'07 Dolphins have plenty of company in recent football futility
The Dolphins still might become only the 12th team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to finish a full season with fewer than two victories. There are colorful stories behind the Excruciating Eleven.
The next bus out of town wasn't fast enough for this future Hall of Famer following the Houston Oilers' 1-13 seasons in 1972 and 1973."I would have my car packed and ready, and at halftime of the final game I would tell the trainer to go out there and start it up, because when the game finished, I wasn't even taking a shower," former defensive end Elvin Bethea said. Such is the ignominy of sustained, incurable losing. Miami's victory over Baltimore on Sunday left the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the NFL's only winless team in a non-strike season since World War II. But the Dolphins, 1-13 after outlasting the Ravens in overtime, aren't finished flirting with the dark side of NFL history.
The worst teams from yesteryear endured the wrath of cranky fans and the usual jabs on late-night TV, but they never had to relive their futility through the Internet, talk radio and the 24-hour news cycle."This is more embarrassing for the Dolphins because at that time, nobody cared about Buffalo in the rest of the league," said Moses, who averaged 20.4 yards per reception for the 1971 Bills. "I came back to California after the season and nobody even said anything. My family wasn't getting the games on TV and you couldn't keep up with it. That's why I feel more for the guys now. It's truly more personal now. It's in their face all the time." San Diego (2000) and Carolina (2001) have posted the only 1-15 records since the Rich Kotite-coached Jets lost 15 games in 1996. Mike Riley, the Chargers' coach from 1999 through 2002, somehow kept his composure while watching Ryan Leaf and Moses Moreno take turns at quarterback, wasting the talents of a capable defense. Riley showed up for his postgame radio obligations week after week, smiling through the worst season in franchise history. Hank Bauer, the Chargers' radio commentator, finally asked Riley how he did it. "Hank, I only laugh to keep from crying," Riley responded.
The NFL's Worst Teams Since 1970
The Dolphins still might become only the 12th team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to finish a full season with fewer than two victories. Here's the group they want no part of:
|The Excruciating 11|
|1971||Buffalo Bills||1-13||A coaching change less than two months before the season set an ominous tone for a struggling franchise, even with O.J. Simpson on the roster.|
|1972||Houston Oilers||1-13||"Now I lay me down to sleep," coach Bill Peterson began, attempting to lead the team in the Lord's Prayer. The Oilers didn't have a prayer on the field, either.|
|1973||Houston Oilers||1-13||Ownership replaced coach Bill Peterson with Sid Gillman during the season. When the team finally won a game, Gillman surprised players with champagne on the team flight.|
|1976||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||0-14||Wisecracking coach John McKay provided all the highlights for the worst expansion squad in league history. Asked about the execution of his team, McKay said he was all for it.|
|1980||New Orleans Saints||1-15||This was the season Saints fans popularized the practice of wearing paper bags over their heads at games. Archie Manning and the offense weren't particularly bad, but the defense allowed 487 points.|
|1989||Dallas Cowboys||1-15||Jerry Jones, Jimmy Johnson and Troy Aikman barely made it through their first season in the NFL. There was talent on the roster, but only a 13-3 victory over Washington stood between the Cowboys and 0-16.|
|1990||New England Patriots||1-15||Five years after appearing in a Super Bowl, the Patriots bottomed out with their most embarrassing season. Zeke Mowatt, Robert Perryman and Michael Timpson made headlines across the country after allegedly harassing a female reporter.|
|1991||Indianapolis Colts||1-15||The Jeff George era hit full stride in the quarterback's second season. He finished with 10 touchdown passes in 16 starts.|
|1996||New York Jets||1-15||Rich Kotite won 36 games in four seasons with Philadelphia, but that didn't do the Jets much good. They won four games in two seasons, ending Kotite's career as a head coach.|
|2000||San Diego Chargers||1-15||Former No. 2 overall draft choice Ryan Leaf took 29 sacks in nine starts that season. He took six of them during a November game against Kansas City, but the Chargers won anyway, 17-16.|
|2001||Carolina Panthers||1-15||The Panthers lost their final 15 games, an inglorious end to George Seifert's coaching career. "The energy has been sucked out of our organization and our fan base," owner Jerry Richardson said.|
Mike Sando covers the NFL for ESPN.com.