No NFL team wants to go into the game without winning. However, sport is not a win-win game. There are always strong franchises with overwhelming power when compared to the common ground. Similarly, there will also be times when they are so bad that they do not want to look back.
Who is the worst team in the NFL? The Buccaneers have the lowest win rate (.397) with a record of 288–438–1. The Cardinals have the most loss rate (780). These are perhaps the most forgettable achievements in NFL history.
However, things are not that simple. Many factors go into determining the worst NFL teams. In this article, Scott Fujita will analyze as many aspects as possible.
Let’s dive in!
The Worst NFL Team In The Past 50 Years
The NFL’s long history has seen great success as well as the humiliating failure of the franchises. It would be unfair for us to jump to conclusions about the strength of each team.
Teams also have their ups and downs. They had the best and worst years in league history. The list below shows the top 10 worst NFL teams by year.
(Dis)Honorable Mentions: 1949 Green Bay Packers, 1965 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1954 Washington Redskins, 1966 New York Giants, 1980 New Orleans Saints.
1. 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers’ opening lineup has had a rough season. More than two months of intense training by the former USC coach twice a day did not bring positive results.
Continuity of season-ending injury issues has undermined one of the worst teams in the modern era of the NFL.
The 0-14 Bucs team with a minus 287 is the worst ever. They had a winless season, two one-score games, and lost five shutouts. The Bucs didn’t take their first win until Week 13, 1977.
2. 1990 New England Patriots
When you think of New England, you think of Tom Brady or Bill Belichick. But you wouldn’t expect this.
Before becoming one of the NFL’s most prominent dynasties, the Patriots also had their bad times. The second longest-running QB in Pats’ history, Steve Grogan, was unlucky to end his career in this 1-15 lineup.
Head coach Rod Rust won his first debut and lost the remaining 15 during the entire season. With that result, the Patriots finished with their third-worst (minus 265) result ever.
3. 2008 Detroit Lions
2008 Detroit Lions
The Lions are the first team to fail to win since the tournament expanded to a 16-match regular schedule.
This worst team in football suffered mainly from the bottom line in yards allowed (404.4 ypg) and points (32.3 ppg). The number of interceptions is also not better when only stopping at 4.
Head coach Rod Marinelli’s team also doesn’t have a very good offensive line. They ranked 30th in total fouls, allowed 52 sacks, and ranked 27th in the league in scoring (16.8 ppg).
The Lions’ record is also the worst in franchise history.
4. 2000 Cleveland Browns
It looks like the defensive end Courtney Brown as the no.1 pick wasn’t enough to salvage the Browns’ poor performance. This franchise hit a 21st-century low score of 161.
Couch’s injury forced Doug Pederson to start eight times. Couch threw seven touchdowns in seven starts; Pederson has only two. The team also endured four shutouts, enough for them to hide in the locker room.
With poor records, the Browns fired head coach Chris Palmer at the end of the season.
5. 1996 New York Jets
1996 New York Jets
The New York Jets’ leadership team in 1996 took a big gamble, spending more than $70 million on free agency, one of whom was Keyshawn Johnson.
Their beginning of the festive look until receiving the result 0-6. Worse, the Jets lost their primary pick to quarterback Neil O’ Donnell. After finishing their worst season with 1-15, they said goodbye to head coach Rich Kotite to make way for Bill Parcells.
It took a long time until we saw such a weak New York Jets again.
In 2020, the Jets finished the season with a 2-14 result. Both of their wins went to the playoff teams. This result is also on par with the 2008 Kansas City Chiefs and 2016 San Francisco 49ers.
6. 2017 Cleveland Browns
The Detriot Lions will be happy to know they’re not the only team with zero wins on this list. Even so, considering both teams’ stats and performance stats, we still decided to place the Browns lower than the Lions on this list.
In fact, the Browns had chances to win before losing to the Steelers in Week 17. When it comes to the results, the franchise isn’t that bad. Their rushing defensive unit ranked 7th and second in terms of yards allowed per shot.
They also have good records in football move and pass rush plays, placing 24th with a total of 208.9 yards per game. However, the poor interception results prevented the chances of victory and created space for the opponent.
7. 2001 Carolina Panthers
2001 Carolina Panthers
The next worst team in the NFL is the 2001 Panthers squad led by head coach George Seifert. One of the pioneers of rookie quarterbacks, Chris Weinke, suffered a battering in his first season.
In the 2001s, teams adopted seasonal quarterbacks to provide learning opportunities for their rookies. The Panthers selected Weinke in round 4 of the draft and decided he was the best fit to lead their offensive line.
The rookie makes an average of 36 passes per game but completes less than 55% of them. He also only has 11 touchdowns with 19 interceptions. After this incident, the Panthers don’t expect to make the same mistake again.
8. 1981 Baltimore Colts
Internal conflicts, an owner stealing responsibility for the game, and the end of former MVP Bert Jones heralded the demise of a franchise. After going 7-9 in the 1980 season, the Colts set an NFL record by allowing 533 points in 1981.
Mike McCormack’s side has lost 14 straight games between wins in Week 1 and Week 16. The Baltimore Ravens of the moment set a record with just 13 sacks. Sadly, the Colts only had the worst record. Their negative 274 difference is still second all-time.
Over the next two years, owner Bob Irsay traded John Elway against his general manager’s wishes. Worse still, he continued to threaten to move the Colts.
9. 1973 Houston Oilers
The only positive thing about this team is that they haven’t been down for too long. Despite a stupid trade, the Oilers somehow went straight up from one of the NFL’s worst teams to a 7-7 record the following year.
Within five years, they had found their way back to the playoffs.
The Oilers’ defense at this point is atrocious. The results were not very optimistic even under the Hall of Famer management and eight-time Pro Bowler Elvin Bethea. They allowed 447 points in a 17-game season.
Despite going 1-13 for consecutive years, the Oilers failed to get a single pick in the first three rounds of the 1974 draft. They swapped the first pick and the third pick for two (Tody Smith and Billy Parks), who don’t have much achievements.
And the guy the Dallas Cowboys picked with that #1 pick, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, is a three-time Pro Bowl who can be of great help.
10. 2009 St. Louis Rams
2009 St. Louis Rams
After moving to Los Angeles, the Rams reached several heights in franchise history. They were the owners of Super Bowl XXXIV and lost on the biggest stage of professional football two years later.
Even so, St. Louis still has an embarrassing season to be the “worst team in NFL” at the end of this list. In 2009, the franchise only won 175 points all season. This result is only better than the 1992 Seattle Seahawks with a distance of 32 points.
One of only four teams since 2002 to win by one game or less, the Rams have made 21 interceptions and just 12 touchdowns. They have been knocked out twice, scored ten or less on nine occasions, and suffered over 261 points.
No team wants to appear on these types of lists. We, however, know that no matter how powerful a dynasty is, there will be times when it will lose. Their failures can be a springboard for the team to grow stronger in the future.
When you look at the Buccaneers’ failures in their early years, does anyone think they’ve molted and got their first Super Bowl trophy? Surprise makes the NFL so appealing, and we always look forward to positive surprises in the future.