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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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).