Being a head coach in the NFL is tough. For every Bill Belichick and Vince Lombardi there is at least five to ten coaches barely anyone remembers at all. Then, there are the infamous. They are infamous for all the wrong reasons. They never won a Super Bowl. Not even a playoff game. Some never even coached a winning season. They come from all sorts of coaching backgrounds. Some couldn’t translate the success they had in college to the NFL, while others couldn’t run a whole team how they ran a certain facet of the game.
In the Super Bowl era of the game, several coaches have made names for themselves for all the wrong reasons. Of them, there are a choice few that were exceptionally bad at their job. Some of them helped set their respective franchises back a few seasons. When it comes to the worst of the worst, these ten coaches could not achieve any sort of success on the NFL stage.
10: Steve Spurrier
Dan Snyder likes sexy moves. Big splash signings are his thing. Albert Haynesworth started retirement a few years early thanks to the lofty contract Snyder plopped in front of his face. During Snyder’s early ownership days he made one of the biggest moves around by snagging Steve Spurrier. The idea of taking one of college football’s best coaches to the NFL seems like a great idea. Then, you remember stints for coaches like Lou Holtz and Nick Saban.
In two years, Spurrier and his visor went 12-20 with futile QBs Danny Wuerffel and Shane Matthews. His college system and players didn’t translate to the NFL and he was back in college ball soon after.
9: Marty Mornhinweg
When you win the coin toss in overtime you take the ball. Always. That is, unless you are Marty Mornhinweg. Then, you hand the ball off because you want the wind! That pretty much sums up the Mornhinweg era in Detroit.
Mornhinweg was another product of Matt Millen’s horrendous reign as General Manager of the Lions. Like most of the wide receivers picked during this era, Mornhinweg was also out of Detroit within two years. He ended up in Philadelphia having mostly positive results as the offensive coordinator before moving onto the Jets.
8: David Shula
David Shula was going to have it tough no matter what. Being one of the youngest head coaches ever wasn’t even the start of it. When your father is the legendary head coach Don Shula, you are going to have massive shoes to fill. Where his father created a legacy as a winning football mastermind, David Shula cemented a legacy of being the coach for most of “The Bungles” era in Cincy’s history.
In four and a half years with the Bengals, Shula went 19-53. In that time, the only record he broke was the record for losing fifty games faster than anyone else. Since leaving football, Shula has found success expanding the Shula family restaurant business.
7: Jim Zorn
When Jim Zorn came from Seattle as the quarterbacks coach he had a lot cut out for him. First, he had to replace the legend Joe Gibbs, who was retiring again. Then, Zorn had to deal with Dan Snyder. None of that seemed to be a problem in the beginning. Washington jumped out to a 6-2 record to start his tenure.
Things would not stay positive, as Zorn would fall to 8-8 that season and 4-12 the next. What lands Zorn on the list is his inability to do what he used to excel at. The offense never seemed to stay consistent under his west coast offense. Midway through his second season, he was relieved of play calling duties. He was a lame duck the rest of the way, before being let go one day after the last game of his second season. Zorn’s firing ushered in the Mike Shanahan era in Washington.
6: Chris Palmer
Expansion franchises aren’t supposed to be good. But they aren’t supposed to be as bad as the Browns were under Chris Palmer starting in 1999. Over two seasons, the Browns went 5-27 while facing stiff competition from division rivals Baltimore, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
Much like Zorn, he couldn’t get the offense to click eventhough that was his specialty. Things were not improved by bad draft choices like Tim Couch, who failed to get the chains moving. Unfortunately for Browns fans, the futility has continued well past the Chris Palmer era.
5: Les Steckel
When military man Les Steckel was hired to replace the legendary Bud Grant, no one could have expected things to get this bad this fast. Steckel relied heavily on his military background. While servicemen and women deserve respect, it doesn’t mean you deserve respect as a coach. Soon, this act got tiring for everyone, as Steckel liked to constantly remind anyone within earshot that he’s a disciplined military man.
In his one season at Minnesota, he went 3-13 with an average of 40 points allowed to his opponents during the final six games of the season. When all was said and done, Viking’s ownership admitted that Steckel may not have been ready for such a position.
4: Cam Cameron
Another offensive mastermind couldn’t translate the success when running the whole show. Cam Cameron came to South Beach with a reputation of a coach in demand. After one season at the helm he was considered one of the worst head coaching options in recent memory.
Still unable to replace Dan Marino, the Dolphins were a team circling the drain on a consistent basis. It took until week 14 for the Dolphins to earn their first win under Cameron. That would be his only win in Miami. Cameron was fired the next offseason under Bill Parcells’ regime change, which brought in Tony Sparano.
3: Bobby Petrino
Bobby Petrino is the worst. Maybe not literally, but nearly. In Petrino’s one season coaching in Atlanta he went 3-10. That’s a record that could get a coach fired. Except, that’s not why Petrino left. Just hours after assuring owner Arthur Blank that he was sticking around, Petrino bolted back to the college ranks, becoming Arkansas’ head coach.
Making the issue worse, Petrino didn’t even have the decency to face his players and employers like an adult. Instead, he left a handwritten note for them to read after he’d already signed on to be the newest Razorback. It’s no surprise he was dragged through the mud by every Falcon staff member that could get near a reporter.
After what he did in Atlanta, not many people had sympathy for the debacle he created for himself when leaving Arkansas. The positive for the Falcons came when they hired Mike Smith to replace Petrino.
2: Rich Kotite
“Hey, 8-8 is great!” That sums up Rich Kotite. When looking up what embodies an inept head coach, Kotite is the number one source. A 41-57 record shouldn’t land a coach on the worst list. It’s how he compiled this record that gets him there. In Philadelphia, it still remains a mystery as to how Kotite could lead the team to only one playoff appearance when their team was led by Reggie White and Randall Cunningham. That 8-8 quote was his response to one of the seasons Philly missed the playoffs.
Once he joined the Jets, things got even uglier. In two years, Kotite earned four wins for Gang Green. He had developed such a bad reputation that he never coached again after being dismissed by New York.
1: Rod Marinelli
It’s pretty simple: if you coach an 0-16 season, you end up on the list. The defensive specialist wasn’t good in his other seasons as head coach, either. Going 10-38 overall, Marinelli could never get things off the ground. He may not have had the greatest squad, but he did have talent. He especially had enough talent to avoid a winless season.
When not losing altogether, Marinelli was masterminding ways to give up promising records. In 2007, he took a promising 6-2 record to a 7-9 record. The team wouldn’t win again until he was out of town in 2009. The fact that Marinellii replaced Marty Mornhinweg goes to show how bad Matt Millen was at his job.