The 10 Dullest Offenses in NFL History
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. What do these groups have in common? They are the litmus test that defines the great NFL offenses of today.
While effective offense has changed in philosophy through all of football lore, including the modern era, few fans can deny that cheering on or rooting adamantly against a capable NFL offense, sinner a dynamic scoring machine, makes the game that much more entertaining.
Yet, for every yin, there's a yang... for every Batman, there's a Joker... for every fat lady, there's a skinny girl that starts the show.
Watching a dull offense is like watching paint dry. It is the type of heavy eye sore that develops right above the eye lid, whose weight effectively does the extra work in getting those lids to close, mercifully allowing loyal fans sick from the anemic performance to fall fast asleep.
So, what causes an offense to be less "score" and more "snore?"
Answers to that question can include a boring gameplan, predictability, a lack of talent, poor execution, or a dicey heterogeneous mixture of each of those elements that goes down esophagus like a bottle of so many sharp rocks.
But, above all else, a dull offense is one that doesn't score. Let's simply be frank: even the most boring concept entertains if points are produced. On this list, dull essentially equates to bad.
The following list honors the dullest offenses in modern NFL history, those offenses that have been "offensive" in exactly the wrong way during the Super Bowl era.
And, for humor's sake, we'll take a look at a team from 1944 that actually fined its players for lackluster results!
These are the offenses whose sands got stuck at the top of the hour glass, the truly special units that put fans into both a slumber... and those iconic brown paper bag masks!
From offensive haplessness to fan hibernation and everything in-between, these are the ten dullest offenses!
No. 10: Either Offense That Played on October 15, 2001
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When the 'Skins and 'Boys met, it used to be appointment television for NFL fans. While the ire that drove the rivalry isn't quite as intense as in the past, the entertainment value of these two teams doing battle may never hit a deeper valley than it did on Oct. 15, 2001.
While neither offense featured that night set all-time league lows for scoring, the lack of talent- save for a couple of familiar faces- on the field, overall humdrum nature of both offense's gameplanning from week to week, and one of the most embarrassing two-team showings in the history of Monday Night Football qualify these two units for our list!
For making America sleep during its normal bedtime (at least on Eastern Standard Time), these players must be punished.
Two 0-4 teams colliding at Texas Stadium was the setting where rivalry game became a big, boring embarrassment. The game was close, but it was not for equally adept play by both sides. Instead, the two teams matched offensive ineptitude.
Still, blooper bowls can be great fun, a celebration of chaos and calamity that comes from two teams having not a clue of how to win.
Instead, there were few exciting plays, limited turnovers, almost no scoring, 11 punts on 19 total possessions, and one lone touchdown... that didn't come until the fourth quarter.
When you consider the offensive roster on either sideline, expectations for quality offensive entertainment were naturally limited, and the game simply bore out those prognostications in its own fittingly boring way.
For the Redskins, Tony Banks was the main man under center, and his leading receiver for the season was Rod Gardner. Stephen Davis, easily the best player for either team that night, had to feel like a man on an island. For Davis, seeing Ki-Jana Carter carrying the ball over 300 times throughout that '01 season had to be telling. And by telling, I mean telling him, "you need to get out of this joint."
On the other side, "America's Team" featured a who's who of great U.S. mediocrity. The proud Dallas roster showed off Quincy Carter and Anthony Wright as the field generals (don't vomit in your mouth too much over that description) with a little Ryan Leaf sprinkled in for some extra bitterness.
Emmitt Smith would enjoy the last of his 11 straight 1,000 yard seasons in 2001, the lone bright spot during an abysmal season.
Dallas took a 3-0 lead in the second quarter, and the score stayed the same into the final frame. Thankfully, the fourth quarter was some small consolation for three fifteen minute segments of offensive anemia.
Five plays into the fourth quarter, Tony Bank's only pass of any consequence gave Washington the lead.
The Cowboys would clip through two field goals, the final kick coming after a critical Stephen Davis fumble late. Dallas won 9-7, beating a Redskins team that mustered a mighty ten first downs.
The 2001 Redskins eclipsed the 20-point barrier only thrice, being held to a single digit scoring output five times.
The '01 Cowboys fared a bit better on the scoreboard. Yet, their leading scorers from skill positions score three touchdowns, and both Carter and Wright only threw for five scores each.
Ryan Leaf crumbled like most dead leaves tend to do, finishing the season with a quarterback rating of 57 on 88 throwing attempts.
As you may have guessed, this was a marked statistical improvement.
No. 9: 1971 Buffalo Bills
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The '71 Bills were shutout four times, held to single digits on three other occasions, and featured two quarterbacks whose play was as inept as their names are memorable.
Dennis Shaw and James Harris combined for 12 touchdowns along with 32 interceptions.
On an offense that featured the ultimate deterrent—the running game of one Orenthal James Simpson—one would have thought other elements of the gameplan would open up.
Instead, it would be the "Juice" getting squeezed, as O.J. could only muster 750 yards in his third season.
However, it was the last time he would get held under the century mark for some time. The "Juice" was about to set loose, rushing for over 2,000 yards in 1973 and becoming the consensus best back in the game.
Nevertheless, many of his skills developed in those first three years, when growing pains were quite real. Just look at Simpson's '71 Topps trading card, pictured above. Some may call that a game face, but I'm willing to bet the only focus on the running back's face at that time came from inner-thoughts of "how can I get traded from this Buffa-low?"
No. 8: 2006 Oakland Raiders
After some success in New Orleans, Aaron Brooks was whisked away from the Big Easy, one of the newest members of the Oakland Raiders in 2006.
Instead of a "Big Easy," Brooks had just found a "Big Pain," literally and figuratively. He and the field were about to become best friends.
Adding to the quarterback's issues was an offense that featured a bad combination of lazy talent and the energized talentless.
Whether it was Randy Moss, a year away from setting records in New England, taking plays off and barely eclipsing 500 yards, or lead receivers named Alvis Whitted and Ronald Curry, life in Oakland was clearly not going to be breezy for Brooks, and it was painfully obvious from the onset.
Opening day saw the Raiders suffer the first of three shutout losses. In one of the most pathetic offensive scoring outputs in history, Oakland barely managed 10 points per game.
With running backs Justin Fargas and Lamont Jordan as Brooks' most viable sources of offense, it was no wonder the unit couldn't muster a fight.
Aaron Brooks and backup Andrew Walter combined for six touchdowns with 21 interceptions.
So, how did the Raiders attempt to solve the problem for 2007? They did what any great football mind would have done...
Drafted one of the biggest busts in league history in quarterback JaMarcus Russell...
Brought in Daunte Culpepper, who like Brooks was well past his prime, throwing for less than 1,000 yards with the Dolphins (2006)...
And, for extra comfort, they added Josh McCown.
Care to guess how things turned out?
Also.... did I even mention the 72 (SEVENTY-TWO!) sacks that the Raiders surrendered in 2006?
No. 7: 1974 Chicago Bears
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In Chicago, 1974 could have been described as a "gentle breeze" in the Windy City. Sadly, that small gust was the result of multiple yawns throughout Soldier Field.
History remembers great running backs in Chicago. Gale Sayers and Walter Payton gave fans wonderful memories that elicit smiles and warm memories of classic football, played by warriors in mud.
"Sweetness" would come, but he was a year away. In '74, the Bears fans still had to endure a boring, talentless, dull offense.
The unit was shutout three times in the final eight games, also scoring six or fewer points in two other games during that stretch.
Gary Huff led the team in passing, finishing with six touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
The offense saw 13 players scoring touchdowns, but only receiver Bo Rather scored more than twice. Nine of those athletes got into the end zone only once.
More abnormal, however, were the leading Chicago runners, Ken Grandberry and Carl Garrett, who combined for just over 800 yards and 3.4 yards per carry.
With the fourth pick of the 1975 NFL Draft, the Bears selected Walter Payton. Coincidence?
Bonus Slide: Remembering the 1944 "Carpets"
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With many athletes serving their country in World War II, NFL teams struggled to field full rosters, and many franchises joined forces to stay above water.
After unifying with the Eagles in 1943 to form the "Steagles," Pittsburgh combined with the Chicago Cardinals in '44.
The results were so bad that the team earned the nickname the "Carpets," derived from the combination of Card-Pitt.
The Chicago Bears were considered a bottom-feeder along with the Carpets, having lost George Halas and Sid Luckman due to the war. The media and fans felt that if the combined Chicago-Pittsburgh squad had any shot to defeat anybody, it would be the "other" Chicago squad.
Instead, the Carps performed pitifully, and their lack of effort resulted in fines!!
Ultimately, the team and its repulsive offense finished as one of only five in NFL history to go winless (0-10).
In seven of the ten "battles," the offense scored 7 points or fewer, ultimately being outscored 328-108.
A Saint Francis University quarterback by the name of John McCarthy threw no touchdowns and 13 interceptions in limited action, while the team's quarterbacks combined for 41 picks.... in 10 games!! This included the most frequent starter, John Grigas, and his 6 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.
Oh, did I mention the 41 interceptions remains an NFL record? Not that anyone would ever come close to matching such an unbelievable total....
Card-Pitt only completed 31 percent of passes, and the run game fared not much better, averaging only a hair over 2.5 yards per rush.
No NFL team will ever match such offensive anemia!
No. 6: 1977 Green Bay Packers
Oh, how far the mighty had fallen!
Fans buying tickets to watch football on the frozen tundra certainly weren't investing their hard-earned dollars to admire talent wearing green.
After some of the brightest seasons in franchise history saw five NFL championships, epic clashes (Ice Bowl, anyone?), and a slew of Hall of Fame talent, the cold, wintry afternoon in Wisconsin had given way to an even chillier brand of football.
In 1977, the Green Bay Packers defense gave up the 10th fewest total points, doing their best to maintain a level of dignity that had been lost under subsequent coaches not named Lombardi.
The offense would not follow suit.
Now, the coach was Bart Starr, the great quarterback of their recent dynasty. Sadly, the further the team got from Vince, it seemed, the further they fell from away from any chance to win the trophy that bore his name.
Leading rusher Barty Smith only mustered 554 yards, averaged 3.3 yards per carry, and scored a mere two touchdowns.
The team's most productive receiver, achieved only 549 yards on 27 catches (a sizable 20.3 yard per catch average), scoring three touchdowns.
With little talent and lackluster production across the board, most players did a little something and nothing more than that. Achievement was a ho-hum proposition across the entire offensive roster.
So, did quarterbacks Lynn Dickey and Davide Whitehurst (combined six touchdowns, 21 interceptions) struggled because of the offensive talent around them or did that talent struggle because of Dickey and Whitehurst?
What came first... the chicken or the egg?
No. 5: 1970 Boston Patriots
In the final 12 games of the season, the offense of the Boston Patriots scored in the single digits six times, twice being shutout. During a six-week span of midseason, they scored zero or three points in four of six contests.
Running back Jim Nance was the team's leading rusher with 522 yards, and he accounted for nearly half the team's end zone scoring output with seven touchdowns.
Ron Sellers was the team's most prolific producer at wide receiver, snagging 38 pigskins for 550 yards and four touchdowns.
The duo helped one of the worst offensive galleries in league history to transcend the potential reputation as the worst ever, but it was a difficult task.
Quarterbacks Joe Kapp and Mike Taliaferro combined for a total of seven touchdowns on nearly 400 attempts, a scoring rate of only 1.8 percent of throws. Adding to the offensive troubles were the duo's combined 28 interceptions.
As such, it was little wonder that the Patriots went 2-12, forced into their anemic passing game by constantly trailing and nearly always to little avail.
In fact, the two Boston wins were a mini-miracle, considering both the defense and offense ranked dead least in the NFL.
A close examination of the team's roster shows a linebacker by the name of Marty Schottenheimer. Schottenheimer would later be criticized as a coach for an offense labelled as "Marty Ball," which most people likely expected to show up on this list.
The concept of "Marty Ball," which wasn't popularly utilized by Schottenheimer (even in the playoffs) despite popular belief, is the notion of using a conservative approach, namely by running effectively, to avoid mistakes. Many attribute the style to Schottenheimer's poor playoff record.
Could this be attributable to his being on the 1970 Patriots? One has to wonder.
Actually, it has nothing to do with that at all...
In reality, Marty's offenses were among the most entertaining in the game on many occassions. Fans in Cleveland revel in glee remembering Bernie Kosar's awkward style, but few debate that Kosar was capable of the big game. In fact, he threw over 60 passes in a classic Cleveland playoff win over the New York Jets.
A Marty team? Oh, it just can't be, right?
Actually, a number of Marty's playoff wins game on the arm of quarterbacking brilliance.
And, who can forget Joe Montana's heroics against Pittsburgh and Houston in the 1993-94 playoffs?
Finally, for those who label Marty's run-first philosophy as dull, go back and watch some of the coach's gallery of wins to discover a clinic on ground game execution!
No. 4: 1992 Seattle Seahawks
Running back Chris Warren had to wonder to himself, "Where am I?"
Seattle quarterbacks were sacked 67 times in 1992.
They averaged less than 150 passing yards per game, with a quarterback rating of 48.9, largely due to nine touchdowns against 23 interceptions.
While these numbers are not as shockingly bad as other squads mentioned on the list, they certainly make Chris Warren's campaign, featuring 1,017 yards and a 5.6 yards per carry average, that much more impressive.
Warren was the lone source of hope on an anemic squad that only gave the ball to their star back 223 times. In fact, the hapless, hopeless, helpless Seahawks passed 74 more times than they threw, a bewildering ratio considering the statistics.
Outside of Warren and fullback John L. Williams' 556 receiving yards out of the backfield, the next leading yard producer on the team was wide receiver Tommy Kane.
TOMMY KANE! Kane finished with a lackluster 369 receiving yards. His 27 receptions ranked second on the team behind Williams.
TWENTY-SEVEN! Ranking second on a team...in 1992?!
So, the 1992 Seattle Seahawks passed often (perhaps the mother of necessity after falling behind in many games), doing so poorly, and ran with less frequency, often with success.
If that isn't the sign of a dull offense, primarily focused on executing in areas where it.... can't... execute...
Well, then, what is?
No. 3: 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Few things match the futility of the 1976 Buccaneers. In fact, the early days in Tampa Bay were so bad that when asked about his team's execution, head coach John McKay famously responded, "I'm all in favor of it."
The offense was shut out five times. They only once managed to score 20 points, failed to win a single game, and averaged less than nine points per game.
Steve Spurrier's seven touchdowns and 12 interceptions were signs of a remarkable poise, especially when contrasted against the talent that surrounded the ambushed quarterback.
As a quarterback, Spurrier was dealt the "Yucks." As a coach, he dealt with Dan Snyder. Simply put, the football gods have never desired success for Spurrier at the NFL level... period.
The other quarterbacks on the squad threw two touchdowns against eight picks, and the entire quarterbacking corp was sacked 50 times in 14 games.
Sinner a 1,000 yard back, the Bucs barely registered a 500-yard rusher; Louis Carter finished with 521 yards, all earned averaging only 3 yards per carry.
The Buccaneers didn't fool fans by giving them any misguidedly high expectations; the team scored no points in either of its first two games.
In Week 2, Spurrier and his fellow passers finished with three completions on 18 pass attempts. They matched their completion total with three interceptions, losing 23-0.
The legacy of the early Bucs was well underway!
No. 2: 1974 Atlanta Falcons
They averaged less than nine points per game, got shut out three times, scored in the single digits on four other occasions, and eclipsed 14 points only once.
Ironically, that abysmal '74 Falcons offense scored a season-high 17 points in a shockingly close 24-17 loss at Three Rivers Stadium to eventual Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh.
Even more stunning were the two second quarter touchdowns Bob Lee threw against the vaunted Steelers defense. Consider:
Quarterbacks Bob Lee, Pat Sullivan, and Kim McQuilken combined to throw four touchdowns and 31 interceptions, a level of efficiency that one might equate to facing off against a strong-armed sixth grader week to week.
While that may be overstating things a bit, one thing that cannot be exaggerated was the alarmingly paltry five yards per attempt that Atlanta quarterbacks averaged in 1974. In other words, on a set of three downs where Falcons' quarterbacks completed two passes, they would only average just enough yardage (perhaps) to secure a new set of downs.
That was still unlikely, however; Falcons quarterbacks completed less than 45 percent of passes that season.
Dave Hampton and Art Malone split carries, gaining only 874 combined yards and four of the team's six rushing touchdowns.
In all, the Atlanta offense found the end zone a mere ten times, scoring more than one touchdown in a game only once in a loss to the Steelers.
If Atlanta is "Hot-lanta" with Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White and Matt Ryan, it was certainly deserving of the label "Not-lanta" during the era of Lee, Mitchell, Burrow, and Hampton.
No. 1: 1977 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
And, finally, the curse ended!
When it comes to futility, particularly regarding the debate about the NFL's worst all-time team, the '76 Bucs enter the conversation almost every time. One can easily see how, considering their 0-14 qualifications!
Truthfully, the first year Bucs were the worst installment in the history of the Tampa Bay franchise, and most regard them as the worst team ever...and quite accurately!
However, in 1977, the Tampa defense improved drastically, allowing only 223 points, nearly a 200-point improvement from their initial campaign.
Adding to the impressiveness of this feat was the play of the offense; unlike in other phases of the game, Tampa continued to feature the most disastrous offense in the game.
It was a lesson in INCOMPETENCE.
Their scoring declined from 8.9 points per game to just a hair over a touchdown. Five shutouts became six, and the unit scored only 3 points twice and, likewise, a mere 7 points on two other occasions.
Like the year before, the lead rusher (in this case, Ricky Bell) could only muster approximately three yards per carry behind a pathetic offensive line. The quarterbacks fared no better.
Randy Hedberg started the season at quarterback, completing 14-of-39 attempts with three interceptions.
Then, Gary Huff too over under center, throwing seven interceptions in two games.
Jeb Blount took over third in line, completing 36 of his first 88 attempts with eight interceptions.
Randy Hedberg replaced Blount, completing a perfect cycle. He finished 4-for-21 with three picks.
Then, it was back to Gary Huff. Why not? After all, what's another 4-for-11, two interception performance?
In the final two weeks, something strange happened. After 26 straight losses to begin the franchise's official history, the Bucs won!
Gary Huff completed 7 of 9 attempts with a touchdown and no turnovers in a 33-14 win over the New Orleans Saints.
Clearly, this was in stark contrast to any other effort from a full entourage of lackluster passers, who nearly matched interceptions with completions on an offense that continues to define the concept of dull and the description of BAD.