In a sport where success isn’t everything—it’s the only thing—having a tenured coach with a track record of success is vital. When a team gets a motivator of men to serve as the general of the troops, those coaches have long careers. When they don’t, their shelf life is short.
While coaches don’t throw passes or make tackles or kick field goals, their role in the success of a team can’t be underestimated. Most head coaches are hired because the team they are taking over is struggling or got stagnant under the previous coaching regime. Just as most players don’t have long careers, if a head coach doesn’t succeed consistently, the NFL stands for Not For Long.
The Hall of Fame-type coaches are the ones who can succeed with different personnel and, in some cases, different teams. Two of the all-time franchise head coaches were named for two different teams – Paul Brown and Don Coryell – but every name on this list has distinguished himself for being a leader of men. They may have taken vastly different approaches to achieve their success, but these coaches are legends for a reason—their teams won games and won championships.
Green Bay Packers VINCE LOMBARDI
Five championships in seven seasons, including an unprecedented three in a row to cap his tenure. That’s why it’s called the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
New England Patriots BILL BELICHICK
Belichick has been in the NFL for almost 40 years, and the last 15 have been brilliant. His career record in New England is 169-63. He joined the staff in 1996 and was a big reason for the Super Bowl appearance that same season.
San Francisco 49ers Bill Walsh
One of the best coaches in league history, he brought a winning attitude to the 49ers and that included three Super Bowls.
Miami Dolphins DON SHULAWas there ever any doubt? Shula led the Dolphins to two straight Super Bowls titles and is the winningest coach in NFL history (328-156).
Dallas Cowboys TOM LANDRY
The two-time Coach of the Year led the Cowboys to 250 wins, which is the third-most wins by a head coach in NFL history.
Arizona (ST. LOUIS) CARDINALS DON CORYELL
From 1973-1977, Coryell led the Cardinals to a 42-27 record and was named Coach of the Year by multiple outlets in 1974.
Atlanta Falcons Mike Smith
Led the team to consecutive winning seasons from 2008 through 2012.
John Harbaugh led the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory in 2012 season and the Ravens made the playoffs in the first six seasons of his tenure.
Buffalo Bills MARV LEVY
No other coach motivated his players better than Marv Levy and no other coach led them to the Super Bowl, much less four times.
The franchise’s winningest coach had, three playoff appearances and one Super Bowl appearance.
Chicago Bears GEORGE HALAS
Halas won eight NFL Championships during four 10-year stints as head coach of the Bears, finishing with 318 wins.
Cincinnati Bengals PAUL BROWN
The team’s first coach, he had the Bengals in the playoffs in his third season, at the time the fastest to the postseason by an expansion team.
Cleveland Browns PAUL BROWN
He was an innovative, stern head coach that demanded perfection. His Browns teams historically played for the championship on a consistent basis.
Led the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl titles in 1997-98 and was with the team for 14 seasons.
Detroit Lions WAYNE FONTES
Still holds the all-time win mark despite eight different successors, and the last coach to sniff post-season success.
Houston Texans GARY KUBIAK
Two playoff appearances, two playoff wins and 61 career wins for the young franchise.
Indianapolis Colts TONY DUNGY
Dungy was 85-27 in the regular season and 7-6 in playoffs with a Super Bowl XLI victory.
Jacksonville Jaguars TOM COUGHLIN
Coughlin was both the GM and head coach and took the team from expansion to the AFC title game in Year 2.
Kansas City Chiefs HANK STRAM
He was the most innovative offensive coach in the AFL.
Minnesota Vikings BUD GRANT
Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant won 281 games with the Vikings and took them to all four of their Super Bowls in franchise history.
The Saints have only two coaches with winning records: Jim Mora (93-74) and Payton (73-39 entering this season). So, Payton is the easy selection.
New York Giants BILL PARCELLS
Parcells brought toughness and a winning culture to the Giants teams of the 1980s and 1990s. Known as the “Big Tuna,” Parcells’ ability to lead his team to two Super Bowl titles in five years helped secure his spot as the greatest coach in Giants history.
New York Jets WILBUR “WEEB” EWBANK
.Only coach to win both an AFL and NFL Championship. In 1968, his Jets won Super Bowl III over the heavily favored Colts.
OAKLAND RAIDERS John Madden
Madden is the all-time winningest coach in Raiders history with 103 wins.
He had 224 wins in 14 seasons with the Eagles, regularly bringing them to the playoffs.
Pittsburgh Steelers CHUCK NOLL
The Steelers have had only three coaches since 1969, but the granddaddy is Chuck Noll, who won four rings, taught a franchise how to win and taught a city how to think.
San Diego Chargers DON CORYELLThe innovator of the modern passing game, Coryell became the first to win over 100 games at the college and professional levels.
Seattle Seahawks MIKE HOLMGREN
Pete Carroll and Chuck Knox deserve mention, but Holmgren’s run of divisional titles, Super Bowl appearance(s) and coaching tree are Hall of Fame-worthy.
St. Louis Rams DICK VERMEIL
The Rams won just nine games in Vermeil’s first two seasons but went 13-3 and won the Super Bowl in his final year.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS JON GRUDEN
Took over the reigns for the Buccaneers in 2002 and immediately took them to a Super Bowl XXXVII win.
Tennessee (Houston) TITANS O.A. “BUM” PHILLIPS
From 1975-80, he had a career record of 59-38 with a .608 win percentage.
Washington Redskins JOE GIBBS
From 1946 to 1980, Washington reached the playoffs five times. Hall of Famer Gibbs was hired in 1981 and won three Super Bowls in 12 seasons.