5 NFL Head Coaches Who Made a Career Out of Losing


Head coach Jeff Fisher became famous for losing football games | Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The chances of winning a Super Bowl without a quality head coach is pretty slim. While the players are the ones putting their bodies on the line each and every week, it’s the individual on the sidelines calling the shots who’s tasked with putting said players in the best possible position to succeed.

At the pro level, NFL head coaches who can’t get the job done are not given much leeway. In this case, it’s either sink or swim. Of course, just because plenty of coaches manage to learn how to swim doesn’t mean they didn’t find themselves struggling under the water on more than one occasion.

Although some teams in the National Football League are clearly superior to others, that doesn’t mean they won’t eventually lose. After all, there is a reason why folks say, “On any given Sunday.” The same, as it were, can be said about head coaches — even the best in the business can lose in bunches. Oddly enough, this happens more often than you might think. Here’s a look at the five NFL head coaches with the most losses in history. See for yourself.

5. Tom Coughlin

5 NFL Head Coaches Who Made a Career Out of Losing

Tom Coughlin’s face says it all | Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

Career losses: 150

Tom Coughlin had plenty of highs during his 20 years as an NFL head coach. He won 170 games (102 in 12 seasons with the New York Giants; 68 in eight seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars), amassed a .531 winning percentage, and led the G-Men to two unlikely Super Bowl titles. But for all his success, Coughlin’s resume is far from unblemished; as noted by the 150 career losses under his belt. Still, should he ever feel down about his current lot in life, something tells us those two shiny Super Bowl rings will quickly cheer him up.

4. Don Shula

5 NFL Head Coaches Who Made a Career Out of Losing

For all the wins, Don Shula (L) still lost plenty | Doug Collier/AFP/Getty Images

Career losses: 156

Don Shula is one of the best coaches in NFL history. During his 33 years on the sidelines (as a head coach for both the Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins), Shula won six conference championships, two Super Bowl crowns, and amassed the most all-time wins with 328. Yet, the truth is, even a guy with a .677 career winning percentage can’t help but lose a few games here and there. And Shula lost plenty — 156 to be exact. Of course, when it comes to Shula’s head-coaching career, it’s safe to say the good far outweighs the bad.

3. Tom Landry

5 NFL Head Coaches Who Made a Career Out of Losing

Even when he lost, Tom Landy looked good in that hat | Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images

Career losses: 162

Like Shula, Tom Landry is one of the greatest coaches the game has ever seen. In 29 seasons (all with the Dallas Cowboys), the man with the sleek hat won 250 contests, five conference championships, two Super Bowl titles, and racked up a .607 career winning percentage. Of course, in the end, none of that prevented Landry from losing 162 games as an NFL head coach. The silver lining of 2016,  which was not a great year, was that it was only a matter of time before Fisher dropped him down a peg on the all-time list.

1. (tie) Jeff Fisher

5 NFL Head Coaches Who Made a Career Out of Losing

Rams head coach Jeff Fisher knows a thing or two about losing | Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Career losses: 165

The greatest trick in Jeff Fisher’s arsenal is that he managed to keep his job for so long. In 22 years as an NFL head coach, Fisher amassed a .512 winning percentage and has a knack for putting together seven-win seasons. Seriously, it’s unbelievable that he was still calling the shots on the Rams sidelines for five years (he was ultimately fired on December 12th, after signing a two-year extension earlier in the season). To add insult to injury, Los Angeles managed to give Fisher a shared position at the top of the all-time losses list before letting him go. Not sure that’s a feat worth bragging about, but it is something.

1. (tie) Dan Reeves

5 NFL Head Coaches Who Made a Career Out of Losing

Dan Reeves lost a few games in his day | Stephen Jaffe/AFP/Getty Images

Career losses: 165

Over his 23 years as a head coach, Dan Reeves found himself on the sidelines for the Denver Broncos, New York Giants, and Atlanta Falcons. During his career, Reeves won 190 games and captured four conference titles. Unfortunately, not only was he unable to capture the big one, but he also lost 165 career games; the most by any head coach in NFL history. Silver lining, it’s only a matter of time before this spot belongs solely to Jeff Fisher (it is written).

Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.