Monday, February 25, 2008

The worst NFL team ever

With an ominous heading like that, there are several directions one could go. It's a heck of a billing to live up to, isn't it? With all the talk this season of the 2007 New England Patriots and how they compared to the 1972 Miami Dolphins, one has to figure that, if one team could be "unbeatable," could another be "unwinnable"? Even if they'd won the Super Bowl easily, the Patriots were still certainly challenged three or four times this year, but has there ever been a team that was so bad that it wasn't any challenge to its opponents?

Probably the most well-known "awful team" is the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the famously bad 0-14 expansion squad that inspired an entire segment of Football Follies. Led by quarterback Steve Spurrier (who would go on to have a decent post-playing football career), the Baby Bucs managed just 125 points in 14 games, while giving up 412, for an average margin of loss of 20 points, and was shut out five times. The team was so bad that head coach John McKay, when asked "What do you think of your team's execution?" quipped, "I'm in favor of it."

But they're not the worst.

Fresher in some people's minds are the 1992 Seattle Seahawks, a truly abysmal squad that scored only 140 points, the lowest total (I believe) for a 16-game season. When Mark McGwire says he "doesn't like to talk about the past," he might be referring to time spent watching his brother, Dan, see action with this club. The 'Hawks did boast a pretty good defense, though, and beat Denver in a snorefest of a Monday Nighter in late November that still has Bronco fans steaming to this day.

But they're not the worst.

Go back a little farther and you find another infamously bad team, the 1952 Dallas Texans, also known as the last NFL team to fold. This team lasted only one season but has an interesting history. Notably, they were forced to play on the road for their final two "home" games, which included the franchise's only win, against the Chicago Bears, which, understandably did not sit well with Chicago coach George Halas. The team was actually re-formed a year later as the Baltimore Colts, and has since done quite well for itself, and football in Dallas is equally strong.

But they're not the worst team, either.

No, I think the honor of "worst NFL team ever" has to go to the 1934 Cincinnati Reds, which not to be confused with the 1934 Cincinnati Reds of Major League Baseball, another poor team. That said, the baseball Reds averaged 3.88 runs per game in 1934, last in the National League. The football equivalent would have killed for that kind of scoring.

While it's true that football in 1934 was not the high-flying aerial show that it is today, the 1934 Reds were a singularly hideous squad, putting up just 10 points -- not per game, but for the entire eight-game season. Just to make games entertaining (I suppose), they gave up 243 points, an average of about 30 per game, on the way to an obvious 0-8 record.

Looking at the team's schedule page, you can see that the first half of the season wasn't actually all that bad. They lost their first four games 13-0, 9-0, 21-3, and 16-0 -- three shutouts, sure, but only two teams in 1934 cracked 200 points, and most averaged 10 points or less per contest. Then came the second half of the season, with drubbings of 41-0, 41-7, 38-0, and a 64-0 season-ender against the Philadelphia Eagles that sealed the Reds' untimely fate.

Looking at the team's stats paints an equally grim picture. The team only attempted 88 passes, and 14 of them were picked off (with zero touchdowns), compared to an fine (in any era) 11-5 TD-Int ratio for the opposition in 116 passes. By comparison, that would be 44 TDs and 20 ints. for a 464-attempt season. (Dan Marino threw 44 TDs and 23 interceptions in 1986.) They managed a halfway-respectable 3.7 yards per carry, though no rusher managed more than 200 yards on the ground. PFR lists Algy Clark as the team's head coach and as one of its players (ignore his listed age -- that's a known issue with PFR at the moment). If you thought Mike Holmgren did a poor job while trying to wield the power of both a head coach and general manager, just be glad you never had Algy running the show.

The Reds actually managed a 3-6-1 record in 1933, their only other season in the NFL, despite scoring only 38 points. Not surprisingly, the Cardinals and the Portsmouth Spartans (later to become the Detroit Lions) were two of their victims. In 18 games, the Reds scored 48 points, just 2.7 per contest, while being shut out 11 times. And you thought the Bengals were bad during the '90s...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

88 passes and 14 picks. So, Rex Grossman's grandpa must of played in the NFL.