Sports fans love to pay attention to records and they really take notice when a team or individual challenges a record. In 2015-16, basketball fans watched in amazement as the Golden State Warriors set the record for most wins in a season. The 2007 Patriots brought back memories of the 1972 Dolphins’ perfect season as New England rolled to near perfection. The same thing happened in 2015 when the Carolina Panthers made their own run at perfection. Any football team that starts the season on an extended win streak will draw comparisons to the mighty ’72 Dolphins just as winning basketball teams will now be compared to the Warriors.
The thing with records is that they are not always marks to be proud of. Who wants to be remembered for having the most consecutive plate appearances without a hit? Who wants to be known for throwing the most interceptions in a game? No team wants to be remembered for having the longest losing streak. Somewhere, there are embarrassed record holders in all of these categories and many more.
The NFL has a long and colorful history filled with superstars, bums, great teams, and eccentric owners. The game has changed over the years but one thing that has remained a constant is the presence of terrible teams. Every franchise in every sport goes through their peaks and valleys. Some peaks are higher than others, while some valleys are lower. The following list takes a look at the latter. There have been many terrible teams in the history of football but these teams managed to bring a new meaning to the word “failure.” The next time a team starts their season on a long losing streak, they will undoubtedly draw comparisons to the worst of the worst. Here are the 15 worst teams in NFL history.
15 2012 Jacksonville Jaguars
14 1971 Buffalo Bills
13 1990 New England Patriots
12 1991 Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are one team that doesn’t like being outdone by the New England Patriots. The year following New England’s 1-15 season, Indianapolis matched that record of futility by putting up a 1-15 record of their own. Coming off a 7-9 campaign, the Colts completely imploded. Similar to the Patriots before them, the Colts lost their first nine games of the season before squeaking out a victory over the Jets. It would be the lone highlight for one of the worst teams in NFL history.
11 1980 New Orleans Saints
10 2001 Carolina Panthers
9 1989 Dallas Cowboys
The mid to late '80s were tough times for the Dallas Cowboys. They had several consecutive losing seasons, but none was as bad as their 1989 season. The proud franchise joined the ranks of the worst teams in the history of the NFL with their 1-15 record. It was a year of transition for the club. It was Troy Aikman’s rookie campaign and it was also the season in which the big Herschel Walker trade was negotiated. These factors would greatly benefit the club over the next decade.
8 2000 San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers have had many successful seasons but they still lack a Super Bowl victory. They have also had some pretty bad seasons, such as the 1-15 record they posted in 2000. The not-so-mighty Ryan Leaf, a 37-year-old Jim Harbaugh, and the forgotten Moses Moreno combined for 19 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. The running game was virtually non-existent and the defense failed to find any rhythm.
7 1996 New York Jets
The 1995 Jets finished with a disgraceful 3-13 record. The dumpster fire known as the 1996 Jets was unable to improve on that record. In fact, they finished with an even more disgraceful 1-15 record, making them one of the worst teams in NFL history. Opponents regularly scored 30+ points on the sad-sack Jets defense while their quarterbacks combined for 22 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. One bright spot was running back Adrian Murrell’s career year in which he posted 1,249 rushing yards.
6 2007 Miami Dolphins
While they have only made the playoff once in the past 14 years, the Miami Dolphins have managed to stay reasonably competitive over that stretch. That is, except for the 2007 season where they finished with an embarrassing 1-15 record. The Nick Saban saga probably didn’t help things. Nor did it help that three Dolphins players made headlines due to legal troubles while enigmatic running back Ricky Williams was playing in the CFL during his one-year banishment from the NFL.
5 1972 and 1973 Houston Oilers
Some teams on this list improved greatly and a couple even found playoff success following their worst seasons. The 1972 Oilers finished with a horrendous 1-13 record. They would follow that season up with an equally horrendous 1-13 record in 1973. They would endure a winless streak of 18 games spanning over the two seasons. They are high up on the list of worst ever NFL teams.
4 2009 St. Louis Rams
The latest team to suffer 15 losses in a season is the 2009 St. Louis Rams. They allowed an average of 27.2 points against per game while they scored an average of 10.9 points per game which is sixth fewest in the 16-game era. The power trio of Marc Bulger, Kyle Boller, and Keith Null combined for a measly 12 touchdown. Steven Jackson tried to carry the team on his shoulders with his 1,416 rushing-yards, but there was just too much dead weight.
3 1934 Cincinnati Reds
It was a much different era of football when the Cincinnati Reds (dis)graced the NFL with their presence in the 1933 and 1934 seasons. Their inaugural season wasn’t a total disaster but their 1934 season was a complete debacle. Their 0-8 record speaks for itself.
2 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Not many football fans expect much out of any new expansion team, but it is fair to expect a lot more than what the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers delivered in their disastrous inaugural season. Both the offense and the defense were putrid. They were held scoreless for their first two games and it took them until their fourth game to finally score a touchdown. Opposing teams had little trouble moving the ball on the ineffective Tampa defense.
All that Coach John McKay could do when answering to a critical press was to make them laugh with Yogi Berra type quotes.
“We didn’t block real good, but we made up for it by not tackling." He told reporters following yet another loss.
1 2008 Detroit Lions
There’s perfection, then there’s the 2008 Lions. This sad-sack squad was the antithesis of perfection. Between the last game of 2007 and the first two games of 2009, the Lions dropped 19 straight games. The big story was their improbable 0-16 2008 season. They lost all, but three of those games by more than a touchdown.
Their ever-changing quarterback rotation was ineffective and opponents scored 30+ points in 11 of the 16 games. They allowed 200+ rushing yards in four games and in five others they allowed over 300 passing yards.
One positive that came out of this historic season was getting Matt Stafford as the first overall pick in 2009. At least they have something to show for being the worst team in NFL history.
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