While it is true that a great coach does not necessarily need to win a Super Bowl, there can be little better test of a coach’s ability to educate and instruct his players than the example of winning a championship. In order to prove how good of a coach you really are, winning a ring is necessary, or the very least incredibly important. Moreover, even if you fail at winning a ring, making it to the finals is nonetheless hugely significant and deserving of accolades. Thus, it is no surprise that the list of top ten coaches is dominated by those who have brought home a championship. The list goes as follows, in order of number one to number ten: Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh, Don Shula, George Halas, Chuck Noll, Bill Belichick, Tom Landry, Joe Gibbs, Bill Parcells, and John Madden.
1. Vince Lombardi
There can be little doubt that Vince Lombardi would top the list of the 10 best coaches of that have won Super bowl championships. Lombardi led the Green Bay Packers to eventually win five championships under his direction, including the first two ever championship bowls. Even more astounding, Lombardi’s team never had a single losing season—not in fifteen years of coaching.
Lombardi’s greatest success comes from his work with Green Bay Packers, though he did work with the New York Giants in the early 1950s. Despite winning the 1956 championship with the Giants, he decided to move onto the Packers in 1959, which had not had a winning seasons for over a decade. Within a single season, Lombardi led the Packers to a 7-5 season, only to win the Champion Game the next two years in a row. Only a few years later, the Packers would win three more years in a row, making Lombardi the single most successful coach in the history of the game. More victories would come in later years, and Lombardi would eventually step down and retire after the second Super Bowl resulted in yet another Packer victory. He would coach again in 1969 with the Washington Redskins, and died of cancer in 1970.
Lombardi’s legacy is simple. No other coach until him had experienced such a powerful string of victories with a team that had not performed well in well over a decade. Lombardi was able to use different and new recruiting tactics, efficient and unique training styles, and adapt his play style to match the forces arrayed against him. His incredible personal charisma, energy, and drive inspired those under him to greater heights, and he had a sense of magnetism that attracted followers and inspired confidence.
2. Bill Walsh
There are few pioneers of innovating strategies in football, and Bill Walsh is one of them. The man single-handedly created the classic “West Coast” style of offense that resulted in the San Francisco 49ers winning six Western titles and three Super Bowls. This incredible level of success, as well as Walsh’s unprecedented genius in designing very effective, aggressive plays that focused heavily on short passes and gains in that manner are sufficient to rank Walsh as number two on this list.
Walsh built his legacy on the ideology of Gillman, which favored a heavily offensive approach to football tactics that led to innovative plays, tactics, and overall styles that allowed the “West Coast offense” under Walsh to become not only a hallmark of effective football play, but also a decidedly impressive feat to observe. Walsh’s tactics required coordination and trust, and he fostered that in his dealings with his players. His overall record with the 49ers would end at 102-63-1, and a total of twelve professional titles.
3. Don Shula
Don Shula ranks as the third best football coach of all time. Shula set records with his Miami Dolphins team, and his impressive 33 years of coaching including time with the Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins. Over the course of his professional coaching career, Shula would win six championship bowls, and would be the first to win three in a row, besting Lombardi’s previous record. Shula worked with Walsh on innovating new passing tactics to make passing a more popular option in professional football. Indeed, Shula was so successful at this that he is still the all-time leader in overall victories, having won 347 games total.
Shula is most famous for his flawless season with the Miami Dolphins, who then went on to win back to back championships. Upon retiring in 1995, Shula would be brought into the Football Hall of Fame in 1997, and is considered one of the most successful coaches of all time.
4. George Halas
The Chicago Bears are a team that cannot be forgotten in the realm of professional football, and their Head Coach George Halas or “Papa Bear” succeeded in creating one of the most successful franchises in football history.
Halas is a man that built for himself a record that went unbeaten until Don Shula broke it in 1993. Halas won 324 total games in his career, a feat that went unbeaten for nearly 30 years until Shula shattered that with 347. Halas, though he never won a championship bowl, nonetheless won repeated NFL Championships, and maintains a record as one of the most successful coaches in history.
Starting with the Bears, Halas started winning championships in 1933 and did not stop for ten years, crushing competition left and right until World War II interrupted his coaching career. By the end of the war, Halas would return to coaching, and would end his career with six championship titles and a shockingly high win percentage that neared seventy percent.
By the time Chuck Noll took over the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969, the team was in complete ruins. It had never won a title, and lacked any sort of cohesion and unified spirit. When Noll left, the Steelers had four Super Bowl rings and numerous other championship titles. In the end, Noll’s legacy is simple. He came, he formed a team built through the draft and that valued a strong defensive line, and kept winning. By the time he retired in 1991, the Steelers had long since established themselves as effectively invincible on the defense.
Bill Belichick took control of the New England Patriots for the greatest run in football history. Basing his strategy on defense and making sure nothing could break his defense, his Patriots would go one to win three Super Bowls within four years, an achievement unheard of in professional coaching. Currently gearing for the new season, Belichick stands as a living legend for professional football coaches.
7. Tom Landry
Tom Landry found his fame coaching the Dallas Cowboys, a team that he would lead on to win two championship bowls with. For his first title, his Cowboys would crush the Miami Dolphins 24-3, whereas the second game would see a Cowboys victory of 27-10 over the Denver Broncos. Landry is famous for his development of the “flex defense system” that catapulted the Cowboys to the top tier of competitive football play, and his 29 years at the same time is another NFL record.
8. Joe Gibbs
Joe Gibbs led the Washington Redskins to a three-time victory of championship bowls. The Redskins are notorious for not doing when Gibbs is not the coach, a testament to his ability as a coach and a leader of men. His three Super Bowl victories and his 154 regular season victories put him in the top tier of American football coaches. Aside from his impressive coaching record, Gibbs is famous for starting the “classic Redskin” look; that is, the uniform of the team would always consist of burgundy uniforms over white pants whenever abroad.
9. Bill Parcells
Bill Parcells comes in ninth of the list of the top ten coaches of American football. Having won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants and then another with the New England Patriots, Parcells is remarkable for his high percentage of wins regardless of time or situation. His teams rarely, if ever, have a losing season, and he has a total of 172 career wins. Parcells is famous for having a coached a younger Belichick during his early coaching years.
10. John Madden
John Madden could rank higher on this list, but he has won but a single Super Bowl total in his career. Despite that, Madden has clocked in a record winning percentage of 76.3% and, in ten years of coaching the Oakland Raiders, has never failed to maintain a winning season record. In 1976, Madden won the XI Super Bowl against the Minnesota Vikings, and eventually retired in 1978, following a Raiders failure to make the playoffs. Despite his inglorious end, Madden remains as one of the best coaches in football history, and would go on to lead a massive successful and prosperous career in broadcasting and marketing. His famous Madden football video games are a cultural icon, and Madden’s career in football will go in history as both highly successful and incredibly rewarding. Most impressive of all is his incredible win percentage, which to this day is jaw-dropping.