Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is about to enter his 20th as a head coach, tying Weeb Ewbank and Mike Shanahan for the 11th most in league history, as well as the Rams' current head coach Jeff Fisher (and one season ahead of the Giants' Tom Coughlin).
The legendary George Halas coached twice as long- 40 years- for the Chicago Bears.
Belichick might not ever have the same legacy as some of the historical greats, but that shouldn't discount that the Hoodie is a modern marvel.
If the 62 year old mastermind can find it in himself to coach through the 2020 season (his 66th year, Tom Brady's 43rd year), he'll pull himself into a tie for 5th place with Paul Brown. We know of Belichick's appreciation for historical achievements and coaching for the same length as Brown, who hold the NFL record for most football championships (7), is a clear target on the horizon.
This is not a league for longevity; of the twelve historical head coaches with 20 years under their belt, only three have coached in the past 15 years (Dan Reeves ; Marty Schottenheimer ; Shanahan ). Belichick has been a coach for the ages.
When creating a pantheon of coaches in the post-merger era, there are only four names that are at the top. Don Shula, Tom Landry, Bill Walsh, and Belichick.
Of the 39 coaches with ten seasons of post-merger head coaching under their belt, only nine coaches have led their team to the playoffs over 60% of the time (Belichick's time with the Browns included).
Of those nine coaches, only seven have career winning percentages of .600 or greater.
Of the seven left (Shula, Landry, Walsh, Belichick, Tony Dungy, Bill Cowher, and Bud Grant), only four have won multiple Super Bowls.
With the four remaining (Shula, Landry, Walsh, Belichick), both Shula and Landry started in the pre-merger environment. Walsh was a shooting star. Belichick is a leviathan.
All four played with legendary quarterbacks. Shula has Johnny Unitas and Dan Marino. Landry had Roger Staubach. Walsh had Joe Montana and Steve Young. Belichick has Brady.
It's clear that Shula is a cut above the rest. He won two Super Bowls with the post-merger Dolphins. His 33 years as a head coach is tied for second most all time and spanned four decades (1963 through 1995). His 67.8% winning percentage is tops of these final four and his 172 games over .500 makes him the Tom Brady of head coaches.
Landry deserves the second billing as his Cowboys made the playoffs in 73.7% of the post-merger seasons. The Cowboys run in the 70s, with five Super Bowl appearances and two victories, is one of the strongest periods of all time, especially as it aligned with the Steelers' reign (and the late and great Chuck Noll was excluded due to a shockingly average period of time once Terry Bradshaw retired that dropped his winning rate to a "mere" 0.566).
Then there's Belichick and Walsh. I'll take 20 years of Belichick over 10 years of Walsh, but it's undeniable that Walsh's offensive impact on football with the development West Coast Offense is greater than Belichick's defensive impact.
That's not to say Belichick's defensive impact has been any less impressive; it's just that his "system" and defenses stem from his week-to-week ingenuity and game plans, and that prevents teams from imitating his styles. Many teams can use the West Coast Offense. Only the Patriots can use Belichick. Hence Walsh's greater impact.
But Belichick's genius is undeniable. He needs two more playoff wins to break the tie with Shula (19) and to pass Landry (20) for the most playoff wins in coaching history. Doing so this season would likely grant Belichick and the Patriots their sixth conference championship, breaking the tie with Landry (5) and elevating Belichick on par with Shula (6).
One more Super Bowl victory for Belichick and he breaks the tie with Walsh and matches Noll for the most in league history. He is an 11-5 season away from breaking the 100 games above .500 plateau with Shula, Halas, and Paul Brown. That Belichick has been able to accomplish everything in the era of salary caps is of even greater importance when comparing historical success.
Our Darth Hoodie already rests at the top of modern coaching. One more ring and and everyone will be looking up at him.