9 hours. 540 minutes. 32,400 seconds. That’s the amount of time that passed between the Indianapolis Colts announcing they had agreed terms with prospective new head coach Josh McDaniels and Josh McDaniels deciding he didn’t want the job and wanted to stay as part of Bill Belichick’s coaching staff at the New England Patriots.
As the deal was never finalised it cannot be classed as the shortest time a head coach was with a team, which got me wondering what the shortest time was. Without further ado here are the 5 shortest head coaching stints in NFL history, running from least short to shortest:
5. Bobby Petrino, Atlanta Falcons (7th January 2007 – 10th December 2007 – 337 days)
Petrino arrived at Atlanta under controversial circumstances – he came from Louisville, where, just 7 months earlier, he had signed a 10 year contract and told everyone he wasn’t going anywhere. So on 26th November 2007 when Petrino said he hadn’t considered leaving the Falcons after a 3-8 start to the season fans would have been pretty foolish if they actually believed him. He left the role 2 weeks later after another 2 losses and returned to college to take the head coaching job at Arkansas.
4. Lou Holtz, New York Jets (10th February 1976 – 9th December 1976, 303 days)
Lou Holtz is one of the greatest college coaches of all time, with multiple coach of the year awards and a National Championship with Notre Dame in 1988. Unfortunately he didn’t have the same luck in the professional game. He spent 13 games with the New York Jets, going 3-10 before leaving with one game remaining in the season. Like Bobby Petrino, Lou’s next job was head coach with Arkansas.
3. Pete McCulley, San Francisco 49ers (actual time unknown but 9 games, 1978)
I’d love to tell you Pete McCulleys life story here but to tell you the truth I can’t find out much about him. He was an assistant coach, mainly working with quarterbacks for the Baltimore Colts, Washington Redskins, New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs and became San Francisco 49ers head coach for the 1978 season. He was fired after 9 games with a 1-8 record. He didn’t get another head coaching job in the NFL, but can hold his head high as he has a higher winning percentage than Hue Jackson has in his current head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns.
2. George Allen, Los Angeles Rams (1st February 1978 – 14th August 1978 – 194 days)
This was George Allen’s third stint with the Rams, but it was by far his shortest. Having previously been an assistant coach with the team for one year in 1957 and head coach for 4 years between 1966-1970 he came back to complete the trilogy, and just like Alien 3 it was a huge letdown. Allen was head coach for 2 preseason games, a 14-7 loss to the New England Patriots followed by a 17-0 loss to the San Diego Chargers, before being released by owner Carroll Rosenbloom. “It is my feeling that I have made a serious error in judgment in believing George Allen could work within our framework. It has been extremely difficult for him to adjust to a new situation” Rosenbloom said in a statement. Don’t think you really gave him time to adjust there Carroll if I’m being honest.
1. Bill Belichick, New York Jets (4th January 2000, 1 day)
One of the greatest what if’s in NFL history just so happens to involve arguably the greatest head coach of all time. Yes, the man who’s most recognisable achievement is his continuous efforts to make the sleeveless hoody a fashion staple is also the man with the shortest head coach spell in league history. (He also has 5 Super Bowl rings with the same team and quarterback and is 3rd all time in head coach wins or something but whatever.)
Belichick had served as assistant head coach and defensive co-ordinator under Bill Parcells with the New York Jets since 1997. When Parcells moved on to become head coach of the Dallas Cowboys it had already been arranged that Belichick would take over as head coach of the Jets. In the ultimate wrestling heel move Bill Belichick used his introductory press conference on 4th January 2000 to shock the world and announce his resignation from the New York Jets. He wrote his resignation notice on a piece of scrap paper while at the press podium and it simply read “I resign as HC of the NYJ.”
On 27th January 2000 Bill Belichick became head coach of the New England Patriots and the rest, as they say, is history.
What would have happened if he had stayed on as the New York Jets head coach? Well one thing is pretty much certain – he wouldn’t have the honour of holding the record for the shortest head coaching stint in the history of the NFL.