Worst NFL teams of all time
Page 2 staff

Last week, we offered our picks for the 10 greatest NFL teams of all time, so now it's time to choose the worst teams ever.

John McKay
John McKay, Tampa Bay's first coach, once said of the execution of the Bucs' offense, "I'm in favor of it."
We've compiled our list below, but we want to hear what you think. Check out our list, then see how our readers ranked their choices for the most dreadful NFL squad ever. And be sure to vote in the poll to crown the worst NFL team in history.

1. 1976 Buccaneers (0-14)
The Bucs' debut season was football's equivalent of the 1962 Mets -- but without the wit of Casey Stengel to make things a bit more entertaining. The Bucs were shut out five times and averaged fewer than nine points per game. Their defense was almost as futile, and the Bucs' margin of defeat was 20 points per game. Tampa Bay's quarterback, Steve Spurrier, threw only seven touchdown passes all season. His longest completion was 38 yards. The Bucs carried their losing momentum into the 1977 season, losing another 12, to begin their franchise history 26 games in the red.

"The coach (John McKay) stopped talking to us after the third game," defensive lineman Pat Toomay told the Columbus Dispatch in 2001. "During the week, he wanted nothing to do with us. I can't blame him, really. We had so many guys get injured that nobody knew who was hurt and who wasn't. By the end of the season we were getting guys out of the Canadian league and off the streets."

(For more on how bad this team really was, check out Toomay's Page 2 column on that dreadful 1976 season.)

2. 1990 Patriots (1-15)
The Pats had the worst offense and the second-worst defense in the NFL in 1990. How bad was the Pats offense? The most points they scored in a game was 24, in the first game of the season (a 27-24 loss to the Dolphins at home). In five games, they scored a touchdown or less. Their only win came by two points. Not a single win at home.

"The Patriots have out-Murphyed the entire league put together," wrote Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan near the end of the season. "If something bad in the game of football can happen, it will not only happen to the Patriots, it will happen in a new and different way. The way things are going, they would be no better than even money in an intrasquad scrimmage. Each week we ask, 'How can things get worse?' and each week they do."

3. 1973 Oilers (1-13)
It's not easy to figure out which season was worse for the Oilers, 1972 or 1973. Two years running, Houston racked up identical 1-13 records. But we'll give the '73 squad a slight edge. They gave up 447 points, the most in the NFL, and scored only 199. Things were so bad in Houston that the most exciting development was the invention of the first flak jacket for football, to protect QB Dan Pastorini's ribs. (He set an NFL record for being sacked the most times in 1971, broke it in 1972, and broke it again in 1973.)

4. 1971 Bills (1-13)
The 1971 Buffalo lineup was remarkably balanced -- the Bills fielded the worst offense and the worst defense in the NFL. How bad was the offense? The Bills were shut out four times, with QBs Dennis Shaw and James Harris combining for 12 TD passes and 32 interceptions. O.J. Simpson, in his third NFL season, gained less than 750 yards. Meanwhile, the defense's best performance came in game three, when they held the Vikings to "only" 19 points.

Eric Dickerson
Indianapolis running back Eric Dickerson wouldn't have paid to watch the 1991 Colts.
5. 1981 Colts (2-14)
Head coach Mike McCormack actually thought, before the season began, that his Colts might make the 1981 playoffs. Baltimore began and ended the season with one-game winning streaks, beating the awful Patriots (who also went 2-14 in 1981) by one point in the first game and by two points in the season finale.

The 14 games in between proved problematic, though, especially for the defense, which was probably the worst in modern NFL history. The Colts gave up a record 533 points, never allowing fewer than 23 in a game. Unfortunately, the offense, ranked 26th in the league, was nearly as bad. After the final whistle, McCormack said, "We had a helluva start and a helluva finish." The next day he was fired.

6. 1991 Colts (1-15)
A memorable season for Indianapolis -- the Colts set NFL records for fewest points (143) and fewest TDs (14) in a 16-game season. Midway through the season, when the Colts were still winless, Eric Dickerson all but told fans to stay away. "Personally, I wouldn't come out and watch a game. No way I'd pay to see someone play the way we are." The Colts won their only game of the season in Week 11, 28-27 over the Jets, scoring more points than they had in the previous five games combined.

7. 1952 Texans (1-11)
The football New York Yankees moved to Dallas for the 1952 season, and the change of scenery only hurt the club, which had suffered through a 1-9-2 season in 1951. The Texans' ineptitude was clearly reflected in their kicking game -- they were 7-for-27 in extra-point attempts, and didn't kick a single field goal all season.

Texas football fans would have nothing to do with the team -- and its average margin of loss of 20 points per game -- and with five games left on the schedule, the club was taken over by the NFL and moved to Hershey, Pa. Late in November, the Texans managed to upset the Bears -- but only because George Halas had mistakenly thought that his second team could beat the Texans.

8. 1980 Saints (1-15)
How bad? The fans came to games with paper bags over their heads, and called their team the "Aints." Archie Manning, the Saints' long-suffering QB, did the best he could, putting the ball in the air 509 times, but he couldn't make up for an anemic running game -- Jimmy Rogers, the Saints' leading rusher, gained 366 yards all season. Manning later called the 1980 season, "The darkest side of football."

Chris Weinke
Chris Weinke threw for 223 yards and a TD in his first game, and then the Panthers' 2001 season went downhill.
9. 2001 Carolina Panthers (1-15)
The Panthers set an NFL record last season, losing 15 straight after their season-opening 24-13 victory over the Vikings. The team's offense was bad, scoring seven or fewer points in five games, and the defense was also awful, unable to hold any opponent to less than 10. "The energy has been sucked out of our organization and our fan base," said owner Jerry Richardson, after firing head coach George Seifert at the end of the year.

10. 1934 Cincinnati Reds (0-8)
The Reds (Yes, back in 1934, Cincinnati's football team was the Reds. The Bengals didn't start play until 1968.) scored only one touchdown and one field goal all season, while their defense gave up 243 points. During the 2000 season, John Erardi of the Cincinnati Enquirer consoled Bengals fans by quoting from a 1934 recap of the Reds season: "The Cincinnati defense hung tough for the first few games, but the offense was practically impotent. By mid-October, the dispirited Reds were regularly being crushed by clubs using their substitutes."

Also receiving votes:

  • 1960 Cowboys (0-11-1)
  • 1996 Jets (1-15)
  • 1992 Seahawks (2-14)
  • 1989 Cowboys (1-15)
  • 1949 New York Bulldogs (1-10-1)
  • 1982 Colts (0-8-1) (strike-shortened season)
  • 2000 Chargers (1-15)
  • 1942 Lions (0-11)
  • 1943 Cardinals (0-10)
  • 1944 "Carpets" (Chicago Cards-Pittsburgh Steelers merged team) (0-10) Note: After one game, three players were fined for "inept playing."


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