Football is a far-reaching sport that entangles various corners of American culture every fall when teams start hitting the gridiron. It is played yard for yard, yet won inch by inch. But behind a great team lies its leadership with the coach determining their success at the root. Managed by the best NFL coaches, the history of the sport is rich, with tales of undefeated teams and superhuman athletes that have crushed barriers and achieved what many believed to be impossible.
Generating substantial revenue, the National Football League employs thousands and boosts local economies. As one of the more action-packed sports, football is known for its speed, athleticism, and big hits, while the Super Bowl is one of the most televised events worldwide. In fact, according to a newer study, NFL fans spend an average of 46 hours a month thinking about their team. However, the love for the game doesn’t stop there. Thirty-five percent of people have canceled dinner, a quarter have skipped someone’s birthday party, and one in five say they’ve even ditched a date. Half would even miss a major event in their lives for tickets to see a game live, while 84 percent drop everything they’re doing to watch the game when their team takes the field.
So what is it about football that keeps us coming back? Maybe it’s the escapism it can provide, perhaps it’s the values that extend beyond the field, or just possibly it’s witnessing that moment where that perfect spiral enters the hands of your favorite player in the end zone. Which, in all honesty, is much harder than we believe it is. A recent study found that throwing objects with any kind of accuracy is one of the most complex actions the human body can perform. While there are many different ways to get an object to a target, minimizing error originates from giving yourself the greatest room for error at the release. In a way, it’s both an art and a science.
However, it takes more than precision to win the game of football. It takes heart, it takes grit, and it takes great coaching. Without great coaches, teams would not be as impactful, and many players would not have accrued as many accolades. This is why we’re going to be diving into the best NFL coaches of all time today. Don’t see your favorite team leader on our list? Tell us more in the comments below!
The List: Best NFL Coaches, According to Sports Experts
1. Vince Lombardi
Vince Lombardi is considered by many to be the greatest NFL coach of all time. Ensuring his players were prepared for every down, Lombardi’s legacy cannot be overstated, as his unparalleled leadership and exceptional coaching were core attributes of his unrivaled success. “He went on to capture five NFL Championships, including the first two Super Bowls,” writes Pro Football Mania. As “the iconic coach of the Green Bay Packers, he epitomized the essence of excellence in the NFL.” Perhaps most impressive is how “Lombardi never had a losing season in his 10-year career.”
Vince Lombardi is a coaching icon.
But before winning five NFL titles with the Green Bay Packers, he was an anxious 35-year-old headed to coach at West Point.
The soul-searching inspired him to create the “Lombardi Model of Leadership” — and we can apply its 6 elements: pic.twitter.com/3q0Y6HytFt
— The Daily Coach (@TheDaily_Coach) July 23, 2023
Vince is a bigger-than-life figure in the world of football. Renowned for his outstanding abilities to mold players into champions, Lombardi’s name will be etched in football lore forever. Starting out, “Lombardi began his coaching career as an assistant and later as a head coach at St. Cecilia High School in Englewood, New Jersey,” explains Ranker. As a head coach in the NFL, “Lombardi had a winning percentage of 72.8 percent” and was “noted for his gruff demeanor and iron discipline.” To many, “he was ahead of his time as a head coach.”
Vince’s ability to consistently produce winning teams serves as a testament to his coaching acumen and ability to inspire championship pedigree. Every year, his legacy continues to live on as the Vince Lombardi Trophy is awarded to the Super Bowl winner. “For starters, Lombardi won his first title with the Green Bay Packers in 1961,” states Bleacher Report. And as one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, “Lombardi’s 96-4-6 regular season record” will stand as “one of the best football feats.”
2. Bill Belichick
You can’t think of the New England Patriots and not think of Bill Belichick. Beginning his career in 2000, Bill Belichick led the team to unprecedented heights. As Rankers says, “He is widely considered to be one of the greatest coaches in NFL history by current and former players, his peers, and the press.” Over his career, “he has led the Patriots to 16 AFC East division titles, 13 appearances in the AFC Championship Game, and nine Super Bowl appearances while winning eight Super Bowl titles.” To this day, “He is one of only three head coaches who have won six NFL titles.”
Trust in Bill Belichick pic.twitter.com/dBO3t4Tdvt
— PFF (@PFF) March 28, 2023
Belichick is known for his keen eye for team building and talent evaluation. Focusing on player development and discipline, Bill’s coaching philosophy and mentorship have been the cornerstones of his coaching legacy. As One37PM reports, “There is no head coach in NFL history whose dominance stretches as far as the great Bill Belichick.” However, what many people don’t know is that “Bill’s legacy wasn’t cemented until he joined the Patriots,” which happened after he was “fired after four unsuccessful seasons with the Cleveland Browns.”
In addition to unmatched success, Belichick is a defensive mastermind and is known for his adaptability, ability to manage adversity, and coaching longevity. As a dominating force in the league for many years, Belichick’s influence will continue to be felt in the NFL for generations to come. Like Athlon Sports breaks down, “Whether you love him or hate him, Belichick has dominated in an era designed for parity.” He has “nine more playoff wins than any of his peers and has climbed to third in regular-season wins.” And while Vince Lombardi is a legend, “Belichick’s sixth Super Bowl victory is enough to put him atop this list of all-time greats.”
3. Tom Landry
Tom Landry is by far one of the best NFL coaches in football history, with a coaching tenure that spans 29 years with the Dallas Cowboys. Bleeding blue, Landry is admired for his exceptional leadership, calm demeanor, and ability to inspire the best out of his players. As Audacy writes, “Landry is one of the most iconic football coaches of all time and established the Cowboys as one of the premiere teams in the NFL.” Manning the Dallas sidelines for three decades, “Landry is renowned for wearing his signature hat and winning the Super Bowls in 1971 and 1977.” Over the course of his career, “Tom had 250 career wins.”
— Paul Munoz (@djrndmnoise) February 2, 2020
Before coaching the Cowboys, Landry was the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants in the 1950s and is known for creating the 4-3 defense. However, his aptitude for defensive strategy didn’t stop there. In Texas, Landry created one of the most formidable defenses in NFL history, known as the doomsday defense. What may surprise many, though, is that “Landry didn’t have a winning season until his seventh season as the Dallas Cowboys coach,” claims Pro Football Network. Ending his career “with 225 wins and 109 losses, Landry won two championships and competed in five during his tenure as the Cowboys coach.” To add, “Landry led Dallas to 20 straight winning seasons.”
In recognition of his excellent coaching career, Tom Landry was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990. His strategic versatility for both offensive and defensive playmaking helped further showcase his football brilliance. “Under his leadership, the Cowboys made it to 10-of-13 NFC Championship games from 1970 to 1982,” says Roto Baller. His coaching tree includes “Dick Nolan, Dan Reeves, Mike Ditka, Raymond Berry, and Ron Meyer,” and “in 1966 he was the NFL Coach of the Year.”
4. Paul Brown
Few NFL coaches have revolutionized football quite like Paul Brown. To this day, Brown is considered by many to be the “Father of Modern Football Coaching.” As Sportsnaut mentions, “Not only was Paul Brown the founder of the Cleveland Browns, but he was also part of getting the Cincinnati Bengals off the ground as well.” With impeccable leadership skills, Brown led his teams to “ten consecutive championship games, winning seven of them.”
56 years ago today Paul Brown signed the papers that made us an official AFL team.
WHO DEY! pic.twitter.com/BvNe6vMZJ9
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) May 24, 2023
Paul Brown is remembered for being a pioneer in innovative offensive strategies. From popularizing the use of the draw play to creating the mobile pocket concept, his strategies influenced the evolution of offensive playmaking in the NFL. As the “sixth-winningest coach in NFL history, Brown had already won championships at the high school and college levels before helping create the Browns in 1946,” reports CBS Sports. Even more impressive, “Despite playing against better competition, the Browns continued to dominate, winning the NFL title.” In the end, “Cleveland would then win back-to-back NFL titles in 1954 and ’55 while becoming the decade’s premier team.”
Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, only a few NFL coaches have a legacy that extends beyond coaching, and Paul Brown is one of them. From creating teams to instilling equality and diversity across the league, Paul Brown will forever be one of the best NFL coaches within the confines of American football. “Over the course of 25 years, his teams won seven league championships, and the Cincinnati Bengals named their home stadium Paul Brown Stadium in honor of Brown,” says Ranker. In hindsight, “Brown is credited with a number of football innovations” and “was the first coach to use game film to scout opponents.”
5. George Halas
George Halas, also known as Papa Bear, is without question one of the best NFL coaches. As one of the co-founders of the National Football League in 1920, Halas played a pivotal role in establishing the league. As Sportsnaut claims, “Halas’ place in history will be hard to forget, as his 318 wins rank as the second-most in NFL history.” To add, “his six league championships” and “coaching record of 318-148-31” further cement his status as an NFL legend.
— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) September 7, 2022
Under Halas’ direction, the Chicago Bears tied the league for the most championships with eight. As the head coach of the Bears for 40 years, few coaches have a legacy and longevity as long-standing as Halas. Perhaps more impressive is how Roto Baller says, “Halas only had six losing seasons over this time and became one of the inaugural Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees in 1963.” In addition, “he won AP NFL Coach of the Year honors twice” and “deserves to be on this list for being one of the founding American Professional Football Association members.”
As one of the best NFL coaches of all time, Halas left an indelible impression on American football. From shaping its history to nurturing its development and expansion, many of George’s coaching principles continue to influence the sport to this day. As CBS Sports reports, “Halas is number two on the all-time wins list and is the only NFL coach that has won an NFL title in four different decades.” What many football enthusiasts don’t know is that “with Halas in charge, the Bears are also credited as being the first pro football team to publish a team newspaper and to broadcast their games on the radio.” Lastly, Halas is the first coach to “lead his team to an undefeated regular season.”
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