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Longest Serving Coaches In NFL History


Short History Of The NFL

The National Football League (NFL) was established in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association (APFA) before being renamed as the NFL in 1922. It is the highest professional level of American Football in the world, consisting of 32 teams divided equally into two conferences, the American Football Conference (AFC) and National Football Conference (NFC). The winner of each conference plays each other in the Super Bowl, one of the most watched sporting events of the year.

Historically, the Green Bay Packers are the most successful franchise in the sport, having won 13 titles, nine NFL Championships before the Super Bowl era, and four Super Bowls afterwards. Since the Super Bowl was first held in 1967, the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers have won six each, the most of any franchise.

Tom Brady has won seven titles, giving him more Super Bowls than every NFL franchise, winning six with the Patriots and one with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

As well as being the most popular sports league in the US, the NFL is also the wealthiest sports league in the world by revenue and has the most valuable teams.

Longest Serving Coach Overview

Coach: Seasons Served:
1. George Halas 40
2. Curly Lambeau 33
3. Don Shula 33
4. Bill Belichick 29
5. Tom Landry 29

5th Longest Serving Coach - (Tom Landry)

29 seasons

Tom Landry is the longest-tenured head coach of one team in NFL history, taking charge of the Dallas Cowboys for an incredible 29 seasons, from 1960 to 1988. The Cowboys enjoyed plenty of success throughout his tenure, including 20 consecutive winning seasons. Landry also led them to five Super Bowl appearances, and with that came two titles.

In 1954, Landry got his first coaching job as the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants, making them one of the best defensive sides during his tenure. He then became the first head coach of the Cowboys and oversaw a winless first season. However, despite continued struggles in the next few years that followed, he was given a 10-year extension and ended up becoming one of the greatest coaches of all time.

4th Longest Serving Coach - (Bill Belichick)

29 seasons

Bill Belichick, the only active head coach on this list, has just entered the 24th season of his reign with the New England Patriots. Belichick is the most successful head coach of all time, with six Super Bowl titles to his name. He also won two championships as a defensive coordinator with the New York Giants.

His tenure in New England began in 2000, and he oversaw two separate dynasties. Despite missing the playoffs in his first season, his first Super Bowl win came just a year later, which was also the Patriots’ first ever title.

Alongside quarterback Tom Brady, the duo established the greatest head coach and QB tandem of all time, going on to win five more Super Bowls together.

Throughout his time with the Patriots, Belichick has led them to 17 AFC East division titles, 13 appearances in the AFC Championship Game, and nine Super Bowl appearances.

3rd Longest Serving Coach - (Don Shula)

33 seasons

Don Shula holds the NFL record for most regular season wins of any head coach with 328. He spent the majority of his 33 years as a coach with the Miami Dolphins, where he won two Super Bowls. The 1972 season, in which they won Super Bowl VII, saw the Dolphins become the only team in modern NFL history to go undefeated for an entire season, after they finished the regular season 14-0.

His coaching career started with the Baltimore Colts, spending seven seasons with the team. He guided them to one NFL Championship in 1968, where they beat the Cleveland Browns in a 34-0 shutout.

Shula was the first coach to appear in six Super Bowls, a figure which ranks him second amongst all head coaches. He also holds the record for most Super Bowl losses, at four. Regarded as one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, Shula endured just two losing seasons in 33 years.

2nd Longest Serving Coach - (Curly Lambeau)

33 seasons

Curly Lambeau had a head coaching career spanning 33 seasons, 29 of those in charge of the Green Bay Packers between 1920 and 1949. He spent his first nine seasons as a player-coach. His first and only championship as a player came in 1929, as he retired after the season but remained as head coach and general manager.

Under Lambeau’s guidance, the Packers won six NFL Championships, including in 1929. With a regular season record of 209-104-21 (.657), he is by far the winningest coach in Packers history. Such is his legacy, the Packers’ stadium, Lambeau field, is named after him.

Following his resignation in 1950, Lambeau moved on to coach the Chicago Cardinals, but spent just two seasons there, failing to make the postseason on both occasions. He took charge of the Washington Redskins for a further two seasons, which is where he ended his coaching career.

1st Longest Serving Coach - (George Halas)

40 seasons

With 40 seasons as a head coach, George Halas tops this list by a large margin. Spending his entire coaching career with the Chicago Bears, he won six NFL Championships.

Halas’ time with the franchise spanned 62 years, as he served as a player, head coach and an executive. He took charge as a head coach for four different stints in 1920-29, 1933-42, 1946-55 and 1958-67. His first championship came in 1921 as a result of a tiebreaker over the Buffalo All-Americans, whilst his second came over a decade later in 1933 with a victory over the New York Giants. He won a further two championships as an executive in 1932 and 1943.

When he coached his final game in 1967, Halas became the oldest coach in NFL history at 72 years old, a record that stood for 50 years. He posted a record of 318 wins and 118 losses, giving him an impressive .671 overall record.

NFL Coach FAQs

NFL Coaches Who Never Played Football

Every NFL coach has their own journey, however there is a select group who have made it to the top of the game having never played the sport professionally.

Bill Belichick, the most successful coach in the history of the sport, never played in the NFL. Following graduation, Belichick went straight into coaching, taking the job as an assistant to Baltimore Colts head coach Ted Marchibroda in 1975.

Similarly, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid began his coaching career without playing professionally, beginning as an assistant offensive line and tight ends coach. He has enjoyed a very successful career so far, winning two Super Bowls.

Elsewhere in the league, Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin and LA Rams’ Sean McVay also have no NFL playing experience. McVay was appointed as Rams’ head coach aged just 31, making him the youngest person to ever take charge of an NFL team. McVay played just three years of college football before starting his coaching journey as an assistant wide receivers coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 22 years old. As a head coach he has enjoyed great success in his young career, winning Super Bowl LVI. In doing so, he became the youngest ever head coach to win the big game.

Tomlin is also a Super Bowl winner having gone straight into coaching from college. He won Super Bowl XLIII with the Steelers.

How Much Do NFL Coaches Make?

Across the NFL, head coaches earn an average of approximately $6.6m annually. Although, the more experienced and successful coaches stand to earn much more.

The current highest paid head coach is Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots, and winner of six Super Bowl titles, who earns $20m annually. Individually, he has won the AP Coach of the Year award three times, and holds the most playoff wins by a coach, so is deservedly being paid a premium wage. He earns $2m more than second highest paid coach Sean Payton, of the Denver Broncos, and $5m more than Rams’ Sean McVay and Seahawks’ Pete Carroll.

In contrast, Kevin Stefanski, the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, earns $3.5m annually. Stefanski joined the Browns in 2020, having previously been the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings. He won AP Coach of the Year in his first season, leading the Browns to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth, their first since 2002. However, since then, his job has been a little more difficult, overseeing two consecutive losing seasons.

Offensive and defensive coordinators also have crucial jobs, but earn less due to having fewer responsibilities in regard to the overall makeup of the team. On average, coordinators in the NFL make around $1m annually. Before he was named the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders in 2022, Josh McDaniels was earning up to $4m a year as offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots.

Who Are The Oldest Coaches In The NFL?

Since the LA Rams’ appointment of a 31-year old Sean McVay in 2017, the NFL has seen teams appoint younger coaches, looking to replicate their success.

However, plenty of sides have also stuck with experience, and have been rewarded by doing so.

The oldest head coach in the NFL is Pete Carroll, who is in charge of the Seattle Seahawks. At 71 years old, he is one of the oldest NFL coaches of all time, having begun his coaching career in 1994 with the New York Jets. He is just the fifth coach in NFL history to coach at age 71 or older.

Carroll has been at the helm of the Seahawks since 2010 and has overseen nine consecutive winning seasons, as well as two Super Bowl appearances, winning once.

Bill Belichick is not far behind him at 70 years old, as he begins his 24th season as head coach of the New England Patriots.

He began his coaching career with the Cleveland Browns in 1991, but did not enjoy any success. A move to the Patriots followed where he won six Super Bowls in nine appearances and formed a formidable duo with Tom Brady.