NFL Power Rankings: The 20 Worst Coaches in NFL History

Trae ThompsonSenior Analyst IMarch 14, 2011

NFL Power Rankings: The 20 Worst Coaches in NFL History

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    DALLAS - SEPTEMBER 15:  Dave Campo head coach of the Dallas Cowboys walks off the field after the win over the Tennessee Titans on September 15, 2002 at Texas Stadium in Dallas, Texas.   The Cowboys defeat the Titans 21-13.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Gett
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    I've got the Kevlar on and I'm ready for the shrapnel to fly.

    I don't think you can argue with this bunch, though. They're simply awful.

    When you look back over the course of NFL history, there have been some dreadful coaches.

    Unfortunately, many have come from the college ranks, believing they had the magic and the ability to succeed at the next level. We all know, of course, that only one has really done that.

    On this list, you'll also find countless examples that prove some coaches are meant to be just coordinators. That's fine. Just wish they would've owned up to it sooner.

    This ought to be fun. Here are the 20 worst coaches in NFL history.

20. Brad Childress

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    MINNEAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 21:  Head coach Brad Childress of the Minnesota Vikings on the sidelines against the Green Bay Packers at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on November 21, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Childress had everything he needed there in Minnesota.

    Incredible quarterback? Check. Superstar running back? Check. Tough defense? Got that too.

    All he could get out of that was a 39-35 record, including one playoff victory. 

    Add to it his charming personality, and the fact that eventually most of the Minnesota Vikings hated him, and you've got to throw him on here.

19. Scott Linehan

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    ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 28: Head coach Scott Linehan of the St. Louis Rams watches his team play the Buffalo Bills at the Edward Jones Dome on September 28, 2008 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Bills beat the Rams 31-14.(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Image
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Had to throw him in here somehow.

    This hire didn't make sense to me when it happened. It had massive fail written all over it, and I was right: Linehan was 11-25 (.306) in his brief stint with the St. Louis Rams.

    He was fired just four weeks into the 2008 season.

18. Dom Capers

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    SAN FRANCISCO - JANUARY 1: Head coach Dom Capers of the Houston Texans looks on during the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Monster Park January 1, 2005 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Dom is absolutely perfect as the Packers defensive coordinator. It's a tailor-made fit for him.

    Head coaching, however? Not so much.

    From 1995-2005, Capers was 48-80 (.375) with the Panthers and the Houston Texans. I always got the feeling his teams weren't headed anywhere, and that they would always struggle.

17. Marvin Lewis

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    BALTIMORE, MD - JANUARY 2:  Head coach Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals coaches against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on January 2, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Bengals 13-6. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
    Larry French/Getty Images

    I can't believe what I'm about to say. I may need to go to the doctor's later today: Terrell Owens may be right. The coaching may be the problem.

    Lewis is 60-67-1 with the Bengals and has guided them to the playoffs twice, losing both games.

    I've watched and listened to him plenty over the years. Also saw him on HBO's Hard Knocks. Didn't inspire me quite as much as others have.

16. Dennis Erickson

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    SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 28:  Head Coach Dennis Erickson of the San Francisco 49ers looks on from the sideline during his team's NFL game against the Miami Dolphins at Monster Stadium on November 28, 2004 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Donal
    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Dennis is a much better fit for college, that's for certain.

    The pros? He went 40-56 with the Seahawks and 49ers. In six seasons, he had three years where he went 8-8, and his final year with the 49ers produced a 2-14 record in 2004.

15. Eric Mangini

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    BEREA, OH - AUGUST 04:  Head coach Eric Mangini of the Cleveland Browns looks on during training camp at the Cleveland Browns Training and Administrative Complex on August 4, 2010 in Berea, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Ah yes, time to examine the Bill Belichick coaching tree. First up is Mangini.

    Here's something I've noticed: When you go through all the former Belichick disciples who got head coaching gigs, most had this incredible hubris that they knew far more about the game than anyone around them, and how dare they be questioned.

    Mangini was 33-47 (.413) in stints with the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns. It was amusing to see him beat Belichick and the Patriots, but his teams never went on to do much of anything.

14. Romeo Crennel

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    PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 28:  Head coach Romeo Crennel of the Cleveland Browns watches the action from the sidelines during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 28, 2008 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by: Gregory Shamus/Ge
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Sure, Romeo deserved a shot, but I didn't like his chances.

    Another Belichick disciple, Crennel went 24-40 (.375) as coach of the Browns from 2005 to 2008. He's now with the Kansas City Chiefs, where he's the defensive coordinator.

    Again, a perfect spot for him. I think he'll do just fine there in Kansas City.

13. Lou Holtz

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10:  ESPN reporter Lou Holtz looks on during the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game between the Oregon Ducks and the Auburn Tigers at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Kevin C. C
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Lou seems like a decent man.

    He drives me up the wall as a college football analyst. I think it's a much better fit, though, than his one-year attempt as an NFL head coach.

    Back in 1976, he coached the New York Jets, but that was it for Lou after he went 3-10.

12. Mike Nolan

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    OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 08:  Head coach Mike Nolan of the San Francisco 49ers scowls on the sidelines during a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders on August 8, 2008, at the McAfee Coliseum in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Greg Trott/Getty Images)
    Greg Trott/Getty Images

    Another in the long line of numerous coordinators who were never, ever, meant to be head coaches.

    Nolan coached the 49ers from 2005 to 2008, but that only amounted to a combined record of 18-37 (.327), and a once-proud franchise is still floundering near the bottom of the NFC.

    Something tells me better days are ahead, though, 49ers fans. Jim Harbaugh knows his football.

11. Steve Spurrier

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    Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier on the sidelines at Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida, August 8, 2002.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    The Old Ball Coach got humbled in the NFL.

    I respect Spurrier for wanting to take a shot at it, but I didn't think it would go well for him, either.

    Spurrier didn't last long with the Washington Redskins, going 12-20 (.375) in 2002 and 2003.

    I am glad he returned to the college game. It's a perfect fit for him.

10. Howard Schnellenberger

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    NEW ORLEANS - DECEMBER 21:  Head coach Howard Schnellenberger of the Florida Atlantic University Owls calls a play against the Memphis University Tigers  in the New Orleans Bowl on December 21, 2007 at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    It just makes me laugh seeing Howard's picture.

    Growing up, I remember how many people were shocked there in Norman when he became Oklahoma's head football coach.

    I remember going with my cousin to a practice one Saturday. I'll always remember how Howard loved smoking his pipe and loved to cuss. I'd never heard anyone string together cuss words the way he did.


    Howard had a brief stint as the head coach of the Baltimore Colts. He was 4-13 and only lasted three games into the 1974 season.

9. Bud Wilkinson

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    I know I'm bordering on blasphemy here by calling out a legend from my hometown, but facts are facts: Wilkinson was just a bad pro coach.

    From 1978-1979, Wilkinson coached the St. Louis Cardinals and went 9-20 (.310).

    Wilkinson's hiring had been considered shocking.

    He had retired from coaching back in 1963, lost in an attempt to run for U.S. Senate and then became a college football analyst for ABC Sports, where he called such legendary games as the 1971 Game of the Century between Oklahoma and Nebraska. 

8. David Shula

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    Gary Mook/Getty Images

    First off: Why would you want to get into being an NFL head coach when your father is a legend?

    David was only 33 when he became the Cincinnati Bengals coach back in 1992. In 71 games, he went 19-52 (.268), his best season coming in 1995 when the team went 7-9.

    Shula lasted almost halfway into the 1996 season and was 1-6 when that experiment finally came to an end.

7. Joe Bugel

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    9 Sep 1990: Phoenix Cardinals head coach Joe Bugel confers with his team during a game against the Washington Redskins at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. The Redskins won the game, 31-0.
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Many coaches have their shot at trying to turn around one of the league's biggest embarrassments.

    In the early '90s, Bugel got his shot, but he finished his career 24-56 (.300), which included four years with the Arizona Cardinals and one season with the Raiders, where he went 4-12 in 1997.

6. Rich Kotite

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    8 Oct 1995:  Head coach Rich Kotite of the New York Jets on the sideline during the Jets 29-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Rich Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.  Manadtory Credit:  Rick Stewart/Allsport
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    His name alone probably makes Eagles and Jets fans want to scream like Sam Kinison.

    Kotite was 40-56 (.417) in six seasons as a head coach, but the bottom fell out in New York, where he was 3-13 in 1995 and 1-15 in 1996.

    In 1995, the Jets were dead last in scoring at just under 15 points per game, and their only win in 1996 came in Week 9 against the Cardinals (31-21).

5. Dave Campo

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    ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 11:  Head coach Dave Campo of the Dallas Cowboys during the game against the Atanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia on November 11, 2001. The Falcons won 20-13.   (Photo by Scott Halleran /Getty Images
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    If you're a Cowboys fan, you knew this was just another one of Jerry Jones' puppets.

    My first thought with Campo was simply, "You've got to be kidding me."

    Campo was 15-33 (.313) in his three seasons as the Cowboys head coach. At that point, the franchise had literally bottomed out.

4. Chris Palmer

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    26 Aug 2000:  A close up shot of Head Coach Chris Palmer of the Cleveland Browns looking on during the Pre-Season game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Browns 34-33.Mandatory Credit: Jonathan
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The Browns were starting over.

    Art Modell had taken the original Browns to Baltimore, and the team didn't exist from 1996 to 1998.

    They returned in 1999 and drafted Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch with the No.1 overall pick that year. We all know how that turned out.

    Palmer was the man tabbed to resurrect the once-proud franchise, but he lasted only two seasons, going 5-27 (.156) in 1999 and 2000.

3. Rod Marinelli

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    DETROIT - DECEMBER 07:  Head coach Rod Marinelli of the Detroit Lions speaks during a press conference following the NFL game against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field on December 7, 2008 in Detroit, Michigan. The Vikings defeated the Lions 20-16. (Phot
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    I'm making the change because of the utterly hilarious, and quite frankly impressive, Marinelli write-in campaign that's gone on below. It's almost as if you're defending the man's honor.

    Marinelli was 10-38 in three years as the Detroit Lions head coach, including that 2008 campaign, which saw the Lions go 0-16.

    Celebrate Lions fans. You got your wish. I think you're starting to see there have been some atrocious coaches throughout the history of the NFL. I don't think this was a bad list. Like I told some others, you could reshuffle it with 20 other names and it would work just as well too. 

2. Josh McDaniels

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29:  Head coach of the Denver Broncos Josh McDaniels speaks to the media during a press conference prior to the start of a team training session at The Brit Oval on October 29, 2010 in London, England. The Denver Broncos will pla
    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    Without a doubt the worst coach from the Belichick coaching tree, McDaniels deserves his fair share of criticism.

    It's not just his 11-17 record in two seasons with the Broncos that put him at No.2 on this list, it's his decisions on players he cut, the cheating scandal and the overall fact his teams didn't even compete that make him deserving of this spot.

    McDaniels is now in St. Louis, where he'll be working with quarterback Sam Bradford. 

1. Marty Mornhinweg

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    DETROIT- NOVEMBER 28:  Marty Mornhinweg of the Detroit Lions looks towards an official during the NFL game against the New England Patriots at Ford Field on November 28, 2002 in Detroit, Michigan.  The Patriots won the game, 20-12.  (Photo by Tom Pidgeon/
    Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images

    Marty, you're perfect right where you're at now in Philly. You're a great offensive coordinator.

    Do not, I repeat do not, get that urge to coach again. Please.

    For those who forgot, Mornhinweg spent two years as coach of the Detroit Lions back in 2001 and 2002. His overall record? That would be 5-27 (.156).