The Most Fired Coaches In Football History

There are high-pressure jobs, there are really high-pressure jobs, and then, there's being a football coach in the NFL. Not only is there the obvious drive to win, but when an average work day unfolds on national television and in front of packed stadiums, it's definitely a "go big, or go home" kind of world.

And here's the thing — teams remember how coaches perform, so there's not a heck of a lot of room for screwing up badly enough to get fired, then going to the next city and grabbing another contract for millions of dollars. Get fired a couple of times, and you have a choice: Make the next job count and stay there, or start looking at getting your real estate license. That means there are not a heck of a lot of coaches with a losing streak of getting fired ... but they're out there, and their stories are pretty wild.

Deseret News did a deep dive into coach firings in 2021 and found that while there were a series of relatively stable teams that had found their people and their groove — like the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers — there were others that went through coaching staff turnovers faster than a fast food joint in a college town. Who's on the top of that list? The Raiders and the Browns — and many of the most fired coaches in football have packed their bags from those two teams.

Tony Sparano

When Tony Sparano passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in 2018, The Athletic lauded him for not only helping overhaul the Raiders in 2014 but for being a genuinely good guy and family man who went out of his way to build his players up.

Before landing with the Raiders and later the Vikings, Sparano was fired from four teams. Also paying tribute to their late ex-coach was the Browns (via BrownsZone), who also noted that his NFL coaching career had started with them back in 1999. He wasn't there long: He — along with head coach Chris Palmer — was fired at the wrap-up of the 2000 season. From there, it was on to a very short stint with the then-Redskins: According to NBC, the 2001 season ended with an 8-8 record, which led to the firing of the coaching staff that included Marty Schottenheimer and Sparano.

Sparano eventually ended up getting hired as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, with ESPN reporting in December of 2012 that he had been fired mid-season, on the heels of another loss to Philly that took the team's record to 4-9. From there, it was on to the Jets, where he was fired after one season (via the NFL), and then, he headed to the Raiders. He wasn't fired from them — technically — but after serving as head coach, they said, "Nah, we're good," and that, says ESPN, was when he went to the 49ers.

Dave Wannstedt

In the last few days of 1998, CBS News reported that the Bears had fired their head coach, Dave Wannstedt. It was at the end of their second-in-a-row 4-12 season, and president Michael McCaskey was pretty blunt in explaining why the coach was fired: "We didn't win enough football games. ... We have a good nucleus of players and we need to increase the talent level."

Ouch. At the time the Bears hired him, Wannstedt was considered one of the most promising coaches in the game — but his stint with the Dolphins didn't end any better. In fact, he ended that mid-season, before he was even technically fired. According to Deseret News, it was the middle of the 2004 season and word on the street was that it was only a matter of time before he was fired amid their 1-8 season. He knew it, too, saying, "I have too much respect for ... this organization to allow myself to be the focal point for the remainder of the season."

In 2010, Wannstedt wasn't technically fired from Pitt, but the press conference called mid-season to announce his departure came on the heels of his comments about looking forward to recruiting, so ESPN says the writing was on the wall. In late 2012, Wannstedt was part of the mass firing of Chan Gailey's entire Buffalo Bills coaching staff (via ESPN), and after a single season with the Bucs, Naples Daily News announced he was transitioning into broadcasting.

Frank Reich

Ask any Bills fan who followed the '90s-era Jim Kelly team about Frank Reich, and the response is guaranteed to be a giant grin and a story about watching the backup quarterback engineer the biggest comeback in NFL history — adding to his resume of leading the largest comeback in college history, too (via USA Today).

Unfortunately, his coaching career has been less successful. In 2012, ESPN reported that the Colts had fired their head coach, Jim Caldwell, and dismissed his coaching staff — which Heavy points out included Reich, who had been recently shifted from quarterback coach to receiver coach (via the NFL).

Then, in late 2012, Reich was again caught up in a major house cleaning, this time over at the Cardinals. They ended the season with a 5-11 losing record, leading to the firing of the head coach on down — including then-wide receiver coach Reich (via USA Today). Fast forward a bit to 2016: That, says Sports Illustrated, was when the Chargers fired six of their assistant coaches, including Reich as offensive coordinator (and his former Bills teammate, Pete Metzelaars, who had been the team's tight ends coach).

Then, in 2022, Reich got a mid-season, Monday morning phone call informing him that his time as the head coach of the Colts had come to an end, well short of his hopes of retiring there in a decade or so (via CBS News).

Norv Turner

Norv Turner was the coach for the then-Redskins in 2000, and according to ABC News, he'd been there for a long time. Hired in 1994, he was third when it came to seniority among NFL coaches (after Bill Cowher and Jeff Fisher). At the time, he was also in charge of the most expensive team in history (at around $100 million per year), so when he had a record that sat at 7-6, it was only slightly surprising that he was handed his walking papers.

Turner ended up at the Raiders, where — as reported by SF Gate — he was fired in 2006 after the team's third losing season in a row. It was a dismal streak, but they were on the top of the board for something. Unfortunately for Turner, it was penalties.

In 2012, ESPN reported that the Chargers had the dubious honor of handing Turner his third firing after a few contentious seasons: Turner was a coach that not everyone was on board with from the very beginning of his tenure there, starting in 2007.

Turner later went on to find a home with the Vikings, but in 2016, he suddenly walked away. He handed in his resignation mid-season, and according to the Los Angeles Times, he didn't say much about why he left. He did, however, cite differences in opinions: "It wasn't going to work, so I removed myself from it."

Lane Kiffin

In many cases, the firing of a head coach is announced in a press conference thanking them but stressing that everyone will be going their separate ways, but when Lane Kiffin got fired by the Raiders in 2008, ESPN reported that absolutely wasn't the case. Owner Al Davis took the opportunity to stress that Kiffin wasn't the guy for the job, said "the whole staff were fractionalized," accused him of lying, prioritizing himself over the team, and continuing, "I think he conned me like he conned all you people." Ouch. Kiffin filed both a formal complaint with the NFL and sued for the remainder of his contract, but it — along with the Raiders' counter-grievance, filed in an attempt to get their attorney fees coverage — was denied (via ESPN). For Kiffin, the worst was yet to come.

In 2013, Kiffin was coaching for USC. After a massive loss to Arizona State, the team returned home via a private airport, where Kiffin put some of his gear on the team bus ... and was informed by the school's athletic director that he was fired. His gear? It was later delivered to his home, and according to what he told CBS News a few years later, it was the low point in his career.

Then, in 2017, ESPN reported that although Kiffin and Alabama claimed they were parting ways in a mutual move, those in the know suggested it was anything but friendly.

Mike Shanahan

The Raiders hired Mike Shanahan in 1987, snagging the Broncos' offensive coordinator and handing him the head coach position. According to the Los Angeles Times, it was just two years later that he had the dubious honor of becoming the first head coach fired by owner Al Davis — and, they noted, given the fractiousness of their relationship, it wasn't entirely surprising that his tenure with the team ended that way. Davis had started bad-mouthing Shanahan after his very first game, so that's pretty telling in itself — without even getting into the fact that Davis re-hired assistant coaches Shanahan fired.

Shanahan didn't forget, and it later came out (via The New York Times) that in 1994, Shanahan had ordered KC QB Elvis Grbac to throw a football at Davis. (Davis ducked.)

Shanahan added a few more firings to his coaching career: In 2008, he was fired by the Broncos in what ESPN — and some Broncos players — described as a pretty shocking move that no one saw coming. It was so out of the blue that there was even zero speculation as to who was going to replace him. However, when he was fired by the then-Redskins in 2013, it was a little more predictable. ESPN reported that although owner Dan Snyder sent him on his way with some thanks-for-the-efforts, the fact that the team was at the bottom of the league was plenty telling.

Hue Jackson

In 2012, Raiders' coach Hue Jackson wrapped up the season with the typical news conference, saying, "As the head coach of this football team, I would hope that the organization understands that I have a pretty good idea of where we need to go. Because, if not, then I shouldn't be where I'm sitting." And then, just a few days later, he was fired. According to NBC, the official reason was starting to rebuild the team from scratch after the death of owner Al Davis. Still, that had to hurt.

Jackson ended up over at the Browns, and ESPN reported that both he and his offensive coordinator were fired in 2018. What happened then was a little different: Jackson spoke candidly with Sports Illustrated about how devastated he was. He got real about the depression that set in and said that it was weeks before he could bring himself to even leave his basement. It was only after hearing the voice of his mother — who had passed away — telling him to live his life the way she had raised him that he was able to go outside again.

He and his family were getting ready to move to Cincinnati: Jackson would go on to be the assistant to the head coach, but according to, Jackson was fired from the Bengals in 2019.

Eric Mangini

In 2008, Jets coach Eric Mangini had been there for three years and had another year left on his contract when the team decided to bid him farewell after early-season hopes to top the AFC East ended up somewhere around, well, the toilet. ESPN reported that Mangini left on good terms, with his players apologizing for failing him and owner Woody Johnson thanking him for his contributions.

Fast forward to 2011, and Mangini was packing up his things again. This time, says ESPN, he had been fired from the Browns after two seasons of chalking up dismal records of 5-11. The team's owner commented how hard it was to let him go: That owner was, after all, former head coach Mike Holmgren. And then? In 2016, he was working as the defensive coordinator for the 49ers when he got handed the bad news for a third time (via the NFL): He was fired after three years with the team (and one as defensive coordinator).

By 2021, Mangini was working for Fox Sports as an analyst, and Gang Green Nation talked to him about his career's ups and downs. When asked about what it felt like to see a team go on without him — especially to some serious success — he had this to say: "Obviously, I was really happy for all the guys we brought in. ... But then you have the other side of it. When you're not a part of it, that brings mixed emotions."