Wednesday, March 19, 2008

More of the Worst Teams in NFL History

My article about the 1934 Cincinnati Reds of the NFL, who went 0-8 while being outscored 243 to 10, got a lot of good feedback, so I've chosen to dive back into my NFL Record and Fact Book to come up with some more of the most horrendous, most lopsided, most inept teams in the history of the NFL. This is not being done to make fun of the teams themselves, or the individual players, but --

Oh, who am I kidding? It is to make fun of them. And to make your team look not-so-bad in comparison, even if you're a Dolphins or Raiders fan.

We'll start with an easy team to make fun of: the Detroit Lions, specifically the 1942 version. I know, I know, as in Major League Baseball, a lot of eligible players were stolen by the draft and went off to fight in World War II, but every team should have faced the same obstacles, and they didn't all go 0-11 while being outscored 263-38. And perhaps the '42 Lions should have sent some of its boys over to learn how to throw a grenade, since they were so abysmal at throwing a football. As a team, the Lions hurled just one TD pass while notching 33 interceptions. As a team, the passer rating of all passers was 8.2, which is just 1.8 lower than the number of wins Jon Kitna would like for the Lions in 2008.


With their storied success over the past four decades, it's easy to forget just how bad the Pittsburgh Steelers used to be. From their inception (as the Pirates) in 1933 to their first Super Bowl win in 1972, the Steelers boasted exactly seven winning seasons in 39 campaigns and was even twice merged with another team (the Eagles in 1943 and the Cardinals in 1944) to compensate for players lost to World War II.

The 1969 Steelers, however, stand out not only for their abysmal 1-13 record but for the poor head coach who led the squad to the worst record in the league. Chuck Noll, in his first season leading an NFL team, actually won his first game as a head coach, a 16-13 affair against -- you guessed it -- the Detroit Lions. The team then lost 13 straight, including back-to-back 52-14 and 47-10 affairs against the Vikings and Cardinals, respectively. The future Steel Curtain defense yielded 404 points, most in the league, and the offense wasn't much better, with a second-worst 218 points scored.

Then again, what can you expect when your quarterback is named Dick Shiner?

On the bright side, Pittsburgh's horrific 1969 season landed them the #1 overall draft pick in 1970, with which the team selected another quarterback: Louisiana Tech's Terry Bradshaw. That worked out reasonably well, I'd say.


Finally, there's the 1981 Baltimore Colts (not to be confused with the 1-15 1991 Indianapolis Colts), a team that bracketed season-opening and season-ending wins with 14 consecutive losses; only the 2001 Carolina Panthers have done "better" in a single season. (Note to self: There's a historically bad team every 10 years. Will wait to see what 2011 holds.) In fact, think of the '81 Colts as the team that turns everyone into the 2007 Patriots, because no team in NFL history has ever surrendered more points in a season than Baltimore's 533. In fact, only one other team, the 1966 New York Giants, has ever given up 500 points (501, and in 14 games), but I'm going with the raw numbers here over average.

No opponent scored fewer than 23 points against the Colts in 1981. That average alone would have resulted in 368 points given up, good enough for 8th worst in the league, but the Colts wouldn't settle for that. They gave up 40 or more four times, 30 or more 10 times, and allowed a mind-boggling 67 touchdowns (37 passing and 30 rushing), more than twice as many as the 32 offensive touchdowns the team put up. By comparison, the 2007 Patriots scored 67 touchdowns on the ground or through the air. Opposing quarterbacks were only sacked 13 times and racked up a passer rating of 99.7, five points higher than Peyton Manning's career 94.7 mark.

Combine a 2-14 1981 and a 0-8-1 strike-shortened 1982, and it's easy to see why John Elway wanted nothing to do with this team in the 1983 draft. The 1981 Colts might have been better off with Art Donovan manning the defensive line. At the very least, they would have been more entertaining.

1 comment:

rmadrazo said...

The Steelers won their first super bowl in '72? Really? Hmm, you'd think a Vikings fan would be more familiar than that with the Steelers' first super bowl.... Heheh.