Asking someone about the best NFL coach of all time can feel akin to asking someone about their favorite child. After all, everyone has different criteria. From Super Bowls to overall consistency, the things that make a coach the best are as vast as the paths to victory. Despite this, the top 10 NFL coaches of all time stand out based on the entire package they offer.
The NFL winningest coaches list
Pro-Football-Reference’s list of the winningest NFL coaches shows the different paths that coaches forge to greatness. Don Shula made a habit of dominating the competition en-route to an NFL record of 328 wins. While he only won two Super Bowls, any coach who lasts 30-plus years on a single roster has something to teach players.
George Halas amassed 318 wins, nine pre-Super Bowl championships, and a lifetime of memories during his off-and-on journey with the Chicago Bears. On the other hand, Tom Landry guided the Dallas Cowboys to their place as America’s Team during a three-decade run as head coach before a new owner, Jerry Jones, fired him as soon as he bought the team.
Curly Lambeau became the namesake for one of the most famous stadiums in sports after coaching the Green Bay Packers to over 200 wins and six championships from 1919 to 1949. While he later tried with two other teams, he’s now as synonymous with the Packers as the Lambeau Leap and Vince Lombardi. He retired with 226 wins.
However, wins and losses only mean so much, and winning only tells part of the story in the NFL.
The top 10 NFL coaches of all time
As Sportsnaut’s list of the 20 greatest implies, several dozen coaches in NFL history have a stake in the top 10 list, and it’s hard to find a definitive version. However, these 10 coaches, all Hall of Famers or future Hall of Famers, have the best chance at the title. (One obvious name reigns supreme above the rest.)
10. Andy Reid: Reid’s 2020 Super Bowl win may have elevated him into the top 10. After all, the lone knock on him was always his inability to get there. He’s sure to be a first-round Hall of Famer when he finally retires.
9. John Madden: Madden made the Los Angeles Raiders the talk of the town in the ’80s. While he only has one ring, his Hall of Fame impact on the squad can still be felt today.
8. Paul Brown: The Brown’s namesake founded a team and named them after him en-route to three championships and 10-straight championship games in 25 years.
7. Jimmy Johnson: An heir apparent to Tom Landry, Johnson is as famous for Jones giving him the boot as he is for kicking off the late-’80s success after jumping over from the college ranks.
6. Curly Lambeau: Lombardi often gets credited for creating the Packers’ culture, but it would not have been there without Lambeau’s reign.
5. Tom Landry: To this day, Landry is synonymous with the Dallas Cowboys. While other coaches may have done more in terms of wins and losses, his decades with the team live on nearly 30 years after his unceremonious departure.
4. Bill Walsh: The face of one of the greatest offenses ever, fans will remember Walsh for his Hall of Fame career with the San Francisco 49ers.
3. Don Shula: The only coach to lead his team to a perfect season, Shula spent three decades with the Miami Dolphins. While some of his teams were as embarrassing as the perfect team was impressive, Shula helped reshape the sport.
2. Vince Lombardi: Lombardi is patient zero when it comes to measuring greatness with Super Bowls. He may be the trophy’s namesake after winning it two times, but he also won five championships in the lead-up to the NFL merger.
Who is the greatest NFL coach ever?
Is there any question here? It’s Belichick. Yes, Tom Brady had a part in this, but Belichick and company brought him on board and allowed him to become the greatest quarterback of all time. The 69-year-old has six Super Bowl rings and will undoubtedly headline whatever Hall of Fame class he’s eligible for.
Perhaps, Belichick isn’t the most fundamental X-and-O guy on the sideline. Perhaps, his system worked for a team that happened to have the roster of talent to justify his quirks. Luck plays a vital role in the NFL, and Belichick’s luck and skill got him to the top. However long he’s along for the ride, he could only bolster his legacy if he reaches the Super Bowl without the quarterback who forged a mutually beneficial relationship.