The 50 Worst NFL Head Coaches of All Time

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistDecember 14, 2012

The 50 Worst NFL Head Coaches of All Time

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    It feels a little mean-spirited to dedicate an article to the worst head coaches of all time. However, the fans of NFL franchises unfortunate enough to have been led by these shaky signal-callers probably have no problem reminding themselves how bad these coaches are (or were).

    There have been some terrible sideline generals in the annals of the NFL. This list attempts to highlight the 50 who merit special consideration, simply for being so bad.

    In the interests of full disclosure, this list will be skewed more heavily to the NFL's modern period.

    It's not that information is necessarily hard to come by regarding woeful coaches from the league's first half of the century. It's just that including too many from that time period would have come at the expense of including some shockers from more recent years.

    If this author is criticized in the comments section for not paying enough attention to the league's early years, then so be it.

    That is a small price to pay to once again remind everyone just how bad Jim L. Mora and Todd Haley were.

    Here are the 50 worst NFL head coaches of all time, beginning with a breakdown of two notable omissions.

Most Notable Omissions: Dennis Green and Jim E. Mora

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    Dennis Green nearly made this list, along with Jim E. Mora (aka Jim Mora Sr.). They were two worthy candidates.

    Green had a terrible playoff record with the Minnesota Vikings: In 1998, he had arguably the greatest offense ever and still failed to make the Super Bowl. Green's tenure with the Arizona Cardinals was even worse and was memorable only for a rage-induced press conference breakdown.

    However, some of Green's work in Minnesota kept him off the list.

    He took the Vikings to the playoffs in his first three seasons and eight times overall. That was enough to warrant his exclusion from this infamous company.

    Mora's biggest crimes were wasting talent. With the New Orleans Saints, he wasted a Super Bowl-calibre defense. Later, he wasted a Super Bowl-calibre quarterback with the Indianapolis Colts.

    However, Mora succeeded in turning around two losing teams.

    The Saints never had a winning season before he arrived. He took them to the playoffs for the first time and in 1991 helped them claimed their first division title.

    When he joined the Colts, they were 3-13. Two seasons later, Mora had helped draft Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James and had the Colts at 13-3.

    Those accomplishments (and the presence of his son on the list) meant there was no room for the elder Mora.

Teams with Most Coaches on the List

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    It probably won't come as a surprise that Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders coaches dominate this list.

    Want an explanation of why these two once-proud franchises have struggled for so long?

    Simple, they have consistently hired bad coaches. Yet the Raiders and Redskins are not alone. The Atlanta Falcons have been plagued by several misguided head coaches as well.

50. Ray "Scooter" McLean: Green Bay Packers (1958)

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    Ray "Scooter" McLean played a significant part in the history of the Green Bay Packers. He oversaw a team that recorded the franchise's worst-ever record, going 1-10-1 in 1958.

    However, history somehow remembers him fondly. That's because his inequity paved the way for the great Vince Lombardi to take the reins.

    As Lombardi's predecessor, McLean at least guaranteed he would always be the answer to a trivia question. 

    Making way for the most iconic coach of all time prevents McLean from being higher on this list of shame.

49. Dave Wannstedt: Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins

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    Some coaches should always stay assistants. Dave Wannstedt fits into that bracket, although the Buffalo Bills might be inclined to think he barely merits that, based on this season.

    Nevertheless, Wannstedt can usually be relied upon to produce solid defenses. He did it for the Dallas Cowboys in the early '90s, which brought him to the attention of the Chicago Bears.

    Wannstedt replaced Mike Ditka and suffered three losing seasons out of six, which included two 4-12 finishes in 1997 and 1998.

    Wannstedt did take the Bears to the NFC divisional playoffs in 1994. However, that was his only highlight in the Windy City.

    2000 saw him succeed Jimmy Johnson as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. Wannstedt promptly took Johnson's team to a playoff victory, but things soon fell apart.

    Wannstedt posted four winning seasons in Miami but only made the playoffs twice.

    His struggles in Chicago and failure to build on what Johnson left him in Miami land Wannstedt on this list.

48. Jack Pardee: Chicago Bears, Washington Redskins, Houston Oilers

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    Jack Pardee was only ever just above-average with three NFL teams. He also wasted a wealth of talent with the Houston Oilers.

    Pardee's head coaching career began in 1975 with the Chicago Bears. He did take the Monsters of the Midway to the playoffs in 1977, but his overall record was 20-22 after three seasons.

    Pardee's next stop was succeeding the great George Allen with the Washington Redskins. He lasted three seasons in D.C., posting a 24-24 record. His biggest accomplishment was preceding the legendary Joe Gibbs.

    Pardee's final head coaching gig came in Houston. He inherited a talented team from Jerry Glanville but never took it to a Super Bowl.

    That was despite being loaded with players like Warren Moon, William Fuller, Bruce Matthews and Ray Childress. Pardee's Oilers frequently faltered in the playoffs.

    In 1992, they allowed the Buffalo Bills to come back from being down 35-3 in the third quarter. The following year, Pardee oversaw an embarrassing spat between coordinators Buddy Ryan and Kevin Gilbride.

    That preceded the Oilers again being dumped out of the playoffs at the first hurdle, this time by the Kansas City Chiefs. He left Houston in 1994, with his once-talented team now decimated and 1-9.

47. Dom Capers: Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans

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    Dom Capers may be able to design a zone blitz, but he struggles to lead a successful team. Capers took on the job with two expansion teams and ultimately failed to keep them competitive.

    In 1995, he took charge of the Carolina Panthers. He used his first pick on quarterback Kerry Collins, who would go on to only be a journeyman, with mild success in other cities.

    Capers did have the luxury of some high-profile free agents, including Kevin Greene and the late, great Sam Mills. That helped him take the Panthers to the NFC championship game in 1996.

    However, he couldn't keep the Panthers a force in the NFC, and the 1997 season saw his team disintegrate. They went 7-9 and were 4-12 the following year.

    In 2002, Capers returned to take over the expansion Houston Texans. Again, he wasted the first overall pick in the draft. This time it was on quarterback David Carr, who would fail to flourish under Capers' wing.

    The Texans went 4-12 and then 5-11 to begin life in the NFL. Capers went 7-9 in 2004, but that was as good as it got in Houston. He crashed to 2-14 in 2005, and that ended his head coaching days.

    Thankfully, Capers smartly went back to concentrating on running defenses.

    He helped the Green Bay Packers win it all in 2010.

46. Wayne Fontes: Detroit Lions

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    Failing to snare a championship with a player like Barry Sanders lands Wayne Fontes on this list.

    The ex-Detroit Lions head coach didn't have the worst record and made his share of trips to the playoffs. However, Fontes should have done so much more in the Motor City.

    Not only did he have Sanders, arguably the greatest running back ever, he also had players like Herman Moore at his disposal.

    Yet Fontes could never get a defense in place to complement these skilled players. He could also never find a consistent quarterback to general what should have been the league's best offense.

45. Chan Gailey: Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills

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    Chan Gailey also belongs in that collection of coaches who should always remain assistants. Not much about his two stints as a head coach recommends Gailey as a suitable choice to take charge.

    He did some decent work with the Dallas Cowboys, taking them to the playoffs in 1998 and 1999. However, Gailey lost both of his opening playoff games.

    He also failed to regenerate a Cowboys roster that was beginning to age in key areas—a failing that would severely hinder his successors.

    Since taking over the Buffalo Bills in 2010, Gailey has struggled to turn them into winners despite some big investment. He went 4-12 in his first year before finishing 6-10 in 2011 despite a 5-2 start.

    Gailey can design some good plays on offense but doesn't always maximize his best talent. He has underused C.J. Spiller this season and is headed for his third straight non-winning season in Buffalo.

    That's a poor performance for a team that spent heavily to recruit the likes of Mario Williams this offseason.

44. Eric Mangini: New York Jets, Cleveland Browns

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    Eric Mangini's head coaching career got off to a superb start. He took over the New York Jets in 2005 after Gang Green had gone 4-12.

    In his first season, Mangini's team went 10-6 and made the playoffs. Mangini was the toast of the league.

    However, that's as good as it got for him as a head coach. The 2007 season saw the Jets regress, falling back to 4-12. In 2008, they missed the playoffs again and lost discipline amidst the distraction created by Brett Favre's presence.

    His initial success convinced the Cleveland Browns to take a chance on Mangini. However, two straight 5-11 finishes meant he was quickly shown the door.

    Often viewed as too strict and more than a little arrogant, Mangini has not returned to the league since. He represents the danger of anointing young assistants as "geniuses" too soon.

43. Todd Haley: Kansas City Chiefs

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    Like Mangini, Todd Haley was considered a bright, young prospect, destined to be a great head coach.

    His offense helped take the Arizona Cardinals to a Super Bowl in 2008. That convinced the Kansas City Chiefs to let him take over.

    Things were never dull under Haley, but they were rarely successful either. His first season ended in a 4-12 finish, but things were looking up a year later.

    Surrounded by veteran assistants Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis, Haley took the 10-6 Chiefs to the AFC West title. Sadly, Haley's Chiefs were embarrassed by the Baltimore Ravens in their playoff game.

    His tenure never recovered, and he was replaced towards the end of the following season by Crennel.

    Gruff and volatile, Haley struggled to connect with his players. Unless you count undignified shouting matches in the sidelines as connecting.

42. Hue Jackson: Oakland Raiders

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    Hue Jackson's one season in charge in Oakland summed up a lot of what is wrong with the Raiders. The warning signs were there when Jackson proclaimed he wanted to build a "bully" team.

    This led to 163 penalties in 2011, 30 of which were personal fouls.

    What place does that have in a game this great? None whatsoever.

    By simply trying to intimidate, Jackson wasted some serviceable talent and confirmed the rest of the league's worst impressions of the Raiders. A three-time Super Bowl-winning franchise deserves better.

41. Norv Turner: Washington Redskins, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers

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    Speaking of wasting talent, has anyone ever wasted more of it than Norv Turner? It's hard to imagine the head coach who has.

    Turner is a fine offensive coordinator, but he simply cannot win as a head coach. His reputation for offensive expertise came from winning two Super Bowls running the Dallas Cowboys offense in 1992 and 1993.

    That took Turner to, of all places, the Washington Redskins. His first pick was quarterback Heath Shuler. That was disaster No. 1 during a prolonged spell of misery in Washington.

    Turner had three losing seasons out of his first five in D.C.

    He eventually made the playoffs in 1999 after managing to assemble a talented offense. Sadly, that team was broken up thanks to owner Dan Snyder's meddling. However, that didn't excuse Turner's overall 49-59-1 record with the Redskins.

    In 2004, Turner took over the Oakland Raiders and won only nine games in two seasons. Somehow he managed to bounce back and was put in charge of the San Diego Chargers in 2007.

    He has had players like Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, LaDainian Tomlinson and Vincent Jackson. Yet Turner has only taken the Chargers to the playoffs three times.

    The first time, they made it to the AFC championship game. The next year, they beat the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs after sneaking in as an 8-8 team. A 13-3 finish in 2009 was marred by losing their opening playoff game to the New York Jets.

    Turner and the Chargers have not been back to the playoffs since. He is set to be fired at the end of this season, according to U-T San Diego.

    Were it not for the weak AFC West and his four career division titles, Turner would be a lot higher on this list.

40. Dick Jauron: Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills

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    Dick Jauron led some exciting seasons in Chicago but ultimately failed in his two stops as a head coach.

    Jauron took over the Bears in 1999 and endured his share of early struggles. His first two teams were 6-10 and 5-11, respectively. Then came an inspired 2001 campaign, in which Jauron's turnover-bingeing Bears went 13-3.

    However, records of 4-12 and 7-9 concluded Jauron's otherwise-mediocre stay in Chicago.

    He later resurfaced as head coach of the Buffalo Bills in 2006. He presided over three straight 7-9 seasons, a striking example of mediocrity.

    Jauron was fired when he began the 2009 season 3-6.

    In between Chicago and Buffalo, he guided the Detroit Lions to a 1-4 mark as an interim head coach in 2005.

    With records like these, it's best Jauron sticks to being a defensive coordinator. He is currently doing a respectable job leading the Cleveland Browns defense.

39. Jim Haslett: New Orleans Saints, St. Louis Rams

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    Jim Haslett guided the New Orleans Saints to their first-ever playoff win in 2000. His 10-6 record that year is the best of an otherwise dismal head coaching career.

    Haslett's Saints went 7-9 the next season, followed by 9-7 and a pair of 8-8 finishes. His time in the Big Easy came to an end after the 2005 campaign saw the Saints finish 3-13.

    In 2008, he took over for the fired Scott Linehan and led the St. Louis Rams for 12 games. He won only two.

    Haslett's reputation for defensive excellence is slightly overrated. He produced some credible units with the Saints but couldn't settle on a quarterback.

    In fairness, he was put in tough situations in New Orleans and St. Louis, and that's why he's not higher on the list.

38. Brad Childress: Minnesota Vikings

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    Brad Childress had a decent record in four-and-a-half seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. Yet only making the playoffs twice and his misuse of a talented roster lands him on this list.

    Childress failed to build a consistent winner in Minnesota, even with a runner as dynamic as Adrian Peterson. The Vikings also had a talented defense.

    However, Childress could never put all the pieces together, even when he added Brett Favre to the mix. He was eventually dismissed after starting 2010 with a 3-7 record.

    Childress had let the Vikings age, and there was no discipline or direction during his final 10 games.

    Things should have been better.

37. Lindy Infante: Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts

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    Lindy Infante botched the second overall pick in the 1989 NFL draft but still had his best season of an average tenure with the Green Bay Packers. Infante chose offensive tackle Tony Mandarich, who would come to forever symbolize the term "draft bust."

    Infante somehow still won 10 games in 1989 but missed the playoffs. In his three other seasons in Green Bay, the Packers twice finished 4-12 and also registered a 6-10 record.

    Things picked up for Infante when he inherited a talented Indianapolis Colts team from Ted Marchibroda in 1996. Infante took them to the playoffs, where they were promptly bounced out by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    In 1997, the Colts were 3-13, and Infante was finished.

    Many have fond memories of his 1989 Packers team, thanks to the play of Sterling Sharpe and Don "Majik Man" Majkowski.

    However, those memories can't obscure Infante's woeful 36-60 career record as a head coach.

36. Jim L. Mora: Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks

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    Jim L. Mora took the Atlanta Falcons to the NFC championship game as a rookie head coach in 2004. That great start is what prevents him from being ranked higher.

    It's easy to make a case for a higher ranking. After the heights of his debut season, Mora's Falcons fell to 8-8 and 7-9 records.

    He helped derail Michael Vick's career development by trying to make him a West Coast offense quarterback. His Falcons team fell apart, and Mora was fired and fled to Seattle to join the Seahawks coaching staff.

    In 2009, the Seahawks tabbed him to replace Mike Holmgren. Things did not go well. Mora lasted only one season in charge, going 5-11.

    Any man who allowed his team to wear those 2009 uniforms was just born to be on this list.

35. Mike Nolan: San Francisco 49ers

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    Mike Nolan passed on Aaron Rodgers to draft Alex Smith. That alone is bad enough, but worse still, Nolan failed to do anything with the talent he did draft for the San Francisco 49ers.

    Nolan helped select running back Frank Gore and also brought in tight end Vernon Davis. Yet the 49ers never won with Nolan at the helm.

    Nolan took charge in San Francisco in 2005 and never got the team past seven wins. 

    His 18-37 record is bad enough, but Nolan's biggest crime might have been clearing the way for the next coach on this list.

34. Mike Singletary: San Francisco 49ers

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    When you hear phrases like "old school" and "hitting people in the mouth," you know a team is in trouble.

    Mike Singletary started those alarm bells and eardrums ringing the second he assumed control of the San Francisco 49ers.

    Singletary's aggressive demeanor and confrontational style initially won over his players. However, they soon grew tired of his overbearing prodding and angry sideline antics. The 49ers went 5-4, 8-8 and 5-10 under Singletary.

    The fact that Jim Harbaugh came in the next season and won with virtually the same personnel shows what a difference good coaching makes.

33. Tom Cable: Oakland Raiders

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    Tom Cable went 17-27 in just under three seasons with the Oakland Raiders. He was just about as undisciplined as his team.

    You know things can't be good when the head coach breaks the jaw of one of his assistants.

    Cable's tenure was similar to so many Raiders coaches: Lack of discipline undermined the talent and kept the Silver and Black losing.

32. Mike Tice: Minnesota Vikings

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    Mike Tice only had one playoff appearance and two winning seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. He left Minnesota after compiling a below-par 32-33 record.

    Under Tice, the Vikings offense—a prolific unit for years under Dennis Green—unraveled. Tice wrecked Randy Moss's scoring potential thanks to the lamentable "Randy Ratio."

    During his reign the Vikings were reviled for off-field antics, including 2005's notorious "love boat" scandal.

    Today Tice can be found doing his best to wreck the Chicago Bears offense.

31. Gregg Williams: Buffalo Bills

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    Before the days of Bountygate, Gregg Williams was making a mess of coaching the Buffalo Bills. He coached the AFC East outfit for three seasons beginning in 2001.

    The practitioner of the NFL's dark arts managed only 17 wins and 31 defeats. That certainly warrants Williams a place in yet more infamous company.

30. Rod Rust: New England Patriots

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    Th New England Patriots had enjoyed a good run in the 1980s. There was still talent to work with when defensive coordinator Rod Rust assumed control in 1990.

    However, Rust couldn't make it work, and the Patriots flopped in spectacular style. They tumbled to 1-15, a franchise-worst finish.

    Rust only lasted the one season, but he ranks so high because of how far his failings set the Patriots back. It took four seasons and a coaching miracle from Bill Parcells to get the Patriots back to the playoffs.

29. Steve Spagnuolo: St. Louis Rams

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    Steve Spagnuolo masterminded the New York Giants' upset of the 18-0 New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

    That landed him a job in St. Louis one year later.

    However, Spagnuolo couldn't translate his success as a coordinator to his role in the main job. He went 1-15 in his first season with the Rams in a grim sign of things to come.

    A 7-9 record followed in 2010, thanks largely to the play of rookie quarterback Sam Bradford.

    Yet Spagnuolo failed to build on it.

    He stunted Bradford's development by hiring Josh McDaniels as offensive coordinator without the personnel to run McDaniels' schemes. The Rams went 2-14 last season, and Spagnuolo was dumped on the scrap heap.

    His reputation had been sullied as quickly as it had been built. He is currently trying to revive it as defensive coordinator with the New Orleans Saints, but it has been another season of struggle for Spagnuolo.

28. Frank Gansz: Kansas City Chiefs

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    The Frank Gansz tenure in Kansas City ranks as a low point in Chiefs history. Gansz took over in 1987 and endured two brutal seasons at the helm. He went 4-11 in 1987 and 4-11-1 the following year.

    He was soon shown the door, and Kansas City needed the motivation and rebuilding skill of Marty Schottenheimer to get the Chiefs competitive again.

27. Romeo Crennel: Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Romeo Crennel has to stick to being a defensive coordinator.

    He just has to.

    Every time he takes a head coaching job, Crennel damages what should be a fine reputation as a coach.

    He first made the mistake when he took charge of the Cleveland Browns in 2005. The Browns hoped Crennel's expertise running the defense for the New England Patriots would turn them into winners.

    It did not.

    Crennel managed only one winning season and no playoff appearances in a four-year spell. His reign also included a pair of 4-12 campaigns and a 6-10 finish.

    Crennel restored his reputation with some excellent work with the Kansas City Chiefs defense in 2010. That made him a logical choice to take over from Todd Haley with three games remaining in the 2011 season.

    He went 2-1 as an interim coach but has struggled this season. The Chiefs are currently 2-11, and that gives Crennel a 28-52 record as a head coach.

    He is still an excellent defensive mind, and returning to a coordinator's role would be ideal for Crennel. That is, unless he walks away altogether after a tough season filled with tragedy.

26. Al Saunders: San Diego Chargers

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    Al Saunders' reputation as an offensive guru couldn't have come from his time as head coach of the San Diego Chargers, whom he led from 1986 to 1988.

    Led might be the wrong word, considering he only managed one winning record—that was an 8-7 finish in a strike-shortened 1987 season.

    His other two records were 3-5 and 6-10. Worse still, his offense, an apparent strength, never finished above 15th in points or 12th in yards.

    In 1987 the Chargers ranked 21st in yards and 27th in points. Things somehow managed to deteriorate beyond that in 1988, when Saunders' offense was 26th in yards and 27th in points.

    The London-born coach has found success since only as a coordinator.

25. Rod Dowhower: Indianapolis Colts

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    Rod Dowhower became head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 1985. He presided over a brutal spell of losing.

    Dowhower's team finished the 1985 season at 5-11. They closed out their campaign with two straight wins. They were the last victories of Dowhower's NFL head coaching career.

    He began the 1986 season with 13 consecutive defeats and was fired.

24. Frank Kush: Baltimore Colts

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    Remember when John Elway refused to play for the Baltimore Colts in 1983? Well, Frank Kush might have been a reason why.

    Kush was the head coach of the Colts, who had just finished an 0-8-1, strike-shortened 1982 season.

    That certainly didn't appeal to the Elway family. The next two seasons helped endorse Elway's controversial U-turn from the Colts.

    Kush went 7-9 and 4-11 before being let go.

23. Joe Bugel: Phoenix Cardinals, Oakland Raiders

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    Joe Bugel will always be remembered fondly for developing the "hogs" with the Washington Redskins. That was when he was an offensive line coach.

    As the man in charge, Bugel struggled mightily. He couldn't win with the then-Phoenix Cardinals or the Oakland Raiders. Bugel had some talented players on several Cardinals rosters but failed to take advantage.

    He held back players like Chris Chandler and Eric Swann too long. He also failed to win with the likes of Tim McDonald and Aeneas Williams.

    He never went past 7-9 with the Cardinals. His last head coaching stop came with the Raiders in 1997. It was a 4-12 disaster, and Bugel returned to working strictly with offensive lines until retiring in 2010.

22. Rich Brooks: St. Louis Rams

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    Rich Brooks was the first coach the Rams had when they moved to St. Louis. That proved to be something of a climax for the franchise in its new city.

    Brooks led the Rams to 7-9 and 6-10 finishes in 1995 and 1996, respectively. The abiding image from his time in charge is of San Francisco 49ers defensive linemen Tim Harris and Dana Stubblefield mocking the new fans during a 44-10 rout.

    That defeat forever turned the tide against Brooks. He had started 4-0 but never recovered. Brooks was fired at the end of the 1996 season, making way for Dick Vermeil, who eventually won a Super Bowl in St. Louis.

    Brooks served as defensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons in 1998. His opportunistic unit helped take the Falcons to their only Super Bowl appearance.

21. Darryl Rogers: Detroit Lions

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    Darryl Rogers never got it right with the Detroit Lions in the mid to late '80s. He was in charge for nearly four full seasons and couldn't produce a winning record.

    His first year was in 1985, and the Lions' 7-9 finish was his best record. That gives some idea about how bad Rogers' Lions were.

    Following seasons with 5-11 and 4-11 finishes left Rogers in a precarious position heading into 1988.

    He was fired after 11 games with his team at 2-9.

20. Richie Petitbon: Washington Redskins

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    As a Redskins fan, it is a painful duty to put Richie Petitbon on this list. He was a brilliant defensive coach who consistently patched together effective units during the glory years under Joe Gibbs.

    That appeared to make him the perfect choice to succeed Gibbs in 1993. Sadly, Petitbon sank under the extra responsibility.

    The Redskins went from a team that had been to the playoffs three straight years and won a Super Bowl in 1991 to finishing 4-12. They crashed to the bottom of the NFC East and endured some heavy beatings along the way.

    They were defeated 41-7 at home by the New York Giants and hammered by the Phoenix Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys. Petitbon simply failed to regenerate an aging squad.

    He left wreckage for Norv Turner to try (and ultimately fail) to salvage.

    Hopefully most Redskins fans remember Petitbon for his stellar work as an assistant.

19. Bruce Coslet: New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Bruce Coslet never had a winning record in seven full seasons as a head coach. He took charge of both the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals but couldn't get past 8-8.

    He also made his share of high-profile draft mistakes. Most notably, he was part of the team that drafted running back Blair Thomas ahead of Emmitt Smith in 1990.

    Coslet did manage to back the Jets into the playoffs in 1991 at 8-8. His career in the Big Apple came to an end after 1993 following another 8-8 finish.

    Coslet stepped in as interim head coach for the Cincinnati Bengals for the final nine games of the 1996 season. He guided them to a 7-2 mark, the only winning record of his career.

    Coslet couldn't build on the initial success, going 7-9, 3-13 and 4-12. He was fired after beginning the 2000 season with three losses.

18. Walt Kiesling: Pittsburgh Pirates/Steelers

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    It may be hard to believe, but there was a time when the Pittsburgh Steelers were as bad as it gets in the NFL.

    It's a fair bet to assume Walt Kiesling was coaching them when they were.

    He coached Pittsburgh's first NFL franchise, the Pirates, to a 1-6-1 mark in 1939. When they became the Steelers, Kiesling coached the team sporadically for another eight years.

    In that span, he went 29-49-4.

17. Raheem Morris: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Raheem Morris was out of his depth when he took over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2009. He was a 32-year-old making the leap from secondary coach to the top job.

    His first team went 3-13. A 10-6 mark in 2010 briefly made Morris a respected prospect in coaching circles.

    However, things went badly wrong the next season: The Buccaneers crashed to a 4-12 record. The manner of their surrenders towards the end of the campaign reflected badly on Morris and his influence over the team.

16. Marion Campbell: Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Marion Campbell was a head coach in nine seasons from 1974 to 1989, and each season yielded a losing record. That streak of inept performance took two stops with the Atlanta Falcons and three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

    His first stint with the Falcons began in 1974 and ended after the 1976 season. In that time, Campbell was 6-19.

    Seven years later, the Philadelphia Eagles gave Campbell a second chance to master being a head coach in the NFL. The dubious reward for their risk was a 17-29-1 record in three seasons.

    Then, somehow, the Falcons were still willing to let Campbell lead the team.

    He took over in 1987 and was let go 12 games into the 1989 season. His second stop in Atlanta had produced 11 wins and 32 defeats.

    If nothing else, Campbell was consistent.

    Of course, it wasn't the kind of consistency that anybody would admire.

15. Dennis Erickson: Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers

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    In six seasons as head coach, Dennis Erickson's best achievement was posting three 8-8 seasons. That kind of resume lands him at No. 15 on this list.

    Erickson couldn't fashion a winner out of the Seattle Seahawks despite a plethora of talent—he had players like defensive tackles Cortez Kennedy and Sam Adams and wide receiver Joey Galloway.

    His only losing season with Seattle came in 1996, but Erickson should have gotten the team into the playoffs at least once. He was fired to make way for Mike Holmgren at the conclusion of the 1998 season.

    Erickson surprisingly resurfaced in 2003 as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. He promptly went 7-9 before tumbling to 2-14 in 2004.

    That was enough to leave the 49ers in turmoil and end Erickson's opportunities as a head coach in the NFL.

    Erickson always had the credentials thanks to his success at the collegiate level.

    However, he also always had the habit of looking confused on the sidelines. Perhaps that was his biggest problem.

14. Jim Zorn: Washington Redskins

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    Few Redskins fans found it easy to live down the embarrassment of Jim Zorn's time in Washington. The former quarterbacks coach started his career 6-2 in 2008, including a memorable win over the Cowboys in Dallas.

    A tame finish saw the Redskins end the season 8-8.

    It was in Zorn's second season that the problems really intensified.

    He fell out with players and suffered the humiliation of being stripped of his duties as offensive play-caller. The combination of Zorn and then-general manager Vinny Cerrato will always be something Redskins fans want to forget.

13. Chris Palmer: Cleveland Browns

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    Chris Palmer was chosen to lead the expansion Cleveland Browns in 1999. He managed just five wins in two seasons.

    Palmer went 2-14 and 3-13 before being cut loose. Even by expansion team standards, his Browns were awful.

    He couldn't get them even close to competitive. His first draft choice, quarterback Tim Couch, symbolizes those sorry two years in Browns history.

12. Dave Campo: Dallas Cowboys

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    Dave Campo was a good defensive coordinator for the Cowboys. His defenses blitzed, played at speed and relied on man coverage. They were daring and exciting.

    Neither of those words could be applied to the Cowboys once Campo was coaching the whole team.

    In three years in Dallas, Campo was 5-11 every season. During his time, the Cowboys roster also crumbled.

    It was almost devoid of talent, particularly on offense, when Bill Parcells took over in 2003.

11. Ray Handley: New York Giants

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    Replacing a two-time Super Bowl winner with Ray Handley wasn't going to work.

    The New York Giants learned that the hard way.

    The team that won it all in 1990 slumped to 8-8 and 6-10 records the next two years. Handley alienated quarterback Phil Simms and upset a veteran defense by appointing Rod Rust as defensive coordinator and changing schemes.

    In fairness, the Giants were an aging team when Handley took over. However, there was still plenty of talent, and Handley ultimately wasted it.

10. Josh McDaniels: Denver Broncos

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    Josh McDaniels epitomizes what is wrong with many young head coaching candidates. Loud, obnoxious and conceited, McDaniels couldn't relate to his players when he took over the Denver Broncos.

    His uncompromising, boorish style led to high-profile spats with Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall. McDaniels promptly engineered their departures from Denver.

    That came after his team collapsed following a 6-0 start in 2009. The Broncos ended that year 8-8, and the die was cast for McDaniels.

    He went 3-9 before being fired the following season and was swiftly replaced by John Fox.

    With youngsters like McDaniels circling the coaching ranks, it's little wonder many teams opt for experienced hands when hiring.

9. Steve Spurrier: Washington Redskins

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    Another embarrassing mishap from owner Dan Snyder landed the Redskins with Steve Spurrier. The "fun and gun" offense he brought with him from the college ranks was destroyed by a Philadelphia Eagles blitz, and Spurrier was doomed to failure.

    He went 7-9 and 5-11 in two seasons in D.C.

    Sanity eventually prevailed, and Snyder relieved Spurrier of his duties. But Spurrier had already inflicted Patrick Ramsey, Tim Hasselbeck, Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel on long-suffering Redskins fans.

8. Les Steckel, Minnesota Vikings; Cam Cameron, Miami Dolphins

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    It was impossible to separate these two on the list, so they both earn a spot. Les Steckel and Cam Cameron both lasted only one season as NFL head coaches.

    Yet both those seasons remain etched in the memory for how bad they were.

    Steckel went 3-13 in 1984 with the Minnesota Vikings. His team was routinely battered by the opposition. Steckel's ill-fated Ironman competitions injured members of his roster and did nothing to help a team that lost six games by 20 or more points.

    Attempting to match Steckel's bunch for inept performances would be no easy task.

    In 2007, Cameron's Miami Dolphins nearly managed it.

    They went 1-15 and gave up 30 or more points eight times, including three games in which they surrendered 40 or more.

    Cameron's tenure was doomed the second he agree to trade Wes Welker to a division rival. He also played three different quarterbacks, with Cleo Lemon getting the most starts.

    Had either Cameron or Steckel subjected the league to another season leading his team, each would be ranked even higher.

7. Bill Peterson: Houston Oilers

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    Despite a fine reputation in college football, Bill Peterson was a disaster in the NFL.

    His quirky dialogue and demanding techniques were wasted on the Houston Oilers in 1972-73. As a result, the man who did so much to improve college coaching ended up with a 1-18 pro record.

    At the collegiate level, Peterson is revered.

    In the pros, he is an embarrassing footnote that precedes the Oilers' heyday in the mid to late '70s.

6. Marty Mornhinweg: Detroit Lions

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    Marty Mornhinweg rode into Detroit on a Harley in 2001. He left after five wins and 27 losses during two seasons in charge of the Lions.

    Mornhinweg symbolized the futility that engulfed the Lions at the start of the new millennium. His hiring was the first of many poor decisions from out-of-his-depth general manger Matt Millen.

    Mornhinweg famously declined possession in sudden-death overtime against the Chicago Bears. That was just one of many fatal missteps.

5. Lane Kiffin: Oakland Raiders

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    The Lane Kiffin era was a particularly low point for the Raiders in Oakland.

    Kiffin brought his brash personality to the NFL following brief success in the college ranks. Kiffin never strayed too far from controversy and, in fact, seemed to openly court it.

    His first season was a 4-12 disaster, and he soon found himself on the wrong side of Raiders ownership.

    This led to an ugly, public feud with the late Al Davis, who would fire Kiffin after four games in the 2008 season. The Raiders were 1-3 at the time.

    Since he left the NFL, scandal has trailed Kiffin around collegiate football. The deflated ball episode at USC is just the latest.

4. Bobby Petrino: Atlanta Falcons

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    Bobby Petrino will always be known for changing his mind and skipping out on the Atlanta Falcons when things got tough.

    He arrived in Atlanta at the same time that Michael Vick was facing criminal action for his involvement in a dog-fighting ring. Despite accepting a hefty contract to take the job, Petrino clearly didn't fancy sticking around without his franchise quarterback available.

    He quit after only 13 games. The Falcons were 3-10 at the time, and the manner of Petrino's sudden and abrupt exit still rankles.

    Just ask Mike Zimmer.

3. Dave Shula: Cincinnati Bengals

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    In a tragic case of name reputation obscuring the facts, the Cincinnati Bengals hired Don Shula's son in 1992. It was a move both the Bengals and Dave Shula would regret for a long time to come.

    The younger Shula's time in Cincinnati represents perhaps the worst period in Bengals history—it is usually Shula's teams one thinks of when referring to "The Bungles."

    So obviously out of his depth it was painful, Shula was never taken seriously, not least by his own players. Remember Gary Reasons' patronizing cap tug?

    The list of Bengals draft failures at this time could almost rival Shula's losses.

    Well, maybe not.

    However, no team is going to win after it's used first-round picks on David Klingler, Ki-Jana Carter and Dan Wilkinson.

    Shula's record was 19-52 from 1992 to 1996. He was finally put out of his misery seven games into the 1996 campaign, with the Bengals predictably languishing at 1-6.

2. Rich Kotite: Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets

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    It's easy to remember just how bad Rich Kotite was with the New York Jets. Yet his earlier tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles wasn't anything to be proud of either.

    How do you go to a team featuring defensive players like Clyde Simmons, Reggie White, Eric Allen and Seth Joyner and only make the playoffs once? It gets worse when you consider Kotite also had Randall Cunningham and Keith Byars to work with on offense.

    That Kotite was able to acquire 36 wins over four seasons is just a testament to the Eagles' talent at the time.

    Those 36 wins must have somehow convinced the Jets Kotite could help them.

    Just how is anybody's guess.

    He took over Gang Green in 1995 and managed to go from 6-10 to 3-13. Undeterred, the Jets helped him out by spending big in free agency in 1996.

    The arrival of players like Neil O'Donnell and Jeff Graham and draftee Keyshawn Johnson helped Kotite.

    It helped him so much his 1996 squad went 1-15.

    His two-year, four-win stretch in the Big Apple will forever stand as one of the ultimate symbols of coaching inadequacy.

    Kotite narrowly missed boasting the finest achievement to come from his head coaching days—topping this list.

1. Rod Marinelli: Detroit Lions

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    Want the defining image of a head coach who doesn't know what he's doing? Just look at any photo of Rod Marinelli from the 2008 season.

    The Detroit Lions were already bad when Marinelli took charge in 2006. However, the three seasons the former defensive line coach was in charge will always represent the franchise's lowest point.

    It's easy to forget, but Marinelli did have some talent to work with: Shaun Rogers was capable of dominance at defensive tackle, Jon Kitna was a serviceable quarterback and Kevin Jones was a former 1,000-yard rusher.

    That's enough to at least win a game.

    In fairness, Marinelli actually won 10. The only problem was those 10 victories were spread over three seasons.

    Just for a moment in 2007, it actually looked like Marinelli might have known what he was doing. The Lions were 6-2 at the midway point before reality struck back with a vengeance.

    They finished 7-9, and that set the stage for the most pitiful season performance in modern NFL history.

    In the era of free agency and the salary cap, it should be impossible to go winless.

    Marinelli at least has that distinction on his head coaching resume. The Lions were 0-16 in 2008, and that was enough to rid the head coaching ranks of Marinelli.

    He's gone, but no Lions fan will ever forget his negligible impact on the team and the city.