One and done
Posted on 12/13/2007 7:00:00 AM
By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts sticker to-it
Bobby Petrino's 13-game stint with Atlanta as a full-fledged NFL head coach is
one of the briefest in league history, but far from unprecedented.
There have been many coaches to fill in on an interim basis
for a season or less, but few men have been hired to be "the man" and lasted a
year or less.
A chronology of some of the shortest-tenured and least
successful non-interim head coaches in the last 60 years of pro football:
1950: Clem Crowe, Baltimore Colts:
Colts were accepted into the NFL in 1950, and were so proud of their
achievement that they folded. In 1953, they were back in, although they were
taking over another failed franchise and had a completely different roster. So
the 1950 Baltimore Colts were one of a kind – and not in a good way. Head coach
Crowe (no relation to Russell) led the Colts to that singular 1-11 season, and
when the franchise went down he went north, to Canada, where he coached throughout
the decade. Crowe was a hell of a college coach at Xavier, coaching both
basketball and football there for a decade; he's in the school's hall of Fame.
The official start of the present Colts franchise came after
Crowe's lost season and a couple of twists and turns. Molesworth wasn't much
better than Crowe, going 3-9 and promptly being reassigned to the front office.
Good move. He was followed by Hall of Famers Weeb Ewbank (1954-62) and Don
Shula (1963-69). Molesworth was an NFL standout, playing in the same backfield
as Red Grange and Bronko Nagurski, but never coached again.
1958: Ray McLean, Green Bay Packers.
was a longtime assistant with Green
Bay before he finally got the head job for good in
1958. The Packers were coming off a 3-9 season, and hopeful McLean
would turn it around. And he did – for the worse. The Packers went 1-10-1 in McLean's only year as a head coach, prompting them to go
outside the organization for a new man – Giants assistant Vince Lombardi, who
turned out to be pretty good.
1962: Clyde "Bulldog"
Turner, New York
They were looking for big names to coach the new Big Apple
football franchise, and started with one of the biggest – Sammy Baugh coached
the team for its first two seasons. When Baugh left for the warmer and more
peaceful climes of Texas,
Turner was his replacement. Another Pro Football Hall of Famer, Turner led the
Titans to a respectable 5-9 record but a franchise sale (and name change to
"Jets") was the end for the former two-way star. His replacement? Ewbank.
1965: Hugh Taylor, Houston Oilers.
failed successor to Sammy Baugh. Baugh came out of retirement to coach the 1964
Oilers in his home state, but only lasted a year. In came Taylor, a former
Redskin receiver nicknamed "Bones." Taylor
never made his bones in the league, going 4-10. He also coached in the
Continental Football League, but never again in the NFL.
1971: Ed Hughes, Houston Oilers.
one deserved his brief time as a head man more than Hughes. From 1960-1970, he
was a key assistant in the AFL and NFL before finally getting his head job with
Houston at the
age of 44. According to Wikipedia's entry, Hughes' season was marred by
discontent and firings. One win later, Hughes was out. But he would stay on as
an assistant around the NFL for almost two decades, and win a Super Bowl ring
with the 1985 Bears (offensive coordinator).
1976: Lou Holtz, New York
The closest parallel to Petrino is Holtz, who also left his only NFL
head coaching job before the year was up – and with an identical 3-10 record.
Holtz was an up-and-coming college coach when he took the Jets' head job. But
apparently he didn't like it much, quitting with a game left in a lost season.
Oh, and for whom did Holtz forsake the NFL? None other than Arkansas. Spooky.
1984: Les Steckel, Minnesota
Few first-time coaches had bigger shoes to fill than Steckel, who
took over for legendary Bud Grant in Minnesota.
And he certainly didn't fill them well, going 3-13. It was such a bad showing
that Grant actually came back to coach the team in 1985.
The decorated Vietnam
vet coached in college and pro ball for the next two decades, but never got
another head job.
1990: Rod Rust. New England Patriots.
A journeyman assistant who had
worked under Marv Levy and Dick Vermeil, the 62-year-old Rust was a very odd
choice as a first-time head coach for the 1990 Patriots. And the season played
out as you might expect: poorly. The Patriots went 1-15 under Rust, and that
was that. At 72, Rust got another unexpected head coaching job, for the Montreal franchise of the
CFL. He was fired midway through his second season.
1993: Richie Petitbon, Washington
Petitbon was an excellent NFL player, and the defensive coordinator for Joe Gibbs' championship Redskin teams. But he went 4-12 in his only season as Joe Gibbs successor. Upon being dismissed, he was asked about his plans. According to the New York Times, he said
"That's one thing I don't have to tell anybody anymore," with a smile.
And sure enough, all the internet scouring we could fit in a booze-soaked afternoon couldn't educate us on what he's done since. But he's always got those three Super Bowl rings to enjoy.
2000: Al Groh, New York
Jets. Groh is the only man on this list to leave after a winning season
, going 9-7 in between the Bill Parcells and Herm Edwards eras. It was supposed to be Bill Belichick's job, but he famously decided not to become "HC of the NYJ," leading to a search for a new replacement. Groh wasn't necessarily viewed as a stopgap, but apparently that's how he saw himself. He left for the University of Virginia in 2001, where he's taken the Cavaliers to four bowls.
Wikipedia, NFL.com and pro-football-reference.com was used in this story.
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