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The 10 worst NFL coaches of all time

In every area of sport, the role of the coach is undeniable. They are not only the leaders of the team, but also the ones who have a great influence on the development and success of the players. However, not all coaches create successes, and in the NFL (National Football League), there are some celebrities with the title of “worst NFL coaches”. Let learn about them through the article below!

Top 10 worst NFL coaches of all time

1. Dave Campo

It was the year 2000, and the glory days of the 1990s Dallas Cowboys dynasty were long gone. Head coach Chan Gailey was fired to promote defensive coordinator Dave Campo to this position. The result was dismal. In just three seasons, Campo’s Cowboys posted a horrendous record of 15-33.

Dave Campo - Worst NFL coaches
Dave Campo – Worst NFL coaches

Campo’s first two seasons were marred by the loss of highly touted free agent receiver Joey Galloway to injury, followed by the retirement of Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman (after season one), leading to a disappointing 5-11 record in the second season. In Campo’s season opener (2002), the Cowboys lost to the Houston Texans in their inaugural game as an expansion team, continuing Campo’s third consecutive 5-11 season. Things went downhill from there as Campo never received another head coaching contract in the NFL, although he did return to the Cowboys from 2008-2011 as their defensive backs coach.

2. Chip Kelly

NFL owners often seek college masterminds to oversee the head coaching duties for their teams. Such was the case when the Philadelphia Eagles hired former Oregon Ducks head coach Chip Kelly to a similar position in 2013. Kelly was renowned for his innovative offensive schemes, utilizing a fast-paced, no-huddle approach. Many doubted Chip Kelly’s success in the NFL, and ultimately, they were proven right.

The coach worked three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles before moving on to become the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers for just one year in 2016. In Kelly’s first two years with the Eagles, the team posted identical 10-6 records. In his third and final year with the team in 2015, the Eagles decided to fire Chip Kelly after leading them to a 6-9 record.

Chip Kelly - Worst coach in nfl history
Chip Kelly – Worst coach in nfl history

Kelly was given significant control over the roster in his third year, including trading All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills and Pro Bowl quarterback Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams in exchange for quarterback Sam Bradford. In his final season in 2016 as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, the team started with a resounding 28-0 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. However, they went on to lose 13 consecutive games and finished the season with a 2-14 record.

3. Marc Trestman

In January 2013, the Chicago Bears were looking to replace former head coach Lovie Smith, who led the team for nine seasons from 2004-2012, including a Super Bowl appearance. They thought they found the answer with the hiring of Marc Trestman on January 16, 2013. Trestman had decades of NFL coaching experience as an offensive line coach and offensive coordinator, fitting the bill for a team lacking offensive flair.

Marc Trestman - Worst NFL coaches of all time
Marc Trestman – Worst NFL coaches of all time

In Trestman’s first season as the head coach of the Bears, the team threw for 4,281 yards (fifth in the NFL), a stark contrast to the Bears’ days of tough defense under Lovie Smith. However, Chicago failed to make the playoffs directly, finishing the season with an 8-8 record. Trestman’s undoing would be his second year in 2014 when the team plummeted to a 5-11 record. The failed experiment was acknowledged, and Trestman was relieved of his duties at the end of the season along with general manager Phil Emery.

4. Josh McDaniels

Current head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, Josh McDaniels, is in his second year at the helm of the silver and black. However, he also had a stint as the head coach of the Denver Broncos briefly in 2009 and 2010. Starting off successfully as the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, including the record-breaking offensive explosion in 2007, McDaniels was hired to replicate the success he had in Foxboro. Unfortunately, his tenure in the Mile High City never panned out.

Josh McDaniels - Worst NFL head coaches
Josh McDaniels – Worst NFL head coaches

In Josh McDaniels’ opening season with Denver in 2009, the Broncos started with a 6-0 record, including an overtime win against his former employers, the Patriots. However, the team veered off course thereafter and finished that season with an 8-8 record, failing to make the playoffs. On December 5 of his second season, Josh McDaniels was fired by the Denver Broncos after a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, raising the Broncos’ record to 3-9.

5. Nathaniel Hackett

The Denver Broncos hired Nathaniel Hackett on January 27, 2022, to become their latest head coach. Although Hackett had no prior head coaching experience, he had just completed a successful tenure as the offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers from 2019-2021. During that time, quarterback Aaron Rodgers won two MVP awards (2020 and 2021). The Broncos are hopeful that Hackett can replicate similar magic with another veteran quarterback, former Seattle Seahawk Russell Wilson, who signed with the team in March of the same year.

Nathaniel Hackett - Worst NFL coach
Nathaniel Hackett – Worst NFL coach

However, Hackett’s one-year tenure with the team was marred by questionable decision-making regarding game management. Critics began questioning Hackett’s job as early as the first week after he made some dubious decisions in a 17-16 loss to Wilson’s former team, the Seahawks.

With Wilson, a solid defense, as well as playmakers Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, KJ Hamler, and running back Javonte Williams, Hackett and the Broncos were expected to be dark horse contenders for an AFC Championship game appearance in 2022. That never materialized as the Broncos committed one of the worst offenses in recent memory and fired Hackett after a Christmas Day loss to the Los Angeles Rams with a record of 4-11.

6. Chris Palmer

In the mid-1990s, Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell decided to relocate his storied franchise to Baltimore to establish a new team with a new stadium. That new team, comprised of former Cleveland Browns players, became the Baltimore Ravens. In 1999, the city of Cleveland was rewarded for their patience as the Cleveland Browns were resurrected and returned to the city.

Chris Palmer - Worst head coaches in NFL history
Chris Palmer – Worst head coaches in NFL history

Tasked with leading the resurrected Cleveland Browns was Chris Palmer. As an expansion team, Palmer’s first task was to find a franchise quarterback. The Browns drafted Tim Couch, the highly touted college standout from the University of Kentucky, with the first overall pick in the 1999 draft.

Despite possessing one of the most promising offensive talents college football had seen in a while, Palmer, Couch, and the Browns never quite clicked. Coach Palmer struggled to field a competitive team week in and week out, managing a surprisingly dismal 5–27 record over his two-year tenure with the team. He was replaced by Butch Davis in 2002 after ushering in a new era for the Cleveland Browns in the worst way possible.

7. Bobby Ross

Unlike many coaches on this list, Bobby Ross had extensive head coaching experience dating back to the early 1970s as the head coach at The Citadel. In 1997, Ross was hired to take over the Detroit Lions. The team boasted two offensive stars in wide receiver Herman Moore and Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders. It was hoped that Ross could extract more success from Sanders and the Lions than predecessor Wayne Fontes. From 1997-1999, the Lions posted records of 9-7, 5-11, and 8-8, respectively.

Bobby Ross - Worst NFL coaches ever
Bobby Ross – Worst NFL coaches ever

The following year (2000), Bobby Ross resigned after Week 10 with a 5-4 record. While not the worst records, Bobby Ross would forever be associated with star running back Barry Sanders retiring prematurely in 1998. At the time, he was just shy of the all-time rushing record by 1,457 yards. Many critics and coaches attribute Bobby Ross’s authoritarian coaching style and strict regime as reasons for Sanders losing his love for the game. Fair or foul, Bobby Ross makes this list for possibly overseeing the greatest running back of all time during his prime years with the Detroit Lions.

8. Rod Marinelli

Unlike most coaches on this list, Rod Marinelli, coach of the Detroit Lions from 2006-2008, had a background in defensive football. He was hired in January 2006 to resurrect a franchise that had been in the doldrums since Barry Sanders retired several years earlier. Marinelli’s first season was a tough one, with the team finishing last with a record of 3-13. In Marinelli’s second season in 2007, there seemed to be improvement as the team finished 7-9, third in the NFC North.

Rod Marinelli - Worst NFL coaches
Rod Marinelli – Worst NFL coaches

Marinelli’s final season in 2008 got off to a promising start with an undefeated preseason. In a twist of fate, the team failed to win a single game in the official season with a record of 0-16. The 2008 Detroit Lions stood out as the first team to go winless in a 16-game season since 1978. Needless to say, Marinelli was handed his walking papers on December 29, 2008.

9. Bobby Petrino

The year 2007 proved to be a disastrous one for the Atlanta Falcons and their owner, Arthur Blank. An investigation revealed that superstar quarterback Michael Vick had been involved in illegal dogfighting activities and was facing prison time, rendering him unable to play for Atlanta just two seasons into a $100 million, 10-year contract. Before this news came to light, the Falcons had signed Bobby Petrino to be their head coach for the next five years. Without Vick, Petrino faced an uphill battle.

Bobby Petrino - Worst NFL coaches
Bobby Petrino – Worst NFL coaches

The team floundered under Petrino’s leadership, and on December 10, 2007, the overly strong coach decided to abandon his contract with the Falcons to become the head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks. Worse yet, Petrino didn’t directly inform his players and instead left a note on their lockers to inform them of this decision. It’s safe to say that Bobby Petrino was and perhaps still is unwelcome in the city of Atlanta.

10. Urban Meyer

Urban Meyer, the former head coach of the University of Florida and Ohio State University. Meyer was hired by the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Shahid Khan, in January 2021 to oversee a commercial revitalization project. However, his tenure ended as poorly as it began.

Urban Meyer - Worst NFL coaches of all time
Urban Meyer – Worst NFL coaches of all time

During that season’s training camp, Meyer and the Jaguars were fined $100,000 for violating OTA rules. Following the Thursday night game, in which the Jaguars lost to the Cincinnati Bengals in Cincinnati, Meyer stayed behind. Subsequently, in photos and videos circulated, he was seen dancing inappropriately with a young woman who was not his wife at a bar/restaurant. Meyer was forced to apologize for his actions, which caused distraction, and did not return with the team after the loss.


In the world of American football, leading a team is not just about technique and tactics, but also about leadership and creating motivation for players. These worst NFL coaches have been a testament to the importance of selecting and developing team leaders. While they may have encountered setbacks, they also offer valuable lessons on what to avoid when running a professional rugby team.

See also: Top 10 youngest football coach in the world (2024)