Football is the ultimate American team sport. In order to be effective, all 11 players on the field must play in harmony. Each has to do his job while trusting that the guy next to him will do his, otherwise the play will fail. Everyone must be on the same page and pulling together, and with a 53-man roster, getting everyone to buy in is no easy feat.

That’s where the head coach steps in. NFL coaches mold their team’s personality and implement the schemes necessary for their personnel to be successful. They are part CEO, part field commander, and part psychologist, but ultimately, they are credited or blamed for their team’s success.

Over the course of the NFL’s storied history, there have been a plethora of coaches who were successful, but the following 20 stand out through time amongst their peers. As with any list, there will always be snubs and controversy, but nobody can deny that the gentlemen on this list were, or are, exceptional


    Holder of the all-time wins record, Don Shula is also the only coach to ever guide his team to an undefeated season culminating in a Super Bowl championship. Over a 33-year coaching career, Shula reached the playoffs a record 19 times and had only two seasons with a sub-.500 record. His teams reached the Super Bowl a record six times, winning in back-to-back fashion in 1972 and 1973.


    Even if someone is not a football fan, chances are they have heard of Vince Lombardi. His greatness goes beyond the football field—ever heard the saying, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing?” But his performance on it was legendary. In nine seasons as coach of the Green Bay Packers, Lombardi won the NFL title five times. In 15 years as a head coach or assistant, Lombardi never had a losing season, and the trophy that is awarded to the Super Bowl champion every year bears his name. When he retired, Lombardi owned the second-highest career winning percentage in history—he is now No. 3 in that category—and he still owns the highest career playoff winning percentage (.900).


    His name may not be as prominent today, but George Halas’ fingerprints are all over the history of the NFL. Halas moved the Decatur Staleys to Chicago in 1921 and changed the team’s name to the Bears as a tribute to the Chicago Cubs. He gained full control of the franchise in 1932 and coached the Bears on and off for 40 seasons, most in NFL history. Halas finished coaching in 1967, and his 324 career wins stood as the most all-time for 27 years until Don Shula broke it. He had as many championships as losing seasons (six), but more importantly, he helped form and guide the NFL as owner of the Bears. In 1984, the NFL named the NFC Championship trophy after Halas.


    You know you’re a legend when a team names their stadium after you, and Paul Brown certainly fits the bill. One of the legendary coaches in NFL history, Brown not only established a dynasty in Cleveland, he also helped desegregate professional football by signing and playing African-American players Bill Willis and Marion Motley. His Browns teams rampaged through whatever league they played in, winning four straight AAFC titles before joining the NFL in 1950. Cleveland went on to win the title in its inaugural NFL season and ended up playing for the crown seven times in its first eight seasons in the NFL. All told, Brown won seven championships between the AAFC and NFL and only hadone losing season in 17 years of coaching the Browns. When the Bengals were established in Cincinnati, Brown came on board and had the franchise in the playoffs in just three seasons. The Bengals’ current stadium is named after Paul Brown.


    One of the greatest offensive minds in football history, Bill Walsh is largely credited with creating the West Coast offense. His 49ers teams in the 1980s were among the greatest ever, featuring standouts such as Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. Walsh’s teams won three Super Bowl titles, and the year after he retired, Steve Young led San Francisco to yet another Super Bowl title. Numerous Walsh assistants went on to become successful NFL head coaches, including Mike Shanahan, Mike Holmgren, Jon Gruden and Brian Billick.


    In his 23 years at the helm, Chuck Noll turned the Pittsburgh Steelers into one of the NFL’s most successful and iconic franchise. He created a dynasty in the 1970s, winning four Super Bowls in six years behind the famed “Steel Curtain” defense that produced multiple Hall of Famers. Noll is the only coach in history to win four Super Bowls.


    Tom Landry was the first coach of the Dallas Cowboys and retained the position for 29 years. Under his watch, the Cowboys played in five Super Bowls, winning two. Dallas had 20 straight winning seasons that included 18 playoff berths and 13 division titles. Landry’s 20 playoff wins are the most in history, and he ranks third in career victories, behind only Don Shula and George Halas. He is also credited with a number of innovations, such as introducing the flex defense and multiple offense in the 1960s, revamping the shotgun offense in the ‘70s, and creating the concept of situational substitutions in the 1980s.


    The Green Bay Packers are one of the most revered franchises in the NFL, and that is due in great part to Curly Lambeau. Not only is their legendary stadium named after him, but he helped found the team and is responsible for the team’s name (he worked for a meat-packing company and convinced his employers to pay for jerseys). Lambeau won six NFL titles—a record matched only by George Halas—and suffered only one losing season in his first 27 years as a head coach. He is fourth on the career wins list and is responsible for many things we take for granted today in the modern NFL. He was the first coach to make use of the forward pass as an offensive weapon and instituted things like pass patterns and daily practices.


    Certainly the most curmudgeonly man on this list, Bill Belichick is undoubtedly the greatest coach of the current generation. He routinely gets stellar performances out of players who have been cast off by other teams, and he turned a back-up quarterback from Michigan who was drafted in the sixth round into arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. Belichick became the first coach to win at least 10 games in 10 straight seasons and the first to win three Super Bowls in four years. His 2007 team ran roughshod through the NFL, posting only the second undefeated regular season in history (and the first to go 16-0) before losing in the Super Bowl to finish an unprecedented 18-1. He has led the Patriots to five Super Bowls, losing twice to the Giants. Belichick is currently ninth on the all-time wins list and needs only three more playoff wins to set the career playoff victory record. He was also the defensive coordinator on both of Bill Parcells’ titlewinning teams in New York and was an assistant head coach on Parcells’ New England team that lost Super Bowl XXXI.


    Nobody has Bill Parcells’ track record of success with multiple franchises. Unlike many of the other coaches on this list, Parcells achieved success with several teams. He was a turnaround artist with a knack for taking struggling teams and turning them into contenders. Over his 19-year career, Parcells won two Super Bowls with the Giants, lost one with the Patriots, and took the Jets to the 1998 AFC Championship Game. He went to the playoffs 10 times and only had five sub-.500 seasons. Every team he took over had won fewer than six games the previous year, yet he had them in the playoffs by his second season at the helm. His greatest masterpiece was the Jets, who had gone 1-15 the year before he was hired. Under Parcells, the Jets went 12-4 in his second season and made it all the way to the AFC title game before falling to Mike Shanahan’s Broncos. His second Super Bowl team with the Giants upset the heavily-favored Buffalo Bills in one of the greatest Super Bowl coaching performances in history.


    Joe Gibbs was the foundation for the Washington Redskins run of success in the 1980s, leading the team to four Super Bowl appearances and winning three, all with different quarterbacks. No other coach has won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks. During a 12-year span, his teams reached the playoffs eight times, and their worst season was a 7-9 campaign. After taking a hiatus to focus on his NASCAR racing team and earning a spot in the NFL Hall of Fame, Gibbs returned to Washington in 2004 and coached for four more seasons, leading the team to the playoffs twice. He is the winningest coach in Washington history, and his .708 postseason winning percentage is the highest among coaches with at least 10 postseason appearances.


    A multitude of coaches have made the jump from the college ranks to the NFL, but few have enjoyed success. None have enjoyed the success that Jimmy Johnson did, becoming the first coach to ever win both an NCAA championship and a Super Bowl. What’s even more remarkable are the circumstances Johnson faced. After winning an NCAA title with Miami and leading the Hurricanes to two No. 2 national finishes, Johnson was hired by the Cowboys to replace the legendary Tom Landry, the only coach the Cowboys had ever known. Johnson’s first season was a disaster as the team finished 1-15, but he had the Cowboys in the playoffs in his third year at the helm. The Cowboys won backto-back Super Bowls in 1992 and 1993 under Johnson, and the core that he built went on to win another two years later. Johnson left Dallas after winning his second Super Bowl but came out of retirement to take over the Miami Dolphins after Don Shula retired. In four years, Johnson took the Dolphins to the playoffs three times.


    Tom Coughlin has proven himself to be one of the best biggame coaches ever, with two Super Bowl upsets to prove it. His head coaching career began when he took over the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars. He led Jacksonville to the AFC Championship Game in 1996, just the franchise’s second year of existence, after upsetting the heavily-favored Denver Broncos. He also took the Jaguars to the conference title game in 1999. His greatest successes have come with the New York Giants, however, as he has twice led the Giants to upset victories over the New England Patriots after fighting to claim a Wild Card berth into the playoffs. His first championship team was a massive underdog against the previously unbeaten Patriots while his second championship team made the playoffs with a 9-7 record and set a record for having the worst regular-season winning percentage of any Super Bowl victor. He is still currently the coach of the Giants.


    Known in Denver as “The Mastermind,” Mike Shanahan finally led John Elway and the Denver Broncos to the Promised Land, winning back-to-back Super Bowl titles in ’97 and ’98. He was just the fifth coach in NFL history to win consecutive Super Bowls. Shanahan’s offenses were regularly among the best in the league and became known for seemingly able to have anyone run for 1,000 yards. Shanahan won 62 percent of his regular season games and guided Denver to the playoffs seven times in 14 seasons. He is currently the head coach of the Washington Redskins.


    Madden is best-known today for EA’s wildly-successful Madden NFL video game franchise and his long stint as a TV broadcaster, but before that, he was a highly-successful coach with the Oakland Raiders. He coached the Raiders for 10 years and not once had a losing season. The Raiders made eight postseason appearances, advancing to the conference championship or beyond seven times and winning one Super Bowl. Oakland won seven division titles, including five straight, and had a 17-game winning streak. Madden’s .763 winning percentage is tops among coaches who coached at least 100 games, and only two coaches reached 100 victories at a younger age than he did.


    The Packers had fallen on hard times before hiring Mike Holmgren, having experienced just two winning seasons in 19 years. All Holmgren did was lead Green Bay to one of the best stretches in franchise history. The Packers won two-thirds of their regular season games and made six playoff appearances. They won three division titles and make back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, defeating Bill Parcells’ Patriots in Super Bowl XXX before succumbing to Mike Shanahan’s Broncos in Super Bowl XXXI. Holmgren left Green Bay after the 1998 season to take over the  Seattle Seahawks and promptly took the Seahawks to their first playoff appearance in over 10 years. All told, Holmgren’s Seattle teams won five division titles and reached the playoffs six times, including the franchise’s first-ever Super Bowl berth. Holmgren became just the fifth coach to take two different teams to the Super Bowl. An astounding 17 of his assistant coaches went on to become head coaches in the NFL, including Super Bowl coaches Jon Gruden and Andy Reid.


    Perhaps the best coach never to win a Super Bowl, Marv Levy achieved something nobody else ever has: Levy guided the Buffalo Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls, a feat which will likely never be seen again. His no-huddle offense was a precursor to today’s fast-paced offenses and was the driving force behind Buffalo’s incredible run of six straight playoff trips and four consecutive Super Bowl appearances. The closest Levy and the Bills came to claiming the Lombardi Trophy was in their first appearance against Bill Parcells’ Giants. The Bills lost 20-19 after normally-reliable kicker Scott Norwood pushed a 47-yard field goal attempt wide in the final seconds. Over his 11-year tenure with the Bills, Levy made it to the playoffs eight times.


    If anybody can relate to Marv Levy’s pain, it’s Dan Reeves. Like Levy, Reeves lost four times in the Super Bowl as a head coach. In 12 years as head coach of the Broncos, Reeves led Denver to six playoff berths, five division titles, and three Super Bowl appearances. In 1993, his first year coaching the New York Giants, Reeves was named Coach of the Year by the Associated Press, and in 1998, he led the Atlanta Falcons to the best season in franchise history: a 14-2 record and a Super Bowl berth in which they were defeated by Reeves’ old team, the Denver Broncos. With 201 career wins, Reeves is eighth on the all-time wins list and holds the distinction of having participated in the most Super Bowls ever: two as a player, three as an assistant, and four as a head coach. Yes, he was on the winning side twice, just not as the man in charge.


    Best-known as the father of the modern passing game, Don Coryell was an offensive innovator. His “Air Coryell” offenses led the league in passing offense seven out of eight seasons, including six in a row, and were tops in total yards five times. Numerous Chargers set league marks under Coryell: quarterback Dan Fouts set a record for passing yards per game in 1982 that stood until 2011 while receiver Wes Chandler’s mark for average receiving yards per game set that same year still stands. Coryell also revolutionized the tight end position, turning it into more of a pass catching threat than merely another blocker. While Coryell never reached a Super Bowl, his teams did win five division titles, and he is the only coach ever to win 100 games both at the collegiate level and the NFL. His greatest impact, however, comes from his influence. In today’s pass-happy NFL, much of the passing schemes and concepts can be traced back to Coryell. Further, coaches such as Bill Walsh, John Madden, Joe Gibbs, and Norv Turner all worked under Coryell and spread his ideas to their own assistants.


    Before Tom Dungy arrived in 1996, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were mired in mediocrity, having failed to reach the playoffs since 1982. Things changed under Dungy as the Bucs made four playoff trips and reached the 1999 NFC Championship Game. Dungy popularized the Tampa 2 defense that was copied all throughout the league and established the Bucs as one of the NFL’s stingiest defensive teams. After he was fired by Tampa Bay following a pair of first-round playoff losses, the Indianapolis Colts hired him. In seven seasons with Dungy at the helm, the Colts won 76 percent of their games, had double-digit wins every year, claimed five division titles, made two AFC Championship appearances, and won Super Bowl XLI. Dungy became the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl, but his biggest impact has been with promoting the hiring of minority coaches. Herm Edwards, Lovie Smith, Mike Tomlin, Jim Caldwell, and Leslie Frazier are all minority coaches with ties to Dungy, and Tomlin became the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl.