New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick just completed his 15th season as head coach of the franchise. He has four Super Bowl victories as a head coach, plus two more appearances. His streak of top seasons is unprecedented in the salary cap era and he's a first ballot Hall of Fame lock the moment he decides to retire.
His tenure with New England is truly unique. Belichick is the 13th head coach in NFL history to spend 15 seasons as head coach with one franchise, and ten others are Hall of Famers.
The other two coaches not in the Hall of Fame are either active or recently retired: Jeff Fisher, who spent 17 seasons with the Oilers/Titans, is still active, but is not a likely Hall of Fame coach; Bill Cowher, who spent 15 seasons as the Steelers head coach, has an outside shot of making the Hall.
Of the ten Hall of Fame coaches, six started coaching their teams prior to the first Super Bowl after the 1966 season. Four of those coaches (George Halas, Bears, 40 seasons; Curly Lambeau, Packers, 29; Steve Owens, Giants, 23; Paul Brown, Browns, 17) started in the 20s, 30s, or 40s.
This means that only one Hall of Fame NFL Head coach has coached for 15 or more seasons with one team when starting their tenure after 1970: Joe Gibbs, Washington, 16 seasons, who started coaching in 1981.
It's truly incredible how the position of head coach has transformed over the years. The league has continued to expand, but head coaches not named Marv Lewis are turning over at a shocking clip. Nine of the 13 head coaches with 15+ seasons on one team started their tenure in 1970 or earlier. Bill Belichick might be the only truly iconic head coach of the past twenty years.
Belichick has a ticket to stay with the Patriots until he wishes to retire. If he coaches until he turns 71, Belichick would hit 24 years as the New England head coach and would become the fourth longest tenured coach in NFL history.
It also wouldn't be surprising to Belichick handle himself the same way he addresses veterans on the team. The Patriots have locked up Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio through the year 2020 and he has been taking on larger roles within the organization with regards to player management. If Belichick opts to stay with the team in more of a coaching capacity, Caserio can have full reigns on the management side.
Alternatively, Belichick could move more into the front office after 2020, should Caserio depart, and Belichick has no shortage of coaches within his structure that he has groomed for a leading role.
As a coach who appreciates football history, it would make sense that Chuck Noll's 23 seasons with the Steelers could be a target for his coaching career, or even Don Shula's 26 with the Dolphins so he could set a modern record. Eleven more seasons is a lot of time, and that would make Belichick 73.
No matter how long Belichick stays active, he's already in rare company. Perhaps he will try and make history.