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    Ranking the Worst Coaching Hires in NFL History

    Who were the worst head coaching hires in NFL history? Pro Football Network is counting down the top 10. Where do Nathaniel Hackett and Joe Judge rank?

    While every NFL team that hires a new head coach hopes they’ve selected the next Vince Lombardi or Bill Belichick, some head coaching tenures inevitably turn into disasters.

    Who are the worst NFL head coaching hires of all time? Pro Football Network is counting down the top 10 in league history.

    Top 10 Worst NFL Head Coaching Hires

    Honorable mention: Jeff Saturday, Indianapolis Colts (2022, interim); Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2012); Jim Zorn, Washington (2008); Lane Kiffin, Oakland Raiders (2007) Rod Marinelli, Detroit Lions (2006); Dave Campo, Dallas Cowboys (2000); Lou Holtz, New York Jets (1976)

    10) Adam Gase, New York Jets (2019)

    It’s still unclear what the New York Jets saw during Adam Gase’s run with the AFC East-rival Miami Dolphins that made them want to hire him as their head coach in 2019. Gase had gone 23-25 with the Dolphins, lost his only playoff matchup, and failed to develop quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

    After a bizarre introductory press conference, Gase posted more of the same in New York. Sam Darnold struggled under center while Gase’s relationships with veteran Jets like RB Le’Veon Bell and S Jamal Adams suffered.

    Gang Green went 7-9 in Gase’s debut campaign but bottomed out with a 2-14 mark in 2020. Gase was fired and hasn’t returned to the NFL in any capacity.

    9) Freddie Kitchens, Cleveland Browns (2019)

    Freddie Kitchens probably shouldn’t have been an NFL head coach. Being promoted from Cleveland Browns RB coach to interim head coach to full-time head coach in three months must have been a whirlwind, and the results during the 2019 campaign were about what you might have expected.

    Cleveland lost by 30 points to the Tennessee Titans in Week 1, perhaps a sign of things to come. Kitchens consistently appeared overwhelmed. In Week 3, he called a draw run play on 4th-and-9, the first such call at that down and distance since 2006. Browns players complained that the team’s medical staff didn’t properly treat their injuries.

    Fired after one 6-10 season at the helm, Kitchens worked for the New York Giants and the South Carolina Gamecocks before joining the North Carolina Tar Heels in 2023.

    8) Rich Kotite, New York Jets (1995)

    Rich Kotite had gone 36-28 over four seasons as the Philadelphia Eagles’ head coach, so there was reason for the 1995 Jets to think the New York native could turn things around.

    Gang Green also gave Kotite personnel control, which turned out to be a mistake. He drafted tight end Kyle Brady over eventual Hall of Fame pass rusher Warren Sapp in 1995, then gave free agent quarterback bust Neil O’Donnell a five-year, $25 million contract the following offseason.

    The Jets’ offense and defense were bottom-seven in scoring in both of Kotite’s seasons in change. New York went just 4-28 under Kotite, who was fired after the 1996 campaign and never returned to the NFL.

    7) Matt Patricia, Detroit Lions (2018)

    Many of Bill Belichick’s former underlings have attempted to instill the New England Patriots’ way of doing things with other organizations, and it typically hasn’t gone well.

    Matt Patricia was no exception. The ex-Patriots DC’s reign as the Lions’ head coach featured one disaster after another. Patricia’s domineering approach backfired, leading to a toxic relationship with the Lions’ locker room.

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    Detroit had gone 9-7 under former head coach Jim Caldwell in 2017. The club regressed to 6-10 under Patricia in 2018, then won just eight games over the next two seasons before he and general manager Bob Quinn were fired.

    Patricia’s Lions lost 15 games by double digits and dropped nine contests in which they held 10+ point leads.

    6) Joe Judge, New York Giants (2020)

    It’s a similar story for Joe Judge, another former Patriots assistant who unraveled after leaving Belichick’s side. A 10-23 overall record tells the story of Judge’s tenure with the Giants, but so does one specific play from the end of his stint with Big Blue.

    In what ended up being Judge’s final game as New York’s head coach (the 2021 regular-season finale), Judge called for consecutive quarterback sneaks on 2nd-and-11 and 3rd-and-9 while the Giants were backed up against their own goal line. New York had no faith it could execute even a basic offensive play, a terrible reflection on its head coach.

    Although every pre-Week 17 report had suggested Judge’s job was safe, the Giants fired him after that cowardly display. Belichick then shockingly tasked Judge and Patricia with overhauling the Patriots’ 2022 offense, and we know how that went.

    5) David Shula, Cincinnati Bengals (1992)

    In 1992, the Cincinnati Bengals could have hired eventual Hall of Famer Bill Cowher as their head coach. Instead, they went with an internal promotion, tapping wide receivers coach David Shula — the son of legendary Dolphins HC Don Shula — as their head coach.

    Shula struggled as the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive coordinator in 1990 and was demoted before the end of the season. Nothing improved after he made the instant leap up the Bengals’ organizational hierarchy.

    Shula went just 19-52 as Cincinnati’s head coach, failing to post a winning record in any of his four-plus seasons. His .268 winning percentage is fifth-worst in league history; Shula is the only NFL coach with a sub-30% win rate allowed to coach more than 70 games.

    4) Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns (2016)

    The Cleveland Browns’ decision to hire Hue Jackson as their head coach in 2016 didn’t come out of left field. His 2015 Bengals offense finished second in scoring, while Jackson offered previous HC experience after going 8-8 with the 2011 Oakland Raiders. He was a coveted candidate who planned to interview for several other top jobs that offseason.

    Jackson didn’t have much talent with the tanking Browns, but his results were about as poor as any head coach in NFL history. Jackson went 1-31 over his first two seasons in Cleveland, and his one victory came by just three points. Somehow, Jackson was allowed to keep his job; he began the 2018 campaign 2-5-1 before being fired.

    Jackson’s .205 winning percentage is the NFL’s second-worst all-time, trailing only Bert Bell, who coached the Eagles in the 1930s.

    3) Bobby Petrino, Atlanta Falcons (2007)

    Thirteen games. That’s how long Bobby Petrino lasted in the NFL before returning to the college ranks in 2007.

    Hired as the Atlanta Falcons’ head coach after a four-year run at Louisville, Petrino had to navigate Michael Vick’s suspension for running a dogfighting operation almost immediately after taking over. He drew ire from Falcons’ veterans for his management style, but no one could have expected Petrino’s shocking resignation in December of 2007.

    Some reports indicated Petrino called a “10-second” meeting to inform Atlanta’s players he was heading to the University of Arkansas. Others suggested he’d left a one-paragraph, four-sentence letter for the club’s players to find.

    Either way, it was a disastrous end to Petrino’s 3-10 season as the Falcons’ head coach.

    2) Nathaniel Hackett, Denver Broncos (2022)

    Nathaniel Hackett’s errors with the Denver Broncos began in Week 1 and didn’t end until he was fired in December after posting a 4-11 record.

    Hackett committed one of the more egregious game management mistakes in recent memory on opening night of the 2022 season, intentionally winding the clock before allowing kicker Brandon McManus to attempt what would’ve been a game-winning, 64-yard field goal. Denver hired Jerry Rosburg, a 66-year former special teams coordinator, in Week 3 to assist Hackett after he continued to make clock management mistakes.

    Meanwhile, the Broncos’ offense scored fewer points than any team in the league. Quarterback Russell Wilson, whom Denver had acquired and extended that offseason, posted the worst season of his career. Hackett ceded play-calling duties to QB coach Klint Kubiak by Week 11.

    Hackett’s tenure in Denver was so catastrophic that his successor, Sean Payton, went outside typical NFL protocol and openly criticized Hackett’s decision-making with the Broncos. Payton eventually apologized, but nothing he’d said was inaccurate.

    1) Urban Meyer, Jacksonville Jaguars (2021)

    Urban Meyer had been out of coaching for three years and had zero NFL experience when the Jacksonville Jaguars hired him as their head coach in 2021. While Meyer was a three-time NCAA champion, his collegiate accomplishments couldn’t prevent him from posting the worst coaching tenure in NFL history.

    It’s difficult to know where to begin with Meyer, who was fired before the end of his first season, having won just two of 13 games.

    Soon after being hired, Meyer added strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle to Jacksonville’s staff. Doyle had been fired from the University of Iowa after allegations of racial discrimination and was soon forced to resign from the Jaguars.

    Meyer signed Tim Tebow to play tight end. After a September loss to the Bengals, Meyer infamously stayed behind in Ohio and was spotted dancing with a woman who was not his wife. He reportedly held a staff meeting where he referred to his assistants as “losers.”

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    But the breaking point came in December, when Jaguars kicker Josh Lambo revealed that Meyer kicked him in the leg while he was preparing for a preseason game. Lambo said Meyer told him, “Hey dips—, make your f—— kicks!” before kicking him with some force.

    Meyer was fired hours after Lambo reported the incident, mercifully ending the worst head coaching tenure in NFL history.

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