With another ugly loss, Dennis Allen’s record as head coach of the Raiders has dropped to 8-28. But does this mean Allen’s tenure as Oakland head coach has been one of the worst 10 coaching regimes since the merger?
Not exactly. For starters, we should remember that Allen was dealt a terrible hand. The year before Allen’s arrival, 2011, Oakland didn’t have a first round pick. He inherited one of the worst rosters in the NFL, and didn’t have a first or a second round pick in his first year. In 2013, the Raiders spent only $67M on the players on their roster, courtesy of $50M of dead money on the team’s salary cap. So an 8-28 record, while perhaps not even good considering the circumstances, is hardly all Allen’s fault.
That said, I thought it would be fun to just compare Allen’s record to that of other regimes since the merger, regardless of circumstances. The most common way to do this would be to use straight winning percentage, but that would put Allen behind say, Cam Cameron, who went 1-15 as the Dolphins head coach.
Another method could be to use games under .500 — Cameron would therefore be 14 games below .500, while Allen would be 20 games below. But Jim Schwartz finished 22 games below .500 with the Lions, courtesy of a 29-51 record. Your mileage may vary, but to me, an 8-28 record is worse than 1-15 and 29-51; the former could be disregarded as just one terrible year, while the latter was much better on a per-game basis.
One solution would be to add a number of games of 0.500 football to each coach’s record. The devil is in the details, here — what number should we pick? — but let’s say we added 20 wins and 20 losses to each team’s record. That would make Cameron 21-35 (0.375), Schwartz 49-71 (0.408), and Allen 28-48 (0.368). That “works” if the goal is to put Allen below Cameron and Schwartz, and I think as a general rule, adding 40 games of 0.500 football works well enough for these purposes.1
By this methodology, Allen’s tenure in Oakland checks in as the 13th worst since the merger. Here’s how to read the table below, topped by Leeman Bennett and Rich Kotite. Bennett coached the Bucs in ’85 and ’86, while Kotite coached the Jets ten years later. Both went 4-28, for a 0.125 winning percentage, which comes in at 24 games below 0.500. If you add 20 wins and 20 losses to each of their records, you get adjusted winning percentages of 0.333, the metric by which the table is sorted.
|Rk||Coach||Tm||First Yr||Last Yr||W||L||T||Win%||GmU.500||Adj Win%|
- While it’s easy to quibble with the methodology, I think the results are pretty good. It’s hard to top Bennett’s and Kotite’s 4-28 record for pure futility. Marinelli and Spagnuolo essentially went 4-28 with a 6-10 season added on to that, placing them tied for third worst on the list. Mornhinweg and Palmer simply turned one of those losses into wins, so 5-27 records puts them tied for 5th worst. But I’ve included the full data, so you can come up with whatever methodology you desire.
- You probably won’t be surprised to see Tampa Bay’s original coach, John McKay, finish the most games under .500. A 44-88-1 record left him an unmatched 44 games below 0.500; only David Shula finished more 30 or more games below 0.500 since the merger.
- Cameron and Rod Rust are the only coaches to ever go 1-15 in their first and only season with a team. That’s good enough for only 16th on this list, though. And it’s not even the worst winning percentage of any coach on the list! In 1971, Bill Peterson went 3-7-1 as the head coach at Rice. Somehow, that got him a job with the local pro football team, and Peterson went 1-13 with the Oilers in 1972. He was fired after an 0-5 start in ’73, giving him a 0.053 career winning percentage in the NFL.2
- Note that this post looks at coaching regimes, which means continuous coaching eras. So Campbell makes the list after going 11-32 with the Falcons from ’87 to ’89, but he also made the list for his earlier tenure with Atlanta, when he went 6-19 from ’74 to ’76. If you are wondering how Campbell could possibly get rehired by the Falcons, you are not alone.
- Two other coaches made the list based on their second stop in a city:
- Joe Collier was the Bills coach in the late ’60s, but he was fired after the 2nd week of the 1968 season. Harvey Johnson replaced him, and went 1-10-1 as interim coach. Buffalo then hired John Rauch, who coached the team for two years before Buffalo hired…. Johnson to replace him. In Johnson’s second time circling the wagons in Buffalo, the team went an ugly 1-13, which landed him at #26 on the above list. That career 2-23-1 record, tho.
- Chuck Knox went 10-4 or better and won the NFC West in each year from 1973 to 1977 with the Rams. But due to conflicts with owner Carroll Rosenbloom, Knox was gone after five years in California. When Knox returned in 1992 at the age of 60, he led Los Angeles to 6-10, 5-11, and 4-12 records before retiring for good. His work in his second tenure with the Rams placed him at #36 on the list.
What stands out to you in the above table? Other than a pair of washed-up Saints coaches appearing at #35 and #36, of course.
- What would be a fun post is trying to derive what the right number actually is; we can put that on the offseason to-do list, or perhaps a guest post? [↩]
- His one win? That came in a 26-20 victory against the Jets. Classic let down by New York following the historic win at Baltimore a week earlier. [↩]