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Thursday, August 22, 2002
Updated: September 2, 9:22 AM ET
Readers: Worst NFL team

From the Page 2 mailbag

Earlier this week, Page 2 listed its choices for the 10 worst NFL teams of all time, but we knew there were others and as usual, we wanted your take. We received more than 875 letters on the dispute, and here's how you ranked them.

Be sure to vote in the poll at right to crown the greatest team ever to grace -- or disgrace -- the gridiron.

Ty Detmer
Ty Detmer threw seven interceptions in his first game running the Lions' West Coast offense.
1. 2001 Detroit Lions (139 letters)
Only the completely inept Ford family could totally revamp a mediocre Lions management team and make things worse -- A TV color man as the general manager?! A head coach who kept trying to shove a square peg into a round hole by running a West Coast offense with personnel not tailored for it.

Marty Mornhinweg benched Charlie Batch for Ty Detmer after one subaverage performance! Detmer proceeded to throw seven interceptions against the Browns ... but he remained the starting QB for the next game! The season was all downhill from there.
Paul Czarnecki
Cincinnati

Last year's squad was just the latest and greatest in a long series of pathetic teams. I am giving them bonus points for being consistently bad over a 40-year period. More points for having some of the worst quarterbacks of all time -- Charlie Batch, Scott Mitchell, Carl Sweetan, et al. ... More points for the worst coaching and front office in the NFL (always some guy named Marty, or Fred or Whatshisname) and finally, tally a few more for making you think they might just win, prior to their inevitable slide back to mediocrity and beyond.
Bruce Deighton
Atlanta

The Detroit Lions are by far the worst team ever, any year. How many times can you watch a team struggle to make it to the playoffs just to lose the first game -- whether it's the first round or a wild card? Then, if they can't make the playoffs, they screw up a chance at the No. 1 pick by winning two games. Hell, they still would've drafted second at best because it was an expansion year. They can't win for losing.

Speaking of the draft, let's just take the Lions for the past 10 years or so. How many times can you sit through draft day feeling sick to your stomach watching your picks just waste away (Andre Ware, Aaron Gibson, Chuck Long ...).

In '99 we drafted Chris Claiborne before Dante Culpepper and Jevon Kearse. In '98 -- Terry Fair over Randy Moss. When it came down to linebackers, we took Reggie Brown over Ray Lewis in '96. Let's take it back to '90 -- Andre Ware before Emmitt Smith? Yeah, I know hindsight is 20/20 and we drafted Barry Sanders the year before, but could you imagine that backfield combo? We might as well just sell our first-round picks like we did in '93.

And boy doesn't it pay to remain a Lions' faithful? The fans have been rewarded with a new stadium 20,000 seats smaller than the Silverdome and with a quarter less tailgating space -- tailgating being one of the few guaranteed pleasures of attending a Lions game!

Don't forget the players. Herman Moore? Sent him packing, thanks for the memories. Chris Spielman, thanks for keeping the team together through the Wayne Fontes era ... have fun in Cleveland. Johnnie Morton? Forget about him because we've paid top dollar for somebody's third or fourth option who has the fumbles.

And let's not slight the Great One. How can you frustrate the best running back ever, to the point that he would rather retire -- in his prime -- than continue to play the sport?

Welcome to the Lions organization -- worse than the worst.
The Jenkins
Lansing

John McKay
John McKay had no wins and a bunch of bananas in the Bucs' first year.
2. 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (126 letters)
You're kidding, right? This is a joke. The '76 Bucs are the most god-awful louts ever to disgrace a football field. Our 1987 scab team could have routed them. If any of you self-obsessed New Englanders even try to push the 1990 Pats into first place, I'll personally drive up there and pour hot chow-dah on your groin.

The inaugural Bucs were the worst. Our coach didn't give a damn, our receivers couldn't catch, our offensive line was weaker than tin foil and our defense looked like they'd drunk a pint of Nyquil before the game. That, plus Steve Spurrier hadn't yet figured out a way to make his insanity work for him. Wearing replica jerseys of this city's home team back in those days was equivalent to walking up to someone and saying, "Hi, I'm a loser."

There are two remarkable things about this team. One is that they actually managed to produce a bona fide hall-of-famer, Lee Roy Selmon (who never has to pay for a drink, meal or table dance as long as I'm around). The other -- they've spent every year since '76 trying to top their initial incompetence. Doug Williams, Steve Young and Trent Dilfer were all brilliantly released before they were able to provide central Florida with a Super Bowl win. And Tony Dungy was fired for the unpardonable sin of rolling off six consecutive winning seasons. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will not tolerate being perennial contenders ... they have a history to live up to!
Robert
Tampa

As a Buccaneers fanatic, born and raised in the Tampa area during one of the greatest losing streaks in NFL history, I can truthfully tell you that I, like many of my fellow Bucs brethren, have a sick sense of pride, joy and love for our team. We have the 1976 expansion disaster to thank for giving us such passion. One could view that team as the beginning of a curse -- a curse that has all but dominated Buccaneers history. It was as if God, fate and all forces supernatural had led the Bucs to eternal misfortune.

Anyone remember Bo Jackson's refusal to be drafted by the Bucs? How about the cold factor in 40 degrees or less, 0-20 lifetime? My personal favorite -- quarterbacks who never succeeded in Tampa, but once they left, went on to the land of playoffs and Super Bowls (see: Steve Young, Vinny Testaverde, Chris Chandler, Trent Dilfer, Doug Williams).

Excluding the success in the 1979-81 seasons, Tampa has been the whipping boy of the NFL for nearly two decades (1976 to 1996). I know my fellow Bucs fans were saying stuff back in the day like, "Well, it can't get any worse than this." I think that's up to opinion ... but we who endured the taunting, labelling and abuse of all those golden years of gray, we have long been awaiting these last few years of bliss ...
Branden Noble
Austin


Head coach John McKay was an absolute comedic genius that year -- the only thing worth following was what he'd say next. You included one gem in your column, but I have another favorite ... At a postgame press conference he said, "You guys don't know the difference between a football and a bunch of bananas."

The following week after a media member had dropped off a case of bananas at his door he said, "You guys don't know the difference between a football and a Mercedez-Benz." Pure genius! The only highlight in an otherwise Dante-esque type tragic season.
Alfonz
Fairfax

3. Cincinnati Bengals (95 letters)
You're right, all of these teams had at least one really bad season, but does that really compare to the Bengals' 11 straight losing seasons? Can the title of "Worst Team in NFL History" really be given to a team that had only a one or two bad seasons?

Consider that Cincinnati hasn't had a winning season since 1989. They are widely considered to be the worst team of the 1990s for any professional team in any sport, and its losing record is extending into the 21st century.

My kids don't get excited about pro football because their dad's team has been the butt of jokes and the laughing stock of the league for their entire lives. If the past decade is any indication, then I'm in the last precious weeks when there is hope of a playoff run, but most of the city has already given up entirely.
Tim McClure
Elsmere, Ky.

Mike Brown
Bengals president Mike Brown makes the most, for himself, out of a pathetic product.
Bengals. 'Nuff said, as they say around here. Reasons? Many, including not having a winning season in more than a decade, hopes for good fans dashed after about six games each a season, this pathetic QB search that has been going on since Boomer retired, the worst coaching staff in any level of football.

Then there is this weird thing of them winning like two or three of the last games of the year, when nothing matters, and saying how it gives us momentum for the next season. Give me a break.

Mike Brown is the greatest in the league. Why? He makes money on the least amount of possible effort. I believe he is a genius for getting cash out the fans' pockets for the cheapest NFL team out there ... then he makes a profit on a losing team (hello, baseball owners and players, take cue from Brown and learn the benefits of revenue sharing)!

Pick any season in the past 13 years, and its no wonder players call this place "The NFL Siberia."
Chris
Loveland, Ohio

4. 1996 New York Jets (80 letters)
Sure, the Bucs went 0-for-14 in their first season, but you have to remember it was their first season. No one expected anything from them. The 1996 Jets had expectations. They had a snazzy new rookie in Keyshawn Johnson as well as a whole new wideout corps plus a Super Bowl QB in Neil O'Donnell (never mind that he was also the QB who single-handedly blew the Super Bowl and made Larry Brown, of all people, an MVP). Expectations were high after a 3-13 season. Some were even talking playoffs in New York.

What happened? Johnson did more with his mouth than on the field, O'Donnell got hurt early on after doing nothing and they had to use the terrible two of Frank Reich and Glen Foley (a.k.a., the guy the Jets gave up Jeff Blake for) and the team crashed into oblivion. Except for the emergence of Wayne Chrebet, I don't see a single thing coming out of that season that was positive for the Jets. Well, that and maybe Rich Kotite being canned.

For being such a god awful disappointment, they deserve the top spot.
Geoff Fyfe
Appleton, Wis.

They were so bad ... they were fun to watch! In college, my roommates and I were (and still are) die-hard Jets fans, we couldn't wait every week to watch the "Jest" blow another game. It was not a fatalistic attitude, but a realistic one. They found remarkable ways to blow games every week, even when they had seemingly insurmountable leads in the third and fourth quarters. They were 3-13 the year before, spent a ton of money (Neil O'Donnell, etc.) on free agents in the offseason and were actually worse!

With Rich Kotite "leading" the team, they were hopeless. With basically the same roster the next year, Bill Parcells guided them to a 9-7 record, making even more glaring the atrocious play of the '96 Jets. Kotite's Klowns were a team for the ages.
Brian Roll
Los Angeles

5. 1990 New England Patriots (68 letters)
Being a fan of the '90 Pats was truly a surreal experience. Not only were they really, really bad on the gridiron (and they were), but it was also the year for horrible escapades off the field.

What a circus! ... Sexual harassment charges were brought against three players by a female reporter. There was a bar room brawl between Irving Fryar and Hart Lee Dykes (their No. 1 pick a couple of years before) resulting in an eye injury that would eventually end Dykes' career. The last game of the season was a home game against the Giants ... knowing no local fans would go to the game, the Patriots promoted the game in the New York area instead. It resulted in their best attendance figures of the year, but everyone was a Giants fan so it felt like an away game in Foxboro.

The team set record attendance lows, plus the media was hoping the team would move to St. Louis so a new expansion team could take their place. I was the only Patriots fan around -- and I lived in New England!
Max
Los Angeles

I really don't understand how your staff named the 76 Bucs as the worst. Here's why:
1. They were an expansion team in their first year. They didn't have all the opportunities to be competitive in their first season like the Jacksonville Jaguars. They're pain is one of the reasons an improved expansion draft now exists.
2. If they were selected because they lost every game, then last week's List should have had the '72 Dolphins as the "Best Team ever" because they won every game!
3. I agree, they sucked! But at the same time, I wouldn't place them at number one, when so many of the other teams on this list had been in existence for so many years. Sure, they belong on the list somewhere, but something has to be said for the number of years in the league.

I am damn proud to be a die hard Buccaneer fan (tears rolling down my face as I look skyward). You always hear about the Packers fans, the Redskins fans, the Browns fans, and so on ... but most of them have a Super Bowl victory (or at least went to the Super Bowl).

I was 9 years old when I went to my first NFL game. I saw Billy Simms of Detroit run all over the Bucs. They were decimated. On that day that I understood America's love of the underdog. I have never hopped on to another winners bandwagon. My loyalty has been steadfast. On that fateful day in January of whatever year, in whatever city, I hope they hoist the Lombardi Trophy high into the air, clad in disgusting orange and white jerseys with a somewhat sexually questionable figure biting a dagger emblazoned on their helmets!

With that said ... The 1990 Patriots should be worst.
Steve Holbrook
Atlanta

6. 1989 Dallas Cowboys (41 letters)
Only one team stands out in my mind as being totally pathetic -- the 1989 Dallas Cowboys. They were terrible on both sides of the ball finishing dead last in points scored (204 points) and fourth from last in points given up (393). Steve Walsh (1371 yds pass, five TDs, nine interceptions) and Troy Aikman 1,749 yds pass, nine TDs, 18 ints) split time at QB with Walsh managing.

The only win of the season against Washington. The Cowboys' top running back was Paul Palmer (remember him?) with his 446 yards rushing and the very Frankenstein-like Aikman finishing second with 302 rushing yards! Kelvin Martin (Kmart!) lead the Cowboys in receptions (46) and yards (644), while future Pro Bowler, Michael Irvin finished with 26 grabs for 378 yards. (Mr. Irvin had not yet mastered the art of the push-off) The kicking game was horrible with Roger Ruzek and Luis Zendejas hitting a combined 10 of 20 field goals.

The '89 Cowboys were shut out three times that year and managed to score more than 20 points only four times!
William Parris
Fort Worth

I don't care what its for, if I can give an "ineptitude vote" to the Dallas Cowboys, I'm a happy Page 2 voter.
Travis Lavin
San Jose

7. 1980 New Orleans Saints (37 letters)
As a longtime Saints fan, I just wanted to thank everyone who voted for putting the Saints on your list only once. I grew up cheering for the "hapless" Saints. To see them only make your list but once, was a complete surprise. Having endured 20-plus losing seasons in a row, I certainly expected to see my "Aints" on the list several times.

But, this year ... watch out! The Saints are marching into the playoffs!
Joe D'Anna
Los Alamos, N.M.

Archie Manning
Archie Manning might be the most pitied player in NFL history.
As a native New Orleanian, I have a true understanding and love for the Saints. I proudly display the fleur de lis on the back of my car, in spite of the fact they have never even gotten faint glimpse of a Super Bowl.

Now that I am in Los Angeles, I still pull for them every week and if the game is televised, rest assured my entire apartment building knows it (and probably wonders why). I will always remain optimistic, but still, the memory of 1980 burns feverishly in my mind. I wore a bag at home ... I was only 9! I watched the games with my dad, I think I learned every curse in the book in 1980. God bless Archie Manning ...
Deb Ursin
Los Angeles

8. 1981 Indianapolis Colts (34 letters)
At least the other bad teams on your list can claim one player that had a decent career. The starting QB of the '81 Colts was Mike Pagel. If you live outside of Baltimore and you remember him -- get a life!

It was the beginning of the end for one of the most storied franchises in football history. Let me stop, it's painful for me to bring back those long suppressed memories of that team!
Kevin Blackwell
Catonsville, Md.

The Bucs were dreadful, but they were an expansion team in the days before expansion drafts. My vote goes to those horrendous '81 Colts (perhaps give co-worst team to the '81 Pats). Colts, were last in defense, (allowing a record 553 points) and 26th in offense. If it weren't for the equally awful Patriots being in their division, they probably wouldn't have won a game.

I remember the last game of the season against the Pats. I'll never forget my father dubbing it, "the Stupor Bowl," ... watching it was guaranteed to bore you into a senseless stupor! They may not have been the worst team on paper, but there could not have been a worse season. At least the Bucs were comical to watch. The Colts and Pats of that year were just plain bad. No wonder Elway made such a stink about being drafted by them.
Scott
Providence

9. St. Louis/Arizona Cardinals (22 letters)
As a long time Cards fan, it is clear to me that they have to be the worst franchise not only in the NFL but, at the risk of sounding naive, all of professional sports. If not for one winning season in Arizona and one playoff victory in the past 60 years (both coming in one of the most luck laden seasons I have ever witnessed), it wouldn't even be close.

Heck, these guys can't even build a stadium with free money.
Jason DeVoe
Phoenix

The Cardinals, any team, any city, any year ... I'd rather watch paint dry.
Jeff Patton
Phoenix

10. 1992 Seattle Seahawks (20 letters)
At the time the 'Hawks may have had one the best Ds in the NFL, but the offense stunk like a lineman's jock strap ... The 'Hawks never had a decent QB on their "so-called" roster. Dan McGwire (the Tito Jackson of sports) was terrible at best, don't get me started with Kelly Stouffer (the pre-Rick Mirer of the Seahawks) and Stan Gellbaugh (though he led the Seahawks to Monday night win over the Broncos in the now crumbled Kingdome) is a big disappointment.

That's when it all started -- the "not enough fans" at Seahawks games. While the Bucs of 1976 may have the worst record in NFL history, the Seattle Seabags have the worst franchise in history.
Jason Lundgren
Mukilteo, Wash.

Also receiving votes
  • 2001 Panthers
  • 1969 Bears
  • 2000 Chargers
  • 1966 Giants