Changing Head Coaches In The Middle Of The Season


With the recent resignation of Bobby Petrino as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons (and his replacement by longtime assistant Emmitt Thomas), let’s take a look at teams that replace coaches in mid-season.

As opposed to baseball, basketball, and hockey… it is somewhat unusual for an NFL team to change coaches during the season. This is mainly due to their only being 16 regular season games in the NFL where other sports have many more than that. There are 32 teams in the NFL and since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger there has been a change of coaches mid season 59 times – that’s less than two in-season coaching changes for each team if you average it out.

So, which team has changed coaches during the season the most?

The list of teams that has changed coaches mid-season once or twice since 1970 is decent sized, but from there we move into the upper echelon of coaching instability.

NFL Teams That Have Changed Head Coaches In Mid-Season Three Times Since 1970:
Arizona/St. Louis Cardinals
Cincinnati Bengals
Buffalo Bills

NFL Teams That Have Changed Head Coaches In Mid-Season Four Times Since 1970:
Detroit Lions
Tennessee Titans (done while still the Houston Oilers)
New England Patriots
Cleveland Browns

But, the champions of this category are…

NFL Teams That Have Changed Head Coaches In Mid-Season Five Times Since 1970:
Atlanta Falcons (just joined the club)
New Orleans Saints
San Diego Chargers
Indianapolis Colts

There you have it, where does your team rank in coaching stability?

A couple of interesting side notes that make great trivia:

There Are Eight Teams That Hadn’t Changed Coaches Mid-Season At All Since 1970:
Of these eight teams, four have a distinct advantage as they came into the league after 1995:
Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Baltimore Ravens, and the Houston Texans.

But, the four longtime NFL teams that qualify:
Chicago Bears
Dallas Cowboys
Green Bay Packers
Pittsburgh Steelers

And a nice bit of trivia on the bad side of this issue:

There are only two NFL teams since 1970 that have changed head coaches mid-season in two consecutive years:

New York Jets (1975 & 1976)
Buffalo Bills (1985 & 1986)

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