You can’t win a Super Bowl without a talented roster, but talent itself does not guarantee success in the NFL. A bad coach can waste a good roster as much as a good coach can elevate one.
Making things more difficult for the people in charge of hiring coaches, we’re *really* bad at predicting which coaching candidates are most equipped for the job. There have been plenty of great coordinators who’ve fallen flat on their faces when given a head job, and there have been uninspiring hires that have led to great results.
Every team in the league — well, except one — has hired a dud of a coach at some point. We’ve picked out the worst head coach in each team’s history.
One note before we get to the list: We picked only coaches hired after the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.
Cowboys: Dave Campo (2000-2002)
This was an easy choice: Dave Campo is the only Cowboys coach to finish his tenure with a winning percentage below .500. He won only 15 games in three years and never made the playoffs.
Washington: Steve Spurrier (2002-2003)
The Spurrier era was probably the height of Dan Snyder’s meddling. Per Spurrier, the front office did not let him pick his own quarterback, which ultimately led to his resignation with three years and $15 million still left on his contract.
Eagles: Jerry Williams (1969-1971)
Jerry Williams might be the only coach to get fired after a poor preseason performance. The Eagles dropped all four of their exhibition games in 1971 and then dropped their coach. They ended up having a decent year after Williams’ firing, going 6-7-1 after winning only three games the previous season.
Giants: Bill Arnsparger (1974-1976)
He was one of the most important defensive minds in the history of modern football, but Bill Arnsparger was not much of a head coach. He won just seven of his 35 games in New York before being replaced by Sean McVay’s grandfather John.
Bears: Abe Gibron (1972-1974)
In his introductory press conference, Gibron said he believed the team would “take a run at the championship.” Instead, the Bears compiled a record of 11-30-1 and finished in last place in the division every season of his tenure. Nailed it.
Vikings: Les Steckel (1984)
The Vikings made Steckel the youngest coach in the NFL when they chose him as Bud Grant’s successor. It took only a season to realize they had made a huge mistake. Steckel was fired after refusing to resign at the end of his first season in charge. Get that severance package, Les.
Lions: Rod Marinelli (2006-2008)
Marinelli is a fine defensive coordinator, but 0-16 speaks for itself.
Packers: Lindy Infante (1988-1991)
Infante actually won a Coach of the Year award during his time in Green Bay, but he also finished with the worst winning percentage of any post-merger Packers coach. His firing led to the hiring of Mike Holmgren, so not a bad decision there.
Falcons: Bobby Petrino (2007)
Bobby Petrino doesn’t have the worst record in Falcons’ history — that distinction belongs to Marion Campbell — but when you abandon the team halfway through the first year of a five-year contract, you win this title by default. At least he had the decency to laminate the notes he left behind for players informing them of his decision. That’s something they were going to want to hold onto.
Panthers: George Seifert (1999-2001)
When Seifert took the Carolina job, he had the highest winning percentage in league history after a successful stint as Bill Walsh’s replacement in San Francisco. Things didn’t go so well with the Panthers. He was fired after losing 15 games in a row in 2001 and Carolina made the Super Bowl two years after his dismissal.
Saints: Mike Ditka (1997-1999)
One picture sums up Ditka’s time with the Saints:
Buccaneers: Greg Schiano (2012-2013)
There were other Bucs coaches with worse records, but Schiano’s second season had to be the most depressing in the team’s history. And that includes 1979. A little taste of the Schiano era, from The MMQB’s Andrew Brandt:
In speaking with agents of several Bucs players recently, I have sensed a common theme: There is an atmosphere of fear and distrust under the current regime in Tampa. Players have told their agents about coaches roaming through the locker room (typically the players’ sanctuary away from coaches) and staff videotaping players on the sidelines during losses to single out players laughing or horsing around. The players also speak to the influx of multiple Rutgers players from Schiano’s past and the use of the phrase “Schiano Men,” a term that clearly does not apply to Freeman.
49ers: Mike Singletary (2009-2010)
One day you’re a legendary linebacker, the next you’re pulling your pants down to get a point through to your team.
Things got even worse for Singletary when he dropped down to the high school level and finished 1-21 before getting canned by Trinity Christian Academy last year.
Rams: Steve Spagnuolo (2009-2011)
Steve Spagnuolo has emerged as a poster child for the group of coaches that make fine coordinators but can’t quite hack it as a head coach. He’s now won rings as a defensive play-caller with two different franchises, but he managed to win only 10 games in his three seasons as Rams coach.
Cardinals: Dave McGinnis (2000-2003)
Against all odds, McGinnis parlayed a 1-8 record as the Cardinals’ interim coach into the full-time job. Arizona never finished above fourth place in their division over the next three seasons under McGinnis’ watch.
Seahawks: Tom Flores (1992-1994)
My theory is Flores was sent by Al Davis to infiltrate and destroy the then-division rival Seahawks. After winning two Super Bowls with the Raiders, Flores managed to win only 14 games in Seattle.
Patriots: Rod Rust (1990)
Like Cameron, Rust went 1-15 during his only season as a head coach and was unable to survive for a second year. The Patriots have had three head coaches who also served as the defensive coordinator for the Giants: Two of them are Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells … the other is Rust.
Bills: Jim Ringo (1976-1977)
Ringo was a Hall of Fame offensive lineman but an awful head coach. The Bills went 3-20 during his two seasons in Buffalo, once again proving that great players do not always make good coaches.
Jets: Rich Kotite (1995-1996)
Maybe you were expecting Adam Gase, but the Kotite era was even more depressing. The Jets won only four games during his two seasons in charge and scored over 20 points only ten times.
Dolphins: Cam Cameron (2007)
Who hates Cameron more, Ravens fans or Dolphins fans? His lone win as an NFL head coach came against Baltimore, maybe the most embarrassing loss in franchise history. Then he was hired as the Ravens offensive coordinator, fired late in the 2013 season and the team went on to win the Super Bowl.
Bengals: Dave Shula (1992-1996)
Dave Shula, the son of Don Shula, was named Bengals head coach at the tender age of 32. And it only took him 71 games to get to 50 losses. That’s an NFL record. Nepotism!
Browns: Hue Jackson (2016-2018)
This was one of the most competitive races, but you can’t top that 1-31 stretch Jackson oversaw during his first two seasons. Imagine how incompetent you have to be in order to make Freddie Kitchens look like a bright, young coaching mind.
Ravens: Ted Marchibroda (1996-1998)
There have been only three head coaches in Ravens history, and the other two won Super Bowls. Sorry, Ted.
Steelers: Mike Tomlin (2007-Present)
The Steelers know how to pick head coaches, so there’s no shame in getting this distinction. Chuck Noll won four Super Bowls, Bill Cowher won one and kept the team competitive for over a decade. That leaves Tomlin, who would be the best coach in history for like 80% of the teams on this list.
Jaguars: Gus Bradley (2013-2016)
By all accounts, Bradley is a nice man and a decent defensive coordinator but he was way out of his depth as a head coach. I made the argument for him being one of the worst head coaches in NFL history a few years ago, but I think this exchange sums things up nicely…
this exchange … whew pic.twitter.com/d2xLHGcVcC
— madebytim (@MadeByTim) November 28, 2016
Titans: Bill Peterson (1972-1973)
Peterson has the lowest post-merger winning percentage of any head coach who lasted at least one season. He went 1-18 during his brief head coaching career in the 1972 season (when the Titans were the Houston Oilers).
Texans: Dom Capers (2002-2005)
While Bill O’Brien made a good run at the “Worst GM in team history” title, he was actually a decent coach, all things considered. Capers is one of only three full-time head coaches in Texans history, and the only one who wasn’t able to get the team to the postseason.
Colts: Rod Dowhower (1985-1986)
Dowhower’s Colts started the 1986 season 0-13 before he was let go, saving him from a possible 0-16 campaign.
Chiefs: Romeo Crennel (2011-2012)
Nothing good came of the Todd Haley era, including Crennel. He was Haley’s defensive coordinator and his eventual replacement. The 2012 team went 2-14 under Crennel despite finishing the season with six Pro Bowlers. It did not take long for Andy Reid to turn things around.
Broncos: Josh McDaniels (2009-2010)
Vance Joseph was another option after he failed to lead the Broncos back to the playoffs, but Josh McDaniels made the Tim Tebow era possible and should be punished accordingly.
Raiders: Dennis Allen (2012-2014)
In Allen’s defense, the Raiders had a bad roster, no cap space and had gotten rid of most of their draft picks. There’s no defending 8-28, though.
Chargers: Mike Riley (1999-2001)
Riley somehow survived a 1-15 season in 2000, but a 5-11 finish the following year ended his time in San Diego. He finished with a .292 winning percentage.