How do you measure greatness? By wins, or Super Bowl rings? Or is it simply by which quarterback – head coach duo resonates better in the minds of NFL fans over the years? Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are the most successful partners in terms of overall wins, but others have their accomplishment of three Super Bowl rings, and there’s even one duo that beats that.
Not all great tandems achieve everything – a few on this list, like Shula and Marino or Levy and Kelly didn’t get to win a Super Bowl together, but were dominant enough for long enough to be included in this list of truly great ones, even if a name or two on this list doesn’t seem like it today.
Joe Montana & Bill Walsh (San Francisco 49ers) – 75 Wins
A duo that won three Super Bowl title rings together (XVI, XIX, XXIII), and made the West Coast offense the most popular thing in the NFL for a while, years after they “broke up.” They made the playoffs 7 times during their 10 years together, as they were both “rookies” together on the 49ers team in 1979, with Montana going on to win one more title ring after Walsh left in 1988.
Steve McNair & Jeff Fisher (Tennessee Titans) – 76 Wins
McNair, who was murdered by his mistress in 2009, spent his entire Tennessee career (which was actually the Houston Oilers when he arrived in 1995) playing under Fisher, who became the head coach of the franchise in 1994. McNair began to play only in 1997 when the team moved to Tennessee. They reached the Super Bowl after the 1999 season and reached the playoffs together four times.
Bob Griese & Don Shula (Miami Dolphins) – 82 Wins
Shula was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins from 1970 to 1995, and had more than just one legendary quarterback that became famous under him. With Griese, however, he won his titles, winning back to back Super Bowls (1972, 1973), including being the last team to finish an entire regular and postseason undefeated. Griese played his entire NFL career (1967-1980) with the Miami Dolphins.
Roger Staubach & Tom Landry (Dallas Cowboys) – 84 Wins
It was during their time in the 1970’s when the Dallas Cowboys became America’s team, going on to win two Super Bowls and reach the postseason 10 times together, being part of the 20 consecutive winning seasons that Landry had going from 1966 till 1985.
John Elway & Dan Reeves (Denver Broncos) – 89 Wins
It’s funny to think that after nine seasons together and losing in three Super Bowls, John Elway would go on to win one of his two SB rings against Reeves and the Atlanta Falcons.
Donovan McNabb & Andy Reid (Philadelphia Eagles) – 92 Wins
The most successful period for the Philadelphia Eagles in the modern-day NFL came under Reid and McNabb, reaching one Super Bowl and an overall 8 playoff appearances during their 11 seasons together. They had their ups & downs in their relationship, but it seems each one got the best out of the other one, and things weren’t the same once McNabb was traded to Washington.
Jim Kelly & Marv Levy (Buffalo Bills) – 99 Wins
The two began their Bills career together, and are remembered for both the best, and pretty much the most painful moments in Bills history. They did win 99 games together, including four consecutive AFC championships, but anytime Levy’s K-offense is mentioned, those four consecutive Super Bowl losses are mentioned as well.
Terry Bradshaw & Chuck Noll (Pittsburgh Steelers) – 107 Wins
Bradshaw played under Noll for his entire 14 year NFL career, but the two are mostly remembered for a six season stretch between 1974 up until 1979, as the Steelers reached Four Super Bowl games, winning all four of them.
Dan Marino & Don Shula (Miami Dolphins) – 116 Wins
Don Shula is on this list twice, thanks to spending 26 seasons as the head coach in Miami. Dan Marino came along in 1983, and played under Shula up until 1995, as the two reached one Super Bowl together and a total of 7 playoff appearances, dominating in the regular season but not so much afterwards.
Tom Brady & Bill Belichick – 136 Wins
The current rulers of the HC-QB tandems, winning three Super Bowls together, although all of them came quite early during their joint history. Since beating the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, Brady and Belichick have reached the postseason seven more times, including two more Super Bowls, but despite their hate-creating dominance, haven’t been able to pick up a fourth ring together.