While a good college coach can keep his program at or near the top nearly every single year, a good NFL coach sometimes takes a while to be noticed. Take Bill Belichick and his failed run at Cleveland in the 1990s. In five seasons with the Browns, the man who has four Super Bowl rings with the Patriots made the postseason just once. Once he got a second chance with the Patriots, he took it and ran.
Here are the 10 best coaches in the NFL today.
10. Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals
In just three seasons with Arizona, Arians has made a name for himself by going 34–14. And this just a season after Ken Whisenhunt went 5–11 in the desert. Arians had previously been an offensive coordinator for both the Cleveland Browns (2001–03) and Pittsburgh Steelers (2007–11) and made a name for himself by winning 9 of 12 games as interim head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2012.
9. Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs
Reid was installed as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles back in 1999 and—despite being let go by Philadelphia following the 2012 season—hasn’t taken a year off since. The former Green Bay Packers assistant (1992–98) now has ten 10-win seasons under his belt and 11 playoff appearances in all. During his 14-year run in Philly, Reid had just three losing seasons and won six division titles as well as an NFC championship. In three seasons with the Chiefs, he’s 31–17 with a pair of playoff appearances.
8. Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers
Rivera has quietly led the Panthers to three straight division titles, getting three playoff wins in the process—including an NFC title last year. The former defensive coordinator for both the Chicago Bears (2004–06) and San Diego Chargers (2008–10) has done it in Carolina with a strong defense and Cam Newton quarterbacking the offense.
7. Gary Kubiak, Denver Broncos
Yes, John Elway is the brains of the operation in the Mile-High City, but Kubiak took the Broncos where John Fox couldn’t—winning the Super Bowl—and he did it despite an aging Peyton Manning under center. Before coming to Denver, Kubiak led the Houston Texans to a respectable 61–64 mark from 2006 to 2013.
6. Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks
Separating the success of Pete Carroll the head coach from Pete Carroll the VP of Football Operations is a tough thing to do since they’ve combined to turn the Seahawks into one of the premier organizations in the NFL. Carroll has been able to find stars like Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman outside the first round of the draft and produce four straight playoff appearances, two NFC titles, and a Super Bowl XLVIII win.
5. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers
McCarthy successfully managed the Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers era in Green Bay without missing a beat, leading the Packers to a Super Bowl XLV win, as well as a 15–1 season the following year. In 10 seasons with Green Bay, McCarthy already has five division titles and eight playoff appearances—including seven in a row now.
4. Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints
Think about this: Before Payton arrived in New Orleans for the 2006 season, the Saints had a grand total of one playoff win in their entire history (starting from 1967). Payton equaled that in his first-season championship game, but he then won Super Bowl XLIV and now has six playoff wins to his credit.
3. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers
Tomlin took over a well-oiled machine in 2007 and has kept the line moving. Under his watch, the Steelers have made six playoff appearances, won four division titles and two AFC championships, and beat Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII. In addition, Pittsburgh has yet to have a losing season under his watch.
2. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
Harbaugh’s 10 career playoff victories already place him 16th all-time among coaches, and he’s the only one in the top 20 with less than 10 years’ experience (eight). Overall, Harbaugh has led the defensive-minded Ravens to six playoff appearances, two division titles, and a win in Super Bowl XLVII during his run as head coach.
1. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
While Belichick’s run in Cleveland was forgettable, he’s been anything but during his 16 years with the Patriots. The former defensive coordinator under two-time Super Bowl winner Bill Parcells with the New York Giants (1985–90) and then his assistant head coach with the New York Jets (1997–99), Belichick has stepped out of Parcells’s immense shadow to lead the Patriots to 13 division titles, six AFC championships, and a whopping four Super Bowl wins (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, and XLIX).
Overall, his 23 playoff victories are more than anyone else’s. And his 223 regular-season wins rank him fifth, behind the legendary likes of Don Shula (328), George Halas (318), Tom Landry (250), and Curly Lambeau (226).