When you think of the NFL
or professional football, it’s easy to default to the players. More often than not, it all leads to the quarterback. However, there’s always a head coach in the mix that’s deserving of credit as well.
Coaches are essential to all sports. With every legendary NBA championship team, there’s a coach who staked their claim into the list of best NBA coaches in history
. The same is also true in the NFL.
Today, we take a look at some coaches who were fundamental to their NFL team’s aspirations and goals.
5. Tom Landry (NFL: New York Giants/Dallas Cowboys)
This pick may be firing off as controversial to some. Tom Landry will usually not have anyone calling him out as a terrible coach. However, this is the only selection up to debate in our list, with Landry settling in this spot.
In a subjective view, Landry’s innovation and solid defense he instilled in his teams are something to seriously consider. Moreover, the statistical nerds find it incredibly difficult to knock him too much.
His winning percentage of 60.1% ranks quite high among NFL coaches. Moreover, it’s ranked fourth overall. He also has an achievement of twenty straight winning seasons, a task never achieved since.
In his coaching tenure, he would win 13 divisional titles and two Super Bowl rings.
Some additional tidbits
: Landry was an airman during World War II. He would play pro football as a punter for six years, five with the New York Giants. He would receive All-Pro honors once, and he made an appearance in the 1954 Pro Bowl. His first championship win was with the Giants in 1966, where he was the defensive coordinator.
4. Don Shula (NFL: Baltimore Colts/Miami Dolphins)
Many people rank Don Shula much higher than fourth on their lists. However, despite his amazing record, there should’ve been a few more pieces of silverware in his trophy cabinet.
This is not a dig on Shula; his impeccable record stands up to the very best with 347 wins. This includes 328 wins in the regular season. This, to date, has Shula the winningest in NFL history.
A 1951 alum from John Carroll University, Shula would play in the NFL for seven seasons between the Cleveland Browns, the former Baltimore Colts, and the now-former Washington Redskins.
Shula would get his first NFL head coach stint in 1963 with the Colts. He would leave Baltimore in 1969 with a 71-23-4 record. This includes an upsetting 2-3 postseason record. Two of those losses were the 1964 NFL Championship game and Super Bowl III in 1969. In those two games, the Colts were heavy favorites by Vegas and by the news media.
Shula would start his 26-year tenure with the Dolphins in 1970. Despite many playoff appearances, Shula and the Dolphins would lose three of their five appearances in the Super Bowl. Their only Super Bowl wins came back-to-back in 1972 and 1973.
Shula would pass away
earlier this year.
3. Paul Brown (AAFC/NFL: Cleveland Browns; AFL/NFL: Cincinnati Bengals)
It’s not very often when a team’s namesake or a stadium is named after you. I mean, how bad is it?
That would be the case for Paul Brown, who founded the Cleveland Browns in 1946.
Brown’s founding of the Browns and history as inaugural coach
The Browns was not an NFL original team at the time. For four seasons, the Browns were part of the All-American Football Conference (AAFC). At the same time, the team would be the recipient of four consecutive AAFC titles.
When the Browns joined the NFL, the AAFC would collapse. Brown’s tenure in the league would finish at 52-4-3.
They would win the NFL Championship in their inaugural season. The team would make six more championship games, only winning back-to-back in 1954 and 1955.
However, that would not last. A rift between the Browns players and owner Art Modell would result in his ouster in January 1963. Brown’s record would end at 115-49-5. To date, Brown remains the winningest coach in franchise history.
Brown heads to Cincinnati as an investor and inaugural coach of the Bengals
Brown would become an investor in a new team in the American Football League, the Cincinnati Bengals. His stake would result in becoming a general manager. He would also earn the role of head coach.
The team would exist under its current structure for two years, finishing 7-20-1 in its first two seasons. However, the NFL and AFL would merge in 1970.
Brown would coach the Bengals for six seasons in the new league and renamed American Football Conference. He would make the playoffs three times but would fall short.
Brown would retire from coaching in 1975 with a 48-39 record with the NFL Bengals. Overall, his Bengals tenure would end at 55-59-1, the fourth winningest record in franchise history.
His lifetime record would be 222-112-9.
Brown’s legendary status remains intact today
His namesake still remains in Cleveland. His name is on the home of the Bengals, Paul Brown Stadium. His name is also on a high school football stadium in Massillon, Ohio, where he first coached.
If his influence on the field isn’t enough for you, then perhaps his off-field contributions help to convince you with the man playing a big role in the evolution of the sport we all love today.
2. Vince Lombardi (NFL: Green Bay Packers)
Without a doubt, Vince Lombardi
was going to make an appearance in this list. The question in fact was how high?
Lombardi is known for his legendary status with the Green Bay Packers. Despite being snatched away from the game too early, his record remains mightily impressive. His passing would unfortunately prevent the Packers from repeated success against the now-former Washington Redskins.
In the 136 games coached in his NFL career, he would rack up an impressive 74% winning record. He would additionally conquer the NFL, winning three NFL Championships and the first two Super Bowl
It is his namesake that is embedded into the NFL Championship, the treasured Lombardi Trophy.
1. Bill Belichick (NFL: New England Patriots)
Arguments continue to this day regarding who is the best coach in history. In this case, we refuse to debate whether Bill Belichick is the best head coach in the NFL of all time.
The numbers speak for themselves — otherwise, critics would be considered haters of the New England Patriots.
Belichick has 278 career regular-season wins out of 411. He has not had a ‘losing’ season since 2000, his first year in New England. The Patriots have a 31-12 postseason record.
Throw in seventeen divisional titles to his name with nine Super Bowl appearances. Of those appearances, the Patriots would win six.
The prosecution and defense rest their cases: he is the GOAT when it comes to NFL head coaches.
You’re more than welcome to disagree. Who are we missing in this countdown? Who deserves more recognition than they’re receiving? Let us know in the comments below.