Bill Belichick Can Close in on Cementing Legacy As Greatest Coach of All Time With Victory in Super Bowl XLVI

Bill Belichick Can Close in on Cementing Legacy As Greatest Coach of All Time With Victory in Super Bowl XLVIFOXBORO, Mass. — If the Patriots topple the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI, Bill Belichick will be close to cementing his legacy as the greatest coach in football history.

He would match former Steelers front man Chuck Noll as the only head coaches with four Super Bowl rings. Adding to that, though, Belichick would be the first in history with six rings as a head coach and coordinator, as he also led the Giants’ defense to a pair of titles under Bill Parcells.

As it stands, Belichick’s résumé stacks up with the best of them. Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs are the only other head coaches with three Super Bowl titles. Belichick will also match Tom Landry with his fifth Super Bowl appearance, which is second all-time behind Don Shula (six). However, Shula’s four Super Bowl losses are tied for the most in history, and Landry has three defeats to his name, which takes away from their legacies.

Belichick, the only head coach to ever win three Super Bowls in four years, has 17 playoff victories, which is three behind Landry for the most all-time. Assuming Belichick sticks around in New England for the remainder of Tom Brady‘s career, it’s safe to say he’ll own that record, too.

And one thing that none of the past greats can claim, Belichick has done it during the era of the salary cap, which greatly increases the level of difficulty. Belichick has 150 wins since 2001, including the playoffs, which is 31 more than anyone else (Eagles head coach Andy Reid) over that span. It’s a number that showcases his dominance during an era when head coaches are fired at a staggering clip due to a win-now-or-pack-your-bags mentality.

Belichick ranks ninth with 192 total victories as a head coach, and if he coaches for another four seasons, he could conceivably overtake Curly Lambeau (229 wins) for fourth all-time, though Shula (346 wins), George Halas (324) and Landry (270) are a ways away. But if anyone can catch up quickly, it would be Belichick, who is the only head coach in history with five seasons with at least 13 victories.

Shula is also the all-time leader with four NFL Coach of the Year awards, but Belichick and Chuck Knox are tied for second with three of those honors.

If Belichick’s Patriots win Super Bowl XLVI, his primary competitors for the unofficial honor as the greatest head coach of all-time would be Vince Lombardi, Walsh, Noll and Shula, and the arguments could be made for each in either direction.

With a win against the Giants, Belichick would stand alone in total rings and he’d be tied with Noll atop the Super Bowl standings. However, Belichick will never live down his detractors from the Spygate scandal, and his greatest blemish on the sidelines came in defeat in Super Bowl XLII, where a victory would have ended this argument altogether. Plus, Belichick has put together two of the greatest defensive game plans in history to claim the crowns in Super Bowls XXV and XXXVI.

Noll’s 4-0 record in Super Bowls is as great as it gets, and his four victories came in a six-year span, which signified dominance in his own era. However, Noll was the defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Colts during their surprising loss to Joe Namath‘s Jets in Super Bowl III. By no means was that on Noll, but give Belichick the advantage in the coordinator department.

Lombardi might be the most widely discussed man as the greatest coach in history, and it helps that the most desired trophy in the sport was named in his honor. He was 2-0 in Super Bowls and 3-1 in NFL Championships, and that one defeat yielded credence to the notion that a shortcoming in the championship game can be overshadowed by greater success.

Walsh was 3-0 in the Super Bowl, and his legacy has also been remembered by the staff he assembled. His coaching tree included George Seifert, who won two Super Bowls with the 49ers when he replaced Walsh, along with Mike Holmgren, Dennis Green, Jim Fassel and Paul Hackett, and the branches that followed also included Mike Shanahan, Reid, Steve Mariucci, Jon Gruden, Tony Dungy, Brian Billick, Mike Tomlin and Jeff Fisher. They obviously weren’t all hired by Walsh, but he was legendary at building a staff and passing along that same recruiting tool to his assistants.

Shula was in charge of the 1972 Dolphins, the only undefeated team in history, and his regular-season success is unparalleled. However, it’s hard to earn the distinction as the greatest of all-time with four Super Bowl losses under his belt.

So, if Belichick can lead the Patriots to their fourth Super Bowl title next week, he’ll put himself in position to go down as the greatest coach of all time. Unless he retires immediately after the game — and no one expects that to happen — Belichick can’t fully write his book after Super Bowl XLVII.

There will be more regular-season games to win and more playoff games to encounter, which will give Belichick more opportunities to eliminate other names from the discussion. Unless there’s a drastic change in Belichick’s success, a victory in next week’s Super Bowl would push him to the top of the coaching hierarchy, though he’ll have to continue to validate that legacy before he retires.

Have a question for Jeff Howe? Send it to him via Twitter at @jeffphowe or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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