A decade ago, Bruce Arians was labeled as a career assistant whose crowning achievement was winning two Super Bowls as a member of the Steelers' staff. Two Coach of the Year awards and one Super Bowl ring later, Arians certainly changed the narrative.
Arians, who announced his retirement from coaching on Wednesday night, spent nearly 50 years in coaching that included 29 in the NFL. He won two Super Bowls as an assistant coach with the Steelers before winning Coach of the Year honors while serving as the Colts' interim coach in 2012. At 61, Arians finally got his break as a head coach in Arizona, where in 2015 he helped guide the Cardinals to within a game of the Super Bowl. Arians hoisted the Lombardi Trophy as a head coach in 2020 after the Buccaneers routed the defending champion Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.
Arians began the 2021 season as one of the NFL's current head coaches who has a shot at receiving a gold jacket and a bronze bust in Canton, Ohio. With that in mind, we decided to predict which modern-day coaches have already put together Hall of Fame-worthy careers, and which ones may need to add a little bit more to the resume over the next few years.
As good as gold
Bill Belichick: Not even three consecutive seasons without a playoff win can take the shine off Belichick's future Hall of Fame bust. The only coach with six Super Bowl rings and nine conference championships, Belichick is also just one of three coaches in history to win at least 300 games. He will likely surpass Don Shula as the NFL's all-time winningest coach sometime this decade.
Andy Reid: The longtime coaching veteran punched his Hall of Fame ticket after leading the Chiefs to victory in Super Bowl LIV. And while Kansas City fell short of defending its title in 2020, Reid became the 12th head coach to coach in at least three Super Bowls. He and Belichick are the only coaches that have accomplished that feat in the 21st century. Reid's contributions to the modern-day passing attack only strengthens his case.
Mike Tomlin: Tomlin's .643 career winning percentage is the 12th highest in NFL history of coaches who have coached in least 100 games and the sixth-highest among coaches that have coached in at least 200 regular season games. The youngest head coach in NFL history to win the Super Bowl, Tomlin has also won two AFC titles, seven division titles and has never had a losing season in 15 seasons in Pittsburgh. He is the only coach in league history to begin his career with 15 straight non-losing campaigns.
Most likely in
Pete Carroll: One of three coaches to win a national championship and a Super Bowl, Carroll led Seattle to its first Super Bowl win in franchise history in 2013. Carroll's Seahawks nearly won back-to-back titles before his questionable coaching decision ultimately led to the Patriots hanging on to defeat Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX. Bad call notwithstanding, Carroll's 145 career regular season wins (22nd most in NFL history), 11 postseason appearances (tied for 10th all-time) and 11 postseason wins (tied for 10th all-time) gives him a strong Hall of Fame argument.
Sean Payton: Along with Reid, Payton's contributions to the NFL's modern-day passing attack helps his Hall of Fame argument. Payton's Super Bowl win, his 152 regular season wins (22nd all-time) and .631 winning percentage (ninth all-time among coaches that coached in at least 200 regular season games) also help his cause, along with the fact that Payton and quarterback Drew Brees turned the Saints -- one of the NFL's have-not clubs for most of their existence -- into one of the NFL's most consistent winners over the past 16 years should help his cause, too.
Could make it, but likely on the outside looking it
Bruce Arians: A self-proclaimed quarterback whisperer, Arians has enjoyed successful partnerships with Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, Carson Palmer, and Tom Brady. While he doesn't have a large body of work, Arians' work in an interim role in Indianapolis in 2012, a .619 winning percentage with the Cardinals that included a trip to the NFC Championship Game, and Super Bowl win in Tampa Bay has catapulted Arians near the top of the coaching profession. Another Super Bowl win would have given Arians a career that is comparable to Jimmy Johnson, who was inducted last year after winning two Super Bowls during his nine years as a head coach.
John Harbaugh: Harbaugh's Super Bowl, 137 regular season wins, .609 career winning percentage and 11 postseason wins puts him in the conversation as a Hall of Fame coach. Some of Harbaugh's recent teams have often underperformed in the playoffs, however -- they've won just two playoff games since winning Super Bowl XLVII. How successful Harbaugh, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens are over the next several years will likely make or break Harbaugh's future Hall of Fame case.
Nice career, but currently short of Hall of Fame consideration
Sean McVay: The 36-year-old McVay has an impressive resume. Five years into his tenure in Los Angeles, McVay's teams are 55-26 in the regular season and 7-3 in the playoffs. McVay became the youngest coach in Super Bowl history in 2018 and the youngest coach to win the Super Bowl after the Rams edged the Bengals in Super Bowl LVI. McVay will join Carroll and Payton in the "most likely" category with another Super Bowl appearance. A second Super Bowl win might be all McVay needs to be considered a surefire Hall of Fame lock.
Ron Rivera: His overall record leaves something to be desired, but Rivera deserves to be on this list given his success in Carolina. Under Rivera, the Panthers went 15-1 with an NFC title in 2015 and became the first NFC South franchise to win three consecutive division titles. He led Washington to a division title in 2020.
Mike Vrabel: The former Patriots linebacker has enjoyed a strong start to his head coaching career. In four years in Nashville, Vrabel has posted a 41-24 regular-season record but is just 2-3 in the playoffs. He won Coach of the Year honors in 2022 after helping lead the Titans to a division title despite injuries to star running back Derrick Henry and receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones.
Mike McCarthy: McCarthy had a good run in Green Bay, with a Super Bowl win, 125 regular-season victories and nine playoff appearances in nearly 13 seasons. But the way things ended in Green Bay (he was fired 12 games into the 2018 season after a 4-7-1 start), coupled with his underwhelming start in Dallas, are the reasons why McCarthy isn't higher on this list.