Cleveland Cavaliers and the Worst Teams in Sports History

Adam LazarusSenior Analyst IFebruary 3, 2011

Cleveland Cavaliers and the Worst Teams in Sports History

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    Cleveland Cavaliers Headed Towards Historic Futility Mark

    The Cleveland Cavaliers lost again last night to extend their streak to 22 games. One more and they tie the record set by the 1996 Vancouver Grizzlies. 

    Regardless of whether or not they snap that streak, they still have 33 games left in the 2010-11 season to either crawl out of their hole or dig themselves deeper. 

    If the 8-41 Cavs finish with single-digit wins they'll certainly become one of the worst teams in NBA history. But how about in sports history?

    We'll have to wait until mid-April to know exactly where their spot is on this list. 

    Here are the 25 worst teams in sports history....with two caveats.

    First, college teams have to come from Division I and a major conference in their sport. (The 2007-08 New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders who finished the season 0-29 really shouldn't be on the same list as the 2008 Detroit Lions or the 1952 Pittsburgh Pirates).

    And expansion teams, like that 1995-96 Vancouver Grizzlies team that the Cavs are chasing  (or running from), and the infamous 1962 New York Mets, don't count.

    Teams that were just formed get a shed of sympathy, here. These 25 don't.

No. 25: 1988 Baltimore Orioles

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    Manager: Cal Ripken Sr., Frank Robinson

    Overall Record: 54-107

    Low Point: 0-21 start to the season

    Major league teams have had worse overall seasons than the 1988 Orioles. But not winning a single game for the first three-and-a-half weeks of the season is the worst start in the game's history.

    The pitching was bad, surrendering nine or more runs five times during that stretch, but the offense was worse: in 10 of those 21 games they scored one or zero runs.

    The horrible nightmare finally came to an end on April 29 when their two Hall of Famers, Cal Ripken Jr., and Eddie Murray, homered during a 9-0 road shut out of the Chicago White Sox. 

No. 24: 2009-10 New Jersey Nets

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    Head Coach: Lawrence Frank, Tom  Barisse, Kiki Vandeweghe

    Overall Record: 12-70

    Low Point: 0-18 start to season

    Mikhail Prokhorov knew he was getting a slumping team when he agreed to buy the New Jersey in September 2009. But he couldn't have foreseen how much of a bad luck charm he was. 

    The team didn't win a game until December 4, losing their first 18.

    31 points from Brook Lopez led the Nets to their first win of the season, a 97-91 triumph over the Charlotte Bobcats, but the season didn't exactly pick up from there. 

    They had another 10-game losing skid that December, an 11-game skid that started in January, followed by a stretch where they lost 12 of 13. 

    Only once all year did they actually have a winning streak: that came in late March when they won two in a row.  It was promptly snapped the next day with a 106-83 loss at Chicago. 

No. 23: 1989 Dallas Cowboys

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    Head Coach: Jimmy Johnson

    Overall Record: 1-15

    Low Point: Week 12, 27-0 home loss to Philadelphia Eagles

    Much like Mikhail Prokhorov, billionaire Jerry Jones couldn't have been too pleased with his new acquisition in 1989. He had just bought the Cowboys that spring and saw them open the season with a 28-0 loss at New Orleans.

    The Cowboys, coached by Jones' former Arkansas teammate Jimmy Johnson, lost the next seven games (and dealt away their only good player, Herschel Walker) before stealing a win over the Redskins. 

    Johnson, who had won the college football national championship at Miami less than two years earlier, didn't record another victory for the rest of the season. 

    They were shut out twice again, including a home loss to the rival Eagles in which they recorded 68 passing yards and committed five turnovers. 

No. 22: 2003-04 Texas A&M

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    Head Coach: Melvin Watkins

    Overall Record: 7-21 (0-16 in Big XII)

    Low Point: 86-60 loss at Oklahoma

    The Aggies tradition isn't quite as rich as many of in-state rivals. And during their non-conference schedule, they actually put together a pretty good record: 7-5. But that came against teams like Prarrie-View, Grambling State, and Long Island.

    When they hit their Big XII schedule in early January, it all fell apart. They did not win another game that year and finished their conference schedule a miserable 0-16. 

No. 21: 1980-81 Winnipeg Jets

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    Head Coach: Tom McVie, Bill Sutherland, Mike Smith

    Overall Record: 9-57-14

    Low Point: 10-1 loss to Philadelphia Flyers

    The Jets actually regressed after their expansions season: the 1979-80 club, which came over from the WHA, went 20-49-11. 

    But another season at the NHL level, didn't  do  much good. They won exactly one of their first 33 games. 

    Their silver lining of that season may have been the fact that they were shut out just once. Of course when you allow five goals per game, that's not a recipe for victory either. 

No. 20: 1991 Indianapolis Colts

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    Head Coach: Ron Meyer, Rick  Venturi

    Overall Record: 1-15

    Low Point: 31-0 home loss to Cleveland Browns

    With first overall draft choice Jeff George playing well as a rookie, the 1990 Colts finished only one game under .500.

    The next year, they took a major step back. 

    After a first quarter touchdown pass from George to Bill Brooks in Week One, the Colts scored just six points over the next 11 quarters. At 0-3, they hung close in a 33-24 loss to the Lions. 

    But in their next five games, they didn't score a single touchdown: eight field goals by Dean Biasuci was all the points they totaled.

    They topped the Jets a week later  but dropped the next six games, to finish the season with an AFC record for losses. 

No. 19: 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks

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    Head Coach: Richie Adubato, Gar Heard

    Overall Record: 11-71

    Low Point: 139-81 loss to Sacramento Kings

    The Mavs weren't lacking in talent. They had Derek Harper and the fourth overall draft choice, Ohio State's Jim Jackson.

    But neither could keep opponents from scoring at will. They allowed a league-worst 115 points per game and 50% shooting from the field. 

    The worst defense came in late December when, against the 9-16 Kings, they allowed 50 field goals and 97 attempts. 

    That was their sixth straight loss and would lose 17 of their next 18. 

No. 18: 1952 Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Manager: Bill Meyer

    Overall Record: 42-112

    Low Point: 16-0 loss at Boston Braves

    Known as "The Rickey Dinks" because they were put together by former Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey, the early 1950s Pirates were horrible: Future Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner (above) had very little to smile about.

    Even with Kiner and future NL MVP Dick Groat the Pirates were shutout 15 times, they never won more than two games in a row, and at one point were 8-33. 

    Forbes Field wasn't exactly an elixir for their road woes either: they won just 23 of 77 games there. 

    It's hard to believe that just eight years later this franchise would win the World Series. 

No. 17: 2008 Washington Huskies

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    Head Coach: Ty Willingham

    Overall Record: 0-11 (0-9 in Pac-10)

    Low Point: 56-0 loss at USC

    Nothing went right during Ty Willingham's final season in Seattle.

    In another showdown with his former club, Notre Dame, the Huskies were beaten 33-7 at home.

    The Huskies were defeated by four touchdowns or more six times. 

    They had the fourth worst offense in the nation. 

    And given a chance to avoid the school's first winless season in the 92-year history, Washington was manhandled in the season finale by the Cal Bears, 48-7. 

No. 16: 1967 Maryland Terrapins

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    Head Coach: Robert Ward

    Overall Record: 0-9 (0-6 in ACC)

    Low Point: 31-0 loss at South Carolina

    No wonder Ralph Friedgen didn't want to leave Maryland this year: he was still trying to redeem himself for being a guard on the 1967 Terps team. 

    In the season opener at Norman, Maryland was crushed by Oklahoma, 38-0. They lost the next eight games to finish the season 0-9. 

    The Terps scored double-digit points once all year, in a 35-17 loss to Wake Forest, and five times were held to a lone field goal or zero points. 

No. 15: 2001 Carolina Panthers

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    Head Coach: George Seifert

    Overall Record: 1-15

    Low Point: Week 17, 38-6 home loss to New England Patriots

    George Seifert should never have let owner Jerry Richardson talk him out of retirement. 

    After two mediocre seasons, Seifert's Panthers looked like a team on the rise in 2001. They defeated the Minnesota Vikings (who had reached the NFC Title Game eight months earlier) in Week One. But they didn't win another game all season.

    The offense, led by Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke, totaled the second fewest yards in the NFL, while the defense allowed the most yards in the NFL.

    Trying to avoid an unprecedented 15th straight loss (in the same season), the Panthers hosted the eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots in the regular season finale. They committed six turnovers and were outscored 28-3 in the second half of what became Seifert's last game as an NFL head coach. 

No. 14: 1999-2000 Northwestern Wildcats

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    Head Coach: Kevin O'Neil

    Overall Record: 5-25 (0-17 in Big Ten)

    Low Point: 48-26 loss to Evansville

    The Wildcats posted a nice win in their season opener, defeating Chicago State at home in late November.

    But they must have been suffering from a triptophan overdose, because the day after Thanksgiving, they were embarrassed by Evansville, 48-26. And yes, they used a shot clock.

    Eventually they rebounded to win three straight in mid December, but a 1-19 finish to the season sort of ruined any good will gained from those wins over Nichols State, Jacksonville, and Western Carolina. 

No. 13: 1999 South Carolina

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    Head Coach: Lou Holtz

    Overall Record: 0-11 (0-8 in ACC)

    Low Point: 21-3 home loss to East Carolina

    7.9 points per game? In a college football season when Georgia Tech and Florida State were averaging more than 38?

    That did not bode well for Lou Holtz when he decided to return to the game after leaving Notre Dame a few years earlier. 

    And although the SEC schedule was absolutely brutal (they played top five teams in Tennessee and Florida in consecutive weeks) losing at home to East Carolina and blowing a three touchdown lead in the process helped make 1999 the most miserable season in school history. 

No. 12: 2001 Duke Blue Devils

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    Head Coach: Carl Franks

    Overall Record: 0-11 (0-8 in ACC)

    Low Point: 44-7 home loss to Northwestern

    After their improbable turnaround during the late 1980s under Steve Spurrier and a bowl appearance in 1994, the Blue Devils fell on hard times. 

    After losing every game of the 2000 season, Carl Franks' team opened the 2001 season with an unfavorable draw: a visit from the defending National Champion Florida State Seminoles, who crushed the Blue Devils, 55-13.

    They lost again the next week to Rice, then against their Big Ten academics-first-counterpart, Northwestern were clobbered, 44-7. 

    Although the offense, led by quarterback D. Bryant, wasn't very good, the deffense was far worse: in their final six games they surrendered an average of 51.5 points. 

    Their losing skid would ultimately stretch from November 1999 to August 2002.

No. 11: 1935 Boston Braves

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    Manager: Bill McKechnie 

    Overall Record: 38-115

    Low Point: 6-0 loss at Philadelphia Phillies

    Losing Babe Ruth didn't keep the New York Yankees from winning: a year after letting him go, they won four consecutive World Series from 1936-39. But losing Ruth did cost the 1935 Braves a great deal.

    They were a bad team with Ruth: 9-27 and far out of first place. 

    But once Ruth retired at the beginning of June (a week after hitting his three home runs in Pittsburgh) the Braves become historically bad. 

    In July they went 5-23. In August, they improve a bit: 8-21. But in their final month, they regressed again: 5-25: An 18-69 limp to the finish line, to end the season a whopping 78 games under .500. 

No. 10: 1980-81 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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    Head Coach: Dwayne Morrison

    Overall Record: 4-23 (0-15 in the ACC)

    Low Point: 64-41 loss at Jacksonville

    The Yellow Jackets were not warmly welcomed when they joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1980. 

    After suffering out of conference losses to the likes of Charleston Southern, Jacksonville, Western Carolina and their rival Georgia, they were defeated in every one of their ACC games. 

    The one good thing to come out of that season? Dwayne Morrison was replaced that spring with Bobby Cremins who would eventually produced three ACC titles. 

     

     


No. 9: 1992-93 San Jose Sharks

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    Head Coach: George Kingston

    Overall Record: 11-71-2

    Low Point: 13-1 loss at Calgary Flames

    The 1992-93 season started out fine for the no-longer-expansion Sharks: they defeated Winnipeg 4-3 in overtime. 

    But they lost their next showdown and would lose 70 more after that to set a new NHL record for most defeats in a single season.

    San Jose would endure another three 10-plus game losing skids and lose all but one of their final 17 games. 

    Remarkably, just a year later, they would qualify for their first postseason appearance and upset the Central division champion Red Wings. 

No. 8: 2001-02 Washington State Cougars

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    Head Coach: Paul Graham

    Overall Record: 6-22 (1-17 in Pac-10)

    Low Point: 96-45 loss at Arizona State

    It's one thing to have a bad overall record. It's worse to have a terrible conference record. But to be repeatedly blown out by your opponents is really the depths of despair.

    In mid-December the Cougars scored just 44 points at Gonzaga and lost by 23. A month later they had a pair of 33-point losses to Stanford and Cal. 

    But that wasn't as bad as what happened in February. On the seventh, they were beaten by 51 in Tempe by the Sun Devils. Two weeks later, the Oregon Ducks scored 115 points against the Cougars to win by 28. Two days later, the Beavers came to Seattle and walloped them by 26.

    Thankfully, they scheduled Centenary College for their finale and they were able to get by the Gents, 102-80. 

No. 7: 1936 Philadelphia Eagles

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    Head Coach: Bert Bell

    Overall Record: 1-11

    Low Point: Week 6, 17-0 loss to Pittsburgh Pirates

    It wasn't by way of a DeSean Jackson punt on the game's final play, but the Eagles earned a great victory over the Giants in Week One, after being swept by New York the previous season.

    But after that 10-7 win, the Eagles were clobbered 26-3 by the Boston Redskins, dropping to 1-1.

    Under future NFL President Bert Bell, the Eagles slide became a free-fall in Week Three. They were shut out by George Halas' Bears, then the next week by the Dodgers, the next week by the Lions, and again by the Pirates. 

    The scoreless streak finally ended Week Seven, but the losing streak didn't. They lost their remaining six game to cap off the club's worst season in more than eight decades of football. 

No. 6: 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers

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    Head Coach: Roy Rubin, Fred Loughery

    Overall Record: 9-73

    Low Point: 0-15 start to the season

    The 76ers were bad from start to finish. They the year with 15 straight losses, suffered a 19-game losing skid and a 14-game losing skid in the middle of the year, and finished the season out with 13 straight losses. 

    Not much more to say about a string of play like that. 

    Except this: The NBA may have been different back in the 1970s and scoring was up from the numbers today. But allowing triple-digits your opponent is 75 of their 82 games is pretty absurd. 

No. 5: 1996 New York Jets

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    Head Coach: Rich Kotite 

    Overall Record: 1-15

    Low Point: Week 17, 31-28 home loss to Miami Dolphins

    Here is why the 1996 New York Jets were the worst 20th century (non-expansion) NFL team ever. Not only did they have the number one overall player in the draft, Keyshawn Johnson, but they had just signed a Super Bowl quarterback to a $25 million contract, Neil O'Donnell, and they still won just one game. 

    The Jets only win came against the 2-5 Arizona Cardinals, a game in which they nearly threw away a 17-0 lead, and they turned the ball over 45 times that season. 

    Bill Parcells making that team 9-7 the next season was arguably a more impressive achievement than any Super Bowl or division title he ever won. 

No. 4: 1981 Northwestern Wildcats

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    Head Coach: Dennis Green

    Overall Record: 0-11  (0-9 in the Big Ten)

    Low Point: 42-0 home loss to Utah

    Dennis Green  inherited a mess when he took over the Northwestern program in 1981. 

    The previous season, under Rick Venturi, the same Rick Venturi who was interim coach of the 1991 Colts (number 20 on this list), Northwestern was 0-10 and had lost 19 consecutive games.

    In his first year, Green not only couldn't snap that mark, but his team was worse than any of the previous ones before it. 

    The Wildcats offense created by Green (a disciple of Bill Walsh) was shut out five times, while the defense, allowed an NCAA-worst 46 points per game. 

    And as bad as it was to go winless in the Big Ten for a fourth straight year, losing 42-0 at home to Utah was the pits. 

No. 3: 2003 Detroit Tigers

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    Manager: Alan Trammell 

    Overall Record: 43-119

    Low Point: 11-3 home loss to Baltimore 

    The 2003 Tigers didn't have the horrific start of the 1988 Orioles. They didn't suffer swarms of horrible losing streaks like the 1952 Pirates. And they didn't have the horrible finish like the 1935 Braves.

    They were just consistently horrible from start to finish. 

    The Tigers scored more than 350 fewer runs than they allowed, they were shut out 17 times, and had 58 more losses than the New York Yankees, who had the AL's best record.

    Had they not finished the season with a semi-miraculous 5-1 record, they would have soared past the 1962 expansion Mets record for futility. 

No. 2: 1916 Philadelphia Athletics

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    Manager: Connie Mack

    Overall Record: 36-117

    Low Point: 13-3 home loss to Washington Senators

    Connie Mack had been forced to sell off his stars two years earlier so he and the A's fans should have expected another bad year after their 43-109 campaign in 1915. 

    Still, they probably didn't expect them to be seven games worse. 

    They never won more than two games in a row, lost 20 in a row at one point during that summer, and finished the season an incredible 56.5 games behind the first place Boston Red Sox. 

    And as far as statistics, Mack's staff allowed nearly a run more than any other AL team, made more errors than any other major league team, and scored the fewest runs in baseball.  That's a trifecta of horrible play. 

No. 1: 2008 Detroit Lions

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Head Coach: Rod Marinelli

    Overall Record: 0-16

    Low Point: Week 17, 31-21 loss at Green Bay

    The 21st century NFL is all about parity. Teams can go from last place to first place in just one year. 

    Never before as the terribly cliched "any given Sunday" motto been true: every one of the 32 teams should be capable of beating any of the other 31 teams. 

    So for a team in this era to go winless is inexcusable, no matter the circumstances. 

    Yes they had some close calls, losing five of their games by a touchdown or less. And with Calvin Johnson (78 catches, 1,331 yards, 12 touchdowns) their offense wasn't the worst in football, averaging 17 points per game. 

    But to not win a single game, just a year after the New England Patriots went the previous season without losing a single regular season game, is a juxtaposition that lands them the top spot on this list.