SITE NEWS: We are moving all of our site and company news into a single blog for Sports-Reference.com. We'll tag all PFR content, so you can quickly and easily find the content you want.

Also, our existing PFR blog rss feed will be redirected to the new site's feed.

Pro-Football-Reference.com » Sports Reference

For more from Chase and Jason, check out their work at Football Perspective and The Big Lead.

Greatest Coaching Records of All Time

Posted by Chase Stuart on May 27, 2009

As evidenced by the title, this is not a list of the greatest coaches of all time. I don't feel equipped to answer the question of which coach was the best of all time, much less which coach should rank #9 or #42. That said, I feel pretty comfortable in ranking coaching win-loss records.

Generally, discussions about coaches center around three numbers: championships won, regular season wins, and winning percentage. All three of those metrics have some merit, but all are obviously flawed in other respects. Championships won't doesn't help us decide who was better, Bill Cowher or Tony Dungy. Wins are nice, but are obviously heavily weighted towards coaches with more games. Winning percentage works in theory but it tends to underrate two groups of coaches -- those who have coached for a long time (and therefore lowered their career winning percentage) and those who took over bad teams (and were bad at first but ultimately built those teams into top contenders). Further, it can overrate coaches who haven't been around for very long.

My solution is a formula that incorporates all of those things. We start with nets wins -- each coach gets credit for wins minus losses. A 14-2 season is +12, an 8-8 season is +0. Basic, simple stuff.

If a coach won his conference, he gets +5. If he then wins the Super Bowl, he gets another +7, for a total of +12 in the playoffs. I didn't spend forever deciding those weights, but I did spend a nontrivial amount of time. Obviously there must be a big weight towards winning the Super Bowl, but it can't be overpowering. A 9-7 season with a SB championship would be +14; that is equal to a 15-1 season with no Super Bowl appearance. That seems pretty fair to me. As far as other playoff bonuses, I decided something must be given for a Super Bowl appearance, but I don't know that any other playoff bonus merits anything. I decided against such a bonus, or a division championship bonus -- should we really care that much that you won your division if you didn't get to the Super Bowl? Reasonable people could certainly disagree here, and perhaps I'll be persuaded as such in the comments.

So a 14-2 Super Bowl Championship season is +24; Mike Tomlin gets +20 for his work in 2008. Bill Belichick gets +21 for his 16-0 season in 2007 that ended with a Super Bowl loss.

So Super Bowl winners get +12; Super Bowl losers get +5. In the pre-Super Bowl era, I gave +8 to all NFL Champions and +6 to the six AFL Champions (counting the '66-'69 AFL Champs as part of the SB era). The reduced weight was designed to reflect the fewer teams in those leagues. And that's pretty much the scoring system.

For coaches in the non-16 game era, they get their "wins over losses" number pro-rated. As an example, when Joe Gibbs went 8-1 in 1982, he was +7; a straight pro-rating (of 7*(16/9)) would put Gibbs at +12.4, which would be better than a 14-2 season. That seems too high to me, so I split the difference. I pro-rated short seasons by the average of 16 and the number of games played, divided by the number of games played. So for Gibbs' 1982 season we'd multiply 7 * (12.5/9) to get +9.7. This puts him right below a 13-3 season, which seems more appropriate to me. Paul Brown in 1955 (9-2-1) would be at +7 wins, and get that number pro-rated to 8.2. Since he won the NFL Championship that season, he gets +16.2 for 1955.

That enabled me to grade every coach, in every season, in NFL history. From there, we just need to get a career ranking. I used the familiar 100/95/90 drop-off rate approach; coaches get 100% credit for their best seasons, 95% for their second best, and so on. For example, here's how John Madden's ten year career with the Raiders looks:

year   	raw	wt	final	nflg	w-l-t
1976	24.9	100	24.9	14	13-1-0
1969	11.2	 95	11.8	14	12-1-1
1974	9.6	 90	10.7	14	12-2-0
1977	7.3	 85	 8.6	14	11-3-0
1975	6.9	 80	 8.6	14	11-3-0
1972	5.6	 75	 7.5	14	10-3-1
1973	3.8	 70	 5.4	14	 9-4-1
1971	2.8	 65	 4.3	14	 8-4-2
1970	2.6	 60	 4.3	14	 8-4-2
1978	1.1	 55	 2.0	16	 9-7-0
			87.9	

So in Madden's best year, he was 12 games over .500 in the fourteen game season; that gets pro-rated by 15/14, for a result of +12.9. The Raiders won the Super Bowl that year, so he finished the season with a +24.9 score. In his 10th best season the Raiders were just 2 games over .500 (and in a 16 game season); he gets a raw score of +2 but for calculating his career grade, he gets just just a little over one point.

Here's the list. The coaches are ranked by their score, as calculated above. The "Only+" column eliminates all seasons where the coach finished with a below average records; it treats all of those seasons as .500 seasons. So if you want to give Bill Walsh a mulligan when he went 2-14 his first season, you can do that. I've also included for each coach the number of seasons he was a HC and his score per season for our Vince Lombardi fans. Note that score per season is slightly misleading here, as our built-in scoring system gives less weigh on each successive good year you have.

rk      Coach                   Score   Only+   #Sea     Score/Sea
 1	Don Shula	        141.7	141.7	33.0	 4.3
 2	George Halas	        139.4	139.4	39.5	 3.5
 3	Curly Lambeau	        128.9	128.9	32.8	 3.9
 4	Tom Landry	        119.2	119.2	29.0	 4.1
 5	Chuck Noll	        106.4	107.5	23.0	 4.6
 6	Vince Lombardi	         99.8 	 99.8	10.0	10.0
 7	Joe Gibbs	         95.8 	 99.2	16.0	 6.0
 8	Paul Brown	         95.6	 95.6	21.0	 4.6
 9	Bill Belichick	         91.5	 99.9	14.0	 6.5
10	Bud Grant	         80.2	 82.5	18.0	 4.5
11	Steve Owen	         78.4	 79.0	23.0	 3.4
12	Bill Parcells	         78.1	 82.6	19.0	 4.1
13	John Madden	         75.7	 75.7	10.0	 7.6
14	George Seifert	         74.1	 82.2	11.0	 6.7
15	Guy Chamberlin	         72.6	 76.3	 6.0	12.1
16	Dan Reeves	         71.2	 74.9	22.8	 3.1
17	Mike Shanahan	         70.5	 73.6	15.3	 4.6
18	Tony Dungy	         70.4	 72.0	13.0	 5.4
19	Mike Holmgren	         69.3	 72.5	17.0	 4.1
20	Bill Cowher	         69.2	 72.6	15.0	 4.6
21	Bill Walsh	         69.1	 80.8	10.0	 6.9
22	Hank Stram	         66.1	 72.3	17.0	 3.9
23	Marty Schottenheimer	 65.0	 65.1	20.5	 3.2
24	George Allen	         63.4	 63.4	12.0	 5.3
25	Marv Levy	         57.9	 65.0	16.4	 3.5
26	Chuck Knox	         55.7	 58.0	22.0	 2.5
27	Jimmy Conzelman	         53.2	 62.2	15.0	 3.5
28	Weeb Ewbank	         53.0	 59.6	20.0	 2.7
29	Ray Flaherty	         52.0	 52.0	 7.0	 7.4
30	Buddy Parker	         51.8	 56.8	15.0	 3.5
31	Mike Ditka	         48.5	 62.8	14.0	 3.5
32	Blanton Collier	         47.2	 47.2	 8.0	 5.9
33	Sid Gillman	         45.7	 52.7	17.0	 2.7
34	Tom Flores	         45.1	 59.0	12.0	 3.8
35	Jimmy Johnson	         43.2	 52.9	 9.0	 4.8
36	Greasy Neale	         42.9	 52.0	10.0	 4.3
37	Dick Vermeil	         41.6	 56.1	15.0	 2.8
38	Jeff Fisher	         40.1	 48.1	14.4	 2.8
39	Tom Coughlin	         40.0	 50.4	13.0	 3.1
40	Andy Reid	         39.1	 44.8	10.0	 3.9
41	Jim Lee Howell	         35.4	 35.4	 7.0	 5.1
42	Don Coryell	         33.7	 40.7	13.3	 2.5
43	Potsy Clark	         32.3	 36.5	10.0	 3.2
44	Jon Gruden	         31.0	 39.5	11.0	 2.8
45	Brian Billick	         30.5	 38.1	 9.0	 3.4
46	Jim Mora	         29.7	 38.7	14.5	 2.1
47	Barry Switzer	         27.8	 31.2	 4.0	 7.0
48	Lou Saban	         26.7	 40.3	14.4	 1.9
49	Buck Shaw	         26.6	 33.7	 8.0	 3.3
50	Dennis Green	         26.1	 35.9	12.9	 2.0
51	Mike Martz	         25.9	 28.2	 5.3	 4.9
52	Roy Andrews	         24.8	 33.5	 7.0	 3.5
53	Don McCafferty	         24.1	 27.8	 3.4	 7.2
54	Mike Tomlin	         23.8	 23.8	 2.0	11.9
55	Elgie Tobin	         23.4	 23.4	 2.0	11.7
56	Hunk Anderson	         23.2	 27.6	 3.5	 6.5
57	Luke Johnsos	         23.2	 27.6	 3.5	 6.5
58	Red Miller	         23.1	 23.1	 4.0	 5.8
59	Ralph Jones	         22.5	 22.5	 3.0	 7.5
60	Tommy Hughitt	         21.8	 21.8	 5.0	 4.4
61	Wade Phillips	         20.9	 23.4	 7.4	 2.8
62	Adam Walsh	         20.7	 20.7	 2.0	10.4
63	John Fox	         19.5	 24.0	 7.0	 2.8
64	John Rauch	         19.5	 30.9	 5.0	 3.9
65	Mike Sherman	         18.2	 24.2	 6.0	 3.0
66	Bobby Ross	         17.4	 21.0	 8.6	 2.0
67	Paddy Driscoll	         16.8	 18.7	 5.0	 3.4
68	Norm Barry	         16.5	 17.6	 2.0	 8.3
69	Lovie Smith	         16.0	 22.5	 5.0	 3.2
70	Jack Pardee	         15.7	 25.7	10.6	 1.5
71	Raymond Berry	         14.9	 19.4	 5.5	 2.7
72	Hampton Pool	         14.8	 14.8	 2.9	 5.1
73	Wally Lemm	         14.5	 30.2	 9.6	 1.5
74	Jock Sutherland	         13.9	 13.9	 4.0	 3.5
75	Jim Fassel	         12.7	 21.4	 7.0	 1.8
76	Allie Sherman	         11.9	 25.6	 8.0	 1.5
77	Bum Phillips	         11.6	 22.6	10.8	 1.1
78	Dudley DeGroot	         11.5	 11.5	 2.0	 5.8
79	John Robinson	         11.3	 23.4	 9.0	 1.3
80	Steve Mariucci	         11.3	 28.2	 8.7	 1.3
81	Dick Rauch	         11.1	 17.5	 5.0	 2.2
82	Mike Holovak	         10.4	 22.9	 7.7	 1.4
83	Joe Schmidt	         10.4	 15.3	 6.0	 1.7
84	Lou Rymkus	         10.4	 12.4	 1.4	 7.7
85	Jerry Burns	          9.5	 12.5	 6.0	 1.6
86	Chuck Fairbanks	          9.2	 19.1	 5.9	 1.6
87	Earl Potteiger	          8.4	 19.2	 3.0	 2.8
88	Clark Shaughnessy	  8.1	  8.1	 2.0	 4.1
89	Ray Malavasi	          8.0	 20.1	 5.9	 1.4
90	Ed Weir                   8.0	  8.0	 1.6	 5.1
91	Al Davis	          7.6	  9.5	 3.0	 2.5
92	Forrest Gregg	          7.5	 23.5	10.9	 0.7
93	Art Shell	          7.0	 16.9	 6.8	 1.0
94	Ken Whisenhunt	          7.0	  7.0	 2.0	 3.5
95	Mike McCarthy	          6.4	 10.0	 3.0	 2.1
96	Ron Meyer	          6.3	 10.6	 7.0	 0.9
97	Jack Del Rio	          6.2	 15.5	 6.0	 1.0
98	John Harbaugh	          6.0	  6.0	 1.0	 6.0
99	Mike Smith	          6.0	  6.0	 1.0	 6.0
100	Tony Sparano	          6.0	  6.0	 1.0	 6.0

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 27th, 2009 at 7:14 am and is filed under Best/Worst Ever. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.