With his hiring on February 6, Mike Pettine became the eighth head coach of the Cleveland Browns in the 15 years since the team has come back to the city. Now, this is only possible with some pretty awful head coaches leading the team in the past couple of years. Therefore, without further ado, here are my top five worst coaches in Browns history (hint: they’re all after ’99).
Side Note: I didn’t include interim coaches or coaches that didn’t last more than one season (Rob Chudzinski I’m looking at you).
1. Chris Palmer– Palmer can technically be considered the one who started it all. All of course being the consistent losing and subpar football. Palmer was the first man pegged to take over the team once the Browns came back to Cleveland after a three-year hiatus. He was the definition of a coaching journeyman. Before coming to Cleveland, Palmer had coached in 13 other positions. The longest he stayed anywhere was as the offensive coordinator at Colgate, where he lasted six years. He also had no one specialty. He was an offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, wide receivers coach, offensive line coach and defensive line coach. Now I’m no expert, but not having a coaching specialty may come back to bite you in the butt. Now, I understand that being the first guy to coach an expansion franchise can be rough, but even by those standards, he was miserable. He won a total of five games in two years. Palmer really sealed his own fate in his very first draft, before he ever coached a single game on the field. His first major decision was to draft quarterback Tim Couch out of Kentucky, and that officially sealed his fate. Couch was one of the worst draft picks of all time, and therefore, Plamer never really stood a chance. Now again, it’s rough being that expansion guinea pig, but you are essentially setting a standard for what type of path the team will take in the future. Palmer, well it’s clear to see, set the Browns on the worst possible path of all time.
2. Pat Shurmer– Ah Pat Shurmer some great memories come to mind when I think of you. Now, when I say good, I mean absolutely horrendous. He came to the Browns after one season as the offensive coordinator of St. Louis Rams. Why Shurmer was ever brought in as the head coach in the first place is beyond me. Yes, he improved the Rams’ offense in every statistical category, but that’s not tough with an offense of a 1-15 team the year before. The Rams finished 7-9 in the one season he was there and whenever you bring in a coordinator from a losing team, you shouldn’t expect too much. The Browns got exactly that with Shurmer. In his two forgettable seasons, he won nine games (Oh but he was sooooo close to double digit wins for his career) compared to 23 losses. In case you need it spelled out, that’s really terrible. The whole reason that he was hired, for offensive proficiency, never happened with a Colt McCoy led offense, and he may have been one of the worst play callers that I’ve ever seen. He was also not very emotional and kind of dopey, which opened him up for the media to eat him up, especially with the poor results that he put out on the field. Unfortunately for Cleveland media, who had an absolute ball making fun of him, Shurmer only lasted two seasons, as he was fired in 2012.
3. Eric Mangini– Mangini was one of the bright young “geniuses” of the NFL when the Browns decided to hire him as their head coach back in 2009. He was another one of the bright young coaching pupils of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. He first moved onto the head coaching position of the New York Jets, where he wasn’t awful, I guess. He had an overall record of 23-25 in his three seasons including a trip to the playoffs in his first season at the helm. When he got to the Browns though, it was just an absolute dumpster fire of a combination. Mangini had what I like to call “Napoleon Bonaparte Syndrome.” Similar to Greg Schiano with the Buccaneers, Mangini was a short, power hungry coach. He didn’t mesh well with his players, probably because he was unnecessarily strict and wanted way more control than he ever deserved. This combination will never work and Mangini was a perfect example. He never found any type of success as a coach. What he did find though was consistency, as in consistent mediocrity. In both of his seasons, Mangini went 4-12 and was therefore kicked him to the curb where he rightfully belonged.