Last year, it was the Dolphins flirting with a winless season, until they pulled out an overtime win against the Ravens in week 14. This year, after a shellacking by the New Orleans Saints (who have a winning record and are guaranteed no less than a .500 finish and are still last in their division--brutal), the Detroit Lions became the first NFL team to go 0-15 to start a season. It's all on the line for them next week in Green Bay.
But does that make them the worst NFL team ever? It's not a simple question, believe it or not, because there is a team that was once more futile than that--a certain Florida team from the west coast.
When Tampa Bay got its franchise in 1976, it wasn't so easy for teams to become competitive immediately. Free agency didn't exist to the degree it does now, and it was easier for teams to lock up players and create dynasties. Those were the days of the Cowboys and the Steelers, the Purple People Eaters and, as a matter of fact, the Dolphins, as perennial playoff contenders. And man, did the Buccaneers stink.
They lost, not only every game in their first season, but the first 12 in their second season. Until they played the New Orleans Saints, that is. I remember that game, vaguely--I was only 9 and new to Louisiana, and football, for that matter, but I knew it wasn't good. I knew that my team must be really bad if that team beat us handily, which is why I was nervous about today's game against the Lions. When you've been snakebit as many times as Saints fans have, you come to expect bad things to happen.
But 0-26 is a pretty massive losing streak. Detroit would not only have to lose next week to a below average Packers team, but go 0-9 to open next season to match the Tampa streak.
And yet, even though I dislike the Buccaneers because they're a division rival to my Saints, and so am tempted to keep them in the all-time cellar, I think the Lions are worse.
See, the Lions got this crappy in an age of unbelievable parity in the NFL. Look at the Dolphins, for example. Thirty years ago, chances were that a 1-15 team would probably be a 4-5 win team the next year if they did well. Now, a worst-to-first scenario is practically a given in at least one division every year. It's hard to stay bad these days, and yet the Lions have managed it to a degree unseen in the modern NFL. They've taken bad to a near art form. They lost at home, 42-7, to a team that had been eliminated from the playoffs last week, and so might have been down. That, my friends, is bad.
So throw out the records here, because they don't compare. Detroit, you've done it. You're the worst team ever in the NFL. Unless you beat Green Bay next week, anyway. And man, am I glad I'm not a packer fan right now.