NFL fans suffer severe highs and lows. The San Francisco 49ers had two of the greatest quarterbacks ever in Joe Montana and Steve Young then became almost irrelevant in the 2000s. Meanwhile, in recent years, the likes of the Jaguars and the Jets constantly leave their fans wanting to cry.
So today we took a look at 25 of the worst-performing NFL teams in history. All of these teams had terrible losing records. Some of them also have insane backstories that made their seasons even worse. In the end, all their fans could do was sit back and watch through their fingers. Check out the list below via Yardbarker.
25. San Diego Chargers (2000)
For some reason many thought Ryan Leaf was a better prospect than Peyton Manning. That statement wasn’t a joke either. The Chargers selected him in 1997 with the second overall pick and he went down as one of the worst busts ever. He was so bad in 2000 that the Chargers even dropped him for Jim Harbaugh. Bear in mind that they had to put all of the veteran’s pieces together first (via Fansided).
2000 was a historically bad season for San Diego as they went 1-15. Their lone victory came over the Chiefs in Week 13 but it was an anomaly. In the end, they finished with the worst record in the NFL. The Chargers picked Drew Brees the following summer after Leaf’s departure. However, he struggled in California before his eventual move to New Orleans. Then, their miserable track record scared off Eli Manning in 2004 before they picked up Philip Rivers.
Buffalo fans have endured some rough seasons through the years. There was a long postseason drought as well as four Super Bowl defeats. However, the worst year in their history was in 1971. They went 1-13 and set a grim franchise record. Head Coach John Rauch resigned in protest after the Bills traded Ron McDole. The defensive linesman joined the Redskins and created a rift.
In the end, the Bills finished the season with the worst offensive and defensive records in the NFL (via Buffalo News). They still had decent players on their roster like O.J. Simpson, but their caretaker coach was out of his depth. Lou Saban took over the following season and helped the team get back on track. But this was a tough period for everybody involved.
The Jaguars had the worst record in the NFL in 2020. They became a laughingstock as they went 1-15 in Doug Marrone’s final season in charge. It soon became a grim contest to tank for Trevor Lawrence. The New York Jets were also diabolically bad but somehow eked out an extra win. Meanwhile, the Jags endured the worst season in their short franchise history (via News4Jax).
In the end, the Jacksonville losing streak ran on for 20 games into the next season. Finally, they achieved victory when they defeated the Dolphins in London in 2021. But this was a terrible team. Jacksonville earned the first overall draft pick for the first time. They promptly drafted the highly-rated Lawrence but failed to capitalize.
The name Dennis Erickson still makes Niners’ fans cry. 2004 was the second of his two years in charge of the team. Fortunately, for their supporters, he received his marching orders at the end of the year. Erickson was inept but their disastrous season wasn’t entirely his fault. He was responsible for the results on the field but there should have been a stronger roster.
After years of financial mismanagement, the Niners finally fell apart. The likes of Jeff Garcia, Terrell Owens, and Garrison Hearst all departed before 2004. They tried to replace them through the draft but it didn’t work. The damage took its toll on the Niners who failed to post another winning season until 2011 (via Bleacher Report).
The Jets know all about losing seasons. In recent years, they have performed horribly. These days fans cry about how bad Adam Gase was. However, their ability to tank is part of their identity. In the mid-’90s, they went downhill like a car without brakes. Rich Kotite was one of the worst coaches in NFL history. After a 3-13 season in ’95, Gang Green hoped to step it up a level.
But things became even worse. They finished 1996 with a dire 1-15 record. Neil O’Donnell lost all six of his starts that season before the Jets broke his spirit. He was accustomed to a winning mentality with the Pittsburgh Steelers. O’Donnell tried to change the culture in New Jersey, but the team failed again and again. It was a rough period for everyone involved (via ESPN).
This Miami team has one of the winningest records on this list at 5-10. But this doesn’t tell the full story of how their fans suffered through a lost year. First, they traded Ryan Tannehill and brought in veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick as his short-term replacement. ‘Fitz’ went through the typical highs and lows that epitomize his career. However, this season is notable for another reason.
Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa was the projected No. 1 draft pick for 2020 (via Sun-Sentinel). Fans began to cry ‘tank for Tua’ as the Dolphins lost game after game. They went through a lot of emotional turmoil because Miami lost their first seven games. But they won five of their last nine and threw away the No. 1 pick. However, they still obtained Tagovailoa after he dislocated his hip. Other teams didn’t want to risk it but Miami took the Hawaiian.
The Titans hired first-year head coach Ken Whisenhunt in 2014. Fans wanted a fresh start after three average years under Mike Munchak. But fortunes plummeted during Whisenhunt’s reign of terror. Ironically, the coach claimed that patience wasn’t required because they were ready from the start. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case because they only won two games all season.
They defeated the Chiefs on opening day but they lost their last 10 games of 2014. This was their worst season since the Houston Oilers went 2-14 in 1994. Finally, Tennessee cut their losses and fired him a 1-6 start to 2015. At least they had Marcus Mariota by then. However, the previous season they lacked a decent quarterback. Their offense made fans cry in anguish (via Fansided).
Houston fans hoped to see progress after four years of existence. Instead, 2005 made them cry for the Oilers. Dom Capers led the team to a miserable 2-14 record before he lost his job. They set the worst points differential in franchise history. Meanwhile, David Carr suffered brutal treatment throughout 2005. Opposition teams sacked him a harrowing 68 times (via Chron.com).
It’s no wonder that he never consistently showed his full potential. The only good thing that came from this season was a decent draft. Also, Gary Kubiak took over as head coach and revived their fortunes. This proves how difficult it is to start a new franchise. Houston had a lot of catching up to do but they didn’t plan well enough. That’s why they endured so many double-digit losing seasons.
The ‘Niners hired Chip Kelly after three seasons with the Eagles. It was a risky move because things didn’t end well in Philadelphia. This should have been a warning to San Francisco because Kelly’s appointment was a disaster. He only survived a single season in the Golden State. The 49ers were dire on their way to a 2-14 record. A lot of it stemmed from Jim Harbaugh’s departure two years earlier.
Meanwhile, CEO Jed York made some horrible choices that made fans want to cry. GM Trent Baalke failed to control the deluge of talent from the franchise. Then, he failed to replace the players with new stars. Finally, the hiring of Jim O’Neill made no sense (via FOX Sports). The former Browns defensive coordinator had a horrible record in Cleveland. Things didn’t change in Santa Clara because the Niners collapsed.
There were genuine fears that the Raiders were on course for a winless season in 2014. In the end, they finished 3-13. However, they lost their first 11 games. This included a loss of historic proportions. The Rams inflicted their second-worst defeat ever and the biggest since 1961. It was shocking for fans to endure because this team has such a rich history (via CBS Sacramento).
Oakland drafted Derek Carr from Fresno State. The young rookie performed well but his teammates didn’t help him. Their dire form even saw Rich Gannon cry foul (via Sports Illustrated). The former Raiders’ QB told the franchise to return the ticket money to the fans. In the end, they lost 17 straight games, including six from the previous year. No wonder Gannon was furious.
Peyton Manning brought success to the Colts. But his injury in 2011 left a gaping hole in their roster. The legendary quarterback was out for the entire season. Indianapolis desperately scrambled for a short-term replacement. In the end, they lured Kerry Collins out of retirement. They also gave Curtis Painter a shot but neither man was able to handle the burden (Sportscasting).
Finally, they finished with a 2-14 record. It was shocking because they were one of the most competitive teams of their era. However, they managed to snatch Andrew Luck as a direct replacement for Manning. It was unfortunate because he didn’t leave the Colts in the manner he wanted. But he revived his career in Denver and earned a fortune. So he didn’t cry too much about it.
This was a horrible season for many reasons. First, the results on the field belied the quality of the Kansas City roster. They had some genuinely talented players but only amassed a 2-14 record. However, they were an elite quarterback short. The Chiefs tried to entice Peyton Manning to Arrowhead Stadium after he departed the Colts. But ultimately they failed and Matt Cassel started the season.
Cassel was an interception machine and didn’t help their cause. Meanwhile, Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel’s front office decisions threw oil on the fire. Their inept choices made fans seethe and cry for them to leave the franchise. Finally, the Jovan Belcher tragedy capped off one of the worst Chiefs’ seasons in history (via USA Today). They secured the services of Alex Smith after this shambles of a year.
In recent years the Texans have become increasingly dysfunctional. However, the franchise has a history of stark fluctuations. Their second-ever coach, Gary Kubiak, lost his job in 2013 after a horrible losing season. He led them to an impressive 12-4 record the previous year but their fortunes plummeted. Meanwhile, Kubiak had a major fallout with team owner Bob McNair (via Houston Chronicle).
McNair was furious after the Texans suffered defeat to the Jaguars. Furthermore, he was displeased that Kubiak dropped QB Case Keenum twice for Matt Schaub. The season was a write-off when he showed Kubiak the door in January. It’s safe to say that Kubiak didn’t cry as he left the chaotic franchise behind him. Wade Phillips took over on an interim basis before they brought in Bill O’Brien.
Tampa Bay earned more wins than most of the teams on this list. They finished with a 4-12 record but this doesn’t tell the full story. They conceded over 200 points more than they scored. Meanwhile, they had a dire points differential of -200 and a -15 turnover margin (via The Comeback). Statistically, they’re down there with the worst teams of the 2010s. Fans still cry about this team.
Bizarrely, their defense went into meltdown. Previously, it was one of the most reliable aspects of their setup. It didn’t help that QB Josh Freeman threw 22 interceptions. It’s difficult to score when a quarterback is flinging the ball to the opposition. It was even more disappointing because they started with a 3-1 record. But San Francisco smashed them in Week 5 and the Bucs collapsed (via SB Nation).
The 2007 Dolphins season is an iconic, notorious season. They went 1-15 after winning the final game of the season. But they were appalling. Nick Saban abandoned ship for Alabama after a bad start to life in the NFL. He repeatedly told the media that he wasn’t interested in the Crimson Tide. But this didn’t stop him from returning to college football. Cam Cameron inherited a poisoned chalice (via Bleacher Report).
Miami fans watched Dan Marino light up the league for almost two decades. Luckily, he was still alive because John Beck’s displays would have made him turn in his grave. The hapless rookie threw interceptions like dollar bills in a strip club. Older fans wanted to cry and pull their hair out because it was horrific. They could have signed Drew Brees but they made a mess of it. The decline continued for over 10 years.
Former Bengals QB Carson Palmer called this a disaster of a season. He wasn’t wrong because it was the worst in franchise history. They finished the year with 2-14 records after a series of toothless performances. The Bengals suffered a major loss before Opening Day because of A.J. Green’s injury. This was a big blow but it was no excuse for their horrible 0-11 start (via Cincinnati Enquirer).
Furthermore, Andy Dalton was suffering a stark decline. ‘The Red Rifle’ lost his place to Ryan Finley before the trade deadline. In the end, they brought him back in because of his veteran nous. However, this was a lost year for the Bengals and ultimately they tanked. But it may go down as one of the most important years in their history. Cincinnati selected Joe Burrow with the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Browns were appalling in 2016 and 2017. However, at least they had a single win in Hue Jackson’s first season. This came in the final game of the schedule against the San Diego Chargers. Robert Griffin III started the season for the Browns. But his poor form saw Jackson replace him with backup QB Cody Kessler. Hilariously, he tried six quarterbacks but they were all appalling (via FOX Sports).
Somehow, they even posted a lower scoring margin than the winless team the following year. This was a roster with no direction and they lacked an elite starting QB. Johnny Manziel left before the season started and haunted them for three years. This era made fans cry in despair but they still showed loyalty. It was more than the team deserved because they were miserable to watch.
The Panthers were easily the worst team in the 2010 season. They were a team in transition after Jake Delhomme’s departure two years earlier. This left them with Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen as their remaining options. But neither man was up to the task and they achieved a grim -212 point differential (via The Athletic). They won two games but these were rare respites as they tanked.
Watching Moore throw was enough to make grown men cry. However, there was an upside for the team. Their on-field ineptitude earned them the No. 1 draft pick for the following year. They promptly brought Cam Newton to the franchise and kicked off a successful period. NFL franchises rise and fall with key decisions like first overall picks. But they made the right one this time.
Steve Spagnuolo’s career took 10 years to recover after this travesty of a season. He made diehard Rams fans cry during his short tenure as St. Louis head coach. Their strength of schedule wasn’t too challenging but they made it difficult. The Rams conceded a ludicrous 27.25 points per game (via USA Today). It was as though their defense didn’t exist because they handed results to their opponents.
Their single win came against the Detroit Lions in Week 8. But otherwise, they were shambolic. The team flitted between quarterbacks throughout the year. However, none of them made a serious difference. Fan attendances plummeted after multiple poor results and TV networks even pulled their games. This season had serious consequences on the franchise’s legacy in Missouri.
It’s difficult to remember the Patriots before Tom Brady. In 1990, he was just 13 years old and Steve Grogan was their starting quarterback. However, he was past the peak of his powers and the Patriots weren’t very good at all. Rod Rust took charge of the team and led them to victory on opening day over the Miami Dolphins. But it all spiraled out of control as the team went downhill.
In the end, they finished with a horrendous 1-15 record. It’s shocking to imagine the Patriots in this condition now because they’re such a well-oiled machine. They lost 15 games in a row and posted the worst points differential of the nineties. This was a poor effort and other teams humiliated them. There was no good excuse for how bad they were (via Washington Post).
Many older NFL fans consider the ’76 Bucs to be the worst team in NFL history. They were also the second winless franchise ever with an appalling 0-14 record. Luckily, there aren’t many living fans from that era around. It’s likely their terrible performances made a lot of grown men cry. These games weren’t close either because Tampa lost by an average margin of 20.5 points (via Bleacher Report).
However, the only redeeming factor was that they were an expansion team. Nobody expected them to set the world on fire. But their winless run ran on for 26 games. It’s safe to say that the franchise owners didn’t plan that when they joined the NFL. Surprisingly, they showed a lot of patience with coach John McKay. Tampa stayed loyal to him and he brought them a couple of divisional titles.
Elite athletes always talk about making history. But becoming the first team to go 0-16 isn’t exactly what fans expect. The Lions have endured some horrendous moments over the past couple of decades. However, this was the worst moment in their history. The Browns emulated their feat in 2017, Detroit was the first. Rival fans will always have this in their back pockets to use against them.
An overcooked Daunte Culpepper offered nothing. Rod Marinelli also gave his back-ups a chance to no avail. In the end, they achieved a -249 point differential. Their defense was one of the worst the NFL has ever seen. Calvin Johnson was the single bright light in this shocking year and still managed a 1300-yard season. But 2008 made many Lions fans cry with rage and despair (via The Ringer).
Nothing makes fans cry like losing. However, the Browns took this to the extreme in 2017. They had an appalling winless season where everything went wrong. This was also a blatant attempt to tank but this infuriated the loyal Cleveland support. It’s not easy to sit in a stadium in Ohio during the winter. Their fans still came to games but they deserved more from the team and front office.
Unfortunately, they were never going to get anywhere with DeShone Kizer as their starter. This was the same Kizer who spent the following season as the Packers’ backup. Finally, he found himself out of the league by 2021. He led the NFL in interceptions this year with a miserable 22. Hue Jackson wasn’t great but was perhaps doomed to fail because the roster was so inept. In the end, they became the first team to finish winless since 2008 (via Chicago Tribune).
On paper, the Jets weren’t the worst team in 2020. No, that honor belonged to the Jaguars. However, Adam Gase’s final season as head coach was a car crash from beginning to end. Bizarrely, they won two games over playoff teams but they were otherwise shocking. Sam Darnold was also horrible as starting QB (via New York Post). He threw more interceptions than touchdown passes in every game before Week 13.
Another reason why this season was a total failure was that they couldn’t even lose games properly. Everybody wanted Trevor Lawrence in the draft and the Jets had the advantage. All they had to do was keep losing. This was the one thing that they were good at so it seemed like a forgone conclusion. But a pair of shocking back-to-back wins sealed Lawrence’s move to Florida. The Jets sure know how to make their fans cry.
The Jags didn’t have the worst season from a statistical perspective. However, head coach Urban Meyer made their fans cry with rage. It felt like new dawn after Trevor Lawrence fell into their laps. But they failed to capitalize and drama followed the team everywhere. Finally, Shahid Khan fired Meyer in Week 13 after he lost patience. It was no surprise because his tenure was a disaster (via Sportscasting).
First, he created headlines by hiring a racist fitness coach. Chris Doyle departed the Jags after a day. Then, there was the Tim Tebow spectacle. Meanwhile, Meyer enraged senior players by treating them like college athletes. He also infuriated his staff by regularly insulting them. The highlight moment was when Meyer shared an intimate dance with a young woman in a bar. Of course, she wasn’t his wife.