Jan 11, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton watches from the sideline against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half of the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Top 10 NFL Head Coaches In The League


The death of Chuck Noll put an end to one of the greatest coaches in sports history.  In honor of his memory, who rank as the best NFL coaches of the present?

#10 – John Fox – Denver Broncos

Very few head coaches can make the boast John Fox can which is he’s led two different franchises to the Super Bowl.  He did so for the Carolina Panthers in 2003 and again for the Denver Broncos last season.  Unfortunately not winning either of them drops him down the list but his teams have collect five division titles and a 107-85 record.

#9 – Andy Reid – Kansas City Chiefs

The mark of a truly great coach is consistent excellence and Andy Reid featured that for over a decade with the Philadelphia Eagles.  In total he reached five NFC championship games and a Super Bowl there, winning six division titles.  Like Fox though he is down on the list for not getting the ring but his recent revival of the Kansas City Chiefs is another feather is his cap.

#8 – Mike Tomlin – Pittsburgh Steelers

Some will say he did the job with a team that predecessor Bill Cowher built but Mike Tomlin built his own legacy with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  He won the title in 2008 and reached the Super Bowl again in 2010.  He has never posted a losing record as a head coach but two-straight seasons missing the playoffs has tarnished what was an impressive body of work.

#7 – Jim Harbaugh – San Francisco 49ers

This is a major surprise since Jim Harbaugh doesn’t have a ring like Tomlin but it’s fair to say the success he’s had in three seasons as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers is unmistakable.  His team has played in three-straight NFC championship games and came seconds away from winning the Super Bowl in 2012.  His team has never lost more than four games in a regular season.  That speaks volumes about his consistency.

#6 – Pete Carroll – Seattle Seahawks

Fittingly it is a ring that vaults Harbaugh’s greatest rival, Pete Carroll ahead of him.  The Seattle Seahawks head coach crowned his triumphant return to the NFL by blowing away Denver in the Super Bowl.  His style is proven and his coaching techniques are celebrated.  There is no reason to think his success will end anytime soon.

#5 – John Harbaugh – Baltimore Ravens

Longevity is what raises John Harbaugh to #5 on this NFL countdown.  Up until last season the Baltimore Ravens had never finished a season out of the playoffs under him.  His 9-4 record in January is among the best in the league and he culminated one of the greatest tales of triumph over adversity when his team won the championship in 2012.

#4 – Mike McCarthy – Green Bay Packers
Surviving the Brett Favre soap opera alone should heap praise on Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy.  Beyond that though he more than most coaches deserves credit for his ability to handle frequent shifts at the quarterback position.  Going from Favre to Aaron Rodgers was a tough call and then maximizing Matt Flynn when Rodgers got hurt.  McCarthy has his ring and hasn’t lost a division title since 2010.

#3 – Tom Coughlin – New York Giants

Most people only know him as head coach of the New York Giants, but Tom Coughlin has a record of success dating all the way back to the 1990s when he put the Jacksonville Jaguars on the map.  The expansion franchise reached the playoffs four times during his tenure and two AFC title games.  Still it is his time in the Big Apple that puts him at #3 where he made five playoff appearances and won two Lombardi trophies.  If not for missing the playoffs four of the past five seasons, he would be higher.

#2 – Sean Payton – New Orleans Saints

NFL fans didn’t know how much Sean Payton meant to the New Orleans Saints until he returned in 2013 from a year-long suspension due to BountyGate.  He took over a team that had gone 7-9 the previous season and fielded perhaps the worst defense ever.  Payton’s changes were swift and dramatic.  The result?  New Orleans went 11-5, won a playoff game and fielded the 4th best defense in the league.  In seven seasons under Payton, the Saints have missed the playoffs just twice.  Their Super Bowl victory in 2009 remains one of the most celebrated sports triumphs in history.

#1 – Bill Belichick – New England Patriots

Year after year, season after season, and challenger after challenger nothing has altered the course of the New England Patriots from being a perennial contender.  That is the Bill Belichick effect.  Never mind the fact he has three rings, putting him ahead of the entire active field, but his remarkable consistency for over a decade is something almost no other coach has matched.  In total Belichick has won three Super Bowls, played in five, reached eight conference championships, won 11 division titles and holds a 163-61 record in the regular season.  That is a .728 winning percentage, trailing only John Madden and Vince Lombardi for the best ever.

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Tags: Baltimore Ravens Denver Broncos Green Bay Packers Kansas City Chiefs New England Patriots New Orleans Saints New York Giants NFL Pittsburgh Steelers San Francisco 49ers Seattle Seahawks

  • Chad Jensen

    As much as I hate both, Carroll and Dad Pants are too low. Fox is just right. The Emperor Belichick is #1 Fo sho

    • Erik Lambert

      I knew opinions on Carroll and Harbaugh were going to be mixed. I just don’t feel they’ve been around long enough to get ahead of the others in front of them.

  • trinity

    I like every name on the list, they just seem a bit scrambled to me. I would drop McCarthy lower, raise Carroll higher, take Jim harbaugh over john, and push Coughlin back as well.

    • Don Andrew Halvorson

      Yeah. The mentality here is having a good QB makes you a good coach. It’s pretty stupid.

      • Erik Lambert

        How many great coaches do you know who didn’t have a great QB?

        • Don Andrew Halvorson

          Brad Johnson wasn’t elite when he won a Super Bowl. The average quarterbacks with great coaches are Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, and Alex Smith, and all are featured here below Brees and Brady’s coaches (who have combined for one ring in a decade).

          How many times does Mike McCarthy have to get whooped up on by Jim Harbaugh to prove who is the better coach? Three NFC title games in three years. It’s blatantly obvious that is just plain favoritism there. “Avoided the whole Favre drama”? He and the GM started the whole Favre drama by cutting him before he was done winning.

          Some guys I like are Mike McCoy, Chip Kelly, and Gus Bradley. All are doing excellent jobs with what they have. All of them are better than John Fox. I think John Fox is a horrible coach, but hey, I watched the Super Bowl.

          • Erik Lambert

            You sound like a Flavor of the Month kind of guy, Don. Bear in mind I’m a Bears fan, so it’s very hard for me to argue in favor of Mike McCarthy. Yet I can’t deny facts. McCarthy proved his point by dumping Favre for Aaron Rodgers. He won a Super Bowl, unlike Harbaugh. I don’t put as much stock in the head-to-head stuff regarding coaches because I feel it’s a simple case of Harbaugh having the better team. If you stack up the talent of the Packers and 49ers, it’s easy to see who is deeper. I’m not letting recent success cloud the judgment here.

          • Don Andrew Halvorson

            You can’t be a top coach without being in the league for years? That’s not what top means. Let me point out the BS part of this list:

            1. Belichick – Forfeited a first rounder for cheating
            2. Peyton – Suspended for a year for bounties
            3. Coughlin – 7 wins last season, but two Super Bowls.
            4. McCarthy – One and done many times.
            5. John Harbaugh – Missed playoffs, but for the first time as coach.
            6. Caroll – Won Super Bowl
            7. Jim Harbaugh – 3 straight NFC championships
            8. Tomlin – Missed playoffs again.
            9. Reid – Plays well with a lead… not, but turned Chiefs around.
            10. Fox – 43 to 8 with a safety on the first play of the Super Bowl

            Why can’t Mike McCoy be considered top when he added two wins when he lost every veteran Wide Receiver he had in training camp? Why can’t Chip Kelly be given credit for Foles emerging and McCoy being rushing champ then getting rid of gang affiliations? Why can’t Gus Bradley be considered when he’s building a good team in the AFC South knowing that he won’t win now? I forgot about Bruce Arians. The list is just dated considering how fluid the NFL is.

          • Don Andrew Halvorson

            I didn’t include Trestman because with that much offensive power, he should have gotten double digit wins. Love their GM though. Great moves in free agency.

          • Erik Lambert

            Believe me, all the guys you mentioned above have promise but I can’t include them in the top 10 after one season. All of them could easily make the list after this year but as it stands I have to balance past success with recent success. Harbaugh and Carroll are clearly climbing the ladder but they don’t have the longevity or the hardware yet.

    • Erik Lambert

      I understand your thinking but my thoughts were McCarthy has the same number of rings as Carroll and has more division titles. John Harbaugh has beaten Jim in both their meetings, including the Super Bowl and Coughlin has two rings and owns Bill Belichick in their head-to-heads.

      • Travis Crouch

        On that thought Jim beat Mccarthy every time so should go in front of him and Mccarthy u ad one hot run other then that has not done much

        • Erik Lambert

          Well that one hot run makes a world of difference, Travis. A ring means a lot in this league. Ask anybody you talk to. McCarthy has won four NFC North titles, which is a lot. Harbaugh has won two division titles and no Super Bowls. While the head-to-head would be worth noting for sure, it’s not enough to overcome McCarthy’s ring.

          • Travis Crouch

            Well he won that ring on in his forth year witch Jim has not whven been in four seasons and is only one less playoff win then him who has been in the nfl for 8 yars so half the time he has the same playoff wins not to mention Jim took Mccarthy qb pick in Alex smith and made him good witch not many people know Mccarthy picked Alex over Aaron and if you win a ring your better where is Mike Tomlin He should 2 not 8 he won 2 rings and Nfc north has not been a hard to win not like the Nfc west witch has the two best teams in it

          • Erik Lambert

            We don’t know if McCarthy picked Alex Smith when he was with the 49ers. For all we know he wanted Rodgers but the team overruled him. Besides, McCarthy had zero to work with when Smith arrived and was gone before he got a chance to build something. Harbaugh inherited a great roster and by that point a veteran Smith.

            Mike Tomlin has one ring.

            The NFC West is the best right now but don’t forget three years ago it was the worst in NFL history. The NFC North is always tough. Minnesota went to the NFC championship in 2009. Green Bay and Chicago made it in 2010. Detroit and Green Bay made it in 2011. Minnesota and Green Bay went in 2012. It’s consistently a really good division.

          • Dave Skinner

            Yesh i agree iys green bay green bayGREEN BAY ….

            NUFF DAID PETE CARROL HAD GOOD PLAYETS THATS IT

      • trinity

        I think of John Fox and Mike McCarthy in kind of the same way right now, half and half coaches. As in, half the success is coming from their coaching prowess, and the other half is coming from just being along for the ride with Peyton and Aaron leading. The opposite end of that spectrum to me is Sean Payton and Belichick. Payton was gone one season, and look what happened to the saints. Belichick guided Matt cassel to 10 wins and the playoffs. Fox and McCarthy are good, but i don’t think they are that good.

        As for Jim and John, i see your point. And it’s definitely valid. I just look at how Jim has sustained the 49ers as one of the top few teams in the league since he arrived, while Baltimore has tended to fluctuate more in that same period. I’m definitely giving john props on the superbowl win, I just love Jim’s team consistent excellence every year.

        Tom Coughlin is like a roller coaster. He’s coached some amazing performances, and he’s coached some very dismal performances. I admire his style and his firm hand, so I would have him top ten with his 2 rings. Just lower due to inconsistency.

        • Erik Lambert

          McCarthy is definitely in danger of falling down the list based on his inability to get a team with Aaron Rodgers to more Super Bowls. Fox had a lot of success with Jake Delhomme, so his prowess is better than people think.

          Jim is doing very well and can catch his brother soon but that will happen either by winning a title or beating John in a head-to-head. Otherwise it will take a few more winning seasons for him to catch up.

          Coughlin has endured a lot of turnover in his Giants tenure from both the front office and player perspectives. Remember the receiving corps he won with in ’07 was completely replaced when he won it again in ’11. Ernie Accorsi, his GM, left in 2007 as well. So yes, Coughlin deserves blame for some of the struggles but still winning two rings in the midst of it all is damn impressive.

          • trinity

            I definitely agree that his rings are impressive, especially considering that they beat the patriots to get them.

          • Erik Lambert

            No other coach can make that claim.

    • Makabe Aberle

      I definetly agree about Jim and John and how Caroll should be higher

      • trinity

        Yeah, Carroll has done an amazing job with his guys. And year in and year out, the 49ers are always in superbowl contention since Jim got there

  • Paul Bradley

    This is good list, but it isn’t a testament to great coaching. There are guys who just get in the right situation and do well, and others who are great coaches for horrible teams that don’t draft well, don’t pay players to stay, and eventually become the fall guys for bad management. If you put any one of these coaches on, say, the Cleveland Browns… they’d be fired in 2 years. Great coaches, but great situations and talented players as well.

    • Erik Lambert

      You have to be a good coach to take advantage of a good situation. Look at Reid with the Chiefs for a clear cut example.

      • Paul Bradley

        Yeah, they had some pieces in place… but it was the worst collapse of a 9-1 team in NFL history too. They were bounced from the playoffs immediately. Dennis Greene had one of the best winning percentages in NFL history, and best draft resume, went to Arizona, and hasn’t worked since. It isn’t the tell all. It has to be right Erik.

        • Erik Lambert

          Injuries can have that effect on a team and it’s something the coach can’t control. He made the playoffs and should’ve won that game against the Colts but he lost too many guys. Green never found his quarterback in Arizona but he did build the foundation for the team that went to the Super Bowl. He just wasn’t lucky enough to get Kurt Warner in time.

          • Paul Bradley

            Very true. I do agree that injuries are unpredictable and why teams build depth through the draft. Many coaches don’t have the time to make something happen anymore as, from what I can see, 8 out of these 10 coaches had other coaches picks and talent to get the extra time and enjoy some immediate success. Bill… Big Tuna’s talent, who drafted Drew Bledsoe, Tom Brady, and Curtis Martin (just mentioning notables). Mike McCarthy… Mike Sherman/Mike Holgrem guys. Mike Tomlin… (a lot of Mikes) Bill Cohwer guys. Jon… Brian Billick guys. The thing they all had in common? They all inherited great teams from guys who had time to build them for success. That’s the point I’m making. Not all coaches get the time to make their game plans work in a “win now” NFL.

          • Erik Lambert

            Brady was drafted by Belichick. It’s true there might be better coaches out there then the ones I listed, but the NFL is about winning and they haven’t done enough of it to get noticed. Until they do, I have to keep them off the list.

          • Paul Bradley

            I agree with your picks for wins and division titles, but just say they aren’t the best coaches because they inherited great teams from coaches before them which equates to this list being, essentially, the best front offices. Bill Parcells had Tom Brady scouted already and evaluated before he was officially drafted and approved by the front office. I can appreciate the list, and have no true disagreement, outside what I touched on.

          • Erik Lambert

            That’s fine, but Parcells was gone from New England by 1997. He was with the New York Jets at that point. How could he have handled the Tom Brady situation since he wasn’t drafted until 2000?

          • Paul Bradley

            Whoops! Missed the reply. You see, Bill at the time reeived consulting from Tuna a lot, seeing he was his assistant. They liked Tom Brady since seeing a glimpse of what he could do in a game in 1997 at Michigan. “Although Parcells had decided to leave New England, his contract did not allow him to coach anywhere else. The New York Jets sought Parcells as head coach and general manager after a 4–28 record under Rich Kotite. To circumvent Parcells’ contractual obligations, the Jets hired Bill Belichick (then the No. 1 assistant to Parcells) as the Jets coach, and then hired Parcells in an “advisory” role. New England threatened legal action against Parcells and the Jets, but NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue brokered a deal between the two sides, with New England releasing Parcells from his contract and the Jets giving New England a third and fourth round pick that year, a second round pick the next year and a first round draft choice the year after that.” Hopefully this explains a bit more.

          • Erik Lambert

            It does. Thank you.

  • Paul Bradley

    “Although Parcells had decided to leave New England, his contract did not allow him to coach anywhere else. The New York Jets sought Parcells as head coach and general manager after a 4–28 record under Rich Kotite. To circumvent Parcells’ contractual obligations, the Jets hired Bill Belichick (then the No. 1 assistant to Parcells) as the Jets coach, and then hired Parcells in an “advisory” role. New England threatened legal action against Parcells and the Jets, but NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue brokered a deal between the two sides, with New England releasing Parcells from his contract and the Jets giving New England a third and fourth round pick that year, a second round pick the next year and a first round draft choice the year after that.” Hopefully this explains a bit more.

  • Dave Skinner

    Who is this Trinity person omg way off base

  • Carl Eagan

    Tomlin does not deserve to be on this list the Steeler’s didn’t have a losing record during hid tenure because Ben won despite Tomlin’s moronic decisions and his innate ability to coach any team down to just below the level of the opposition.

  • jkamuf

    Broncos fan here, but I honestly believe Pete Carroll should be number one on the list. He’s just a damn good coach. Belichick is definitely hard to vote against, though.