NFL

40 NFL Coaches Who Ran Their Teams Into The Ground

Darren - October 8, 2020
NFL

40 NFL Coaches Who Ran Their Teams Into The Ground

Darren - October 8, 2020
Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

31. Eric Mangini

The best head coaches know when to take a step back. But when Mangini was coach of the Cleveland Browns, he unsettled the team by micromanaging them. He also upset everybody by tearing down the Browns’ mural of former players and disrespecting their history. Mangini demotivated his players, who loathed him. In the end, they finished with back-to-back 5-11 seasons after he ran them into the ground.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

To make things worse, this came after his tenure in charge of the New York Jets. Mangini was a former student of Bill Belichick and believed he would then surpass the wily Pats’ coach. But he lost against his old side in the wildcard round to end his first season in charge. His ego took a huge blow and Mangini experienced two losing seasons before the Jets cut ties.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

30. Dan Quinn

Quinn brought the Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl in 2016 but then blew the largest lead in SB history. The team has never recovered from that moment. Despite having some wonderful players on the roster, Quinn has repeatedly struggled to get the best out of them. They haven’t had a winning season since 2016 and it looks like Quinn is out of ideas.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

At the start of 2020, Quinn proved that he just can’t coach a team through 60 minutes. They fell to four straight losses, which was unforgivable in a division with a revitalized Tampa Bay as well as the Saints. Overall, he can’t shake the weight of the failure that should have been his crowning glory. Now he just stares at the ground in dismay.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

29. Hue Jackson

There is bad, and then there is historically bad. Jackson has the dubious honor of belonging to the second category after an epically disastrous period in charge of the Cleveland Browns. Yes, they became only the second franchise to finish winless in the modern 16-game era in 2017. At least they weren’t the first, but it’s still a horrendous accolade.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, his overall record of 3-46-1 is also historically bad. It’s the worst record of any coach in the Super Bowl era. If you’re going to do something awful, then at least be good at it. Jackson turned being a rubbish excuse for an NFL coach into an art form. You almost have to admire him for churning out consistent horror shows. In sum, he couldn’t motivate an alcoholic to drink beer if they were alone in a brewery.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

28. Raheem Morris

When your players call you ‘Rah’ instead of Coach Morris, then you’re treading on thin ice. Obviously, this isn’t why Morris was a failure as head coach of the Buccaneers, but it’s emblematic of the culture at the franchise. He had one winning season in three after going 10-6 in his sophomore year. Tampa missed out on the playoffs by a hair. Overall, that was a turning point for the team.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Morris lost control of his players, who lost interest in listening to him. His defense imploded and they regressed to 4-12 with some horrific games throughout the season. As a defensive coordinator, there is no excuse for not being solid at the very least. Instead, he drove them into the ground.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

27. Mike Singletary

Some people argue who was worse out of Singletary and Jim Tomsula. In truth, it’s probably a case of pick your poison. The former had a losing team who won as soon as he left. But it’s a case of vice-versa for the latter. Overall, the confrontational and aggressive Singletary was terrible for the 49ers. He somehow lingered in San Francisco for three seasons, but they were as tepid as bog water.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

His players felt alienated and frustrated by his field-side shtick. In his second season, the 49ers went 8-8, but that was the highlight of his career there. Otherwise, he managed just five wins per season. To sum up, he was very bad and didn’t have a ground of understanding with his squad in the end. Not every Hall of Famer also ends up a great coach.

Mandatory Credit: St. Louis Post

26. Steve Spagnuolo

Spagnuolo masterminded the Giants’ defense in their shock Super Bowl XLII win over the Patriots that ended New England’s bid for the elusive perfect season. The St. Louis Rams swiftly identified the coordinator as their next head coach. Excitement surrounded his arrival but it swiftly turned to dismay after he led the Rams to the worst season in their history. That’s right, they went 1-15 but he still managed to hang onto his job.

Mandatory Credit: St. Louis Post

The following season he improved the Rams’ fortunes to 7-9. The Rams were patient and pragmatic. They expected Spagnuolo to improve them further in year three. However, they regressed yet again as the ailing team finished with just two wins all year. Enough was enough because he had ground down their team into a disorganized mess.

Mandatory Credit: ESPN

25. Ray Handley

Handley had the communication skills of a jailer on death row. Nobody wanted to listen to him during his ill-fated reign as head coach of the New York Giants. Meanwhile, he also handled some key decisions very badly. This included his pick for starting quarterback. After winning the Super Bowl the year before, fans expected continued success. But they didn’t get it.

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

Instead, they received an 8-8 season after he benched Phil Simms. Things got worse a year later. Handley hired Ron Rust as defensive coordinator, the season after his horrendous 1-15 season as Patriots’ coach. That went down like a sack of potatoes. Finally, his sophomore year ended 6-10 and the Giants fired him. However, he had already run a Super Bowl contender into the ground.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

24. Jim Tomsula

After Jed York made the harsh decision to cut Jim Harbaugh free, defensive coach Tomshula took the hot seat. A longstanding member of staff, the 49ers rewarded his loyalty by making him head coach. But there’s no room for sentiment in football, as Tomsula soon proved. His record with the 49ers was a miserable 5-11 in 2015. He did win a game as an interim coach back in 2010, so let’s call it six.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Tomsula was also too close to his players. He allowed them breaks every 30 minutes to check their phones and they practiced in the afternoons because that’s what the players wanted. Sure, Tomsula didn’t have the best options to pick from, but he didn’t make use of what he had either. Fans wanted to bury their heads in the ground until it was over.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

23. Jeff Fisher

Fisher left the Tennessee Titans under a dark cloud after a major fallout with the head office. He had a reasonable record with the franchise as he made the Super Bowl once and they flitted in and out of the playoffs. But his next job with the Rams was absolutely horrendous. We’ll be kind and start with the good first. He brought them a magnificent mustache. Otherwise, there’s not a lot of positive things we can say.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee endured five losing seasons under his guidance. When you include his final season at the Titans, that’s losing seasons in a row. Fisher is excellent at successful failure. By that we mean, his teams don’t win but he also manages to convince his bosses not to fire him. Anyway, they finally broke his spell and fired him after their move to Los Angeles in 2016.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

22. John Fox

Fox is a respected NFL coach but it’s fair to say that his reign in Chicago was a sublime disaster. First, he’s the man who inflicted Mitchell Trubisky on the Bears’ fans. After signing a four-year contract in 2015, nobody expected Fox to depart unceremoniously after just three shoddy seasons in charge of a great franchise. But that’s exactly what happened.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

He followed his 6-10 debut season with a wretched 3-13 sophomore year, the worst in franchise history. There really isn’t anything good to say about this. Fox’s playcalling was predictable and his teams lost close contests far too easily. In short, you could say that opposition coaches outfoxed him. Anyway, he had a third losing season in 2017 and the Bears finally lost patience.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

21. Rod Rust

Over the past 20 years, the New England Patriots are proud of their disgusting success. It’s almost impossible to remember a time before Bill Belichick’s reign in charge of the Boston franchise. However, that wasn’t always the case, nor did they always have the best head coach in the NFL in charge of their fortunes. Enter Rust and his tale of woe.

Mandatory Credit: ESPN

The Patriots only ground out a single win in 1990 when they went 1-15. Rust led the team to the worst season in franchise history. Five years on from Super Bowl XX, the Patriots had an aging roster. The rust sunk in deep and Rust wasn’t the man to lift them. They suffered humiliating defeat after humiliating defeat until they finally fired him.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

20. Ben McAdoo

McAdoo’s rise and fall were ridiculously quick. After a decent 10-6 first season, things were looking up for the New York Giants. But that optimism disappeared with the speed of an asteroid hitting the ground. In short, they finished the second season with two wins after everything that could go wrong did so.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

McAdoo personally mishandled the benching of Eli Manning and overindulged Odell Beckham Jr. Furthermore, he stubbornly held onto playcalling duties instead of doling them out to his specialist coaches. Finally, the failure to shore up the Giants’ defensive line ultimately cost them on the playing field. McAdoo’s bright start was a false dawn for the franchise.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

19. Cam Cameron

The Miami Dolphins had ground out a 6-10 season before they hired Cameron to reignite them. In fairness, he had a young roster and new ideas, so nobody expected fireworks in year one of this project. But nor did they expect a season where Miami finished 1-15. Yet that’s exactly what they received. In sum, it was the worst season in franchise history.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

After a horrible draft where the Dolphins traded Wes Welker and played quarterback John Beck, their fortunes plummeted. Their single victory came against the Ravens in Week 15 when they avoided the ultimate horror of a winless season. But this was still startlingly bad. They also lost a horrendous game 3-0 to the Steelers in apocalyptic conditions. That game was the epitome of their season.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

18. Rod Marinelli

Marinelli’s three seasons in charge of the Detroit Lions still sends shudders down the spines of their fans. His reign was diabolically bad. He kicked off proceedings with a 3-10 year in his first term. They ‘improved’ to 7-10 in his second season. But then came 2008, the most embarrassing year in franchise history. They failed to notch a single win in a humiliating 0-16 season.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Marinelli knew that the game was up at that point after the first winless season of the modern era. Despite only winning 10 games as head coach, Marinelli never lost the respect of his players. Indeed, Dan Orlovsky claimed that Marinelli had a terrible situation to deal with and he felt sorry for him. The head office and the coach ran the franchise into the ground.

Mandatory Credit: Bleacher Report

17. Lane Kiffin

When Al Davis calls his former head coach a ‘flat-out liar,’ it’s clear that there was trouble in the Raiders’ water. The former USC offensive coordinator was an unexpected hire when he became the youngest head coach in NFL history. A progressive choice, he swiftly created a regressive atmosphere in Oakland, as he trashed their football franchise. Kiffin went 5-15 over one-and-a-half seasons of misery.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

When he called on Sebastian Janikowski to attempt a 76-yard field goal, this was the final straw. Meanwhile, his relationship with Davis deteriorated to the extent that the owner publically shredded his character. A garbage hire, Davis admitted that Kiffin conned him and disgraced the organization.

Mandatory Credit: CBS Sports

16. Greg Williams

Williams coached the Buffalo Bills from 2001 to 2003. To say they were bad is an understatement. In sum, they were horrendous under his stewardship. His first season saw them finish 3-13. This improved to 8-8 in his second year but regressed to 6-10 in his final season. By that point, the Bills fired him for being generally useless as a head coach.

Mandatory Credit: CBS Sports

Most famous for the bounty scandal with the New Orleans Saints, Williams allegedly ran a similar scheme with the Bills. It didn’t help them much though as their defense struggled to keep the opposition out. Williams regularly attempted to deflect blame onto his players instead of owning up to his mistakes. In short, it was a dark spell for the Bills as he ran them into the ground.

Mandatory Credit: Bleacher Report

15. Dave Shula

Don Shula is the winningest coach in NFL history. The Cincinnati Bengals thought that success was genetic, however, that proved not to be the case. They found this out the hard way after hiring Don’s son Dave. He proceeded to run the franchise into the ground during some of the darkest days in its history. It can take a generation for a team to recover from that kind of mismanagement.

Mandatory Credit: Palm Beach Post

Shula became the fastest NFL coach in history to drop 50 games. Furthermore, he wasted draft picks like they were lottery tickets over his five years in charge. His overall record was 19-52, including two losses to his father. After a torturous 1-6 run in 1996, the Bengals finally fired him. Why’d it take so long?

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

14. Marc Trestman

After finishing 8-8 in his first season, positivity surrounded Trestmann at the start of his second year. But it was disastrous. The Bears started 3-3 but went 2-8 over their remaining games with an appalling defense. Trestmann rattled some of his players by restructuring the lockerroom system to force them to communicate differently.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

It didn’t help on the field because his poor calls led them to blow big leads, like when Robbie Gould missed a field goal against the Vikings. In sum, Trestmann simply failed to inspire or structure his team in a coherent way. His handling of star quarterback Jay Cutler also rattled other members of the roster. Finally, after a series of horrific losses, the Bears cut ties with him.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

13. Bobby Petrino

Petrino bolted to Arkansas after a torturous 13 games in charge of the Atlanta Falcons. Identified as the man who would bring Michael Vick to a nigh-untouchable level, that plan quickly fell apart. Federal police arrested Vick for his dogfighting scheme and the Falcons fell into immediate disarray. You have to have some sympathy for Petrino, but the franchise felt betrayed by the way he left.

Mandatory Credit: NBC Sports

The team went 3-10 before he ran back to the college game. His infamous laminated, four-line notes to his players made him the brunt of fan and NFL fury. The fans never loved him but there was a recognition that this was a unique season considering the Vick situation. However, Petrino jumped ship before it sank. As of this year, the Falcons’ fanbase has never forgiven him.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

12. Jason Garrett

The Jason Garrett era was the second-longest head coaching reign in Cowboys’ history. However, they don’t have much to show for it. Tactically rigid, anything that went against his ideas threw him into disarray. For example, they went 1-11 in 12 games without Tony Romo in 2015. He proved to be second-best in the playoffs over the next couple of seasons before entering 2018 with no wide receivers.

Mandatory Credit: Bleacher Report

Over his time in charge, Dallas lost crucial games which they should have won. Garrett had one of the worst kickers in football in Brett Maher. However, he didn’t cut him until it was too late. He wasted so much talent and made some inexplicable calls. In sum, Jerry Jones is responsible for a lost decade of Cowboys’ football by allowing Garrett to lead the franchise into football’s purgatory.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

11. Mike Smith

One of several coaches on this list to win a Super Bowl before running his team into the ground, Smith stayed too long in Atlanta. After you’ve peaked, it’s very difficult to return to those lofty heights again. Unfortunately, the most successful coach in the history of the franchise simply ran out of ideas and other teams also found him out.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Firstly, the fire went out. Smith created a siege mentality in his first couple of seasons in the hot seat and this reverberated nicely onto the field. But after their Super Bowl win, this dissipated. Furthermore, Smith and his coaches didn’t have enough tactical impetus. They didn’t know how to use Matt Ryan properly and they made a mess of many key decisions. In the end, he had to go.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

10. Jon Gruden

Some might consider this a controversial pick but Gruden hasn’t set the world on fire since his Super Bowl win back in 2002. Furthermore, many believe that he merely benefited from the team that Tony Dungy left behind. That’s obviously too simplistic but he did follow up his crowning glory with two losing seasons and embarked on a journey into mediocrity.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Now he’s back with the Raiders, the team where he first made his name. After a winning start, Gruden followed up with two losing seasons. One of his key issues is that he’s stubborn as his devotion to Derek Carr shows. He already set the Buccaneers back but now he’s in danger of doing the same to the Raiders. Has his time passed by?

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

9. Josh McDaniels

McDaniels’ name still makes Denver Broncos fans shudder. Overall, he brought the franchise to its knees with a number of appalling decisions on and off the field. He mangled their offense by eradicating their zone blocking scheme and producing the second-worst offensive line in the NFL. Then there were shocking trades and draft selections that reduced the overall quality of the roster.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The videotaping scandal rocked the NFL but ultimately results determined McDaniels’ fate. Jay Cutler didn’t trust him and left. Brandon Marshall fell out with McDaniels who traded him away. Finally, after going 3-9 in his second season, the Broncos fired him. It was past that time because McDaniels had run the franchise into the ground.

Mandatory Credit: Dallas Morning News

8. Dave Campo

Campo set a number of records for ‘America’s Team.’ But the problem was that they were all terrible records. He was the first Dallas Cowboys’ coach never to make the playoffs or win a divisional title. Also, he was the first Cowboys’ coach to depart with a losing record (15-33). After going 5-11 in each of his three seasons, Jerry Jones finally pulled the plug.

Mandatory Credit: Bleacher Report

At least he was consistent. Too bad he was consistently awful. A combination of injuries and shocking decision making cost the Cowboys on key occasions. Furthermore, he started an astounding seven quarterbacks over his three seasons in charge. Finally, he was terrible under pressure. They threw games away with decisions like that notorious field goal attempt against San Francisco.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

7. Barry Switzer

Jimmy Johnson couldn’t work with Jerry Jones and walked away after consecutive Super Bowl-winning seasons. Enter Switzer who led the Cowboys to the NFC Championship game, where they lost to the 49ers because of his coaching mistake. But the following year they won the Super Bowl again. That was in 1996 and none of their subsequent attempts have gotten off the ground.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Over the following couple of seasons, the Cowboys regressed. Finally, after finishing 6-10 in 1997, Jones sacked Switzer. Later, the coach admitted that players didn’t listen to him properly. This could have been a dynasty but instead, the franchise regressed. Switzer has a solid record on paper and was a phenomenal college coach. But he should have done more with the team he had.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

6. Mike McCarthy

McCarthy’s legacy in Green Bay goes to polar extremes. Firstly, he’s the man who brought Super Bowl glory in 2010. But he’s also the coach who wasted Aaron Rodgers’ prime. The latter is unforgivable in the eyes of many NFL fans and the unfortunate truth is that he overstayed his welcome in Wisconsin.

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

In his prime, McCarthy was a brave and innovative coach. However, his last couple of seasons as Packers’ head coach were disappointing. Conservatism under clutch conditions affected his teams as they posted back-to-back losing records for the first time in his career. The Packers’ winning 2019 and start to 2020 under Matt LeFleur stands in stark rebuke to McCarthy’s limp ending.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

5. Chip Kelly

Kelly made a number of horrendous decisions while in charge of the Philadelphia Eagles that still bemuse today. His first two seasons finished with winning records but the third ended 6-9. Bizarrely, he approved the trade All-Pro LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills. Yes, the same Bills who were their divisional rivals. The loss of Nick Foles and Jeremy Mclin also had a negative impact on their fortunes.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles fired him but he had another shot in the NFL. Kelly managed to run the San Francisco 49ers into the ground too. After beating the Rams in their opening game of the season, they went on a 13-game losing streak. At least he was consistent. But finally, the 49ers had enough and cut him loose at the end of the season.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

4. Vance Joseph

The Broncos weren’t exactly worldbeaters when Joseph took the reins, but he ensured that they wouldn’t reach that status. After back-to-back losing seasons, he received his marching orders. That was an extraordinary achievement in itself because it was the first time in over 40 years that the Broncos had two losing seasons in a row. He ran them into the ground.

Mandatory Credit: Bleacher Report

Joseph’s shocking in-game decision-making and inability to manage the clock in clutch situations made fans loath him. Furthermore, he struggled to motivate his players and also put too much faith in underperforming athletes. Nobody shed any tears when he departed. He may get another chance to prove himself in the NFL but it will definitely be a gamble.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Magazine

3. Rich Kotite

After a 6-10 season, the New York Jets sacked future Super Bowl winner Pete Carroll and brought in Rich Kotite. Furthermore, they took the dangerous step of making him general manager as well. If it goes well, then excellent. But if it doesn’t, one man will run your franchise into the ground with nobody there to challenge his decisions until it’s too late.

Mandatory Credit: The Big Lead

In sum, that’s exactly what happened with the hapless Jets’ coach. He led them to the two worst seasons in franchise history, with just four wins in two years. His final season saw the Jets finish with just a single victory. Also, his efforts in the draft were as shambolic as his coaching. His name still makes Jets’ fans shudder today. One of the worst coaches in NFL history.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

2. Norv Turner

Marty Schottenheimer did a solid job with the Chargers until they abruptly sacked him. Then Turner came in with a reputation as one of the best offensive coaches in the league. He had some exciting talent to pick like Philip Rivers, Michael Turner, and LaDainian Tomlinson. However, the latter pair departed and the former badly regressed.

Mandatory Credit: Bleacher Report

Turner’s biggest issue was his failure to lead one of the most talented rosters in NFL history to the Super Bowl. Instead, they regularly crashed out in the playoffs in shock defeats to teams like the New York Jets. Towards the end of his reign, the Chargers went on losing streaks and several other key players left. In the end, San Diego fired him after a 7-9 losing season. What a waste of potential.

Mandatory Credit: Bleacher Report

1. Bill O’Brien

O’Brien ran the Houston Texans into the ground after the office gave him too much power. First, the head coach and general manager destroyed his franchise’s cap by going after Brock Osweiler. Furthermore, he constantly took Deshaun Watson’s weapons away from him. Trading DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona remains one of the most bizarre decisions in recent NFL history.

Mandatory Credit: NBC Sports

The coach had the power to mold his team in his image. Unfortunately, for the Texans, this meant losing their best players while mediocre talent came in. Another player they traded away for nothing was Jadeveon Clowney who has continued to produce All-Pro form. Meanwhile, the Texans have the biggest payroll in the NFL. Unsurprisingly, they finally sacked him. But they let the rot seep in too far already.

Advertisement