5 Times NFL Teams Regretted Firing Their Head Coaches

Coach firings happen every year in the NFL. A group of team leaders almost always get the boot the day after the regular season ends, better known as Black Monday. Other times, as with Jay Gruden this season, a team fires its head coach before the postseason.

Whenever an NFL team fires its head coach, it expresses a need for change in leadership. However, some franchises may not think the move through enough. Here’s a look at five teams that regretted firing their coaches.

1. Houston Oilers fire head coach Bum Phillips

Former Oilers owner Bud Adams was notorious for interfering with operations even when Houston was performing well. One of those times occurred in 1981 when he shocked the NFL by firing head coach Bum Phillips, who had just led the team to a 11-5 record.

It was Phillips’ sixth season as the Oilers’ head coach, a tenure that included appearances in two AFC Championship games. Sadly, the team fell apart after his departure. They did not return to the playoffs until 1987, and their next AFC Championship appearance didn’t come until 1999 — their first season as the Tennessee Titans.

2. Chicago Bears fire Lovie Smith

Lovie Smith had a successful nine-year run as the Bears’ head coach, which included three division titles and a Super Bowl XLI appearance (the team’s first championship game since winning the Super Bowl 21 years earlier).

But Smith’s accomplishments weren’t good enough to satiate Bears general manager Phil Emery. He dismissed Smith and replaced him with Marc Trestman, who only lasted two seasons and compiled a 13-19 record with the team.

3. New York Jets fire Pete Carroll

Pete Carroll is one of the few head coaches to experience success in college football as well as the NFL. One time he didn’t see success, however, was in 1994 as the Jets’ head coach. Carroll went 6-10 in his only season with the team.

He went on to coach the Patriots, but Carroll has found the most success with his current job as the Seahawks’ head coach. This 10-year tenure includes two Super Bowl appearances and one win against the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. After Carroll’s departure, the Jets won just four games in two seasons under the leadership of Rich Kotite.

4. Los Angeles Raiders fire Mike Shanahan

The Raiders hired Mike Shanahan to coach in 1988. Then, the team went 7-9 that season and began the 1989 season with a 1-3 record. Shanahan was fired and replaced with Art Shell, who finished the season 8-8.

The Raiders had some success under Shell, but they have not won a Super Bowl since relieving Shanahan of his duties. Shanahan, on the other hand, became the Broncos’ head coach in 1995 and led them to two Super Bowl titles in his 14 years with the team.

5. Oakland Raiders trade Jon Gruden

In his first stint as the Raiders’ head coach, Jon Gruden led the team to two playoff appearances in four seasons, which included an AFC Championship appearance. But this wasn’t good enough for owner Al Davis, who traded Gruden to the Buccaneers for a slew of draft picks.

Bill Callahan succeeded Gruden in Oakland and led the Gruden-built team to an 11-5 record in his first season. Callahan even led the Raiders to their first Super Bowl appearance in nearly 20 years. Unfortunately, the Raiders lost to Gruden’s Buccaneers team in Super Bowl XXXVII that season. The Raiders eventually re-hired Gruden, giving him a 10-year contract worth $100 million prior to the 2018 season.