Detroit lions winless, Detroit lions 0-16
Paul Sancya/AP
Detroit Lions quarterback Drew Stanton, left, and tight end John Owens react near the
end of the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on
Nov. 9.

Detroit Lions Go 0-16, Hit New NFL Low

December 28, 2008 04:58 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The Detroit Lions became just the second team in the modern NFL to lose every regular season game, and the first to finish 0-16.

Lions Finish 0-16

The Detroit Lions, widely considered to be the NFL’s worst-ever franchise, reached a new low Sunday when they lost 31-21 to the Green Bay Packers, completing the first 0-16 season in NFL history.

“I think we let a lot of people down,” said center Dominic Raiola. “We let ourselves down. We let Rod down. We let the entire coaching staff down. We let down the whole city of Detroit and all the fans. This is rock bottom.”

The Lions had several chances during the season to pick up a win, most notably in Week 4 when they lost to the Vikings on a last-minute field goal. Coming off a 42-7 home loss to the Saints, few believed that the Lions would win Sunday in Lambeau Field, where they had lost 17 straight games dating back to 1992.

After falling behind 14-0, the Lions battled back to tie; their defense could not slow the Packers offense, though, as they became the first team ever to allow two 100-yard rushers and two 100-yard receivers in the same game. When quarterback Dan Orlovsky’s desperation pass with three minutes left was intercepted, the Lions’ last hope of victory was extinguished.

“It's just kind of numb,” said kicker Jason Hanson, who has played his entire 17-year career with the Lions, to The Associated Press. “It's here. It's been coming, though, a train rolling down the tracks for a while. We tried to stop it. We couldn't.”

Lions fans, who have become used to watching their team lose, were unsure of whether to cheer for a victory or a record-breaking loss. “I'm beaming with pride,” fan Steve Bono told the Detroit News after the game. “I know they will never win a Super Bowl. They might as well take 0-16. No one is ever going to repeat that.”

This is the second time in Lions’ history that the team has finished winless, the first being the 1942 team that went 0-11. In the modern NFL, however, only the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost every game in a single season. The expansion Bucs were overmatched in most of their 14 games, losing by an average of more than 20 points.

Many of the ’76 Bucs were hoping to see their record broken. “I would like the torch to be passed,” defensive end Pat Toomay told the AP. “At the same time, you don't want to wish that on anybody.”

There is some hope for Lions fans, as the Dolphins and Falcons proved this year that it’s possible for a team to instantly improve under new management. The Lions, who fired team president Matt Millen in September, announced Monday that they promoted executives Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew to president and general manager, respectively, while firing head coach Rod Marinelli and several other coaches.

“This isn't just on the players,” cornerback Leigh Bodden said to ESPN. “It's the entire organization that needs to change, from the top down.”

Opinion & Analysis: How did the Lions finish 0-16?

The Lions are one of the least successful franchises in NFL history. Between 1934, when they began playing in Detroit, and 1957, the Lions won four NFL championships. Since then, however, they have won just one playoff game and never appeared in a Super Bowl.

Even given their awful history, a 0-16 season is a shocking accomplishment. “Football experts all agree that in today's ‘any given Sunday’ NFL—where every team seems to have a decent shot to win, where a salary cap structure, and a draft that gives the worst teams access to the best young talent in a young man's game, creates league-wide parity—going winless is awfully hard to do,” writes Time.

For most, the root of the Lions’ ineptitude is owner William Clay Ford Sr. and former president Matt Millen. Ford, described as a “remarkably bad owner” by the Detroit Free Press’ Michael Rosenberg, has seen almost no success since buying the team in 1964, while Millen’s teams went 31-84 with no winning seasons after he was hired in 2001.

Millen oversaw a series of disastrous drafts and free agent signings, famously choosing wide receivers first in three consecutive drafts even as there were holes at other positions. “Their free agent signings have been flawed, their drafts have been flawed, the organizational philosophy is flawed,” CBS analyst Phil Simms told Time. “As a coach said to me, ‘wow, they're small, they're not fast, and they're old.’ It's unbelievable.”

Rosenberg also points to several factors that hurt the Lions this season. After Millen was fired in September, his replacement, Martin Mayhew, immediately began building for the future, trading star receiver Roy Williams and placing veteran quarterback Jon Kitna on injured reserve. “With Kitna and Roy Williams all year,” writes Rosenberg, “would the Lions have won at least a game or two? Probably.”

Further, the Lions did not play any of the other six worst teams in the league this year. “In other words, for the purpose of winning one game over the course of a season, the Lions easily have the toughest schedule in the whole sport,” says Rosenberg.

Reference: Detroit Lions

Related Topic: Undefeated seasons

Just two NFL teams have ever finished the regular season undefeated: the 1972 Dolphins and last year’s Patriots. The Dolphins went 14-0 in the regular season, won their two AFC playoff games, and then defeated the Redskins 14-7 in the Super Bowl.

The Patriots became the first team to finish the regular season 16-0. They reached the Super Bowl against the Giants, where they were heavy favorites. With the team already copyrighting “19-0” and a “Path to Perfection” available on Amazon, the Patriots were shocked by a last-minute touchdown and fell 17-14.

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