Fourteen great men have picked up a New England Patriots playbook and stepped on a cold Foxborough field to coach 40 or so football players. Together they make up a special fraternity that runs deep.
Like no other sport in the world football relies on its coaches. They are the ones that spend late coffee-infused nights in a hidden room in some stadium drawing, erasing and redrawing numerous amounts of plays.
The coaching tree in the NFL is something that I have studied. The way that all these coaches are related is very interesting to me.
Fourteen of these head coaches are related by coaching the Patriots. There have been wins and losses. But the red and blue have run deep in all them so here is the definitive list of the best New England Patriots head coaches of all time.
To put things into perspective here is a timeline to keep in mind throughout the slideshow:
1960-1961: Lou Saban
1961-1968: Mike Holovak
1969-1970: Clive Rush
1970-1972: John Mazur
1972: Phil Bengtson
1973-1978: Chuck Fairbanks
1979-1981: Ron Erhardt
1982-1984: Ron Meyer
1984-1989: Raymond Berry
1990: Rod Rust
1991-1992: Dick MacPherson
1993-1996: Bill Parcells
1997-1999: Pete Carroll
2000-present: Bill Belichick
Of course I didn't just make up these rankings out of no where! This is how I chose my list:
- Number of wins
- Number of losses
- Win percentage
- Playoff appearances
- Playoff Wins
- AFC Championships
- Super Bowls
- Fan Appreciation
Here are the four New England Patriots coaches that were left off the list:
Saban coached from 1960-1961, going 7-12 for the Boston Patriots.
Rush coached the Boston Patriots from 1969-1970, going 5-16 for a dismal 23.8 win percentage.
After John Mazur retired with five games left to play in the 1972 season, Bengston took over. He was only able to manage one win and was not asked to head coach the next year.
Rust coached the 1990 season and went 1-15, only winning six percent of the games he coached, which is the lowest percentage for any Patriots head coach.
Mazur coached from 1970-1972. He was an assistant with the Boston Patriots but on November 3, 1970, struggling head coach Clive Rush stepped down.
This opened the door for Mazur to have his fist and only head coaching job.
In 1971, Mazur and first-round draft pick Jim Plunkett led the franchise to a 6-8 record. This was the team's best record since 1966. But on November 13,1972, the Miami Dolphins shut down Mazur and New England 52-0.
He resigned after that blowout loss with nine wins and 21 losses.
Dick MacPherson came and died in New England. He coached two seasons from 1991-1992. While MacPherson was a good coach at Syracuse he could not get anything started in New England.
Sadly MacPherson coached at New England during a time of changing ownership and constant threats of moving the franchise. He was 6-10 during his first season with the Patriots. He was 2-14 in his second season and was promptly fired.
MacPherson left the Patriots franchise with an 8-24 record.
Erhardt coached the New England Patriots from 1979-1981 when he had to take over after Chuck Fairbanks bolted for the University of Colorado.
He had one goal to win. Erhardt achieved that goal but missed the playoffs by one game in 1979 and 1980. Also the 441 points that Erhardt's team scored in 1980 was a club record not broken until 2007 when Brady and Company went perfect.
Sadly, in 1981 the Pats limped to a 2-14 record and Erhardt was out. He left New England with a 42.8 winning percentage.
Ron Meyer coached at New England for three seasons and achieved a taste of success. In 1982 he was named the AFC Coach of the Year as he led the Patriots to the playoffs after the team had finished with the league's worst record just a season before.
The Patriots lost in the first round of the playoffs but the fact that Meyer had led New England to the playoffs was a big deal.
He was fired in 1984 for having problems with the players and front office. Meyer posted an 18-15 campaign while in New England.
Carroll is not known as being the Patriots head coach. When I picture Pete Carroll, I picture him in USC attire or even pacing the Seahawks sideline. But from 1997-1999 he coached New England.
Carroll achieved a modest amount of success in three seasons, reaching the playoffs twice. In 1997 the Pats won the AFC East and in 1998 they were knocked out in the Wild Card Round.
Kraft fired Carroll after a late-season slide in 1999 when his team missed the playoffs.
Carroll left with a 27-21 record through three seasons as well as a playoff win.
Chuck Fairbanks coached the New England Patriots from 1973-1978. Fairbanks started his tenure off great with a draft consisting of John Hannah, Sam Cunningham, Ray Hamilton and Darryl Stingley.
But in 1976, the Patriots really exploded. Quarterbacked by Steve Grogan, a Fairbanks draft selection, New England finished with an 11-3 record. The amazing part was that in 1975 they stumbled to 3-11.
That year Fairbanks won NFL Coach of the Year as well as Sporting News NFL Coach of the Year. He coached the Patriots to an early playoff exit at the hands of 13-1 Oakland on a controversial call with eight seconds left.
Sadly, in 1978 the Patriots seemed poised for a Super Bowl run but it was learned that Fairbanks had taken a job at the University of Colorado and was suspended a game.
He was reinstated for the Patriots' home playoff game but it was too little too late and New England lost. Fairbanks soon left with a 46-39 overall record.
Mike Holovak coached the Boston Patriots way back in 1961-1968. He coached 107 games second only to Bill Belichick. Also, Holovak won 52 games, second only to Bill Belichick.
In 1963, the Patriots reached the postseason for the first time in team history. They then defeated the Buffalo Bills in an Eastern Conference playoff but lost in the AFL Championship game to the San Diego Chargers.
In 1966 Holovak was named AFL Coach of the Year as his Patriots went 10-3-1. Soon age would creep up to Boston and the Patriots started losing. In 1968, Mike Holovak was fired.
A former wide receiver who is considered one of the greatest players to ever play in the NFL, Raymond Berry also coached the New England Patriots from 1984-1989.
He coached 87 games, third to Holovak and Belichick. Berry coached in five postseason games; that is second only to Belichick. His three postseason wins are also second only to Belichick.
Berry took the Patriots to their first AFC Championship in 1985. With an 11-5 record he was named NFL Coach of the Year. New England would beat the Jets, Raiders and Dolphins en route to the Super Bowl. There they lost to the Bears.
In 1986, the Patriots also went 11-5 but lost in the first round of the playoffs. Berry was fired with a solid 48-39 overall record.
He is a legend. And from 1993-1996, Bill Parcells graced the New England sideline. In 1994, Parcells had turned the franchise around with a 10-6 record and its first playoff game in eight years.
That year he won NFL Coach of the Year, AP NFL Coach of the Year, Pro Football Weekly NFL Coach of the Year and Maxwell Football Club NFL Coach of the Year.
In 1996, Parcells led the Patriots their second Super Bowl but lost at the hands of the Green Bay Packers.
That same year he famously said, "They want you to cook the dinner; at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries. Okay?" before leaving New England with a 32-32 record.
In their existence the Patriots have won three Super Bowl championships. All three of those have come under the guidance of the great one—Bill Belichick. He is a living legend and all Patriots fans are thankful for his winning ways.
He has coached 176 games, a team record. He has won 126 games, a team record. He has a 71.6 winning percentage, a team record. He has coached 19 playoff games, a team record. He has won four AFC championships, a team record. He has been named AP NFL Coach of the Year three times, a team record.
The New England Patriots we know and love toady would not be where they are without one of the greatest coaches of all time in Bill Belichick. He is a football mastermind and New England is lucky to have him. As long as Belichick is wearing the headset, the Patriots will keep winning.
He is the greatest New England Patriot head coach of all time. Hands down.