When we look back at the legacy of NFL head coaches, we often look at whether or not they have won the game’s ultimate prize. For a long time, Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid was regarded as the best head coach to never win, until he was able to take down the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 54. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, who has been viewed as the top coach in the game by some, has a chance to get his first title as a head coach in the Super Bowl 58 rematch between the two teams. Here’s a look back at some of the top coaches who haven’t won a Super Bowl.
I’m not going to get into the weeds about what makes a successful head coach, because a lot of a coach’s success does depend on the roster. There’s a long list of coaches that have been around the league forever, like Jeff Fisher, Wade Phillips and John Fox. They have all achieved success (and technically Phillips has a ring as a defensive coordinator with the Broncos in 2015) but were they ever considered top coaches? Dan Reeves, who lost three Super Bowls with Denver before losing with the Falcons to Denver in the Super Bowl likely outshines Fisher, Phillips and Fox.
Buffalo Bills head coach Marv Levy and Minnesota Vikings head coach Bud Grant are two legendary names who couldn’t quite get the job done in the big game. Levy’s Bills fell in four consecutive Super Bowls, while Grant’s Vikings also lost four Super Bowls but not in a row. These two are definitely among the best to have never won.
One of my personal favorites is Marty Schottenheimer, who oversaw some really fun Chargers teams with LaDainian Tomlinson, one of my favorite NFL players ever. Schottenheimer had bad luck going up against the dynastic Patriots and Peyton Manning’s Colts but largely held his own in that era.
Among current NFL head coaches, Shanahan, Matt LaFleur and Jim Harbaugh stand out. Harbaugh doesn’t have the NFL tenure of Shanahan and LaFleur, but he will get his opportunity again with the Chargers. He has been to a Super Bowl though, unlike LaFleur.
This article can also be found in our Ultimate Guide to Super Bowl 58, presented by Frank’s Red Hot.