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The history of not winning

OK, the Lions are bad. Historically, excruciatingly bad. But letís take a look at some of the other really bad NFL teams over the years. Iím sure we all know about Steve Spurier and the mighty 1976 Bucs, but there have been other 0-fer teams throughout the years.

1920-21 Muncie Flyers- On October 3, 1920, the Muncie Flyers gained a whopping 1 yard of passing offense in a 45-0 loss to the Rock Island Independents, and quickly called it a season. They came back the next year, playing two games, losing both by matching 14-0 scores, and dropped out of the league. Iím sure though, that Muncie fans can take heart in their place in history by having a starting running back born when Ulysses S. Grant was President. Thatís right, Mickey Hole was 50 years old at the time, meaning he was born in 1870.

1921 New York Brickley Giants- Named after and coached by Charlie Brickley, they lost their opener in Buffalo 55-0 and probably should have called it quits there, but instead went out for one more game, losing 17-0 to Cleveland. Sure, giving up 17 isnít so bad, but when you play two games and lose both by a combined 72-0, you just arenít good.

1921 Tonawanda Kardex- This is a team that brings to mind many questions, like where the hell Tonawanda is, and what the hell Kardex is. One of the few things we do know is they had a kicker who was 51 and they lost the only game of their NFL existence, 45-0 to a Rochester team that ended up in 10th place that year.

1921-23 Louisville Brecks- Though this team would have been better off calling themselves "Drecks" and getting it over with. In their first game they lost to Evansville 21-0, then in their other game lost 6-0 to Columbus, in what might have been one of the worst matchups in league history. Columbus entered the game 0-8 scoring a whopping three offensive touchdowns all year. Louisvilleís biggest hurdle in 1921 was experience. No one on the roster had even played a pro football game before, and that includes the right side of the offensive line, who had a combined age of 102. They did beat Evansville for their only win in 1922, but were back to their craptacular form in 1923, going 0-3, including being the only team Oorang beat that season.

1922 Columbus Panhandles- You canít help but think the sheer ineptitude of the í21 Brecks denied the Panhandles their true destiny. They buckled down in í22 and knew history was within their grasp. They eked out narrow losses, 3-0 to the Packers, 7-6 to Toledo, and got blown out in their other six games, including two losses to Jim Thorpeís Oorang Indians who won only three games all year.

1922 Evansville Crimson Giants- So you know that team that beat the Brecks in their first game in Ď21? The Brecks returned the favor the following year with a 13-6 win November 12. At least Evansville scored in that game. In their other two games that year, they lost 15-0 to Toledo and 60-0 to Rock Island. But hey, they did have Frank Fausch, one of just four players in NFL history to hail from my parentís alma mater, Division III Kalamazoo College.

1922-25 Rochester Jeffersons- Things started out really well for the Jeffersons in 1922, playing Akron to a 13-13 tie in their opener. They moved on down from there, playing four more games, losing all of them, and scoring a total of no points. But hey, they held Rock Island to just 26, letís see Evansville try and match that. The next year they were back for more punishment, losing 60-0 to the Cardinals and 56-0 to Rock Island on their way to a winless 0-4 record with just 6 points scored. In 1924 two different coaches led them to an 0-7 record, in which they scored a touchdown. . . .just one. . . all season. Then, ignoring the advise of family and friends, they tried again in 1925 and played 0-6-1 ball in what thankfully would be their last NFL season. So for a franchise that had winning seasons in 1920 and Ď21, they would rack up a record of 0-21-2 over their last four years.

1922- Hammond Pros- They played a total of six games. They scored a total of zero points. However the unprecedented crappiness of their offense masks what was actually a good defense. They played Milwaukee to a scoreless tie, held Racine to just six points, and held Buffalo to just seven. The most points anyone put on them all year was the 22 put up by Akron. Most of this Hammond team is a mystery. Their kicker is known only as Mr. Anderson. Also mysterious, since they never kicked a field goal or PAT all year, just what in the hell did they need a kicker for? As an encore, the Pros finished 0-4 in 1926, scoring just 3 points.

1924 Minneapolis Marines- The Marines did score points, but they had to wait until their fifth game to do so. Unfortunately, once they started scoring, so did everyone else. The Marines had held Duluth to single digits in two previous losses and gave up 13 and 19 respectively to the Cardinals and Packers, but then the floodgates opened with a 28-7 loss to Milwaukee and a 39-7 loss to Frankford. Their best player that year was 54 year old tailback Marty Norton who scored both of the teamís touchdowns.

1924 Kenosha Maroons- Hey, they tied Hammond! Of course they lost the other four games they played in their only NFL season. They attempted to use a co-coaching system with Bo Hanley and Earl Potteiger, and while Hanley never coached again, Potteigerís next gig was with the 1927 New York Giants, who he led to a league title.

1925-29 Dayton Triangles- To say Dayton sucked would be an insult to suck. In 1920 they were good. For the next few years they were slightly below average. By 1925 they had fallen to just plain terrible. In Ď25 they went 0-7-1 and scored 3 points. They won a game each of the next two seasons, then had a 9 point, 0-7 season in í28 and a 7 point, 0-6 season in Ď29. Then they went bankrupt. Head coach Faye Abbott was in charge for those last two years, meaning a guy who was an NFL head coach for two years has just as many career coaching victories as you or me.

1925 Duluth Kelleys- The remarkable thing is that Duluth as a franchise wasnít that bad. They were 5-1 in 1924, 6-5-3 in 1926. In í25 however they were bad, losing all three games they played. They werenít horrible though, losing 3-0 to Kansas City, 12-0 to Rock Island, and 10-6 to the Cardinals. There were only two starters from the í24 team that werenít back the following year, so itís hard to figure out why they were so bad. In the end, it was just a blip, and they were back to their winning ways the next year.

1925 Columbus Tigers- They had an 0-9 record and were shut out six times, but the last game of the season they still almost beat the Chicago Bears. Like Hammond three years earlier, the Tigers defense wasnít that bad. The most points they gave up all year was 20 to controversial league champion Pottsville. But if you donít score, you donít win, and Columbus rarely scored.

1925 Milwaukee Badgers- When you go 0-6 with five losses by shutout you arenít all that good. When you give up 34, 31, 21, 40, and 59 points in those games, you are terrible. The offense never got to the end zone once, Clem Neasy scored the Badgers lone touchdown of the season on a fumble recovery. Oddly, this horrible little team did play a role in the NFL title race. After the Pottsville Maroons beat the Chicago Cardinals December 5, the Cardinals quickly shoved two more games on the schedule, hoping to beat the Maroons on percentage points. The Badgers had already disbanded for the season (wouldnít you want to) and the Cardinals took the liberty of recruiting four high school players to fill the Milwaukee roster, telling them it was an intrasquad practice. NFL officials were not pleased, but the Cardinals won the title anyway after the Maroons were expelled for playing an exhibition game against Notre Dame.

1926 Louisville Colonels- They lost all four games they played, by a combined score of 108-0. Head Coach Lenny Sachs would never coach again. The bright spot was the acquisition of three-time all-pro running back Pete Stinchcomb, but he got fed up after one game and moved on to Columbus. No other player on that roster would appear in an NFL game after that season.

1927 Buffalo Bisons- Yet another team that went 0-5. Yet another team that managed just one touchdown. They high point of the season was a 5-0 loss to a Providence Steamroller team that would not only win the NFL title the following year, but would also set a record for most badass name in the history of team sports. And then the Bisons went out and bravely lost 54-0 to Frankford.

1934 Cincinnati Reds- By the Ď30s things were settling down in the NFL and you no longer had the fly-by-night operations slipping in and out of the league every season. Into that mix enters the Reds. In their expansion season of 1933 they won three games, a bad enough record that they fired two coaches. Then Alge Clark takes over and everything gets worse. They didnít score a touchdown until their sixth game, which they lost 41-7 to the Bears. They gave up at least 38 points in each of their last four games, leading up to the season finale, a 64-0 loss in Philadelphia to an Eagles team that finished 4-7.

1942 Detroit Lions- So it turns out the Dayton Triangles, Muncie Flyers, and Rochester Jeffersons arenít the only teams with multiple winless seasons. This was the first winless team to play more than ten games, and they used that to rack up five shutout losses. Even when they did score, they didnít score much. In the six games they got on the scoreboard, they never scored more than once. Things got really bad in a November 22 loss to the Bears when they turned the ball over 12 times. This year the Lions can at least boast of one of the top kickers in the game, Jason Hanson. Back in í42 the Lions had Augie Lio, who missed all four field goals he attempted.

1943-44 Chicago Cardinals-If anything gives Lions fans hope itís this. The Cardinals went 0-10 in Ď43, being shut out three times, but they put up 24 in a loss to the Bears to end the season. The scarcity of players due to the war was such that the Cards and Steelers had to merge in 1944, and it turns out the two teams combined were just as bad as the Cards had been on their own the year before, going 0-10. When QB Coley McDonough was ineffective, completing 10 passes in two games, he was replaced, first by fullback John Grigas, then punter John McCarthy. Neither was any good. They were only shut out once, but they had little defense, routinely giving up 30 or 40 points, culminating in a 49-7 loss to the Bears to end the season. Four years later they won the NFL title. How did they do it? Well, drafting Charlie Trippi with the first overall pick in 1945 helped. Also, a lot of good players coming back from service in World War II helped. So, maybe thatís what the Lions need to do, try to find some guys currently serving in the military. The Cards were bad again in 1945, with a 1-9 record. But then ex Providence Steamroller coach Jimmy Conzelman took over in Ď46, leading them to a 6-5 record. Then the won the title in Ď47. Who knows. It could happen in Detroit. Probably not though.

1944 Brooklyn Tigers- They had joined the league as the Dodgers in 1930 and settled in for a long stretch of mediocrity. They did have three winnings seasons, but every other season fell under .500. Then they changed their named to the Tigers and things got worse, to the tune of an 0-10 record. The Tigers seem closer to the 2001 Lions, a team that seemed to lose one close game after another. Their first five losses were all by a touchdown or less, and the only time they were really blown out, was their season ending 34-0 loss to the Eagles. Twelve different players attempted a pass for the Tigers, and none were any good at it. Completing 40% of your passes made you the team leader that year. The Tigers were 9th in the 11 team league in scoring differential, tenth in total offense, tenth in turnover differential. They also never kicked a field goal. It would be the teams last year in the league.

1960 Dallas Cowboys- OK, so they were an expansion team, but they were also pretty bad. They finished dead last in the league in points scored, points allowed, and turnover differential. They had a bright spot in rookie QB Don Meredith, who started and lost one game but threw for 281 yards. Sure he also threw five picks, but hey, this is an expansion team, what do you want. Mostly, the QB duty fell to Eddie LeBaron who threw 12 touchdowns and 25 picks. Their biggest problem was running the ball. L. G. Dupre rushed for 362 yards and three touchdowns that year. He was the Cowboys leading rusher.

1982 Baltimore Colts- Too bad the NFL strike cost us a chance to see just how terrible the Colts could be. Just two years before the Mayflower moving vans took the team to Indiana, they were forging new territory in suckiness. Before the strike they played well, but lost twice. After the strike they were downright terrible in a 37-0 loss to the Jets and a 20-0 loss to the Bills. On December 19, they scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to force a 20-20 tie with Green Bay, the only bright spot on their 0-8-1 season. The Colts couldnít run the ball, managing a whopping four rushing touchdowns that season. Passing was a bit better, but not by much. Mike Pagel, a rookie, took the snaps that year and put up remarkably Joey Harrington-esque numbers, completing about half his passes, throwing about as many touchdowns as interceptions, and losing a lot of games. The team was so bad, that when they drafted John Elway with the top pick the following April, he immediately decided heíd rather play baseball. The teamís QB situation did eventually improve. . . .when they drafted Peyton Manning 15 years later.


So there were other teams that went winless. Were some of them worse than Detroit? Perhaps. Going winless over multiple seasons is pretty bad. But the Lions have the advantage of 21st century scouting, training facilities, and a salary cap, and they still suck. Itís one thing to go winless when youíre an expansion team like the Bucs or Cowboys, or when you play in a loosely organized league where players come and go at will like the teams from the 1920ís, but what the Lions did was exceptionally bad. None of those other teams lost 16 games. None of those other teams had the supposed advantages the Lions should have enjoyed in this era or parity. But then none of those other teams were put together by Matt Millen, so maybe they had the advantage.

Thanks to for most of the info contained here-in. Info on the 1925 championship situation culled from David Flemmingís book Breaker Boys.

comments (2) 12-29-2008

The People's Comments:

The Washington Times wrote up an article on just how bad the '44 Card-Pitt "Carpets" were. Something about those two franchises playing next weekend or something. I guess it was worse than I thought. This year's Lions never had a player revolt, fines for inept playing, a punter who suffered a skull fracture by accidently kneeing himself in the head, or a leading rusher who walked out on the team before the last game.

What the hell are you doing citing your sources?

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