Being a fan of American sports is constantly filled with ups and downs. For those fans that call one of the elite teams their favorite, often times the attitude you will see is that of a spoiled fan. Growing up a fan of the Atlanta Braves, I saw this each game when the team was in the middle of their record-setting National League divisional championship streak. Between getting spoiled by always winning the division and failing to win more than just the 1995 World Series, fans stopped showing up to Turner Field, even in the playoffs.
There are the same types of ups and downs throughout the other major sports including and especially with the National Football League. Losing streaks can wreak havoc on a fan base, but at least with baseball, there are 162 games in the regular season for a team to find their groove. In the NFL, there are only 16 games in the regular season for a team to find the strategy and lineup to be successful. Over the course of history, there have been plenty of losing streaks in the NFL that have made fans come to games with paper bags on their heads and in many cases, just stay in the parking lot of the stadium and drink their sorrows away. This past season, we saw the Oakland Raiders accumulate a 16-game losing streak before snapping it with a win over the Chiefs on Thursday Night Football.
When you look back at history, there is one losing streak that stands out above the rest as the worst, but there are 14 streaks that have last at least 14 games. What are the 15 longest losing streaks in NFL history and which two teams appear on this list more than once?
15 T-11. Buffalo Bills, 14
The Buffalo Bills make the cut as having one of the worst losing streaks in the history of the NFL, but this isn’t the only time you will see them on the list. During the 1976 and 1977 seasons, the Bills (and their fans) suffered through a 14 game losing streak. Overall, during the two seasons, the Bills went a combined 5-23. Their two best players during these seasons were O.J. Simpson, who rushed for 2,060 yards and 8 touchdowns and Bob Chandler, who made 121 catches for 1,569 yards and 14 touchdowns. More than a decade later, the Bills would reappear on list of all time longest losing streaks, dropping 13 straight during the 1983 and 1984 seasons.
14 T-11. Baltimore Colts, 14
In 1981, the Baltimore Colts won their first game of the regular season. When the whistle sounded at the end of Week 1, it would be the final time the Colts were victorious in a game that season until beating the New England Patriots for their second time. They managed to get their wins around 14 straight losses, registering one of the worst losing streaks in the history of the sport. Bert Jones was the quarterback for the Colts this season and played well, throwing 21 touchdowns, while Curtis Dickey led the team in rushing with 779 yards and 7 touchdowns. The team would remain in Baltimore for only two more seasons before packing their bags and moving to Indianapolis.
13 T-11. Houston Texans, 14
The 2013 National Football League started off well for the Houston Texans. Behind the arm of Matt Schaub, the Texans won their first two games, but would not register a single victory after Week 2. The Texans lost their last 14 games of the regular season and are tied for one of the worst losing streaks in the history of the NFL. Schaub may have begun the season as starter, but didn’t finish out that way. Case Keenum would make the final eight starts of the season and combined, the two men through for more than 4,100 yards and 19 touchdowns with 22 interceptions. Ben Tate led the team in rushing with 771 yards and 4 touchdowns, while Andre Johnson made 109 catches for 1,407 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Things would quickly turn around in 2014 for Houston, who won their opening game and finished 9-7 under first-year head coach Bill O'Brien.
12 T-11. New Orleans Saints, 14
Things for the New Orleans Saints franchise weren’t always on the up and up like they have been for much of the past decade. The franchise has come a long way since the 1980 season when they lost their first 14 games of the season. In Week 13, they came awfully close to earning the victory losing in overtime to the San Francisco 49ers. They won the following week by a point, finally getting rid of the 0 in their win column. Archie Manning, father of Peyton and Eli, led the way for the team with 3,716 yards and 23 touchdowns. Their rushing attack was non-existent this season, but Wes Chandler had a solid season catching the ball with 65 catches for 975 yards and 6 touchdowns.
11 T-11. New England Patriots, 14
Much like the Saints weren’t always the offensive juggernaut fans have come to know, the same can be said of the New England Patriots. Before there was Tom Brady, there was the trio of Marc Wilson, Tom Hodson, and Steve Grogan throwing the pigskin. The year was 1990 and the trio was only able to help the team win a single game. That win came in Week 2 and the final 14 games of the season ended the same way, with a loss. John Stephens led the team in rushing with 808 yards, but score just 2 touchdowns. Irving Fryar was the leading receiver, catching 54 passes for 856 yards and 4 touchdowns.
10 T-9. Buffalo Bills, 15
During the 1970 and 1971 seasons, the Buffalo Bills combined to lose 15 straight games and went a combined 5-22-1 during that time. Their offense was futile. Their defense was non-existent. It was an all-around bad time to be a player in the city of Buffalo. During this rough losing streak, the worst in franchise history, the Bills were led offensively by O.J. Simpson, who rushed for 1,230 yards with 10 touchdowns and Marlin Briscoe, who made 101 catches for 1,639 yards and 13 touchdowns. Briscoe also earned a Pro Bowl berth in 1970 for his performance on the field.
9 T-9. Carolina Panthers, 15
Over the course of the 2001, the Carolina Panthers registered 15 straight losses, giving them one of the greatest streaks of futility in National Football League history. The Panthers won the first game of the regular season, but would drop the final 15 games. Former Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke started 15 games for the Panthers that season including their lone win. He would throw for just 2,931 yards with only 11 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. Part of their problem on offense was the lack of a running game, as Richard Huntley ran for 665 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Donald Hayes was the leading receiver with 597 yards.
8 T-6. Miami Dolphins, 16
The Miami Dolphins lost the last three games of the 2006 regular season, but little did anyone expect that their losing streak would continue until week 15 of the 2006 regular season. The only team to go an entire season without a loss is also tied for the sixth longest losing streak in the history of the national Football League. For most of the losing streak, Cleo Lemon led this anemic offense, while Trent Green and John Beck own their own share of the responsibility for this losing streak. In the end, it was Lemon who led them to a victory against the Baltimore Ravens in overtime to register their only win of the year.
7 T-6. Pittsburgh Steelers, 16
The Pittsburgh Steelers have won the most Super Bowls in the history of the National Football League. That fact doesn’t mean that this storied franchise hasn’t had their share of troubles. Their 16 game losing streak was spread over parts of the 1969 and 1970 seasons. Back in a time when the league played just 14 games in the regular season, the Steelers lost the final 13 games of the 1969 season and would drop 3 straight the following season to set up this streak. They would win five games during the 1970 season, but their struggles from the year before were still evident. Their lone bright spot was the 1970 season gave them the rookie season of their future Hall of Fame quarterback, Terry Bradshaw.
6 T-6. Oakland Raiders, 16
The most recent streak of any team on this list is the 16 straight games that the Oakland Raiders lost during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. The Raiders lost the last six games of the 2013 regular season and the first 16 games of the 2014 regular season before beating their divisional rival from Kansas City in Week 12. The Oakland franchise has struggled more in the past several decades than they have had successes, but there is a bright spot. They have a young quarterback in Derek Carr who has a chance to be a superstar if given the chance and the tools.
5 T-4. St. Louis Rams, 17
Another of the most recent entries to this list is the St. Louis Rams and the 17-game losing streak that spanned parts of the 2008 and 2009 seasons. The Rams went a combined 3-29 over the course of the two seasons and had a terrible offense, coupled with a junior varsity defense. At the end of Week 7 of the 2008 season, they were 2-4 and technically still had a shot at reaching the playoffs. They then lost the next 10 games and would lose the first seven games of the following season. They were led (if you can call it that) by Steven Jackson, who rushed for 2,458 yards and 11 touchdowns during the two seasons and Donnie Avery, who caught 100 passes for 1,263 yards and 8 touchdowns.
4 T-4. Houston Oilers, 17
During the 1982 and 1983 regular seasons, the Houston Oilers suffered through a 17 game losing streak. While it is one of the worst streaks in the history of the National Football League, it is not even the worst in the history of their franchise. Long before the franchise moved to Tennessee and became the Titans, the Oilers lost the last seven games of the 1982 season and the first 10 games of the 1983 season to earn their spot on this list. The one bright spot for this team during this streak was Earl Campbell, who rushed for 1,839 yards and 14 touchdowns.
3 Houston Oilers, 18
The Houston Oilers immediately make this list again as the team with the third longest losing streak in the history of the National Football League. Ten years before the Oilers would lose 17 straight for the fourth longest streak, they experienced an even more futile streak. During the 1972 and 1973 seasons, the team would go just 2-26 including losses in the last 11 games in 1982 and the first first games of 1983. The best offensive player for the Oilers was Fred Willis, who rushed for 913 yards and 4 touchdowns.
The franchise may soon make this list a third time, as the Titans are currently riding a 10-game losing streak, dropping their last 10 in the 2014 season.
2 Detroit Lions, 19
The only streak to make it to this list that spanned the course of three seasons is the Detroit Lions. From 2007 to 2009, the Lions lost 19 straight games including the worst season in the history of the National Football League coming in 2008 where the Lions went 0-16. It wasn’t the first time a team in the NFL went winless throughout an entire season, but it was the first time since the league expanded the schedule to 16 games. The quarterbacks responsible for the 19 straight losses are Jon Kitna, Dan Orlovsky, Daunte Culpepper. Their star of the future, Matthew Stafford, snapped the streak in Week 3 of his rookie season.
1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 26
The longest losing streak in the history of the National Football League comes from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 1976, the Buccaneers were an expansion team competing in the NFL for the first time. It showed. They lost every game that season with Steve Spurrier at quarterback. The following season, their losing streak continued through the first 12 games of the season before capping off their sophomore campaign with two straight wins. The quarterback at the helm of the first two wins in franchise history was Gary Huff.