the Steelers is still felt today with the franchise only hiring two more head coaches — Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin — since. 

Unknown date; Los Angeles, CA, USA; FILE PHOTO; Chicago Bears head coach George Halas on the sideline against the Los Angeles rams at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Darryl Norenberg-USA TODAY Sports

5. George Halas

Halas played and coached while running the Bears’ business operations and became the sole owner in 1932. He’s third all-time in wins across four different coaching stints totaling 40 seasons. Under Halas’s coaching, the Bears won five NFL championships and one APFA championship before the NFL.

On the field, Halas helped invent the T-formation offense. Off the field, his legacy includes being the first to hold daily practice sessions, watching film to study opponents, and putting assistant coaches up in the press box for a better view on gameday. 

4. Don Shula

No coach has won more games than Don Shula, including the perfect 1972 Dolphins season that remains unmatched. Over a 33-year career as a head coach, Shula had only two losing seasons, including six Super Bowl appearances and two wins.

Shula helped bring the 3-4 defense to the NFL from college and was adaptive on offense depending on the available personnel, creating an explosive passing offense with Johnny Unitas and Dan Marino and relying on the run game when a quarterback of that caliber was not available. 

3. Bill Walsh

Walsh created the West Coast offense and his offensive innovations are still felt today. There might not be a more impactful coach for modern offenses, with pieces of his philosophy still creeping into offenses in 2024.

His impact on the game heavily weights his legacy since his actual time coaching only spanned 10 seasons. Walsh only coached 166 games and won 102, including the playoffs. But in that time, Walsh’s 49ers won three Super Bowls and made the playoffs seven times. 

2. Vince Lombardi

Like Walsh, Lombardi’s legacy also overshadows a relatively short coaching career that lasted 10 seasons, nine in Green Bay. Yet during his tenure, the Green Bay Packers won five NFL championships including the first two Super Bowls. Before Lombardi took over in 1959, the Packers hadn’t had a winning season since 1947.

Including the playoffs, Lombardi won 71.9 percent of the games he coached, an unmatched figure among coaches with at least 100 games. John Madden is the only other coach to win more than 70 percent of his games (70.8 percent).

Feb 3, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

1. Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick has appeared in the playoffs 19 times, the Super Bowl nine times, and won the Super Bowl six times. All three of those are records. In the playoffs with the Patriots, Belichick has a .714 winning percentage.

Belichick has been the best defensive coach and the leader in trends and innovation throughout his career, constantly getting the best out of the players available to him. Offensively, the Patriots also shifted from run-heavy offenses to a quarterback-led passing game as Tom Brady developed into Tom Brady.

Creating and leading a dynasty in the free agency and salary cap era is one of the most impressive feats of both team-building and coaching we’ve ever seen.


RELATED