There were seven. Seven teams needing a new butt in the chair of the head coach’s presumably large and luxurious office. But some of these organizations couldn’t hire their way out of a wet paper bag, and two of them have made quite possibly the worst hires possible.
The New York Football Jets have been historically one of the worst-run franchises in the league. They miss on draft picks, which is hard when you’re consistently picking as high as they are in the draft, and they miss on head coaching hires. It appears they’ve done so once again. They announced yesterday the hiring of former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to fill that office in Florham Park, NJ.
In theory, besides the fact Robert Saleh has never been the head coach of an NFL team, this should be an exciting hire for Jets fans. But when you consider the team’s current roster situation, you’re left scratching your head. Robert Saleh is a defensive guy. A defensive coordinator. DEFENSE. Your quarterback, who was the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft needs help. From an offensive guy. If Saleh and the Jets decide to stick with Darnold, which is the word on the street, then Saleh could bring in Mike LaFleur from the 49ers staff to be his offensive mind, and to tutor Darnold, but he won’t carry the same weight as the head coach.
Then you have the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars who parted ways with Doug Marrone on Jan 4 after a 1-15 campaign. Your team was in the AFC Championship game just 3 seasons ago, losing to the Patriots. Since then you’ve gone 13-37. You need a proven NFL head coach who can rebuild this team with his NFL experience and reputation. So let’s go get a college re-tread, Urban Meyer, who has never coached in the NFL. Sure, his college experience and reputation are among the best, but this isn’t the Big 10 or SEC. This is THE NFL. He has no quarterback at Jacksonville. He has the first overall pick, and presumably will take the “generational talent” from Clemson, Trevor Lawrence. So time will tell if he can turn Lawrence into Andrew Luck. But overall, bad hire by the Jags.
Speaking of terrible coaching tenures, lets revisit some that I’m sure we’re all too familiar with.
Dave Campo, Dallas Cowboys – The late 1980s featured worse Cowboys teams, but the early 2000s reduced America’s Team to sustained mediocrity. Jerry Jones promoted Campo, his former Super Bowl-winning longtime defensive coordinator, in 2000. A playoff team under Chan Gailey in 1998 and ’99, Dallas posted three straight 5-11 seasons under Campo. In Campo’s defense, Dallas ran into QB instability after Troy Aikman’s 2001 retirement and traded two first-round picks for Joey Galloway. After Campo’s firing, Bill Parcells took the ’03 Cowboys, with similar quarterback issues, to the playoffs.
Mike Ditka, New Orleans Saints – This comes down to a fateful day in April 1999. The architect of the storied 1985 Bears, Ditka returned to the sidelines in 1997. After two 6-10 seasons, the brash leader set out to acquire Texas Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams — by any means necessary. After the Bengals turned down an incomprehensible offer (the Saints’ 1999 draft plus first-rounders in 2000 and ’01 and an ’02 second), Washington took New Orleans’ ’99 draft picks plus first- and third-rounders in 2000 to move down. Ditka coached Williams for one season; the Saints fired Ditka after his 3-13 showing in 1999 and recovered to make the playoffs in 2000.
Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis Rams – The Chiefs have rescued Spagnuolo’s reputation, which took a major hit between his 2008 Giants exit and 2019 Kansas City arrival. The Rams hired Spagnuolo in 2009, after his defenses clinched a Super Bowl title and NFC’s No. 1 seed in back-to-back years The result: three full seasons, including 1-15 and 2-14 marks. Spagnuolo went 10-38 with the Rams, who saw Josh McDaniels’ post-Denver landing in 2011 end with a 32nd-ranked offense. While Sam Bradford won Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2010, little else went right for the Spagnuolo-guided Rams in the heart of a 12-season playoff drought.
Josh McDaniels, Denver Broncos – The Broncos quickly rued the day they gave Mike Shanahan’s 32-year-old successor personnel control. McDaniels made the panned Jay Cutler trade within months of taking over, proved in over his head as a leader and in 2010 traded three draft choices to select Tim Tebow in Round 1. After the 2009 Broncos started 6-0, McDaniels finished 5-17. A videotaping scandal — three years after he’d worked under Bill Belichick during Spygate — did in the sharp play-caller. McDaniels spurning a Colts agreement eight years later only further bolstered his divisive status.
Lou Holtz, New York Jets – Leaving N.C. State, Holtz signed a five-year contract to coach the Jets. The 39-year-old coach attempted college-style gimmicks like composing a fight song and attempting to line up players by height before games. He lasted just 13 games, going 3-10 and bolting New York for an Arkansas offer in December 1976. After several injuries, Joe Namath was on his last legs; he averaged 99 passing yards per game in his final Jets season. Holtz later admitted he was unfamiliar with the pro game upon taking the Jets job.
David Shula, Cincinnati Bengals – Mike Brown has a history of hiring young coaches. Zac Taylor has not started off strong, but the bar is low thanks to the Bengals owner’s 1992 hire. After spending one season as Cincinnati’s wide receivers coach, the then-32-year-old Shula became the team’s head coach. Despite his bloodlines, Shula began the Bengals’ descent by going 19-52 from 1992-96. David lost both times to Don Shula’s Dolphins, could not turn first-round QB David Klingler into a viable starter — though backup plan Jeff Blake enjoyed a lengthy career — and was given a stunningly long time to prove he was not cut out for the job. Shula did not coach again in the NFL.
Rod Rust, New England Patriots – For one-and-dones, this is as bad as it gets. The 1990 Patriots won their second game to move to 1-1, then promptly lost their final 14 — 11 of those by double digits. New England’s minus-265 point differential ranks as the third-worst in NFL history. Rust enjoyed a successful run as Patriots defensive coordinator, helping their 1985 team to Super Bowl XX. Their aging 1990 team ranked last on offense and 27th defensively. The team and three of its players also received NFL punishment for the Lisa Olson sexual harassment scandal. Returning to the assistant ranks, Rust remained an NFL coach until 2004.