After their final loss of the season, a 31-21 loss to Green Bay, the Detroit Lions became the first team in NFL history to go 0-16 in a season. However, they weren't the first team to go winless in an NFL season.
But ever since the Lions reached 0-16, people have debated who was truly the worse team. So who is it? Well, let's start by looking at the stats.
The '76 Bucs averaged a mere 8.9 points per game, and were shut out five times, the worst loss being a 42-0 rout against the Steelers. The highest amount of points they scored in a game was 20.
The '08 Lions averaged 16.7 points per game, and scored a high of 25 points. They were never shut out, however, they suffered a truly embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Titans. The Lions were destroyed 47-10 on Thanksgiving, the most lopsided defeat in Detroit's 69 game Thanksgiving history. They also suffered the notion of having the worst home point differential in NFL history (22 per game).
The '76 Bucs also had larger average losing margins. They lost on average by 20.5 points, while the Lions lost by, on average, 15.9 points.
The Lions ranked last in the league in defense, while the Bucs managed to rank 27 out of 28 teams in 1976. The Lions had a slightly better offense however, being ranked 30 while the Bucs were ranked 28.
But than you must consider some other factors. The Bucs were an expansion team. While they weren't expected to lose every single game, they were expected to at least be a poor team.
The Lions on the other hand, were coming off of a 7-9 season. While expectations weren't high (are they ever for the Lions?), especially after finishing the season 1-7, I don't think anyone expected an 0-16 season.
The Buccaneers losing streak continued well into their next season. They started 0-12 before winning their final two games. They set an NFL record with the 26 game losing streak.
The Lions have quite a losing streak themselves however. They currently stand at a 17 game losing streak, after losing to the Packers at their 2007 season finale.
I think it's also important to look at the coaches. John McKay coached the Buccaneers for another 8 seasons after 1976, and even managed to win two division titles during that span. He compiled a 44-88-1 career coaching record.
Rod Marrinelli only coached 3 seasons for the Lions, and compiled a 10-38 career coaching record.
But the question remains, who was worse?
Both teams certainly were terrible. The stats say the Bucs, but other factors point to the Lions. If I absolutely had to choose, I'd say the 2008 Lions were indeed the worst team of all time.
The Buccaneers managed to become a respectable franchise, and won the Super Bowl in 2003 thanks to their revolutionary Tampa 2 defense.
The Lions on the other hand...well, let's just not go there.