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worst nfl teams
AP Photo/Duane Burleson

We often talk about the all-time best NFL teams. The 1972 Miami Dolphins are famously the last NFL squad to be undefeated the entire season. We still talk about the 2007 New England Patriots, even though they lost in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick would be just fine.

The football teams just below those all-timers, though? They often get forgotten. You could go 13-3, lose a Super Bowl and nobody remembers you. On the other hand, if you are an all-time lousy team? You’ll go down in history.

Let’s face it, an 11-5 playoff team that doesn’t win it all? In the grand scheme of things, they are unremarkable. The same is true for your run-of-the-mill bad teams. For example, the Detroit Lions of 2021 are an awful team but will go forgotten after winning a few games. Urban Meyer may be remembered as one of the worst head coaches in NFL history (up there will fellow college coach and Atlanta Falcons abandoner Bobby Petrino), but Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars have done just enough not to make it into our rankings.

These are the 10 worst NFL teams of all time. They had genuinely atrocious regular seasons. These teams hit the bottom of the barrel, forever remembered for the wrong reasons.

10 Worst NFL Teams of All Time

10. 1996 New York Jets: 1-15

Keyshawn Johnson on the 1996 New York Jets
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

After going 3-13 in 1995, you would have assumed the Jets had nowhere to go but up. You would be wrong. Even though they replaced Boomer Esiason as the starting quarterback, the team went wrong. New York went 1-15, scoring a road win over the Arizona Cardinals to avoid a winless season. Maybe taking a wide receiver in Keyshawn Johnson with the first pick of the NFL Draft wasn’t the best idea.

9. 2001 Carolina Panthers: 1-15

Matt Lytle Puts Hand on Face During Panthers Game
Elsa/ALLSPORT/Getty Images

The Panthers beat the Minnesota Vikings in the season opener. They then proceeded to lose 15 games in a row. There were a few close calls, so this team is only ninth on this list. Two of the losses came in overtime, for example. To add insult to injury, the Panthers didn’t even get the first-overall pick in 2002 because the Houston Texans were joining the league as an expansion team.

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8. 1973 Houston Oilers: 1-13

Greg Bingham Plays For Oilers in 1973
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Speaking of the Texans, before the Titans moved to Tennessee, the franchise was known as the Oilers. Back when NFL teams played 14 games, the Oilers went 1-13, with their one win coming by four points. Only four teams ever gave up more yards in a 14-game season, helping give the Oilers a woeful minus-248 point differential.

7. 1990 New England Patriots: 1-15

Patriots Punter Brian Hansen Blocked in 1990
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

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Before the Patriots had players racking up Pro Bowls and championships, they had a brutal campaign in 1990. The season didn’t start terribly, as they barely lost to the Dolphins and then beat the Indianapolis Colts 16-14. Then, they lost 14 games in a row, most of the losses being blowouts. After one season as head coach, they kicked Ron Rust to the curb that offseason.

6. 1982 Baltimore Colts: 0-8-1

Colts Quarterback Mark Herrmann Gets Sacked
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Two seasons before the team’s last year in Baltimore, the Colts had a season that probably made some fans OK with the fact they left. This was the strike-shortened NFL season, so the Colts only played nine games. They also failed to win a single one of them. Baltimore went 0-8-1, and if the season had been more extended, it might be higher on this list. Eventually, the Baltimore Ravens would come along and erase all the bitterness of the end of the Baltimore Colts.

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5. 1960 Dallas Cowboys: 0-11-1

Tom Landy Cowboys
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

It was the Cowboys’ inaugural season in the NFL, back before the NFC and the AFC when the NFL and AFL were two different leagues. Dallas didn’t win a single game, even with Tom Landry as head coach. The fact the Cowboys only lost by two points to the eventual NFL champs the Philadelphia Eagles practically qualified as a win. The tie, by the way, came on the road to add a little insult to injury.

4. 2009 St. Louis Rams: 1-15

Keith Null Scrambles for the Rams
Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Rams failed to score a touchdown or field goal in a season-opening loss to the Seattle Seahawks, which set the course for one of the most inept offenses in NFL history. In fact, the Rams were shut out twice in their first two games. Their only win was a 17-10 affair against the lowly Detroit Lions. The Rams minus-261 point differential is the fourth worst of all time. Thankfully, the current Los Angeles Rams have never been this bad.

3. 2017 Cleveland Browns: 0-16

Browns Players Warm Up Before 2017 Game
Photo by: 2017 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images

We now get to the first of the three current winless squads. No ties. No victories. The Browns had gone 1-15 the year prior but failed to win even once this season. No team had ever lost so many games over two campaigns, which had to make the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens happy. Joe Thomas failed to represent the offensive line at the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career, which was indicative of what kind of season the Browns had.

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2. 2008 Detroit Lions: 0-16

Lions Fan Holds Up Sign in 2008
Photo by Damian Strohmeyer/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

The Lions were brutal throughout the 2000s, but 2008 was the nadir. At the time, they became the only team to ever go 0-16 until the Browns joined them. Detroit did it first, and it had the worst point differential, so it gets to be one spot “above” the Browns here. To add insult to injury, that final loss came at the hands of the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau Field. After this season, the Lions drafted Matthew Stafford, which gave them a glimmer of hope (but no playoff wins).

1. 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 0-14

Buccaneers 1976
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The worst team of all time, though, is these Bucs. Sure, they were an expansion team, but they were so brutal they have to top this list. Tampa opened the season getting shut out by the Oilers on the road. Then, it made its home debut by getting shut out by the San Diego Chargers. Yes, it wasn’t until their third game that the Bucs even scored a point. Weirdly, this team from Tampa, Florida, was lost in the AFC West with the Chargers, Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs. That travel likely didn’t help.

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The 1976 Bucs went 0-14, the first team to go winless in a season of 14 games or more. They scored 8.9 points per game and had a staggering minus-287 point differential, the worst ever. Indeed, this season was marked by an expansion team entirely in over its head.

MORE: The 15 Worst Quarterbacks in NFL History Were Painful to Watch

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Chris Morgan About the author:
Chris Morgan is a Michigan-based writer and a Detroit sports fan who has written about sports and pop culture for a variety of outlets, including a book about Mystery Science Theater 3000 and '90s Nickelodeon. He's happy to complain about the Lions with you anytime.
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