Top 10 Head Coach-QB duos of all-time
By now, you have all been given a week full of Super Bowl memories that involve both the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams before they get set to kick off Super Bowl LIII tomorrow.
But now it’s time to see who the greatest of all-time really is. Who’s the greatest quarterback? How about greatest coach-QB duo? In the next set of articles, we will be telling you exactly that.
First, we will look into the coaches that helped these QBs become great. Just keep in mind that not all coaches or QBs are on their individual list, so you will have to return back on Sunday to find out who the greatest QB of all-time is.
Until then, let’s get right into the list of coaches and QBs. Know that not all duos won Super Bowl titles, but still deserve to be recognized.
10. Mike Shannahan and John Elway, Denver Broncos (1995-1998)
These two made the most of their four seasons together. Shannahan could possibly be the main, if not only reason Elway was able to win two Super Bowls. They moved on from a defensive-minded head coach in Wade Phillips to focus more on the offense and QB John Elway.
It’s not that the Broncos were bad with Philips, but after failing to win two previous Super Bowls and Elway getting older, their time was running out. In their four years together, they won back-to-back Super Bowls. Elway did whatever he had to to get the first one, including a helicopter spin late in the game.
9. Joe Gibbs and Doug Williams, Washington Redskins (1986-1989)
These two were also together for a short four seasons and had success early. They only managed to get one Super Bowl title, but that one was history making, as Williams became the first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl. He also picked up MVP honors in the game after battling back from injury.
Williams had the capability to win games, but it wasn’t until he came to Washington to Gibbs where he started get the wins. One of which was against John Elway’s Broncos in Super Bowl XXII. Gibbs coached the Redskins to three total championships. One before and one after Williams was with the team. Had Williams came earlier in his career, there is no saying how many titles the two could have won.
8. Jimmy Johnson and Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys (1989-1993)
The ’80s was full of greater QBs. That will explain why there’s several of them on here. However, Aikman was part of a transition into the ’90s. The short time he was with coach Johnson, they had a lot of success, as they won two titles in four years. Aikman also had the Hall of Fame running back Emmit Smith running wild with him and Johnson. Had they all stayed together for a longer time, they might have already had the franchises 6th title.
7. Marv Levy and Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills (1986-1996)
This was a great duo, as they dominated their division by winning it six out of 10 years. They even won four conference championships to get them into the Super Bowl four times, but they came up short in each one. The one that has to hurt the most is the one against Bill Parcells’ New York Giants, as they had a chance to kick the game-winning field goal, but it was wide right off the foot of K Scott Norwood.
They just simply couldn’t find themselves on the winning side of a Super Bowl, but that shouldn’t discredit them as one of the top duos, because it’s never easy to win the big one.
6. Don Shula and Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins (1983-1995)
Speaking of winning the big one, or failure to do so, the Miami Dolphins of the ’80s had several chances to get there. They, like the Bills, won their division five times. What makes it interesting is that both the Bills and Dolphins were in the division then as they are now. They combined for 11 of the 13 divisional titles.
But the Super Bowl appearances and titles is not impressive. Despite having coach Shula and Dan Marino together for 12 years, the Dolphins only made it to one Super Bowl in which they lost. But the individual success of Marino himself had helped the Dolphins be successful. It wasn’t without the coaching of Shula to get him there.
5. Tom Landry and Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboys (1969-1979)
The earlier stages of the the Super Bowl era featured a lot of the Dallas Cowboys and Roger Staubach. Staubach and coach Landry won several division championships in the 10 years they were together. At which time, they had made it to the Super Bowl five times, winning it twice. If Staubach hadn’t left for the military during the middle of his playing career, we might have been able to see more from this duo.
4. Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh Steelers (1970-1983)
One of the teams that beat the Cowboys in the Super Bowl was this Steelers team. They did it twice in back-to-back seasons. In fact, the Steelers won it four times during Bradshaw and Noll’s time together. Both of which were back-to-back over a six year span.
They also won the division eight times, as they were one of the more dominant teams earlier in history. That explains why they are the only team to have a record six Super Bowl titles. Had Bradshaw thrown less interceptions, they could have been way ahead in number of titles, but with his mediocre play the Steelers still managed to have success.
3. Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr, Green Bay Packers (1959-1967)
The first ever Super Bowl winners have to be on the list, because without Lombardi, there wouldn’t be a Lombardi trophy. But that isn’t the only title they have. They won the first two Super Bowls and an additional five league championships.
If league titles counted back then, the Packers would have the most wins in terms of championships. Both Starr and Lombardi would be the most winningest coach-QB duo of all time. Let’s not forget about the fact that they won these seven titles in eight years of being together. They could easily be the No. 1 duo of all-time.
2. Bill Walsh and Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers (1979-1988)
Unfortunately for the Packers, Montana and Walsh came along 20 years later and helped change the way the game was played. If you were to compare the stats, you would see why. But we won’t get into that, because Montana had one of the best, if not the best wide receiver to pass the ball too. That is what helped the Niners be successful during all of the ’80s.
Remember when I told you the ’80s was full of great QBs? Montana might be the greatest from that decade, as he and coach Walsh won six division titles on their way to winning three Super Bowls together. Now, if it wasn’t such a stacked position back then, we might have seen him win even more Super Bowls.
1. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, New England Patriots (2000-present)
The best coach-QB duo has got to be these guys. When you look at where all the other QBs were drafted, their success would be a mirror image of that. Brady wasn’t a top QB in his draft class. In fact, he was drafted 199th overall by the Patriots, which made him the seventh QB drafted in that class.
But with Belichick, Brady looked like an elite quarterback. That has been something they continue to prove, as they have won 16 divisional titles and have made it to their ninth Super Bowl. As of now, they sit with five Super Bowl titles, looking to add their sixth, which will give them a tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers for most titles. Brady and Belichick will be the first coach-QB duo to get six titles together in the history of the NFL. There’s no question these two are the best pairing in NFL history. What they have done will never been done again.
With only 10 spots available for the top duos, there were bound to be some duos left off. That is where the honorable mentions come in.
- Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts (2002-2008)
- George Seifert and Steve Young, San Francisco 49ers (1989-1996)
- Bill Parcells and Phil Simms, New York Giants (1983-1990)
- Bud Grant and Fran Tarkenton, Minnesota Vikings (1972-1978)
- Sean Payton and Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (2006- present)
- Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles (1999-2009)
Will Brady and Belichick get their 6th title? Or will they be stuck at five and hoping for Brady to get one more before he turns 45 and retires?
We’ll talk more about Brady and some of these QBs in our next article the morning of Super Bowl LIII, but tell us if we got it right!
Where is your favorite coach-QB duo ranked? Are they in the top 10? Do you think they deserve to be there if they aren’t already? We’re interested in hearing your opinion, so don’t forget to comment below!