10 Greatest Head Coaches in NFL History

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Welcome, dear readers!! It has been 103 years since NFL first came to life. Since then, there have been 517 head coaches who have served the different franchises as their head coaches. In this article, we list the 10 greatest head coaches in NFL history.

Many of these coaches led their teams to glorious wins, while few could fulfill their roles successfully. Similarly, many coaches have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for contributing to the league.

Bill Walsh, Head Coach For San Francisco 49ers
Bill Walsh, Head Coach For San Francisco 49ers (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica)

As one can guess, ranking the greatest head coaches in NFL is quite challenging. Even avid football fans and analysts may butt-head as the victories alone cannot define who is the greatest.

The coaches’ devotion to the games and their records are some ways to take them as references for ranking.

Keeping these in mind, we present our 10 greatest head coaches in NFL history! Do give us Company until the end of our article.

Quick Overview

Here is a quick highlight of the head coaches on our list.

S.N. Head Coach Name Last Team
10. Bill Parcells Dallas Cowboys (2003–2006)
9. Tom Landry Dallas Cowboys (1960–1988)
8. George Halas Decatur Staleys/Chicago Staleys/Chicago Bears (1920–1929, 1933–1942, 1946–1955, 1958–1967)
7. Paul Brown Cincinnati Bengals (1968–1975)
6. Chuck Noll Pittsburgh Steelers (1969–1991)
5. Bill Walsh Stanford (1992–1994)
4. Joe Gibbs Washington Redskins (1981–1992, 2004–2007)
3. Don Shula Miami Dolphins (1970–1995)
2. Vince Lombardi Washington Redskins (1969)
1. Bill Belichick New England Patriots (2000–Present)

10 Greatest Head Coaches in NFL History

We have prepared our list with the help of references from trusted internet sources like ProFootballNetwork, AthlonSports, etc.

10. Bill Parcells

We are starting our list with a former head coach who served 19 seasons in NFL, Bill Parcells. He played football for a short time before starting his coaching career.

Nicknamed “The Big Tuna,” Parcells began coaching as the linebackers coach for the Hastings in 1964. In 1979, he made his NFL coaching debut with the New York Giants as their Linebackers coach.

In 1983, the Giants appointed Parcells as their head coach, and he rose to prominence. After that, he also served as the head coach for the New England Patriots, New York Jets, and Dallas Cowboys.

Bill Parcells
Bill Parcells (Source: Sports Illustrated)

Parcells retired from the sport with a head coaching record of 172-130-1. During his career, he won five division titles, three Super Bowl appearances, and two Super Bowl wins.

In 2013, Parcell became the Pro Football Hall of Famer.

9. Tom Landry

Tom Landry was a professional player and coach known for being the Dallas Cowboys head coach for 29 seasons. His coaching career spanned from 1954 to 1988.

As a player, Landry played for the New York Yankees in 1949 and the New York Giants from 1950 to 1955. He was still a professional player when he became the defensive coordinator for the Giants in 1954.

After serving the Giants from 1954 to 1959, Landry was appointed the head coach for the Cowboys in 1960. He was the first head coach for the franchise.

Tom Landry
Tom Landry (Source: Dallas Morning News)

His 29 years with the Cowboys is an NFL record for the most years spent as a head coach for one team.

As a head coach, Landry won 13 division titles and two Super Bowl championships and made five Super Bowl appearances.

He was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 1990 and named to the 2019 NFL 100 All-Time Team.

8. George Halas

Nicknamed “Papa Bear,” George Halas was one of the co-founders of the American Professional Football Association (now NFL). He was a professional football player, coach, owner, and founder of the Chicago Bears.

From 1919 to 1929, Halas played professional football. In 1919, the Decatur Staleys (now Chicago Bears) was established, and Halas was hired as the team’s head coach in 1920.

He spent his whole coaching career with the Bears and was the head coach for the franchise on four occasions. In 1967, he became the oldest head coach to serve in the league at age 72 years and 318 days old.

George Halas
George Halas (Source: Britannica)

Halas retired from coaching with an NFL record of 318-148-31. He won ten division titles and six NFL championships as a head coach.

In 1963, Halas was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and was honored to the NFL 100 All-Time Team in 2019.

7. Paul Brown

Paul Brown is the seventh head coach on our 10 greatest head coaches in NFL history list. He was a coach and an Executive in All-American Football Conference (AFC) and NFL.

Brown was the co-founder and first head coach for the NFL franchise, Cleveland Browns. However, he began his coaching journey at Severn School in 1930.

From 1946 to 1962, Brown served as the head coach for the Cleveland Browns. In 1967, he became the owner of the Cincinnati Bengals. He served as the Bengals’ head coach from 1968 to 1975.

Paul Brown young
Paul Brown When He Was Young (Source: USA Today)

Brown is one of the early pioneers in the game. He won 14 division titles, four AAFC championships, and three NFL championships, with a head coaching record of 213-104-9.

For his contribution to the sport, Brown became the Pro Football Hall of Famer of the class of 1967. Similarly, he was named to the 2019 NFL 100 All-Time Team.

6. Chuck Noll

The sixth head coach on our list is a former professional football player and head coach, Chuck Noll. He is considered one of the greatest head coaches of all time in the NFL.

From 1953 to 1959, Noll played professional football for the Cleveland Browns. Then in 1960, he made his debut as a defensive line coach for the Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers.

In 1969, Pittsburgh Steelers appointed Noll as the franchise’s head coach. His tenure with the franchise spanned from 1969 to 1991.

Chuck Noll with Vince Lombardi Trophy
Chuck Noll with Vince Lombardi Trophy (Source: Yahoo Sports)

In addition to being a great coach, Noll tried to break down the color barrier in the sport. He hired the first black quarterback in Steelers’ history and the first black assistant coach in the history of the NFL.

Noll finished his career with a 193-148-1 record. Similarly, he won nine division titles and won four Super Bowl championships.

In 1993, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and named to the NFL 100 All-Time Team in 2019.

5. Bill Walsh

Bill Walsh was a professional and college football coach who helped popularize the West Coast offense in the game. He started his coaching career as the receivers coach for California in 1960.

In 1966, the Oakland Raiders hired Walsh as their running backs coach. It was his first debut in the NFL.

He also worked with the Cincinnati Bengals and San Diego Chargers before being appointed head coach for the San Francisco 49ers in 1979.

Bill Walsh
Bill Walsh (Source: Daily Norseman)

From 1979 to 1988, Walsh held the position of head coach for the 49ers. During his tenure of 10 years with the franchise, he had a 92-59-1 head coaching career record.

Similarly, Walsh won six Division titles and three Super Bowl champions. He became the Pro Football Hall of Famer in the class of 1993. Likewise, he was also named to the 2019 NFL 100 All-Time Team.

4. Joe Gibbs

Widely regarded as one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, Joe Gibbs is the fourth head coach on our 10 greatest head coaches in NFL history list. He was a professional football coach who began his career in 1964.

Gibbs began as the offensive line coach for San Diego State. His NFL coaching debut came in 1973 as the St. Louis Cardinals’ running backs coach.

Joe Gibbs
Joe Gibbs (Source: Sports Business Journal)

In 1981, Gibbs became the head coach for the Washington Redskins. He was the team’s head coach from 1981 to 1992 and again from 2004 to 2007.

During his coaching career, Gibbs won three Super Bowl championships while making four Super Bowl appearances. By retirement, he had set a coaching record of 154-94.

In 1996, Gibbs became the Pro Football Hall of Famer. Similarly, he was named to the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team in 2019.

3. Don Shula

We are down to three greatest head coaches in NFL history. The third head coach is Don Shula, the league’s winningest head coach with 347 career wins and 328 regular season wins.

Shula was a professional player before he began coaching. From 1951 to 1957, he played for the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Colts, and Washington Redskins. In 1958, he debuted as the defensive backs coach for Virginia.

Don Shula
Don Shula (Source: Chron)

In 1960, Shula returned to NFL, but this time as a defensive backs coach for the Detroit Lions. Then in 1963, Baltimore Colts hired him as the team’s head coach.

From 1963 to 1969, he was Colts’ head coach, after which the Miami Dolphins hired him. He served as the Dolphins’ head coach from 1970 to 1995. His head coach record is 328-156-6.

Shula won 16 division titles, six Super Bowl appearances, and two Super Bowl wins. He became the Pro Football Hall of Famer in 1997 and was named to the 2019 NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.

2. Vince Lombardi

Vince Lombardi is considered the greatest coach in football history, after whom the prestigious Super Bowl trophy is named after. Similarly, he is one of the greatest coaches and Leaders in American sports history.

Lombardi played professional football for two seasons in 1937 and 1938. He made his coaching debut as an assistant at the Salesianum School in 1937. In 1954, he became an offensive coordinator for the New York Giants.

In 1959, the Green Bay Packers hired Lombardi as their head coach. From 1959 to 1967, he was the franchise’s head coach and general manager.

Vince Lombardi
Vince Lombardi (Source: Biography.com)

Likewise, he worked as the head coach and general manager for Washington Redskins in 1969. Sadly, his coaching career was cut short due to colon cancer.

In his ten years career, Lombardi made a 96-34-6 head coaching record. Similarly. he won six Division titles, three NFL champions, and two Super Bowl championships.

Lombardi was inducted into the 1971 Pro Football Hall of Fame and named to the 2019 NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.

1. Bill Belichick

The number one greatest head coach in NFL history is the New England Patriots’ head coach, Bill Belichick. The 70 year-old is considered one of the greatest coaches of all time.

Belichick began his career as a special assistant for the Baltimore Colts in 1975. He worked with several NFL franchises before being hired as the head coach for the Cleveland Browns in 1991.

In 2000, the Patriots hired Belichick as the franchise’s head coach. Since then, he has served as the team’s head coach and become the league’s longest-tenured active head coach.

Bill Belichick
Bill Belichick (Source: SBNation)

Belichick is the only NFL head coach to win six Super Bowls. Additionally, he has won 17 Division titles and made nine Super Bowl appearances.

In addition to his achievement, Belichick holds several NFL records as a coach. He was selected to the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team in 2019.

Conclusion

As we mentioned, only victories are not the basis for ranking the coaches’ greatest. These coaches have spent years coaching various teams and contributing to the sport.

These coaches have left a legacy in NFL and have immortalized themselves as some of the greatest head coaches in the league’s history!

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