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8 Legendary NFL Coaches That Were Fired Way Too Soon

| April 30, 2022 6:30 am PDT
pete carroll to left, bill belichick to right, nfl graphic centered

It takes a lot to become a successful NFL coach. One of the biggest things is you need to have success from the start of your tenure. Well, that wasn’t the case for a few coaches.

A few legendary coaches didn’t have a great start to their coaching career. They went on to have success elsewhere, leaving their first team wondering why they ever let them go.

Here are eight legendary coaches that got fired too soon.

8. Pete Carroll

Pete Carroll’s coaching career spans back to 1973. His first head coaching job didn’t come until 1994 with the New York Jets.

Carroll’s Jets came into the season with (+3200) odds to win the Super Bowl. They were off to a respectable 6-5 start, but they blew a 24-6 lead in a Week 13 loss to the Miami Dolphins. That was the game where Marino had his famous fake spike touchdown.

New York lost their final five games and relieved Carroll of his duties.

He was the head coach of the New England Patriots from 1997-1999. They were among the Super Bowl favorites in 1997 and 1998 but fell short in the playoffs.

Pete Carroll
In 1999, the Patriots fired Carroll after they closed the season on a 2-6 stretch. Following a very successful nine-year tenure with USC, Carroll returned to the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks.

Seattle went 7-9 in his first two seasons, but Carroll turned them into a powerhouse. Their offense featured Russell Wilson, and their defense had a dominant stretch, anchored by the Legion of Boom.

The Seahawks only missed the playoffs once from 2012-2020. Carroll led the Seahawks to a 43-8 victory in the 2013 Super Bowl and came up one yard short of winning back-to-back titles.

From a performance perspective, New England fired Carroll too quickly. However, it led to the hiring of Bill Belichick, so I don’t think anyone in New England minds.

For what it’s worth, Robert Kraft said the firing was the toughest move in his business career.

7. Weeb Ewbank

We’re going way back for this one. Weeb Ewbank’s coaching career began nearly 100 years ago, in 1928. His first head coaching job came with the Baltimore Colts in 1954.

Ewbank took a few years to turn the Colts into contenders, but he reached his goal. He led Baltimore to the 1958 NFL Championship Game. The Colts won in one of the greatest overtime games in NFL history. The following season, Ewbank made it back-to-back titles, defeating the Giants 31-16.

Baltimore went 21-19 over the next three seasons. The Colts fired Ewbank and replaced him with Don Shula.

Ewbank went to the New York Jets in 1963. Like his time with the Colts, his tenure didn’t start great.

Weed Ewbank
  • 1963: 5-8-1
  • 1964: 5-8-1
  • 1965: 5-8-1

In 1965, Ewbank landed a star that would change the Jets franchise. Joe Namath came to the Jets and turned them into an elite team.

Namath became the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for 4,000 yards. Ewbank led the Jets to Super Bowl III against Shula and the Colts. New York came into the game as (+17.0) point underdogs, but Namath personally guaranteed a victory.

The Jets went on to pull off one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history.

New York returned to the playoffs in 1969, but they lost in the Divisional Round. Ewbank retired following the 1973 season.

It’s hard to fault Baltimore, as they ended up with a legendary coach. But maybe they win Super Bowl III with Ewbank.

6. Tom Coughlin

Tom Coughlin

Tom Coughlin became the first head coach in Jacksonville Jaguars franchise history in 1995. It took him a mere two seasons to lead them on a surprising playoff run.

Jacksonville was 3-6, but they won six of their last seven games to make the playoffs at 9-7. They entered the playoffs with (+15000) odds to win the Super Bowl.

They took down the Denver Broncos as (+12.5) point underdogs in the Divisional Round. Their cinderella run came to an end in the AFC Championship Game.

The Jaguars had a combined 36-12 record over the next three seasons. However, they failed to qualify for the Super Bowl.

Jacksonville went downhill over the next three seasons and fired Coughlin in 2002. He spent a year out of the NFL before taking over as head coach of the New York Giants in 2004.

He failed to win a playoff game in his first two seasons, but then we saw the Giants magical playoff run in 2007.

The Giants were the underdog in every playoff game as a wild card team.

  • Wild Card Round: 24-14 (+3.0)
  • Divisional Round: 21-17 (+7.0)
  • NFC Championship Game: 23-20 (+7.5)
  • Super Bowl: 17-14 (+12.5)

Coughlin led the Giants on an even more surprising playoff run four years later. They finished the season 9-7 but knocked off heavyweights on their way to Coughlin’s second Super Bowl.

Coughlin stuck around through the 2015 season before resigning. Former Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver later said he regretted firing Coughlin.

5. Andy Reid

Andy Reid

Andy Reid learned from the great Mike Holmgren, then established his own coaching tree.

Reid’s first head coaching job came in 1999 with the Philadelphia Eagles. Philadelphia didn’t do anything in his first season, but they became one of the best teams in the 2000s.

After losing in the NFC Championship Game from 2001-2003, Reid finally led Philadelphia to the Super Bowl in 2004. They came in as (+7.0) point underdogs and kept it close, but the New England Patriots pulled away late.

They made the playoffs in four of the next six seasons, but only made it past the Divisional Round once.

The Eagles fired Reid following the 2012 season. Not long after, he became head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Reid immediately turned their franchise around. He turned a 2-14 team into a playoff team at 11-5. Kansas City had a few good years, but they couldn’t do anything in the postseason. That was until Patrick Mahomes showed up.

Here is Reid’s record since Mahomes took over as quarterback.

  • 2018: 12-4
  • 2019: 12-4
  • 2020: 14-2

Reid finally got over the hump, winning the Super Bowl in 2019. Kansas City faced adversity, trailing 20-10 in the fourth quarter. They scored 21 points in the final six and a half minutes to win 31-20.

It wasn’t all bad for Philadelphia, as they won their first Super Bowl in franchise history in 2017.

4. George Allen

George Allen began his coaching career with the Los Angeles Rams in 1957. His first head coaching opportunity came with the Rams in 1966. Allen inherited a team that had only one winning season since 1956.

Allen won Coach of the Year in his second season, leading the Rams to an 11-1-2 record.

The Rams went into the Conference Championship as (-3.0) point favorites over the Green Bay Packers. Los Angeles led early, but the Packers won 28-7. The following week, the Packers defeated the Dallas Cowboys in one of the craziest weather games in football history.

Check out the Rams record over the next three seasons.

  • 1968: 10-3-1
  • 1969: 11-3
  • 1970: 9-4
George Allen

Even with their success, the Rams dismissed Allen following the 1970 season. He joined the Washington Redskins in 1971. Washington had won more than eight games since 1942.

In his first four seasons with Washington, Allen led them to a combined 40 wins. They never won less than nine games in a season.

Washington made it to the Super Bowl in 1972, losing to the undefeated Miami Dolphins.

In his final three seasons with the team, Allen led them to eight, ten, and nine wins, respectively. Following the 1977 season, Washington couldn’t agree on a new contract.

The only critique you could make about his time in Washington is the lack of playoff success. Washington made the playoffs five times but only won two playoff games in 1972. Even so, he took the franchise to new heights.

3. Tony Dungy

Tony Dungy

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were arguably the worst NFL franchise for their first 20 years. From 1976-1996, they won more than seven games twice. That all changed when they hired Tony Dungy in 1996.

Following a 6-10 season, Dungy led the Buccaneers to the playoffs in four of the next five seasons. Their peak came in 1999, where they advanced to the NFC Championship Game.

Tampa Bay was a (+14.0) point underdog to the St. Louis Rams. Tampa Bay hung with them but ultimately lost 11-6. The Rams went on to become one of the biggest longshot champions in sports history.

After losing in the Wild Card Round in 2000 and 2001, the Buccaneers fired Dungy. A week later, Dungy became the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

With Peyton Manning leading the Colts offense, they became one of the league’s elite teams. Check out their preseason Super Bowl odds during Dungy’s time in Indianapolis.

2002+1500
2003+3500
2004+650
2005+500
2006+600
2007+800

In 2006, Dungy led the Colts back from a 21-3 deficit in the AFC Championship Game. They defeated the New England Patriots to qualify for their first Super Bowl in Indianapolis. Indianapolis went on to defeat the Chicago Bears 29-17.

Dungy retired following the 2008 season.

The Buccaneers won a Super Bowl after Dungy left, but their success didn’t last nearly as long as the Colts. Maybe it could’ve if they stuck with their coach.

2. Paul Brown

Paul Brown

Paul Brown was the first head coach in Cleveland Browns franchise history. The Browns started in the All-America Football Conference, winning the championship from 1946-1949.

In 1950, the Browns joined the NFL. They dominated the league with Otto Graham and Jim Brown. Cleveland went to the NFL Championship in seven of their first eight seasons, winning three times.

Brown’s relationship with owner Art Modell deteriorated in the early 1960s. Modell fired Brown following the 1962 season.

He spent a few years out of the NFL before taking over the Cincinnati Bengals franchise in 1968. He didn’t do much in his first two seasons, but he found success in 1970.

Cincinnati went 8-6, making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. They lost 17-0 to the Baltimore Colts.

Towards the end of his coaching tenure, the Bengals were one of the top teams.

  • 1973: 10-4
  • 1974: 7-7
  • 1975: 11-3

While Cincinnati failed to win a playoff game, they took a big step forward in their franchise.

Brown retired from coaching in 1975, but he remained the owner and team president until 1991. In that time, the Bengals made it to the Super Bowl twice.

Cleveland had success in the 1960s without Brown, but it didn’t last. They have never made it to the Super Bowl. With Brown in charge, maybe they make it to the Super Bowl in the 1980s.

1. Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick

It’s easy to forget there was a time when Bill Belichick wasn’t with the New England Patriots.

Belichick’s first head coaching job came with the Cleveland Browns in 1991. He didn’t have a lot of success with the franchise, but he led them to an 11-5 record in 1994.

Cleveland defeated the New England Patriots in the Wild Card Round, but they lost 29-9 in the Divisional Round. Following a 5-11 season, the Browns fired Belichick.

From there, he had a bizarre one-day tenure as head coach of the New York Jets. In 2000, he became the head coach of the Patriots. He didn’t do much in his first season, but he and Tom Brady helped the Patriots become one of the greatest dynasties in NFL history.

New England won three Super Bowls from 2001-2004. Belichick’s 2007 Patriots were among the best NFL teams to not win a Super Bowl. They finished the regular season undefeated, losing in the Super Bowl.

The Patriots returned to the top of the mountain, winning three Super Bowls from 2014-2018.

Belichick has won 10+ games in 18 of his 22 seasons. As of this writing, he is one win away from making it 19 seasons with 10+ wins. He has only missed the playoffs three times.

In the 21st century alone, Belichick has turned the Patriots into one of the greatest franchises in NFL history. Meanwhile, the Browns only made the playoffs twice from 1999-2020. In 2017, they became the second team in NFL history to finish the season 0-16.

Needless to say, Cleveland made the wrong decision.

Impact of Coaching on Football Betting

It’s no secret that a few of these coaches walked into a better situation after their firing, but we’ve seen a lot of talented teams fall because of poor coaching. These legendary coaches were able to lead their team to new heights.

Betting on a team with a great coach is never a bad idea. That could be the deciding factor if you’re going back and forth on a particular matchup or a future bet.

As always, you can make those bets with the top NFL betting sites.

NFL Betting Websites
Nicholas Sterling

Nicholas has been a Sports Writer with GamblingSites.com since May 2021. He has a rich sports background, writing about NASCAR, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Golf, etc. Nick is always ready for a new challenge.

He enjoys rooting on D.C. sports teams, including the Commanders, Wizards, and Capitals.

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