The answer is no – and it’s thanks in large part to the NFL’s scheduling system.
The Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns are a professional American football team based in Cleveland, Ohio. The Browns compete in the National Football League as a member club of the American Football Conference North division. The Browns play their home games at FirstEnergy Stadium, which opened in 1999, and is located on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland. The Browns have not had a winning season since 2007, and they have only won one playoff game since their return in 1999.
The 2017 season
In 2017, the Cleveland Browns became the second team in NFL history to finish a season 0-16. The Browns had gone 1-15 the previous season, meaning they won just one of their 32 games over a two-year span.
The Browns’ 0-16 record was accompanied by several other dubious distinctions. They became the first team in NFL history to lose four consecutive games by 20 or more points, and they set a league record for most consecutive losses overall (26). They also became the first team in NFL history to have two different head coaches (Hue Jackson and Gregg Williams) win just one game each over the course of a season.
Despite their struggles, the Browns were not alone in their quest for an elusive win during the 2017 season. The San Francisco 49ers also went 0-9 before finally winning their 10th game. And the New York Giants, who won just three games all season, avoided going 0-16 by virtue of a last-second field goal that gave them a win over the rival Dallas Cowboys in Week 17.
The 2016 season
In 2016, the Browns again finished with a 1–15 record. They became the second team in NFL history to go 0–16, matching the 2008 Detroit Lions. The Browns’ lone win came in Week 16 on December 24 against the rival San Diego Chargers, who rested most of their starters for their season finale a week later. They lost their season finale at home to the Pittsburgh Steelers 27–24 in overtime, failing to win any of their 16 games for the first time in franchise history. Coach Hue Jackson was spared from having a winless season when owner Jimmy Haslam announced he would retain Jackson for the 2017 season. It was also the first time since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 that an NFL team did not win a game over the course of two consecutive seasons. The 2016 and 2017 seasons were also notable for being the first time that any team went winless over a 33-game span (including playoffs).
The Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions are the only team in NFL history to go 0-16 in a season. They did it in 2008.
The 2008 season
The 2008 Detroit Lions season was the team’s 79th in the National Football League, their 75th as the Detroit Lions and their first under head coach Jim Schwartz. The Lions improved upon their disappointing 2007 campaign in which they became the first NFL team to finish a season 0–16, with a 7–9 record in 2008, but failed to make the playoffs for a thirteenth consecutive season.
The Lions fired head coach Rod Marinelli and general manager Matt Millen following the 2007 season, in which the team became the first ever to finish a season 0–16. On January 18,2008, Schwartz—the defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans—was hired as head coach, becoming the fifth head coach of the Lions since 2001. On May 30,2008, it was announced that Martin Mayhew would be promoted from interim general manager to general manager on a full-time basis.
In Schwartz’s debut against his former employer, his Lions were defeated by the Titans 42-7 at home. The following week, they lost 23-13 on the road to Green Bay Packers, who entered Detroit with an 0-2 record. The Lions then began a four-game winning streak with victories over NFC North rivals Minnesota Vikings (12-10), Chicago Bears (34-7), and Dallas Cowboys (20-17 in overtime) before losing 34-21 on Thanksgiving Day to Indianapolis Colts. They alternated wins and losses for the rest of the season en route to a 7–9 record and second-place finish in NFC North behind Minnesota.
Other teams that have come close to going 0-16
Since the NFL expanded to a 16-game regular season in 1978, only two teams have gone 0-16: the 2008 Detroit Lions and the 2017 Cleveland Browns. In the past 40 years, there have been a few other teams that have come close to going winless in a season. Here are some of those teams.
The 2009 Rams
In 2009, the St. Louis Rams became the first team in NFL history to go 0-16. This was the Rams’ first season in St. Louis after moving from Los Angeles, and the franchise was widely mocked for its futility. The team made headlines again in 2016, when it became the second team in NFL history to finish a season with a record of 1-15.
The 2016 Chargers
The 2016 San Diego Chargers season was the franchise’s 47th season in the National Football League, its 57th overall and the first under head coach Mike McCoy. The Chargers failed to improve on their 8–8 record from 2015, finishing the season at 5–11 and missing the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year.
Keyword: Has Any NFL Team Gone 0-16?