Only 31 head coaches have ever won a Super Bowl. Whilst people clamour over getting an elite quarterback, having an elite head coach is perhaps the most sure-fire way of winning an elusive title. Brian Billick won with Trent Dilfer for crying out loud. So, let’s take a look back at the best head coach every team has ever had, starting with the AFC East.
New England Patriots
The marvellously named Rod Rust, coach for the 1990 season … who am I trying to kid? Bill Belichick is simply so good as to render this question pointless. Who would be surprised if the trophy itself was renamed The Belichick within a generation? Still, for the avoidance of doubt, Belichick is by far and away the best head coach in the history of the New England Patriots.
He has 187 wins, which is more than three times the next nearest, one Mike Holovak. And if you think his wins are just a product of his longevity, you’d be wildly wrong. His win percentage is an insane .730. He has won almost three quarters of all regular season games he’s coached in New England. Over his whole career as a head coach, he’s played an astounding 36 play-off games. His win percentage there? .722. Yep, he’s almost as good in the play-offs as he is in the regular season. The teams he coaches don’t just win against bad opposition. They beat everyone.
And of course, there’s the small matter of his seven championship victories. Overtaking George Halas with his recent win in Super Bowl 51. When he retires he will almost certainly be known as the greatest coach of all time, making his position as the best head coach in the history of the New England Patriots a guaranteed lock-in.
From 1966 to 1999, the Miami Dolphins had just three head coaches. In the 21st century they’ve had nine already, including Nick Saban’s forgettable foray into the NFL, Cam Cameron’s dismal 2007 season and an uncomfortable list of interim coaches including Jim Bates and Dan Campbell. Of course, one of the problems all Miami coaches have is the huge shadow they have to live under. The shadow of one Don Shula, coach of the Miami Dolphins for 26 years.
Shula holds the record for career wins in the NFL, with 328. Yep, three hundred and twenty eight. Remember as well that for his first 7 seasons, teams only played 14 games. He was also the head coach of the only perfect season, the 1972 Dolphins. Whilst the 1970s were undoubtedly his heyday – with two Superbowl wins and three AFC championships – he continued to coach at a high level for the entire of his career. His last AFC East title came in 1994, his penultimate year of coaching. In fact, his winning percentage in the 1990s was .615 and he didn’t have a losing record in any of those six seasons.
In 26 years of coaching, the Dolphins finished outside the top two in the AFC East just 7 times. Only two head coaches have a winning record against Shula. Two! The Dolphins were a perennial powerhouse for the entirety of Shula’s career, even if they never quite recaptured the glorious moments of the early 1970s. Adam Gase has shown promise in his one season in charge, but he’s got a way to go to challenge the undoubted best head coach in Miami Dolphin’s history, the great Don Shula.
Marv, Marv, Marv, Marv, Marv. What to say about the greatest coach in the history of the Buffalo Bills, the coach who made it to four Superbowls and didn’t win any of them? Marv Levy shares the ignominious record with Dan Reeves and Bud Grant, but none are more heart-breaking than Levy.
For six seasons from 1988 to 1993, Levy’s Bills made the playoffs each and every season, reaching the Superbowl in four successive years from 1990 to 1993. They lost them all. The most heart-breaking was surely the first, with kicker Scott Norwood missing a 47 yard field goal with just eight seconds remaining. A play so famous it has its own Wikipedia page, it marked the closest the Bills would ever get to Superbowl glory.
Levy though deserves credit beyond just almost winning the big one. He popularised their “K-Gun” no-huddle offense, first created in Cincinnati, that helped quarterback Jim Kelly become one of the best in the league. With Kelly, running back Thurman Thomas and wide receiver Andre Reed, Levy’s offense of the early 1990s was near unstoppable. The Bills all-time winningest coach, and NFL Coach of the Year in 1988, Marv Levy is clearly the best head coach the Bills have ever had.
New York Jets
Here’s a fun stat. Excluding Bill Parcels, there is no head coach of the New York Jets that has coached for more than a single season that has a winning record. Not one. Not even Weeb Ewbank, the coach that won Superbowl III. Ewbank isn’t even second. That honour falls to Al Groh, with a 9-7 record in his single season coaching the Jets before leaving New York for the University of Virginia after the 2000 season.
So Parcels has the best record, but Ewbank has the longer tenure and the Superbowl win. Never overlook how difficult it is to win a Superbowl, so despite the Tuna’s best efforts, it’s Weeb Eubank who is the best coach in the history of the New York Jets.
Ewbank is the only coach in Jet’s history to coach them for double-digit seasons. His laid back but organised approach was a key factor in luring Joe Namath to the team coming out of Alabama. It was under Ewbank that the Jets had their best ever season, beating the Raiders 27-23 in the AFL championship game, before beating the Colts 16-7 in the Superbowl. Namath may have promised the victory, but it was Ewbank, an ex-Colts head coach with a wide knowledge of their players – who really delivered it. Winning a Superbowl is more than any other Jets coach has managed, so for that reason alone Weeb Ewbank is the best head coach in the history of the New York Jets.