One and done

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Dec 12, 2007



By Jonathan Comey
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Bobby Petrino's 13-game stint with Atlanta as a full-fledged NFL head coach is one of the briefest in league history, but far from unprecedented.  
 
There have been many coaches to fill in on an interim basis for a season or less, but few men have been hired to be "the man" and lasted a year or less.  
 
A chronology of some of the shortest-tenured and least successful non-interim head coaches in the last 60 years of pro football:
 
1950: Clem Crowe, Baltimore Colts: The Colts were accepted into the NFL in 1950, and were so proud of their achievement that they folded. In 1953, they were back in, although they were taking over another failed franchise and had a completely different roster. So the 1950 Baltimore Colts were one of a kind – and not in a good way. Head coach Crowe (no relation to Russell) led the Colts to that singular 1-11 season, and when the franchise went down he went north, to Canada, where he coached throughout the decade. Crowe was a hell of a college coach at Xavier, coaching both basketball and football there for a decade; he's in the school's hall of Fame.
 
1953: Keith Molesworth, Baltimore Colts The official start of the present Colts franchise came after Crowe's lost season and a couple of twists and turns. Molesworth wasn't much better than Crowe, going 3-9 and promptly being reassigned to the front office. Good move. He was followed by Hall of Famers Weeb Ewbank (1954-62) and Don Shula (1963-69). Molesworth was an NFL standout, playing in the same backfield as Red Grange and Bronko Nagurski, but never coached again.
 
1958: Ray McLean, Green Bay Packers. McLean was a longtime assistant with Green Bay before he finally got the head job for good in 1958. The Packers were coming off a 3-9 season, and hopeful McLean would turn it around. And he did – for the worse. The Packers went 1-10-1 in McLean's only year as a head coach, prompting them to go outside the organization for a new man – Giants assistant Vince Lombardi, who turned out to be pretty good.  
 
1962: Clyde "Bulldog" Turner, New York Titans (AFL). They were looking for big names to coach the new Big Apple football franchise, and started with one of the biggest – Sammy Baugh coached the team for its first two seasons. When Baugh left for the warmer and more peaceful climes of Texas, Turner was his replacement. Another Pro Football Hall of Famer, Turner led the Titans to a respectable 5-9 record but a franchise sale (and name change to "Jets") was the end for the former two-way star. His replacement? Ewbank.
 
1965: Hugh Taylor, Houston Oilers. Another failed successor to Sammy Baugh. Baugh came out of retirement to coach the 1964 Oilers in his home state, but only lasted a year. In came Taylor, a former Redskin receiver nicknamed "Bones." Taylor never made his bones in the league, going 4-10. He also coached in the Continental Football League, but never again in the NFL.
 
1971: Ed Hughes, Houston Oilers. No one deserved his brief time as a head man more than Hughes. From 1960-1970, he was a key assistant in the AFL and NFL before finally getting his head job with Houston at the age of 44. According to Wikipedia's entry, Hughes' season was marred by discontent and firings. One win later, Hughes was out. But he would stay on as an assistant around the NFL for almost two decades, and win a Super Bowl ring with the 1985 Bears (offensive coordinator).
 
1976: Lou Holtz, New York Jets. The closest parallel to Petrino is Holtz, who also left his only NFL head coaching job before the year was up – and with an identical 3-10 record. Holtz was an up-and-coming college coach when he took the Jets' head job. But apparently he didn't like it much, quitting with a game left in a lost season. Oh, and for whom did Holtz forsake the NFL? None other than Arkansas. Spooky.
 
1984: Les Steckel, Minnesota Vikings. Few first-time coaches had bigger shoes to fill than Steckel, who took over for legendary Bud Grant in Minnesota. And he certainly didn't fill them well, going 3-13. It was such a bad showing that Grant actually came back to coach the team in 1985. The decorated Vietnam vet coached in college and pro ball for the next two decades, but never got another head job.  
 
1990: Rod Rust. New England Patriots. A journeyman assistant who had worked under Marv Levy and Dick Vermeil, the 62-year-old Rust was a very odd choice as a first-time head coach for the 1990 Patriots. And the season played out as you might expect: poorly. The Patriots went 1-15 under Rust, and that was that. At 72, Rust got another unexpected head coaching job, for the Montreal franchise of the CFL. He was fired midway through his second season.  
 
1993: Richie Petitbon, Washington Redskins: Petitbon was an excellent NFL player, and the defensive coordinator for Joe Gibbs' championship Redskin teams. But he went 4-12 in his only season as Joe Gibbs successor. Upon being dismissed, he was asked about his plans. According to the New York Times, he said "That's one thing I don't have to tell anybody anymore," with a smile. And sure enough, all the internet scouring we could fit in a booze-soaked afternoon couldn't educate us on what he's done since. But he's always got those three Super Bowl rings to enjoy.
 
2000: Al Groh, New York Jets. Groh is the only man on this list to leave after a winning season , going 9-7 in between the Bill Parcells and Herm Edwards eras. It was supposed to be Bill Belichick's job, but he famously decided not to become "HC of the NYJ," leading to a search for a new replacement. Groh wasn't necessarily viewed as a stopgap, but apparently that's how he saw himself. He left for the University of Virginia in 2001, where he's taken the Cavaliers to four bowls.  

 
-- Information from Wikipedia, NFL.com and pro-football-reference.com was used in this story.      
 

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