Worst NFL Teams in Modern History
Every year there are bad teams in the NFL, but these are the worst of the worst.
Fans of the Rams, Browns and Lions may want to avert their eyes to avoid any PTSD-like flashbacks. But there’s a wide assortment of dreadful clubs led by bad coaches and doomed by shoddy quarterback play and abysmal defenses.
The NFL may be going to a 17-game schedule starting in 2021, but it’s time to look back and acknowledge the worst since they last changed the annual slate. These are the 30 worst NFL teams since the league changed from 14 to 16 games in 1978.
30. 2003 Arizona Cardinals
Coach: Dave McGinnis
Points for/against: 225/452 (-227)
Notable Players: 2003 Arizona Cardinals
QB Jeff Blake, RB Marcel Shipp, WR Anquan Boldin, LB Ronald McKinnon, CB Renaldo Hill, S Dexter Jackson
Bottom Line: 2003 Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals married a dreadful offense with a putrid defense to execute one of the worst seasons in NFL history. Arizona ranked dead last in points scored and points allowed, and their four wins were by a combined 14 points.
It ultimately was McGinnis’ final season as head coach in the desert.
29. 1998 Philadelphia Eagles
Coach: Ray Rhodes
Points for/against: 161/344 (-183)
Notable Players: 1998 Philadelphia Eagles
QB Bobby Hoying, RB Duce Staley, WR Jeff Graham, S Brian Dawkins, CB Troy Vincent, DE Hugh Douglas
Bottom Line: 1998 Philadelphia Eagles
The 1998 Eagles were competent defensively, allowing the 19th most points in the NFL. But they were putrid on offense, averaging just 10 points per game and getting shut out three times. They scored only 17 offensive touchdowns all season and surpassed 20 points just once.
This season ultimately led to the Eagles drafting quarterback Donovan McNabb, though, so it wasn’t a total loss.
28. 2006 Oakland Raiders
Coach: Art Shell
Points for/against: 168/332 (-164)
Notable Players: 2006 Oakland Raiders
QB Andrew Walter, RB LaMont Jordan, WR Randy Moss, CB Nnamdi Asomugha, DT Warren Sapp, DE Derrick Burgess
Bottom Line: 2006 Oakland Raiders
The talent on the roster shouldn’t have finished 2-14 and especially shouldn’t have had the league’s worst offense — averaging 10.5 points per game, the fifth-fewest in a 16-game season — but Oakland was done in by shoddy quarterback play.
The Raiders threw just seven TD passes in 16 games, and Art Shell’s lone season in his second tenure as Raiders coach was a nightmare.
27. 2005 Houston Texans
Coach: Dom Capers
Points for/against: 260/431 (-171)
Notable Players: 2005 Houston Texans
QB David Carr, RB Dominick Williams, WR Andre Johnson, S Glenn Earl, LB Shantee Orr, LB Mormon Greenwood
Bottom Line: 2005 Houston Texans
Six of Houston’s losses came by one score, including two OT defeats — Week 12 against the Rams and Week 17 against the 49ers — which kept the Texans from mediocrity.
But this was still a terrible team, with the 32nd-ranked defense and 26th-best offense by points scored.
26. 2016 San Francisco 49ers
Coach: Chip Kelly
Points for/against: 309/480 (-189)
Notable Players: 2016 San Francisco 49ers
QB Colin Kaepernick, RB Carlos Hyde, WR Jeremy Kerley, LB Gerald Hodges, DE DeForest Buckner, S Antoine Bethea
Bottom Line: 2016 San Francisco 49ers
Kelly’s lone season by the bay is often remembered for Kaepernick’s peaceful pregame kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which started during the preseason that year. Perhaps that’s to wipe the memory of what happened on the field.
Oddly enough the season started with promise, in the form of a 28-0 victory against the Los Angeles Rams, but the Niners lost 13 games in a row and surrendered a league-high 480 points in just 15 games.
25. 2014 Oakland Raiders
Coaches: Dennis Allen, Tony Sparano
Points for/against: 253/452 (-199)
Notable Players: 2014 Oakland Raiders
QB Derek Carr, RB Darren McFadden, WR James Jones, DE Justin Tuck, LB Miles Burris, CB Charles Woodson
Bottom Line: 2014 Oakland Raiders
The Raiders lost their first 10 games and gave up the most points in the NFL this season. The Raiders allowed 30-plus points in eight of their 16 games including a 52-0 defeat at the hands of the Rams in Week 13.
Allen lost his job after Oakland dropped its first four.
24. 1984 Buffalo Bills
Coach: Kay Stephenson
Points for/against: 250/454 (-204)
Notable Players: 1984 Buffalo Bills
QB Joe Ferguson, RB Greg Bell, WR Byron Franklin, CB Charles Romes, LB Darryl Talley, LB Jim Haslett
Bottom Line: 1984 Buffalo Bills
The Bills went 2-14 in consecutive seasons between 1984 and 1985, but the 1984 version was worse.
The '84 Bills scored the fourth-fewest points and gave up the second-most, starting 0-11 before winning two of their final five.
23. 1984 Minnesota Vikings
Coach: Les Steckel
Points for/against: 276/484 (-208)
Notable Players: 1984 Minnesota Vikings
QB Tommy Kramer, RB Alfred Anderson, WR Leo Lewis, CB Rufus Bess, S Carl Lee, DE Randy Holloway
Bottom Line: 1984 Minnesota Vikings
The 1984 Vikings were the only team to allow more points than the Bills.
They actually started 2-2 before losing 12 of their final 13 games including a six-game losing streak to close the season where they were outscored 241-79.
22. 2012 Kansas City Chiefs
Coach: Romeo Crennel
Points for/against: 211/425 (-214)
Notable Players: 2012 Kansas City Chiefs
QB Matt Cassel, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Dwayne Bowe, CB Brandon Flowers, LB Derrick Johnson, LB Justin Houston
Bottom Line: 2012 Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs were dead last in points scored and were held under 10 points in a game six times, including five of their final seven.
The Chiefs also had to deal with the tragic death of linebacker Jovan Belcher, who killed himself at their training facility on Dec. 1 that season.
21. 2010 Carolina Panthers
Coach: John Fox
Points for/against: 196/408 (-212)
Notable Players: 2010 Carolina Panthers
QB Jimmy Clausen, RB Jonathan Stewart, WR Steve Smith, S Charles Godfrey, DE Charles Johnson, LB Jon Beason
Bottom Line: 2010 Carolina Panthers
The 2010 Panthers allowed twice as many points as they scored and didn’t top 400 yards of offense in any game. The Panthers finished dead last in points scored, averaging 12 points scored per game, shuffling between Clausen and Matt Moore at quarterback.
The bottom-out paid off, though, as it enabled the Panthers to find their franchise quarterback, Cam Newton, which they chose with the top pick in the 2011 draft.
20. 1992 Seattle Seahawks
Coach: Tom Flores
Points for/against: 140/312 (-172)
Notable Players: 1992 Seattle Seahawks
QB Stan Gelbaugh, RB Chris Warren, WR John Williams, DT Cortez Kennedy, S Eugene Robinson, LB Rufus Porter
Bottom Line: 1992 Seattle Seahawks
The 1992 Seahawks have the dubious distinction of scoring the fewest points in a 16-game NFL season. They averaged less than nine per game and didn’t top 17 points in any game.
Fortunately, Seattle had a competent defense, which kept it in games and carried it to its two wins, a 10-6 victory over New England in Week 3 and a 16-13 OT win in Week 13 against Denver.
19. 2000 San Diego Chargers
Coach: Mike Riley
Points for/against: 269/440 (-171)
Notable Players: 2000 San Diego Chargers
QB Ryan Leaf, RB Terrell Fletcher, WR Jeff Graham, LB Junior Seau, S Rodney Harrison, DT John Parrella
Bottom Line: 2000 San Diego Chargers
Why are these 1-15 Chargers so low? Mostly because they simply found ways to lose games.
They weren’t last in offense or defense but dropped eight games by one score, including six by three points or fewer — San Diego allowed the go-ahead score in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter and lost one more in overtime.
Ironically if not for a one-point win over the Chiefs in Week 13 that was decided by John Carney’s 52-yard field goal with 2:14 left, the Chargers would’ve been the first team to go winless in a 16-game season.
18. 2011 St. Louis Rams
Coach: Steve Spagnuolo
Points for/against: 193/407 (-214)
Notable Players: 2011 St. Louis Rams
QB Sam Bradford, RB Steven Jackson, WR Brandon Lloyd, CB Josh Gordy, DE Chris Long, LB James Laurinaitis
Bottom Line: 2011 St. Louis Rams
The three-season Spagnuolo era in St. Louis was bookended by miserable seasons, including 2011 when the Rams again were doubled up and scored the fewest points in the league.
The Rams were largely uncompetitive outside of a three-week stretch mid-season when they won twice and lost in overtime to the Cardinals.
17. 1986 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Coach: Lehman Bennett
Points for/against: 239/473 (-234)
Notable Players: 1986 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB Steve Young, RB James Wilder, WR Gerald Carter, CB Vito McKeever, CB Rod Jones, LB Keith Browner
Bottom Line: 1986 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This list could not exist without a Buccaneers team, and the 1986 club was the worst in franchise history. The 1986 Bucs were dead last in points allowed and scored the third-fewest. They lost their final seven games and were outscored 227-78 in that stretch.
Adding insult to injury, Young left the Bucs after the season and started his march to the Hall of Fame as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.
16. 1999 Cleveland Browns
Coach: Chris Palmer
Points for/against: 217/437 (-220)
Notable Players: 1999 Cleveland Browns
QB Tim Couch, RB Terry Kirby, WR Kevin Johnson, S Marquez Pope, DE John Thierry, LB Wali Rainer, OL Orlando Brown
Bottom Line: 1999 Cleveland Browns
The expansion Browns weren’t expected to have success in 1999, and they lived up to the expectations.
Cleveland started 0-7 and only a Hail Mary in New Orleans and a last-second, game-winning field goal in Pittsburgh kept the Browns from going winless.
15. 2008 St. Louis Rams
Coach: Scott Linehan/Jim Haslett
Points for/against: 232/465 (-233)
Notable Players: 2008 St. Louis Rams
QB Marc Bulger, RB Steven Jackson, Torry Holt, S OJ Atogwe, LB Pisa Tinoisamoa, DE Leonard Little
Bottom Line: 2008 St. Louis Rams
Poor, poor Rams fans. St. Louis won two games or fewer in three out of four seasons between 2008-11, starting in the dreadful 2008 campaign.
Linehan was fired after an 0-4 start, and the Rams won their first two under Haslett before losing 10 straight — and being outscored 287-117 — to close the season.
14. 2009 Detroit Lions
Coach: Jim Schwartz
Points for/against: 262/494 (-232)
Notable Players: 2009 Detroit Lions
QB Matthew Stafford, RB Kevin Smith, WR Calvin Johnson, DE Cliff Avril, LB Larry Foote, CB Will Peterson
Bottom Line: 2009 Detroit Lions
The 2008 Lions were putrid (more on them later), but the team did not get markedly better the following season.
Detroit ended its then-record losing streak in Week 3 with a 19-14 win over Washington, but won just one of its final 13 games — and that victory was a one-point, walk-off win over the equally putrid Browns.
13. 2000 Cleveland Browns
Coach: Chris Palmer
Points for/against: 161/419 (-258)
Notable Players: 2000 Cleveland Browns
QB Tim Couch, RB Travis Prentice, WR Kevin Johnson, CB Corey Fuller, DE Keith McKenzie, LB Wali Rainer, DE Courtney Brown
Bottom Line: 2000 Cleveland Browns
The 1999 Browns were famously bad, but the 2000 version was arguably worse especially on offense. The Browns scored just 16 offensive touchdowns and averaged just 10 points per game.
It was also the second year in a row the Browns had the No. 1 overall pick and picked an all-time bust — Tim Couch in 1999 and Courtney Brown in 2000.
Somehow, the Browns started the season 2-1 but went 1-12 thereafter and were shut out four times. Palmer, who was hired as an offensive guru, was fired after this season.
12. 1981 Baltimore Colts
Coach: Mike McCormack
Points for/against: 259/533 (-274)
Notable Players: 1981 Baltimore Colts
QB Bert Jones, RB Curtis Dickey, WR Ray Butler, CB Larry Braziel, S Bruce Laird, LB Ed Smith
Bottom Line: 1981 Baltimore Colts
The Colts bookended their 1981 season with wins over the New England Patriots, starting 1-0 then losing 14 straight games before a two-point win in Week 16.
The Colts still hold the record for most points allowed in an NFL season, allowing more than 33 per game and have the worst point differential of any team in a 16-game season.
11. 2007 Miami Dolphins
Coach: Cam Cameron
Points for/against: 267/437 (-170)
Notable Players: 2007 Miami Dolphins
QB Cleo Lemon, RB Ronnie Brown, WR Marty Booker, DE Jason Taylor, LB Channing Crowder, LB Joey Porter
Bottom Line: 2007 Miami Dolphins
The 2007 Dolphins started the season 0-13, with a slew of gut-wrenching defeats — six of which came by three points, including a 13-10 loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants in London.
The Dolphins were just an overtime win against the Baltimore Ravens from becoming the first team to go winless in a 16-game season.
10. 1996 New York Jets
Coach: Rich Kotite
Points for/against: 279/454 (-175)
Notable Players: 1996 New York Jets
QB Frank Reich, RB Adrian Murrell, WR Wayne Chrebet, CB Aaron Glenn, DE Hugh Douglas, LB Victor Green, WR Keyshawn Johnson
Bottom Line: 1996 New York Jets
The 1996 Jets were famously bad, even among Jets teams. Kotite was universally reviled by fans, who made shirts that read “Just End The Season” and “Ditch Rich.” All of this after they used the No.1 overall pick to take USC wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson.
The Jets started 0-8 and lost six games by one possession or less. Kotite’s incompetence led to the Bill Parcells era, and the Jets were in the AFC Championship Game just two years later.
9. 1989 Dallas Cowboys
Coach: Jimmy Johnson
Points for/against: 204/393 (-189)
Notable Players: 1989 Dallas Cowboys
QB Troy Aikman, RB Herschel Walker, WR Michael Irvin, DE Jim Jeffcoat, LB Ken Norton Jr., LB Jack Del Rio
Bottom Line: 1989 Dallas Cowboys
If you look at the notable players listed, it’s hard to believe they make up one of the worst teams in NFL history. But in Johnson’s first season as an NFL coach, and Aikman’s rookie campaign, the Cowboys were terrible after selecting him No. 1 overall out of UCLA in that year's draft.
They started 0-8 and were shut out three times. Their lone victory was a 13-3 win against Washington. The failures were short-lived, though, as Dallas quickly built a core that won consecutive Super Bowls in 1993 and '94.
8. 2020 Jacksonville Jaguars
Coach: Doug Marrone
Points for/against: 306/492 (-186)
Notable Players: 2020 Jacksonville Jaguars
QB Gardner Minshew, RB James Robinson, WR DJ Chark, LB Joe Schobert, LB Myles Jack, DE Dawaune Smoot
Bottom Line: 2020 Jacksonville Jaguars
The 2020 Jaguars surprised the playoff-bound Indianapolis Colts in Week 1, coming from behind for a 27-20 win, but then they lost 15 straight games to close the season. The Jaguars were rarely competitive in that span, with just two of their 15 losses coming by one score or fewer.
Adding insult to injury, longtime running back Leonard Fournette, who was cut by Jacksonville just before the start of the season, went on to win the Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
7. 1980 New Orleans Saints
Coaches: Dick Nolan, Dick Stanfel
Points for/against: 291/487 (-196)
Notable Players: 1980 New Orleans Saints
QB Archie Manning, RB Jimmy Rogers, WR Wes Chandler, DT Derland Moore, S Tom Myers, LB Ken Bordelon
Bottom Line: 1980 New Orleans Saints
The 1980 season was the height of the “Aints” era in New Orleans when fans invented the practice of wearing bags on their heads.
The Saints started 0-14 — they fired Nolan after their 27-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 12 — and their only win was a come-from-behind, one-point victory over the lowly Jets in Week 15.
6. 1991 Indianapolis Colts
Coaches: Ron Meyer, Rick Venturi
Points for/against: 143/381 (-238)
Notable Players: 1991 Indianapolis Colts
QB Jeff George, RB Eric Dickerson, WR Bill Brooks, WR Jesse Hester, LB Jeff Herod, LB Duane Bickett
Bottom Line: 1991 Indianapolis Colts
Jeff George’s highly anticipated sophomore season resulted in the worst offensive team in the history of the modern NFL.
The Colts averaged fewer than 10 points per game, were shut out twice and only topped 20 points on two occasions — including their lone win, a one-point victory at the New York Jets in Week 11.
Meyer was fired after a 0-5 start and never coached in the NFL or college football again.
5. 2009 St. Louis Rams
Coach: Steve Spagnuolo
Points for/against: 175/436 (-261)
Notable Players: 2009 St. Louis Rams
QB Marc Bulger, RB Steven Jackson, WR Donnie Avery, DE Leonard Little, LB James Laurinaitis, S James Butler
Bottom Line: 2009 St. Louis Rams
The Rams somehow were the worst team in football despite having a 1,400-yard rusher in Jackson, but they had by far the worst offense in the game and the second-worst defense in points allowed in Spagnuolo’s first year as coach.
The 1-15 season wasn’t a complete loss, though, as it enabled the Rams to take Sam Bradford with the top pick in the 2010 draft.
4. 1990 New England Patriots
Coach: Rod Rust
Points for/against: 181/446 (-265)
Notable Players: 1990 New England Patriots
QB Marc Wilson, RB John Stephens, WR Irving Fryar, LB Andre Tippett, NT Tim Goad, CB Maurice Hurst
Bottom Line: 1990 New England Patriots
Rust’s lone season as coach was a disaster, highlighted by an inept offense, a Swiss cheese defense and even a sexual harassment suit from one of the team’s beat reporters.
The Patriots started the season 1-1, and could’ve been unbeaten if not for a 15-point blown lead against the Miami Dolphins in Week 1, but were outscored 406-141 during their 14-game losing streak.
3. 2016 Cleveland Browns
Coach: Hue Jackson
Points for/against: 264/452 (-188)
Notable Players: 2016 Cleveland Browns
QB Cody Kessler, RB Isaiah Crowell, WR Terrelle Pryor, CB Joe Haden, LB Christian Kirksey
Bottom Line: 2016 Cleveland Browns
The case could be made that the 2016 Browns were actually worse than the 2017 team that went winless (don't worry, they're next), but they landed just behind due to five one-score losses, including two in overtime.
Cleveland avoided the dubious 0, thanks to a three-point win against the San Diego Chargers in Week 16.
2. 2017 Cleveland Browns
Coach: Hue Jackson
Points for/against: 234/410 (-176)
Notable Players: 2017 Cleveland Browns
QB DeShone Kizer, RB Isaiah Crowell, WR Josh Gordon, TE David Njoku, CB Jason McCourty, LB Joe Schobert
Bottom Line: 2017 Cleveland Browns
If not for their Christmas Eve win in 2016, the Browns would’ve been the only team in modern NFL history to go winless in consecutive seasons. There’s no doubt 2017 was a bottoming out point.
The Browns finished worst in the league in points for and second-worst in points against (trailing only the 4-12 Texans). Somehow Jackson retained his job after going 1-31 between the two seasons.
1. 2008 Detroit Lions
Coach: Rod Marinelli
Points for/against: 268/517 (-249)
Notable Players: 2008 Detroit Lions
QB Daunte Culpepper, WR Calvin Johnson, RB Kevin Smith LB Paris Lenon, LB Ernie Sims
Bottom Line: 2008 Detroit Lions
The 2008 Lions were the first team to go winless in a 16-game season, and they did so in spectacular fashion.
Only five of their 16 games were within one score, including their two-point loss to the Minnesota Vikings in which quarterback Dan Orlovsky famously ran out of the end zone untouched.
Marinelli was fired after the season and has not been a head coach since.