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Decade Debate: 10 Worst NFL Head Coaching Hires

Perhaps more than any other sport, a bad head coaching hire in the NFL can ruin a franchise for the better part of a decade. When you consider the free agent and draft acquisitions that are made to fit a coach’s style and philosophy, it’s no wonder that it usually takes years for a team to rebound after a bad coaching hire. As part of our ongoing Decade Debate series, here are the 10 worst head coaching hires of the past decade. To be clear, this ranking is based on the result of the hire, and not necessarily the hire itself. (Although the ranking could be a combination of the two.)

10. Eric Mangini, Cleveland Browns, 2009

One might argue that since Mangini hasn’t even gotten through his first year in Cleveland yet that he doesn’t deserve to be on this list. But others will argue that since he was absolutely despised in New York that the Browns should have never hired him in the first place. After all, was the one winning season he had with the Jets worth the Browns giving him a shot? Some of the moves that Mangini has made since arriving in Cleveland haven’t been bad at all: Trading Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow, trading down multiple times to acquire more picks in the draft, acquiring safety Abram Elam, etc. But considering he hasn’t won many players over with his crass attitude, has made two quarterback changes and only has one win under his belt, things couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start in Cleveland. It’ll be interesting to see if the Browns fire him after only one season.

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Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Lions go with another untested head coach in Swartz

Jim SwartzThe Detroit Lions found their next head coach in former Tennessee Titans’ defensive coordinator Jim Swartz, who was hired Thursday evening to take over a franchise in dire need of a facelift.

At least as a head coach, Swartz is unproven, untested and his ability to lead a team (especially one coming off an 0-16 season) is unresolved. Can he do it? Can he take the Lions from the pits of hell to at the very least, mediocrity? Maybe. Or maybe he follows in the footsteps of Rod Marinelli, Steve Mariucci and Marty Mornhinweg and gets ushered out the door as quickly as he was rushed in.

Lion fans had to have felt a little better when they woke up this morning. Matt Millen isn’t the general manager anymore, change is in the air and another offseason of free agent signings and high draft picks is upon them. But the cold, hard reality of the situation is that Martin Mayhew (Millen’s understudy) is the general manager, Swartz (again, unproven) is the change and what’s the point of getting excited about another offseason when failure is quickly to follow it?

If you ask me, William Clay Ford Sr. got it wrong again. He should have hired somebody from a winning organization (somebody who has won somewhere, sometime) to be the general manager instead of Mayhew. Why would you want the guy that was under Millen? Why would you want the guy that was three people under Millen for that matter? If they wanted real change, then they should have air raided the entire front office and started from scratch. (Although to be fair, Mayhew’s first move was trading Roy Williams to Dallas for draft picks, which looks like it was a solid move.)

It’s hard not to give a first-year head coach like Swartz a chance because of the success rookie head coaches John Harbaugh (Baltimore), Tony Sparano (Miami) and Mike Smith (Atlanta) had this year. But Swartz won’t be able to do his job effectively unless Mayhew does his.

The Lions have a long ways to go to get the taste of 0-16 out of their mouths. Change is what they needed, but is Mayhew and Swartz the right change? Time will tell.

2008 Year-End Sports Review: What We Think Might Happen

It’s time to look ahead to 2009 and play a little Nostradamus.

Last year, we predicted that God would anoint the “Devil-free” Rays World Series Champions (ding!), that Brett Favre would play another year or two (ding! – sort of), that Isiah Thomas would be canned (ding!), and that Kobe would be playing for a new team by the trade deadline…

Granted, that last one didn’t come true, but how were we supposed to know that the Grizzlies would trade Pau Gasol to the Lakers for an unproven rookie and a bag of peanuts? Our occasional inaccuracy isn’t going to keep us from rolling out another set of predictions – some serious and some farcical – for 2009 and beyond, including President Obama’s plan for a college football playoff, Donovan McNabb’s new home and the baseball club most likely to be 2009’s version of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Read on, and in a year, we guarantee* you’ll be amazed.

*This is not an actual guarantee, mind you.

Don’t miss the other two parts of our 2008 Year-End Sports Review: “What We Learned” and “What We Already Knew.”

Michael Vick will play for the Oakland Raiders next season.

Once NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell allows suspended quarterback Michael Vick to re-enter the league, let’s be honest, there’s really only one team that will take a shot on the convict: the Oakland Raiders. Sure, the Raiders would have to possibly give up a draft pick because Vick will still technically be property of the Falcons, but with Matt Ryan on board, Atlanta would probably be willing to give Mikey up for a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos…snack size. With Vick on board, JaMarcus Russell could shift to tight end or full back or offensive tackle or something. Or, Vick could play wide receiver! Or running back! Think of the possibilities! The Oakland Raiders will be the most unstoppable team in the league! That is, of course, until Vick gets the itch for his old hobby. – Anthony Stalter

The Nationals and Pirates become the official AAAA teams of their respective divisions.

After finishing at or near the bottom of the division since the franchise’s move from Montreal, Major League Baseball executives analyze the entire Washington Nationals player system and conclude that they have no chance of fielding a competitive team in the near future. In the boldest decision of his tenure, Commissioner Bud Selig demotes the team’s Major League roster to AAAA status, a phrase long used by baseball personnel to describe players that are too good for the minors but not good enough for the majors. In an added twist, Selig designates that the team’s assets are fair game for all four remaining teams in the National League East, as a means of creating parity. In order to keep the number of teams even in each league, Selig also downgrades the Pittsburgh Pirates, losers of 94 or more games since 2005, to AAAA status as well. It will be six weeks into the regular season before an NL East team claims any of these former Pirates or Nationals. – David Medsker

Barack Obama will have a plan in place for a college football playoff by 2016.

He has already spoken out twice in favor of an eight-team playoff format for college football. Granted, there are more pressing concerns for the President-elect – the economy, the war in Iraq and a forward-thinking energy policy, just to name a few – but there’s no reason that Obama can’t appoint a “Playoff Czar” to get the conference presidents and the bowl organizers together to hash out a system that works for everyone. Are the bowls worried about losing money? Rotate the semifinals and the final amongst the four bowl cities. Are the conferences worried about losing money? They shouldn’t be – the ratings for an eight-team playoff would dwarf the ratings the current system is getting. And better ratings means more money. This is something that 85%-90% of the population can agree on, and that doesn’t happen often. Mark our words – President Obama will make it happen, especially if he gets a second term. – John Paulsen


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