Bill Belichick: Greatest NFL Coach

By Stephen Juza

June 1st, 2020

During Bill Belichick’s career, he has established himself as the greatest coach in NFL history, and arguably the greatest coach in all major North American sports. While that pantheon could include other coaches with impeccable credentials and eye-popping statistics, such as Phil Jackson winning the NBA championship in more seasons (eleven) than not (nine), Belichick’s consistency has set him apart.

Regardless of how you want to rank coaches, Belichick’s name is toward the top. Regular season wins? Third of all time, behind Don Shula and George Halas. Best winning percentage of all time? Belichick ranks fifth of all time for coaches with more than ten seasons at the helm, with almost as many wins as the four coaches above him combined.

Coach (active head coaches in bold) Head Coaching Years Regular Season Wins Regular Season Win Percentage Playoff Wins Playoff Win Percentage
Don Shula 1963-1995 328 67.70% 19 52.80%
George Halas 1920-1967 318 68.20% 6 66.70%
Bill Belichick 1991-2019 273 68.30% 31 72.10%
Tom Landry 1960-1988 250 60.70% 20 55.60%
Curly Lambeau 1921-1953 226 63.10% 3 60.00%

Top Five Coaches in Wins, All Time

This regular season success has translated into unprecedented domination of the AFC East. Since the start of the dynasty, the Patriots have won 17 of 19 division titles, seven more than the Green Bay Packers, the next most dominating team. In fact, 17 division titles is more than all but five franchises in the history of the NFL.

If playoff success is the true mark of a great coach, Belichick has coached in the most playoff games in NFL history (41), has the most wins (31), and has the third best win percentage of a coach with more than ten playoff games under his belt. In the 100 years of the NFL, Belichick has put his team in the championship more times than any other coach (nine conference championships) while winning the most NFL championships, tied with Halas and Curly Lambeau (six each).

Throughout this continued run of success, there have been few constants on the team beyond Coach Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. Assistant coaches have come and gone, and occasionally returned, and team personnel and strategy has been fluid every few years. Most dynasties are defined by a single strategy or core group of players.

The Patriots can’t be defined by one side of the ball, or any group of players. The San Francisco 49ers were defined by the West Coast offense during their dynasty. The Dallas Cowboys of the 90s won three Super Bowls in four seasons behind the offense of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin. The Patriots have won championships led by both sides of the ball.

In fact, what may be the most impressive aspect of the Patriots’ success is the era they have achieved it in. Free agency began in 1993 and completely changed how teams are created and maintained. It is far more difficult now for a team to consistently be at the top, year after year, than it was before this change. The other coaches at the top of the winning chart all began coaching decades before Belichick.

Prior to Free Agency, multiple championship appearances by a coach were commonplace. George Halas had seven championship appearances with the Chicago Bears between 1933 and 1946. Paul Brown made eleven championship game appearances in thirteen years in the 1940s and 1950s. Chuck Noll had four Super Bowl appearances in the 1970s. However, since 1993, no coach has made more than two Super Bowl appearances. No coach, that is, other than Belichick, who has made an astonishing nine appearances.

Across the 500 coaches who have ever coached an NFL game, Belichick has few peers in each metric of success. When taken together, he has no equal in NFL history. Over the next few weeks, this series will look more in depth at each of these metrics, highlighting Belichick’s body of work in NFL history.

Part 1: Bill Belichick: Greatest NFL Coach

Part 2: Regular season: Consistent Success for Two Decades

Part 3: Playoff Success, When the Competition is the Strongest

Part 4: Succeeding in the Most Challenging Era

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