Jun
17
2014
Power Rankings
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46 comments

This past weekend, Chuck Noll – the legendary coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers who won four Super Bowl championships during his tenure with the team – passed away at the age of 82. In honor of the all-time great, NFL Network spent a lot of time on Saturday and Sunday running programming that focused on Noll’s title-winning teams.

In watching shows like America’s Game, it was impossible not to be struck by the way in which the head coach turned a one-time doormat into what is arguably the greatest franchise in league history. He transformed pro football in the Steel City.

That puts Noll atop the list of Steelers head coaches, although that group is stacked with other Super Bowl winners. Which got the editors at cover32 thinking about who is the greatest coach in the history of each franchise.

But that’s just step one in the process. Once the greatest coach was determined, it was time to rank each of the coaches who were selected from 1-32.

The results make up this week’s Power Rankings: The greatest coaches in each franchise’s history:

***

1. Vince Lombardi (Green Bay Packers) – Curly Lambeau won more games (209 to 89) and more titles (six to five), but one coach has the stadium named after him while the other one has his name etched on the NFL’s championship trophy every year. Lombardi won five NFL titles, including the first two Super Bowls, during a seven-year stretch; he’s the epitome of championship football.

2. Bill Walsh (San Francisco 49ers) – Yes, George Seifert has a gaudy .766 winning percentage during his eight years at the helm in San Francisco, a stretch that included a pair of Super Bowl titles, but it was Walsh who laid the groundwork for his success. One of the greatest offensive minds in league history, Walsh turned a losing franchise into a dynasty, winning three championships of his own in the ’80s.

3. Paul Brown (Cleveland Browns) – Why are Browns fans frustrated? Because the greatest coach in franchise history retired 52 years ago, only to be followed by 17 men who couldn’t escape his legend. During his 17 years at the helm in Cleveland, Brown posted a .767 winning percentage, won four AAFC titles, captured three NFL championships and named the franchise after himself. That’s pretty darn good.

4. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots) – People may not like Belichick’s tactics, but it’s impossible to argue with the results. During his time in New England, the Patriots have won 11 AFC East titles in 14 seasons, made five Super Bowl appearances and hoisted three Lombardi Trophies; that’s a staggering level of success. And Belichick isn’t done yet, as the book is still being written.

5. Tom Landry (Dallas Cowboys) – Jimmy Johnson gets some serious consideration for this spot, given that he won two Super Bowls in the 1990s with the Cowboys and left a team in place that won another two years after he left. But Landry’s résumé is just too good; the legendary coach won 250 games during his time in Dallas, led the team to five Super Bowls and won two titles; longevity wins out on this one.

6. Don Shula (Miami Dolphins) – The accolades for Shula are astounding, as his résumé is stacked with accomplished, most of which occurred during his time in south Florida. He’s the NFL’s all-time winningest coach with 347 victories, 257 of which came in Miami. He also led the Dolphins to 12 AFC East titles, five Super Bowl appearances and two NFL championships.

7. George Halas (Chicago Bears) – It’s like comparing apples and oranges, trying to measure one of the founders of the league (Halas) against the other great coach in Bears history (Mike Ditka); they simply had the job in eras that were too vastly different. But Halas won six NFL championships across his four stints as the team’s head coach and he helped create the game; that’s almost impossible to beat.

8. Chuck Noll (Pittsburgh Steelers) – Winning four Super Bowl titles puts Noll in an elite group, as he’s the only head coach in NFL history to accomplish that feat. Considering he did it in a six-year span, after taking over one of the most-hapless franchises in the league just five years before the first title, it’s evident that he was one of the greatest coaches in the history of the league.

9. Joe Gibbs (Washington Redskins) – Gibbs is underappreciated in terms of the greatest coaches in NFL history, especially for a guy who won three Super Bowls; his name rarely comes up in conversations about the all-time best, but it should. Not only did he win three titles, but each one was captured with a different starting quarterback; he never had a Hall-of-Fame signal caller to ride.

10. Bill Parcells (New York Giants) – Given that the team’s early success seemed to be with a different coach each time (Earl Potteiger, Steve Owen, etc.), this ultimately came down to two guys who won a pair of Super Bowls with the G-Men – Parcells and Tom Coughlin. Ultimately, Parcells won out because his first championship team (1986) was dominant. The other three Super Bowl winners weren’t.

11. John Madden (Oakland Raiders) – An entire generation knows Madden only for his colorful work in the broadcast booth, while yet another simply is aware of him as the guy from the video games. But before any of that, he was a great coach for a decade with the Raiders. In 10 years, his Oakland teams made eight playoff appearance, won seven division titles, played in two Super Bowls and won a title.

12. Mike Shanahan (Denver Broncos) – Red Miller has the highest winning percentage (.645) in franchise history. Dan Reeves led the Broncos to three Super Bowl appearances in the 1980s. But ultimately, it was Shanahan who got them over the hump, bringing the first championship in franchise history to Denver in 1997, something he was able to repeat the next year.

13. Hank Stram (Kansas City Chiefs) – There was a lot of support for Marty Schottenheimer in this spot, as he won three division titles and made seven playoff appearances during his decade in Kansas City. But ultimately, Stram’s ability to win the big game – two AFL titles and one Super Bowl during his time with the Texans/Chiefs – put the Hall of Fame coach at the top of the list.

14. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens) – Considering that two of the three coaches in franchise history – Harbaugh and Brian Billick – have won Super Bowl titles, this was essentially a coin flip. But Harbaugh ultimately got the nod because of the fact that he made the playoffs in each of his first five seasons as head coach and has never had a losing season (Billick had two).

15. Sid Gillman (San Diego Chargers) – Don Coryell helped change the game with his revolutionary passing attack, but he couldn’t get to a Super Bowl. Bobby Ross got the Chargers to their only appearance in the big game, but couldn’t win a title. And Marty Schottenheimer won a lot of games, but flopped in the playoffs. Thus, the coach who got to five AFL title matches and won one gets the top spot in San Diego.

16. Marv Levy (Buffalo Bills) – After a less-than-successful stint in Kanas City, people wondered why Ralph Wilson tabbed the then-61-year-old Levy to take over the Bills in 1986. But he proved the doubters wrong, leading Buffalo to the playoffs eight times during his 12-year career with the team. But he earned a spot in Canton because he guided the franchise to a record four consecutive Super Bowls.

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Comments
  1. SanDyEggerEd

    What about Don Coryell and his passing innovations? What about Marty Schottenheimer and his winning record?

  2. John Madden should be much higher than #12.
    He has the highest winning percentage of any coach with more that 100 games.
    He was the youngest coach ever to reach 100 victories.
    He never had a losing season.
    He was 5-3 vs. Paul Brown (3).
    He was 1-0 vs. Tom Landry (5).
    He was4-3 vs. Don Shula (6).
    He was 6-5 vs. Chuck Noll (8).
    He also had a winning record against Bud Grant, Hank Stram Sid Gilman, and Marv Levi.
    If you judge this fairly, by the numbers, without prejudice, then #2 behind Vince Lombardi is John Madden’s proper place

    • raiderfan

      he’s not ranking them that way, he’s taking it the best on each, team. May I add saying dungy in tampa bad choice, he didn’t build that team Sam Wyche did just like mora built indy cant have it both ways.

      • I’d guess by having Lombardi #1 and Walsh #2 (and those at the end of the list) that he is ranking them overall but it’s not right with Noll that low and having 4 Super Bowl wins under his belt.

        • Anonymous

          I liked Dungy with the Buccaneers, but I think John McKay was the best coach. He just didn’t have anything to work with. But to take a laughing stock (0-26) team to the NFC championship in 4 years from the francise start, speaks volumes.

      • raiderfan, I’m a lifelong bucs fan. All respect to Sam Wyche – but Tony Dungy made the franchise respectable. We were the Yucs before he got there. Plus he laid the foundation for the only Superbowl in franchise history. He’s the clear choice for best coach in franchise history and it’s not even close.

    • John Madden shouldn’t even be the best coach of the Raiders, let alone considered higher on the list. Tom Flores won two Super bowls. How did they blow that call.

      • Flores was good but …not that good Madden was the Raiders greatest coach by far. Madden dominated far superior teams then Flores, but don’t get me wrong Flores did a hell of a job coaching the Raiders too.

  3. Paul Brown really should be considered the greatest coach in the history of the Cincinnati Bengals. John Madden should be rated higher, and Don Shula should be higher as well certainly higher than Tom Landry.

    • Rob h is correct. Paul Brown is the innovator of the West Coast offense he started the tformation in clevland that lead to westcoast offense when Bill Walsh was his offensive QB coach with Bengals

    • No Doubt! The only coach to win 4 Super Bowls, how does that not win you the top spot? The only coach you could consider placing above him is Lombardi, he won 5 titles, to include 2 Super Bowls, not his fault that the Super Bowl had not been invented yet, but you do have to consider that there were a lot less teams when he did it though.

      • I’m a Steelers fan but I’d put Noll at #2 behind Lombardi. It’s not about the “Super Bowl” as a title, it’s a championship. #8 for Noll is ridiculous.

        • I agree Noll should be higher but you also have to consider once that team got older Noll couldn’t accomplish that feat again. He was the driving force for the picks the Steelers made and did not do as well after that 8 year run. One thing to factor was he could have drafted Marino but didn’t that is one of many choices he could have made to make the Steelers relevant for a lot longer than they were. They constantly got worse after that ’81 season so that is the reason he doesn’t make my top 3 he would be fourth on the list. behind Walsh for the fact he knew when to leave and let the 49ers be relevant for a long time after he left.

  4. How do you forget to mention the perfect season for Shula in this article. Much was missed in this article. Next time put some thought in to it.

  5. Pretty solid list overall, not too much disagreement, despite the banter over the numerical 1-32 ranking, which is an argument that is nearly impossible to settle. One major questionable call is the Bengals. Got to give that one to Sam Wyche. If you’re going to factor in how they did in the “big games,” Wyche went 3-2 in the playoffs and was just one Joe Montana touchdown drive away from a championship. Wyche did have an overall losing record with Cincy, but Marvin Lewis, who has a winning record (barely), is 0-5 in the playoffs. Plus, the “… you don’t live in Cleveland!” comment over the PA system earns him bonus points in my book. “Personality goes a long way.”

  6. Thom Lakso

    Paul Brown and the Browns did not start off in the NFL, but what Brown brought to the NFL was total coaching control and great black players….Marion Motley, Lenny Ford, Horace Gillam the extra step punter who could boom a ball

  7. As much as I hated the 49s, I have to agree that Walsh was simply superb as a coach and yes Sefiert mearly rode his coat tails because that dynasty was not dead yet when he took over. I mean I could have coached that team myself after Walsh and they still would have continued to win lol

  8. Don Allen

    Somebody tell me how Bill Cowher doesn’t make the list!! Did more with less than any coach i can remember! 6 AFC title games 4 different QB’s 2 Super Bowls one with Neil O’Donnell Think he makes top 16 easy!! I’m just saying

  9. Sean Thoman

    Better correct your history on the Cardinals, check NFL’s History Website, the Cardinals are the leagues oldest team in the league going back before the NFL was formed. Go Browns!!!

  10. Anonymous

    Fisher by far, by far no doubt was the Titans best coach. In fact he should still be coach.

  11. Gary Jones

    Madden left far too quickly to get big time respect. Great for the time he was there, but he did’nt do with enough different contributors.

  12. Dan Reeves (.454 win %) getting the nod for the Falcons over Mike Smith (.625 win %) is ridiculous. I seriously doubt there’s any serious Falcons fan that would want Dan Reeves back as coach over Mike Smith. Yeah, he went to a Super Bowl, but he in Atlanta he was a losing coach who lost a Super Bowl… I guess he just gets the title of best Falcons coach as a consolation for not getting “best Broncos coach,” where he was way more successful.

    Then again, it’s the Falcons, so who cares?

  13. Randy Hall

    How Chuck Noll is not #2 and then have to put “you may not like his tactics” for Bilicheat speaks for itself. When you break rules like in Baseball they ban you, not recognize you.

    • How can you say Fontes was better when he never won a championship. Parker won three NFL Championships.

  14. I am not sure why you have given Buddy Parker such a low ranking. You point out that he won three NFL Championships which is exactly how many Paul Brown won. In fact, all three NFL Championships that Parker won were against Paul Brown, who you rank at #3. One thing you certainly are not considering is that Buddy Parker was the inventor of the two minute offense which has become a staple in football. You should give him some props for that instead of placing him below a lot of guys that won only a single Super Bowl. Parker should rank much higher than #22. That is an insult for a man that accomplished so much in six seasons and made a fundamental and lasting change to the game.

  15. So what this list tells me is the Bill Parcells is the best coach in NFL history. He was the best coach for two different teams. I know he probably isn’t the best but still a nice title to hold.

  16. What happened not considering Jerry Jones for the Cowboys!!!!!!! Born, raised & live in Dallas, been a Greenbay fan since 1961! Vince Lombardi #1 all time best coach! OOORAH!

  17. The very best team in the NFL every year will always be the Greenbay Packers! No one else stands a chance against them.

  18. Lou Saban – Buffalo Bills – This was written by someone who just pulled out names that most people would recognize.

  19. What about Dick Vermeil as the Rams best coach? That 1999-2000 team was the most exciting offense in NFL history.

  20. Neal Lynch

    If Tom Coughlin wins another Super Bowl, does he get the nod over Big Tuna? Then consider what Bill’s teams could’ve done if there were two wild card teams during his Giants tenure.

  21. I think Bud Grant should have been higher granted he never won a Super Bowl but he did make it to 4 of them and to have a .622 winning percentage over 18 years is hard to beat

  22. ed yarolin

    no comparison, Cleveland browns had the best teams & coach of all time, he got Lombardi his job at green bay, turned out more coaches; shula, noll, the greatest players in the hall of fame, the best quarterback of all time otto graham, best punter in horace gillom, coffin corner specialist who really played wide receiver & should be in hall of fame, designed trap play for marion motley, designed modern face mask, for players etc. & only miscue brown made was not turn the bengals over to walsh when he was an assistant, but so many greats & I actually saw these guys play, by a fan of 66 years. they won six nfl championships when they entered the league! a record no other team can match plus 4 in the aafc in a ten year period, want more, just look up the browns players in the hall of fame from that era! e. j. yarolin

  23. Noll 1st or 2nd. Number eight? Really? You need to go back and look at the accomplishments again.