Defining an Anti-Dynasty: The Worst NFL Teams Ever

Cleveland Browns HC Hue Jackson
Cleveland Browns HC Hue Jackson
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

They finally did it. After wallowing in misery for nearly two decades, the Cleveland Browns had a taste of postseason success in 2020. The longest playoff drought of the 21st century? Over and done with. Thirteen seasons at the bottom of their division, with three at the bottom of the league as a whole? Firmly in the rearview mirror. 0-16? Done! Trent Richardson, Johnny Manziel, Corey Coleman, Justin Gilbert? Forgiven! A new era of football is born in Cleveland. Kevin Stefanski, Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett and the rest will drive the Browns forward into an era of prosperity not seen in Cleveland since the 1950s … right?

On the other hand, the Jacksonville Jaguars thought their troubles were over when the #Sacksonville squad rolled their way to the AFC Championship Game back in 2017. Their subsequent 12-36 record is a reminder that one year's worth of success is not always enough to fully free a team from the swampland of putrid football, and that sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is indeed the oncoming train. Saddled with the top pick in the 2021 draft, the Jaguars are now counting on Trevor Lawrence to lead them back to respectability, and top draft picks always end up working out just fine … right?

Last offseason, we spent the month of May counting down the top dynasties the NFL has ever seen, from George Halas' 1920s Bears to Patrick Mahomes' 2010s Chiefs. This year, by popular demand, we're flipping the script. We're digging deep into the bowels of NFL history to try to find the worst of the worst; the teams that did the most to set football back through combinations of injuries, incompetence, and ineptitude. We're here to celebrate the teams that showed up week in and week out only to lose by four scores in front of nearly empty stands. We're looking at the owners and general managers who went out of their way to make the wrong personnel decisions, torpedoing their teams for years. We're wading through the worst trades, the worst performances, the worst drafts, the worst starters, the worst everything. In short, we're on the hunt to find the Anti-Dynasty.

This seems like a perfect year to go hunting, too. Both the Browns and Buccaneers' 2020 playoff runs ended droughts that had lasted for more than a decade; a very strong point on any team's Anti-Dynasty resume. It's quite possible that we saw an epic changing-of-the-guard moment when it comes to terrible football last year, so it's an ideal time to take stock at the worst of the worst to date.

We'll be honest—this is a very silly idea. Most scholarly attempts at ranking players and teams have dealt with classifying the very best the league has had to offer. If they bother at all to try to look at poor performance, they'll usually just take win-loss record over a given window and call it a day. But this is Football Outsiders, home of the Keep Choppin' Wood Team and the Loser League. If there's anyone out there qualified to be the keeper of the Wooden Spoon, it's us.

Trying to place the worst teams in NFL history into one ranking brings us challenges that we didn't encounter when looking at the cream of the crop. There's a general consensus on what being a good team requires; we count championships and division titles and deep playoff runs, and whoever has the most wins. But which is worse, a team going three or four years with three or four wins a season, being penciled in as an easy win around the league? Or a team that spends a decade and a half mired in 5- to 7-win hell, never bottoming out but never really being in contention? The worst of the worst will combine the best of both, of course, and there are plenty of teams with a rotten two- or three-year core surrounded by a shell of mediocrity, but that's a tough nut to crack. Both the Jeff Fisher Rams and the post-Jim Harbaugh 49ers deserve their chances to be heard, and fans of both teams deserve a place to vent and commiserate. Our final rankings will have short-lived nightmares mixed in with long-term malaise, each team being terrible in its own beautiful, unique way.

To try to impose some order to unto chaos, we're returning to the idea of each season earning a certain number of (anti)-dynasty points. Those three- and four-win seasons are going to be worth more than those five- and seven-win years, for sure, but every little bit of losing helps. We're basically just counting how far under .500 a team finishes, with the twist that winning seasons exponentially erase a team's progress towards terribleness. The franchises that piled up year after year of disappointing seasons will rise to the top and get their due.

Ah, but we wouldn't be Football Outsiders if we just counted wins and losses and called it a day—we need to separate the chaff from the wheat. Anti-dynasty points are a counting stat; they measure the quantity of terribleness a franchise puts up. That's all very good and very important, but not all poor seasons are made equal. The 49ers and Giants both went 6-10 in 2020, but San Francisco's 5.4% DVOA dwarfs New York's -13.8%; San Francisco was a significantly better team, and our rankings need to take that into account. With nearly 40 years of DVOA behind us, we can differentiate between the 2008 0-16 Lions and 2017 0-16 Browns, as well as acknowledge the teams that were worse than both despite better results on the field. You are what your record says you are, of course, but some records speak more eloquently than others.

What we are unveiling this month, then, is really twofold. In this article, we're going to be listing every team that has ever ranked up at least 30 of our anti-dynasty points—all the bottom-feeders, schedule-fillers, and wet paper bags that have ever disgraced a gridiron. We'll show which teams had the most quantity of terribleness—the top draft picks, the bottoms of their divisions and conferences, and the blowout losses to justify the lot. This is the list of the biggest anti-dynasties the sport has ever seen.

And then, in a series of articles that will be released over the course of this month, we'll look at each one of those dreadful teams in turn, and blend in DVOA (or estimated DVOA for teams before 1983) to produce a record that factors in a team's lack of quality beyond simple wins and losses. Compilers will make way for short-term nightmares, and we'll eventually crown the worst run any NFL football team has ever had. That will be a list of the worst anti-dynasties the sport has ever seen.

Best anti-dynasties? Most anti-dynasty-esque? Least likely to succeed? Well, we'll work on the nomenclature as we're going along.

These links will gradually update as we rank 58 different anti-dynasties:

Anti-Dynasty Points

For the Dynasty Rankings, we had a complicated system where teams earned differing numbers of points based on regular- and postseason success. A 10-6 team that won a Super Bowl was seen as more dynastic than a 13-3 team that lost in the divisional round, but less dynastic than a 12-4 team that won the Super Bowl; it was a delicate balance of regular and postseason success.

That's not necessary for anti-dynasties. Bad teams generally do not make the postseason very often! We can solely focus on regular season success, or lack thereof.

There was still some consideration given to running the dynasty point system in reverse—teams that finish dead last in the league getting a set number of points, and then additional points for teams that finish in the bottom third or quartile and so forth. But finishing at the bottom of the standings is qualitatively different than finishing at the top. Had the 2020 Bears made a shocking playoff run and won the Super Bowl, they would consider their season a massive success despite middling results in the regular season. That's not true at the bottom. Fans of the 2020 Jets don't feel better about their team just because the Jaguars finished with one fewer win; if anything, that makes them feel worse about the year because they stunk and didn't even earn the top draft pick for their troubles. We'll take league, conference, and divisional standing into account later, but not for the anti-dynasty points themselves.

So, for teams in the 16-game era (1978-2020, may it rest in peace), this is how anti-dynasty points work:

If you had a losing record, your anti-dynasty points are simply your total losses minus your total wins. If you go 7-9, that's worth 2 anti-dynasty points. If you go 4-12, that's worth 8 anti-dynasty points. If you go 5-6-5 because your team is really bad at overtime, that's worth 1 anti-dynasty point—seasons with ties are the only way for teams from this era to earn an odd number of anti-dynasty points.

If you had a winning record, you get negative anti-dynasty points for your difference between wins and losses—squared. A winning season cures a lot of old wounds, so you can lose dynasty points a lot faster than you can pick them up. A 9-7 season is only worth -4 anti-dynasty points, but it starts escalating very quickly—10-6 will lose you 16, 11-5 will cost you 36, and 12-4 will wipe out 64 anti-dynasty points in one go. Teams can't go into negative numbers, but going to zero is one of two ways to definitively end an anti-dynasty. Only 15 teams, at the peak of their worst football, could survive a 12-4 season without being set back down to zero; those decade-long disasters see even very good seasons be looked at with a skeptical eye. Every single run would get wiped out by a 14-2 season.

That's all well and good, but it would give an unfair advantage to modern teams—they play more games, so theoretically can rack up more points. Should the 1976 Buccaneers be penalized for "only" going 0-14? Of course not. So, teams from the 10-, 12-, and 14- game eras get their seasons prorated out to 16 full games. They also get rounded just to make the numbers a little neater; a 4-10 season is worth 7 anti-dynasty points, not 6.9, and an 8-4 season is worth -25 points, not -28.4.

That, too, is all well and good, but now we've given an unfair advantage to ancient teams. Saying the 1925 0-9 Columbus Tigers should get equal credit to the 2017 0-16 Cleveland Browns is a stretch. Saying the 1921 0-1 Tonawanda Kardex deserves the same credit is ludicrous on its face. So for teams who played less than 10 games in a season, anti-dynasty points revert to straight number of games under .500. An 0-5 team gets 5 points, an 0-7 team gets 7 points, and so forth. This prevents the top of the list from being just slammed with fly-by-night travel teams from the 1920s—sure, they were really bad, but going 0-4 for five straight years while beating up local sandlot teams shouldn't be in the same category of a modern professional team forgetting how to snap the ball. And, while not relevant for anti-dynasty points, the DVOAs for these teams also get cut, to prevent small sample sizes from dominating the quality rankings; if you only played four games, your DVOA counts at 40% for ranking purposes.

This actually groups 1982 in with some of those teams from strange 1920s seasons; the strike limited teams to just nine games. It turns out, however, that giving full credit to 1982 would have … no effect whatsoever on which teams did or did not qualify for the table. 1982 happened to be the last winning season for years for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons, and San Diego Chargers, and the five active anti-dynasties from that era (the Saints, Giants, Colts, Oilers, and Bills) all had losing records anyway. Pleased with this coincidence, and happy with the idea that I can use 1920s rules to slam future seasons that get shrunken, say, by a global pandemic, I am dealing with this issue by ignoring it.

Ending an Anti-Dynasty

All good things must end—and all bad things, too. Because we're being open-ended with our definitions of how long a run can last, we need to define just how runs come to an end.

As we mentioned before, your dynasty points can't go below zero. If a team has a season big enough to wipe out their full run of anti-dynasty points, they get set to zero and the endpoint is defined as the last year with a losing record; the last year they gained anti-dynasty points.

The other way is to simply have two non-losing seasons in a row. We do allow for the occasional fluke season to slip through—the Browns going 10-6 in 2007 is not enough to completely wipe out the pain beforehand, and even a team as hopeless as the modern Jaguars can occasionally make an AFC Championship Game in a year where everything that could go right does. It is "non-losing" and not "winning," so an 8-8 season counted as a strike here. Get on the right side of the ledger two years in a row and all previous sins are forgiven.

These definitions are simple, but they bring up three problems—one theoretical, one dismissible, and one aggravating.

The first is that while two 8-8 seasons are enough to end an anti-dynasty, alternating between 9-7 and 7-9 years are not, despite the two teams being of arguably similar quality. I'd argue that there's a bigger psychological hit from dropping below .500 then there is for any other one-loss change. In addition, this has literally never come up—none of our 58 teams have artificially extended their runs by bouncing between seasons around .500. Generally speaking, if you're bad enough to rack up 30 anti-dynasty points, you're not going to be hovering around 8-8 for much of the time.

The second problem is that the same quality season might kill one anti-dynasty and let another one survive, depending on how long a team has been struggling for. An 11-5 season is worth -36 anti-dynasty points. When the 1992 San Diego Chargers went 11-5, that was enough to completely clear their record; they had 33 points going in, and zero coming out, bosh. But the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers just went 11-5—heck, they went 11-5 and won the Super Bowl. But their ledger is technically not cleared yet; they had 44 points coming into the season and so 11-5 was not enough to completely clear things out by itself. One could imagine a team sprinkling in occasional 11-win seasons and totally gumming up their stats. In practice, however, only 24 of the 523 seasons covered by the anti-dynasty teams had a winning record of any description, and only one is 11-5 or better and enough to kill a small dynasty. Generally speaking, if you're good enough to win more than 65% of your games in Season X, you're going to be good enough to at least go .500 in Season X+1.

That leaves us with the aggravating problem, the case where both of our previous problems collide. What if a team bounces back and forth between winning and losing seasons, but those winning seasons are 10- or 11-win affairs? There are three teams that fit that description, and thus rank lower in the table than they probably deserve. Two are buried fairly low on the totem pole; whether a team finishes 35th or 32nd is not, ultimately, a major issue. But the third team, and the one that caused me to tear out my hair, was the Jim Schwartz/Jim Caldwell Lions. No one would argue that the 2001-2010 Lions were not one of the worst teams in history, and they grade out accordingly. But from 2011 to 2015, the Lions went 10-6, 4-12, 7-9, 11-5 and 7-9 before finally sticking above .500 for multiple seasons. That 11-5 season, in particular, is frustrating; it's the best record for any team on the rankings, but the 2000s Lions were so bad that even -52 points of playoff seasons isn't enough to completely wipe out the damage caused by 0-16. For most teams, adding a mediocre year or two at the back end of a dynasty boosts their case by extending the dynasty, but the Lions' average DVOA is hurt enough by those good years to be noticeable. For the moment, I'm just going to let that stand as is, rather than create a rule just to fix the Lions, but if the Buccaneers crater this year, I'll have to rethink that if I ever revisit the project. I just need Jim Schwartz to know that I hate him and his teams are mucking up my model, thank you very much.

The Anti-Dynasties

That's enough methodology. You're here for the big table with all the teams in it, I'm sure.

The NFL has existed in its current form for 101 years. In that time 58 different teams earned dynasty scores of at least 30 points. The following table lists them all. It includes the number of seasons each era lasted, their high point in anti-dynasty points, and their win-loss record. Then you have their last-place finishes, including conference and divisional worst for modern teams. Finally, you have their DVOAs—both the average across the entire run of the era, as well as the average of their bottom five seasons. We remember terrible teams by their low points, after all, so that last column gives a better look at which teams failed the hardest. Teams with runs of less than five seasons have 0.0% seasons added as needed.

You may also notice that DVOA only goes back to 1983, and yet a little over half of the teams on the list predate that. To fill in these gaps, we go to two sources. A few years ago, Andreas Shepard produced estimated DVOA for all seasons from 1950 to 1982. This has a correlation of about 0.95 with actual DVOA, so that's good enough as an estimate for team quality back through the era of free substitution. Before that, we don't even have enough data to run Shepard's estimations, so we instead use Pro Football Reference's Simple Rating System—a rating that takes into account average point differential and strength of schedule, both of which we have going all the way back to the beginning. In recent years, it has about a 0.90 correlation with DVOA, so we can use that as a rough guess of team strength in the earliest days of the league. When you start talking about "average performance" in a league where teams fold, merge, and form at the drop of a hat, you're getting into murky waters anyway; this is about as good as an approximation as we are going to get.

NFL Teams With 30+ Anti-Dynasty Points, 1920-2020
Seasons Team Years Anti
W L T Win% Last
1999-2019 Cleveland Browns 21 119 101 234 1 0.302 4 5 15 -16.6% -33.9%
1968-1986 New Orleans Saints 20 118 90 196 5 0.318 2 5 10 -12.7% -27.9%
1926-1945 Chicago Cardinals 20 115 59 142 15 0.308 6 6 9 -10.0% -33.6%
1985-2006 STL/PHX/ARI Cardinals 22 106 121 229 1 0.346 1 5 11 -20.4% -36.4%
1983-1996 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14 95 64 159 0 0.287 3 4 11 -24.4% -35.3%
1933-1942 Philadelphia Eagles 10 84 23 82 4 0.229 3 3 6 -21.1% -29.1%
1991-2002 Cincinnati Bengals 12 82 55 137 0 0.286 3 3 5 -22.1% -32.8%
2001-2015 Detroit Lions 15 82 78 162 0 0.325 1 4 9 -13.3% -34.9%
1960-1972 Denver Broncos 13 80 53 123 6 0.308 5 5 8 -14.8% -32.2%
1948-1958 Green Bay Packers 11 74 37 93 2 0.288 2 2 5 -19.6% -33.6%
2005-2016 STL/LA Rams 12 71 60 131 1 0.315 2 2 6 -18.8% -36.8%
2008-2020 Jacksonville Jaguars 13 68 64 144 0 0.308 2 2 7 -16.9% -30.7%
1971-1983 New York Giants 13 66 61 124 2 0.332 1 3 6 -14.1% -25.7%
1933-1941 Pittsburgh Steelers 9 65 25 71 6 0.275 2 2 5 -26.9% -33.6%
1978-1986 BAL/IND Colts 9 65 38 98 1 0.281 2 3 5 -21.8% -29.3%
1950-1959 Chicago Cardinals 10 62 33 84 3 0.288 4 4 7 -14.8% -21.8%
1923-1929 Dayton Triangles 7 59 5 42 4 0.137 3 3 3 -16.8% -23.5%
1967-1977 Philadelphia Eagles 11 59 48 100 6 0.331 1 2 6 -16.8% -25.0%
1957-1970 Washington Redskins 14 58 64 112 12 0.372 1 1 2 -12.8% -29.2%
1967-1975 New England Patriots 9 58 37 88 1 0.298 1 1 4 -23.5% -34.3%
1964-1971 Pittsburgh Steelers 8 56 30 79 3 0.281 1 1 3 -22.5% -28.6%
1967-1972 Buffalo Bills 6 55 17 64 3 0.220 2 2 2 -22.6% -25.1%
1990-1998 LA/STL Rams 9 54 45 99 0 0.313 0 2 8 -14.8% -18.9%
2003-2009 Oakland Raiders 7 54 29 83 0 0.259 2 2 5 -23.8% -28.7%
1983-1997 Atlanta Falcons 15 53 86 152 1 0.362 1 3 9 -10.4% -25.3%
1987-1996 New York Jets 10 50 54 104 1 0.343 2 3 5 -11.0% -22.2%
1959-1965 Los Angeles Rams 7 49 25 65 4 0.287 2 2 3 -8.4% -11.5%
1969-1975 Chicago Bears 7 47 28 69 1 0.291 1 1 6 -17.1% -21.1%
1981-1986 Houston Oilers 6 47 23 66 0 0.258 1 1 5 -27.0% -30.9%
2001-2013 Buffalo Bills 13 46 80 128 0 0.385 0 2 9 -8.0% -17.5%
1921-1930 Minneapolis Marines 6 44 6 33 3 0.179 1 1 1 -14.6% -18.3%
2011-2019 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9 44 49 95 0 0.340 1 1 7 -11.9% -24.6%
1970-1977 New York Jets 8 43 37 75 0 0.330 0 0 3 -17.6% -24.6%
1970-1973 Houston Oilers 4 42 9 45 2 0.179 1 1 1 -24.4% -19.5%
1989-1995 New England Patriots 7 42 35 77 0 0.313 2 2 2 -25.6% -32.9%
1997-2003 San Diego Chargers 7 42 35 77 0 0.313 2 2 6 -13.0% -18.8%
1973-1980 San Francisco 49ers 8 41 39 79 0 0.331 2 2 3 -7.9% -15.7%
1966-1970 Atlanta Falcons 5 40 16 51 3 0.250 2 2 2 -28.8% -28.8%
1942-1945 Brooklyn Dodgers 4 38 8 32 1 0.207 1 1 2 -22.8% -18.3%
1946-1949 Detroit Lions 4 37 10 37 0 0.213 2 2 3 -21.0% -16.8%
1970-1976 San Diego Chargers 7 37 30 63 5 0.332 1 1 4 -15.7% -20.4%
1931-1939 Brooklyn Dodgers 9 36 33 63 8 0.356 0 0 0 -17.5% -23.6%
1944-1948 Boston Yanks 5 36 14 38 3 0.282 0 0 2 -27.0% -27.0%
1974-1979 Kansas City Chiefs 6 36 28 60 0 0.318 1 2 4 -13.1% -15.2%
1984-1990 Detroit Lions 7 36 37 73 1 0.338 0 0 3 -13.9% -16.9%
2003-2010 San Francisco 49ers 8 36 46 82 0 0.359 1 1 2 -23.4% -34.3%
1921-1925 Rochester Jeffersons 5 35 2 24 2 0.107 4 4 4 -33.0% -33.0%
1982-1987 Buffalo Bills 6 35 27 61 0 0.307 2 2 2 -17.0% -21.7%
1960-1964 Dallas Cowboys 5 34 18 46 4 0.294 1 1 1 -17.8% -17.8%
2016-2020 New York Jets 5 34 23 57 0 .288 0 2 4 -23.8% -23.8%
1920-1926 Hammond Pros 7 33 7 28 4 0.231 2 2 2 -9.2% -14.9%
1973-1980 Green Bay Packers 8 33 42 72 4 0.373 0 0 3 -13.3% -19.4%
1976-1980 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5 33 22 53 1 0.296 2 2 4 -25.0% -25.0%
1983-1991 San Diego Chargers 9 33 55 88 0 0.385 0 0 5 -5.1% -11.5%
1994-2001 New Orleans Saints 8 32 49 79 0 0.383 0 2 3 -12.8% -20.6%
2002-2006 Houston Texans 5 32 24 56 0 0.300 1 1 4 -24.4% -24.4%
1920-1922 Columbus Panhandles 3 30 3 22 2 0.148 0 0 0 -22.2% -13.3%
2015-2018 San Francisco 49ers 4 30 17 47 0 0.266 0 1 3 -20.3% -16.2%

A wretched hive of scum and villainy, to be sure, and a pretty thorough accounting thereof. There are some individual terrible teams that don't make the list; no 1991 Colts or 2012 Chiefs to be found here. But if you're looking for the most painful stretches of football the last century has ever seen, they're all here.

The question now becomes how many anti-dynasty points are needed to really claim that your team is especially bad, and not just going through a run-of-the-mill transition. As always, we've gone for the big-tent approach—our net is cast wide enough to catch anyone who might conceivably qualify for worst-of-the-worst status. Where you draw the line between a generational disaster and just a run of poor luck is subjective. If you consider all 58 teams worthy of the title, that's an average of five or six teams in any given season fighting through a historic run of bad times. In 2005 and 2006, you had the Browns, Cardinals, Rams, Lions, Raiders, 49ers, Texans, and Bills all going through their own tough times—that's a quarter of the league. Would you really suggest that a full fourth of the league at any given point of the time is notably, historically terrible?

If, on the other hand, you're a small-tent guy, you might want to draw the line at 70 or 80 points, so there are only one or two anti-dynasties active at any point in time—if there's only one champion, there should only be one anti-champion. Symmetry and all that. The Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly 49ers were bad, but the Hue Jackson Browns just shake their head and sigh. If you've only been bad for a handful of years, hope springs eternal. Spend too long watching the Clevelands and Detroits of the world, and that hope gets beaten out of you—maybe that should be the dividing line.

Barring a metric for determining a fan base's hope, this ultimately comes down to personal preference. I don't view this as a binary yes/no thing; it's more of a gradual trend from unprecedented laughingstock down to more questionable candidates. If I had to draw a strict line somewhere, I think I would put it in the mid 50s, right between the early 1970s Patriots and late 1960s Steelers. While that leaves out a trio of decade-long disasters, that's the point where teams start flipping from "man, we've had a run of bad luck for a while, here" and "can't wait to see how we blow it this year." Putting the line there gives you two or three teams at the bottom in any given year and that does feel more or less right—but I prefer a gradient.

So, we have our list of anti-dynasties and near-misses. But we promise not just a list of teams from most to least anti-dynasty-esque. We said we were going to use DVOA to rank them by quality as well. We'll do that, as well as go deeper into the ins and outs of every team on this list, over the next few weeks—a deep dive into the most terrible franchises to ever take to the gridiron.


Alright, let's explain some of the choices up there, and exactly what does and does not count.

First of all, the anti-dynasty list raises a question that the dynasty list never had to deal with: what counts as a franchise? There are a number of teams in the 1920s and 1930s that can be linked together through franchise transfers and contract buyouts. You have merged teams in the 1940s due to World War II, leading to vastly different rosters and situations for teams. And if you start picking nits, maybe teams should be considered separate when they significantly relocate; were Phoenix fans particularly concerned with the fate of the St. Louis Cardinals before they moved? We need some guidelines to keep everyone straight.

I went with a three-legged approach. For a franchise to maintain continuity, it needs to keep at least two of the following three traits: personnel, identity, and fanbase. If your team keeps at least two of these, then they count as the same team. Sell all your players and bring in an entirely new roster for the next season? You're still the same team—heck, that's practically what this year's Houston Texans are doing, and no one claims they're a brand new franchise. Rebrand yourself? Well, no one's claiming the Washington Football Team is a brand new franchise just because they've changed their name. Switch fanbases? That happens every time a team relocates, but we're not calling the Oakland, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas Raiders different teams; there's enough continuity between them to count. But when you have a situation where the owners of the Dayton Triangles sold their franchise to some businessmen from Brooklyn, who then bought a second team and imported that roster to their new team, and rebranded the whole thing as the Brooklyn Dodgers? Sorry, that's too much change for my book. Similarly, we're counting the Baltimore Ravens as a new franchise—very few of their new fans in Baltimore were particularly concerned with how the team was doing in Cleveland before 1996, and they make no claim to the Otto Graham-era history; if anything, they're more likely to claim Baltimore Colts history as their own. New franchise, new start, no carryover.

You may notice this leaves one problem: the New Browns. We have them listed as 1999-2019, but under the rules we've laid out, the 1995 season should get tacked on too; a vestigial lump of Belichickian failure grafted to the more coherent history of the reborn Brownies. And you know what? You're right—by the strict definition above, the 1995 Browns should be included, bumping their anti-dynasty points to 125 and further cementing them as the top team on the table above. After all, the Browns never stopped existing—part of the agreement when Art Modell left town was that the Browns would resume play in 1999, be it by expansion team or relocated franchise. And you could make a strong argument that the fans hurt by the 1995 Browns were the fans hurt by the 1999 Browns; Brownie fandom didn't go anywhere during the three-year interregnum.

And, in fact, I did make a number of those strong arguments, but ultimately, Football Outsiders traditionally considers the Old Browns and the New Browns to be two separate franchises. And, since the Browns are in first place on this list whether or not you include 1995, and they remain in the same position in the ultimate rankings whether or not you include 1995, it's sort of a moot point. No sense going to war over whether the Browns should have a winning percentage of .303 or .302. Arguments about whether or not this is typical FO protection of the legacy of Bill Belichick can be made in the comments.

When it comes to counting last-place teams, I'm not using tiebreakers. Fans of the 2015 3-13 Cleveland Browns generally did not think that man, it was a tough year, but at least we had a better strength of schedule than the 3-13 Tennessee Titans. The league may only crown one champion, but there's plenty of room for multiple teams at the bottom. The same is true for conference and divisional last-place finishers when applicable; the 2018 Raiders and Jets can share the title of worst team in the AFC at 4-12.

Before 1972, ties were not counted in the standings. We are retroactively counting ties as a half-win for the purposes of winning percentage, but we are not counting them when it comes to determining last-place finishes. The 3-9 1947 Lions did not consider themselves tied with the 2-8-2 Giants at the bottom of the league standings, and we're not going to try to make them feel bad about that 75 years later.

The merged World War II teams count for both teams involved: the 1943 Steagles are both the Steelers and Eagles, 1944 Card-Pitt is both the Steelers and Cardinals, and the 1945 Yanks are both the Tigers and Yanks. Two of those teams feature prominently in the countdown; the third throws some interesting wrenches.

Both the NFL and AFL count for this list, but no other leagues—no AAFC, no USFL, no CFL, no WFL, neither XFL. The NFL does not consider the AAFC part of its history despite the 49ers and Browns coming from it, so rest easy, Chicago Rockets—you escape. For now.


No system is perfect, and this one is no exception. Trying to figure out how to compare the ragtag teams of semi-pro high school kids of the 1920s to lumbering, overpaid sloths of 2020 is a ludicrously difficult task. There had to be some accounting for teams that played a handful of games and then exited the league. If we took every record at face value, and prorated them all to 16-game seasons, then the greatest anti-dynasty of all time would be the 1920-1921 Muncie Flyers. The Flyers played three AFPA games over two seasons, losing 45-0, 14-0 and 14-0, and putting up estimated DVOAs of -106.1% and -88.9%. Calling them the worst team of all time, while probably factually accurate, is uninteresting—obviously, a semi-pro team occasionally dabbling against pro teams is going to be bad. That's not interesting, other than as a brief footnote. In fact, if you don't prorate things at all, the top 10 would be entirely terrible 1920s teams—the 1-12 Louisville Brecks would be make the table, the Minneapolis Marines would be fighting for the very top spot, and so on and so forth. Writing about seasons in the 1920s and trying to give it Football Outsiders-style analysis would actually be a heck of a fun side project, but a top 10 of teams most people have never heard of, much less seen, is not a fun way to end a list like this.

There was a lot of trial and error trying to handle teams with partial seasons from the days of the single wing—adding arbitrary games of .500 ball, prorating different seasons of different lengths at different weights, and so on and so forth. Ultimately, counting any team with single-digit games played as only worth partial credit ended up producing the most aesthetically appealing list, and had the added benefit of being simple. It does mean that the 1920s and 1930s teams included aren't really the worst teams of their era; they're just the worst teams that were well-managed enough to stick around. It seems rather strange to be applauding teams for making a list of terrible franchises, but lasting long enough that we can get a relatively accurate picture of just how bad you actually were is an accomplishment. A bad one, but an accomplishment notwithstanding.

The teams that made the dynasty list were pretty spread out over the history of the league. There's always a champion, after all, so someone was racking in the maximum points, regardless of whether they had to beat seven other teams to it or 31. But there's no limit to how many teams can be horrible in any given season! Because we have the same number of teams on both lists, that means that the anti-dynasty teams are roughly evenly spaced after adjusting for league size. At any given point, roughly a quarter of the league is on the list. That means we're weighted more for modern teams than we are for classic teams, because a quarter of 32 is a larger number than a quarter of 12, mathematically speaking. I'm alright with this in the long run, but it's worth keeping in mind. The NFL didn't suddenly gain a bunch of terrible teams when the 1970s expansion happened; they simply had more teams which had the possibility for terribleness.

That being said, there are two eras which stand as being particularly loaded with entries. From 1933 to 1939, there are four anti-dynasties in a league with only 11 teams or less. From 1970 to 1975, there are 10 to 12 active anti-dynasties in a league with only 26 teams. That's a lot, but those might well be the two eras with the least parity in the history of the league. By the 1930s, teams had settled down enough so that they weren't folding left and right, but rules to attempt to keep a fair playing field throughout the league hadn't been invented yet. The Great Depression meant a number of owners tried to cut costs wherever they could. There wasn't a common draft until 1936, so bad teams had to try to outbid the wealthier and more established Giants, Bears, and Packers for talent. The idea that the league would give bad teams extra help to one day become good teams wasn't really a concept, and so there were massive gaps between the haves and have-nots. As for the 1970s, that was the era when dinosaurs roamed the league. Between the Steel Curtain Steelers, the America's Team Cowboys, John Madden's Raiders, the Purple People Eater Vikings, the 17-0 Dolphins, and so on and so forth, there just weren't many wins to go around for the bottom-feeders of the league. For every team winning 80%, 90%, 100% of their games, someone has to be losing in large amounts. I'm alright with the 1970s being overrepresented here; it was a terrible time for competitive football on the whole.


39 comments, Last at 07 Jun 2021, 6:08pm

#1 by Travis // Jun 02, 2021 - 11:08am

Why didn't the 2016-2020 Jets (23-57, no winning seasons) make the list of teams with 30+ anti-dynasty points?

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#3 by Bryan Knowles // Jun 02, 2021 - 1:15pm

In reply to by Travis

You're absolutely right.  I started this project in 2019 alongside the Dynasty project, updated all the active anti-dynasty teams when I went to write this year's pieces...and didn't add the 2020 Jets to the table, as their 2-14 pushed them over the 30-point line.

I suppose it wouldn't be an article about the NFL's biggest failures without a screw-up somewhere!

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#9 by Travis // Jun 02, 2021 - 1:39pm

Shouldn't they have 34 points, not 32?

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#2 by TimK // Jun 02, 2021 - 1:06pm

Might this be making a comeback, please?

Also, I hope "the mid-1950s, right between the early 1970s Patriots and late 1960s Steelers." is supposed to read "the mid 50's..." as that makes far more sense once I checked against the table.

Thanks for this, looking forward to it, and pleased (I guess) to see the early Broncos in a well earned top 10 position.

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#4 by Bryan Knowles // Jun 02, 2021 - 1:15pm

Back, bigger and badder than ever!

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#5 by TimK // Jun 02, 2021 - 1:18pm

Cool, it is literally, the only fantasy sports of any kind I've taken part in ;)

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#6 by All Is On // Jun 02, 2021 - 1:26pm

I would argue that playoff success should be considered for ending an anti-dynasty. I think maybe it only affects a few teams on the list. I would argue that the #sacksonville Jags ended their run of futility. They made the AFC Championship Game! Their fans had a year of something legitimate to root for. I think there's a conceptual problem with a system that could define an anti-dynasty that sneaks into the playoffs at 9-7, wins it all on a fluke run, and reverts back to being 7-9 the next year.

I would suggest a small modification that an anti-dynasty ends if a team appears in the second round of the playoffs. If a team has literally any playoff success (i.e. they didn't make the tournament and get dispatched in the first round) or secures a bye in the regular season, that resets the futility meter.

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#10 by Bryan Knowles // Jun 02, 2021 - 2:05pm

These are fair arguments, and certainly things that were considered when compiling the list.  It's certainly defensible, and fixes a few teams -- but it also creates problems elsewhere.

The 1998 Cardinals were 9-7, with a -17.8% DVOA.  They slipped into the playoffs and upset the Dallas Cowboys in the Wild Card round.  It was also certainly a fluke; Arizona was in the middle of a run where they had 9 double-digit loss seasons in 12 years.  A fluky win over the Cowboys shouldn't be enough to make up for decades of futility, especially with a DVOA that bad and without future success to back it up.

You'd also get problems with the 1981 Giants (9-7 with a -7.4% DVOA, upset the Eagles in the Wild Card round).  It's a stronger argument that teams that reach the conference championship should get special recognition (the 2017 Jaguars and 1979 Buccaneers being the two of note), but a single playoff win resetting the meter has issues.

The other problem is we're talking about a system that stretches over a century, and is intended to stretch forward to absorb different sizes of league and schedule.  So defining something by "second round of the playoffs" is a difficult proposition.  Today that's the divisional round, but in the '70s, that would have been the conference championships, and who's to say one of those teams wouldn't have pulled off an upset in an earlier playoff round?  The 1998 Cardinals getting a chance to clear their name where, say, the 7-7 1974 Jets or 6-6 1936 Pirates didn't simply because of the size of the postseason doesn't really work for me.  And what if the NFL were to expand to a 24-team postseason in the future, adding an extra round of the playoffs?  Or a format where every team gets an elimination game; some kind of knock-out round before the main playoffs begin? 

Now, a possible change would be to give teams credit for wins in the postseason as if they were extra wins in the regular season -- so, treating the 2017 Jaguars like they were 12-6 or 12-7 instead of 10-6.  That wouldn't end their run; the Jaguars had had way too much failure beforehand for one year to clear it out.  And then you get questions about whether you count the championship loss as a loss, and if so, do you count all playoff as losses, and if so, is that unfair to a 7-9 team that slips in to the wildcard round and gets crushed, and so on and so forth.

And then, you have the issue that you'd have one Jags anti-dynasty ending in 2016, and another (presumably) beginning in 2018.  With many of the same players and personnel involved in each.  That feels weird as well; we don't consider the 49ers' dynasty to not include 1982 because they missed the postseason after their first Super Bowl win, and we group the 2001 Patriots in with the rest of the 2000s teams, at the very least, despite the half-step back in 2002.  It seems the same should apply to anti-dynasties; one good year should not necessarily end a massive run, even if it's really, really good.


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#15 by All Is On // Jun 02, 2021 - 4:28pm

Thanks for the consideration.

I think I'm aligned on your argument that one playoff win shouldn't reset things, but I do still think that something like a conference championship should. And I don't think the parallel to one-off bad years for dynasties holds up. Does any Patriots fan remember the 2002 team? Do 49ers fans remember the '82 team? Or to put it contemporary terms, if this year's 49ers team bounces back with 11 or 12 wins and some playoff success, is anyone five years from now going to remember last year's deeply-cursed team? I'd argue no on all counts - the good years drown out the bad. But I'm not sure the reverse is symmetrically true. A Jags fan in '21 still has that #sacksonville run to kind of tide them over. It's now apparent it was a fluke, but a success-fluke sticks in your mind as a fan in a way that a failure-fluke wouldn't. Personally, I'm not bothered by potential personnel overlap between eras. I seem to recall some of that sort of thing happening on the dynasty side of the equation as well.

Anyway, even if a digital reset based on some threshold doesn't make sense, I would argue that fully ignoring the playoffs doesn't either. Your idea of counting playoff wins as part of the record helps smooth over some of the cases, in my opinion. I wouldn't count the playoff loss to avoid penalizing those 7-9 teams that you mention - making the playoffs and losing in the first round is better than missing with the same record, IMO.

This is all really just picking nits - I think this is fun and cool overall. Cheers!

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#17 by Bryan Knowles // Jun 02, 2021 - 4:33pm

Oh, this entire exercise is about picking nits -- and spawning exactly this sort of conversation.  What does count as a terrible run?  How many good years can you have before they blank out the pain of so many losing years?  Is a run like #Sacksonville's actually a comfort, or a cruel tease as poor year after poor year follows it up?  There's no clear answer to any of this, and the point is the argument, and not the answer.  It's fun to think about!

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#27 by DisplacedPackerFan // Jun 03, 2021 - 10:02pm

I'm firmly on the side that playoff wins should definitely erase some anti-dynasty points. But how to account them depends on how you are actually doing calculations because your words do not match your examples.

So I have some confusion in your methodology though. You say:

If you had a winning record, you get negative anti-dynasty points for your number of games above .500—squared.

So I would expect a 10-6 team, who finished 2 games above .500 to lose 4 futility points as 2^2 = 4. 11-5 would lose 3^2 = 9, 12-4 would be 4^2 = 16 and it would take 16-0 to get 8^2 = 64.

A 9-7 season is only worth -4 anti-dynasty points, but it starts escalating very quickly—10-6 will lose you 16, 11-5 will cost you 36, and 12-4 will wipe out 64 anti-dynasty points in one go.

Those examples you give are differences in wins and losses squared. You say 10-6 would lose you 16. So 10 - 6 = 4 and 4^2 = 16. But that is not wins above .500 that is win loss differential squared.  So I'm really curious how you actually calculated things. If you're still doing it from a spreadsheet are you doing (W-L)^2 or are you doing (W - ( (W+L)/2 ) )^2, the later is wins over .500 squared.


The examples you give make playoff wins simple, just tack those on, ignore the losses. The 2020 Bucs are 15-5, so that would wipe out 100 futility points. If you do it as wins above .500 squared then 15-5 is only 5 wins above the .500 mark of 10 for a 20 game season and it only wipes out 25 futility points. I'm for playoff wins erasing more though. So if you keep your .500 baseline from the regular season then they are 7 games above the 8 win line that is .500 for a 16 game season and that wipes out 49 futility points, and in this case would reset their Anti-Dynasty.

Using full records (regular season + playoffs) doesn't have an effect on a 9-7 team that goes 1-1 in the playoffs they end up 10-8 which is the same results. So they don't get penalized for actually doing something in the playoffs, fluky or not a playoff win means something to a fan base that is dealing with continual ineptitude. Also a 9-7 team that ends up 9-8 wipes less futility points than the 9-7 team that didn't make the playoffs. The point is the playoffs should erase more futility.

You covered the 2017 Jacksonville team. The 10-6, 2-1 postseason record doesn't clean the slate you say, and I'm OK with that. But if they won the Super Bowl that year so we are looking at 14-6, instead of 12-7 or 12-6 does that clean it? That's 64 futility points wiped out by your example calcs, 16 by the verbiage method. I'm OK if the Super Bowl win would have cleared it. I'm OK if just making the Super Bowl cleared it too. I'm also fine with 12-6 and losing in the Conference Championship doesn't.

I'm perfectly fine with a Super Bowl win stopping the clock. I mean that's what the fans want, and it buys a lot of good will. Probably in the ballpark of 10 years. I'm OK if the team was so bad and then craters and continues to be so bad that a Super Bowl doesn't stop it either. If you are so bad that wiping out 100 futility points in a single year doesn't get you back to 0, then yeah that needs to be noted.

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#28 by Bryan Knowles // Jun 04, 2021 - 3:47am

You're right; it's technically "difference between wins and losses".  I suppose I should have written "games over/under .500" rather than "wins over/under .500", for precisely this reason, but even that can cause confusion (see: like, two dozen threads on Reddit arguing over the definition of "games over .500" in regards to baseball).  I've edited that for clarity.

Alright, that aside...

The Jaguars had 60 anti-dynasty points entering the 2017 season, so a 14-6 season, clearing 64 points from the margin would have indeed cleared the ledger entirely.  That isn't a terrible way to do it, honestly.  And if the Jaguars were a little more like Tampa Bay, the argument would be even stronger.

In reality, the Jaguars cleared 16 points from their record, and have added 24 since then, so they're in a worse place than they were before their playoff run.  Contrast that with the other team to make a conference championship game, the 1970s Buccaneers.  They, too, cleared 16 points from their ledger, but still had some negative points to burn off.  The difference there is that the Buccaneers managed to clear it off entirely after a couple more seasons.

I think that's a pretty good way of determining whether one successful year was a fluke or something sustainable.  The Buccaneers didn't get back to zero after their conference championship, but they never climbed back to their high-water point afterwards, even if it took a couple years to put together enough success to get back to zero entirely.   The Jags got their good year, but didn't build anything off of it; I think that's enough of a difference to justify their run continuing, even if it's only really something you can view in hindsight.

In fact, only three teams on the list ended up with their high point coming before their final year playing: the 2001-2015 Lions (high point: 2010; the up-and-down Jim Schwartz years still come out as a net positive), the 1976-1980 Buccaneers (high point: 1978; going from 0-26 to a conference championship game in two years is shocking) and the 1994-2001 Saints (high point: 1999; Jim Haslett had one 7-9 year to keep things going a bit longer than they otherwise should have).  I strongly considered having the final line be "the season you hit your high point", thus trimming those last extra years from each run; their successful playoff seasons in 2011, 1979 and 2000 didn't lead to immediate turn-around success, but that success came sooner rather than later.  In the end, I kept those extra years and just talked about those cutoffs in the text -- but I think that, if anything, is the 'fix' I would make to determine which one-off playoff teams deserve to have their records cleared and which are fluky enough to ignore.


As for a Super Bowl title automatically clearing a run?  I could get behind it.  It's never come up, so I didn't have to make a ruling on it, and I do always love not making a ruling on things.  My brain jumps to the hypothetical of a team going 0-16 (or 0-17, sassafrassa) for a decade, having a miracle Super Bowl run, and then going 0-17 (or 0-16!) for a decade afterwards -- obviously never going to happen, but if we're talking about a Super Bowl clearing the boards ~no matter what~, it's not too difficult to come up with at least a hypothetical counterexample which at least calls it into question.  For a slightly less theoretical example, lets say Brady had retired after 2020, and the Buccaneers fell right back into their 2010s doldrums.  Is the 2020 title enough to break up a couple decades of poor play on either side?  I don't know!  I haven't had to make the ruling yet.   Go Buccaneers, 'cause if you keep winning, I don't have to think anymore.

That being said, I'm always tweaking these things.  When/if I ever do an update to the dynasty rankings from last year, I may have to decide what to do with the Saints.  They keep winning their division with great win-loss records and fantastic DVOAs, and then get wiped out in the postseason.  I was fine with the late 2000s Chargers or Marty Schottenheimer's Chiefs ranking low on the list without any Super Bowl appearances, because they were fun to talk about and no one really cares who ranks 52nd or whatever.  But a team maybe poking into the top 25, top 20, without ever getting out of their half of the postseason bracket?  No no no.  I may have to rejigger the scoring system to penalize teams for never making the title game or something.  And I will!  When I re-write the thing in...oh, let's say a decade or so.

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#32 by DisplacedPackerFan // Jun 04, 2021 - 1:33pm

Yeah I don't have an issue with the methodology just wanted to make sure I was understanding it. They way you calculate it makes playoff wins wipe futility points even faster. I'm good with that and it doesn't add in any automatic rules. It still allows for a crappy team to have one magical season and still be in the throws of Dynastic Ineptitude. But you need to be pretty crappy for a Super Bowl win to not fix things. I mean you have to follow it up with a losing a season and have a big enough margin. With the new 17 (bleh) game schedule some 8-9 team could get in, get lucky and end up winning it all at 12-9. That's only going to wipe 9 futility points and that isn't going to get them out of it. Which I think would be fine, as well as hilarious.

I think the simplest solution is just to add the post season wins on, ignore the postseason losses and carry on. So the Buccs are clear now even if they crater again. For that particular team that seems appropriate too. They actually did things to try and make that happen and had a non losing season, and were 7-9 the year before. Jacksonville in the world where they manage to win it all would have cleared out all their futility points too. I'm OK with that, even given how things have played out since then. Two Dynasty of Ineptitude with a single year splitting them because they managed to win it all once feels very Jacksonville to me. 

Interestingly Cleveland has been so bad for so long that even had they been the 15-5 Super Bowl champs of the 2020 season erasing 100 points of futility from their ledger wouldn't have stopped the dynasty. Which I think is awesome and appropriate. As I said I'm OK with a Super Bowl win not being an automatic new start, but I think it should be hard for that not to wipe out past futility. I think Cleveland does a good job of illustrating how much futility you have to have for that to be the case.  

Not having to make a ruling is the best option though, I agree with you there.

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#11 by BJR // Jun 02, 2021 - 2:49pm

Yes, the article itself suggests that the Bucs Super Bowl win this year isn't enough to clear their current anti-dynasty ledger, which is a little absurd. 

I might go further and suggest that any winning season ends it automatically. Sure, you'd end up splitting the Browns' (and others) long reigns, which slightly spoils the narrative. But I'm more interested in spells of outright awfulness than mid/long term bleh. Though that is obviously just a personal preference on my part. 

Great work otherwise though, really enjoy this sort of content.

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#20 by LionInAZ // Jun 03, 2021 - 12:35am

A Super Bowl win should not automatically erase past faults. Too many random elements can lead to a Super Bowl run by a team that isn't even recognized as the best in the league. If the Bucs were to collapse next year, how would you view this exercise?

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#29 by BJR // Jun 04, 2021 - 9:53am

My interpretation is that this is more a bit of fun than a serious exercise. If we wanted to be really serious about it, we wouldn't use W/L records at all; we have DVOA, which is a much better gauge of team strength after all.

Sure, a team could cobble together a Super Bowl run in the middle of an otherwise barren stretch (this is certainly conceivable for the Bucs - lets say Brady collapses/gets injured next year, then retires, they could easily return quickly to the doldrums). But for fans - yeah - a Super Bowl win is sure gunna erase a lot of bad memories. I think that is more what we are looking at here. Again, just my take.

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#7 by serutan // Jun 02, 2021 - 1:26pm

Was half expecting the Steelers to be 1933- 1971. Interesting.

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#12 by Scott P. // Jun 02, 2021 - 3:05pm

the 1921 0-1 Tonawanda Kardex

Now you're just picking random names from The Mandalorian

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#13 by Bryan Knowles // Jun 02, 2021 - 3:23pm

The 1921 Tonawanda Kardex played one game -- a 45-0 loss to the Rochester Jeffersons.  That was the extent of their NFL (or rather, AFPA) history; they had had some success in the semi-pro New York Pro Football League in years prior.

That one loss gives them an SRS-to-DVOA conversion of -103.7%, which is not the worst SRS-to-DVOA estimate ever.  That belongs to the 1920 Muncie Flyers, who played one game against the Rock Island Independents and lost 45-0.  That gets them an SRS-to-DVOA conversion of -106.1%, the lowest ever recorded.

Most of the worst seasons of all time don't end up qualifying for this list; those 1920s teams are bad enough they just leave before they can qualify.  But, for the record, here are the worst 14 DVOAs, Estimated DVOAs, and SRS-to-DVOAs of all time:


1. 1920 Muncie Flyers (0-1, -106.1%)
2. 1921 Tonawanda Kardex (0-1, -103.7%)
3. 1923 Rochester Jeffersons (0-4, -91.6%)
4. 1921 Muncie Flyers (0-2, -88.9%)
5. 1922 Louisville Brecks (1-3, -87.8%)
6. 1921 New York Brickley Giants (0-2, -81.6%)
7. 1921 Cincinnati Celts (1-3, -69.0%)
8. 1921 Louisville Brecks (0-2, -68.7%)
8. 1922 Evansville Crimson Giants (0-3, -68.2%)
10. 1923 Louisville Brecks (0-3, -67.7%)
11. 1934 Cincinnati Reds (0-8, -66.3%) 
12. 1925 Milwaukee Badgers (0-6, -64.7%)
13. 1927 Buffalo Bilsons (0-5, -60.7%)
14. 2005 San Francisco 49ers (4-12, -57.7%)

The 1934 Reds are my personal choice for worst team of all time; those very early 1920s teams suffer from both questionable sample sizes and the inherent difficulty of defining "average" in a league that's constantly fluctuating and hasn't defined what professionalism is yet.  But those '34 Reds not only went 0-8, they were shutout in six games.  Their last four games saw them lose 41-0, 41-7, 38-0 and 64-0.  They allowed 6.4 yards per carry; no other team in history has allowed more than five.  They had their franchise rights removed two-thirds of the way through the season, with a team from St. Louis being brought in to finish their schedule.  I wish, wish, wish they had lasted more than two seasons so I could have written an entry on them; I very nearly broke my own rules to do so.  Instead, I am leaving this comment.

Points: 0

#22 by David // Jun 03, 2021 - 8:51am

I hadn't heard of the Reds, so I'm not disputing your conclusion, but the 2005 49ers are so abysmal that 80 years of professional development were wiped out.

Just a special, special group

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#23 by Aaron Schatz // Jun 03, 2021 - 9:51am

The amazing thing about the 49ers as the worst team in DVOA history (since 1983, at least) is that they won four games. All by less than a touchdown. They just got absolutely keelhauled in many of their other games. Four different starting quarterbacks including the immortal Cody Pickett.

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#26 by Bryan Knowles // Jun 03, 2021 - 1:50pm

Oh, we'll ~get~ to them.  I have words for the 49ers, don't you worry.

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#24 by muscle417 // Jun 03, 2021 - 11:46am

Whose founder's great-granddaughter went on to star in the 00's teen drama "The O.C."

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#14 by Chuckc // Jun 02, 2021 - 4:23pm

I can't agree with the 1995 Browns being linked with the current version. There is nothing tying those two teams together. That team became the Ravens. The new Browns are a whole new franchise.

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#30 by apk3000 // Jun 04, 2021 - 11:36am

Does anyone except the NFL record book pretend the old and new Browns aren't different franchises?

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#33 by Bryan Knowles // Jun 04, 2021 - 1:43pm

Well, the Browns pretend they're the same franchise.  They have all the championship banners and the throwback jerseys and reference Otto Graham and all that stuff.

It's also worth noting that the Browns technically never stopped existing.  Part of the deal for the Ravens to leave town was that the Browns would reform in 1999, either as an expansion team or a relocated team.  It's not like, say, if the NBA decided to revive the Sonics a decade+ after the Thunder left town; Browns fans always had a season to look forward to -- it was just a couple years in the future.

You could make an argument that it's somewhat akin to the Cleveland Rams, who skipped the 1943 season for monetary/manpower reasons.  Or a number of other teams in the 1920s, who went temporarily defunct -- the Canton Bulldogs, the Cleveland Bulldogs, the Minneapolis Marines, the Racine Legion and the Buffalo Bisons.  In a list where we're trying to compare 1920s teams to 2020s teams, I think you can justify applying old-timey standards to modern squads.


In fact, the Canton/Cleveland Bulldogs is a pretty much direct antecedent.  A couple people from Cleveland bought the rights to the Canton franchise, and moved them to Cleveland.  A few years later, some people from Canton bought the rights back, reforming the Canton Bulldogs, but the Cleveland Bulldogs also continued to play in the league for a couple more years.  So it wasn't even the first time Cleveland had had these sorts of issues.

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#34 by Joey-Harringto… // Jun 04, 2021 - 2:27pm

Wasn't there a prior Baltimore Colts, who folded, and then re-appeared again a few years later (in the early 50's, maybe?)

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#35 by Bryan Knowles // Jun 04, 2021 - 2:40pm

There were, but those two have always been considered separate franchises.  The 1950 Colts were a team brought over from the AAFC.  The 1953 Colts were a new expansion team, stocked with the roster from the folded 1952 Dallas Texans, which were a relocated New York Yanks, which were a renamed New York Bulldogs, which was a new franchise founded from the assets of the defunct Boston Yanks, which had the players from the Brooklyn Tigers after merging in World War II, which was the renamed Brooklyn Dodgers, who were a relocated Dayton Triangles with the players from the Newark/Orange Tornadoes.

...We get in to that a bit later in the countdown.

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#18 by Seattle-Brian // Jun 02, 2021 - 6:05pm

The final two columns are described as:

"Finally, you have their DVOAs—both the average across the entire run of the era, as well as the average of their top five seasons."

Did you mean 'bottom' five seasons?

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#19 by Seattle-Brian // Jun 02, 2021 - 6:12pm

Maybe they should have tried basketball instead? Phil Jackson had a bit of success with the triangle. This absolutely needs to be discussed/dissected in Part V.

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#21 by LionInAZ // Jun 03, 2021 - 12:37am

Seems to me that by any standard, the Cardinals have to be the sorriest team in the history of the NFL.

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#25 by fmtemike // Jun 03, 2021 - 1:28pm

Those Rams were a quarterbacking hoot. Not only did Wade win a championship with the Bears, Dr. Frank Ryan (one of two NFL QB of the era who had PHDs) won the only Jim Brown/not Otto Graham championship w the Browns. Of course both Halas Bears and Jim Brown Browns were run-first teams.
Bob Waterfield might well have been jealous if hiswife were making eyes at Roman Gabriel --his wife was actress Jane Russell. Weirdly there was a rumor in the late 60s that Gabriel, Rock Hudson & Jim Nabors were in a menage a trois!
Terry Baker was a QB who had been a single wing TB until his senior year in college. The Niners Billy Kilmer had also played TB at UCLA

They werent QBs but the Chargers front four w Ernie Ladd, Earl Faison, Hudson and Nery were called the fearsome foursome before the Rams stole the nickname

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#36 by st8omnd // Jun 06, 2021 - 6:55pm

In a way, I am disappointed that the Washington Redskins (Football Team) are listed only once. As a diehard Skins/WFT fan, I can't believe that the Dan Snyder/Bruce Allen era, particularly in the last 10 years or so, doesn't deserve at least an honorable mention. The way Snyder has all but destroyed a dynasty should be considered a Class 1 Felony, punishable by enforced selling of the team and a life-time banishment from the NFL. I know your statistical method wouldn't support them being on the list, but I feel much better for venting. Thank you.

Points: 0

#37 by Bryan Knowles // Jun 07, 2021 - 3:16am

Venting is what we're here for!

Dan Snyder bought the Washington Football Team in 1999, and things went OK...for a while.  Lots of 8-8 seasons; an occasional dip into double-digit losses, no big deal.

The 2009-2014 squads (so surrounding the Shanahan/Griffin years) did start to rack up negative points at an alarming rate.  If you ignore 2012, that would have been an anti-dynasty, but the 10-6 season there capped it at 20 anti-dynasty points; 10 short of the list.

They're building again, though.  They added points last season despite making the playoffs; no bonus points for a 7-9 team winning a garbage division.  They're currently sitting on 16 anti-dynasty points; a zero- or one-win season would be enough to put the 2017-2021 Washington team on the list.  So they're on Anti-Dynasty watch.


In fact, while I'm thinking about, here's every franchise's current anti-dynasty points:

199(5/9)-2019 Browns: 89/83 (Depending on whether you count 1995 or not; 2020 was their first strike, knocking them down from 125/119)
2008-2020 Jaguars: 68
2016-2020 Jets: 34
2011-2019 Buccaneers: 8 (2020 was their first strike, knocking them down from 44)
--------Cutoff line for active anti-dynasties--------
2017-2020 Giants: 28 (must go 7-10 to qualify in 2021)
2016-2020 Bengals: 28 (7-10)
2018-2020 Lions: 19 (2-15)
2017-2020 Broncos: 18 (2-15)
2017-2020 Football Team: 16 (1-16)
2016-2019 Cardinals: 16 (2020 was their first strike) (1-16)
2018-2019 Panthers: 14 (0-17)
2017-2019 Raiders: 14 (2020 was their first strike) (0-17)
---------Cutoff line for hitting 30 in 2021------------
2018-2020 Falcons: 12
2019-2020 Chargers: 8
2020-2020 Texans: 8
2020-2020 Eagles: 7
2020-2020 Cowboys: 4
2020-2020 49ers: 4
2020-2020 Vikings: 2
2020-2020 Patriots: 2

Teams with 0:

Points: 0

#38 by Joey-Harringto… // Jun 07, 2021 - 3:51pm

Thanks for compiling this list!  I'm actually surprised the Lions only have 19 active points, because the Patricia years have seemed like such an abject catastrophe.  But I guess there's only so much damage one coach can do over only 3 seasons.

Points: 0

#39 by Bryan Knowles // Jun 07, 2021 - 6:07pm

Precisely, and with no real negatives leftover from the Caldwell area, it would have taken something special to get onto the list after just three seasons.  That's one bad coach, as opposed to a longer-term problem.

You CAN qualify for the list in just two seasons -- one win in two years does it, at least in the double-digit game era.  The only teams to pull that feat off were Hue Jackson's 1-31 Browns in 2016-17 and the 1943-44 Chicago Cardinals (and Card-Pitt), who went 0-20.  Both of those teams were already well qualified for the list before that happened.

The requirements are a little easier to have done it in three years, though still quite difficult.  The Lions would have pulled that off in 2008-2010 with a 8-40 record, giving them 32 anti-dynasty points and just pipping them over the line.  By comparison, 14-33-1 doesn't feel quite so bad.

Points: 0

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