Right now, one man sits alone among NFL head coaches in the Super Bowl era. That man is Chuck Noll, the legendary former head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the only NFL coach to win four Super Bowls.
Many can debate whether or not Noll was the greatest coach ever, but what can't be debated is the fact that he leads them all in Super Bowl victories.
Enter Bill Belichick.
Even if he loses Super Bowl XLVI and never wins another game, Belichick's legacy will still be strong. With a victory this weekend, the Patriots' coach will tie Noll with four Super Bowl wins, and, in essence, elevate himself to a status only Noll has known.
However, in many ways, a victory will put Belichick above Noll, despite the fact that they will be tied statisitically.
Noll's greatest years were consolidated between 1972 and 1979. In that time frame, the Pittsburgh Steelers made eight consecutive playoff appearances and won four Super Bowls. Impressive numbers, to say the least.
Still, Noll did all of that work with pretty much the same cast of characters. Every year, it was a foregone conclusion that future Hall of Famers like Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham and Mel Blount would man the defense and Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, Franco Harris, John Stallworth and Mike Webster would provide the offense.
But, after 1979, when age and injuries started taking their toll on those players, the Steelers became quite ordinary. From 1980 until Noll's retirement after the 1991 season, they won 10 games in a season only once and made the playoffs just four times.
Who should be considered the greatest NFL coach?
Belichick, on the other hand, has been amazingly consistent throughout his 12-year tenure in New England, despite a changing line of players. He has had only one losing season while coaching the Patriots, and that was his first season in 2000.
Under Belichick, the Patriots have missed the playoffs only twice since 2001, and both times they finished with a winning record (9-7 and 11-5). And for one of those seasons (2008), Belichick was able to squeeze a solid performance out of Matt Cassel, a quarterback who hadn't started a meaningful game since high school.
Sure, New England has had many solid players, but only a Patriots sycophant would think that Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison and Mike Vrabel are Hall of Fame material.
Indeed, Belichick has won Super Bowls with Antowain Smith, David Patten, Randall Gay and Roman Phifer as starters. Decent players, but a far cry from Harris, Swann, Blount and Lambert.
Moreover, if you take away a miraculous catch by David Tyree in Super Bowl XLII, this debate isn't even happening.
And the Patriots hardly look like a team on the edge of decline. The defense is young and, except for Brady, the offensive skill players are at a good age, too. At 34, Brady probably has a few more years left in him, which means that the Pats might win another Super Bowl in the near future making this whole argument moot.
Yes, Chuck Noll was a great head coach. But if the Patriots win Sunday, Belichick should be considered the greatest head coach in the Super Bowl era.