Figure 1: Football is a tough game
The question of the best team in the NFL will always be fiercely debated. A major part of any given Sunday is devoted to not so much watching the football as arguing about the merits of the teams and players in action.
Which team is preferred will depend on a number of factors and not all of them will be objective. Home teams will always be talked up, while local rivals will always be dismissed. Even the number of Super Bowls won will not always sway the argument definitively one way or the other. But when it comes to the other end of the spectrum, it is a little easier to shine a light on shame.
Success in the NFL is forever cyclical, of course. It is not that long ago that the New England Patriots were unbeatable. Now they are, well, very beatable. But even the current Pats wouldn’t get close to this list of the worst NFL teams of all time. You can guarantee that none of these were considered when it came to online Super Bowl betting.
2008 Detroit Lions
Since 1944, there have only been three teams that have lost every single regular season game. Two others managed to tie one – and the 1982 Baltimore Colts played in a shortened season, so we are not going to push them forward here. No, the team we think was the worst of all time was the 2008 Detroit Lions.
Although it was very clear from the start that the Lions would not be making the playoffs, the team was officially eliminated from the postseason in week 11. The Lions became the first team to lose 16 games in a season and gave up 517 points over the year. Lions fans have not always had a lot of luck, so the current run of success must be quite strange for them.
1976 Tamp a Bay Buccaneers
There are a few reasons why the Bucs 1976 season was not considered worse than Detroit’s in 2008. Firstly, Tampa Bay only lost 14 games because of the shorter seasons back then. But the most important reason is that this was the very first year of the franchise’s existence.
As an expansion team, the Bucs could have done much better. But we will forgive them a little for keeping going while they got their NFL legs. This team was poor though. It didn’t score a point until the third game and was completely shut out on five occasions. The fact that Tampa made it to the NFC Championship game just four years later is something of a minor miracle.
2017 Cleveland Browns
It is well known that the city of Cleveland does not have the best luck when it comes to sports. Sure, LeBron changed its fortunes for a few years – but there has not been an incredible record of championships making their way here. The Browns are historically bad and have only played three postseason games since coming back to the city in 1999.
It is rare for the Browns to post a winning season, to be honest. But the 2017 team has to go down as the worst of the lot. It lost all 16 games but did manage to score points in all of those, at least. These Browns even took their losing onto the international stage, playing (and losing) at London’s Twickenham Stadium against the Minnesota Vikings.
Figure 2 This place has not seen a lot of success
1990 New England Patriots
For anyone who doesn’t remember football before Tom Brady, it might sound strange to hear that the Pats were not always a good team. As we have pointed out already, New England is looking like it is going that way again now – but any future Pats team will have to do a lot to be as worse as the 1990 version.
Just four years earlier, the Patriots had been beaten by the Bears in the Super Bowl. The franchise would dust itself off to lose another in 1996. But in 1990, the Super Bowl could not have been further from the minds of Pats fans. There was actually a worse defense in the league that year, but it didn’t stop New England from winning just one game all year.
1991 Indianapolis Colts
The Colts had traded for Eric Dickerson in 1987 and he had helped them make the playoffs for the first time in ten years – and the first time since the franchise had relocated to Indianapolis from Baltimore. But he could do nothing in his final year in Indiana to stop the Colts from winning just one of their 16 regular season games in 1991.
Indianapolis only made it to double digits on five occasions and posted the record for the fewest points scored in the 16-game era – a paltry 143. The solitary win, ironically, came against the playoff-bound New York Jets, but nine consecutive losses before then had set the tone for a season to forget.
1989 Dallas Cowboys
It is the nature of sports that there is little else more enjoyable than watching the fall of a once-great team and reveling in its misfortune. Dallas Cowboys – America’s Team, no less – had been one of the most successful in all of sports for years, winning two Super Bowls under the legendary Tom Landry and making the postseason for the majority of his stewardship.
But in the very first year after his retirement, and the first under the ownership of Jerry Jones, the Cowboys stank the league out. When you consider that Dallas took Troy Aikman as the number one overall pick in the NFL Draft that year, you will understand how this team roared back to glory so soon. But, in 1989, the Cowboys won just one game and opposing fans could gloat – albeit very briefly.