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The Most Successful Coach and Quarterback Combos of All Time

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There’s no doubt that certain NFL quarterbacks have immense talent, as is often reflected in their massive salaries. But sometimes, even the best of talents need something more to get to the top of the mountain. When paired with the right coach, a good quarterback can transform into one of the sport’s all-time greats, and the pair can go down in history.

To find the most successful head coach/quarterback pairings in NFL history, GOBankingRates consulted Pro-Football-Reference data and Sports Illustrated’s “Greatest Coach-QB Combos” list. Multiple data points were considered, including number of Super Bowl appearances, titles and playoff and regular season win percentages for games that the quarterback started.

Not surprisingly, some of the most iconic pairings dominate the list. Contemporary legends, such as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, along with greats from the past, such as Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll, appear in the ranking. Some notable names appear twice, such as John Elway, who made it to three Super Bowls with Dan Reeves but had even more success with Mike Shanahan, earning two rings in two Super Bowl appearances.

GOBankingRates also examined each quarterback’s salary over the time period they played for their specific coach. It’s interesting to see how much more modern quarterbacks earn than their colleagues from the ’70s and ’80s. For example, Fran Tarkenton appeared in three Super Bowls during his immensely successful run with coach Bud Grant and the Minnesota Vikings from 1972-78, but he only earned $875,000 over that time period. Contrast that with Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees, each of whom has pulled down over $200 million while playing for their current coach.

All in all, the list of famous duos should evoke memories of some of the greatest moments in NFL history, and the numbers behind some of these Hall-of-Fame names provide additional color into how successful they really were.

Last updated: Aug. 21, 2020

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Fran Tarkenton & Bud Grant

Fran Tarkenton and Bud Grant shared an impressive 68.8% regular-season win percentage and appeared in three Super Bowls between 1972 and 1978, sadly losing them all. As Tarkenton played in an era before huge NFL contracts, he only earned $875,000 during his time partnered with Grant.

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The Duo's Stats

  • Super Bowl
    • Wins: 0
    • Losses: 3
    • Win percentage: .000
  • Playoffs
    • Wins: 7
    • Losses: 6
    • Win percentage: .538
  • Regular Season

    • Wins: 64
    • Losses: 27
    • Win percentage: .688

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John Elway & Dan Reeves

John Elway is the only quarterback who appears twice on this list. During his first run — with Dan Reeves from 1983-1992 — Elway pulled down $13.7 million and appeared in three Super Bowls. Like fellow all-time great Fran Tarkenton, however, Elway didn’t win any of these three Super Bowls.

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The Duo's Stats

  • Super Bowl
    • Wins: 0
    • Losses: 3
    • Win percentage: .000
  • Playoffs
    • Wins: 7
    • Losses: 6
    • Win percentage: .538
  • Regular Season

    • Wins: 89
    • Losses: 52
    • Win percentage: .627

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Jim Kelly & Marv Levy

Jim Kelly infamously went 0-4 in his Super Bowl appearances with coach Marv Levy and the Buffalo Bills. However, he did manage to pull down $28.7 million during the duo’s 11-year tenure.

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The Duo's Stats

  • Super Bowl
    • Wins: 0
    • Losses: 4
    • Win percentage: .000
  • Playoffs
    • Wins: 11
    • Losses: 8
    • Win percentage: .579
  • Regular Season

    • Wins: 101
    • Losses: 59
    • Win percentage: .631

Anonymous/AP / Shutterstock.com

Dan Marino & Don Shula

It might be hard to believe, but Dan Marino and Don Shula only appeared in a single Super Bowl together, which resulted in a loss. Altogether, the pair were ousted from the playoffs seven times during their 13-year run.

Of course, their lack of success together did little to harm their legacies. Shula won two Super Bowls and led the Dolphins to the league’s only perfect season in 1972, while Marino still holds several NFL records and is considered one of the greatest to ever suit up.

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The Duo's Stats

  • Super Bowl
    • Wins: 0
    • Losses: 1
    • Win percentage: .000
  • Playoffs
    • Wins: 6
    • Losses: 7
    • Win percentage: .462
  • Regular Season

    • Wins: 116
    • Losses: 68
    • Win percentage: .630

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Joe Theismann & Joe Gibbs

Joe Theismann and Joe Gibbs put up a respectable .750 playoff win percentage during their time together, going 1-1 in their two Super Bowl appearances. Gibbs ended up going 3-1 in his career in the Super Bowl, one of only four coaches with three Super Bowl rings.

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The Duo's Stats

  • Super Bowl
    • Wins: 1
    • Losses: 1
    • Win percentage: .500
  • Playoffs
    • Wins: 6
    • Losses: 2
    • Win percentage: .750
  • Regular Season

    • Wins: 51
    • Losses: 22
    • Win percentage: .699

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Brett Favre & Mike Holmgren

Brett Favre is another legend of the game who currently owns multiple NFL and Green Bay Packers records. He won his first — and only — Super Bowl with coach Mike Holmgren. Favre earned nearly $29 million during his run with Holmgren and the Packers.

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The Duo's Stats

  • Super Bowl
    • Wins: 1
    • Losses: 1
    • Win percentage: .500
  • Playoffs
    • Wins: 9
    • Losses: 5
    • Win percentage: .643
  • Regular Season

    • Wins: 74
    • Losses: 35
    • Win percentage: .679

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Russell Wilson & Pete Carroll

Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll are one of just a handful of famous QB-coach pairs that still play together, in this case for the Seattle Seahawks. Since their time together began in 2012, the two have appeared twice in the Super Bowl, earning one ring. As a modern player, Wilson has been pulling down major dollars, to the tune of more than $109 million since 2012.

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The Duo's Stats

  • Super Bowl
    • Wins: 1
    • Losses: 1
    • Win percentage: .500
  • Playoffs
    • Wins: 9
    • Losses: 6
    • Win percentage: .600
  • Regular Season

    • Wins: 86
    • Losses: 41
    • Win percentage: .672

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Ben Roethlisberger & Mike Tomlin

Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin share a long football partnership, dating back to 2007. While earning over $212 million and being voted to the Pro Bowl six times along the way, Roethlisberger has helped Tomlin go 1-1 in their two Super Bowl appearances together.

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The Duo's Stats

  • Super Bowl
    • Wins: 1
    • Losses: 1
    • Win percentage: .500
  • Playoffs
    • Wins: 8
    • Losses: 7
    • Win percentage: .533
  • Regular Season

    • Wins: 115
    • Losses: 60
    • Win percentage: .653

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Peyton Manning & Tony Dungy

Peyton Manning’s run with Tony Dungy and the Indianapolis Colts from 2002-08 resulted in one Super Bowl win. The two also share a scorching .759 regular-season winning percentage, tops on this list of QB-coach pairs.

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The Duo's Stats

  • Super Bowl
    • Wins: 1
    • Losses: 0
    • Win percentage: 1.000
  • Playoffs
    • Wins: 7
    • Losses: 6
    • Win percentage: .538
  • Regular Season

    • Wins: 85
    • Losses: 27
    • Win percentage: .759

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Drew Brees & Sean Payton

The New Orleans Saints duo have the longest-running partnership on this list, with the two steering the team together since 2006. During that time, Brees and Payton have appeared in a single Super Bowl, nabbing the Lombardi trophy in 2009. Not surprisingly given the duration of their run, Brees also posts the highest total earnings among quarterbacks on this list, at over $231.5 million.

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The Duo's Stats

  • Super Bowl
    • Wins: 1
    • Losses: 0
    • Win percentage: 1.000
  • Playoffs
    • Wins: 8
    • Losses: 7
    • Win percentage: .533
  • Regular Season

    • Wins: 133
    • Losses: 83
    • Win percentage: .616

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Roger Staubach & Tom Landry

Roger Staubach and Tom Landry are synonymous with the Dallas Cowboys, as they served together from 1969-79 and won two Super Bowls over that time period. They also posted one of the best regular-season winning percentages on the list, at .746. Overall, Landry made five trips to the Super Bowl, third-most among head coaches all time.

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The Duo's Stats

  • Super Bowl
    • Wins: 2
    • Losses: 2
    • Win percentage: .500
  • Playoffs
    • Wins: 14
    • Losses: 8
    • Win percentage: .636
  • Regular Season

    • Wins: 85
    • Losses: 29
    • Win percentage: .746

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Bob Griese & Don Shula

Before Dan Marino took over the reins in Miami, Bob Griese was paired up with coach Don Shula, and the two had a great run throughout the ’70s. They won two of their three Super Bowl appearances, which included the NFL’s only perfect season in 1972.

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The Duo's Stats

  • Super Bowl
    • Wins: 2
    • Losses: 1
    • Win percentage: .667
  • Playoffs
    • Wins: 8
    • Losses: 5
    • Win percentage: .615
  • Regular Season

    • Wins: 82
    • Losses: 36
    • Win percentage: .689

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Troy Aikman & Jimmy Johnson

Troy Aikman and Jimmy Johnson posted a relatively weak .559 regular-season winning percentage with the Dallas Cowboys during their short 1989-93 reign. However, that likely didn’t matter much to Cowboys fans, as the pair also won both of their Super Bowl appearances in that short time frame. Aikman won an additional Super Bowl trophy without Johnson, making three appearances without a loss for the former UCLA Bruin.

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The Duo's Stats

  • Super Bowl
    • Wins: 2
    • Losses: 0
    • Win percentage: 1.000
  • Playoffs
    • Wins: 7
    • Losses: 1
    • Win percentage: .875
  • Regular Season

    • Wins: 38
    • Losses: 30
    • Win percentage: .559

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John Elway & Mike Shanahan

After an ignominious 0-3 Super Bowl record with coach Dan Reeves, Elway was reborn with the Denver Broncos under coach Mike Shanahan from 1995-98. In addition to winning an impressive 72.9% of their regular-season games together and posting a whopping .875 playoff win percentage, the pair won both of their Super Bowl appearances together.

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The Duo's Stats

  • Super Bowl
    • Wins: 2
    • Losses: 0
    • Win percentage: 1.000
  • Playoffs
    • Wins: 7
    • Losses: 1
    • Win percentage: .875
  • Regular Season

    • Wins: 43
    • Losses: 16
    • Win percentage: .729

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Jim Plunkett & Tom Flores

Jim Plunkett and coach Tom Flores had a good run with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders from 1979-86, winning both of their Super Bowl appearances together. A product of a different era, Plunkett only drew a salary of between $180,000 and $360,000 per year.

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The Duo's Stats

  • Super Bowl
    • Wins: 2
    • Losses: 0
    • Win percentage: 1.000
  • Playoffs
    • Wins: 8
    • Losses: 3
    • Win percentage: .727
  • Regular Season

    • Wins: 39
    • Losses: 19
    • Win percentage: .684

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Bart Starr & Vince Lombardi

Bart Starr and Vince Lombardi are synonymous with the game of football itself, dominating opponents to the tune of a .740 winning percentage during their 1959-67 run with the Green Bay Packers. Together, the pair won both of their trips to the Super Bowl, on top of an unfathomable .900 playoff win percentage. And, of course, Lombardi is such a legend that the Super Bowl trophy is actually named after him.

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The Duo's Stats

  • Super Bowl
    • Wins: 2
    • Losses: 0
    • Win percentage: 1.000
  • Playoffs
    • Wins: 9
    • Losses: 1
    • Win percentage: .900
  • Regular Season

    • Wins: 77
    • Losses: 23
    • Win percentage: .740

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Eli Manning & Tom Coughlin

Winning both of their appearances with the New York Giants from 2004-15, Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin are another quarterback-head coach pair with a perfect record in the Super Bowl. This postseason success is impressive considering their not-so-stellar regular-season winning percentage of .530, the lowest on this list. Over that decade-plus, Manning earned more than $187.7 million.

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The Duo's Stats

  • Super Bowl
    • Wins: 2
    • Losses: 0
    • Win percentage: 1.000
  • Playoffs
    • Wins: 8
    • Losses: 3
    • Win percentage: .727
  • Regular Season

    • Wins: 97
    • Losses: 86
    • Win percentage: .530

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Joe Montana & Bill Walsh

Joe Montana and Bill Walsh had a storied run with the San Francisco 49ers from 1979-88, appearing in three Super Bowls together and winning them all. Montana capped off a sensational career by winning an additional Super Bowl without Walsh, making him a perfect four-for-four.

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The Duo's Stats

  • Super Bowl
    • Wins: 3
    • Losses: 0
    • Win percentage: 1.000
  • Playoffs
    • Wins: 10
    • Losses: 4
    • Win percentage: .714
  • Regular Season

    • Wins: 75
    • Losses: 31
    • Win percentage: .676

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Terry Bradshaw & Chuck Noll

Terry Bradshaw is one of only two quarterbacks, along with fellow Hall of Famer Joe Montana, who won all four of his Super Bowl appearances. Unlike Montana, however, Bradshaw won all four of his trophies with one coach, Chuck Noll, during their tremendous run with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1970-83.

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The Duo's Stats

  • Super Bowl
    • Wins: 4
    • Losses: 0
    • Win percentage: 1.000
  • Playoffs
    • Wins: 14
    • Losses: 6
    • Win percentage: .700
  • Regular Season

    • Wins: 107
    • Losses: 51
    • Win percentage: .677

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Tom Brady & Bill Belichick

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick stand tall among the all-time coach-quarterback combos, appearing in an untouchable nine Super Bowls together, winning a record six in total. Everything about this pairing was impressive, from the 219 regular-season wins they shared to the more than $235 million earned by Brady over that period.

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The Duo's Stats

  • Super Bowl
    • Wins: 6
    • Losses: 3
    • Win percentage: .667
  • Playoffs
    • Wins: 30
    • Losses: 11
    • Win percentage: .732
  • Regular Season

    • Wins: 219
    • Losses: 64
    • Win percentage: .774

More From GOBankingRates

Methodology: GOBankingRates, in order to find the most money-making coach and quarterback combos of all time, used Pro-Football-Reference data to find coaches and starting quarterbacks who appeared in multiple Super Bowls. GOBankingRates also referenced Sports Illustrated’s “Greatest Coach-QB Combos” list as well. For each combo, the following data points were found: (1) years the combo was active; (2) number of Super Bowl wins; (3) number of Super Bowl appearances; (4) win percentage in the Super Bowl; (5) total regular-season wins (in games that the quarterback started); (6) total regular-season losses; (7) regular-season win percentage; (8) total playoff wins; (9) total playoff losses; and (10) playoff win percentage all sourced from Pro-Football-Reference. GOBankingRates also found (11) quarterback total earnings through the years the combo was active, as sourced from Spotrac and contemporaneous articles for players whose careers occurred before the 1980s. All data was collected and up to date as of May 12, 2020.