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How historically bad NFL teams have fared the next season

Browns Wire logo Browns Wire 6/25/2018 Jeff Risdon

The Cleveland Browns are coming off a terrible stretch of football. It's not pleasant to talk about the 1-31 record the last two seasons, but it is important to note that other teams have been in these depths before.

How did the other historically inept teams fare as they rose from the ashes of failure? Here's how the four worst teams, including three winless squads, played in the seasons following the disastrous outcomes.

Rod Marinelli wearing a helmet: USA TODAY © USA TODAY USA TODAY

2008-09 Detroit Lions

The 2008 Lions are the ultimate picture of ineptitude. Years of GM Matt Millen's ponderous team-building strategy created the first team to go 0-16.

Detroit cleaned house, firing the entire front office and coaching staff, even dismissing most of the scouting department. Like the Browns, they drafted a controversial quarterback No. 1 overall. Also like the Browns with Baker Mayfield, those Lions didn't want Matthew Stafford to play right away. But he did and immediately proved a massive upgrade over the prior death spiral that was Dan Orlovsky, Jon Kitna and Daunte Culpepper.

Lions fans didn't have to wait long to break the massive losing streak. Detroit beat Washington in Week 3, one of its two wins on the season. The Lions still seriously lacked talent and depth across the roster, finishing 27th in scoring offense and dead last in just about every defensive metric. But demanding rookie head coach Jim Schwartz - a disciple of current Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams - coaxed a team almost completely devoid of impact players and went 2-14.

A solid, defensive-oriented draft the next year brought the Lions Ndamukong Suh and bumped the win total to six. The following year, the first where Stafford was healthy for all 16 games, the team made the playoffs at 10-6 for the first time since 1999.

a man wearing glasses: USA TODAY © USA TODAY USA TODAY

1976-77 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The 1976 Buccaneers get an asterisk for their 0-14 campaign. They were an expansion team led by a coach, John McKay, with zero NFL experience. Shut out in their first two games, the hapless Bucs only finished three of the 14 games within a touchdown of the opponent.

The '77 team was still awful on offense despite replacing Steve Spurrier (yeah, that Steve Spurrier) at QB with Gary Huff and Randy Hedberg. The young defensive corps matured into a much tougher unit, forcing a league-high 34 fumbles and shaving off two TDs per game on average.

McKay's Bucs still struggled to win in season two. The losing streak hit 26 before pounding the Saints 33-14 in Week 13. Just for good measure, the '77 Bucs won their finale too, finishing 2-14. Two quick years later they were playing in the NFC Championship game behind Doug Williams at QB and the league's stingiest scoring defense.

a baseball player holding a bat on a field: USA TODAY © USA TODAY USA TODAY

1982-83 Baltimore Colts

Often forgotten as a winless team, the 1982 Colts finished 0-8-1 in the strike-shortened year. Rookie quarterback Art Schlichter, the No 4 overall pick, couldn't beat out fourth-rounder Mike Pagel, rookie NFL coach Frank Cush had little feel for his undermanned roster and the Colts sank hard to the bottom. They finished 27th in scoring offense and 28th in scoring defense.

This regrettable year led to a climactic NFL moment. The Colts selected John Elway with the No. 1 overall pick but ultimately traded the disgruntled Stanford QB to Denver. Part of the trade bounty included rookie offensive lineman Chris Hinton, who immediately helped spark a rushing attack which finished 2nd in the league.

The '83 Colts finished 7-9, helped in part by outstanding special teams. They were 402 and led the league in takeaways at one point in the season before fading with a five-game losing streak. They moved to Indianapolis the following spring, which sort of reset the progress until a trade for RB Eric Dickerson finally lifted the Colts back into the playoff four years later.


2009-10 Los Angeles Rams

Somehow the '09 Rams managed to win a game. They did so despite having a brutally ineffective offense and one of the worst point differentials in NFL history. Coach Steve Spagnuolo's Rams scored just 175 points, barely 10 per game. Their point differential was nearly 100 points worse than the winless '17 Browns!

These Rams are perhaps the best example to study for the '18 Browns emerging from their historically inept season. Like the Browns with Hue Jackson, the Rams unpopularly decided to stick with coach Spagnuolo. They also drafted an Oklahoma quarterback No. 1 overall, Sam Bradford.

Between Bradford's immediate competence and a resurgent defense which got much better at getting off the field quickly, the 2010 Rams quickly became competitive. They hovered around .500 all season, finishing 7-9 after losing three of the final four contests. More importantly, they rose from the NFC West cellar to second place and had a chance to make the playoffs into Week 17.

Their success was short-lived. Bradford got hurt and missed half of 2011, the defense regressed terribly and the promising '10 campaign evaporated into a 2-14 debacle which led to a thorough housecleaning.


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