The Long, Sad History Of Interim NFL Coaches

Dave Wannstedt

Yesterday, the Dallas Cowboys fired head coach Wade Phillips after a 1-7 start. Even though the Bills are 0-8, one could argue that the Cowboys have been the worst team in the league this season.

But in a sport where the season is only 16 games long, and much of a team’s success is based on systems and game plans, many are left wondering if a mid-season coaching change would benefit a team at all.

To answer this question, let’s take a look at the most recent mid-season coaching changes in the NFL.

Click to see the last 20 coaches to get canned mid-season >>

In the last 20 seasons, there have been 20 coaching changes during the season. Here are a few notes on those changes…

  • The winning percentage for coaches before the change was .280 and they averaged a 2-6 record. Coaches that took over those teams had a .322 winning percentage, and an average record of 2-5.
  • Of the 20 coaching changes, four had winning record after the coaching change. That list includes Wade Phillips who was 2-1 after replacing Dan Reeves on the 2003 Falcons. The others were the 2008 49ers (Mike Singletary, 5-4), the 1996 Bengals (Bruce Coslett, 7-2), and the 2000 Lions (Gary Moeller, 4-3).
  • Three teams have had more than one mid-season coaching change in the last 20 years (Bengals, Falcons, Rams).
  • No team in the last 20 years had a mid-season coaching change and made the playoffs. Only one team finished with a winning record (2000 Lions, 9-7). Two other teams finished 8-8 (2000 Redskins, 1996 Bengals).
  • Two teams had a winning record at the time of the coaching change (2000 Redskins 7-6, 2000 Lions 5-4).

Jerry Jones may have been left with little choice but to fire Phillips. But based on recent history, don’t expect Jason Garrett to suddenly turn the Cowboys into a winner.

2009 Buffalo Bills

Dick Jauron (3-6) replaced by Perry Fewell (3-4)

2008 San Francisco 49ers

Mike Nolan (2-5) replaced by Mike Singletary (5-4)

2008 Oakland Raiders

Lane Kiffin (1-3) replaced by Tom Cable (4-8)

2008 St. Louis Rams

Scott Linehan (0-4) replaced by Jim Haslett (2-10)

2007 Atlanta Falcons

Bobby Petrino (3-10) replaced by Emmitt Thomas (1-2)

2005 Detroit Lions

Steve Mariucci (4-7) replaced by Dick Jauron (1-4)

2005 St. Louis Rams

Mike Martz (2-3) replaced by Joe Vitt (4-7)

2004 Cleveland Browns

Butch Davis (3-7) replaced by Terry Robiskie (1-5)

2004 Miami Dolphins

Dave Wannstedt (1-8) replaced by Jim Bates (3-4)

2003 Atlanta Falcons

Dan Reeves (3-10) replaced by Wade Phillips (2-1)

2001 Minnesota Vikings

Dennis Green (5-10) replaced by Mike Tice (0-1)

2000 Cincinnati Bengals

Bruce Coslett (0-3) replaced by Dick LeBeau (4-9)

2000 Arizona Cardinals

Vince Tobin (2-5) replaced by Dave McGinnis (1-8)

2000 Detroit Lions

Bobby Ross (5-4) replaced by Gary Moeller (4-3)

2000 Washington Redskins

Norv Turner (7-6) replaced by Terry Robiskie (1-2)

1998 San Diego Chargers

Kevin Gilbride (2-4) replaced by June Jones (3-7)

1996 Cincinnati Bengals

David Shula (1-6) replaced by Bruce Coslett (7-2)

1996 New Orleans Saints

Jim Mora (2-6) replaced by Rick Venturi (1-7)

1994 Houston Oilers

Jack Pardee (1-9) replaced by Jeff Fisher (1-5)

1991 Indianapolis Colts

Ron Meyer (0-5) replaced by Rick Venturi (1-10)

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