I have to begin by saying this might have been one of the toughest lists to compile. I think the NFL is blessed with a lot of very good head coaches, including the greatest of all time, and whittling them down to an elite 10 as we head towards the 2020 season was virtually impossible.
And certain to create great debate!
Even now, having completed my list, I don't feel good about overlooking the likes of Sean McVay, Sean McDermott, Frank Reich and the fast-rising Brian Flores. I wanted to give them an honourable mention, at least – but much of my top 10 is about those who have stood the test of time, especially in my top five.
1. Bill Belichick – New England Patriots
Surely there can be no argument with this choice? Belichick has dominated the NFL landscape for two decades, winning six Super Bowls and 17 AFC East crowns. During his 25 seasons as an NFL head coach, Belichick has reached the playoffs 72 percent of the time. He may not be too warm and cuddly with the media, but Belichick is all about winning and the proof is definitely in the pudding with this living legend.
2. Andy Reid – Kansas City Chiefs
Big Red finally got the Super Bowl win that his coaching efforts have deserved, filling the hole in a CV that can now boast 222 career victories. Reid has been questioned for his clock management in the past but his consistent winning is impressive and his offensive schemes always produce results. He has also tutored current head coaches John Harbaugh, Ron Rivera, Doug Pederson, Sean McDermott and Matt Nagy.
3. John Harbaugh – Baltimore Ravens
Harbaugh is another who turns out the same kind of team year in and year out. The Ravens always play tough, they always field a rock solid defense and they always win games. Harbaugh has won 128 games, including one Super Bowl, in 12 years as a head coach in Baltimore. And he has suffered just one losing season. Harbaugh is the model of coaching consistency and could enjoy another Super Bowl with Lamar Jackson at quarterback.
4. Sean Payton – New Orleans Saints
Payton is another coach who consistently wins games. A three-season run of 7-9 campaigns from 2014-2016 hurts a little bit but Payton has bounced back with three straight years in which his Saints have won at least 11 regular season games. And if they had enjoyed a little more good fortune in the playoffs, Payton could have added to his one Super Bowl crown. This is one of the game's premier offensive play-callers.
5. Pete Carroll – Seattle Seahawks
The oldest coach in the NFL still acts like one of the youngest every Sunday as the 68-year-old Carroll skips up and down the Seahawks' sideline like a man more than half his age. Carroll is yet another who turns out a consistent winner. Seattle have reached the playoffs in eight of Carroll's 10 seasons in charge and have won a Super Bowl. His rah-rah message is not for everybody but Carroll's constant call for competition works wonders in Seattle.
6. Mike Tomlin – Pittsburgh Steelers
Tomlin's star has faded in the eyes of some, especially around the dysfunctional Antonio Brown era, but I still feel this guy is one of the best in the business. A wonderful speaker and motivator, Tomlin fires his troops up week in and week out and his 8-8 record in an injury-hit 2019 campaign was one of his finest achievements. At 48, Tomlin has plenty of years to add to his 141 wins and one Super Bowl title.
7. Kyle Shanahan – San Francisco 49ers
The first of the young guns is the 49ers boss who has been described in so many NFL circles as a genius. His play-calling is truly excellent and he and general manager John Lynch have resurrected a dying franchise. But Shanahan has been the focal point of two high-profile Super Bowl meltdowns with Atlanta and San Francisco. In this 'what have you done for me lately?' league, he needs to win the big one soon.
8. Mike Vrabel – Tennessee Titans
Vrabel is impressive to watch on the practice field and on gameday. He is a tough, intelligent, hands-on coach. Last season alone, he steered the Titans through a quarterback change and then schooled his old boss, Bill Belichick, in the playoffs. That was followed by a massive road win in Baltimore. Vrabel is only going to grow as he gains more experience – he has only been a head coach in the NFL for two seasons.
9. Doug Pederson – Philadelphia Eagles
I was very tempted to go with the excellent Sean McVay here, but Pederson should not be overlooked. In four seasons as an NFL head coach, he has recorded 42 wins, lifted the Vince Lombardi Trophy once and taken his team to the postseason 75 percent of the time, surpassing Belichick in that area. Pederson's greatest attribute might be in not allowing the wheels to fall off for his team when adversity strikes.
10. Bruce Arians – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I thought long and hard about including another of the young guns here, but how could I ignore Arians, who has won games wherever he has coached? The two-time NFL Coach of the Year is beloved by his players and they would run through walls for him. He produced a genuine contender during his time in Arizona and has the Bucs on the rise in Tampa. His aggressive play-calling is beloved by his players and his open and frank opinions make him a media and fan favourite.