Being a head coach in the NFL might seem like a dream come true, but this job is one of the most thankless in sports. For coaches at this level, winning and most importantly winning now is the only way to hold on to your position. Success in the NFL is often attributed to the great players on the team, while failures are almost always linked to the head coach. What history has shown is that a great coach might not get you a Super Bowl win every season, but they can most certainly establish a culture within a franchise that allows a team to compete at a high level for a very long time.
The majority of great coaches need time to turn a poor or mediocre team into a winner, but most teams are not willing to invest in the future and want to win now. Take Tom Landry, for example. He’s widely regarded as one of the best coaches of all time. His start with the Cowboys was awful. He went 0-11-1 in his first season and followed that up with season of 4, 5, 4, 5, and 7 wins before going on to make the playoffs in 17 of the next 19 seasons, including five Super Bowl appearances and two championships. Now, Landry might be an exception in history, but if you look at the majority of coaches to win multiple Super Bowls, most have been given enough time to put the pieces they need in place. Not to sound like a grumpy old man, but most owners in the NFL today lack the foresight to allow this to happen, which is why we see a team like New England dominate an era. Everyone else tries to play catch up, but they want to do it in a single season.
There is a bit of a chicken-and-the-egg effect here (what came first, the wins or the job security?), but looking at the list of the most successful active NFL coaches, you will see guys that have had poor seasons bounce back in a way that it is hard to imagine a first-year coach doing. Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints is a great example. He went just 25-23 before winning his first Super Bowl. This was followed by four solid seasons, then three straight 7-9 seasons. New Orleans then went to the playoffs in consecutive years, losing to Minnesota in the famed “Minneapolis Miracle”, and then losing in the NFC Championship the following season. The point is, sometimes it pays to stick with a coach through some difficult times.
Below you’ll find two tables. The first lists the appearances (only as a head coach) for each of the current coaches in the NFL, including their wins and losses. The second is a list of all of the NFL head coaches in history who have appeared in two or more Super Bowls.
What can you say other than what Bill Belichick and the Patriots have done here is impressive. He has nine Super Bowl appearances, while the rest of the active NFL head coaches have a combined twelve. Most of these coaches should be around for awhile to try and catch up, but it’s a long road ahead. You do have to wonder how much longer Belichick will stick around – and if he would do so without Tom Brady as his quarterback.
*Game result pending.
|Bill Belichick||9||6||3||New England Patriots|
|Mike Tomlin||2||1||1||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|Pete Carroll||2||1||1||Seattle Seahawks|
|Dan Quinn||1||0||1||Atlanta Falcons|
|John Harbaugh||1||0||0||Baltimore Ravens|
|Ron Rivera||1||0||1||Carolina Panthers|
|Andy Reid||1||0||1||Kansas City Chiefs|
|Sean McVay||1||0||1||Los Angeles Rams|
|Sean Payton||1||1||0||New Orleans Saints|
|Jon Gruden||1||1||0||Oakland Raiders|
|Doug Pederson||1||1||0||Philadelphia Eagles|
|Kliff Kingsbury||0||0||0||Arizona Cardinals|
|Sean McDermott||0||0||0||Buffalo Bills|
|Matt Nagy||0||0||0||Chicago Bears|
|Freddie Kitchens||0||0||0||Cleveland Browns|
|Jason Garrett||0||0||0||Dallas Cowboys|
|Vic Fangio||0||0||0||Denver Broncos|
|Matt Patricia||0||0||0||Detroit Lions|
|Matt LaFleur||0||0||0||Green Bay Packers|
|Bill O’Brien||0||0||0||Houston Texans|
|Frank Reich||0||0||0||Indianapolis Colts|
|Doug Marrone||0||0||0||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|Anthony Lynn||0||0||0||Los Angeles Chargers|
|Mike Zimmer||0||0||0||Minnesota Vikings|
|Pat Shurmur||0||0||0||New York Giants|
|Adam Gase||0||0||0||New York Jets|
|Kyle Shanahan||0||0||0||San Francisco 49ers|
|Bruce Arians||0||0||0||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|Mike Vrabel||0||0||0||Tennessee Titans|
|Jay Gruden||0||0||0||Washington Redskins|
The guys at the top of this list are the most legendary coaches in the NFL. If you have appeared in two or more Super Bowls, you are definitely doing something right. With that being said, it is hard not to be in awe of Bill Belichick’s accomplishments with the New England Patriots.
Let’s put it into perspective. There are currently 32 NFL teams, meaning each team has roughly a 3% chance to win the Super Bowl each year. This means that if you coach in the NFL for 19 years (like Belichick has at the time of this writing), your odds of winning at least one Super Bowl is about 44%. Not bad. However, the odds of winning six Lombardi Trophies in that span is somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.0013%, or about 1 in 75,000.
Want your mind really blown? Using the same assumptions, the odds of appearing in the Super Bowl 9 times in 19 seasons as a head coach in the NFL is less than 0.000001%. These numbers are a little misleading because obviously not every NFL team has an equal chance to win the Super Bowl every year, futures odds prove that. But let’s say the Patriots are the favorites to win the Super Bowl in every season Belichick coaches. This would typically put them at something like +500 (5 to 1) or a 16.7% chance to win each year. This still puts the probability of achieving six Super Bowl victories in 19 years at a mere 5.4%. It is truly an impressive feat and not something we are likely to see again in the history of the NFL.
*Game result pending.
|Head Coach||Games||Wins||Losses||Team(s)||Super Bowls|
|Bill Belichick||9||6||3||New England Patriots||XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XLII, XLVI, XLIX, LI, LII, LIII|
|Don Shula||6||2||4||Baltimore Colts, Miami Dolphins||III, VI, VII, VIII, XVII, XIX|
|Tom Landry||5||2||3||Dallas Cowboys||V, VI, X, XII, XIII|
|Chuck Noll||4||4||0||Pittsburgh Steelers||IX, X, XIII, XIV|
|Joe Gibbs||4||3||1||Washington Redskins||XVII, XVIII, XXII, XXVI|
|Bud Grant||4||0||4||Minnesota Vikings||IV, VIII, IX, XI|
|Marv Levy||4||0||4||Buffalo Bills||XXV, XXVI, XXVII, XXVIII|
|Dan Reeves||4||0||4||Denver Broncos, Atlanta Falcons||XXI, XXII, XXIV, XXXIII|
|Bill Walsh||3||3||0||San Francisco 49ers||XVI, XIX, XXIII|
|Bill Parcells||3||2||1||New York Giants, New England Patriots||XXI, XXV, XXXI|
|Mike Holmgren||3||1||2||Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks||XXXI, XXXII, XL|
|Vince Lombardi||2||2||0||Green Bay Packers||I, II|
|Tom Flores||2||2||0||Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders||XV, XVIII|
|Jimmy Johnson||2||2||0||Dallas Cowboys||XXVII, XXVIII|
|George Seifert||2||2||0||San Francisco 49ers||XXIV, XXIX|
|Mike Shanahan||2||2||0||Denver Broncos||XXXII, XXXIII|
|Tom Coughlin||2||2||0||New York Giants||XLII, XLVI|
|Hank Stram||2||1||1||Kansas City Chiefs||I, IV|
|Dick Vermeil||2||1||1||Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams||XV, XXXIV|
|Bill Cowher||2||1||1||Pittsburgh Steelers||XXX, XL|
|Pete Carroll||2||1||1||Seattle Seahawks||XLVIII, XLIX|
|Mike Tomlin||2||1||1||Pittsburgh Steelers||XLIII, XLV|
|John Fox||2||0||2||Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos||XXXVIII, XLVIII|