Throughout the history of the NFL there have been plenty of talented coaches. It takes a certain something for a coach to not only be successful during the regular season, but to also push this success into the post season when it really matters. Here are 4 all-time great NFL playoff coaches…
Vince Lombardi’s 5 NFL Championships in 7 years is a remarkable feat. Lombardi led the Packers to a decade of dominance in the 1960s including a run of three straight championships between 1965 and 1967. All time, Lombardi holds a 9-1 playoff record. His only career playoff loss came in the 1960 Championship game, a 17-13 defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles at Franklin Field in Philadelphia. Lombardi would later lament, “when you get down there, come out with something. I lost the game, not my players” referring to the multiple times he decided to go for it on fourth down while deep in the Eagles’ end. No doubt, Lombardi used the wisdom gained in this game in future playoffs.
Although Lombardi’s 9 playoff wins doesn’t seem like much in comparison to modern day coaches Andy Reid (11), Pete Carroll (10) and John Harbaugh (10) for example – Lombardi didn’t coach in a time of divisional games and conference championships.
Tom Coughlin’s most memorable NFL playoff coaching achievement is his 2 NFL Championships with the New York Giants (2007 and 2011). Aside from the face value of the 2 championships, Coughlin has lots of other notable playoff accomplishments. For starters, he’s the oldest coach to win a Super Bowl. On top of that, the Giants 17-14 2007 Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots is one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history. The Patriots were 18-0 that season. In their 2011 Super Bowl run, the Giants beat a Packers team that went 15-1 that season, in the divisional game.
Aside from his achievements as a Giant, Coughlin also took the Jacksonville Jaguars to the AFC Championship in just their second season in existence. He went to the AFC Championship as the head coach of the Jaguars twice, once in 1996 and once in 1999. Coughlin has a 12-7 playoff record. His 12 playoff wins as a head coach is 7th most all-time.
Much like Vince Lombardi’s Packers ruled the 1960s, the 1970s belonged to Chuck Noll’s Pittsburgh Steelers. Under Noll’s direction, the Steelers made the playoffs 8 straight years. In this time, they won 4 Super Bowls, and made it to the AFC Championship 6 of those 8 years.
Noll was most remembered for a strong defense (known as the Steel Curtain), his shy demeanor, his strong drafting (in the 1974 draft he took a record high 5 future Hall of Famers) and his legacy for providing opportunities for African Americans players and coaches. Chuck Noll had a 16-8 all-time playoff coaching record, the 5th most playoff wins as a head coach.
Bill Belichick holds the record for most Super Bowl wins as head coach with 5. Three of these came in his first 4 years as head coach of the New England Patriots. His latest Super Bowl victory came in the historic 2017 game against the Atlantic Falcons. As you likely remember, the Patriots were down 28-3 in the third quarter and won 34-28 in overtime – the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history.
Belichick has a 28-10 all-time playoff record as a head coach. He has the most playoff wins as a head coach (28) and most playoff games coached (38). His .737 winning percentage is the highest of coaches with more than 10 playoff games.
We would be remiss if we didn’t at least mention Don Shula, Tom Landry, Bill Walsh, and Joe Gibbs on this list. If you don’t know these coaches – go look them up! Legends, indeed.
Who’s the best NFL playoff coach of all-time? Let us know on Twitter @LegendRings.