Steve Spagnuolo Flirting with the Wrong Kind of History
You’ve probably never heard the name Bert Bell. Hell, not many non-NFL historians under the age of 80 have. A quick history lesson courtesy of the internet: Bert Bell was the original owner of the Philadelphia Eagles when they joined the league in 1933. He became the head coach of his team in 1936 and in 58 games he posted a 10-46-2 record (including two games as coach of the Steelers).
So why should Rams fans care about Bert Bell?
70 years after Bert’s final day as a head coach, he remains the only name that stands in the way between Steve Spagnuolo and the title that he never dreamed of competing for – worst head coach in NFL history.
The stat that put Bell in that position is the sparkling .179 winning percentage, lowest of any of the 157 coaches that qualified (via pro-football-reference.com). As an influential owner and later league commissioner, Bell earned his way into the NFL Hall of Fame, but as a coach, he was about as far away from John Madden and Vince Lombardi as you can get.
In his three years with the Rams, Steve Spagnuolo has laid out a resume that infamous head coaching pariahs such as Rich Kotite, Joe Bugel and even Scott Linehan must be humbled by. After Sunday’s loss to the woeful Arizona Cardinals, Spags’ career record dropped to 10-33 for a winning percentage of .233. Next worst on the list is David Shula’s disastrous run in Cincinnati (W-P% .268) and Cardinals trainwreck Dave McGinnis (W-P% .298).
Even if the Rams caught fire, went 5-0 and finished the season 7-9, their head coach would still rise only to sixth worst on the 157-man list. Finish 0-5, which is far more realistic given the schedule, and Spagnuolo would be nipping at Bell’s heels in the race for least successful coach in NFL history*
So while the football is depressing to watch, at least Rams fans can tell our kids that, should Spagnuolo get canned at the end of the season as many expect, we all saw one of the most brutal coaching tenure’s in the long, storied history of the National Football League.
Odd thing is that Spags’ futility has been neatly wrapped up in one season. Most Rams fans gave him a lengthy rope to start his tenure, considering the first task was to clean up Linehan’s mess. He was absolved of any fault when he tripped out of the gate with a 1-15 season in 2009, chalking it up to the ever-versatile “rebuilding” label. Last year, he made the leap from question mark to rising presence when they exploded to 7-9 record, came one win short of a playoff appearance and appeared poised to take command of the NFC West.
Then this year happened. At 2-9, Spagnuolo’s Rams sit tied for the second worst record in the NFL only this time with his players, his staff, his system all in place. It’s been nothing short of a complete collapse, spearheaded by a bizarre regression of the team’s centerpiece, Sam Bradford.
Going into the season, Spagnuolo was likely boasting an impressive approval rating from the fans. 11 games later, the same fans are hoping that the list of available coaches is stocked this offseason. Bert Bell passed away 57 years ago, so if Stan Kroenke says the next guy he hires has to come with head coaching experience, then the next guy can’t be much worse than Spags has been.
And we mean that literally.
(*One slight notation: The 157 coaches who qualify for the W-L% record according to pro-football-reference.com have a minimum of 50 games coached. If Spagnuolo is fired after this season, he will have coached 48, falling two short of official qualification. Also notable: former Lions coach Rod Marinelli was fired after 48 games with a record of 10-38, the same as Spags if the Rams go winless. Conclusion – both Rod Marinelli and Steve Spagnuolo have been horrible NFL head coaches)