The Top Five: Best Head Coaches in the NFL

Bob Cunningham@BCunningham215Senior Analyst IJuly 17, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 11:  Head coach Tom Coughlin #10 of the New York Giants shakes hands with head coach Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles after the NFC Divisional Playoff Game on January 11, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

It's often debated how much of the credit and how much of the criticism a head coach deserves for the fate of his team.

After all, it is his team. He is the go-to guy and the man making all of the decisions. But on the other hand, he's not out on the field, so why should he get the credit?

Similar to most debates in the world of football, it will never see an end.

However, there is something to be said for a head coach and the way the team plays—especially if that coach also happens to take on the role of calling the plays, as a lot of head coaches are doing these days.

Either way, a coach will always receive the blame when the team doesn't play well, but never enough of the credit when they are.

It's a thankless job, really. Facing long hours at night and away from home, they don't receive the celebrity status of the players, and in most cases do not even sniff their salaries.

But someone has to do it, and these are the guys who do it best.

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5. Jeff Fisher (Tennessee Titans)

128-102 regular season, .557 win%, 5-6 playoffs, .455 win%, 0-1 Super Bowl

Fisher is currently the longest-tenured coach in the NFL with 15 years under his belt, all on the same team.

He has been with this team through their transition from the Houston Oilers, to the Tennessee Oilers, to the Tennessee Titans. Most teams fall apart during a move like that, but the presence of Fisher kept the team intact.

He molded the future Hall of Famer in the late Steve McNair, and many years he helped his teams to overachieve and accomplish more than most thought they could.

Just the simple fact that he's been with one team for 15 years in this day and age is enough to show what a good coach he is, especially taking into account that every four years there are 32 new NFL head coaches.

4. Tom Coughlin (New York Giants)

115-93 regular season, .553 win%, 8-7 playoffs, .533 win%, 1-0 Super Bowl

Coughlin isn't exactly a "player's coach."

In fact, at the beginning of his tenure most players just downright hated him. However, he earns their trust and their respect, which makes him a good coach.

When he took over the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars, no one expected much out of them for several years. However, in only his second year with the team, and of the team's entire existence, he lead them to the AFC Championship game, where they fell just short.

Over the next three years the Jaguars would see an increase in regular season wins from nine to 11 in consecutive seasons, and even 14 wins in 1999. However, they would only win two playoff games over that stretch.

After consecutive 6-10 seasons with the Jaguars, he was fired. He was hired by the Giants, where he proceeded to again take his team to a 6-10 record.

He bounced back, however, in 2005 with an 11-win season and a division title, effectively keeping his job safe for about another two years, which is all it would take to get him his first Super Bowl victory.

3. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers)

22-10 regular season, .688 win%, 3-1 playoffs, .750 win%, 1-0 Super Bowl

Tomlin doesn't have a huge body of work, but it's tough to put him any lower.

Twenty-two wins in his first two seasons is impressive enough, but a Super Bowl victory just makes it that much better.

He's a young guy, so he can communicate with the players better than most older coaches because there's a relevance and connection with the age and just overall life experiences.

He's a fiery guy who can often be seen jumping around and cheering on the sidelines, which makes it obvious how much he loves what he does—and it radiates through every single player in that locker room.

This is a guy who just stepped in and immediately understood what it was going to take to get the players to not only respond to him, but also to respect and trust him. He's found a great balance of playing friend and authority figure, which really is the key to becoming a great coach in this league.

Tomlin is an old school guy who can communicate in a new school kind of way, and he should have sustained success in Pittsburgh.

2. Andy Reid (Philadelphia Eagles)

97-62-1 regular season, .610 win%, 10-7 playoffs, .588 win%, 0-1 Super Bowl

With the firing of Mike Shanahan, Reid becomes the second longest-tenured active coach in the NFL, of course behind Jeff Fisher.

When Reid gets his 100th regular season win, he will be among the fastest coaches to ever do that, and with his 100th overall win, he will become the first coach since John Madden to win 100 games in only 10 years with one team.

During Reid's 10 years in Philadelphia, he has only two losing seasons, seven winning seasons, and one .500 season. One of those losing seasons was in his very first year as a head coach, and the other came the year after losing the Super Bowl.

Many Philadelphia fans have been spoiled by Reid and forget what it was like before he was in Philadelphia.

Reid changed the culture of a losing football team and has turned them into a perennial NFC powerhouse: five NFC Championship games in 10 years to go along with five division titles and a Super Bowl appearance after taking over a 3-13 team.

If and when Reid gets a ring, he will be a lock for the Hall of Fame.

1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots)

138-86 regular season, .616 win%, 15-4 playoffs, .789 win%, 3-1 Super Bowl

This was a fairly obvious choice, and I'm sure it's not a surprise to see Bill Belichick top this list.

The numbers are hard to argue. Since joining the Patriots in 2000, he is 102-42, which equates to a .708 win percentage with three Super Bowl victories.

Those are Hall of Fame-type numbers.

Belichick is an odd case because while in Cleveland, he seemed lost. He was not able to connect with players or ever set a real plan in motion. During his time there he only had one winning season and one playoff win.

Realistically, with what he's done in New England, it wouldn't matter if he didn't win a single game in Cleveland.

He's had one losing season since he joined New England, which was his first season there in 2000. The next year he won his first Super Bowl and set the ball in motion that created the dynasty of the New England Patriots.

Belichick will probably be remembered as the greatest coach of his generation, and perhaps one of the greatest coaches of all time.

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