It’s easy to look back at last year’s standings, see who won the least amount of games, and conclude that they are the worst team in the NFL. But true football fans know better than this. Part of what makes the NFL so much fun is the parity year to year. Every year, there are examples of teams that either go from last place to first place or from first place to last place in their division. So finding the worst team in the NFL takes more than just glancing at the standings.
Dynasties like the one the Patriots recently had are generally few and far between. In order to consistently win year after year, a team must have an excellent head coach (Bill Belichick) and an elite quarterback (Tom Brady). But in order to go from worst place to respectable, all a team needs is some draft capital and a shrewdly signed free-agent class. Having a decent head coach and quarterback does not hurt.
11 Worst NFL Teams of the Past Decade
To crown a champion of ineptitude, it is helpful to look to the past. Many teams have losing built into their DNA, so even when it appears that they will have a successful season—like the 2019 Cleveland Browns—they revert to a culture of losing. So who is the worst team in the NFL? Let’s start with a group of the 11 worst teams of the past decade and whittle it down to one final cellar dweller.
- Cleveland Browns: 42-117-1
- Jacksonville Jaguars: 51-109
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 59-101
- Washington Football Team: 62-97-1
- Oakland Raiders: 63-97
- New York Jets: 68-92
- Tennessee Titans: 69-91
- Miami Dolphins: 69-91
- New York Giants: 70-90
- Buffalo Bills: 71-89
- Detroit Lions: 72-87-1
Worst NFL Teams from 2018-2019
The worst team in the NFL is likely in this group of 11; however, let’s also take a look at the worst teams in the NFL the past two seasons to cross-reference the list above and also to see if we’re missing anyone. From worst to not quite as bad, here are the ten worst teams from 2018 and 2019.
- Cincinnati Bengals: 8-24
- Arizona Cardinals: 8-23-1
- Detroit Lions: 9-22-1
- New York Giants: 9-23
- Washington Football Team: 10-22
- Jacksonville Jaguars: 11-21
- New York Jets: 11-21
- Carolina Panthers: 12-20
- Miami Dolphins: 12-20
- Cleveland Browns: 13-18
No list that is pondering the worst team in the NFL would be complete without the Cincinnati Bengals. And while they didn’t make the first list of the worst teams of the past decade, their recent bout of ineptitude lands them at the top of this list for the worst team of the past two years. However, they drafted an elite quarterback prospect in Joe Burrow, who lit the college football world on fire last year, so their future could be bright.
The Arizona Cardinals also avoided the first list but made the second one. They also have a young and talented quarterback in Kyler Murray, who was similarly drafted with the first overall pick in the NFL draft. So the Cardinals are decidedly not the worst team in the NFL.
The Cleveland Browns made both lists and have the worst overall record in the past decade. However, the Browns are more talented than now than they have been in those past ten years. And while their quarterback is not elite, many teams would be happy to have Baker Mayfield leading the huddle. So while they may have entered this crowning of terrible teams as the favorite, they get off the hook based on perceived talent.
Who Is the Worst Team in the NFL?
The teams we are left with that made both lists are the following five:
- Detroit Lions
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- New York Jets
- Miami Dolphins
- Washington Football Team
We should be confident that this list of five includes the worst team in the NFL. As a league that is constantly evolving and surprising viewers, the NFL consistently tricks us into believing a team that was good last year will be good again in the current season. So picking the worst team in the NFL goes beyond simply looking at an overall record.
The Detroit Lions are under serious consideration for this award due to their history of losing. The team has never been to a Super Bowl, much less have a Super Bowl victory. They have a head coach that no one respects, especially when it comes to the players on the team. However, they have a quality quarterback named Matthew Stafford, and that is the trump card in this competition. So the Lions narrowly escape the title of worst team in the NFL.
Washington drafted quarterback Dwayne Haskins in the first round of 2019, and while he did not have a successful first season, he still has promise. So Washington also escapes. The same goes for the Jets with quarterback Sam Darnold and the Dolphins with their new quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
That leaves us with one team: the Jacksonville Jaguars, and they are now officially the worst team in the NFL.