The NFL sees a big fluctuation in team records every year. Sure, the Patriots have been the model of consistency for 15 years now, the Colts have largely stayed competitive, save for Peyton Manning's neck injury season in 2011 and the Packers have been able to take control of the NFC North for the most part, but things always change in the NFL.
A year ago, the Bears were being talked about as Super Bowl contenders, now they'd be lucky to be 8-8. The Lions seemed like they had rebounded last year and might be a challenger for the Packers this year, but their disastrous start has more people talking about the first overall pick. The Falcons already have almost matched their win total from last year.
The point is, things change in a hurry and even teams with quality talent on them can suffer a disastrous season, be it due to injuries, lack of team chemistry or a coaching staff that is out of touch with their roster. We often see how a coaching change can rejuvenate a team and teams that were thought to be terrible prove that they just needed the right leadership.
There's no question that teams like the Lions in 2008 were a complete mess. Even the best head coach wouldn't have been able to salvage a decent season out of them. This list will take a look back at the worst teams in NFL history. The entry will take just one season into account, based on team records, stats and roster talent. Some of these teams were terrible, but after a few years built themselves into Super Bowl contenders. Other franchises seemingly still haven't recovered from those seasons. Here they are, the bottom of the barrel.
15 2000 San Diego Chargers
While many pundits had already figured out by this point that Ryan Leaf was a major bust, this was the year it was official and the Chargers proved it by releasing the 2nd overall pick of 1998 after this 1-15 campaign. The Chargers were coming off an encouraging 8-8 season in 1999. It turns out they were 8-8 because Leaf was on injured reserve. His 2000 season saw him get nine starts, going 1-8, throwing 11 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Leaf was eventually replaced by Jim Harbaugh. What seals the entry for San Diego is that they were a hair away from 0-16, as their lone win was a 17-16 nailbiter over the Chiefs.
14 2007 Miami Dolphins
While the New England Patriots were making history in the 2007 season, finishing their regular season at 16-0, their division rival Miami Dolphins were flirting with some history of their own, as they came oh so close to 0-16. The season was a disaster from the get-go, as Trent Green was injured early on, paving the way for names like John Beck and Cleo Lemon to start at quarterback. They also had traded Wes Welker to the Patriots prior to that season, and Welker went on to be an immediate contributor to New England's offense. The Fins' lone win came in a 22-16 overtime win over Baltimore thanks to a long catch and run by Greg Camarillo.
13 1934 Cincinnati Reds
We come to our first winless team on the list, although they were merely 0-8. The NFL's Cincinnati Reds were Cincinnati's original NFL franchise, as the Bengals only came into existence in 1968. This Reds team lasted only two seasons, with their winless campaign of 1934 being their last. The team was shut out in six of their eight games, scoring one touchdown and one field goal all season. Even the people of Cincinnati couldn't have been too sad to lose this team.
12 1944 Chicago-Pittsburgh Card-Pitt
Due to many NFL players serving in World War II, teams in the NFL had to merge their rosters to keep the league afloat. In this case, the Chicago Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers combined to form the Chicago-Pittsburgh Card-Pitt. As you can imagine, the practice was a disaster as the Card-Pitt went 0-10. The closest the team came to a win in their opening game, a close 30-28 loss to the Cleveland Rams. All other opponents would blow them out.
11 1960 Dallas Cowboys
Would you believe that this bunch was coached by the legendary Tom Landry? Well, Landry was taking on a huge project with this expansion team. The inaugural Cowboys finished with a record of 0-11-1. The bright spot of their season was spoiling the party for the New York Giants, tying them 31-31 in the second last week of the season. That ended the Giants' hopes of a third straight division title. The team allowed 5.0 yards per carry, giving up over 2,200 rushing yards.
10 1996 New York Jets
If you don't know much about Rich Kotite, just ask any Jets fan. They'll be happy to tell you all about him. He proved to be one of the worst coaches in NFL history, but the Jets didn't exactly build themselves an NFL caliber roster. After cutting Boomer Esiason, the Jets signed Neil O'Donnell to be their starting quarterback after he had led the Steelers to a Super Bowl appearance. O'Donnell flopped, going 0-6 before a season ending injury paved the way for Frank Reich, who didn't fare much better. The Jets' lone win came in Week 9 against the Arizona Cardinals.
9 1952 Dallas Texans
The Cowboys weren't the first pro team in Dallas and the Texans aren't an original name for Houston, as the NFL's Dallas Texans graced the field for all of two seasons, in 1951 and 1952. The team would go 1-11 and would be the only NFL team to fold and not share any continuity with a current NFL franchise. Midway through this 1952 season, the Texans were moved to Hershey, Pennsylvania, though they retained the Dallas Texans name. Yeah, that makes sense.
8 2001 Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers had a tremendous start as a franchise. After a respctable expansion season pf 7-9, the team went 12-4 in their second year, even reaching the NFC Championship game. The expansion team effect came later, in their seventh season when they went 1-15. After winning their opening game, the Panthers would lose 15 straight to end the year, setting a new record for consecutive losses in an NFL season. George Seifert was fired following this disastrous season and replaced by John Fox, who would get the team to the Super Bowl within a couple of years.
7 1991 Indianapolis Colts
The Colts had some rough years when they first moved to Indianapolis and this might have been the worst one in Indy. Their 15 losses tied the NFL record that had been set by the next entry on our countdown. The Colts had Eric Dickerson in the twilight of his career. This Colts team scored just 143 points in 16 games, then a record low in a 16-game schedule. The worst thing is, this 1-15 season didn't even lead to any good, as their top picks in the 1992 draft, Steve Emtman, and Quentin Coryatt, didn't amount to much.
6 1980 New Orleans Saints
The 'Aints had to endure 21 straight losing seasons and hey hit rock bottom in 1980. Archie Manning couldn't save this sorry bunch, as they started the season 0-14. This was when the paper bags over fans' heads became famous and what is now a trend today for struggling teams. The 1980 Saints barely avoided a winless season, squeaking out a 21-20 victory over the New York Jets in their second last game. Manning tossed 509 passes that season, and his leading rusher, Jimmy Rogers, gained a mere 366 yards that season.
5 1981 Baltimore Colts
The Baltimore Colts were set to hit rock bottom before their eventual move to Indianapolis. Seasons like this are why John Elway threatened to play baseball rather than play quarterback for the Colts. These Colts gave up 533 points, the most in NFL history at that point. The team's two wins came in the first and last game of the season. Head coach Mike McCormack joked about the season, "We had a helluva start and a helluva finish."
4 1973 Houston Oilers
The Houston Oilers had a long run of futility and no worse time came than in the 1973 campaign. While they went 1-13 in both 1972 and '73, the latter was a worse campaign. The 1973 group gave up 447 points while only scoring 199. Head coach Bill Peterson was fired midway through the year. Interim coach Sid Gillman would lead the group to their only win in Week 8. The o-line was so bad in Houston that they invented the flak jacket, due to QB Dan Pastorini taking so many shots to his ribs.
3 1990 New England Patriots
If you were a New England Patriots fan back in the early 90s, then you certainly paid your dues for the success you're seeing from them now. A 16-14 win in their second game was all these Pats could muster. They had the worst offense and the second worst defense. In five games that year, the Pats scored seven points or less. Let that sink in for a minute; the New England Patriots couldn't find ways to score. To make matters worse, that season, multiple New England players sexually harassed reporter Lisa Olson in the locker room and team GM Pat Sullivan tried to sweep it under the rug.
2 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
For a long time, the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers were considered to be the worst team in NFL history. The team went winless at 0-14, getting shut out five times, and averaged just nine points a game. Anything less than a blowout for an opposing team was considered an off day when facing the Bucs. Tampa Bay was in danger of going winless again in their second season, before ending the losing streak at 26 games. The team was so desperate for players, they were going north of the boarder to the CFL and off the streets for guys to fill out roster spots.
1 2008 Detroit Lions
At least the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the excuse of being an expansion team. The Lions were a team with a history of losing, but none was worse than the 2008 campaign that saw them go 0-16. Rod Marinelli had led the Lions to a respectable 7-9 record the year before, but hit rock bottom. The Lions had a revolving door of QBs that included Daunte Culpepper, Dan Orlovsky and Jon Kitna. The NFL is in an era of parity, which makes it all the more remarkable that the 2008 Lions couldn't win a single game.
They came close a few times, losing 12-10 to Minnesota in Week 5, 20-16 to the Vikes in Week 14 and a 27-23 loss to Chicago in Week 9.