Talk of Fame Network
Great teams are a product of great talent and great coaching.
That’s the subject of this week’s Talk of Fame Network poll –who’s the greatest coach of all time? Is it someone from the present — Bill Belichick — or someone from the past — George Halas, one of the cofounders of the NFL? There have been a lot of championships won in between by Paul Brown, Vince Lombardi, Don Shula and Bill Walsh. And that’s the slate of six candidates we’re offering up to our listeners and readers in this week’s poll. Who do you like? Here are the resumes:
Bill Belichick. Now in his 22nd season as a head coach, Belichick has won 67 percent of his career games. He spent his first five seasons with the Browns and the last 17 with the Patriots. His run in New England has been remarkable. He has won four Super Bowls and has an NFL-record streak of 14 consecutive seasons with double-digit victories. His Patriots have appeared in the last five AFC title games and 10 in all. He even took the Browns to the playoffs once (1994). Belichick has won six AFC titles and 14 division titles with the Patriots. His winning percentage with New England alone is 73.6, and his 2007 Patriots authored the only 16-0 regular season in NFL history. Belichick also won two Super Bowls as the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants (1986, 1990).
(Belichick photos courtesy of the New England Patriots)
Paul Brown. Coached the Cleveland Browns for 17 seasons, first in the old All-America Football Conference and then in the NFL. He won all four championships in the AAFC then, when the Browns were absorbed by the NFL, won three more titles in that league. Brown took the Browns to 10 consecutive championship games from 1946-55. Brown was fired by Art Modell after the 1962 season and resurfaced with another start-up franchise in 1968, the Cincinnati Bengals. He coached them from 1968-75 before retiring with a 170-108-6 career record for a winning percentage of 61.2. Brown became the first coach to win both a national college championship (at Ohio State) and an NFL title. Only Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer have done it since.
(Brown photo courtesy of the Cincinnati Bengals)
George Halas. One of the co-founders of the NFL and also one of the 17 charter members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “Papa Bear” coached the Bears for 40 seasons and won six championships, the first in 1921 and the last in 1963. His teams lost four other championship games. Halas posted a 318-148-31 record for a winning percentage of 68.2. He was the first coach to hold daily practices and also introduced film study to football. The NFC championship trophy is named after him. As a player-coach in the 1920s, Halas was named to the NFL’s all-decade team as a two-way end. He also played baseball in 1919 for the New York Yankees.
(Halas photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)
Vince Lombardi. Coached only 10 seasons but appeared in six NFL title games and won five championships. He spent his first nine seasons as a head coach with the Packers and won the first two Super Bowls in the 1966 and 1967 seasons. He retired after the 1967 season to become general manager of the Packers, then returned to the field in 1969 as general manager and coach of the Washington Redskins. He posted an 89-29-4 record with the Packers for a winning percentage of 75.4, then went 7-5-2 with the Redskins before succumbing to cancer in 1970 at the age of 57. He coined the phrase, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” The Super Bowl trophy is named after Lombardi.
(Lombardi photo courtesy of the Green Bay Packers)
Don Shula. The NFL’s all-time winningest coach and the author of the league’s only perfect season, that 17-0 run by his Miami Dolphins in 1972. Shula coached 33 seasons and posted a 328-156-5 record for a winning percentage of 67.8. He began his career coaching the Baltimore Colts and took them to two NFL titles games in seven seasons, winning the championship in 1968. He coached his final 26 seasons with the Dolphins, winning back-to-back Super Bowls in the 1972-73 seasons. He also lost four other Super Bowls to the Jets in 1968, the Cowboys in 1971, the Redskins in 1982 and the 49ers in 1984. His teams won 14 division titles and suffered only two losing seasons.
(Shula photos courtesy of the Miami Dolphins)
Bill Walsh. Has the fewest victories of any coach in the Hall of Fame with 92. But Walsh coached only 10 seasons and won three Super Bowls. He inherited a 2-14 team and went 2-14 in his first season as coach. But inside of three seasons Walsh coached the 49ers to their first Super Bowl championship. Even with that 2-14 start, Walsh won 60.9 percent of his career games (92-59-1). Walsh is considered the father of the West Coast Offense, a horizontal strike passing scheme that made Hall of Fame quarterbacks out of Joe Montana and Steve Young. Walsh also served as an assistant coach under two of pro football’s most brilliant football minds, Al Davis and Paul Brown.
(Walsh photos courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers)