Ranking the 50 Best NFL Head Coaches of All Time

Tony Santorsa@@TonySantorsaSenior Writer IIMay 2, 2012

Ranking the 50 Best NFL Head Coaches of All Time

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    Out of all the professional sports in the world, one can argue that coaches in football have the biggest impact on the team.

    For starters, football coaches design game-plans, they design schemes, they call the ball, they decide who plays and make critical decisions on each and every play throughout the game—and that's only a small margin of what coaches do in the National Football League. 

    With that being said, when we think of the all-time great head coaches in NFL history, we think of Vince Lombardi, Bill Belichick, Tom Landry, Chuck Noll and so on.

    In that spirit, find out where those coaches stand along with the 50 greatest head coaches in NFL history. 

50. Jim Mora

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    If it weren't for Jim Mora, then we wouldn't have the infamous "playoffs?!?" tirade. 

    As a head coach, Mora was a winner in the regular season as he coached the New Orleans Saints to their first winning season and playoff game back in 1987 and then later had some success with the Indianapolis Colts

    Mora retired with a 125-106 overall record but was just 0-6 in the postseason. 

49. Sam Wyche

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    Let's just forget Sam Wyche with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as that entire franchise has been a rather joke throughout NFL history.

    During his time with the Cincinnati Bengals, Wyche won a total of 61 games and won the AFC championship back in the 1988 season, but ultimately, fell short in the Super Bowl against Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers

48. Jon Gruden

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    Believe it or not, but I had a very hard time putting Jon Gruden on this list.

    Why? The Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that he won the Super Bowl with back in the 2002 NFL season was essentially the entire roster that Tony Dungy had the year before he was fired, and the team hired Gruden.

    All in all, Gruden has a ring, and you can't take that away from him. 

47. George M. "Potsy" Clark

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    Here's an oldie for you.

    Potsy Clark started coaching back in 1931 when the single wing offense ruled the NFL.

    Clark retired with a 64-42-12 record while winning one NFL championship back in 1935 with the Detroit Lions

46. Guy Chamberlin

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    Guy Chamberlin coached from 1922 until 1927 with teams such as the Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Bulldogs, Frankford Yellow Jackets and the Chicago Cardinals. 

    Chamberlin retired with a 58-16-7 regular-season record while winning five NFL championships. 

45. George Wilson

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    George Wilson won one NFL championship back in 1957 with the Detroit Lions but is on this list for what he did with the Miami Dolphins.

    Granted, Wilson posted a 15-39 record, but he was the man that drafted Bob Griese, Jim Kiick, Mercury Morris and Larry Csonka. With those players, Don Shula, the man who was the following head coach of the Dolphins, went on to much success. 

44. Allie Sherman

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    Allie Sherman might have never won a Super Bowl, but he did earn himself three appearances with the New York Giants.

    From 1961 until 1968, Sherman posted a solid 57-51-4 and was known for his rather modern-day style of play-calling and the type of offensive scheme that he ran. 

43. Dennis Green

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    Dennis Green never won a Super Bowl but did retire with an impressive 113-94 record as head coach.

    Forget about Green coaching the Arizona Cardinals, just look at the success that he had with the Minnesota Vikings as his best season came in 1998 when his Vikings went an improbable 15-1. 

42. Bum Phillips

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    Bum Phillips was the perfect man to coach the Houston Oilers. Just look at the picture posted—he has "Texas" written all over him. 

    Phillips was never able to win a Super Bowl, but he coached the Oilers for seven seasons and then the New Orleans Saints for five seasons and retired with a solid 82-77 record and a 4-3 playoff record. 

41. Andy Reid

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    Ever since 1999, Andy Reid has been one of the most successful coaches in the NFL.

    Reid has coached the Philadelphia Eagles to a 120-77-1 record while earning nine playoff appearances and one appearance in the Super Bowl but fell just short against the New England Patriots

40. Marty Schottenheimer

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    Marty Schottenheimer has often been labeled the greatest head coach in NFL history to never win a Super Bowl.

    Schottenheimer spent time coaching the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins and the San Diego Chargers and won a total of 200 games but posted a putrid 5-13 record in the postseason. 

39. Brian Billick

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    The amazing thing about Brian Billick is that he was an offensive-minded coach, but during his nine seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, their offense was far from being great; their defense is what carried them.

    Either way, Billick was the one who head-coached one of the greatest defenses in NFL history back in 2000 as he won Super Bowl XXXV. 

38. Blanton Collier

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    In just Blanton Collier's second season with the Cleveland Browns, Collier went on to lead his team to a league championship—which ended up being his lone title.

    Collier retired with a solid 76-34-2 record and a 3-4 playoff record. 

37. Ray Flaherty

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    Ray Flaherty was the head coach of the Boston Redskins, Washington Redskins, New York Yankees and the Chicago Hornets during the time span of 1936 until 1949. 

    Flaherty won two NFL championships and retired with a solid 54-21-3 record. 

36. Jeff Fisher

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    Over 17 seasons, Jeff Fisher had a ton of success with the Houston Oilers and the Tennessee Titans.

    Fisher posted a 142-120 record while winning five out of 11 playoff games and was just one yard short of winning Super Bowl XXXIV.

    Entering 2012, Fisher will look to continue his success as the newly hired head coach of the St. Louis Rams. 

35. Mike Shanahan

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    All of Mike Shanahan's success came with John Elway and the Denver Broncos, now, he'll look to regain his success with Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins.

    While with the Redskins, Shanahan won two Super Bowls, and entering 2012, Shanahan has an impressive 152-108 regular-season record while going 8-5 in the postseason. 

34. Jimmy Conzelman

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    Who is Jimmy Conzelman?

    Well, he's one of the greatest head coaches in NFL history.

    Conzelman posted an 87-63-18 record while winning two NFL championships.

    Conzelman had his success with the Rock Island Independents, Milwaukee Badgers, Detroit Panthers, Providence Steam Roller and the Chicago Cardinals from 1921 until 1948. 

33. Raymond "Buddy" Parker

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    From 1949 until 1964, Raymond "Buddy" Parker posted a 104-75-9 record while coaching the Chicago Cardinals, Detroit Lions and the Pittsburgh Steelers

    Parker is best known for winning back-to-back NFL championships with the Lions in 1952 and 1953. 

32. Dan Reeves

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    It's a real shame that Dan Reeves was never able to win a Super Bowl despite making four Super Bowl appearances. 

    Reeves head-coached the Denver Broncos, New York Giants and the Atlanta Falcons while posting an impressive 190-165-2 record and making the playoffs nine times. 

    There's no doubting that Reeves is a winner—in the regular season at least. 

31. Tom Flores

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    Back in 1979, Tom Flores became the first ever Hispanic head coach in NFL history as he was hired by Al Davis to be the next head coach of the Oakland Raiders.

    Flores won two Super Bowls with the Raiders.

    This NFL great retired with a solid 97-87 record while making five playoff appearances. 

30. Mike Holmgren

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    Mike Holmgren made an impressive three Super Bowl appearances and was able to win one back in the 1996 season with the Green Bay Packers.

    Holmgren coached from 1992 until 2008 as he spent time with the Packers as well as the Seattle Seahawks.

    Holmgren retired with an impressive 161-111 record. 

29. Don Coryell

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    Don Coryell isn't just one of the greatest head coaches in NFL history, but he is one of the greatest offensive minds. He was the man who invented the "Air Coryell" offense and perfected vertical passing.

    Coryell might not have ever won a Super Bowl but saw a ton of success with the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Diego Chargers as he posted an 111-83-1 record while he went just 3-6 in the postseason. 

28. Mike Ditka

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    Mike Ditka gets all of his frame from coaching one of the greatest teams in NFL history—the 1985 Chicago Bears.

    Ditka also coached the New Orleans Saints along with Bears as he retired with a solid 121-95 record while posting a 6-6 record in the postseason. 

    It's commonly accepted that Ditka is one of the toughest head coaches in NFL history. 

27. Greasy Neale

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    Many of you might not know who Greasy Neale is, but the entire city of Philadelphia better know who he is.

    Neale coached the Philadelphia Eagles from 1941 until 1950 as he won back-to-back NFL championships in 1948 and 1949 as his team went a combined 22-3 record. 

    Neale retired with an impressive 63-43-5 record. 

26. Marv Levy

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    Marv Levy could have actually been a face of a dynasty as his Buffalo Bills made it to four Super Bowls from 1990 until 1993, but unfortunately, lost all four. 

    Levy posted an incredible 143-112 record as head coach as he was the Kansas City Chiefs head coach from 1978 until 1982 and then the Bills from 1968 until 1997. 

25. Dick Vermeil

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    Dick Vermeil spent time head-coaching the Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs as he posted a 120-109 record.

    Vermeil helped turn around the Eagles and the Rams as he went to Super Bowls with both teams, but only one won, and that was with St. Louis back in the 1999 season. 

24. Sid Gillman

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    Many of you may have never heard of Sid Gillman, but he was head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers, San Diego Chargers and the Houston Oilers as he spent 1955 until 1974 coaching.

    Gillman went to the playoffs six times and won one title while posting a 122-99-7 record. 

23. Chuck Knox

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    Chuck Knox might have went 7-11 in the postseason, but with the Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo Bills and the Seattle Seahawks, he won 186 games.

    Knox was a tough head coach as his teams were certainly tough as he was known as "Ground Chuck" as his offensive style was simply pounding the ball down their throats.

    Another interesting fact about Knox is that he was the first ever head coach to coach an African-American as a starting quarterback in James Harris. 

22. Weeb Ewbank

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    Weeb Ewbank might have only went 130-129-7, but 130 is a whole lot of wins.

    Ewbank was the head coach of the Baltimore Colts and the New York Jets as he won two league championships as well as Super Bowl V. 

    Keep in mind, Ewbank as the head coach of the Jets with Joe Namath when he guaranteed an upset over the Colts.

    Ewbank was the first head coach in NFL history to win a title with an AFL team and an NFL team. 

21. Tony Dungy

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    Tony Dungy had a ton of success with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Indianapolis Colts as he posted a 139-69 record.

    However, Dungy might have won a Super Bowl with the Colts, but he wasn't all that great in the playoffs as he went 9-10.

    Either way, Dungy is one of the greatest head coaches in NFL history due to his incredible success in the regular season. 

20. Bill Cowher

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    Bill Cowher was the face of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the late 1990s and the 2000s.

    Cowher went 149-90-1 with the Steelers as he posted a 12-9 playoff record while winning Super Bowl XL. 

    Cowher is one of two head coaches in NFL history to lead his team to the playoffs in his first six seasons. 

19. George Seifert

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    George Seifert was the man who followed Bill Walsh, and he had a ton of success with the San Francisco 49ers. 

    Seifert won two Super Bowls and posted an incredible 114-62 record. 

    Seifert simply continued the San Francisco dynasty after Walsh left. 

18. Steve Owen

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    Steve Owen is one of the most successful head coaches in New York City sports history.

    Owen head-coached the New York Giants from 1931 until 1953 as he made the playoffs 10 times while winning a total of two NFL titles.

    When it was all said and done, Owen posted a 151-100-17 record. 

17. Tom Coughlin

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    As of late, Tom Coughlin has really come on as one of the greatest head coaches in NFL history.

    Coughlin has two Super Bowls with the New York Giants while posting a 142-114 career record.

    All in all, Coughlin's teams might not do so well in the regular season, but in the playoffs, they know how to win big games. 

16. Jimmy Johnson

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    Jimmy Johnson really had a ton of success with the Dallas Cowboys as he helped make the Cowboys the dynasty of the 1990s. 

    While with the Cowboys from 1989 until 1993, Johnson went 44-36 while winning back-to-back Super Bowls in '92 and '93. 

15. George Allen

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    George Allen may have a 2-7 postseason record, but he had never recorded a losing season as a head coach of the Los Angeles Rams and the Washington Redskins.

    Allen is one of the winningest head coaches in NFL history as he retired with a stellar 116-47-5 record. 

14. Bud Grant

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    Bud Grant was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994 after 18 solid seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.

    Grant went 158-96-5 in his time with the Vikings as he had 12 winning seasons in addition to  winning 10 divisional titles and appearing in the playoffs a total of 12 times. 

    Another interesting note about Grant is that he did allow heaters on the sidelines—how awesome is that? 

13. Hank Stram

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    Hank Stram is one of the great innovators in NFL history as he was the first coach to move the pocket to protect the quarterback as well as using two tight ends as extra blockers to protect the quarterback.

    Stram was head coach with the Dallas Texans, Kansas City Chiefs and the New Orleans Saints.

    Stram retired with one league and one Super Bowl championship while posting a 131-97-10 record. 

12. Curly Lambeau

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    For starters, the Green Bay Packers legendary stadium was named after the all-time great head coach Curly Lambeau.

    Lambeau won an incredible 227 games while winning six league championships in 1929, '30, '31, '36, '39 and '44. 

    Lambeau was the man who created the Packers in 1919 and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. 

    All in all, 27 winning seasons is something that you can't deny as being greatness. 

11. John Madden

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    Prior to being known as the video game, John Madden was one of the greatest head coaches in NFL history as he's arguably the greatest head coach in Oakland Raiders history.

    Madden won just one Super Bowl with the Raiders but went 103-32-7 with the team, posting a 9-7 record in the playoffs. 

    Madden is simply an all-time great whether it's being a head coach, being an analyst or being on the cover of a video game. 

10. George Halas

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    George Halas was the man that founded the Decatur Staleys—the team that later became known as the Chicago Bears.

    Halas posted a 324-152-31 overall record with the Bears as he won a total of six NFL championships as well as being named NFL Coach of the Year twice. 

9. Bill Parcells

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    Bill Parcells, or better known as The Tuna, is the man who's known for turning around struggling NFL franchises and turning them into winners.

    Parcells took over the New York Giants, New England Patriots, New York Jets and the Dallas Cowboys and posted winning seasons with all of those teams while he was there. 

    Parcells' greatest success came with the Giants in the late 1980s when he posted a 77-49-1 record while winning two Super Bowls and being named Coach of the Year twice.

    He was great throughout his illustrious coaching career. 

8. Joe Gibbs

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    Why are Joe Gibbs' three Super Bowl championships so impressive? Because he won them with three different quarterbacks.

    Gibbs coached the Redskins from 1981 until 1992 as he posted a 124-60 record and then went on to rejoin the Redskins from 2004 until 2007, winning 30 out of his 64 games. 

7. Bill Walsh

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    Bill Walsh was the man behind the San Francisco 49ers dynasty.

    Walsh won a total of three Super Bowls with the 49ers and perfected the West Coast offense with quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young. 

    Walsh retired with a solid 92-59-1 record as well as a 10-4 playoff record as well as winning the 1981 Coach of the Year Award. 

6. Chuck Noll

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    Chuck Noll posted a 193-148-1 regular season record with the Pittsburgh Steelers and then an impressive 16-8 record in the playoffs. 

    Noll had a total of 15 winning seasons with 12 of them being playoff appearances and four of those turning into Super Bowl winning seasons.

    All in all, Noll is the man responsible for the Steelers greatness in the 1970s. 

5. Paul Brown

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    Paul Brown posted a 166-100-6 record while spending time coaching the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals.

    Brown won four AAFC and three NFL championships with the Browns and then went on to win 55 games with Cincinnati. 

    Brown is one of the major reasons why the NFL is the way it is today as he was the mentor to all-time great Bill Walsh and was a huge part in the development of the West Coast offense. 

4. Don Shula

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    Don Shula is the man who head-coached the only perfect season in NFL history as his 1972 Miami Dolphins went a perfect 17-0.

    Shula was always a winner as only two of his teams finished without a winning record.

    Shula retired after 33 years coaching with two Super Bowl titles, one NFL championship and the most regular seasons—328.

3. Vince Lombardi

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    You might be shocked to see Vince Lombardi not being listed as the greatest coach in NFL history? But why is that?

    We can't take away from Lombardi's greatness as the Vince Lombardi Trophy is named after him—but I think he's a tad bit overrated.

    For starters, Lombardi coached in an era where the NFL was far less competitive than it is today. For starters, when Lombardi won his first title with the Green Bay Packers in 1961, the league was only made up of 14 teams while the NFL is made up of 32 teams today. 

    Granted, we cannot take away Lombardi's 96-34-6 regular-season record, his six NFL championships and his two NFL titles—but I don't believe he deserves to be the greatest coach in NFL history. 

2. Tom Landry

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    Tom Landry is the man who made the Dallas Cowboys America's team.

    What Landry did in Dallas was nothing short of amazing simply of because the "system" that he used. He believed that anyone could be replaced and that the game of football was nothing but a business. 

    Landry won two Super Bowls with the Cowboys as he posted a 250-162-6 record over 29 years of coaching in Dallas. 

1. Bill Belichick

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    Bill Belichick is the greatest head coach in NFL history—there should be no debate.

    Belichick is a three-time Super Bowl winning head coach as his New England Patriots won three out of four Super Bowls from 2001-2004, which is now known as an NFL dynasty. 

    Along with Belichick's three Super Bowl titles, he has been named AP NFL Coach of the Year three times and is apart of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team. 

    Entering 2012, Belichick has a 175-97 record while earning a trip to the playoffs in each of the three last seasons and has made the plays in nine out of his 12 seasons with the Patriots. 

    Throughout Belichick's success in New England, we have seen him discover one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, Tom Brady, as well as resurrect players' careers such as Corey Dillon, Rodney Harrison and Mike Vrabel.

    One of the most impressive things that Belichick has done is during this past season, he started 13 undrafted free agents at separate occasions throughout his run to the Super Bowl—how incredible is that? That's just great coaching. 

    And keep in mind, all of Belichick's work has been done in an era of free agency—which makes his achievements are far more greater than we can imagine. 

    Bill Belichick is not only a modern-day Vince Lombardi, but he's in a league of his own. He is indeed the greatest head coach in NFL history. 

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