While it is easy for sports fans to remember the best football seasons in history, like the incredible season the Miami Dolphins had in 1972, they’re not all winners. In fact, some seasons of NFL football have been downright embarrassing. We’re talking about the years when the team could barely muster up a handful of wins, and even their successes were tough to watch. Today, we’re going to tell you about some of the most embarrassing football seasons in history.
Since “embarrassing” can be a relative term, 24/7 Tempo looked at several metrics, including the teams that had the lowest winning percentage during a season, the teams that had incredible promise but fell flat, and those that could have been but never were. To compile our list, we looked at several sources, including ESPN, Bleacher Report, and Total Pro Sports, among others. We hope you enjoy this look at the most embarrassing football seasons, and we’re sorry if this list brings back sad memories. (For more sports-related blunders, click to read about the most embarrassing records in sports history.)
Dallas Cowboys 1989 Season
- Record That Year: 1-15
- Coach: Jimmy Johnson
While there is still plenty of room for improvement, the Dallas Cowboys are generally a good football team as it stands right now. However, they’ve had their ups and downs, and perhaps their lowest point was 1989 when they won only one single game. This was right after the team was purchased by current owner Jerry Jones, and they had all-time-great NFL coach Jimmy Johnson on the sidelines. While that may seem like a recipe for success today, in the early stages of 1989, it was a mess.
They lost game after game, and things got so desperate that they even traded away Herschel Walker, which proved to be a mistake. It was truly one of the most embarrassing football seasons, but there was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Soon after that, the Cowboys were able to win three Super Bowl wins in the span of four years, and many of the players and members of the coaching staff have been remembered fondly since.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1976 Season
- Record That Year: 0-14
- Coach: John McKay
It was in 1976 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers debuted as part of the National Football League, and it was a disaster. They simply could not get their team and staff to work as one, and they went down in history for it. During that year, the Bucs had various disappointments. They were shut out five times, they lost eight games by at least 20 points, and they only played three games that were decided by seven points or less. Even worse, they never scored more than 20 points in a game during that season. Sadly, they averaged just 8.9 points per game.
That was not the end of their dark times in the NFL. All in all, the Buccaneers lost their first 26 games before finally squeaking out a win against the New Orleans Saints on Dec. 11, 1977. That first Buccaneers season was also noteworthy because it was the first completely winless season since 1944 when there were only ten games in a season.
Detroit Lions 2008 Season
- Record That Year: 0-16
- Coach: Rod Marinelli
Although they had a great 2023 season and made it to the postseason for the first time in ages, success is a relatively new flavor for the Lions in recent years. For a long time, they were considered to be one of the worst teams in a division where the Green Bay Packers ruled supreme. Nothing was worse for them in recent memory than their abysmal 2008 season.
That was one of their worst NFL seasons, and it was the first winless season since the NFL season transitioned to having 16 regular season games. The team simply could not get anything going that year, which was surprising since the year previous, they had at least mustered a 7-9 record. It’s also surprising, considering that they went 4-0 during the pre-season that year. The team is doing better now, but many former players will never live down that memory.
Carolina Panthers 2001 Season
- Record That Year: 1-15
- Coach: George Seifert
This was one of the worst seasons in the history of the Carolina Panthers, who are often an up-and-down team that have great seasons in between some that aren’t so great. The team won only a single game that year, and it was the season’s very first game. After that, it all went downhill. As a bonus, the team also set the record for the most consecutive losses at that time. That streak wasn’t broken until the other embarrassing football seasons of the 2008 Lions and the 2017 Cleveland Browns. The season was so bad that fans stopped showing up to games, and the audience was pitiful during their final loss of the season to the New England Patriots. As a result of that season, the head coach was fired.
Cleveland Browns 2017 Season
- Record That Year: 0-16
- Coach: Hue Jackson
Speaking of the Cleveland Browns, they make history as the most recent team to lose every single game in a season and only the second team to lose during the era of 16-game regular seasons. The 2017 season was a continuation of a depressing set of years for the team. During the 2016 season, the team won only one game. All of this was the culmination of 10 years of losing records.
The 2017 season had plenty of embarrassing moments. The team went 0-6 in one-score games. They were lucky enough to push two of their games to overtime, but they lost both of those as well. The Browns have improved since that time, but they still have yet to reach the glory that many people think they’re worthy of achieving.
Indianapolis Colts 1991 Season
- Record That Year: 1-15
- Coach: Ron Meyer
The 1991 season was the worst that the team has had since they arrived in Indianapolis in 1984, and it continues to be their worst season since that year. Their only win was a narrow victory against the New York Jets, and it ended as a nailbiter at 28-27.
To be fair, it wasn’t only a lack of skill that led to their dismal season. They also dealt with various injuries and a virus that spread through the locker room that kept many of their teammates from playing. However, poor performance was also an issue. During the very first game of the season, the kicker missed three field goals. The team just couldn’t connect that year, and it showed.
Miami Dolphins 2007 Season
The Dolphins worst season ever at 1-15. They only managed to avoid a winless season by squeaking out a win during overtime on week 15.
The Bills only won one of 13 games that year. They also only scored 21 touchdowns, which was the third-fewest at that time.
New York Jets 1996 Season
They won only one of 15 games that year. Even worse was the fact that they had one of the highest payrolls in the league at that time.
Cincinnati Bengals 2002 Season
This team managed to win two games, but most of the others were embarrassing. They had the worst defense in the league, allowing 28.5 points per game.
Houston Texans 2002 Season
While they did win some games and end up with a record of 4-12, it wasn’t easy. The quarterback, David Carr, was sacked a record 76 times that year, and the season was tough to watch.
Kansas City Chiefs 2012 Season
As a football fan today, it’s hard to believe that the KC Chiefs were ever less than stellar. However, in 2012, they only mustered a record of 2-14. They didn’t have the lead in any contest until the ninth game of the season.
Green Bay Packers 1986 Season
The Packers have been pretty good for a long time now. But in 1986, they only had a record of 4-12. That was with quarterback Randy Wright, who threw 23 interceptions.
New Orleans Saints 1980 Season
The Saints only won one game that year. In addition to poor play, there was also a drug problem in the locker room. It was so bad that it required the team to trade away essential players. (Click to read about famous athletes who spent time in prison.)