The Greatest and Most Groundbreaking NFL Coaches of All Time

A great coach does earn his reputation by titles alone. In the history of the NFL, fans and teams have seen many coaches, but some stand out more than others. There has to be a show of strategy, organization, and commitment throughout their career, and their performances must be exceptional. These NFL coaches have made a tremendous contribution to the game and left robust legacies for their respective teams.

Top coaches in the history of the NFL include:

  • Bill Belichick: Cleveland 1991-95; New England 2000-Present
  • Vince Lombardi: Green Bay 1959-67; Washington 1969
  • Don Shula: Baltimore Colts 1963-69, Miami 1970-95
  • Bill Walsh: San Francisco 1979-88
  • Paul Brown: Cleveland Browns (AAFC) 1946-49; Cleveland 1950-62; Cincinnati 1968-75

Who are the greatest NFL coaches of all time?

The greatness of an NFL coach is verifiable using various guidelines that probe into their uniqueness and quality of coaching. Here are some of the qualities that make the list of the great coaches for most fans.

  • Discipline and perfection: Don Shula is the only permanent coach in the history of the NFL to be termed as “perfect.” The style he used with discipline on the court helped him have a record of 347 wins and get a Sportsman of the Year award in 1993.
  • Determination and heart of a victor: Vince Lombardi may have coached the Packers for only seven years, but he ensured his name remains in the books. He won three straight league championships and the first two Super Bowls ever made.
  • Teacher and innovator: Winning is not easy, and finding a teacher on the sidelines, like Paul Brown, was legendary. He revolutionized the game with his intelligence and innovation, and he was the first to use game film and administer intelligence tests. His skills sparked the revolution of the NFL to its blossoming maturity.
  • Success after success: Winning is the ultimate goal for teams in the game. Having a coach who can win is something everyone wants. Bill Belichick seems to have the right formula for winning games. After finding Tom Brady, he continues to dissect all his opponents with ease.
  • Offensive god: Any team needs to score, and finding the best coach who can innovatively reach the touchline by destroying opponents’ defense means pure greatness. Bill Walsh popularized the West Coast offense, rendering other teams helpless anytime they played. The feat built him a legacy and kept fans excited throughout his term.

Who is the most Super Bowl-winning coach?

Winning a single Super Bowl is a massive accomplishment for any coach. Therefore, winning multiple times means greatness and outstanding coaching skills. In the history of the NFL, only 13 coaches have managed to win more than one Super Bowl championship. Then comes this one coach with six Super Bowl wins: Bill Belichick.

Bill Belichick holds numerous coaching titles to his name. He has earned his 300th victory with a legendary career metric. Belichick has won six Super Bowls in nine appearances and continues to stack more wins. He is also the quickest coach to reach the 300-victory mark, making him one of the top coaches of all time.

The highest-paid NFL coach is exactly who you think

As an NFL coach, elevating your team and winning championships translates to higher rewards and more money to your name. At $12.5 million, Belichick is undoubtedly the highest-paid coach in the NFL. His success with the team makes that colossal cut from the Patriots relatable. Compared to other great coaches who have earned nearly as much money, the closest include:

  • Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks: $11 million
  • Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders: $10 million
  • Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints: $9 million
  • Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs: $7.5 million.

Most winning NFL coach of all time: Don Shula

Succeeding as an NFL coach isn’t an easy task, as it calls for much more than just coaching. Any coach has to prove his worth by leading a disciplined team that also gives the best stats. It’s no secret that Don Shula is among the most legendary NFL coaches of all time, with 347 career wins

The talented former football player helped the Indianapolis Colts turn around. Soon after joining the Dolphins in 1970, Shula led the team to more wins than ever before. It was also during his tenure that the Dolphins scooped 31 winning seasons, making him a celebrated coach like no other.

Players can attest to his strict leadership that not only ensured that the Dolphins won, but also motivated the team to do even better during their next game. Bob Griese paints a picture of who Shula was, and was quoted saying that, “When we lost, he’d give us hell on Monday, but on Tuesday, that game was history.”  

The most NFL Coach of the Year Award wins: Don Shula

Don Shula, one of the greatest NFL coaches
Don Shula, Coach of the Miami Dolphins with Al Jenkins, Guard, in the background. | Ross Lewis/Getty Images

During his tenure, Shula did an excellent job of leading the Colts, and especially the Dolphins, in recording more wins in NFL history. He’s the only coach in NFL history who has ever presided over a perfect season, and also led the Dolphins through an undefeated season. He won many awards, and has been honored as a football legend by the NFL fraternity. Even though the team occasionally lost, Shula recorded more wins with the Dolphins in the team’s history, setting a record that’s yet to be broken, as reported in the Pro Football reference.

Shula has won four AP NFL Coach of the Year Awards, and this is the highest number of awards any coach has ever won in NFL history. Three of these awards were with the Baltimore Colts, while the remaining one was with the Miami Dolphins.

In his seven seasons with the Charm City, Shula posted a remarkable record when he led the team to more wins before heading to coach the Miami Dolphins. He helped the Dolphins scale greater heights when they won two Super Bowl titles.

Additionally, the Dolphins won 257 games during the 26 seasons that Shula worked with the team. This was his biggest accomplishment, and his records cannot be easily broken, even by the current NFL coaches including Bill Belichick, whom Shula once referred to as a cheat. Shula always liked playing within the rules, and whenever anybody did contrary to his expectations, it didn’t end in praise. During an interview with the New York Daily News, he was recorded saying that “The Spygate thing has diminished what they’ve accomplished.”

Shula died at the age of 90 on May 4, 2020. At the time of his death, his net worth stood at $60 million according to Celebrity Net Worth.   

The meanest NFL coaches of all time

Even in coaching, meanness is almost unavoidable. Coaches are known to use any means just to secure a win for their teams. It can get more wild at times when a win means everything to the coach; their rage can be demeaning to both the players and the fans.

Among the many coaches that are universally disliked and believed to be mean are Bobby Knight and Bill Belichick. The duo can turn violent when provoked. At one point, Knight threw a chair on the court and also attempted to choke a player while practicing. This highlighted the extent Knight will go just to ensure that his team secures a win.

Just like Shula put it, Belichick can get nasty and unprofessional. He may be considered one of the best NFL coaches, but his cheating scandals are evidence that he is willing to do whatever it takes for his team to win. The New England head coach hardly smiles and can also use offensive language, especially when he doesn’t want to address reporters.

Groundbreaking NFL Coach: Tony Dungy

Tony Dungy is the first Black coach to win a Super Bowl in the 41 years of NFL history. Dungy made his coaching debut at the University of Minnesota in the early ’80s. He had participated in his last game with the team five years later, and then became a defensive coordinator for Pittsburgh in the mid-80s. His success as a young trainer earned him the head coach position for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at age 41 in 1996.

Dungy established a defensive team working closely with Monte Kiffin, and he raised the struggling Buccaneers onto their feet. In a little over five years, he built the team and made a record four playoffs. This same team won the Super Bowl in 2003 under a different coach.

The most notable coaching season for Dungy is his seven years with the Indianapolis Colts. It is still one of the best coaching stints many years later. He worked closely with quarterback Peyton Manning for seven years, climaxing at 85-27 and yielding record playoffs every season. The Colts managed a 7-6 run in the playoffs between their wins in early 2007. This was after defeating the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl 41. Dungy retired as a legendary coach in January 2009.

Groundbreaking NFL coach: Texas Head Coach Romeo Crennel

Romeo Crennel hit the headlines as the first Black coach for the Hilltoppers when he joined as an assistant coach in 1970 and stayed until 1974.

Crennel became the Browns’ coach in 2005 as the first non-white coach and one among only nine in the league’s history. He changed the team’s structure and led them to a 6-10 loss in the first season. In his second season of coaching in 2006, his team also lost 4-12, although their performance improved. In the third season, the team leaped to 10-6 under Crennel — a feat that earned him a two-year extension to his contract. It was not until the fourth season in 2008 that they lost again, and Crennel had his contract terminated.

Crennel is also the first Black coach for the Texans, a position he took up in 2017. Additionally, he served with Deshaun Watson, making him the first African American QB-coach combo in Texas history. Amazingly, the duo kept winning and even recovered from a 0-2 playoff push. The coaching success makes Crennel part of a select group of NFL personnel with five Super Bowl rings.

Groundbreaking NFL coach: Katie Sowers

The NFL has seen twists and growth over the years. One improvement in the league is the respect for diversity that has allowed for the evolution of social norms. Katie Sowers became the first lesbian coach in the history of the Super Bowl when she joined the Kansas City Chiefs. Sowers’ entrance followed a fantastic career as an assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers.

Sowers has been playing football since she was a little girl. She strengthened her dream of being a coach when Becky Hammon became the first woman to be a full-time assistant coach in the NBA. Hammon’s step reiterated her hope to be a coach in the NFL.

Sowers acted as a tone-setter, and her courage opened several opportunities. Being the first female coach for the 49ers, she was proud to be part of the team’s successful attempt to reach the Super Bowl for the first time in six years. Beyond setting history for the NFL leagues, she brings attention to the stigma in most male-dominated sports. Now, females dare to contribute as much as their male counterparts. Driven by a thirst for victory, Sowers is a great addition to the Chiefs.

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