When constructing a pantheon of the Greatest Head Coaches in NFL History, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick deserves serious consideration.
He trails Colts and Dolphins head coach Don Shula, Bears head coach George Halas, and Cowsboys head coach Tom Landry in total wins.
He hasn’t had the Xs and Os impact on the game that Browns and Bengals head coach Paul Brown or 49ers head coach Bill Walsh had during their time on the sideline.
He doesn’t have a trophy named after him, like Packers legend Vince Lombardi.
But Belichick is the most influential and successful coach of his generation, and that elevates him into the discussion.
Belichick has reached 10 AFC Championship games with the Patriots, tying Landry for the most by any head coach in the Super Bowl era (starting in 1966). His six conference championship victories are tied with Shula for the most by any coach in NFL history.
Belichick has played in 33 playoff games over his career, trailing Landry and Shula who are tied in first with 36. His four Super Bowl titles are tied for first with Steelers head coach Chuck Noll. No coach has more than Belichick’s 23 wins.
If the Patriots make the playoffs in 2016, Belichick will tie Paul Brown with 15 playoff berths, the third highest mark in NFL history (Shula, 19; Landry, 18).
Belichick has 223 regular season victories and needs 3 more to pass Packers head coach Curly Lambeau for the 4th most in NFL history. Landry would be the next target in 3rd place with 250 regular season wins.
Belichick needs 24 regular and post-season victories to tie Landry for 3rd most all time, and it’s likely to happen by the end of the 2017 season. He needs 78 wins to match Halas and 101 to tie Shula, which will take time, but are potentially attainable if he reaches the 30-year milestone as a head coach.
But Belichick has had his success in a different era of football with greater competition- and that is where his influence and legacy will last.
Paul Brown is credited for being the first head coach to hire a full-time staff, scout players, and use film study for games. Belichick will be credited for perfecting team management in a free agency and salary cap era.
There’s a reason why the Patriots have had an unparalleled run of success in a league created to tear down dynasties. Belichick is a coaching chameleon, capable of converting his schemes to match whatever talent is on the roster.
Belichick’s schematic flexibility and uncanny ability to take advantage of market inefficiencies reflect the Moneyball era for sports. Belichick might not have created the 3-4 defense, or the two tight end offense, or the slot receiver, or the receiving back, or the hybrid linebacker-defensive back, but no coach has been better at finding players that are undervalued ad constructing a playbook where they can succeed.
All future coaches will have to study Belichick’s team-building methods if they want to stay ahead of the curve and thrive in today’s NFL- and until then, Belichick will continue to win.
Patriots have had a winning season in each of the past 15 seasons, tied with the Bears (1930-44) for the 4th best streak in NFL history. The Cowboys (1966-85) hold the record with 20 straight winning seasons, while the Raiders (1965-80) and the 49ers (1983-98) are tied for second with 16 straight. One more winning season by the Patriots will place them in a three-way tie for 2nd place.
The Patriots have also won 10 or more games in 13 straight seasons, the second best streak in NFL history, behind only the 49ers (1983-98).
New England has 7 straight division titles, tied with the Los Angeles Rams (1973-79) for longest in NFL history. The Patriots also won 5 straight from 2003-2007, so they’re the first franchise to win 12 division titles in a 13 year span.
The Patriots have also reached 5 straight AFC Championship games, tied with the Oakland Raiders (1973-77) for the best streak in history of the NFL.
When Belichick ultimately decides to hang up his hoodie, he will be universally cemented in the pantheon of the Greatest Head Coaches in NFL History, alongside Lambeau and Halas, Brown and Lombardi, Landry and Shula, and Noll and Walsh.
But unlike the coaches from those prior eras, Belichick will be regarded without peer.