Is 2009 The Worst NFL Season Of All-Time?

November 3, 2009 – 1:01 am by Matthew Glenesk

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The NFL is bigger and more popular than ever.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the league is better.

There appears to be a large number of just awful teams this season. I’m talking absolutely putrid. Like teams you know are going to lose all week long.

My roommate relayed a conversation he had with Indianapolis Colts linebacker Gary Brackett after the Colts beat up on the hapless Rams a few weeks back.

Roommate: It seems like there are a shitload of really, really bad teams this season.
Mr. Brackett: I mean there are definitely some bad teams out there, but it’s like that every year.

Is it though? Is it always this bad? So I put on my research hat and did way too much work on this post. But hey, you’ll get these every now and then from me. A rare motivated moment.

I looked at the records for each NFL franchise since the league went to a 16-game schedule in 1978. I averaged out how many teams had at least 11 losses, 12 losses and then at least 14 losses (I excluded the half-season of 1982 and the 15-game campaign of 1987).

Since the adoption of a 16-game schedule:
an average of 6.55 teams have finished a season with at least 11 losses.
an average of 4.07 teams have finished a season with at least 12 losses.
an average of 1.07 teams have finished a season with at least 14 losses.

However, things are getting worse. Teams are getting bad at a prolific rate.

In 2003, 10 teams finished the year with 11 losses (13 in total had double-digit failures). Two years later, things got worse. Ten teams had at least 11 defeats, seven had at least 12 Ls and 14 teams finished the 2005 season with double-digit losses.

Last season set the record for most teams in one year to rack up at least 14 losses in a year. Kansas City, St. Louis and Detroit combined for four wins last season.

In the NFL’s history only three teams have lost at least 14 games in back-to-back seasons. The legendary futile Tampa Bay Buccaneers of 1985-86, Buffalo’s equally un-good Bills of 1984-85 and the 1978-79 San Francisco 49ers.

K.C., St. Louis and Detroit all are in danger of joining that dubious group. That’s right. It had been accomplished only three times prior in league history and now might legitimately happen three times in one year! I mean that’s friggin’ awful.

But the Rams, Chiefs and Lions aren’t the only hemorrhoids on the NFL’s ass end. Tampa Bay is winless and most likely will stay winless as long as first-year head coach Raheem Morris continues to neglect actually practicing.

Cleveland, Detroit, Tennessee, St. Louis and Kansas City each have just one win and then there are the messes in Washington, Buffalo and Seattle. Heck, it’s taken me nine teams before I got to the Raiders. That has to be a sign.

And the problem only figures to get worse if there’s no salary cap in the new collective bargaining agreement. The rich will get richer and the poor will get blacked out.

I’ve broken down the 10 teams I feel are the worst in the NFL this season and looked at each club’s remaining schedule to figure out just how bad 2009 is going to be. If things go the way of my overly scientific data suggests, 2009 might be the worst NFL season in history, or at least the season in which the NFL featured its worst teams. Either way, this year sucks. That is unless you’re a Colts or Saints fan.

efe9bf5dd0844718a70f859d4ff0f15d_1976_bucsTampa Bay Buccaneers
Current Record: 0-7
Games Remaining: Green Bay, @Miami, New Orleans, @Atlanta, @Carolina, NY Jets, @Seattle, @New Orleans, Atlanta.
Possible Wins: It doesn’t look too promising for the Bucs. Perhaps Josh Freeman will give Tampa Bay a shot in the arm, but I wouldn’t count on it. With Monte Kiffin chaperoning Lane in Knoxville, the Bucs once feared defense has become laughable. Tampa ranks 29th in yards allowed (376.4) and 30th in points allowed (29.0). Now the Bucs are throwing a rookie quarterback out there, who many in Tampa complain about his public drinking binges. Brace yourself Bucs fans, Freeman will have plenty of more reasons to drink soon enough.
Projected Record: 0-16

Cleveland Browns
Current Record: 1-7
Games Remaining: Baltimore, @Detroit, @Cincinnati, San Diego, Pittsburgh, @Kansas City, Oakland, Jacksonville
Possible Wins: Cleveland has winnable road games at Detroit in Week 11 and Kansas City in Week 15, but the Browns have scored a grand total of 35 points in five road games this season. Not good news for the Dawg Pound. Cleveland’s offense ranks last in yards (121.5) and points per game (9.8). The Browns defense ranks last in yards allowed (409.1), but an impressive 28th in points allowed (26.1). How bad are the Browns? The Bears, who were embarrassed a week earlier 45-10 in Cincinnati, blew Cleveland out 30-6 and the Chicago newspapers and Bears players treated the post-game analysis as if Chicago had lost the game. The general consensus: “You beat the Browns by 24, whoopie! You should have beat them by 44. This team sucks and everyone knows it sucks.”
Projected Record: 1-15

St. Louis Rams
Current Record: 1-7
Games Remaining: New Orleans, Arizona, Seattle, @Chicago, @Tennessee, Houston, @Arizona, San Francisco.

Possible Wins: A Week 12 home game against the Seahawks offers a glimmer of hope and perhaps the Rams could steal a win on the road at Tennessee in Week 14, but Seattle shutout the Rams out in Week 1 and the Titans might be rediscovering their pride with a spirited effort against the predictably mediocre Jaguars on Sunday. Getting that win against Detroit this weekend was massive for the Rams because it doesn’t look likely they’ll get another in Steve Spagnulo’s maiden voyage.
Projected Record: 1-15

Detroit Lions
Current Record: 1-6
Games Remaining: @Seattle, @Minnesota, Cleveland, Green Bay, @Cincinnati, @Baltimore, Arizona, @San Francisco, Chicago.
Possible Wins: The Lions desperately need Calvin Johnson to come back healthy. A healthy Megatron last week would have probably been the difference between a win and a loss against the Rams. Circle the Week 11 home contest against the woeful Browns. Matthew Stafford is only going to get better as the season goes on, but the schedule doesn’t do the Lions any favors. Plus, they lost to the Rams people. Fans in Detroit are just happy they got the Redskins’ scalp in Week 3.
Projected Record: 2-14deadskins

Washington Redskins
Current Record: 2-5
Games Remaining: @Atlanta, Denver, @Dallas, @Philadelphia, New Orleans, @Oakland, NY Giants, Dallas, @San Diego.
Possible Wins: I don’t really see any. If the Raiders can beat the Eagles at home, then they certainly can handle the Redskins, who have become a laughingstock. How Jim Zorn is still an NFL head coach is a mystery. Heck, how he became one in the first place is puzzling. After spending a weekend with a bunch of Redskins’ fans a week ago for a buddy’s wedding, I can tell you things are pretty depressing. It’s no longer, “Hail to the Redskins,” it’s “Hell to the Redskins!” Daniel Snyder continues to spend big money on free agents, yet can’t seem to put capable people in charge. He’s got Vinny Cerato as the team’s main personnel scouting eye, but Lazy Eye Cerrato can only locate a player one eye at a time.
Reasons To Care: John Riggins’ Twitter account.
Projected Record: 2-14

Kansas City Chiefs
Current Record: 1-6
Games Remaining: @Jacksonville, @Oakland, Pittsburgh, @San Diego, Denver, Buffalo, Cleveland, @Cincinnati, @Denver.
Possible Wins: Road games at Jacksonville and Oakland are winnable, but I wouldn’t count on it. Chiefs fans should focus on a potential pleasant Christmas buildup with back-to-back home games against Buffalo and Cleveland Weeks 14-15. Besides his Week 7 performance against San Diego, Matt Cassel has been quietly effective for the Chiefs. But there are just too many holes to fill. And the team’s head coach is vastly overmatched. I’m not saying Larry Johnson is right, but Todd Haley rode the coattails of the Larry Fitzgerald-Anquan Boldin Express in Arizona and turned a few sideline confrontations into a head coaching gig.
Projected Record: 3-13

Tennessee Titans
Current Record: 1-6
Games Remaining: @San Francisco, Buffalo, @Houston, Arizona, @Indianapolis, St. Louis, Miami, San Diego, @Seattle.
Possible Wins: I’d focus on home games against Buffalo, St. Louis and Miami. Tennessee’s fall from grace was Paul Reubens-esque. How the team that finished last year’s regular season with the the best record could go winless in its first six games this year, and do so feebly is perhaps the biggest surprise this season. Things undoubtedly will get a lot more interesting with Vince Young
Projected Record: 3-13

Oakland Raiders
Current Record: 2-6
Games Remaining: Kansas City, Cincinnati, @Dallas, @Pittsburgh, Washington, @Denver, @Cleveland, Baltimore.
Possible Wins: I’m sorry when I watch Raiders games (except for the Giants ass-pounding), I really don’t see that bad of a team. I seen an epically awful quarterback, but the team itself isn’t that bad. They play hard and compete every play. You’d think a quarterback would be able to handle the Raiders’ offensive playbook. I mean come on, it’s filled primarily with left hooks and right crosses.
Projected Record: 5-11

Buffalo Bills
Current Record: 3-5
Games Remaining: @Tennessee, @Jacksonville, Miami, NY Jets, @Kansas City, New England, @Atlanta, Indianapolis.
Possible Wins: Vince Young always has the potential to gift you a win, so at Tennessee isn’t an automatic L. It figures to be a cold one in Orchard Park when Miami comes to visit Nov. 29, but the Wildcat seems like a fit for cold weather, so who knows. Away to Kansas City is definitely a winnable game and if the Colts continue to run away with the AFC South and home field advantage is wrapped up, Week 17 against a Jim Sorgi-led Colts team is primed for a trash, draft order ruining victory.
Projected Record: 5-11

Seattle Seahawks
Current Record: 2-5
Games Remaining: Detroit, @Arizona, @Minnesota, @St. Louis, San Francisco, @Houston, Tampa Bay, @Green Bay, Tennessee.
Possible Wins: Home games against Detroit and Tampa are must wins for Jim Mora. Seattle might be able to sneak out games away to St. Louis and home to Tennessee, but that’s about it. The Seahawks offensive line is a joke and they are likely going to get Matt Hasselbeck killed before season’s end.
Projected Record: 6-10

I have a record four teams losing at least 14 games (St. Louis, Cleveland, Washington and Detroit) and two more losing at least 13 (Kansas City and Tennessee). By my calculations that would make 2009 the NFL’s most awful season.

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  1. 8 Responses to “Is 2009 The Worst NFL Season Of All-Time?”

  2. I disagree with your comment that the disparity will only grow worse without a salary cap. Part of the huge problem in turning these terrible teams around is that a disproportionate amount of their cap space is tied up by ludicrous rookie salaries.

    Teams like the rams that dish out millions to mediocre at best players like Chris Long get stuck in a perpetual cycle where they don’t have the money to get better, so they land at the top of the draft where they have to take mediocre players who cost a ton, that prevent them from affording players who might actually make them better.

    Without a salary cap, at least they wouldn’t be limited this way. The NFL needs a slotting system for rookie salaries, similar to the NBA system.

    By Dave on Nov 3, 2009

  3. Is it even mathematically possible for all of these teams to have that few wins? I mean, don’t some of them play each other?

    Also, if that many teams have fourteen losses, a corresponding number will have better seasons. Thus, why does that not make this the best season ever?

    By Goldberg on Nov 3, 2009

  4. It definitely is mathematically possible. I did all the leg work myself. They do play each other, and for the most part, those are the only other wins I see these ass teams to win.

    And as far as looking at this season in terms of the worst rather than the best, well we hear at Rumors and Rants are more of glass half empty enterprise.

    By TheBaker on Nov 3, 2009

  5. Furthermore, the scores have been terrible around the league week-in and week-out. Tons of blowouts. Hard to give much credence to that being a sign of the best year ever.

    By Hick Flick on Nov 3, 2009

  6. I think what Goldberg is implying is that this year there may be more dominance at the top than ever before.

    Citing the blowouts is more evidence that it is certainly a terrible year as far as watching compelling, competitive football, but there is something to be said about the rarity of there being so many dominate teams.

    Clearly the really good teams are beating other teams than just the terrible teams, and the terrible teams are losing to everyone. The Redskins have played almost only terrible teams thus far and are still terrible themselves.

    Though the regular season has been terrible (not to mention the fantasy season where many games have been won because of a random scoring ourbreak of 30+ points by a decent player against a terrible defense), maybe the playoffs are shaping up to be exceptional, since these said dominant teams will all be playing each other at the same time.

    By Dave on Nov 4, 2009

  7. I liked the subtle Tom Cable diss about the Raiders playbook.

    By KJ on Nov 4, 2009

  8. I disagree with the Redskins finishing 2-14. They have mad issues, but their talent level is better than a 2-14 team. I think they easily finish with 3 or 4 wins. Their fall from grace has been compelling to say the least… last season in about Week 5 or 6 they were #1 in the Sagarin Rankings (which hold weight, especially from a gambler’s perspective). Suddenly it all fell apart and they did a complete freefall which carried over to this season. They were 13.5 point favorites at home against the Rams (I remember because I got put out of my eliminator on them) and choked. Ever since then they’re nothing but a punchline, kind of like our fantasy squads. I’ve never seen a team fall that hard that quickly.

    By KJ on Nov 4, 2009

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