The 5 best head coaches in the history of the New England Patriots

Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons
Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

Much like their history at quarterback, the New England Patriots haven't had the best luck hiring quality head coaches to bring success to their team. For the most part, it's Bill Belichick and the other guys, with a few standouts, of course.

But during the time of the team's existence, there have been a lot more questionable choices put into the coaching role, which the Patriots have paid for in the long run.

Fortunately, they struck gold when Robert Kraft hired Belichick in 2000, leading the team to an unimaginable dynasty that will never be replicated. But who else was a solid choice during the 64 years of the Boston/New England Patriots?

These are the five best head coaches in the history of the organization.

Criteria for selection

When reflecting on the history of Patriots head coaches, there is a lot to consider when grading their tenures.

Outside of the obvious best of all time, Bill Belichick, who accomplished more than any head coach in the history of the game, it is important to look at their impact on the state of the team when they were hired and all they accomplished during their tenures.

The 5 best head coaches in the history of the New England Patriots

5. Chuck Fairbanks

When the Patriots hired Chuck Fairbanks in January 1973, they were not aware of just how good of a decision he would become from the start.

The new head coach helped make the decisions regarding the following NFL Draft, with the Patriots selecting several players who went on to become legendary in the team and league's history: RB Sam Cunningham, OL John Hannah, DT Ray Hamilton, and WR Darryl Stingley.

A few years later, he also drafted quarterback Steve Grogan, who is now considered one of the best players in the franchise's history. His addition to the roster helped bring success to the Patriots after a rough start for Fairbanks.

The new duo gave the Raiders their only loss during the 1976 season, and they met again in the postseason, which was just their second postseason berth since the AFL-NFL merger. Although they inevitably lost to the Raiders, who went on to win the Super Bowl that year, it was the start of the Patriots' path to relevance again, led by Grogan for the next several years.

Fairbanks was recognized for his work by winning Coach of the Year, but two years later, an ugly breakup left the Patriots looking for a new head coach, leaving Fairbanks with a 46-39 head coaching record.

4. Mike Holovak

After the Patriots' inception in 1960 and the first head coach left the team after just one season, Mike Holovak was hired and led the team to immediate success.

The former pro fullback had spent the team's first season as the running backs coach, to be then promoted after Lou Saban left in 1961. Although it was his first head coaching gig in the NFL, he had previously spent eight years with the Boston College Eagles, recording a 49-29-3 record during his time there, establishing credibility and earning experience to earn an eventual spot in the pros.

Holovak's hiring in Boston was impactful from the start, with the first two seasons ending in second place in the AFL Eastern division. He followed that up in 1963 by coaching the team to first place and their first AFL Championship.

The following year didn't see the same fate, but after becoming the team's general manager, the Patriots improved to a 10-3-1 record, which was good for second place in the division. He received Coach of the Year honors for that season as well as a five year contract extension.

He won the award again two seasons later, despite the fall of the once-mighty Patriots, but was eventually fired in 1969 with a record of 52-46-9. It would be the winningest record in New England for the next 36 years until Bill Belichick broke it in 2005.

3. Bill Parcells 1993-1996

Perhaps you think Bill Parcells deserves to be the second-best head coach in the history of the Patriots, so seeing him ranked third is a bit confusing. Although he coached the team to success during his three seasons in Foxboro, how he left the team deducts some points from his legacy.

That might be a controversial take, but it seems fair enough.

When Parcells was hired in 1993, he helped bring the team back from no-man's land. By his second season, he coached them to a 10-6 record, and the Patriots went to the playoffs for the first time in eight years, leading to his multiple Coach of the Year awards from various outlets.

Two years later, he coached the team to their second Super Bowl appearance, a significant feat considering where the team had been. Although they inevitably lost to the Green Bay Packers, Parcells' coaching was a big reason why the team went so far after not sniffing the postseason for so many years prior.

That's when some of the controversy surrounding his tenure begin.

It has been long said that Parcells checked out before the Championship game due to disagreements with new team owner Robert Kraft. It became the talking point in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, taking any hype away from New England and becoming a distraction, at the very least.

It was the lack of agreement regarding his role as the general manager before Kraft bought the team that led to the split, which Kraft and Parcells appear to still not be over this many years later.

Because his attitude potentially impacted the Patriots' performance, it's a reason to push Parcells down at least one notch among the greatest coaches ever, regardless of how debatable that might be. The lack of agreement regarding his role as the general manager before Kraft bought the team

2. Raymond Berry

The start of Raymond Berry's coaching career for the Patriots began more uniquely than most head coaches. The former split end had previously worked for the team as a receivers coach for three seasons before leaving pro football entirely in 1981.

Three years later, the Patriots fired head coach Ron Meyer mid-season and hired Berry to replace him. It's not typical for a new head coach to replace the old one as the season is ongoing, but Berry undertook the challenge and helped the team finish the year strong with a winning record.

Despite the circumstances, the players took to Berry almost immediately. He won over the locker room and had guys wanting to play hard for their new head coach. This was the foundation of what the Patriots accomplished the following season, recording 11 wins and just five losses and making the playoffs as a wild card team.

They then went on to win three road games on their way to the Super Bowl, becoming the first team in NFL history to do so. Their victory over the Dolphins at their home stadium since 1966 made it even sweeter.

The season ended with the Patriots representing the AFC in Super Bowl XX against the Chicago Bears, which they subsequently lost as the supreme underdog team. However, Berry won Coach of the Year for his incredible efforts.

Berry continued to coach the team to wins throughout the rest of his tenure, with the team playing in more postseason games and ultimately finishing his career with a 48-39 record in New England.

Although the end of his time with the team wasn't as lovely as the beginning was, Berry will be forever remembered as one of the best to ever do it for the Patriots for more reasons than just how well he coached the team during games.

1. Bill Belichick 2000-2023

Was there really any question?

The Patriots are one of the very few teams in the history of the NFL to be fortunate enough to have a head coach lead the team to success over an extended period of time. When Bill Belichick was hired in 2000, the team was far from dead and gone. They were just four years removed from their last Super Bowl appearance and looked to have found their quarterback of the future.

A year after Belichick's arrival, team owner Robert Kraft signed Bledsoe to a 10-year, $100 million contract, seemingly solidifying his role as the face of the franchise.

Little did anyone know that the guy Kraft hired to succeed Bill Parcells would drastically change the team's trajectory with just one roster change.

His decision to name Tom Brady the starting quarterback after Bledsoe returned from a horrific injury changed the course of New England's fate for the next twenty years. During that time, Belichick helped lead the team to nine Super Bowl appearances, taking home the Lombardi trophy in six of them and being part of the most iconic postseason moments in NFL history.

When his tenure with the Patriots ended at the end of the 2023 season, Belichick recorded 266 wins to just 121 losses. When including playoff games, he's just 15 games short of breaking the all-time wins record that has been long held by Don Shula, which means we haven't seen the end of Belichick's coaching in the league.

On top of his long list of accomplishments cementing his legacy, Belichick will also forever be known as one of the greatest defensive minds the game has ever seen, which played a big role in how well he worked with Brady during their years together. It's their partnership that sealed the Patriots' fate and led to the unbelievable success a team has ever accomplished, becoming the best dynasty in all of sports.

The 5 best head coaches in New England Patriots history by number of games coached


Coach Name

Years with Team

Games coached


Bill Belichick




Mike Holovak




Raymond Berry




Chuck Fairbanks




Bill Parcells



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