One and done: NFL head coaches who only lasted a season or less at the helm

One and done: NFL head coaches who only lasted a season or less at the helm

Nathaniel Hackett couldn't make it through a full season with the Denver Broncos

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Not surprisingly, the Denver Broncos fired head coach Nathaniel Hackett after the team was embarrassed — AGAIN — in primetime. The Los Angeles Rams beat them 51-14, and Russell Wilson was once again dog shit.

The loss dropped the Broncos to 4-11. Since the team is married to Russell Wilson for the foreseeable future, Hackett — with his poor decision-making, and awful clock management, amongst other things — took the fall and got his pink slip.

With Hackett gone, there have now been 18 coaches that were with an organization for a year or less. Four of them — after the 1970 merger — didn’t even make it through the whole season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Here they are since 1994 (excluding Bill Belichick, HC of the NYJ):

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Nathaniel Hackett, Denver Broncos (2022)

Nathaniel Hackett, Denver Broncos (2022)

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What a disastrous tenure. He browned his shorts in his debut, and subsequently earned a spot on our Idiot of the Month and Idiot of the Year rankings.

I’m sure he made his dad really proud.

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Urban Meyer, Jacksonville Jaguars (2021)

Urban Meyer, Jacksonville Jaguars (2021)

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Urban Meyer’s tenure in Jacksonville was an unmitigated disaster. Hired straight from the collegiate ranks, Meyer couldn’t get his shit together in the pros. The Jags went 2-11 during his 13-game tenure, and had the first pick of this year’s draft. His replacement, Doug Pederson, is 7-8 through Week 16, and has QB Trevor Lawrence (3,749 yards, 24 TDs) looking worthy of being drafted No. 1 overall last year.

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Steve Wilks, Cardinals (2018)

Steve Wilks, Cardinals (2018)

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Steve Wilks is currently the interim head coach in Carolina, taking over for the failure that was Matt Rhule. It’s good to see him get a second chance, despite going 3-13 in Arizona — though the poor record makes sense, as Josh Rosen was QB for 14 of those games.

Through Week 16 of the 2022 season, the Panthers are 6-9 and in second place in the abysmal NFC South behind Tampa Bay (7-9).

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Chip Kelly, 49ers (2016)

Chip Kelly, 49ers (2016)

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Chip Kelly became San Francisco’s third HC in three seasons after the team axed Jim Tomsula (more on him next slide). Kelly had previously served as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, though he was fired before the last regular season game of 2015.

After a 2-14 campaign with the Niners — not winning game No. 2 until Christmas Eve — Kelly and GM Trent Baalke were given their pink slips. “Big Balls Chip” went on to serve as a college football analyst before being hired by UCLA.

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Jim Tomsula, 49ers (2015)

Jim Tomsula, 49ers (2015)

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Talk about tough footsteps to follow. Jim Tomsula was tasked with replacing another Jim —Harbaugh — who went 44-19-1, made the NFC Championship game in each of his first three seasons, and appeared in Super Bowl XLVII against his brother, John. A power struggle between Harbaugh and GM Trent Baalke led to the coach’s departure and promotion of Tomsula, the team’s defensive line coach since 2007.

Tomsula had an interesting background, having coached at the high school, college, and pro ranks — including stints with NFL Europe squads the England Monarchs, Scottish Claymores, Berlin Thunder, and Rhein Fire. But as San Fran’s HC, the mustachioed Tomsula went an underwhelming 5-11 before getting axed.

When speaking to reporters about the decision, 49ers CEO Jed York actually went pretty easy on him.

“We took a chance on someone we believed strongly in … And ultimately that didn’t work out.”

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Rob Chudzinski, Cleveland Browns (2013)

Rob Chudzinski, Cleveland Browns (2013)

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In January 2013, Bleacher Report wrote that the Browns made the right decision by hiring Chudzinski, who previously served as the team’s tight ends coach (2004) and offensive coordinator (2007-08).

That piece aged like milk as Chudzinski went 4-12 and was fired at the end of the season.

“Less than a year after touting Chudzinski as one of the brightest young coaches in the NFL and a guy CEO Joe Banner said he had his eye on for a long time, the Browns let him go after one season as coach,” ESPN’s Pat McManamon wrote.

At the time, Chris Mortensen reported that the organization still owed Chud $10.5 million — chump change compared to what’s owed to more recently fired coaches, including Matt Rhule.

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Mike Mularkey, Jacksonville Jaguars (2012)

Mike Mularkey, Jacksonville Jaguars (2012)

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Once upon a time, the Jacksonville Jaguars weren’t the laughingstock of the league. In 1996 — the franchise’s second year of existence — the Jags went 9-7 and won two playoff games. After that, head coach Tom Coughlin put together back-to-back 11-5 campaigns, and lead Jacksonville to a 14-2 record in 1999. Under Jack Del Rio, the Jags won 12 games in 2005, and 11 in 2007, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card Round.

They say the third time’s a charm. Well, Mike Mularkey, Jacksonville’s third-ever HC, was fired after going 2-14, which at the time was the worst record in the franchise’s history.

He’s only been outdone by Doug Marrone, who bottomed out in 2020 — the Jags went 1-15 — three years after leading Jacksonville and Blake Bortles to the AFC Championship game.

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Hue Jackson, Raiders (2011)

Hue Jackson, Raiders (2011)

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The Raiders started the season 7-4, but collapsed to an 8-8 finish, ending Hue Jackson’s time at the helm. However, that 8-8 record was the best Jackson ever did as HC — he presided over Cleveland’s 1-15 and 0-16 campaigns in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

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Jim Mora, Seattle Seahawks (2009)

Jim Mora, Seattle Seahawks (2009)

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Nepo baby Jim Mora replaced Mike Holmgren as Seattle’s coach in 2009. Upon his hiring, Mora “envisioned regaining control of the NFC West from the Arizona Cardinals, winning a Super Bowl and hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in a celebratory parade that begins at the Space Needle and ends at Qwest Field.

None of that happened, of course. Instead, the Seahawks went 5-11, missed the playoffs — or PLAYOFFS?! as Mora’s dad would have said — and instead won a Super Bowl under his replacement — some guy named Pete Carroll.

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Bobby Petrino, Atlanta Falcons (2007)

Bobby Petrino, Atlanta Falcons (2007)

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Louisville hired Bobby Petrino as its head coach in 2003, and he strung together four straight winning seasons, highlighted by double-digit wins in 2004 and 2006, and an Orange Bowl appearance.

For his success, Petrino was rewarded with a 10-year deal in 2006 — only to leave for the NFL a few months later. He landed with the Atlanta Falcons, who had just gone 7-9, but were led by dynamic QB Michael Vick. Except that once Petrino was aboard in ‘07, Vick was suspended. And with the team having already shipped backup Matt Schaub to the Texans, the new coach was left with Joey Harrington, Byron Leftwich, and Chris Redman as his signal-callers.

The Falcons were 3-10, and after promising to remain in Atlanta, Petrino instead bolted for Arkansas, returning to the college ranks.

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Cam Cameron, Miami Dolphins (2007)

Cam Cameron, Miami Dolphins (2007)

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Cam Cameron was the offensive coordinator for the Chargers during the early 2000s, including LaDanian Tomlinson’s 2006 MVP campaign, which led to him being interviewed for several head coaching vacancies. The Dolphins hired Cameron in the wake of Nick Saban’s departure — and got a franchise-worst 1-15 record to show for it. The team lost 13 straight games and also fired GM Randy Mueller. Cameron was replaced by Tony Soprano, er, Tony Sparano, who led the team to an 11-5 record and AFC East crown.

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Art Shell, Raiders (2006) — second tenure

Art Shell, Raiders (2006) — second tenure

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Art Shell is a college and pro football Hall of Famer. He spent his entire 15-year playing career with the Raiders, winning two Super Bowls. As a coach, Shell wasn’t too shabby, either. He was the 1990 AFC Coach of the Year, winning 12 games and leading the then-L.A. Raiders to the conference championship game. He was fired in 1994 after a 9-7 season, in a move that former team owner Al Davis dubbed “a mistake.” 

Fast forward to 2006 and Shell was once again helming the Silver and Black attack — this time in Oakland. Things weren’t so great the second time around as the Raiders went 2-14 — the franchise’s worst record since 1962. The season was marred by drama between Shell and Jerry Porter, Shell and Randy Moss, and Shell’s hiring of Tom Walsh — who had been out of the NFL since 1995 and was running a bed-and-breakfast in Idaho — as OC.

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Marty Schottenheimer, Washington Redskins (2001)

Marty Schottenheimer, Washington Redskins (2001)

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What a weird time for Washington around the turn of the century. With three games remaining in the 2000 season, the team replaced head coach Norv Turner with interim HC Terry Robiskie.

Robiskie joined the Browns’ staff the following year, and Washington brought in Marty Schottenheimer, who previously coached the aforementioned Browns (1984-88) and Kansas City Chiefs (1989-98).

The team started 0-5, won its next five games, and finished 8-8. Despite the strong showing to close out the year, owner Dan Snyder fired Schottenheimer for Steve Spurrier, who resigned during the 2003 season.

(Also, a few of the previous names on this list are part of Schottenheimer’s coaching tree — Art Shell, Cam Cameron, Hue Jackson, and Rob Chudzinski.)

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Al Groh, New York Jets (2000)

Al Groh, New York Jets (2000)

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Bill Parcells’ successor, Al Groh led the Jets to a 9-7 record, which is a lot better than recent Gang Green teams have fared. Despite being at the helm during the Monday Night Miracle, New York failed to win the final three games of the 2000 season — while only needing to secure a single victory — to make the playoffs. Groh resigned to take the job as his alma mater, the University of Virginia.

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Ray Rhodes, Green Bay Packers (1999)

Ray Rhodes, Green Bay Packers (1999)

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Ray Rhodes was a successful assistant coach after his playing days, winning five Super Bowl rings on the San Francisco 49ers’ staff. In 1995, he was hired by the Philadelphia Eagles — becoming the fourth African-American head coach in league history — and won Coach of the Year honors. However, he was fired after a horrible 1998 campaign and succeeded Mike Holmgren in Green Bay.

Under Rhodes, the Packers went 8-8, recording their lone non-winning season between 1992 and 2004.

Fun fact: In 1979, Rhodes, a WR and CB, was traded to the 49ers for Tony Dungy.

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Joe Bugel, Raiders (1997)

Joe Bugel, Raiders (1997)

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Bugel, known as the architect of the “Hogs,” won two Super Bowl rings as an assistant in Washington in the 1980s. As a head coach, he compiled a 20-44 record with the then-Phoenix Cardinals (1990-93), and a 4-12 record with the Raiders — the team’s worst record in 35 years. Bugel was the assistant head coach and was promoted after some of the players lobbied for him. Once at the helm, some of them — most notably Tim Brown — turned on him.

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Pete Carroll, New York Jets (1994)

Pete Carroll, New York Jets (1994)

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The 1994 New York Jets season ended in typical Jets fashion. After starting 6-5, Gang Green lost its remaining games, including a Week 12 clash with the Dolphins — the famous Dan Marino “fake spike” game — to finish 6-10. Carroll was the last Patriots HC before Bill Bellichick and found success with USC and the Seattle Seahawks. Carroll’s Jets replacement? Rich Kotite.

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