The Cleveland Browns have lost every single one of their 12 games this season, and have a 15-game losing streak dating back to last season. They’re quickly approaching one calendar year without a victory as their last win came on Dec. 13, 2015.
While their year has been atrocious, they’re hardly the first team to begin a season this way. Seven times since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 has a team started 0-12, with Cleveland being the eighth. The Browns have a decent shot at finishing 0-16 for just the second time in NFL history, but as history would suggest, they’re more likely to win at least one game.
Here’s how the previous seven teams to start 0-12 have fared down the stretch.
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1976 Buccaneers (0-14)
The 1976 Buccaneers will live in infamy as the first ever team to lose every single one of its 14 games. They were outscored by a margin of 412-125, ranking in the bottom-quarter in points and yards on both defense and offense.
There arguably hasn’t been a worse team in NFL history outside of the 0-16 Lions in 2008, but even they were competitive in some of their games. This Buccaneers team hardly ever had chances to nab wins, having just three games finish within one possession. The Browns are certainly a better squad than this historic Bucs team, but with two more losses, Cleveland will likely be spoken within the same breath.
So how did the Buccaneers fare in 1977? Well…
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1977 Buccaneers (0-12): Finished 2-12
For the second consecutive year, the Buccaneers started 0-12. The year before, of course, they went 0-14, losing every game on the schedule. That futility carried over into 1977 when the Bucs lost their first 12 games of the year. The Bucs gave three guys a shot at quarterback that season, but none of them were remotely close to being even mediocre.
Combined, Gary Huff, Randy Hedberg and Jeb Blount threw just three touchdown passes and a whopping 30 interceptions. It’s pretty safe to say that ratio is the reason Tampa Bay lost 12 of 14 games, especially considering the defense was above-average.
The Bucs topped double-digits in just four games, getting shut out six times in 1977. They were fortunate to get two wins, both of which came in the final two weeks of the season. The next season, the Buccaneers finished 5-11, winning three of their first six games.
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1980 Saints (0-14): Finished 1-15
In 1978, the NFL introduced the 16-game schedule. Two years later, the New Orleans Saints set a new low as the worst team under that format. They began 0-14 before winning their one and only game in Week 15 – a one-point win over the Jets, 21-20.
That year, the Saints had an 11-game stretch where they had multiple turnovers, giving it away 33 times in that span. That statistic wasn’t their undoing, however. They were outscored 487-291 that season despite Archie Manning throwing for 23 touchdowns. The defense was unfortunately one of the worst in the NFL. They were 28th in both points and yards allowed, as well as 28th in takeaways. It was a disastrous year, but at least they avoided being the first 0-16 team by nabbing that elusive Week 15 victory.
In 1981, the Saints did improve, going 4-12. However, they still finished fourth in the division and were outscored 378-207.
2001 Lions (0-12): Finished 2-14
The Lions weren’t just terrible in 2008 – they were also bad seven years earlier in 2001. They started the year with three straight losses by a combined score of 87-20, giving a glimpse at just how bad the season was going to be. They scored just 26 offensive touchdowns that year, 12 of which came by Charlie Batch, who was 0-9 in nine starts.
After starting 0-12, the Lions final won a game in Week 14 – their 13th game of the season. They barely edged the Vikings 27-24 on a game-winning touchdown by Cory Schlesinger in the fourth quarter.
Detroit won one more game in Week 17 to give them a 2-14 record. Head coach Marty Mornhinweg survived to see another year, going 3-13 in 2002 before getting fired after the season.
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2007 Dolphins (0-13): Finished 1-15
The Dolphins nearly won their first game of the 2007 season, potentially avoiding a disastrous 1-15 campaign in which they lost their first 13. However, the overtime loss to the Redskins in Week 1 began what would be a forgettable year in Miami. Cleo Lemon, Trent Green and John Beck combined for a passer rating of 69.6 with just 12 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions.
The Dolphins finished the year with just one win, which came in overtime against the Ravens on a walk-off touchdown by Greg Camarillo from Cleo Lemon. They lost their last two games to close out one of the worst seasons since the NFL moved to a 16-game schedule.
In 2008, the Dolphins improved dramatically thanks to the arrival of Chad Pennington. He led the team to an 11-5 record and a division title.
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2008 Lions (0-16)
The worst team in modern NFL history? The worst team in modern NFL history. Only one team has ever finished 0-16, and that was the Detroit Lions in 2008. The Lions had a trio of quarterbacks contribute to the terrible season with Dan Orlovsky coincidentally being one of them. Jon Kitna and Dante Culpepper were the other two, combining for 18 touchdowns and 19 picks.
After losing their first 12 games like the Browns, the Lions would go on to lose their final four by a combined score of 65-124. If that’s any indication of how the Browns’ season will finish, it won’t be pretty.
Not surprisingly, head coach Rod Marinelli was fired at the end of the season. The same probably won’t happen to first-year coach Hue Jackson, but you never know in the NFL. Unfortunately, getting rid of Marinelli didn’t work as the 2009 Lions won just two games.
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2011 Colts (0-13): Finished 2-14
In 2011, the Colts were between Pro Bowl quarterbacks. Peyton Manning was sidelined after undergoing multiple neck surgeries and Andrew Luck was still at Stanford, one year away from entering the NFL Draft. As a result, Indianapolis had to roll with a combination of Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky and Kerry Collins at quarterback. Put simply, that trio didn’t get the job done.
The Colts started 0-13 with seven of those losses coming by at least two possessions. The worst of the bunch came by a margin of 62-7 against the Saints as the defense surrendered 557 yards. On offense, the Colts mustered up just 252, which surprisingly wasn’t even their worst output of the season (167 in Week 14).
The Colts went on to finish with a 2-14 record and the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Of course, they used that selection on Andrew Luck, who quickly turned them into an 11-5 team his rookie year in 2012.