The Bloody Season




Although you might assume I'm talking about the Ravens-Steelers game, I'm not.  Instead, I'm talking about the loss of head coaches around the league during the past 3 weeks or so.  It feels a bit like the French revolution, except that the owners are operating the guillotine instead of the peasants.  As I was basking in the glow of "3 head coaches in 41 years" I began to wonder whether any other team has a comparable record. Here's what I discovered, after the jump:

 



Sure enough, the Steelers are a complete outlier.  The other teams that come closest are the Cowboys and the Dolphins, with 7 head coaches each since 1970.  The average tenure of a head coach is less than four seasons, and this is actually exaggerated, as every team has at least one coach that was there for considerably more years, and that tends to skew the average.  Essentially every team besides the Steelers had at least a few coaches that were on staff for 2 years or less. 

The Dolphin and the Cowboys are also the only teams that had a coach that led the team for longer than Chuck Noll's 23 years  (including 1969, when he was hired.)  Don Shula coached the Dolphins for 26 years, and Tom Landry the Cowboys for 29 years (counting his 10 pre-1970 seasons.)  I believe that the Steelers are the only team never to have fired a head coach during the past 41 years, including the expansion teams in a considerably shorter span in most cases. 

Obviously it might be necessary to fire a head coach under certain circumstances.  However, I suspect that a string of short-term coaches either indicates poor judgment in the hiring process or insufficient patience after it.  I think that a great deal of the unprecedented success of the Steelers over the years has to do with the fact that the Rooneys hire someone and then stick by them through thick and thin.  And honestly, there hasn't been a lot of 'thin,' at least if you're content with a winning season, even if we don't make the playoffs.  (Not that Steeler Nation is ever happy about that!)  The Steelers have only 9 seasons out of 41 in which they didn't win at least as many games as they lost. 

The Steelers have the most Lombardi trophies, as we all know.  But I didn't know until now that since 1970 the Steelers have won the most total games, the most division titles, have the best winning percentage, and the most All-Pro nominations.  They are tied with the Dolphins for regular-season wins and second overall in playoff wins.  The Rooneys must be doing something right.

Below is a bit of information on each team, with the expansion teams last.  I've indicated who the longest-tenured coach for each team was/is, why they left, and occasionally some little nuggets of interesting information.  Enjoy...

49ers

  • 11 head coaches since 1970
  • Longest tenure since 1970:  10 years - Bill Walsh, 1979-88; Retired after Super Bowl XXIII
  • Current Head Coach: Mike Singletary, 2008

 

Bears

  • 8 head coaches since 1970
  • Longest tenure since 1970:  11 years - Mike Ditka, 1982-1992; Fired after an 5-11 season
  • Current Head Coach: Lovie Smith, 2004

 

Bengals

  • 8 head coaches since 1970
  • Longest tenure since 1970: 8 years - Marvin Lewis, 2003-present
  • Current Head Coach:: Marvin Lewis, 2003

 

Bills

  • 14 head coaches since 1970
  • Longest tenure since 1970: 12 years - Marv Levy, 1986-1997
  • Current Head Coach: Chan Gailey, 2010

 

Broncos

  • 9 head coaches since 1970
  • Longest tenure since 1970:  12 years - Dan Reeves,  1981-92
  • Current Head Coach: Eric Studesville, since 3 days ago

 

Cardinals (St. Louis, Phoenix, Arizona)

  • 14 head coaches since 1970
  • Longest tenure since 1970: 6 years - Jim Hanifan, 1980-85; Finished 5-11 in 1985; Hanifan was fired that year by having the locks to his office changed during halftime of a game against the Redskins
  • Current Head Coach: Ken Whisenhunt, 2007

Chargers

  • 13 head coaches since 1970
  • Longest tenure since 1970: 8+ years - Don Coryell, 1978-86; Resigned in middle of 1986 season
  • Current Head Coach: Norv Turner, 2007

Chiefs

  • 11 head coaches since 1970
  • Longest tenure since 1970::  10 years - Marty Shottenheimer, 1989-1998; He holds the peculiar distinction of being the NFL coach with the most wins since 1966 to never coach a team in a Super Bowl; after going 7-9 he resigned.
  • Current Head Coach: Todd Haley, 2009

Colts (Baltimore, Indianapolis)

  • 15 head coaches since 1970
  • Longest tenure since 1970:  7 years - Tony Dungy, 2002-08; Retired at the end of 2008 season
  • Current Head Coach: Jim Caldwell, 2009

Cowboys

  • 7 head coaches since 1970
  • Longest tenure since 1970::  19 years - Tom Landry, 1970- 88(actually Landry started coaching in 1960); Landry left when Jerry Jones bought the team in 1989
  • Current Head Coach: Jason Garret, since November 14th

Dolphins

  • 7 head coaches since 1970
  • Longest tenure since 1970:  26 years - Don Shula, 1970-1995; Retired
  • Current Head Coach: Tony Sparano, 2008

Eagles

  • 10 head coaches since 1970
  • Longest tenure since 1970:  11+ years - Andy Reid, 1999-present
  • Current Head Coach: Andy Reid, 1999

Falcons

  • 15 coaches since 1970.
  • Longest tenure since 1970:: 7 years - Dan Reeves, 1997-2003; Requested released after going 3-10
  • Current Head Coach:: Mike Smith, 2008

Giants

  • 9 head coaches since 1970
  • Longest tenure since 1970::  8 years - Bill Parcells, 1983-90; Retired after Super Bowl XXV
  • Current Head Coach: Tom Coughlin, 2004

Jets

  • 15 head coaches since 1970
  • Longest tenure since 1970:  7 years - Joe Walton, 1983-89
  • Current Head Coach: Rex Ryan, 2009

Lions

  • 14 head coaches since 1970
  • Longest tenure since 1970:  9 years - Wayne Fontes, 1988-96; Fired after 5-11 season in '96
  • Current Head Coach: Jim Schwartz, 2009


Packers

  • 9 head coaches since 1970
  • Longest tenure since 1970:  9 years - Bart Starr, 1975-1983; Retired, for a while at least...
  • Current Head Coach: Mike McCarthy, 2006    

 

Patriots

  • 11 head coaches since 1970
  • Longest tenure since 1970:  10 years  Bill Belichick, 2000-present
  • Current Head Coach: Bill Belichick, 2000

Raiders (Oakland, Los Angeles, Oakland)

  • 12 head coaches since 1970
  • Longest tenure since 1970:  9 years - Tom Flores, 1979-87; Moved into the front office after 5-10 finish in '87; First minority coach to win a Super Bowl
  • Current Head Coach: Tom Cable, 2008

Rams (Cleveland, Los Angeles, St. Louis)

  • 13 head coaches since 1970
  • Longest tenure since 1970:  9 years - John Robinson, 1983-91; Either resigned or fired...
  • Current Head Coach: Steve Spagnuolo, 2009

Redskins

  • 12 head coaches since 1970
  • Longest tenure since 1970:  12 years - Joe Gibbs, 1981-92; Retired after Super Bowl XXVII; Returned to coach 'Skins from '04-'07
  • Current Head Coach: Mike Shanahan, 2010

Saints

  • 13 head coaches since 1970
  •  Longest tenure since 1970: 10+ years - Jim Mora, 1986-96; Resigned partway through the season when the team was 2-6
  • Current Head Coach: Sean Payton, 2006

Steelers

  • 3 head coaches since 1970
  • Longest tenure since 1970::  22 [23] years - Chuck Noll, 1970 [69] - 1991; Retired
  • Current Head Coach: Mike Tomlin, 2007

Titans (Tennessee Titans, Houston Oilers)

  • 11 head coaches since 1970
  • Longest tenure since 1970:  16+ years -Jeff Fisher, 1994-present
  • Current Head Coach: Jeff Fisher, 1994

Vikings

 

  • 8 head coaches since 1970
  • Longest tenure since 1970::  14 years - Bud Grant (actually since 1967)  1970-1983; Retired in 83, returned for a year in 85 and retired again
  • Current Head Coach: Leslie Frazier (as of November 22nd)

 

Expansion teams

 

Browns

  • 5 head coaches since 1999
  • Longest tenure since 1970:  4 years -  Romeo Crennel, 2005-08
  • Current Head Coach: Eric Mangini, 2009

Buccaneers

  • 8 head coaches since 1976
  • Longest tenure since 1970:  9 years - John McKay, 1976-1984; Stepped down after a 6-win season
  • Current Head Coach:Raheem Morris, 2009

Jaguars

  • 2 head coaches since 1995
  • Longest tenure since 1970:  8 years - Tom Coughlin, 1995-2002; Fired after going 6-10
  • Current Head Coach: Jack Del Rio, 2003

Panthers

  • 3 head coaches since 1995
  • Longest tenure since 1995: 8+ years - John Fox, 2002-present
  • Current Head Coach: John Fox, 2002

Ravens

  • 3 head coaches since 1996
  • Longest tenure since 1970::  6 1/2 years - 1999 - 2007; Billick was fired on December 31 of 07
  • Current Head Coach: John Harbaugh, 2007

Seahawks

  • 8 head coaches since 1976
  • Longest tenure since 1970::  10 years - Mike Homgren, 1999-2008; Retired in 2008
  • Current Head Coach: Pete Carroll, 2010


Texans

  •  2 head coaches since 2002
  • Longest tenure since 1970:  5 years - Gary Kubiak, 2005 - present
  • Current Head Coach: Gary Kubiak, 2005

Special Category:


Old Cleveland Browns

  • 9 head coaches from 1970-1995
  • Longest tenure since 1970: 6+ years - Sam Rutigliano, 1978-84: Fired after starting season 1-7
  • Current Head Coach: N/A
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