The Law Dogs Top 10 college coaches who stunk it up in the NFL

On the heels of the Chip Kelly debacle in Philadelphia, the Law Dog is back with his latest top ten. Which former college coaches couldn’t hack it in the NFL? Only one way to find out. Enjoy the latest from the Law Dog below!

Another NFL regular season has ended. That sentence is so depressing. I love football.  I LOVE FOOTBALL.  My wife knows that NFL Sundays are sacred, and I have church that day from 1pm to midnight.

I may have mentioned that I am an Eagles fan. I used to say proud Eagles fan, but this last season was so gut wrenching, I have trouble claiming such pride. It was rough. Another college coach experiment failing miserably. Don’t get me wrong. There have been some great college coaches that succeeded in the NFL…..Vermeil, Jimmy Johnson, Coughlin to name a few.  But for every good one, there have been three bad ones.

With the latest great college coach sent packing, I decided to put together a list of great college coaches who couldn’t hack it in the NFL.  Here are the top ten college coaches who stunk it up in the pros.

10. Barry Switzer (Career Record: 40-24)

Not many Super Bowl winning coaches make this list.  In fact, this is the only one.  Switzer has the best winning percentage of any coach on this list. However, 24 of those wins need to be credited to Jimmy Johnson. That team was unstoppable entering the ’94 season —  two-time Super Bowl champs. Everyone talks about the Big Three of Aikman, Emmitt and Irvin….. but people forget how dominating that defense was.  Jimmy Johnson decided that Jerry Jones was just too much to live with (crazy, right?) and left a juggernaut without a coach in 1994. 

Enter Barry Switzer…the guy who made his mark in college running the option. The guy that ruined Marcus Dupree (thank you 30 for 30, I love you). This team was so good that in spite of having a terrible coach who was in way over his head, they had 2 straight 12-4 seasons and won the Super Bowl in 1995 (thank you Neil O’Donnell). However, it all came crashing down and Switzer went 10-6 and 6-10 and was gone. You could make the argument that the Cowboys have yet to recover.

9.  Chip Kelly (Career Record: 26-21)

Photo Cred: USA Today
Photo Cred: USA Today

I wrote this article and quickly realized that I needed a rewrite on Chip Kelly. Not because it was bad, but because it was 3,000 words (to give you a reference point, you’ve only read 384 words so far).

You all know my love for the Eagles, and I couldn’t stop writing about my disdain for what has happened over the last two years. I have to admit I totally drank the Chip Kelly Kool Aid when he was hired. He took a down and out Andy Reid team that won 12 games in two years, and quickly went 10-6 and hosted a playoff game.  The city was pumped, and Chip Kelly had us all in the palm of his hand. 

Then he sputtered. 

He cuts DeSean Jackson because he didn’t “buy in” to smoothies and sleep monitors (and maybe because of gang ties, but that was never confirmed). He has another 10-6 season, but finished 1-3 and missed the playoffs. Entering his third season, he makes a power move to take over all player personnel decisions and wins! 

He trades for Sam Bradford, but gives up a 2nd round pick to do it. He signs Byron Maxwell for $60-million and the guy can’t cover anyone unless Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are on the field with him. He trades LeSean McCoy, the Eagles all-time leading rusher (huh?) for a guy with two blown ACLs (what?!). 

This would mark the beginning of Chip’s mission to create the NFL’s first college all star team. That’s right. If you went to Oregon, you were getting a call from Chip. At the end, nine Eagles players attended college at Oregon. It was nuts. Eagles go 6-9 under Chip, including five embarrassing losses to the Lions, Buccaneers, Dolphins, Cardinals and Redskins by a combined 188-91. 

The question I always ask when a coach leaves….is this team better than when the coach took over? With Chip, the answer is HELL NO! (got it down to 330 words…whew).


8.  Nick Saban (Career Record: 15-17)

This one was tough because I do think he is a great coach and could succeed in the NFL.  The team he took over was a mess.  The quarterback was AJ Feeley and running back was Sammy Morris.  Wannstedt left the cupboard bare, and Saban was still able to start off 9-7 with Gus Frerotte at QB! 

Then the wheels started to come off.  Joey Harrington came on board and became the starting QB. The veteran defense started to tire of the high energy practices.  In the end, Saban got tired of dealing with everything. He’s on this list because he quit on the team for safer pastures. He quickly went back to college to continue his Hall of Fame college career that may end with him being considered the best of all time. 

7. Butch Davis (Career Record: 24-35)

I thought about leaving Butch off because every person to coach the Browns in the last 25 years seems to have a losing record.  This also was an expansion team that won five games in two seasons under the very over matched Chris Palmer. 

The reason Butch gets on here is because he left the best job in college (at the time) in Miami for Cleveland.  LeBron can pull that off easy.  Butchie?  Not so much.  Butch did inherit Tim Couch and was still able to go the playoffs his second year. However, the team quickly fizzled and went 8-19 before Davis was fired with five games left in 2004.  In the four years that Butch was in the NFL, the Miami Hurricanes went 44-5, played in three BCS games, 2 National Championships and won one…..with LARRY COKER!

6. Dennis Erickson (Career Record: 40-56)

When I originally thought about this list, I immediately thought of Dennis Erickson and had cemented him in the top three worst college coaches in the NFL. Then I looked up the stats and you know what? Not as bad as a thought. 

Still terrible, but not top three terrible. 

His run with the Seahawks was average.  He took over for an old Tom Flores and he was saddled with Rick Mirer as his top draft pick QB who couldn’t play a lick in the NFL.  What ended Erickson’s run in Seattle was getting Warren Moon who could still play, and signing the high-priced Ricky Watters for his last season……and was still not able to get over the 8-win hump. 

All in all, he was 31-33 in four years, but no playoff births.  Erickson’s legacy gets destroyed when he takes over for a good coach (in Mariucci) and a good team in San Francisco.  They won 22 games the last two seasons and won a playoff game the year before Erickson came on board.  Dennis took over and Jeff Garcia became Tim Rattay and Terrell Owens became Eric Johnson (who?).  After taking a playoff team to 7-9 his first year, they quickly bottomed out to 2-14 in 2004 and Erickson’s NFL career was done.

lou holtz jets

5. Lou Holtz (Career Record: 3-7)

Here is another reason I probably bother you.  I grew up rooting for Notre Dame and my formative years were spent idolizing Lou Holtz teams.  I even wrote Lou a letter (once you write someone a letter, you are forever on a first name basis with that person) when I was 11-years old introducing myself, predicting my attendance to Notre Dame and anointing myself as his future starting middle linebacker.  The best part was he responded with a personally signed letter thanking me, explaining how he looked forward to me playing for him.  They (I say they because other than the signature, this was all done by the admin staff) also included a football program and college application.  I still can’t believe I didn’t keep that. 

Anywho, three years later my football career was over and if I had been any good, my freshman year would have been under Bob Davie. 

Where was I?  Oh yea.  Lou Holtz stunk as the Jets coach and quit with one game left in his only season in the NFL.  (* side note: not only was I not good enough to start in high school, I was nowhere near smart enough to attend Notre Dame either.  Double fail).

4. Mike Riley (Career Record: 14-34)

Mike Riley could easily be number one on this list, but he had some extenuating circumstances. 

First off, he wasn’t the textbook college success the others on this list were.  Oregon state went 8-14 his last two years leading up to his hiring in San Diego.  Not exactly killing it.  However, the Oregon State program was a mess for so long, and getting them to 5-6 in 1998 was impressive. 

Secondly, he inherited a dreadful team that just drafted Ryan Leaf 2nd overall.  I don’t think Bill Belichick survives that hot mess.  Leaf was completely bonkers and couldn’t handle the spotlight. His second year, Leaf got injured (thank the lord!) and Riley’s Chargers went 8-8.  Unfortunately, Leaf was back again and the Chargers went 1-15. 

They did get the number one overall pick, but Vick wouldn’t sign so they traded down to five and got LaDainian Tomlinson.  Score, right?  They even took Drew Brees in the second round.  Sky is the limit, yea?  Well, 5-11 was the result and he was out. The Chargers went on to have some good years with Tomlinson and Brees (then Rivers). Too bad Riley wasn’t around to see it.

To be fair, do you have any idea who the QB is that he is talking to?
To be fair, do you have any idea who the QB is that he is talking to?

3.  Steve Spurrier (Career Record: 12-20)

As an Eagles fan, I have to say I loved everything about this hire… until I saw them in preseason.  Spurrier killed it in the preseason. Guys were wide open, the offense scored on almost every drive, and they won a lot of games. 

That all ended when the regular season came along. Spurrier got labeled as lazy, opting for the golf course rather than the film room all too often. He kept putting Patrick Ramsey out there like the guy could play. Guys like Trung Canidate were being featured. I personally enjoyed seeing the Spurrier lip sputter that was made famous at the pro level, which is always a great gif. 


A 5-11 season and Joe Gibbs waiting in the wings was all it took for Spurrier to be told to hit the road.

2. Greg Schiano (Career Record: 11-21)

What an absolute fiasco this guy was.  After a successful stint at Rutgers, Schiano was hired to replace the player-loved coach, Rahim Morris. 

He couldn’t have been more different.  Known for his military-like tactics and Army General demeanor, Schiano came in guns blazing.  Schedules were dictated to the minute and players were held accountable for everything.  The team showed some signs of life early in 2012, starting 6-4, but lost 5 of the final 6 games to go 7-9. 

It wasn’t until the next year that the wheels completely fell off.  In fact, the wheels were blown to smithereens (I love that word, and appreciate when the opportunity presents itself to use it).  First was the MRSA outbreak in the locker room.  Then they had the always popular team captain vote, which Schiano fixed to pick his own captain.  Why not just pick the captain then you idiot?  Josh Freeman was still considered by many as a work in progress with a high ceiling, but Schiano quickly benched him (all signs point to smart move, but you never know what would have happened if Freeman stayed). 

The best was the famous victory formation debacle against the Giants.  Who on earth tells their team to jack up the offense during a victory snap?  Coughlin went bananas and Schiano looked dumb.  See ya, buddy.


1. Bobby Petrino (Career Record: 3-10)

I hope this was a no brainer for everyone. This guy was so awful for so many reasons. I know, I know….how could he have known that his franchise QB would be whisked away to jail for fighting and killing dogs.  Even with that fact, the guy ran a terrible offense albeit run by Joey Harrington (2nd reference…freaking coach killer). 

He still had Warrick Dunn and a young Roddy White.  The fact that he quit is why he is the worst here. Not because he didn’t think he could coach….he just wanted the Arkansas job. Fine…but finish the year out at least.  You owe it to the team. 

He actually did well at Arkansas until he decided to screw a secretary and go joy riding on a motorcycle like those 50-year old accountants who ship their hog to Sturgis then ride around like they are the real deal.  Please, go home.

Honorable Mentions:

Rich Brooks (Career Record: 13-19)

Dick MacPherson (Career Record: 8-24)

Ron Meyer (Career Record: 54-50)

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