LeBeau defines how you can be a brilliant specialist coach but struggle with the top job. Active at field level for 59 consecutive seasons, LeBeau is one of the greatest defensive coordinators of all time. Steelers’ players called him ‘Coach Dad’ and had nothing but love for the defensive genius.
Unfortunately, his tactical ability didn’t translate to being a head coach. His only time in the role was with the Cincinnati Bengals from 2000-02. But that came to an abrupt end after three dismal seasons. However, LeBeau’s legacy remains intact. The ‘zone blitz’ defense is his most famous innovation.
Things went well for Childress until they came crashing down. However, it must be said that he underachieved with the resources that he had at his command. The former Vikings head coach came in in 2006 and posted back-to-back losing seasons before winning the NFC North in his third year.
He’d repeat that the following year, but never managed to win a playoff and misused the players at his disposal. Under his tutelage, the Vikings would age and gradually lost discipline and direction. He only lasted 10 games into his final season, losing seven of those. If the Vikings were a jigsaw puzzle, Childress mixed up the pieces.
First of all, Haslett had a really tough hand to deal with during his time with the New Orleans Saints. Everything started fantastically, with a 10-6 first season and the franchise’s first-ever playoff win. The NFL even named him as the Coach of the Year. But that was as good as it would get for Haslett in ‘The Big Easy.’
Haslett managed to make the playoffs one more time but his final three seasons saw the Saints regress. Back to back 8-8 seasons before a 3-13 in his last year saw him leave with a whimper. 2005 was a rough year for the Saints with Hurricane Katrina uprooting the team, but Haslett was past his best at that point anyway.
Nobody would dispute that Flores is an NFL legend and a brilliant head coach. After all, he was a two-time Super Bowl winner. To say otherwise is simply nonsense, but it could be argued that his time with the Raiders fizzled out. Finally, after finishing 5-10 in his last year, he moved to the Raiders’ front office after overstaying his welcome as a coach.
Flores’s last few seasons with the Raiders had proven he was a fading force but the Seahawks went after him anyway. Three disappointing seasons followed in Seattle until they finally cut him loose. It was an ignominious end to a brilliant coaching career. Maybe it’s not fair to say he should have been fired earlier, but he definitely was the wrong man for the job.
There really isn’t anything good about Riley’s NFL head coach career. The kindest thing that you could say about his three years with the San Diego Chargers is that he was unlucky. Often they did, in fact, perform well, but one poor play would turn the tide against them, like in their 2001 loss to the Seahawks.
After an 8-8 record in his first season, there was hope for Riley. But he proceeded to stick a pin in that balloon of cautious optimism the next year. Then the Chargers went 1-15, the worst record in franchise history. Somehow he survived Black Monday, although we don’t know why. Things didn’t improve in his third year and the Chargers finally fired him after he outlasted his welcome.
A few Redskins coaches make this list, but Zorn was one of the most embarrassing. He only managed two seasons in charge of Washington, but that was enough to make every fan hate him. Things actually started out well with a winning start to his first season, but then things imploded after the midpoint, finishing 8-8 overall.
The Redskins could have cut their losses there but instead, they gave him the chance to put things right. In short, they got even worse. Zorn suffered the humiliation of losing offensive play-calling duties to his assistant coach. Meanwhile, he fell out with his players and alienated the fans. It was a terrible time for the Redskins. Dan Snyder definitely won’t unfold the welcome carpet for Zorn.
Sometimes your players are so good that it makes you look like a better coach than you actually are. That was exactly the case for Erickson who managed four mediocre seasons with the Seahawks before two shambolic years with the 49ers. The best thing he achieved was posting three 8-8 seasons in Seattle.
However, with the quality of players he had like Cortez Kennedy, Sam Adams, and Joey Galloway, they should have got into the playoffs at least once. Finally, after treading water the Seahawks fired him to bring in Mike Holmgren. Erickson totally flopped when he resurfaced in San Francisco.
Williams brought as much joy to Bills fans as Krampus does to naughty children. The Bills Mafia must have wondered what they did wrong to have to suffer through his time as head coach. A renowned defensive coordinator, Williams is also notorious for running aggressive plays.
His time in Buffalo saw him post records of 3–13, 8–8, and 6–10. How on Earth did he manage to see out his full contract? Obviously, their ownership just didn’t really care that much because he overstayed his welcome. But they didn’t renew it and Bills fans could finally breathe. The current Jets’ defense coach is also infamous for his role in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal.
Dan Snyder has pulled off some major gaffes during his tenure as owner of the Redskins. Giving Spurrier the head coach job was just one of these. His five-year, $25 million deal with the Redskins was the most lucrative coaching contract in the history of the NFL at the time. So naturally, he lasted just two seasons.
A tremendous college coach, Spurrier failed to translate to the NFL. Opposition teams were able to blitz and disrupt his preferred passing game. The Redskins finished 7-9 after his first season. But instead of dropping him that summer, they let him keep going. He’d resign at the end of his second season after going 5-11. A bleak time.
Spagnuolo was the defensive mastermind behind the New York Giant’s Super Bowl win over the Patriots in 2007. This convinced the St. Louis Rams to offer him his first head coach role. Typically, things didn’t work out the way he wanted them to. The Rams finished 1-15 in his first season, the worst in the league and in franchise history.
Somehow he managed to stay another two years. They did improve to 7-9 in his second year but regressed to 2-14 in his final season. ‘Spags’ is genuinely a brilliant defensive coordinator, but couldn’t organize his team week-to-week. His win percentage is the second-lowest in Rams’ history.
It’s often said that the way a team acts on the field is a reflection of their coach’s personality. We’re not just talking about tactics here, but also discipline. So if your coach breaks the jaw of one of his own assistants, then you can expect things to be volatile come game time. That’s exactly what Cable did.
His time as head coach of the Raiders was bleak. They posted back-to-back losing seasons before breaking even in the third. That’s not to say he’s a bad coach because he helped the Seahawks to the Super Bowl as an assistant. But his personality prevented him from making a positive impact in the top job.
Even by expansion team standards, the Browns were horrendous under Palmer. A 2-14 record in your first season will definitely get fans baying for blood. But somehow he still managed to stay in charge for a second year. Sometimes you have to pull the trigger.
Tim Couch, his first-round quarterback, sums up exactly how bad the Palmer-led Browns were. They were uncompetitive and uninspiring. Actually, they did slightly improve in the second year of his diabolic tenure. However, going 3-13 isn’t exactly a reason to celebrate. Finally, Palmer lost his job and left the Browns a laughingstock, a position their fans endure to this day.
McCarthy is definitely one of the best head coaches on this list. He’s a Super Bowl winner after guiding the Packers to glory in 2010. Meanwhile, in 12 years in Wisconsin, he only posted four losing seasons. That’s not a bad record at all and his longevity proves how much the Green Bay management respected him.
But you could argue that he should have walked away from the Packers earlier with his head held high. Instead, he suffered the indignity of losing his job after posting back-to-back losing seasons. The franchise eventually stagnated under his leadership. Sometimes a change is just necessary.
In 2008, Singletary became interim head coach of the 49ers. He impressed with his charisma. After turning results around to finish 5-4 under his leadership, they awarded him a four-year contract. This is where they should have said thanks for everything and brought in somebody with more experience. Instead, they chose to welcome him to San Francisco.
The 49ers paid the price for being sentimental. The results rapidly went downhill. They finished 8-8, breaking even in his first full season. Then results totally plummeted the following year with a miserable record of 5-10. The 49ers finally fired him in the last week. Tactically limited, his aggressive demeanor rubbed off the wrong way on his players.
One of the strangest entries on this list, Fisher was head coach of the Tennessee Titans for an incredible 17 seasons before five with the Rams. However, his overall lack of success stains his record as a head coach. He only posted six winning seasons despite over two decades of coaching in the NFL. That’s an incredible statistic.
His best moment was bringing the Titans to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance in 1999. Fisher plodded on for another 11 seasons in Nashville before agreeing to part ways. Meanwhile, his time with the Rams saw them post losing records every season. Fisher is famously disdainful of quarterbacks and arguably overstayed his welcome with both franchises.
Now working as defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Chargers, it’s clear where Bradley’s talents lie. He’s proven to be very good at his current job, but don’t make him a head coach. In short, it won’t end well for your franchise, as Jacksonville Jaguars fans found out to their despair.
Over the course of four seasons, he posted a brutal record of 14 wins and 48 defeats. That is so bad you could almost celebrate it. Bradley created a losing culture as he overstayed his welcome. Even worse, he has one of the bleakest winning percentages ever for a coach who reached 60 games. Why did they wait so long to get rid of him?
How did Campo last three seasons as the Dallas Cowboys head coach? In three years, his team was 5-11 every season. This leaves him with the unpleasant accolades of being the only coach in franchise history to leave with an overall losing record and to never post a winning record. In short, this was a very dark time for Cowboys fans.
He got away with a weak first season because the roster was poor. But his second year saw the franchise sign better players without making progress on the field. Campo has a great reputation as a defensive coordinator but just wasn’t able to handle the top job.
1990 was a fantastic year for the New York Giants as they won the Super Bowl. Nobody could have expected how quickly things would go downhill. Handley took the head coach position for the 1991 season and immediately alienated fans by dropping star quarterback Phil Simms. He’d last two seasons but for the Giants faithful, he outstayed his welcome.
It was a decision that failed to pay off as the team finished the season with an 8-8 record and out of playoff contention. Of course, this led to fans calling for his head but the ownership recognized he had an aging squad and gave him the chance to put things right. In short, they should have fired him because his second term was even worse at 6-10.
Stick or twist, that’s the choice NFL owners have after a shoddy season. Do they give your coach a chance to set things right, or do they act ruthlessly quick to bring in someone new and give them time to implement their ideas? There’s nothing worse than having to fire a coach midseason because it can result in a wasted year. But nor is it a good idea to allow them to overstay their welcome.
A series of disastrous results saw McDaniels fired midway through his second season as head coach of the Broncos. He was quite simply the wrong man for the job. Controversies emerged and he had high-profile spats with several of his own players including Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall. He’s now the offensive coordinator for the Patriots and a prime candidate for another head-coaching role.
Shula was ludicrously out of his depth as head coach of the Bengals. The most shocking thing is that they let it go on for so long. He lasted for just over three seasons in Cincinnati, but it was a time of true despair and suffering for the Bengals faithful. ‘The Bungles’ era was bad even by the Bengals’ lowly standards.
First of all, Shula’s own players didn’t take him seriously. That should have been a warning sign. He went 19-42 from 1992 to 1996. Finally, they fired him just seven games into his fourth season. They were at 1-6. He still gives older fans nightmares. The owners also deserve criticism for letting him go on for so long.
Kotite just wasn’t a good coach. His tenure in charge of the Philadelphia Eagles proved that having good players will result in moderate success. But surely Philly will wonder where they could have gone if they had an elite coach. 36 wins in four seasons prompted the Jets to sign him up.
Two years later, they fired him after a shambolic reign. His first season ended 3-13, a weaker showing than the previous year. The Jets should have dropped him then but decided to let him spend big. Keyshawn Johnson, Neil O’Donnell, and Jeff Graham arrived to help the Jets finish 1-15 in 1996. An absolute shambles, Kotite definitely isn’t welcome in Philly.
Somehow Marinelli managed to last three seasons in Detroit. But they were easily the worst three years in the history of the franchise. We’re not sure what they were thinking in letting his inept reign limp on for so long. Somehow he managed only 10 wins in all of that time. In short, the Lions were a mess as he overstayed his welcome.
His second season gave false hope when they were 6-2 at the midpoint. However, it all came crumbling down as they finished 7-9 overall. Then, he achieved the impossible by going 0-16 in 2008. In the era of free agency and salary caps, this is just unforgivable. Only the length of his tenure prevents him from topping this list.
After 16 years, it all got a bit too much for Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati. Despite being the Bengals’ longest-serving coach, he has struggled for the past three seasons. In short, he overstayed his welcome. Finally, Black Monday 2019 saw him lose his job. He gave them a lengthy service, but there’s no room for the sentimental in football.
Every coach has a lifespan. Sometimes it’s the roster that needs freshening up, but new ideas can inject a lease of life into a franchise. It will be fascinating to see where the Bengals go from here after spending such a long time with Lewis in charge. Damningly, they never won during the playoffs during his tenure.