Which coaches have the best records in close games? That’s a complicated question that either means everything or nothing, depending on whom you ask. But putting aside what it means, what are the actual results?
I defined a close game as one where a team was trailing or leading by three points entering the 4th quarter since 1940.1
The table below shows the coaching records in close games for all coaches who were head coaches in at least 20 close games. You can use the search box below to search for any individual coach. Note that coaches who coached prior to 1940 are included, but only their performances in games beginning in 1940 are listed below.
Generally speaking, I think this list jives with what a lot of people would have guessed. Vince Lombardi and Marv Levy and Bill Belichick look good, while Norv Turner, Bruce Coslet and Wade Phillips look bad. Of course, that just begs the question: do we think think those men in the latter group are not great head coaches because they failed in close games, or is it that because they lost in close games that we now think that they’re overmatched as first in command?
- Originally, I looked at all games that were within one score, but that proven to be even more unfair to the trailing teams. Teams trailing by one score entering the 4th quarter have won only 30% of all games since 1940. Conversely, teams trailing by 3 points have won 39% of the time. [↩]