Skip to main content

5 Worst Coaching Encores in NFL History

Jon Gruden

Jon Gruden

Jon Gruden is returning to an NFL sideline as head coach after a decade away, including eight-plus years as the color analyst for ESPN's "Monday Night Football." Only time will tell if his rejoining the Raiders will be a remarkable new chapter or a sad footnote in a great career. One thing’s for certain, there are plenty of great coaches whose encores were atrocious. Here are the five worst.

Image placeholder title

5. George Seifert

First act: San Francisco (1989-96) — 98-30, six division titles, Super Bowl XXIV and XXIX champion
Second act: Carolina (1999-2001) — 16-32, no playoff appearances

Seifert left the San Francisco 49ers in 1997 after winning two Super Bowls and spent two years away from coaching before returning to the Carolina Panthers in '99. The Panthers were 8-8 in his first season, but things only got worse during his tenure. Carolina went 1-15 in 2001 and Seifert was fired after the season.

4. Tom Flores

First act: Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders (1979-87) — 83-53, Super Bowl XV and XVIII champion
Second act: Seattle (1992-94) — 14-34, no playoff appearances

Flores won two Super Bowls with the Raiders before moving into their front office after the 1987 season. He then left the next year to become president and general manager of the Seattle Seahawks. Flores decided to take over the head coaching reins in 1992, but went 14-34 and was fired after three seasons.

3. Hank Stram

First act: Dallas Texans (AFL, 1906-62)/Kansas City (AFL/NFL, 1963-74) — 124-76-10, three AFL titles, Super Bowl IV champion, Super Bowl I runner-up
Second act: New Orleans (1976-77) — 7-21, no playoff appearances

Stram was the Kansas City Chiefs first coach and won three championships (three AFL as well as Super Bowl IV) with them. Unfortunately, he did not enjoy the same level of success when he became head coach of the New Orleans Saints in 1976. Stram went 7-21, gave the Tampa Bay Buccaneers their first win in 27 tries, and was fired after the 1977 season.

2. Art Shell

First act: Los Angeles Raiders (1989-94) — 54-38, 1990 AFC West title, three playoff appearances
Second act: Los Angeles Raiders (2006) — 2-14, last in AFC West

Shell took the Raiders to the playoffs three times in five seasons, but was fired after going 9-7 in 1994 in a move that owner Al Davis later called a mistake. After serving as an assistant coach with Kansas City and Atlanta and as a senior vice president for the NFL, he returned as head coach of the Raiders in 2006. However, Shell went 2-14 and was fired after one season.

1. Mike Ditka

First act: Chicago (1982-92) — 106-62, six division titles, Super Bowl XX champion
Second act: New Orleans (1997-99) — 15-33, no playoff appearances

Ditka (above, right) is the second-winningest coach in Chicago Bears history next to George Halas, but did not bring the same level of success to the New Orleans Saints when he was hired in 1997. He went 15-33 over three years and was fired after the 1999 season. Oh, and he traded away the Saints’ entire 1999 draft and first-round pick in 2000 to draft Ricky Williams. That move puts him at the top of this list.

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.

(Mike Ditka photo courtesy of Getty Images)