The Worst NFL Team EverDecember 31, 2016
When this season started out, Super Bowl winning coach Brian Billick predicted the Cleveland Browns to lose every single game they would play this season and in the process, become one of the only teams in NFL history to go 0-16. Some people said that this prediction was mean and that Billick didn’t give the Browns a chance, but when it comes down to it, they have been nearly unable to win games. It’s always difficult to win an NFL game, but when your team has six different players taking snaps from game to game, there are going to be more issues than you hoped for. Now the Browns are bad, but are they the worst team to ever exist in the National Football League? When the worst teams in the history of the league come to mind, one that people often think of nowadays is the 2008 Detroit Lions. This team, similarly to the Browns of today, had some quarterback troubles. Over the course of the season, the Lions had five different quarterbacks take snaps for the team, including a very old John Kitna, a washed-up Daunte Culpepper, and an inexperienced trio of quarterbacks by the names of Dan Orlovsky, Drew Stanton, and Drew Henson. The group threw for 18 touchdowns, 12 of which went to a young, rising star in Calvin “Megatron” Johnson. However, they also threw for 19 interceptions, while they helped the rest of the team get to 31 fumbles across 16 weeks. This amount of turnovers is completely absurd. However, due to the horrifying nature of the team, it set the Lions up to score Matt Stafford as the first overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. The team also had some star power previously acquired with Megatron already on the roster. The rebuilding process was under way, and three years later the team made the playoffs. In the end of it, the Lions were able to build off of their losing season.
Another team in the conversation for worst of all time would be the early Tampa Bay Buccaneers. When the NFL expanded in 1976 with the additions of the Bucs and the Seattle Seahawks, it was very exciting. After the merger of the AFL and NFL in 1970, the league decided that there was room to get some more teams in the league. So they decided to target the Pacific Northwest, with the Seahawks. They also decided to target the Tampa Bay area, as St. Petersburg and Tampa were growing quickly at the time. The team in Tampa wanted to represent the area and bring a nice tropical feeling to it, but this was doomed to turn into a costly mistake. The Bucs wanted to use the colors red, green, and orange for their logos and uniforms. However, they were unable to do this because the NFL deemed that those colors were too similar to another team in the same state, the Miami Dolphins. This forced the Bucs to ditch the green, and in the end they got some creamsicle-style uniforms with a flamboyant-looking winking pirate as their logo. This did not exude the attitude of an intimidating football team, which in this case, was a very accurate representation of the team itself. The Buccaneers would go on to lose their entire first season in the National Football League, as their roster was filled up with rookies and washed up free agents. The best member of the team was Lee Roy Selmon, but there is only so much one defensive tackle can do to try and win games. The team’s players also were not used to the terrible conditions of practicing in Florida, one of the country’s most humid regions. The players were worked to death, as their coach, John McKay, was used to coaching in much nicer conditions, after a very successful career over at USC. McKay never acted as a players coach either, instead he acted more as a dictator, forcing the team to practice without a break to rest. By gametime, the players had nothing left in them. In fact, this became so bad that some players publicly expressed that they get nervous playing in front of him. The team ended the season at 0-14, and then started the 1977 season at 0-12, making their losing streak an unmatched 0-26 all-time. Before the ‘76 Bucs, the only winless teams existed during World War II, when most teams lost almost half of their roster due to the draft. When the Buccaneers finally did get their first win, it was against a dreadful New Orleans team, who at the time were referred to more commonly as the “Aints” rather than the Saints.
Even though the Bucs were bad, they had a perfectly good excuse for being so terrible. At the time, expansion teams never did well, especially when the rest of the established league was so good. In the 70’s, there were plenty of great teams, including the Miami Dolphins, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Oilers, and Dallas Cowboys. It was simply difficult to compete against these great teams. The Lions do not have a good excuse, but I’ll give them a pass because it was a year that benefitted them in the long run. It established their best wide receiver for the coming years, and gave them the opportunity to pick up their franchise quarterback, who has been having a pretty successful career so far. However, the Browns have no reason to be this bad. One could argue that it’s because some consider them an expansion team. But this argument has no grounds on the fact that they have now been an active member of the league for 17 years. This year they have no superstars and no functional system to play in. I would say that they could redeem themselves in the draft, but they have not drafted well since 1978, when they picked up Ozzie Newsome, who couldn’t even win a championship with them. Cleveland won’t be able to find success in the draft, as proven through their history. I would say that they need a new system and that they need to clean house, but they have done that so many times over the course of the past 17 years that it would just hurt the franchise even more. If the Browns could find a system that works and get successful people to want to join them as an organization, then they might be able to save themselves. I think Hue Jackson has the ability to do good things for the franchise, but until that day comes, the city of Cleveland should try to get Lebron to play quarterback for them.
Written by Rick Wronski