Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Golden Age of Winlessness

The Jets blew it! The chance to keep their streak of losing to one-loss teams intact for a fifth consecutive decade was right there and they choked. They just had to put a beatdown on this pathetic Miami Dolphins’ team. Well, the Jets’ streak may come to an end once this decade has reached its end, but the streak of another team continues. Yes I’m talking about the 2007 Miami Dolphins, who else. Last week seemed to be their last best chance to avoid making the kind of history no team wants to make, but even a bad Jets squad humiliated the Dolphins. At 0-12, no truly terrible team remains on Miami’s schedule. Where that one win will come from I don’t know. Like Miami, Buffalo’s starting a rookie QB this weekend and, like Miami, Buffalo’s lost their star running back. Could it be that...? Yeah, right. Actually, Marshawn Lynch is questionable so expect him to get well this weekend. John Beck has yet to lead the Dolphins to a single touchdown so predicting a win this weekend would be the height of insanity. No, it’s quite likely Miami goes 0-13, leaving them just three more losses from immortality: the NFL’s first ever 0-16 team.

Previously, I wrote how going undefeated is just about as difficult as losing them all. Only the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers ran the losing gauntlet successfully since the 1970 merger. The 1982 Baltimore Colts are the only other winless team since that time: 0-8-1. One tie marred their hapless mark. Of course the 1982 strike cost them seven shots at a win though so who knows if they were truly historically Superbad? The NFL has seen many one-loss teams over the years (and the Jets have lost to four of them!), but winless teams are another matter. Other than the Bucs and the 1960 Dallas Cowboys you have to go back to the 1940’s to find another winless NFL team! Three in a row as a matter of fact.

Yes, the 1940’s were the Golden Age of Winlessness. In 1942, the Detroit Lions went 0-11, in 1943 the Chicago Cardinal went 0-10, and in 1944, a merged Cardinals/Pittsburgh Steelers team, Card-Pitt (aka the Carpets) went 0-10. No research into the reason for this futility seems necessary. The years of these winless seasons tells the tale. Manpower shortages caused by World War II no doubt left several NFL franchises woefully lacking in quality football players. The Cardinals and Steelers actually had to merge for a year they were so short of players. Going back to the beginning of NFL’s division format/championship game era (1933), the only one other winless team would be the 1934 Cincinnati Reds. That team, an expansion team in 1933, posted an 0-8 mark in their second and final season, the team actually going out of business for good with three games remaining on their schedule. Fast-forwarding, another expansion team, the 1960 Dallas Cowboys, dropped 11 of their 12 games and tied their opponent in the other.

So, since 1933 the NFL has seen seven winless teams. Three of those teams played in the WWII era and were probably not of true professional quality. Two others, the Bucs and Cowboys, were expansion teams. The final two, the Reds and Colts, never got to play a full season. Plus the Colts at least tied a game. Now we can really see what an amazing “achievement” it would be for the 2007 Miami Dolphins to drop them all. The Dolphins are four decades removed from their expansion days. While they certainly suffer a shortage of quality players, that problem is purely a result of bad personnel decisions, not a war. And the Dolphins will play a full schedule, 16 games. And a tie is unlikely; the NFL hasn’t had one since 2002. The Miami Dolphins are just four games away from pulling off a truly historic feat: a non-expansion, non-wartime team losing a full season’s worth of games. It’s never been done.

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