Behind almost all sustained success is a mentor whose game plan helps his players make waves. It’s not sports news that these coaches are great, but unlike other sports, where a few stars can propel their teams to the game’s highest peak, football requires a coach to get the most out of three different units.
Here are a few of the most impactful head coaches since the turn of the century.
Known for his casual sideline outfits and surly demeanor, Bill Belichick guided his New England squads on a run of dominance not seen before. In an era where free agency and limits on spending should make it tough for teams to persist with championship expectations, the Patriots were a Super Bowl mainstay.
The stars aligned when Belichick was paired with a young Tom Brady, who followed an effective defense and did well enough as a relative newcomer to see the club trend upward.
Later on, during a six-year span from 2013 to 2019, New England represented the American Football Conference in the league’s championship tilt on five occasions. Since 2002, the Patriots have raised seven title banners.
Even as all-time great quarterback Brady departed for Tampa Bay, Belichick has seen to it that his team remains in the mix for a Lombardi Trophy.
Prior to taking the reins in Massachusetts, Belichick was a defensive coordinator under Bill Parcells.
Many know him as the mind behind a high-octane attack in Kansas City, but even before Patrick Mahomes, Reid’s tutelage proved to be one of the most valuable in the sport.
He got his head coaching start in Philadelphia in 1999 and, with Donovan McNabb behind center, made the Eagles into a perennial power. In the early 2000s, Reid’s Philly crews habitually finished atop their division and won games in the postseason.
Three times in a row, though, they were bested one step away from the Super Bowl. In 2004, the Eagles finally broke through and made it to Super Bowl XXXIX, where they bowed to Belichick’s Patriots. Reid spent over another half-decade in Philly, winning the franchise’s most regular season and playoff contests and posting the Eagles’ highest win percentage.
He moved on and took the helm for the Chiefs in 2013. It wasn’t long before they were postseason regulars. In the 2019 campaign, he finally got his first Lombardi. Last year, he became the first NFL coach to post 100 wins with two different teams.
With one of the most electrifying triggermen in the league’s lore alongside him, it doesn’t look as if he’ll be slowing down anytime soon.
Basically an unknown when he took over in the Steel City in 2007, Mike Tomlin has kept Pittsburgh on a steady path of relevance. In his 15 years under the headset, the Steelers haven’t finished with a record below .500. Not to mention, his presence has allowed the franchise to keep a level of consistency unmatched in the league.
Tomlin took over for a championship-level coach in Bill Cowher and didn’t wilt under expectations. Pittsburgh’s defenses paved the way for a Super Bowl XLIII crown and an appearance in Super Bowl XLV. Offenses made up of exciting players such as Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell took charge, too.
While Pittsburgh hasn’t had the success it would like in the playoffs, he’s been able to continuously bring them there.
For the first time this season, Tomlin will be able to show what he can do without future Hall of Fame signal-caller Ben Roethlisberger, who limited the attack’s ability in the latter years of his career.
Almost from the jump, under extraordinary circumstances, Sean Payton made things fun for a New Orleans franchise that had usually been pitiful up until his arrival.
With Drew Brees as his quarterback, Payton’s expertise brought New Orleans stability after a devastating hurricane. The team played in 17 postseason contests and claimed its first title when it beat Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.
The Saints won at least 10 games nine times during his tenure in the Big Easy. Payton, who compiled a 152-89 record with the Saints, stepped away from coaching after this past season.