NFL head coaches have one of the toughest jobs in sports. They’re constantly under the microscope because their decisions can set the course of a franchise for years. The media and their players analyze every single move they make. However, many coaching tenures are disastrous.
Even the best NFL coordinators and college head coaches often struggle in the top job. Many have tried and failed to succeed. They post losing seasons and are incapable of inspiring a team to victory. Let’s look at 30 of the most disastrous NFL coaching tenures in history. Check out the list below via Athlon Sports.
30. Pat Shurmur
Is there a quarterback in history with a better name than Colt McCoy? The Browns drafted the former Longhorns star in 2010 but he failed to turn around their annual letdown of a team. The Browns decided they needed a quarterback guru as head coach and hired Shurmur. However, this ended up becoming a disastrous decision because he wasn’t up to the task.
Shurmur went 4-12 in his first season. He gave up on McCoy and brought in Brandon Weeden as the new starter. This didn’t work out either. Finally, they finished 5-11 and Shurmur lost his job (via NBC Sports). Unlike most of the head coaches on this list, Shurmur had a second chance at a head coach job. The Giants hired him but fired him after two more losing seasons.
Every sports fan hates the term ‘rebuilding’ for their teams. In short, it means their team is terrible and every new head coach uses this phrase when they take over. The New York Giants hoped Judge would help them finally get back on track after several tumultuous seasons. The Giants’ owner believed he was the man to get the best out of Daniel Jones and bring the franchise back into contention.
Unfortunately, he was not. The Giants went 6-10 and 4-12 in successive years under his tenure (via NY Daily News). They were unable to compete in one of the worst divisions the NFL has ever seen. Judge’s tenure was disastrous because it was so bland. He was ultimately canned after a disastrous end to the season that saw him go on an odd rant in a presser and call a quarterback sneak on third-and-nine deep in his own territory. The Giants failed to deliver on the field and failed to excite their fans. Their next coach faces another rebuilding period.
Mornhinweg had maintained a long career in the NFL as an offensive coordinator. Somehow he managed to get the Detroit Lions head coach job in 2001 even though he seemed underqualified. The Lions are used to disastrous coaches but Mornhinweg was especially bad. They went 2-14 in his first year before improving to 3-13 the following (via Gainesville Sun).
The Lions ended this miserable experiment after that second torrid year. One of his worst accolades was going 0-16 on the road across two seasons. Bear in mind, Mornhinweg took over a winning team that narrowly missed out on the playoffs. He ensured they’d fall massively short of success throughout his tenure. The Lions are exceptional at being terrible.
On paper, the Broncos seemingly made the right pick when they hired McDaniels. After all, he coordinated Tom Brady’s offense for the better part of 11 years. However, it’s an understatement to say his tenure in Denver didn’t go well because it was downright disastrous. McDaniels spent less than two seasons in Mile-High City. Fans wished that he never arrived at Empower Field (via USA Today).
They went 8-8 in his first year before dropping to 3-9. McDaniels made poor calls like firing and hiring wrong staff members. Meanwhile, Kyle Orton just wasn’t skilled enough as their starting quarterback. Finally, the Broncos decided to cut him loose before the end of his second year. He was also part of an infamous cheating scandal. Eventually, McDaniels found his way back to Foxborough.
It took Spagnuolo almost 10 years to find redemption. There are NFL analysts credit him as one of the best defensive minds in the league. He’s a two-time Super Bowl winner who coached on Andy Reid’s staff in Philadelphia and Kansas City. The latter came in 2020 after he rejoined his old boss. But Spagnuolo has head coaching experience too. Unfortunately, it was terrible.
The St. Louis Rams hired him in 2009 when he was one of the most attractive options in the league. Despite setting the worst record in franchise history that season, they didn’t fire him. He improved from a disastrous 1-15 year to 7-9. However, they regressed to 2-14 in 2011 and this signaled the end of his time in the NFL as a head coach (via The Athletic).
Spurrier is obviously an iconic college head coach. He had amazing success with the Florida Gators and South Carolina. This attracted the Washington Redskins in 2002. But as fans have often seen, college wins don’t always translate to the NFL. Sadly, this was the case for Spurrier at the pro level. Spurrier was responsible for a lot of the problems on the field but wasn’t fully to blame.
Daniel Snyder was and is the team’s owner. This was as disastrous as anybody would expect. He made appalling decisions like the selection of Patrick Ramsey (via Clutchpoints). Realistically, this wasn’t the right job for Spurrier because his talents were suited to the college level. Snyder’s involvement didn’t help him though and also set the franchise back years.
Another year, another terrible Jets’ coach. Gang Green allowed Bowles to tread water for too long before they put him out of his misery. Initially, things were good as they nearly made the postseason after a 10-6 finish in 2015. Finally, the franchise appeared to be going in the right direction. But it was false as Bowles’ reign soon became disastrous (via SNY).
The team suffered from a lack of discipline and a poor roster. Meanwhile, Bowles was responsible for weak in-game management. He failed to take risks when they were necessary and this cost them. This affected Sam Darnold’s development. Finally, after three consecutive losing seasons, the Jets fired Bowles yet things became even worse when Adam Gase was chosen as his replacement.
Greg Camarillo saved the Dolphins from a 0-16 season with overtime touchdown against the Ravens that prevented them from going down in infamy. However, Cameron was easily one of the Florida franchise’s worst head coaches. They finished 1-15 in 2007. To make matters worse, Miami interviewed several candidates before they settled on Cameron. These included Mike Tomlin, who later won a Super Bowl with the Steelers.
Furthermore, Cameron’s players believed that he was incompetent and a leader (via Fansided). There was no way back for him at the end of the season. The writing was on the wall after such an inept year. Later, the Ravens hired him as an offensive coach. Then he had a few years at LSU. But Cameron never took a head coaching role again.
Technically, Tomsula was a two-time Niners head coach. Initially, he took the job on an interim basis in 2010. But he took over on a full-time basis in 2015. The franchise hamstrung him from the beginning after several star players retired. Meanwhile, Colin Kapernick was terrible so Tomsula dropped him for Blaine Gabbert.
However, Tomsula earned the wrath of fans with his lax approach that allowed the players too much leeway. The coach gave them lengthy breaks to check their phones and didn’t enforce discipline. Finally, they maintained the worst offense in the NFL. Then there was the infamous farting incident (via CBS Sports). We all know that he let rip and perhaps he should have just owned it.
Wilks has worked with an impressive number of schools over the years. His resume includes runs at Notre Dame and Washington before he stepped up to the NFL. After a few years as a defensive coach with the Panthers, he enhanced his reputation. Finally, the Arizona Cardinals offered him the coveted position as their head coach but it didn’t last for long.
Everybody respected him but he didn’t do a good job. The team had the worst defense in the league and ranked 20th in offense (via USA Today). Wilks was a superb professional and his players genuinely liked him. But the problem was the product on the field. They didn’t deliver and finished with a 3-13 record. After Arizona fired him, he went back to college with the University of Missouri.
For the past two decades, the Patriots have been synonymous with success. But they went through a grim period through the late 1980s and early ’90s. McPherson took the job in 1991 after he led Syracuse to four bowl games. There were high hopes that he would replicate his success at the pro level. In the beginning, it appeared he would.
They improved to 6-10 in McPherson’s first year, not the greatest record but a marked improvement from the prior year’s 1-15. Analysts regarded this as an impressive achievement considering their previous showings. But his sophomore year as an NFL head coach was disastrous. McPherson went through four quarterbacks throughout the season. None of them made a difference as the Patriots regressed to 4-12 (via Athlon Sports).
Al Davis called Kiffin “a disgrace to the organization” after he fired him following a disastrous rollercoaster of a coaching tenure (via NBC Sports). Kiffin didn’t even keep his job for two seasons before Davis lost patience. He was the youngest head coach in NFL history when he signed up in 2007. This came after his reputation soared at USC. But he was up against the wall from the beginning when the Raiders drafted JaMarcus Russell.
Russell went down as one of the biggest draft busts in history. Meanwhile, Kiffin’s relationship with Davis deteriorated to toxic levels. Kiffin refused to quit after a 4-12 season and infuriated his boss. The owner also tried to prevent his head coach from play-calling (via Sports Illustrated). The pair continued to fire shots at each other after Kiffin’s departure. It’s a shame because the Raiders were the biggest loser.
For some reason, Tampa Bay thought that Bennett was a good hire. Yes, he had some success with the Atlanta Falcons. Then he went off and sold R.Vs for two years. Hugh Culverhouse decided that this was the perfect hire to take over an NFL franchise. Needless to say, it didn’t go well. Bo Jackson refused to play for the Buccaneers because they were a joke.
Bennett just wasn’t up to the job. The Bucs went 2-14 in back-to-back years before they finally cut ties with the coach (via Orlando Sentinel). Afterward, Bennett shrugged his shoulders and went back to his real passion. He opened a car dealership and enjoyed retirement from football. There was no point stressing about the NFL when he was already a millionaire.
Washington went through a spate of terrible coaches over the years. Zorn took the reigns in 2008 but only lasted for two seasons. They broke even in his first year before a terrible 4-12 decline in 2009. Zorn infamously couldn’t even name the team’s colors properly. He described them as ‘maroon, black, and yellow.’ A more pressing issue was the team’s problems with offense.
The team hired an offensive consultant to try and straighten things out. But it didn’t work and play-calling became even more convoluted. Remember the ‘Swinging Gate? (via Washington Post)’ Not every coach is charismatic but Zorn was very bland. He failed to show any emotion in press conferences and this filtered onto the field. Nobody cried when Daniel Snyder finally fired him.
Singletary may be the single most disastrous 49ers coach ever. They fired Mike Nolan and promoted Singletary to the top job. He went 5-4 in his first year and appeared to stabilize the franchise after a rough year. However, it went downhill from that. They missed out on the postseason in his second year. Then Singletary started 0-5 in 2010 before they fired him.
One of Singletary’s main problems was his lack of composure. He became emotional in front of the media and went on excessive rants. Singletary was an excellent linebacker’s coach but couldn’t handle the pressure of being in charge. The team didn’t like him because of his overbearing manner. He infamously dropped his pants in the locker room at halftime (via NBC Sports).
Shell is justifiably a Hall of Famer after winning two Super Bowls as a player. The eight-time Pro Bowler joined the Raiders’ coaching staff after he retired. This was a popular decision because he was a Raiders’ lifer. He took over as head coach and remained in charge for six seasons. Then, 12 years later, Al Davis decided to bring the veteran coach back, yet things didn’t go as well this time.
He raised eyebrows when he hired Tom Walsh as offensive coordinator. The pair worked together before but Walsh spent the last few years running a bed and breakfast in Boise. Shell’s men were awful and finished the year with a 2-14 record (via SF Gate). The modern game had passed him by and Davis fired Shell at the end of the season. It’s a shame but Raiders’ fans still regard him fondly.
Peterson’s college exploits made him one of the most appealing coaches. Finally, the Houston Oilers decided that they’d give him a shot at the pro level. They outbid the Denver Broncos and handed him a massive 10-year contract. This was a disastrous decision because Peterson was terrible. It also cost them an arm and a leg to fire him.
Owner Bud Adams told the world that Peterson would be with the Oilers until he retired (via New York Times). In the end, he survived for just two seasons. Somehow, the Oilers put together back-to-back 1-15 records. This also ruined his credibility as a coach and he retired after the Oilers fired him. He had a remarkable winning percentage of just .053. It’s a shame it went so badly for him.
2007 was a disastrous year for the Atlanta Falcons. First, they hired Petrino and the celebrated college coach became one of the worst in NFL history. In fairness, the team suffered a major blow at the beginning of the season. They lost their star quarterback Michael Vick because of a disgusting dog-fighting scandal. This left the team with a massive hole in its offense.
It didn’t help that Petrino was unable to stabilize his team. They went 3-10 before he ran away to Arkansas (via NPR). The team resented the way he left. He put a brief note in their lockers before taking the job he repeatedly denied interest in. It was a weak way of handling business and it didn’t endear him to his former players. In the end, it was one of worst tenures ever in the NFL.
Crennel is a good man and an excellent assistant (via Sportscasting). However, he failed to convince as a head coach in the NFL. Firstly, he endured mixed fortunes with the Cleveland Browns. Then the Chiefs hired him and promoted him to interim head coach in 2011. This came after the team fired Todd Haley. Crennel won two out of three games and the Chiefs gave him the job permanently.
But his short tenure was disastrous. First, the team wasn’t good enough with a 2-14 record and showing no signs of improvement. Then, Crennel had to deal with Jovan Belcher’s suicide. He witnessed the tragic death of the Chiefs star. Incredibly, Kansas won their next game after this incident. In the end, he was almost happy to depart after a tumultuous season.
Holtz is a Notre Dame icon as the former Fighting Irish head coach enjoyed a long and successful career in college football. But he also had a short and disastrous spell in charge of the New York Jets. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise because the Jets are used to this. They appointed him in 1976 and he lasted for a single season (via SB Nation).
Many Green Gang fans consider this to be the worst team in Jets’ history, even worse than the 1-15 edition in 1996. That’s because they allowed a -15.2 points difference, an unwanted Jets’ record. They also had a crazy 53 turnovers and lost by massive blowouts. In the end, Holtz quit the team with a 2-11 record. He ran away to take over the Arkansas Razorbacks back in college football.
O’Brien’s place on this list is unique because he actually did have some success with the Texans. But he dragged the franchise down into the depths of despair. The problem was that Houston gave him too much power. They made him the GM as well as the head coach. The power seemingly went to O’Brien’s head. Finally, he ran the Texans into the ground.
O’Brien enjoyed six winning seasons out of seven-and-a-half total seasons with the team. But this doesn’t tell the true story. Firstly, the AFC South was extremely weak. Then, he sealed his fate with bizarre trade decisions. The decision to send DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona in exchange for David Johnson and a second-round pick was so strange. This alienated blue-chip QB DeShaun Watson. Finally, the Texans fired O’Brien after a 0-4 start to 2020 (via SBNation).
Kotite endured mixed fortunes with the Eagles. But the New York Jets decided to take a chance on him after cutting Pete Carroll loose. The new head coach joined in 1995 and the team collapsed. He handled the draft with the logic of a monkey making lottery picks. They had the chance to bring in Warren Moon but opted for future bust Kyle Brady instead.
Meanwhile, Kotite’s decision-making was brutal. His teams were disorganized and inept. They went 3-13 in his first season but things didn’t improve. His second and final year saw the team go 1-15 (via Bleacher Report). This was the worst record in franchise history. The decision to hire Kotite was strange anyway because his time in Philadelphia ended badly. He was never a head coach in the NFL again.
Marinelli took over the Detroit Lions job in 2006. He lasted for three seasons before his inevitable demise. Nobody foresaw how bad it would be. This was a disastrous reign that stained the legacy of the franchise forever. That’s because they became the first team to lose 16 games in a season. They went winless in 2008 after failing to win a single match (via Detroit Free Press).
There are arguments that the 2008 Lions weren’t the worst team ever. But there is no way to erase that zero. Unfortunately, Marinelli led them at this time because he’s a great defensive coach. He had success with Tampa and Dallas as a defensive line coach and coordinator. Unfortunately, Detroit was a poor team and he failed to revitalize them.
Ditka had a successful period with the Chicago Bears capped off with a Super Bowl in 1985. This convinced the Saints to take a chance on the Super Bowl winner. Unfortunately, he was unable to replicate his success in New Orleans. He made an insane error at the very beginning of his sole season in the Big Easy. They went all-in on Ricky Williams in the Draft as Ditka traded all of the Saints’ picks that year for the running back.
This was a disastrous decision for many reasons. First, running backs aren’t worth that much. It didn’t help that Williams didn’t play well either. New Orleans took years to recover from this appalling draft decision. Results on the field were poor as the Saints went 3-13 (via NBC Sports). In the end, the Saints cut ties with Ditka after the terrible year.
Another horrible Lions’ coach, Patricia’s tenure with the Lions was disastrous. He left Detroit as one of the four worst coaches in franchise history. His time in charge was a total shambles and he was out after three seasons at Ford Field. Patricia failed to post a winning season and didn’t finish his third year. The Lions front office lost patience after his team started out 4-7 in 2020.
His overall record was 13-29-1, a winning percentage of .314 in a miserable time for the Lions. It also convinced star quarterback Matthew Stafford to quit the team. Patricia’s team blew lead after lead. They also failed to beat rivals like the Bears and the Vikings. Furthermore, they set an 11-game losing streak. This was the third-longest in franchise history (via Detroit Free Press).
LeBeau was a magnificent defensive coordinator before he retired in 2017. He had 59 seasons in the NFL with franchises like the Titans and the Steelers. But he only had a single head coach role and it was disastrous. He never stepped up to the position again because it didn’t suit his talents. LeBeau took over in Cincinnati in 2000 but lost his job following the 2002 year.
The franchise failed to progress during his tenure. He posted three losing seasons and lost his job after the Bengals finished 2-14. Unfortunately, the legendary coach helped the franchise to their worst record in history. Meanwhile, he had a miserable winning percentage of just .267 (via ESPN). Luckily, LeBeau had enough credit in the bank to bounce back and rebuild his career.
At least Campo was consistent as that’s the only positive thing to say about his tenure as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. His teams went 5-11 for three consecutive seasons from 2000-02. It’s remarkable really that he managed to achieve this. As a result, he is the only Cowboys head coach in history to depart with a losing record. Even worse, he was the first Dallas coach never to have a winning season.
He began coaching in 1971 but has only ever been a head coach once. This includes his college career. Initially, he faced challenges when Troy Aikman retired. But Campo simply wasn’t up to the job (via Dallas News). That’s not a slight because many coordinators and college coaches struggle to step up. This was a miserable period for fans of ‘America’s Team’ because they went nowhere.
A famous father can be a curse. The legendary Don Shula is one of the greatest NFL coaches in history. However, his son, Dave, went down as one of the worst. The Bengals hired the younger Shula in 1992. This was an exciting decision because of his pedigree. But it was a disastrous decision overall because Shula didn’t know what he was doing. Somehow, he survived for five seasons with a 19-52 record.
Finally, Cincinnati fired him in 1996 after a single win in seven games to start the season. Shula became the fastest coach in history to 50 losses during his time in charge (via USA Today). This was a uniquely bad achievement. It was a terrible time for the franchise because it was difficult for fans to maintain interest in the team. In the end, they lost patience and fired the younger Shula.
We suppose Peyton Manning was wrong. The legendary NFL icon described his former coach as a ‘quarterback guru.’ It’s too bad that this wasn’t the case in New York, because Gase arguably ruined Sam Darnold’s career before it even began. The Jets hired him in 2019 but fired him after two seasons. They started with a mediocre 7-9 losing record in his first year.
This was tolerable but they immediately regressed. Gase departed after a disastrous 2-14 season where he showed all of his flaws. One of the main issues was his lack of flexibility. He used the same system that worked for a slow Manning in Denver (via Forbes). But this didn’t suit the mobile Darnold. Meanwhile, the Jets’ defense was nonexistent. Gang Green felt like they were in purgatory.
Jackson didn’t have a successful tenure with the Cleveland Browns. Somehow he survived for over two seasons but they were disastrous. He left the franchise in 2018 with a record of 3-36-1 (via SBNation). Furthermore, they went 0-16 in 2017 as they went winless for the first time in history. The Browns were rebuilding (or so they claimed) but there were no signs of progress.
The head coach lost the support of his staff as well as the players. Sure, their roster was terrible, but his methods didn’t help. Jackson was genuinely a great offensive coordinator. Also, many people believed that the Browns made the right choice when they hired him. But his record is so bad that it’s almost impossible for another Cleveland coach to replicate it.
Meyer’s reign in charge of the Jacksonville Jaguars was uniquely and utterly disastrous. Jags owner Shahid Khan hired him in 2021 because he believed that Meyer would get the best out of shiny no. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence. The young quarterback received incredible hype before the Jaguars used the first overall pick to select him. However, Meyer wasn’t able to get the best out of him and his entire run was a laughingstock from its inception.
First, Meyer tried to hire racist coach Chris Doyle and created a media storm. Then, there was the remarkable Tim Tebow experiment. Soon, rumblings emerged that professional players didn’t like his more college coaching style. The results on the field didn’t help matters because the Jags were appalling. Then, there was the media deluge after footage emerged of Meyer dancing with a young woman who wasn’t his wife after he had stayed in Ohio and not traveled with his team following another defeat. Khan finally fired Meyer after a 2-11 record before the catastrophic season ended (via NPR).