Coaching in the NFL isn’t easy. Plenty of amazing college coaches and NFL coordinators have tried their hand at the big gig and come up well short. Bad or good, there’s one thing about the job that is inescapable: the public ire. When you suck at coaching and the team is losing your own fan base hates you. When you’re good and you win all the time, like Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, the entire league can’t stand you. With hatred being so pervasive in the football, it takes a special kind of person to be loathed more than the rest. You’ll be surprised how many teams gave Rex Ryan a chance!
It’s fair to say, Bobby Petrino didn’t have it easy when he landed his job with the Atlanta Falcons. His franchise quarterback Mike Vick was sidelined due to a dogfighting scandal and the team got off to a brutal 3-10 start. That would make any new coach lose his nerve, but Bobby did things differently.
With three games left in the season, Petrino resigned by leaving a short, handwritten note attached to the lockers of all his players. In the fallout, Petrino was criticized and labeled a coward. Now, he’s coaching the Louisville Cardinals and has found the success he was clearly missing in the pros.
No one likes Nick Saban. He’s the Bill Belichick of college football — a hardliner who wins a lot. Under Saban, the Alabama Crimson Tide have won four National Titles and have an all-time record of 101-19. People forget that before he built this legacy in Alabama, Saban was a head coach for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, and a horrible one at that. Coming from a college system where the head coach’s word was the law, Saban struggled to adjust.
NFL players with inflated contracts routinely talked back to him, sometimes refusing to follow orders. Players used to call him Nick just to piss him off because they knew he preferred to be called “coach”, or “coach Saban.” By the end of his second season in Miami, Saban accepted a job with Alabama and resigned as head coach of the Dolphins.
Whether you like Marinelli as a person or not, you probably hate him as a coach because of the part he played in the Lions winless season. Marinelli was the head coach of the worst team in NFL history. The 2008 Lions finished 0-16, making them the only team to ever reach that historical mark.
Marinelli’s head coaching was nothing short of a disaster, but he found plenty of success coaching defense over the years. He won a Super Bowl as the defensive line coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that boasted one of the greatest defensive fronts in NFL history.
Lane Kiffin was hired by Al Davis in the heart of the Raiders losing years at the age of 31, which made him the youngest head coach in the modern football era at the time. For some reason, Davis was displeased with how Kiffin was running the team and apparently, tried to force him to resign. When Kiffin refused, Davis fired Kiffin and named Tom Cable the interim head coach… TOM CABLE!
Things didn’t improve after Kiffin returned to college football. In 2012, he led a USC team with National Title aspirations to a 7-6 record. Sports Illustrated named him one of the five worst coaches in college football for turning the USC Trojans into the “biggest underachievers in the country.”
Yes, Bill Belichick. The New England Patriots head coach is no doubt beloved by all who support the franchise, but to everyone else, he’s Darth Belichick, leader of the Evil Empire. It’s hard to deny his brilliance given the fact that he’s won five Super Bowls already, but he’s easy to hate.
Every great story needs a villain and with all the scandals the Patriots have dealt with over the years, and Belichick plays the part perfectly. Let’s not forget that hoodie. No one looks good in a hoodie vest.
The head coach of the New Orleans Saints has enjoyed a great head coaching career. He was instrumental in his teams 2009 Super Bowl victory. His surprise onside kick call to open up the second half shifted the momentum and helped the Saints defeat the favored Indianapolis Colts.
His involvement in the Bountygate scandal has become a major blemish on his legacy. In 2012, Payton was suspended for an entire season after it was proven that he was aware the bounty program implemented by defensive coaches, which incentivized players to intentionally injure opponents.
I could probably make a list dedicated exclusively to terrible Detroit Lions coaches and I still think I’d have to leave a few worthy candidates off the list. Jim Schwartz was no Rod Marinelli, but he had his fair share of lowlights. In addition to being brutal with the challenge flag, Schwartz also made an illegal challenge — for those who don’t know, throwing the challenge flag at the wrong time is an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty — that cost him a win against the Houston Texans back in 2012.
It’s also worth mentioning the brawl Schwartz started with then San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh shook his hand too hard after the game so Schwartz chased him down. It was quite the spectacle.
The fiery Jim Harbaugh is unabashedly critical of everyone and anyone. Calling him an oddball wouldn’t do him justice. He gives entertaining quotes, sometimes evenat the expense of his own players. The majority of head coaches are deadpan on the sidelines so as to not give anything away. Not Harbaugh.
The former 49ers head coach jumps around like a jackrabbit, throws at least one temper tantrum a game and barks constantly at the referees. Oh and let’s not forget the time he started a fight with Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. Wolverine fans seem to love him though, so there’s that.
Dennis Erickson’s first stint in the NFL didn’t go as planned. In three of his four seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, Erickson finished with the wildly mediocre 8-8 record. He was fired after failing to make the playoffs and returned to the college football ranks, before taking another job in the NFL, this time with San Francisco 49ers.
Things only got worse for Erickson. His 49ers never finished with a winning record and in 2004, after going 2-14, he was fired with three years remaining on his contract. You really have to hate someone a lot to be willing to pay them for three years not to coach your team.
When the Browns scooped up Butch Davis he was tabbed as the potential savior of a reeling franchise (how many times have we heard that), mostly due to the reputation he built during his time as coach at Miami University. His legacy of winning football games wasn’t enough to counteract the Browns losing attitude.
He made the playoffs once during his tenure, only to blow a 17-point second-half lead in his only postseason appearance. Two years later, Davis was canned after giving up 58 points to his team’s divisional rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals. Davis returned to college football and the Browns continued to suck.
When Norv Turner assumed control of the San Diego Chargers in 2007, they were the team to beat. The had a future star quarterback by the name of Philip Rivers who was just beginning to come into his own, and a Hall of Fame running back named LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield. Somehow, he still managed to screw it up. He won 11 games in his first season and lost in the AFC championship game.
His only other season with 10-plus wins in 2009 when the Chargers went 13-3 and were defeated in the first round of the playoffs. Tomlinson, whose prime had already been squandered, left in free agency and the Chargers proceeded to miss the playoffs for the following three seasons before Turner was finally let go.
Your franchise is never in good hands when Romeo Crennel is at the helm. Crennel got his first head coaching gig with the Cleveland Browns when he replaced Butch Davis. He coached four seasons in Cleveland a finished with a winning record just once. After the Browns organization finally gave him the boot, he eventually found himself in Kansas City where he was named interim head coach, replacing Todd Haley.
Before long, the franchise gave him the permanent spot, however, a 2-14 record led to his termination as well. All thing considered, Crennel isn’t a bad guy, nor is he a bad football coach. He just doesn’t know how to win games.
Steve Spurrier coached the Redskins through two of the team’s worst years. The franchise agreed to pay him an exorbitant sum to leave college football — $5 million over five years to be exact — which only amplified the fanbase’s hatred for him. Spurrier lasted two seasons, winning just 12 games in that span.
In 2003, Redskins owner Dan Snyder parted ways with his costly investment, sending Spurrier back to college football where he immediately took a head coaching job at South Carolina. The Redskins have continued spinning their wheels since Spurrier’s dismissal, and his Gamecocks haven’t faired much better.
The son of Buddy Ryan and the twin brother of the Rob Ryan, Rex’s coaching career has had several ups and downs. Fans tend to love the guy when the team is winning because of his brash, outspoken nature. When the team is losing, as all Ryan coached teams eventually start doing, fans become critics seemingly overnight.
It happened in New York when he coached the Jets and it happened again in Buffalo after Rex hired his brother Rob and turned a top-five defense into one of the worst units in the league. It’s worth mentioning Rex recently ‘retired’ from coaching and became an analyst.
David Shula fell off the face of the earth after he was fired by the Bengals in 1996. Most people who fail as head coaches either land a similar job at the collegiate level or are employed in the NFL as a coordinator or unit coach. Shula, on the other hand, walked away from football entirely to join the family steakhouse business.
I guess he really didn’t have much of a choice after he became the fastest coach to lose 50 games. His career record stands at 19-52.
Coincidentally, Rich Kotite disappeared from football the same year David Shula announced that he was hanging up his clipboard. In addition to Kotite’s inability to win football games, the head coach of the Jets and Eagles was awful when it came to drafting talent.
His biggest draft day blunder came in 1995 when selected a tight end named Kyle Brady on front of future Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, sending the franchise back more than a couple of years. Fans nicknamed him “Rich Kotex” a reference to the tampon brand. Essentially, Kotite was shamed until he walked away from the league, something you don’t see very often.
Unsurprisingly, Marty Mornhinweg’s head coaching career started and ended with the Detroit Lions — as most head coaching jobs usually do. As an offensive coordinator, Mornhinweg headed offenses that routinely finished in the top 10 of the league.
As a quarterback coach, he churned out five Pro Bowl quarterbacks, including Brett Favre, Steve Young, and Joe Flacco. As a head coach, well, he was awful. He won five games in two seasons and once elected to kickoff in overtime after winning the coin toss. It didn’t take long for Lions fans to turn on him, as most Detroit fanbases do.
Ron Rivera a.k.a “Riverboat Ron” was the defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears in 2005 when his unit carried them all the way to the Super Bowl. Rivera was hired by the Carolina Panthers in 2011 to be the head coach. His first couple of years didn’t go well, as he failed to make the playoffs.
After a poll indicated that 83% of fans wanted the Panthers to fire Rivera, he bounced back with three consecutive playoff berths, including a Super Bowl appearance in 2015. Amid his historic winning streak, Rivera still found a way to piss people off thanks to a video taken in the locker room after a win, where he was pictured “dabbing”. So while Panthers fans grew to love the guy, the rest of the NFL remained steadfast in their opinion of him.
Most coaches try to avoid butting heads with players, management, and the general coaching staff at large. Todd Haley welcomed the confrontation. His most memorable spat was with Kansas City Chiefs star running back Larry Johnson who questioned his coaching ability over Twitter.
You know things are bad when a war of words boils over the Twittersphere. Johnson was suspended for a game and then released. Haley was later fired after the team finished with a 5-8 record and missed the playoffs. Whether the world at large despises Haley is not known. There’s certainly no love lost between Haley and Johnson, though.
Before the Patriots became the dynasty they are today, they were a raging dumpster fire coached by Rod Rust. At the age of 61, he was tasked with the unenviable job of coaching up three garbage quarterbacks and a ragtag group of misfits who stirred up tons of trouble off the field.
In one season, Rust had to deal with a sexual harassment case against his players as well as a nightclub incident that saw one of his players hung up on a gun charge. Rust won just two games and was fired at the end of the season.
Josh McDaniels has made a nice career for himself as the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots. His brief stint as the head coach of the Denver Broncos (2009-2010), however, didn’t go as well. His first season saw the team lose their last three home games and miss the playoffs.
In the offseason, McDaniels drafted Tim Tebow, but would not get the chance to ride “Tebowmania.” After staring the season 3-9, Denver fired their young coach. In 2018, McDaniels further angered football fans when he agreed to be the Colts’ head coach, then backed out after his hiring was announced.
Marvin Lewis wasn’t always one of the most hated head coaches in the NFL. When he took the helm in Cincinnati he was beloved. He drafted Carson Palmer and turned the Bengals into a powerhouse. Then he smoothly transitioned from Carson Palmer to Andy Dalton.
In 16 seasons, Lewis made the playoffs seven times. He never won a single game, going 0-7. By the fifth loss fans were fed up, and after the seventh one, they had turned on him completely. It took management three more years (all losing seasons) to finally give up on him.
Jon Gruden is a one man show. During his original run in Oakland, his bold personality got him traded to Tampa Bay. With Tony Dungy’s roster he immediately won a Super Bowl. Every year after, as he brought in more of his preferred players, the record got worse.
After getting fired, he turned to broadcasting, eventually becoming the voice of Monday Night Football. These days he’s right back where he belongs; With the Raiders, hated by the fans just before the team abandons them forever for Las Vegas.
Hank Bullough is a hated victim of circumstance more than anything. He took over in Buffalo midseason in 1985 when Kay Stephenson was fired. In the offseason he was handed the job, but failed to hold on to it. In 1986, he went 2-7, and was fired midseason.
Bullough never beat a team with a winning record. The coach who replaced him had no problem beating good teams. His name was Marv Levy, and he started a dynasty in Buffalo that would go to the Super Bowl four times.
The first head coach in Baltimore Ravens history is one of the most hated. Ted Marchibroda took over a team in disarray in 1996. They had moved from Cleveland, firing up and coming coaching star Bill Belichik along the way.
He was tasked with stabilizing the organization, which he did. Unfortunately, that stabilization didn’t come with winning records. Since then the Ravens had only had two other head coaches; Brian Billick and John Harbaugh. Both have won Super Bowls.
Early in his career with the New York Jets Eric Mangini was seen as the next Bill Belichik. Coming from the coach’s tree, Mangini turned New York into a playoff contender right away. As quickly as he rose, though, he crashed.
The Jets fell apart around Mangini in later seasons and he was fired. That didn’t stop the Browns from taking a chance on him. After two seasons failing to post more than five wins, Cleveland admitted the mistake they made and fired the former ‘Man-Genius.”
It’s not easy being the first head coach in the history of a franchise. Dom Capers should have known better when he accepted the job as head coach of the expansion Houston Texans in 2002. His overall record with the team was a miserable 18-46.
Things never got off the ground for Capers. Houston drafted David Carr, who became the most sacked rookie quarterback in NFL history. His final season was 2005, when the team finished 2-14. The success of Gary Kubiak right after Dom Capers will make sure fans never forgive him.
Houston Texans fans barely survived the Dom Capers era. They never thought things would get more frustrating a decade later. To be fair, Bill O’Brien hasn’t been awful in Houston. In 2018 he even led them to a playoff birth with franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Still, in six seasons in Houston, O’Brien has only one playoff games. He has also only posted a record better than 9-7 once, and that was after starting the season 0-3. Signed with the team through 2022, Texans’ fans are going to need to have a lot of patience if O’Brien can’t find their favor soon.
Oddly enough, if there was a list of most beloved coaches in NFL history, Ditka would be on that one, too. His iconic run with the Chicago Bears is undeniable. Fans in the windy city love him. Fans in New Orleans feel a little differently, though.
Ditka was tasked with saving the moribund Saints’ franchise. He didn’t. Instead, he traded away every asset the team had to draft Reggie Bush. The move backfired. Bush couldn’t stay healthy and Ditka was replaced with Sean Payton. At least something good happened thanks because of Ditka!
Before Jim Harbaugh won over, then lost the San Francisco fan base, the team suffered through the Mike Singletary years. From 2008 to 2010, Singletary was put in charge of a team with incredible talent. He never took control.
Singletary was fired in 2010 with one game left in the season. He was replaced with interim head coach Jim Tomsula, who the team rallied around. In that game, they put up nearly 40 points against the then St. Louis Rams.
Jim Tomsula is one of the most beloved interim head coaches in 49ers’ history. After his win against the Rams, San Francisco hired Jim Harbaugh. When they fired him four years later, they gave Tomsula the job full-time. He went 5-11 and was fired after one season.
Even worse, he just wasn’t very interesting. His post game press conferences were never noteworthy. Except one where he may have passed gas while answering a question. And no, we’re not joking, the video went viral, making it the lowlight of his tenture.
Like Ditka, depending what city you live in, you either hate or love Tom Flores. With the Raiders he took Jim Plunkett, a mediocre quarterback, and won two Super Bowls. In Seattle, Flores was given three quarterbacks drafted in the first round and never posted more than six wins.
After Flores had his way with those quarterbacks, he was fired. Seattle moved eventually, eventually hiring Mike Holmgren and going to their first Super Bowl in franchise history. They would later win one with Pete Carroll.
What can we say about Mike Riley that hasn’t already been said. He lasted three years in San Diego, which three years longer than most analysts thought he would. After a disatrous rookie season, Riley was hired to bring out the best in Ryan Leaf.
Things started okay. The Chargers went 8-8 and there was hope. The next year the team went a league worst 1-15. If Riley had been fired at that moment, he wouldn’t be on this list. San Diego gave him one more season, though. After a 5-2 start, the team lost nine straight games and Riley was fired.
Dick LeBeau was hired by the Bengals in 2000 and Buce Coslet resigned. Known as a defensive guru, Lebeau’s defense never disappointed in three years. His offenses, however, were another story entirely. In his third year, Cincinnati finished 2-14 and LeBeau was fired.
He continued to coach on the defensive side of the ball, creating monsters for every team that hired him. Replacing him in Cincinnati was Marvin Lewis, We won’t repeat how that coaching tenure went. We will say it was better that LeBeau’s.
Gus Bradley had a rough life for four years in Jacksonville. Hired in 2013, he started the season 0-8. The team won four of their last games, though, turning the Jaguars into “bounce back” team heading into 2014. They did not bounce back.
With Bradly in charge they bounced straight into a wall and popped. The next two years, Jacksonville won a combined eight games. Fans were over him at this point. Management stood by him, and in 2016 he went 2-12 before finally being fired. The next year Jacksonville went 13-3 and made the AFC Championship game.
Who could forget Steve Spagnuolo. Nicknamed “Spags,” the hated head coach made a name for himself as a defensive coordinator. His reputation was unrivaled, so when the Rams had a coaching vacancy in 2007, the swooped him up. The three years that followed were not good.
In his first season in charge, St. Louis went 1-15. Being a rookie head coach he wasn’t fired. The next year he went 7-9, showing progress for the faith management was putting in him. The St. Louis fall back down to Earth. In 2011, they went 2-14. Spags was fired.
If you say the name Kevin Gilbride to a Chargers’ fan, they’ll shudder. In two partial seasons with the team he went 6-16. He was hired in 1997, when Bobby Ross abandoned the team to take over the Detroit Lions.
The five seasons before Gilbride was in charge, San Diego (now Los Angeles), made the playoffs three times. His first season, the team sputtered, going 4-12. That offseason, the Chargers drafted Ryan Leaf. The move proved to be Gilbride’s undoing. After starting the season 3-4, Gilbride was fired
No one knows how Hue Jackson lasted three partial seasons as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. He won three games, going a perfect 0-16 in his second season. Under pressure to turn the ship around in 2018, Cleveland drafted Baker Mayfield, who Hue made the backup to Tyrod Taylor.
After a miserable start to his third season, Jackson was given the book. Defensive coordinator Greg Williams took over, winning five of the team’s last eight games and nearly making the playoffs.
Cam Cameron was considered an offensive guru was he was hired by the Miami Dolphins in 2007. Given the job after Nick Saban abandoned the team for Alabama. Cameron worked quickly to make the team his own. He shook up the coaching staff and traded several notable players.
The results were a 1-15 season. It was the worst record in franchise history and one of the most embarrassing rookie coaching campaigns ever. Cameron was not given a sophomore year.
One of the most stubborn head coaches in Miami History, Adam Gase was given every chance to turn the Dolphins around. Trying to turn a team around with a quarterback who can’t stay off the injury report wasn’t easy, though.
For his part, Gase stood behind Ryan Tannehil through thick and thin. The noble move cost the coach his job at the end of the 2018 season. Gase didn’t stay out of work very long, however. The New York Jets were hungry to hire him after firing four year failure Todd Bowles.