|35||JIM LEE HOWELL||53||27||4|
Here would be the complete list of the GREATEST NFL COACHES OF ALL TIME. This was one of the more difficult lists to put together as it took forever to do research. I learned a ton of information about the NFL. Here was the process I used and the thinking behind the decisions made in ranking the head coaches.
I was inspired by a comment comparing Andy Reid to Bill Belichick and decided to make them the last two that I would rank. I copied and pasted every NFL head coach, including those from the APFA, AAFC, and the AFL, for every current and defunct franchise. The APFA was the name for the NFL in the first two seasons, the AAFC gave us the Browns, Niners, and Colts, and the AFL – we should be familiar with that. I decided to divide the NFL into eras – and started to compare. Each coach had an entry for each year so I focused on individual years before looking at era records. I deleted coaches that did not meet the standard of excellence expected.
The first era – 1920-1932. This was an era as there was no championship game. The champion was the team that had the best record. In some years, there were more than twenty teams and the competition did not have to be other NFL teams. I went in trying to determine whether Halas or Lambeau was superior but soon learned of a new candidate – Guy Chamberlin. I had never heard of him before. He coached the Canton Bulldogs to two championships, the Cleveland Bulldogs to one, and the Frankford Yellow Jackets to a championship as well. Chamberlin was the star player on these teams – They were 42-2-6 in those four years. His non-championship teams – Frankford was 13-7 (six of the losses when Chamberlin was out due to a broken shoulder) and with the pathetic Cardinals franchise that was described as having one NFL level player on the roster (Chamberlin had retired by then). Halas won one championship (with Chamberlin as his star player) and Lambeau won three at the tail end of the era, after Chamberlin had retired. Ultimately, that level of dominance placed Chamberlin above Halas and Lambeau.
The second era – 1933-1949 – Halas v Lambeau (last year with Packers was 1949). Chicago and Green Bay won a combined eight championships while the rest of the NFL won nine. Lambeau won three and Halas won four – He could have had more as WWII service had interim coaches win a championship. The most significant competitor was Steve Owen who made eight championships with the Giants. He had a 2-6 record there. Green Bay and Chicago were in the same division so Owen had lesser competition to make the championship game. Ray Flaherty is another name that cropped up – dinged for only winning once with the best quarterback of the era – Sammy Baugh.
Next era – AAFC (1946-1949) and NFL 1950-1959 (with the Browns, Niners, and Colts joining from the AAFC. Paul Brown crushed the competition – total domination in the AAFC and won the championship in his first season in the NFL. Ten straight championship appearances. He was the first NFL coach to turn the job into an intellectual one. Read about him – it is fascinating. Buddy Parker gets an honorable mention here. He coached Detroit (with Bobby Layne as quarterback) and beat Brown 2-1 in head to head championships.
Next era – the sixties – basically, the AFL and Vince Lombardi. The Packers won five championships in seven years. Lombardi is another fascinating read – never knew that he had a gay player that he protected from his players and his coaches. Stram and Gilliam were the only two AFL coaches to make it simply on their performance in the AFL. Both could be criticized for not doing more with the talent they had. Shula and Landry had their start here – Shula did better but he had Johnny Unitas and did not win a championship while Landry took forever building the team into the perennial power that it was.
Next era – the seventies – Several coaches made the list here but I want to focus on John Madden. When I first started to think about a potential top ten, he was not on my radar. In a similar amount of time, he had a better record than Lombardi against what I consider to be tougher competition. Madden was 103-32-7 while Lombardi was 96-34-6. Madden made seven conference finals. Madden had the best winning percentage of any coach with more than 100 games. By the way, Chamberlin had the best all-time winning percentage.
Next era – the eighties – Walsh, Gibbs, Ditka, and Parcells. I spent forever looking at them and gave the advantage to Gibbs. Walsh had Montana but Gibbs won with three different starting quarterbacks. Hard to give penalty points for lack of titles but all four were in the same conference. The title game was most often the NFC Championship game.
Next era – Marty Ball – Marty was the man – he had the worst quarterbacks save a 115 year old Joe Montana in KC and was successful in Cleveland and San Diego. He coached the Redskins to 8-8 when the other famous coaches kept falling on their face there. Jimmy Johnson could have been higher had Jerry not decided to part ways with him. He wins at least one more championship there.
Next era – Belichick and Brady – Hard to separate one from the other. The main reason that Andy ranks above him is that the emperor has had little success without Brady. Andy wins the division with EAFOX as quarterback. Several coaches of the era – Dungy, Payton, Tomlin – fall short due to lack of championships with premium quarterbacks.
Current era – I ended the list with the best of the new coaches. The butt wipe from the Bengals still needs another season or so to join this list. My prediction for this year – the Bengals fall off the perennial power shelf like the Bills did this year. They might have peaked.
Final question – that leaves us with the question – Can Andy overtake Paul Brown? Unlike Belichick, Andy seems to be peaking right now as a coach with Mahomes as his quarterback. He made his bones with McNabb and Alex Smith but could add to his substantial resume in the next few years. He built the Chiefs like Paul Brown built the Bengals – but with a higher ceiling pre Mahomes. Another Super Bowl win or two will put him equal with Brown in longevity success. May not make ten straight appearances but it is much harder to get there now. I believe that Andy pulls even with Brown with something dominant – Brown had a 47-4-3 mark in the AAFC. If Andy had an undefeated season or a season like the 85 Bears in which all playoff competition is crushed, he can pull past Brown. Perhaps, he does it with three straight Super Bowl victories – something never done before. If Mahomes hits 6000 yards or 60 TDs in a season, Andy will get some credit for making it happen. At the very least, if Andy stays with the Chiefs long enough to pass Don Shula (or Belichick) for all-time wins, that could push him over the top. Hopefully, all of the above will happen and I will be forced to revise the list. Thanks for reading a very long post.