Chicago’s Firing of Lovie Smith Highlights List of Worst Coaching Changes in Recent Memory

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Like many fans, the recent hiring of Eric Mangini as a consultant and the additional duties given to Bill Callahan caught my attention and caused me to scratch my head. These are two guys who are historically average at best. One of them was successful in running both one of the NFL’s most prestigious franchises as well as one of college football’s greatest programs into the ground.

Despite unsuccessful track records, these kind of guys keep getting second chances in the NFL’s good ol’ boy revolving-door network of coaching. On the other side of the equation, we’ve seen successful coaches get pink slips after two or three down years.

It seems like NFL executives are stuck in a pattern of undervaluing successful veteran coaches and reacting too early after a few down seasons. Currently there are eleven head coaches who have led teams to Super Bowl appearances. Of those eleven, nine have led their teams to the playoffs during one of the last two seasons. The only two who haven’t are Jeff Fisher and Andy Reid. Fisher looks like he’s building a winner in St. Louis and many expect Reid to spark a quick turnaround in K.C.

All of this got me thinking about some of the worst decisions in recent memory by NFL executives when it came to letting a head coach go.

Here are, in my opinion, the five worst firings or releases of NFL head coaches in recent memory.

Tom Coughlin, Jacksonville Jaguars – Despite a 68-60 regular season record and four playoff appearances during an eight year run in Jacksonville, Tom Coughlin was let go on the back of a record of 19-29 during his last three seasons at the helm. Coughlin has gone on to win two Super Bowls as head coach of the Giants. The Jags have a record of 72-88 with three playoff appearances in during the post-Coughlin decade.

Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears – The full impact of the decision to let Lovie Smith go has not yet been seen, as it just happened this past offseason. That said, the Bears will be hard-pressed to find another coach who will be able to win 81 games in nine seasons — all the more impressive when you consider he took over a losing franchise. I’ll be impressed if the Bears play in two more conference title games and a Super Bowl in the next nine years.

Jeff Fisher, Tennessee Titans – Fisher led the Oilers/Titans to six playoff appearances, a trip to the Super Bowl, three division titles and 129 wins in 17 seasons as head coach. Since his departure, the Titans are 15-17. Heading into 2013, most experts predict them to finish 3rd at best in the AFC South, while many believe Fisher has the Rams on the brink of relevance.

John Fox, Carolina Panthers – Fox posted a 73-71 record with two division titles, three playoff appearances and a trip to the Super Bowl in nine seasons with the Panthers. Since taking the reins of the Broncos in 2011, Denver is 21-11 with back-to-back playoff berths. During the two post-Fox seasons, Carolina is 13-19.

Jim Caldwell, Indianapolis Colts – Even with the season in Indy where he didn’t have Peyton Manning, Caldwell still led the Colts to a 26-22 record with 2 division titles and a Super Bowl appearance in three years. We’ll never know what he would have done with Andrew Luck as his quarterback, but we know that the Ravens offensive improved with him calling the plays at the end of the 2012 season, culminating in a Super Bowl win for Baltimore.

Agree? Disagree? Who did I miss? Let me know in the comments section below!

BY J.P. SCOTT ON JUNE 6, 2013

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