In the history of professional football, there have only been five winless teams. The 1960 Dallas Cowboys went 0-11-1, the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 0-14, the 1982 Baltimore Colts went 0-8-1, and both 2008 Detroit Lions and 2017 Cleveland Browns both went 0-16. It feels easier to go 16-0 than it does to go 0-16. Teams like the 2019 Miami Dolphins or the 2011 Indianapolis Colts tried to go 0-16 and still couldn’t pull it off. Winning is hard, but losing every game? Might be even harder. Losing all 16 games of a season has literally only happened twice, so I had to ask, which winless squad was worse?
Oh-No and 16: The 2008 Detroit Lions vs. the 2017 Cleveland Browns
Surprise, surprise, neither 0-16 team had a very dynamic offense. The Lions were 27th in points and 30th in yards, while the Browns were 32nd and 24th respectively. Both teams were so bad in different arenas that they don’t really stand out. Neither team had a very good run game, and collectively, they started five different quarterbacks.
The defense, however, is a different story. The Browns weren’t good, mind you, coming in 14th in yards allowed and 31st in points allowed, but the Lions were significantly worse. The 2008 Detroit Lions were dead last in points and yards allowed in the NFL.
Believe it or not, the 2008 Detroit Lions actually scored more points (268) than the 2017 Cleveland Browns (234). Even with nearly a decade’s evolution in offensive inflation, they still scored 34 more points on the season. Regrettably, they also allowed 107 more points, giving up 517 in sixteen games.
Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro Players
This won’t come as a surprise to anybody, but on two rosters with a combined 0-32 record, there aren’t a ton of Pro Bowl or All-Pro players. In fact, of all 106 main roster players, only Cleveland’s linebacker, Joe Schobert, was voted to the Pro Bowl.
For what it’s worth, Schobert had a pretty good year. He had 144 tackles, four tackles for a loss, three sacks, four pass deflections, three forced fumbles, and a pick. The Browns might’ve been bad, but Joe tried his best.
Calvin Johnson really should’ve been though. Johnson caught 78 passes for 1,331 yards and 12 scores despite playing with Dan Orlovsky, Drew Stanton, Jon Kitna, Daunte Culpepper, and Drew Henson. He caught more touchdowns than NFC Pro Bowlers Roddy White, Anquan Boldin, or Steve Smith.
Average Margin of Loss
This is the biggest indicator of relative talent is the average loss. No matter how the game changes, from defensive restrictions to the growth of the passing game (same thing, really), the one thing that remains consistent is margin of loss. Losing 100-97 is the same as losing 10-7 in the big picture.
This is where the 2017 Cleveland Browns have a pretty substantial lead of the 2008 Cleveland Browns. Because while the Lions lost 16 games by an average of 16 points, the Browns only lost by an average of 11.
The Lions lost by at least 20 points on five occasions, surrendering at least 35 points twice, and the Browns only lost by more than 20 once. The Browns actually lost by less than a touchdown on six different occasions. For the Browns, it seems like the difference between 0-16 and 6-10 was bad luck, while the Lions seemed pretty hopeless.
The Biggest Loser
So if you ask me, the 2017 Cleveland Browns were slightly better than the 2008 Detroit Lions. The Lion defense was historically bad, and it’s not like the offense was significantly better than Cleveland’s. Detroit was consistently blown out, and rarely actually competed for wins.
So there ya go Cleveland, winless no longer, you’re not 1-0-16.