They say that those who can’t play should coach. Of course, that doesn’t mean that everyone who can’t play is fit to coach. Coaching in the NFL is particularly difficult, even for former players and successful assistants. Over the years, there have been plenty of coaches who crashed and burned when given the chance to be an NFL head coach. While it’s great to celebrate success, we also need to recognize failure. That’s why we decided to come up with a list of the biggest coaching flops in NFL history.
Holtz is one of many examples of a coach who had success in college that didn’t translate to the NFL. He spent the 1976 season coaching the New York Jets, only to resign with one game left in the season after going 3-10.
Keep in mind that one of the games the Jets won that season came against the winless Buccaneers. On the bright side, Holtz realized that he was better suited for the college game, quitting and returning to college where he had success at Arkansas, Notre Dame, and South Carolina.
Kiffin’s tenure in the NFL was like a three-ring circus. To be fair, the rest of his coaching career has been similar. But his unceremonious exit from the Raiders helps to make his NFL tenure a huge flop. Things got very ugly and very public between Kiffin and Al Davis with the coach filing a grievance saying that he was fired without cause.
An arbiter ultimately ruled that Davis did have cause to fire Kiffin, who finished his NFL career 5-15. In his defense, Kiffin was against the Raiders drafting JaMarcus Russell, who became an even bigger flop than Kiffin.
Not long after signing a 10-year extension with Louisville, Petrino left the Cardinals to become coach of the Atlanta Falcons. However, life in the NFL wasn’t for Petrino, who went 3-10 with the Falcons before resigning to take the job at Arkansas. Of course, Petrino’s exit at Arkansas was even more embarrassing than his time in the NFL.
He eventually made his way back to Louisville, only to be fired with two games left in a 2-10 season. If he had just honored that contract with Louisville and not gone to the NFL, things could have been a lot different for Petrino.
For what it’s worth, Jackson was 8-8 with the Raiders in 2011 and was perhaps unfairly fired when a new GM was hired. However, there are no excuses for the unmitigated disaster that was Jackson’s tenure in Cleveland.
The Browns went 1-15 in Jackson’s first season and then winless in his second season. Somehow, the team welcomed him back for a third season in which Jackson went 2-5-1 before being fired.
Peterson was a college coach who spent 11 years at Florida State before the Seminoles were a national power and then one subpar season at Rice before being hired by the Houston Oilers in 1972.
But Peterson wasn’t up for the challenge of the NFL, guiding the Oilers on a 1-13 season. After starting the 1973 season 0-5, Peterson was fired, finishing his coaching career for good with a 1-18 record in the NFL.