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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.