Pro Football Blog

By Stephen Juza

June 15th, 2020

Bill Belichick’s accolades as the best coach in league history do not stop with the regular season, and his postseason successes further differentiates him from other greats.

He has coached in the most playoff games in NFL history, forty three games, despite frequently having a bye week in the first round of the playoffs. Recently, the Patriots had a string of first round byes that extended from 2010 until 2018, nine seasons. This is a streak so remarkable, it is tied for the longest streak of simply making the playoffs at all of any other team in NFL history.

Belichick’s success stems from not only his ability to coach his team into the playoffs, but also winning games when it counts. His thirty one playoff wins are the most in NFL history and his record will continue to stand for a very long time. His record is eleven wins ahead of the next coach (Tom Landry), and sixteen wins ahead of the next currently active coach (Andy Reid).

Coach Head Coaching Years Playoff Wins Playoff Win Percentage
Bill Belichick 1991-2019 31 72%
Tom Landry 1960-1988 20 56%
Don Shula 1963-1995 19 53%
Chuck Noll 1969-1991 16 67%
Andy Reid 1999-2019 15 52%

In fact, Belichick continues to win these crucial games at a better rate than almost any coach in league history. Among his peers who have coached in at least ten playoff games, his win percentage, 72%, ranks third of all time. This translates into almost a twelve win season against the best teams in the league when the stakes are at their highest, and no one is better than Belichick at getting his team to games with the highest stakes.

Belichick has coached his teams to the championship nine times, which is twice more than the next coach, Paul Brown. Also, when Paul Brown coached, four of the championships were in the All-America Football Conference against only three other teams to make the championship. Belichick and the Patriots had to compete against fifteen other teams to make each championship.

If championships are the barometer of success for a coach, Bill Belichick has no peer in the NFL. Not only has Belichick excelled at getting his teams to the Super Bowl, but also at winning them. Since the NFL merger, thirteen coaches have won multiple Super Bowls. Belichick has won the most in the league with six victories. Chuck Noll, the hall of fame coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, has the second most with just four.

Belichick has been able to maintain constant playoff success through the years, creating a dynasty that has remained longer than any other in NFL history. By elevating his already stellar regular season success in the playoffs, he has been able to ensure that his records will not soon be broken.

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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By Stephen Juza

June 8th, 2020

Of the 500 head coaches in NFL history, Bill Belichick ranks third in total wins with 273. George Halas and Don Shula, the two coaches with more wins, both started their careers closer to the start of the NFL than to today. Among coaches that have started their careers in the last forty years, there are only four within a hundred wins of Belichick.

Coach Head Coaching Years Regular Season Wins Regular Season Win Percentage
Bill Belichick 1991-2019 273 0.683
Andy Reid 1999-2019 207 0.618
Marty Schottenheimer 1984-2006 200 0.613
Dan Reeves 1981-2003 190 0.535
Jeff Fisher 1994-2016 173 0.512

Winningest Coaches Since 1980

It will take a long time before a coach surpasses Belichick’s post-merger record of 273 wins. Andy Reid, the coach with the closest total wins, has more losses despite having coached in sixty four games fewer games than Belichick. The Chiefs will need to win every game between now and Week 2, 2024 for Reid to surpass Belichick.

Belichick hasn’t only accumulated his wins through his longevity in the league, he has also won them at a faster rate than almost any coach in history. There are sixty nine coaches that have coached ten or more seasons in NFL history. Among these tenured coaches, they have a combined average win percentage of 57%, good for a consistent nine win season. Good, even playoff worthy, but not great. Belichick ranks fifth overall for win percentage (68%), good for an average of an 11 win seasons.

Eleven wins every season means that team is likely to win their division, and potentially a first-round bye. To maintain this consistency for 25 years is incredible, which is exactly what Belichick has achieved.

Belichick’s teams have consistently achieved greatness in the regular season. In his career, his team has made the playoffs eighteen times, tied for second in history. Only once did his team sneak into the playoffs with a wild card. Every other trip has been via a division title. His seventeen titles is the most in NFL history, surpassing the vast majority of other teams.

Not only has he won the AFC East division consistently, but the Patriots have the record for most consecutive division titles. For many years, the record for most consecutive division titles was seven, set by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1970s. The Patriots tied this feat in 2015, broke the record in 2016, and have extended the record to an active streak of eleven straight division titles.

In fact, not only have the Patriots won the division, they have achieved it with remarkable ease. Only once, the Jets in 2009, during the streak of division titles has another team finished within one game of the Patriots. During the current run, the Patriots have consistently won the division with more than three games separating them from the second place team. Put another way, they could have been playing 14 game seasons under Belichick and still set the record for most division titles in a row at 10.

Overall, Belichick has consistently coached his team through decades of success without a bad season. Some teams experience a lack of motivation in the season following a Super Bowl victory, but Belichick has kept the Patriots at the top of the game for much longer than anyone else in 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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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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By Stephen Juza

May 24th, 2020

Throughout NFL history, future coaches have learned how to succeed from current coaches. By learning their strategies, what works well and what can be improved, they hone their skills as an NFL coach. Rising through the ranks until they get their own opportunity to lead a team.

Some head coaches have a better track record of turning their assistants into head coaches to continue their core strategies. Bill Walsh is the best example of this. During his years as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers in the 1980s and 1990s, the team reshaped the league with the west coast offense. During these years, many assistants became head coaches carrying on a similar offensive philosophy.

Walsh’s former assistants carried the torch of the west coast offense far from San Francisco as they were hired as head coaches throughout the league: Sam Wyche to the Bengals, Mike Holmgren to the Packers, Dennis Green to the Vikings, and many others.

From there, the Bill Walsh coaching tree continued to grow. Among the new branches were Andy Reid, assistant coach under Mike Holmgren, who was hired as the head coach of the Eagles and Lovie Smith, assistant coach under Dennis Green, who was hired by the Bears. Pretty soon, most teams had some connection to the Walsh coaching tree.

Current organizations are no different, often poaching assistant coaches from successful teams to lead their own organization. This has led to several teams around the league with ties to Reid, head coach of the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

During Reid’s coaching career, ten coaches spent seasons on Reid’s staff before becoming head coaches. The most tenured coach under Reid’s tutelage was Sean McDermott, veteran of twelve seasons under Reid and current head coach of the Buffalo Bills. On the other end of the spectrum is Todd Bowles, who spent a single season as the Eagles secondary coach, filling in as interim defensive coordinator for the final ten games of the season.

Reid’s coaching tree consists of these ten coaches, combining for 77 seasons under his leadership. They have led teams for 49 seasons and counting. The most successful among his coaching tree is John Harbaugh, current head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. Harbaugh’s team won the Super Bowl in 2012, and he makes up more than half of the group’s playoff wins. Doug Pederson is another notable name, current head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, and winner of the 2017 Super Bowl.

Coach (active head coaches in bold) Regular Season Record Playoff Record
John Harbaugh 118-74 10-7
Ron Rivera 76-63-1 3-4
Brad Childress 39-35 1-2
Doug Pederson 38-26 4-2
Todd Bowles 26-41 0-0
Sean McDermott 25-23 0-2
Leslie Frazier 21-32 0-1
Matt Nagy 20-12 0-1
Steve Spagnuolo 11-41 0-0
Pat Shurmur 19-46 0-0
Total 393-393-1 18-19

Simply because an assistant has worked under a successful head coach does not guarantee their success. While Reid’s coaching tree has had success, the same cannot be said for Bill Belichick’s tree. Despite Belichick’s accomplishments as arguably the greatest NFL coach of all time, his coaching tree legacy leaves much to be desired.

Belichick has had nine assistants become head coaches, with little success at the NFL level. While there are several coaches still getting started in their head coaching careers, such as Joe Judge and Brian Flores, many coaches that had their chance failed to achieve even modest success.

Belichick’s coaching tree consists of nine coaches who have combined for only twenty-five seasons as head coach, combining for a win percentage of 42% with only two playoff wins among the group.

Coach (active head coaches in bold) Regular Season Record Playoff Record
Bill O'Brien 52-44 2-4
Eric Mangini 33-47 0-1
Romeo Crennel 28-55 0-0
Nick Saban 15-17 0-0
Josh McDaniels 11-17 0-0
Matt Patricia 9-22-1 0-0
Al Groh 9-7 0-0
Brian Flores 5-11 0-0
Joe Judge 0-0 0-0
Total 162-220-1 2-5

The notable exception in this group is Nick Saban--while he struggled in his two seasons as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, he has become one of the most successful coaches in college football history with his tenure at Alabama.

Between Reid and Belichick, a third of the league’s head coaches have spent time on their coaching staffs. However, their success with their opportunities could not be more different. Coaches coming from Reid’s coaching tree have had success throughout the league. Despite Belichick’s personal success throughout the league, his coaching staff has not prospered beyond the Patriots, a fact that does not bode well for the Giants and new head coach Judge.

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By Stephen Juza

May 1st, 2020

On March 17th, 2020, Tom Brady shocked the sports world by announcing he would be leaving the New England Patriots, the team he played his entire career for thus far. A few days later, he signed a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, replacing Jameis Winston as the team’s starting quarterback.

Brady leaves behind a legacy with the Patriots unmatched throughout NFL history: 20 seasons, six Super Bowl rings, four Super Bowl MVP awards, five All-Pro nominations, second all-time in passing yards, and the list continues.

It is rare that a proven starting quarterback changes teams—even rarer for them to be former All-Pros like Brady. The most apt comparison may be Joe Montana, who was traded from the San Francisco 49ers to the Kansas City Chiefs for the final two years of his career. This move paid dividends for both teams, as the 49ers dynasty continued under Steve Young for many more years, while the Chiefs made the AFC Championship game in 1992 for their best season since 1969.

Bringing in Brady brings instant championship aspirations for the Buccaneers. There is a steep hill to climb for the team as they try to dethrone the New Orleans Saints for the NFC South title. So what impact should the Buccaneers expect by adding Brady to the team? If history provides an answer, they should expect to be in the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

Looking at the top 20 most prolific quarterbacks to be signed or traded as the team’s starting quarterbacks, each new team averaged an improvement of three wins; four, if the quarterback was a former All-Pro. This hypothetically puts the Bucs at 11-5, firmly in place for a Wild Card bid, but maybe not enough to overcome the Saints for the divisional lead.

What should the Patriots expect? Statistically, while the QB’s new team improves, their former team typically takes a step back. When teams lost an All-Pro quarterback, they won about two fewer games the following year. This puts the Patriots in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008 with the up-and-coming Buffalo Bills looking to take a step forward from their wild card berth in 2019.

Brady’s departure pushes the Patriots move into unknown territory. They currently only have one quarterback, Jarrett Stidham, on the roster who has thrown a total of four passes in his entire NFL career.

Meanwhile, the Buccaneers are hoping that Brady can be the missing piece that facilitates their return to the playoffs and further. However, their championship window is now tied to Brady, who is at the tail end of his career when most quarterbacks have already hung up their cleats.

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