Throughout the history of the NFL, there have been many great leaders; unfortunately, for every one great leader, there have been 10 horrid head coaching choices.
So who are the worst coaches in NFL history? Our list includes coaches who were so bad that their loss column was tripled or quadrupled compared to their win column.
From David Shula and Bert Bell to Rich Kotite and Rod Marinelli, it’s easy to see why these coaches have been named the worst in NFL history.
Some coaches are bad because they don’t have the talent they need to convert big plays. Other NFL coaches are bad at their jobs because they simply don’t understand what it takes to win games. With a mix of offensive and defensive styles in the league, it takes a smart man to run an NFL franchise.
Take a look at the 10 worst NFL coaches in history and see if you agree with our assessment (in no particular order):
When you’re the son of Don Shula, people expect great things from your career. David was hired as the Bengals head coach at the very young age of 33.
After four and a half years, it became immediately clear that Shula wasn’t cut out for his role. The coach was cut after a 19-52 record.
So what did Shula do after his head coach position with the Bengals? He became an executive with a steakhouse.
Finding a photo of Dave Shula was almost impossible; it’s as if the NFL tried to wipe his memory from the face of the earth.
Talk about not learning anything from Bill Belichick before taking over a team of your own. After working under the New England Patriots coach, Crennel took over in Cleveland.
From 2005 through 2008, Romeo Crennel racked up a 24-40 record.
If he would have ended his head coaching career after 2008, he might have missed this list. Instead, three years later, the Kansas City Chiefs gave Crennel another chance, which led to a 4-15 record.
Crennel did leave us with some of the best head scratching quotes in NFL history. After one loss, he told reporters:
“I thought that we would be better, and we’re not. So we have to try and figure out what that is. From what I’ve seen, if we do what we’re supposed to do, then we would be better.”
With coaching insights like that, we aren’t sure why Crennel failed in the NFL.
How do you rack up a 10-46-2 record in the NFL? You work for five-plus seasons with both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bell has the worst winning percentage of any NFL coach in history for all coaches with at least 50 games under their belt. The former NFL head coach was batting a.179.
While he was an awful head coach, he did go on to become NFL commissioner and was eventually placed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Perhaps the moniker “those who can’t do teach” loosely applies to Bert Bell.
We had to reach pretty far back into the NFL vaulted for Phil Handler. From 1943 through 1951, Handler coached 39 games and posted a 4-34 record.
Somehow Handler was allowed to keep coaching after opening his career with a 0-23 record.
If we look at his overall win to loss ratio, he actually improved to 4-11 at the end of his head coaching career.
Had he played in at least 50 games, he could have Bell off the all time win-loss ratio for coaches with over 50 games.
From 2001 through 2002, Marty Mornhinweg lead the Detroit Lions; although, with a 5-27 record, “leading” doesn’t seem like the right word.
In one of the most boneheaded NFL moves of all-time, Morhniweg was taking on the Bears in Week 12 of 2002 when he won the overtime coin flip rather than taking the ball and hoping for a game winning touchdown or field goal he gave the ball to Chicago.
The Bears moved the ball down the field and kicked a game-winning field goal.
During his three year run with the Detroit Lions, Marinelli led the team towards a miserable 10-38 record.
Despite horrid play, Rod Marinelli may have been the most glass half full coach in NFL history.
Here is one amazingly positive quote from the former head coach during his failed years with the Lions:
“You’re in this dark tunnel and you’ve got no way out, you’re waiting for light, and you see that light, what do you do? What do you do? You start digging and getting out. … It’s dark and I’m going to dig through. My shovel is sharp and my pick is sharp and my will is outstanding.”
We’re surprised he didn’t become a motivational speaker after he left the Detroit Lions.
Cam has the dubious distinction of being the only NFL head coach on our list to have horrid records in both college and professional ball.
While coaching with the Indiana Hoosiers, Cameron racked up an 18-37 record from 1997 through 2001. In 2007, Cameron took over as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins and the team went 1-15.
The Baltimore Ravens eventually gave Cameron an assistant coach position, and last year they won a Super Bowl Championship. The championship was won only after the Ravens released Cameron from the team.
Even if you are only an assistant coach, it doesn’t bode well for your head coaching skills in the NFL when you leave and the team you were “helping” instantly wins a Super Bowl ring.
Petrino couldn’t do anything to help Atlanta, and he realized that his coaching wasn’t up to par after he took the team to a 3-10 record.
So what does a horrible coach do when they have failed their organization? In Petrino’s case, he quit by leaving a note in each of his players lockers.
When ditching your employees with a note is NOT the worst part of your career, you know you’re not cut out to coach in the NFL.
Abe Gibron coached the Chicago Bears from 1972 through 1974 and the team had a record of 11-30-1.
If Gibron managed that record in 2013, his career would have come to an end. Instead, Gibron would go on to coach for 24 seasons in the National Football League.
While he wasn’t a head coach for all of those seasons, his bad coaching appeared to follow him from team to team. Over 24 seasons, Gibron’s teams racked up a total combined one playoff game.
You might not be familiar with the Dayton Triangles, but, from 1993 to 1934, they were coached by Fay Abbot.
Abbot has the distinction of losing the most games in a row to start a head coaching position in the NFL.
Faye scored a 0-13 record to start off with the team and managed just 16 points overall. The Triangles were shutout 11 times in 13 games.
Perhaps Abbott’s problem was his lack of focus on defense… and offense.
That’s our list of the the Top 10 worst NFL coaches of all-time based on their loss records and their inability to coach.
Feel free to add more horrible NFL head coaches in our comments section at the bottom of this page.