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The 25 Worst Coaches in NFL History

Brian DiTullio

Sometimes, it is the coach's fault.

NFL coaches get a lot of the credit and take a lot of the blame for the team's fortunes. Sometimes that's unfair as a team may be so loaded with talent a drunken goat could lead the team to the playoffs. Conversely, a team may be so talent-deprived that Bill Parcells would be hard-pressed to get more than a few wins out of them.

But there are some coaches who are just plain bad. For whatever reason, they just weren't cut out for the job. A lot of these coaches were considered very smart coming up through the coaches' ranks, but when they were the ones in charge, nothing worked out.

Here are 25 head coaches who don't want to be remembered for their on-field accomplishments.

25. Joe Bugel

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Years Coaching: 5

Record: 24-56

What Happened: Joe Bugel never finished above .500 in any of his seasons. To be fair, four of those seasons were with the Cardinals from 1990-1993, but the team showed no improvement under his watch. One 4-12 year with the Raiders was enough for Al Davis, and Bugel hasn't been offered another opportunity.

24. Art Shell

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Years Coaching: 7

Record: 56-52

What Happened: Art Shell's career started off okay, but his Raiders were 2-3 in the playoffs overall, and he only had one dominant season where the team finished 12-4. Shell coached for six years before being fired by Al Davis after the 1994 season.

He returned for the 2006 season, but the Raiders were a mess, finishing 2-14.

23. Dennis Erickson

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Years Coaching: 6

Record: 40-56

What Happened: In Dennis Erickson's four years in the 1990s with the Seattle Seahawks, he always had a team that hovered around .500 and missed the playoffs. The teams never were horrible, but they never did anything to get to the next level. They were just average.

In 2003, he was hired as coach of the San Francisco 49ers, and what followed was two years of terrible play, including a 2-14 record in 2004; soon Erickson was back coaching in the college ranks.

22. Mike Tice

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Years Coaching: 4.1

Record: 32-33

What Happened: Besides charges of scalping his Super Bowl tickets? Not much. Mike Tice's teams were all .500 teams, squeaking into the playoffs one year but losing in the divisional round.

Tice's teams never impressed anyone, and the team just never showed any signs it was going to get better.

21. Dave Campo

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Years Coaching: 3

Record: 15-33

What Happened: Three years with Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys, and it was three straight years of 5-11. His teams never looked like "the Cowboys," and Jones finally had enough and replaced him after the 2002 season.

20. Marion Campbell

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Years Coaching: 9

Record: 34-80

What Happened: Marion Campbell currently has the third-lowest winning percentage of coaches in NFL history who coached at least three years. He coached two stints with the Atlanta Falcons, three in the late 1970s and three in the late 1980s, with a three-year stretch between that in Philadelphia.

His teams never even sniffed .500, and they certainly never saw the postseason.

19. Jim Zorn

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Years Coaching: 2

Record: 12-20

What Happened: In two seasons with the Redskins, Jim Zorn never made the playoffs, and was relieved of his play-calling duties partway through the 2009 season. Since Zorn had been a quarterback during his playing years and started off his coaching career as a quarterbacks coach, this was seen as a good indicator Zorn soon would be fired.

Zorn was fired at the end of the 2009 season after finishing 4-12.

18. Dave McGinnis

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Years Coaching: 3.5

Record: 17-40

What Happened: Three years of not finishing above .500 is what happened to Dave McGinnis. Whether it was owner Bill Bidwell, or McGinnis' own failures, the string of failed Cardinal coaches continues on this list.

17. Steve Spurrier

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Years Coaching: 2

Record: 12-20

What Happened: Another appearance from Dan Snyder's ranks: Steve Spurrier spent two years spinning his wheels in the pros before realizing he was a college head coach, and went back to where he belonged.

16. Mike Singletary

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Years Coaching: 2.5

Record: 17-20

What Happened: Although Mike Singletary showed promise in his interim year and first full year of coaching, the San Francisco 49ers in 2010 have regressed, the team doesn't adjust and Singletary is looking more like someone who should pursue motivational speaking than a career coaching in the NFL.

15. Mike Riley

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Years Coaching: 3

Record: 14-34

What Happened: Three years with the San Diego Chargers from 2001 to 2003 resulted in a team that never could put it all together and usually was outcoached when it mattered.

14. Lindy Infante

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Years Coaching: 6

Record: 36-60

What Happened: Lindy Infante was one of the best offensive coordinators in the history of league, but his was a case of being promoted above his talent level. In six years coaching the Green Bay Packers and the Indianapolis Colts, he only had two years with an above-.500 record.

He had one playoff appearance, in 1996, and lost that game.

13. Romeo Crennel

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Years Coaching: 4

Record: 24-40

What Happened: Romeo Crennel's Cleveland Browns wandered the field with no discipline or direction. His one winning season, 2007, now looks more like a fluke of scheduling and good luck more than talent on the field, or coaching on the sidelines.

Crennel's teams had trouble scoring points, and made the poor fans of Cleveland wonder why the Bill Belichick coaching tree wasn't producing any fruit.

12. Lou Holtz

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Years Coaching: .9

Record: 3-10

What Happened: Best known for his success at Notre Dame, Lou Holtz was named coach of the New York Jets in 1976. Holtz, already having success in the college ranks, thought he could translate some of that college atmosphere to the pros.

He was wrong, and quit with one game left in the season.

11. Nick Saban

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Years Coaching: 2

Record: 15-17

What Happened: Nick Saban led the Miami Dolphins to 9-7 his first year, but by the end of his second year, he already was looking to go back and coach in college. Despite repeated denials he had interest in coaching Alabama, and a horrible offense bringing the team down, Saban took the Alabama job a few days after the 2006 season ended.

10. Dom Capers

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Years Coaching: 8

Record: 48-80

What Happened: Dom Capers, besides not winning a lot, was known to have such predictable offenses that the announcers would call the plays from the booth, and knowledgeable fans would call the plays from their couch.

Capers had one winning season with the Carolina Panthers, 12-4 in 1996, and he never finished better than 7-9 in any other season.

9. David Shula

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Years Coaching: 4.5

What Happened: Son of legendary coach Don Shula, David Shula did not inherit any of his father's coaching acumen, and after five years with the Cincinnati Bengals, he was fired.

Shula now operates a chain of "Shula's" restaurants.

8. Josh McDaniels

Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Years Coaching: 1.75

Record: 11-17

What Happened: Besides the losing? Josh McDaniels came into Denver and promptly alienated the starting quarterback, Jay Cutler, and shipped him off to Chicago for Kyle Orton. After starting the 2009 season 6-0, there hasn't been much winning.

Then McDaniels continued to make personnel blunders, shipping off Brandon Marshall and Peyton Hillis, and not receiving much of anything in return. He also traded up in the draft for Tim Tebow in a move that still defies explanation, and tried to cover up Spygate II.

McDaniels succeeded in dismantling the Denver Broncos in less than two years in a scenario of a young coach given too much, too soon.

7. Rod Marinelli

A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Years Coaching: 3

Record: 10-38

What Happened: While Rod Marinelli was head coach of the Detroit Lions under Matt Millen's watch, it takes effort to go 0-16.

There's not much else left to say. A winless team may be talent-deprived, but at some point the coach should win a game by accident.

6. Lane Kiffin

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Years Coaching: 1.25

Record: 5-15

What Happened: That's still a matter of debate. While Lane Kiffin's first year as the youngest head coach in the "modern era" of pro football resulted in a 4-12 season, rumors already were swirling that Kiffin was interested in taking a head coaching job with a college team.

Kiffin denied those rumors, but Kiffin and Al Davis were rumored to be at odds during the offseason. Four weeks into the 2008 season, Davis fired Kiffin "for cause," denying him the rest of his contract, accusing him of being a liar and disgracing the organization.

What Davis exactly was referring to never has been determined, but Kiffin would go on to coach the Tennessee Volunteers in 2009 before moving on to coach USC in 2010, leaving Tennessee under equally dubious circumstances.

5. Cam Cameron

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Years Coaching: 1

Record: 1-15

What Happened: Cam Cameron didn't have a boatload of talent, but the Dolphins just looked awful week after week, and after Bill Parcells was brought in to turn the organization around, Cameron was shown the door.

4. Marty Mornhinweg

Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images

Years Coaching: 2

Record: 5-27

What Happened: Mary Mornhinweg was an early indicator of what things were going to be like in Detroit with Matt Millen in the front office, in that there was going to be a lot of losing.

But Mornhinweg always will be remembered for one disastrous decision that most likely will keep him from ever being a head coach again. Citing wind conditions, Mornhinweg decided to kick the ball away at the beginning of an overtime game versus the Chicago Bears.

Lions kicker Jason Hanson also had recorded a 62-yard kick while in college, making his decision look even dumber.

The Bears won on the opening drive, and a punchline was born.

3. Ray Handley

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Years Coaching: 2

Record: 14-18

What Happened: Ray Handley succeeded Bill Parcells as coach of the Giants and completely dismantled the team in two years.

He fought with and benched Phil Simms, fought with and angered the media and fans and was fired following the 1992 season. He never coached again at any level.

2. Bobby Petrino

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Years Coaching: .75

Record: 3-10

What Happened: Bobby Petrino came to the Atlanta Falcons the year Michael Vick went to jail and completely ruined the Falcons' season, but Petrino decided after Week 14 that this wasn't what he signed up for and quit.

Way to see things through, Bobby!

1. Rich Kotite

Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Years Coaching: 6

Record: 40-56

What Happened: Rich Kotite's career started off alright, with two winning seasons in charge of the Philadelphia Eagles. But in 1994, amid rumors owner Jeffrey Lurie was going to sell the team, Kotite publicly disclosed his intentions to explore all his options.

The Eagles collapsed down the stretch and Kotite was fired. He didn't remain unemployed long, though, and was immediately hired by the Jets.

With the Jets, Kotite not only compiled impressive 3-13 and 1-15 records, but he fielded some of the worst teams in the history of the franchise and the coaching was almost criminally incompetent.

Kotite resigned after the 1996 season and never coached again.


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