For every winner, there is at least one loser. It's the nature of competition: in order to win something, you have to defeat something else. A hero always has a villain, a plan always has a foil, and a champion always has a vanquished opponent.
Occasionally there emerges a loser of such epic proportions that they are earmarked as the all-time worst, at least by current standards. The Detroit Lions' 0-16 season in 2008 earned them this dubious distinction.
Granted, not winning a single game in an NFL season is pretty bad, but does it really qualify them as the "worst"?
Considering the vast numbers of sports teams in existence, this would seem to be a pretty high mark to achieve.
In the interest of fairness and equity, and maybe just to give me something to do on a cold, wet, Saturday afternoon, I thought it might be prudent to look back through time and discover some other teams who may qualify for this moniker.
No. 10—The New Orleans 'Aints
Worst Season: 1980
We're talking history here, remember? The Saints came into existence in 1967, and despite starting their first game ever with a 94-yard kickoff return, they didn't break .500 for over a decade.
It took them twice as long even to get to the playoffs, and their poor play during that time prompted fans who attended games to wear paper bags over their heads, lest anyone recognize them.
In 1980, they managed fewer than 300 points all year while giving up nearly 500 points to their opponents. Jimmy Rogers, Tony Galbreath, and Wayne Wilson were only able to achieve 862 rushing yards combined, and they punted for nearly as many yards a quarterback Archie Manning passed for.
No. 9—Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Worst Season: 1976, debut season
The Buccaneers' 0-14 season was the benchmark against which the 2008 Lions were measured.
Tampa Bay spent their first year in the AFC West, and managed to average nine points per game while being beaten by an average of 20 points.
They were shut out five times on the season, and erstwhile quarterback Steve Spurrier barely eclipsed 1,500 yards passing.
Beleaguered head coach John McKay even stopped speaking with the players after the third game of the season. When asked what he thought of the execution of the Buccaneers offense, he famously replied, "I'm all in favor of it."
No indication was made, however, of whether he meant they should start executing, or BE executed.
With momentum on their side, Tampa Bay went on to lose the first 12 games of their next season, giving them a record 26 straight losses to begin a franchise.
No. 8—Indianapolis Colts
Worst Season: 1991
Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson thought this team was so bad, he basically told fans not to even bother coming out to watch them.
"Personally, I wouldn't come out and watch a game" he stated in an interview halfway through the horrendous season. "No way I'd pay to see someone play the way we are."
How bad was it? The Colts scored 143 points and managed 14 touchdowns all season, both NFL records for futility in scoring over a 16-game season.
No. 7—Cincinnati Reds (aka Bengals)
Worst season: 1934
Before they were known as the "Bungles", the NFL's representative to the NFL was the abysmal Reds. In 1934, the Reds set an all-time low mark in scoring, garnering a grand total of 10 points all year. One touchdown, one field goal. That's it.
On the flip side, their defense gave up 243 points to opposing teams.
No. 6—Philadelphia 76ers
Worst season: 1973
Record: combined 9-73
There is more to sports than football, you know (perish the thought). They actually play baseball and basketball in the off-season.
Talk about your falls from grace; six years prior, the 76ers set the NBA record at the time for most wins in a season with 68, a record that would stand until the Michael Jordan/Scottie Pippen-led Chicago Bulls would manage 72 wins during the 95/96 season.
Their nine wins is the second-least in NBA history, and their 73 losses is the most losses ever in a season.
During this abominable year, the Sixers started the season 0-15, and later in the season set a record (at the time) for consecutive losses with 20 games dropped in a row.
At the end of the year, the squad had managed a respectable 104.1 points per game, but had given up an average of 116.2.
No. 5—Cleveland Spiders
Worst season: 1899
This is going back quite aways, but it stunk then, nonetheless. Spiders' ownership transferred future Hall of Famers Jesse Burkett, Bobby Wallace, and Cy Young—yes, that Cy Young—to the newly acquired St. Louis franchise, and the effect was devastating.
The 12th place Spiders finished 84 games behind first place, and 35 games behind next to last place.
Holders of one of the only true "unbreakable" records in all of sportsdom, Cleveland lost 109 games on the road, in part because the team was so bad other teams refused to travel to play them.
The fans were no different; they averaged 179 people in attendance at home during this truly horrible year.
No. 4—New York Mets
Worst season: 1962
They may deserve a little leniency because they were an expansion team in their first year, but nonetheless the Mets managed to put up more losses in a season than anyone ever had, with the exception of No. 5 on this list.
Only the Detroit Tigers have come close to threatening the mark, losing 119 games in 2003.
The '62 Mets are not only known for losing, but for losing in new and interesting ways. They started things off in exactly that manner: the first run scored against the Mets, in their very first game ever, was due to pitcher Roger Craig being called for a balk when he dropped the ball during his windup.
Base-runner Bill White was waved home from third base, and the show, as it were, was on.
Despite their inability to win—or perhaps due to it—the Mets were experts in recognizing lackluster performance. In 1962 they acquired catcher Harry Chiti from the Cleveland Indians for a "to-be-named" player. After 15 games and a .195 batting average, Chiti was rather ignobly returned to Cleveland for a full refund—the only player in MLB history to be returned to the team he was acquired from.
No. 3—San Diego Padres
Worst season: 1973
In the first six years of the Padres' existence, they finished dead last, losing 100 or more games each year. 1973 was the worst, when no other team in MLB passed the 100-loss mark.
McDonald's founder Ray Kroc, the new owner of the team in 1974, publicly apologized the the fans in the first home game of the 1974 season, saying over the public address system the he had never seen "such stupid ball-playing in all my life."
The Padres would begin to show improvement one year later, but those first six years were the toughest.
No. 2—Northwestern Wildcats
Worst season: 1981
The Wildcats best year came in 1949, when they defeated California 20-14 in the Rose Bowl. since then they are 0-6 in bowl appearances when they have made it that far.
In 1981, they were in the midst of a record-setting Division 1-A 34-game losing streak when they went winless on the season, being outscored 505-82, an average of 40 points per game.
It was so bad that fans decided to make the best of a bad situation: after a 61-14 loss to Michigan State, fans rushed the field, chanting, "We're the worst!", then tore down the goal posts and threw them into nearby Lake Michigan.
No. 1—Prairie View Panthers
Worst season: 1991
The once stalwart Panthers of the '50's and early '60's, when they won five national black college titles, took a major fall from grace in the 1990's.
They started things off in 1991, losing every game that season by an average of 56 points per game.
Even worse, they only scored 48 points all season, and set an all-time Division 1-AA record of 80 straight losses, another mark that, like the 109 road losses of No. 5 on this list, may stand the test of time.
And there you have it: not at all an inclusive list, but definitely worthy of discussion. Without a doubt, I am sure you have favorite "worst" teams of your own, so chime in and let me know who i missed.
Let the debate begin!
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