Super Bowl Coaches: Ranking the Coaching Matchups of all 44 Super Bowls
In the annals of the National Football League, the Super Bowl can define a coaches career. Throughout the previous 43 title games, coaches have left their mark on the sport by winning titles, some repeatedly.
Some Super Bowls feature one-timers, some headlined by Hall of Fame coaches. Which coaching matchups rank the best? Take a look.
44. Super Bowl XLIV - Sean Payton v. Jim Caldwell
Caldwell leads the Colts to the Super Bowl but remains an unproven commodity. Sean Payton leads the historically bad Saints to their first Super Bowl in franchise history.
43. Super Bowl XXXVII – Jon Gruden v. Bill Callahan
In perhaps the most forgettable Super Bowl of the last decade, Gruden brought the historically beleaguered Buccaneers their first title. Callahan had the Raiders back in the Super Bowl for the first time in nearly two decades but was fired after two seasons in Silver and Black with a 15-17 record.
42. Super Bowl XLIII – Mike Tomlin v. Ken Whisenhunt
Both coaches were in their second season with their respective clubs when the Tomlin’s Steelers and Whisenhunt’s Cardinals met in Super Bowl XLIII. Tomlin earned a record-sixth Super Bowl title for Pittsburgh while Whisenhunt brought the Cardinals their first Super Bowl berth in franchise history.
41. Super Bowl XXXV – Brian Billick v. Jim Fassel
Brian Billick was the offensive coordinator of the then-record breaking 1998 Minnesota Vikings. However, it was the Ravens stifling defense in 2000 that earned the franchise’s first title.
Billick won double-digit totals four times during his tenure and tallied an 80-64 record before he was fired after the 2007 season.
Jim Fassel brought the Giants back to the Super Bowl for the first time in decade after the biggest blowout in NFC Championship Game history, a 41-0 win over the Vikings.
Fassel won double-digit games three times with the Giants and went to the playoffs three times. He was fired after the 2003 season with a 58-53-1 mark with New York.
40. Super Bowl XLI – Tony Dungy v. Lovie Smith
Dungy arrived in Indianapolis for the 2002 season and won 10 games in his first year. Dungy would win no fewer than 12 games in his final six seasons with the Colts, including a 29-17 victory over Smith’s Bears.
Dungy retired after the 2008 season with a career 139-69 record.
Lovie Smith, conversely, had his best season leading the Bears to a 13-3 record and their first Super Bowl berth since the 1985 season. Aside from the 2006 season, however, Smith holds a 39-41 record and has not been back to the playoffs since.
39. Super Bowl XXXVIII – Bill Belichick v. John Fox
Belichick earned his second title in three years when the Patriots outlasted Fox’s Carolina Panthers in a wild fourth quarter. The two sides entered the final 15 minutes with the Patriots leading 14-10, but the teams combined for a Super Bowl-record 37 points in the fourth quarter.
The 144.4 million viewers set a record for largest viewership of a Super Bowl.
John Fox led the Panthers to their first Super Bowl in his second season as head coach. In eight seasons as the Panthers head coach, Fox possesses a 71-57 record and a 5-3 postseason record.
38. Super Bowl XIV – Chuck Noll v. Ray Malavasi
Noll became the standard-bearer for Super Bowl victories when his Pittsburgh Steelers came from behind in the fourth quarter to win the franchise’s fourth ring of the decade. The Steelers scored 14 points in the fourth quarter on their way to a 31-19 victory.
Noll resigned from the Steelers in 1992, and though he never returned to the Super Bowl in his remaining years, he left football with a perfect 4-0 record in title games.
Ray Malavasi led the Rams to their first Super Bowl appearance in his second season but ultimately finished his Rams tenure with a 40-33 record in five seasons. Malavasi also coached the Denver Broncos to a 4-8 record in 1966.
37. Super Bowl XXIII – Bill Walsh v. Sam Wyche
Bill Walsh ended his tenure with the San Francisco 49ers in a thrilling 20-16 victory over Wyche’s Cincinnati Bengals. It was Walsh third Super Bowl victory and last game with the 49ers before leaving to become the head coach at Stanford.
Wyche, conversely, saw his head coaching career peak mid-way through his eight-year tenure with the Bengals. Wyche was fired after the 1991 season before spending four years on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ sideline. Wyche finished his career as a head coach after the 1995 season with an 87-109 career record.
36. Super Bowl XXIX – George Seifert v. Bobby Ross
George Seifert cemented his place in 49ers history by winning his second Super Bowl. Seifert spent two more seasons on the 49ers sideline, ending his tenure with a 98-30 record and 10-5 postseason record. Seifert won six division titles and won 14 games in a season three different times.
Additionally, Steve Young emerged from the shadow of Joe Montana in San Francisco’s 49-26 blowout of Ross’s Chargers. Young set a Super Bowl record with six touchdown passes. He became the fifth player in league history to win the regular season MVP and Super Bowl MVP in the same season.
In five seasons with the Chargers, Ross won two AFC West titles and accrued a 47-33 overall record and 3-3 postseason record. His 1992 Chargers are the only team to start the regular season 0-4 and still reach the Super Bowl.
35. Super Bowl XII – Tom Landry v. Robert “Red” Miller
Landry claimed his second and last Super Bowl title in a 27-10 victory over the Miller’s Denver Broncos in the first Super Bowl played in a dome (the Superdome).
In his first season as head coach, Miller led the Broncos to their first double-digit win season and first Super Bowl berth. The Broncos went a combined 28-20 over the following three seasons before Miller was fired after the 1980 season.
34. Super Bowl XXXVI – Bill Belichick v. Mike Martz
In 2001, Bill Belichick was more famous for his failings in Cleveland and as Bill Parcells’ right hand man before his Patriots upset the 14-point favorite Rams in the Superdome.
The game was also the true emergence of Tom Brady and the start the of Patriots’ dynasty. It was New England’s first title in three tries, while the Rams failed to win their second title in three years.
In Martz’s 5.5 seasons as Rams head coach, he went 56-36 with two division titles, four playoff appearances and the one NFC Championship.
33. Super Bowl XVI – Bill Walsh v. Forrest Gregg
The 49ers’ 26-21 victory over the Bengals was the first ring for Hall of Fame head coach Bill Walsh and affirmed the rise of his dynasty. San Francisco finished a combined 8-24 the previous two seasons before 13-3 on the heels of Joe Montana’s breakout season.
Forrest Gregg was a Hall of Fame tackle who was a member of five NFL championship teams with the Green Bay Packers and a member of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl VI win. As a coach, Gregg led the Bengals to the franchise’s first Super Bowl berth.
However, Gregg finished out his four-year tenure in Cincinnati with a 75-85-1 record
32. Super Bowl XXXIV – Dick Vermeil v. Jeff Fisher
Vermeil added his name to the trivia books when he became the fifth head coach to take two different teams to the Super Bowl. Behind the fresh faced Kurt Warner, the Rams came out of nowhere during the 1999 season and squeaked by the Titans 23-16 on the famous stop on the one-yard line.
Vermeil’s “Greatest Show on Turf” claimed the Rams’ first NFL championship since 1951. On the other sideline, Jeff Fisher led the newly minted Titans (1999 was the first post-Oilers season) to the first Super Bowl berth in franchise history.
The Titans made it to the Georgia Dome on the heels of the “Music City Miracle” from the Wild Card round against the Buffalo Bills.
31. Super Bowl XX – Mike Ditka v. Raymond Berry
One word, one icon: DITKA. The Bears head coach led the storied NFL franchise to its only Super Bowl victory to date. The Bears’ vaunted defense run orchestrated by defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan held the Patriots to just 123 yards and -19 yards in the first half. During the regular season, Ditka’s Bears became the first NFL team to win 15 games.
Raymond Berry, on the other hand, became an instant hit with the Patriots when he led the club to an 11-5 record in his first full season. They became the first team in NFL history to win three playoff games on the road to the Super Bowl.
30. Super Bowl XXXIX – Bill Belichick v. Andy Reid
Belichick asserted the Patriots as the team of the decade with the club’s third Super Bowl victory in four years, becoming the second franchise to ever accomplish such a feat. Belichick joined Joe Gibbs and Bill Walsh as three coaches who have won three Super Bowls—all short of Chuck Noll’s four.
For Andy Reid, the loss to the Patriots was tough but at least got the Eagles over the hump of their previous four consecutive losses in the NFC Championship Game. The Eagles’ Super Bowl appearance capped a five-year stretch in which his club won a at least 11 games per season.
29. Super Bowl XV – Tom Flores v. Dick Vermeil
Flores captured the second Super Bowl title for the Silver and Black when his Raiders blew out Vermeil’s Eagles in Super XV. The Eagles entered the game as three-point favorites, but the Raiders put that to bed early by running up a 14-0 lead after the first quarter before finishing off a 27-10 victory.
Jim Plunkett became the second Heisman Trophy winner to win the Super Bowl MVP. For Vermeil’s Eagles, the 12-4 record led to the club’s first Super Bowl appearance.
28. Super Bowl XLII – Bill Belichick v. Tom Coughlin
Bill Belichick faced legendary opportunities when he roamed the sidelines of Super Bowl XLII. His 18-0 Patriots gunned for their fourth title in seven years, the first 19-win season in NFL history and the second undefeated season ever.
That went out the window when the 13.5-point favorite Patriots were shocked by the six-loss Giants. It was the third biggest upset against the spread in Super Bowl history.
On the other sideline stalked Tom Coughlin who in 12 years as a head coach with the Giants and Jaguars led his team to the playoffs seven times. The Giants became the fourth team in NFL history to win a Super Bowl with all of their playoffs games coming on the road.
27. Super Bowl XXXIII – Mike Shanahan v. Dan Reeves
For the second straight season, Shanahan got to down another all-time head coach when his Broncos thrashed the Falcons 33-19 in Super Bowl XXXIII. It was the second straight title for the Broncos who started the season 13-0.
Reeves became the fourth head coach to take two teams to the Super Bowl, leading the Falcons to their first ever title game. With the victory, 38-year-old John Elway became the oldest quarterback ever to win Super Bowl MVP.
26. Super Bowl II – Vince Lombardi v. John Rauch
On one sideline stood the immortal Vince Lombardi. His presence alone carries significant weight to the game, but the game takes a dip due to Rauch. Rauch led the Raiders for six seasons, but won just one AFL title before a blowout loss to the Packers in Super Bowl II.
It was the second straight Super Bowl win for the Packers and their seventh league title of the decade.
25. Super Bowl XXXII – Mike Shanahan v. Mike Holmgren
It didn’t take long for Shanahan to finally get the Super Bowl monkey off the Broncos’ back. After his 13-3 team was upset in the Divisional Round during the 1996 season, the Broncos and quarterback John Elway captured the club’s first title in five tries.
Despite a 12-4 regular season record, the Broncos had to go through every round of the playoffs. They were the second wild card team to win the Super Bowl, and the first since Super Bowl XV.
On the other sideline, Holmgren and the Packers sought their second straight title. However, Green Bay came up short with two minutes remaining on the clock when Super Bowl MVP Terrell Davis punched in the final score to make it 31-24.
24. Super Bowl V – Don McCafferty v. Tom Landry
In the first Super Bowl played after the completion of the NFL-AFL Merger, McCafferty’s Colts downed Landry’s Cowboys. Despite the name recognition of the coaches, the game was better known for its miscues and sloppy play which included six combined fumbles and six combined interceptions.
With the 16-13 victory, McCafferty became the first rookie head coach to win the Super Bowl. Super Bowl V was Tom Landry’s first crack in the title game.
23. Super Bowl XXIV – George Seifert v. Dan Reeves
Seifert, like Switzer, took over a powerhouse dynasty team in 1989 when he guided the 49ers to the most lopsided victory in Super Bowl history. The 49ers blitzed the Broncos for a 55-10 victory in the Superdome.
Reeves, meanwhile, lost his third trip to the Super Bowl in four years and the Broncos were the second team to do so. The 49ers remain the only team in Super Bowl history to score eight touchdowns.
22. Super Bowl XXX – Barry Switzer v. Bill Cowher
Barry Switzer took over the loaded Dallas Cowboys and steered “America’s Team” to their third title in four years, confirming the Cowboys’ mid-'90s dynasty. Switzer denied Cowher his first crack a title in the Cowboys’ 27-17 victory.
Switzer followed Johnson’s footsteps and became the second head coach to win a title both in college and the NFL. Switzer won national titles with Oklahoma in 1974, 1975 and 1985. The viewership for Super Bowl XXX was the highest ever for a sporting event, averaging nearly 95 million viewers.
21. Super Bowl XXI – Bill Parcells v. Dan Reeves
The two head coaches eventually combined for seven Super Bowl appearances, but Super Bowl XXI was the first title game for each. The Giants won a franchise-high 14 games that season and were 9.5-point favorites in the Rose Bowl.
The Broncos took a tight 10-9 lead at halftime, but Giants quarterback Phil Simms took over in the second half. His 22-of-25 effort set a Super Bowl completion record at 88 percent. The Giants scored 30 second half points en route to a resounding 39-20 victory.
After the game ended, Phil Simms instituted the now famous line, “I’m going to Disney World!”
20. Super Bowl XVIII – Joe Gibbs v. Tom Flores
Flores returned to the Super Bowl three years after taking down the Eagles in Super Bowl XV. Flores captained the Raiders dominance at the turn of the decade and denied Gibbs back to back titles following the 1983 season.
Despite the Super Bowl loss, Gibbs’ Redskins went on to tally double-digit win totals in eight of the next nine seasons.
19. Super Bowl III – Don Shula v. Weeb Ewbank
In the game made famous for Joe Namath’s guarantee and the game that could have single-handedly forced the NFL-AFL Merger, Ewbank—who won two NFL Championships with the Colts in 1958 and 1959—bested a young Don Shula who was hired to replace Ewbank in Baltimore after he was fired in 1962.
Ewbank is the only coach to win NFL, AFL and Super Bowl titles.
18. Super Bowl XXVII – Jimmy Johnson v. Marv Levy
Three seasons after coming over from the University Miami and two years after a 1-15 debut with Dallas, Johnson brought the Cowboys to their first title in 15 years.
The three-headed monster of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith sparked one of the NFL’s best offenses while the Cowboys also fielded the league’s top defense.
The Bills had their third crack at winning a title, but were 6.5-point underdogs at the last Super Bowl held at the Rose Bowl. The Cowboys sprinted to a 28-10 halftime lead, and poured on 21 points in the fourth quarter for a 52-17 win.
Michael Irvin and Andre Reed each tallied 100 receiving yards, marking the first time two receivers on opposing teams reached the mark.
17. Super Bowl XL – Bill Cowher v. Mike Holmgren
Mike Holmgren became the fifth head coach to take two different teams to the Super Bowl in the game’s 40th edition. Bill Cowher, the long-tenured Steelers head coach, sought his first ring 10 years after the Steelers last Super Bowl appearance and got it with a 21-10 victory over Holmgren’s Seahawks.
Likewise, Holmgren was one step away from his second ring, nine years after winning Super Bowl XXXI with the Packers.
16. Super Bowl XXVI – Joe Gibbs v. Marv Levy
If losing to a future Hall of Fame head coach the previous year wasn’t bad enough, Levy had to face Gibbs and his dynastic Redskins the following year. The Redskins led the league in points scored and allowed (485 to 224) and were heavy seven-point favorites in the Metrodome.
The Bills hung tough through the first quarter, playing the Redskins to a scoreless tie but Mark Rypien’s offense poured on 17 points in the second quarter.
The Redskins pulled away in the second half for a 37-24 win. Gibbs led his team to its second 14-2 record in club history, nine years after the first time in 1982.
15. Super Bowl XXV – Bill Parcells v. Marv Levy
Parcells captured his second ring for the Giants in one of the most thrilling Super Bowls ever played. Levy’s Bills won their third of six consecutive AFC East titles and were loaded with its K-Gun offense and nine Pro Bowlers. There were seven point favorites but famously lost on Scott Norwood’s last second field goal.
The Bills led the NFL with 428 points scored while the Giants’ 211 points allowed were the fewest in the league. It was the first of four consecutive Super Bowl defeats.
One forgotten detail about the matchup is that the two sides met in a Week 15 matchup which the Bills won 17-13. During that game, Giants starting quarterback Phil Simms was lost for the season with a broken foot.
14. Super Bowl XXVIII – Jimmy Johnson v. Marv Levy
Jimmy Johnson became the first head coach to win a championship at both the college and professional ranks at the expense of Marv Levy and the Bills the previous year. In Super Bowl XXVIII, Johnson became the second head coach to win back to back Super Bowls since Chuck Noll in the 1970s.
At the same time, Marv Levy took the Bills to their fourth straight Super Bowl still looking for his first ring. Levy, quarterback Jim Kelly and the rest of the Bills were denied again when the Cowboys exploded for 24 second half points on their way to a 30-13 victory.
It was the second ring for Johnson and the next step in the Cowboys mid-'90s dynasty.
13. Super Bowl XXII – Joe Gibbs v. Dan Reeves
Gibbs earned his second ring when his Redskins blasted Reeves’ Broncos. It was his second ring in five years. For Reeves, the loss was his second straight Super Bowl defeat. Reeves led the Broncos to three AFC titles in four years. Nine years later, he returned to the Super Bowl with the Atlanta Falcons.
The Broncos raced to a 10-0 lead after the first quarter, but allowed 35 second quarter points as the Redskins rolled to a 42-10 victory. The Broncos entered the game as three-point favorites
12. Super Bowl XXXI – Bill Parcells v. Mike Holmgren
Holmgren brought his resurgent Packers to the mountain top when he beat Bill Parcells’ New England Patriots. Parcells, having already won two Super Bowls with the Giants, vied to become the first head coach to win a super Bowl with two different teams. (Shula won a NFL title with the Colts, but not a Super Bowl.)
Holmgren eventually matched John Madden’s NFL record with postseason victories in five consecutive seasons.
11. Super Bowl XI – John Madden v. Bud Grant
Bud Grant got his fourth and final shot to claim a Super Bowl victory in the 1976 season, but ran into John Madden whose Raiders thrashed the Vikings 32-14 at the Rose Bowl.
The win was Madden’s only title but the Raiders’ head coached finished with a 103-32-7 record and a .750 winning percentage which is the best all time. The win was the Raiders first in franchise history and catapulted them to three titles in seven years.
10. Super Bowl VII – Don Shula v. George Allen
Shula’s Dolphins finished off the only perfect season in NFL history when they finished off Allen’s Redskins in Super Bowl VII. Allen finished with a 116-47-5 career record, good for a .712 winning percentage which ranks third all-time.
Allen took the Redskins to the playoffs four times in five years while Shula’s 1972 team continues to live in infamy.
9. Super Bowl VIII – Shula v. Grant
Shula earned consecutive Super Bowl titles when his Dolphins beat the Vikings 24-7 in Super Bowl and denied Grant in his second trip to the Big Game. It was the third straight trip to the Super Bowl for the Dolphins who were led to victory by Larry Csonka’s 145-yard, two touchdown MVP effort.
Csonka was the first running back to be named Super Bowl MVP.
8. Super Bowl IV – Hank Stram v. Bud Grant
Grant’s Vikings made it to Super Bowl IV-the final Super Bowl prior to the NFL-AFL Merger-after claiming the Vikings’ lone NFL title. Stram won his third AFL title prior to meeting the Vikings at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.
After losing in the first Super Bowl, Stram earned his only Super Bowl title in a fairly evenly played game despite the 23-7 outcome.
7. Super Bowl IX – Chuck Noll v. Bud Grant
Super Bowl IX featured two Hall of Fame head coaches whose title game appearances are complete, polar opposites. Noll claimed his first championship as his “Steel Curtain” defense limited the Grant’s Vikings to only 119 total yards and nine first downs on 47 plays.
Noll went on to accomplish a perfect 4-0 record in Super Bowls. Conversely, Grant-who dropped his third Super Bowl appearance to Noll’s Steelers-lost all four times he made it to the NFL’s biggest game.
6. Super Bowl XVII – Joe Gibbs v. Don Shula
Super Bowl XVII was Don Shula’s first trip to the Big Game in nearly a decade while Joe Gibbs kick started his dynasty with a title in his second year with the Redskins. The Super Bowl that year came on the heels of a strike-shortened season that limited the 1982 season to nine games.
The Dolphins actually went to halftime with the lead (17-10), but the Redskins defense thoroughly dominated the second half. Washington gave up only two first downs and held the Dolphins to zero completions over the final 30 minutes. In all, Miami accrued nine first downs and just four completions in the entire game.
5. Super Bowl I – Vince Lombardi v. Hank Stram
If there was any coaching matchup appropriate for the first Super Bowl of all-time it was the Packers’ Lombardi and the Chiefs’ Stram. Lombardi and his hard-nosed, NFL champion Packers faced off against Stram’s high-powered, AFL champion offense.
The Packers were in the midst of a dynasty, having won the NFL Championship in 1961, 1962, 1965 and 1966. Stram had won his third AFL Championship of the decade prior to the first Super Bowl which was held at the L.A. Coliseum. The Packers won the game 35-10 and asserted the NFL’s early dominance over their counterparts.
4. Super Bowl XIX – Bill Walsh v. Don Shula
Bill Walsh, the architect of the 49ers dynasty, and his Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana matched up with Shula and his own Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino in the best coaching matchup of the last 30 years.
Walsh and his West coast offense posted 28 first half points and used stout defense to blank the Dolphins in the second half en route to a 38-16 victory. It was the second ring for Walsh in four years while Shula never again returned to the Super Bowl.
3. Super Bowl VI – Tom Landry v. Don Shula
The only thing keeping this matchup from the top of the list is rings. Shula, the all-time NFL leader in coaching wins (347), would have two wait another season for his first ring, though he won the 1968 NFL Championship with the Colts. Landry captured his first ring with a 24-3 rolling of the Dolphins.
The Cowboys nearly doubled the Dolphins in total yards and time of possession, and held the Dolphins to just 10 first downs. Roger Staubach was named Super Bowl MVP.
2. Super Bowl X – Chuck Noll v. Tom Landry
Super Bowl XIII was the encore to the legends’ battles in the Super Bowl. Noll won his second title in this first showdown with Landry. Much like the second edition, Super Bowl X was settled late in the fourth quarter but it was not the prettiest of Super Bowls.
The game featured eight fumbles (though none were turned over), Terry Bradshaw finished 9-for-19 and Roger Staubach was intercepted three times.
The most memorable element of Super Bowl X was Lynn Swann’s famous, diving catch over Cowboys cornerback Mark Washington. Swann was later named Super Bowl MVP.
1. Super Bowl XIII – Chuck Noll v. Tom Landry
Tom Landry and Chuck Noll each had two Super Bowl victories under their belts when they met up in the first rematch in Super Bowl history. The two coaching legends stood across the field in what is widely considered one of the best Super Bowls ever and watched their squads decide the game in the final minute.
Teammates Lynn Swann and John Stallworth became the first pair of teammates to compile 100 yards in a Super Bowl.
It was the third of four Super Bowl victories for Noll and the fifth NFC Championship for Landry. Landry retired with the third most coaching wins all-time with 270 while Noll finished fifth all-time with 209.