Bill Belichick needs one more Super Bowl win to pass Vince Lombardi as the greatest head coach in NFL history.
As sports fans we need to be more consistent in our debates. The top argument to Michael Jordan being the GOAT of the NBA is his 6-0 record in the Finals with six MVP awards, but Bill Belichick is the GOAT of NFL head coaches because he has five Super Bowl wins, and his overall record in those games doesn’t seem to matter.
In fact, it’s an afterthought. There’s one NFL coach who has a better record when vying for the NFL Championship/Super Bowl – Vince Lombardi.
In the history of North American sports, 15 head coaches/managers have led their teams to at least five world championships. Five of those did so in the first 10 years of their careers as a head coach — that feat has never been done in baseball — and two of them (Hap Day and Toe Blake) won five consecutive Stanley Cups to begin their coaching careers.
One of the five is Lombardi. In fact, Lombardi took less than half the time to the next-closest NFL head coach, Curly Lambeau, who took 19 years to win his fifth title, and the other two George Halas and Belichick both took more than 20 years to win their fifth titles, with Belichick being the longest (22 years).
When it comes to the record in the biggest game of the year, it’s close, but the edge goes to Lombardi. It took the Packers six appearances in the NFL Championship Game/Super Bowl to win five, and it took the Patriots seven Super Bowl appearances to win their fifth, and twice they lost to what many would consider an inferior team, the New York Giants. Lombardi was 5-1 overall in comparison to Belichick’s 5-3 record after their Super Bowl LII loss to the Eagles (who gave Lombardi his only championship game loss in 1960).
You can make the argument of the Packers having more talent than the rest of the league, and the Patriots basically winning with one surefire Hall of Fame player on their roster for the entirety of the run.
However, there are two problems with that argument.
1. Football is a team game, and it’s not necessarily about having Hall of Fame talent on the team, but, rather, players that fit together and work in the system. Having Hall of Fame talent doesn’t guarantee anything if it doesn’t fit together.
2. In today’s NFL, if a dynasty were to be formed again after the Patriots, it will likely have fewer Hall of Fame players than dynasties of the past, because there are more teams.
There’s also the fact the Patriots are Belichick’s second chance. He was hired by the Cleveland Browns when he was 39 years old. Lombardi was hired by the Packers at 46. If he failed, there was likely not going to be a second chance. He coached in the NFL Championship Game in his second season as Packers head coach, that came after a 1-10-1 season that had the league consider moving the Packers.
Lombardi followed that up by winning consecutive titles by a combined score of 53-7. The Packers would fail to win the Western Conference the next two years, but in 1965-67, became the first, and only, team to win three straight world championship games (the 1965 NFL Championship Game and Super Bowls I & II).
He coached one additional season in Washington, leading the Redskins to a 7-5-2 record, finishing his career having 10 seasons without a losing season. He ended up with terminal cancer and resigned. Unfortunately, we will never know what he could’ve done with the Redskins.
As for Belichick, before inserting Tom Brady as the starter, Belichick had five losing seasons, including his first in New England. Even though the Packers also had a Hall of Fame quarterback, Bart Starr, he’s nowhere near the level of Brady.
It’ll be hard to make these arguments if Belichick wins another Super Bowl, but for now five doesn’t equal five. Winning a sixth Super Bowl will tie him with George Halas for most championships, and it would be hard to argue at that point. For now, Lombardi is the best.