From 1920-1932, the NFL championship was not decided in a playoff format. Who ever had the best winning percentage at the end of the season was awarded the NFL championship. (Every team did not play the same number of games, and ties didn’t count in the standings).
That changed in 1933. In that season, the National Football League split into two divisions (later called conferences), with the division winners playing in the NFL Championship Game. Ever since then, there has been an ever-evolving postseason, which now ends on Super Bowl Sunday.
Since 1933, only five combinations of head coach/quarterback have won at least three championships together. In 1940, ’41 and ’46 (with time lost due to World War II) Sid Luckman and George Halas won three NFL Championships. In 1974-75 and 1978-79 Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw took home four Super Bowls with the Steelers. In 1981, ’84, and ’88 Bill Walsh and Joe Montana won three Super Bowls in San Francisco. And Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have five Lombardi Trophies and counting with New England.
However, there is one more coach/quarterback tandem in this group. This tandem won the 1961, 1962 and 1965 NFL Championship games as well as Super Bowls I & II. Of course, it is Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr.
Vince Lombardi-Bart Starr: Greatest Head Coach-Quarterback Tandem in NFL History
In nine seasons together they were 96-34-6 in the regular season, won six Western Conference titles and the aforementioned five championships. During that run, they were 9-1 in the playoffs. Their three consecutive world championships (1965 NFL Championship and Super Bowls I & II) are, to date, the only occurrence of three titles in a row since the inception of the NFL Championship Game in 1933. Subsequently, the Packers are the only franchise to win three straight championships from the pre-Championship Game Era as well.
In addition to this, the Packers would compete against two Hall of Fame quarterbacks. They faced Y.A. Tittle in the NFL Championship Game, and in Super Bowl I, they would face the Hall of Fame head coach/quarterback tandem of Hank Stram and Len Dawson. Their record in those game was 3-0.
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s Place in NFL History
Winning five Super Bowls is impressive, but the five championship wins are hardly unprecedented. Brady was the second quarterback (after Starr) to win five championships. Belichick is the third coach to win five championships after Lombardi and Halas. Halas won two NFL Championship Games prior to the arrival of Luckman. Additionally, he won the 1921 American Professional Football Association (the league name before NFL) championship.
While Belichick is the first head coach to win five Super Bowls, Brady isn’t the first NFL player to accomplish that feat even though he is the first quarterback. With the Dallas Cowboys win in Super Bowl XXX, Charles Haley became the first player to win five Super Bowls. Additionally, the Patriots are the fourth franchise to win five Super Bowls, with the others being the Steelers, Cowboys and 49ers. Additionally, they are the eighth NFL franchise with five or more world championships.
To date the opponents of the Patriots have featured only four Hall of Fame players. That’s a far cry from the 13 that were on the opponents of the Packers in the 60s.
There’s no doubt that together, Brady and Belichick are great. In the Super Bowl Era, they’re the best. However, when you look at the entire history of the NFL, overlooking the era before the Super Bowl is an injustice to those that played and coached.
As of right now, the two rank as the second-best quarterback/head coach tandem in NFL history. The greatest tandem is Starr and Lombardi. However, another Super Bowl victory will change that narrative.
Story by Michael Pallas, Courtesy of LastWordOnProFootball.com