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18-07-04 Playing with Overall Records

We are truly in the quiet part of the NFL year, the organised team activities are done and the players are enjoying their last break before training camp starts and the grind until the end of the year begins.

However, it was a simple message from Dan that sent me on my latest excursion.

“Here’s one for you – going into this season, how many of the 32 teams have all time losing records?’

My immediate answer was that I wasn’t sure as I was hesitant to guess about win distributions and we know some teams have won a lot more games than others but the NFL has also been going a pretty long time now. So having got my book published and whilst beginning to think about this blog again I did the only thing I could under such circumstances – I went to pro-football-reference.com and I used their data to make a spreadsheet.

This simple answer is that there are fourteen teams going into the 2018 season with all-time losing records, including the Cincinnati Bengals, but why simply stop at the simple answer?

The team with the most wins despite their recent record are the Chicago Bears, which makes sense given that they are one of the earliest franchises in the league to be created. The team with the least wins make sense for similar reasons given that the Houston Texans were only created in 2002.

The team with the dubious honour of having most overall losses are the Arizona Cardinals who have racked up ninety-two more losses than the next nearest team the Detroit Lions but they have existed for a decade longer.

This is one of those times where the nature of American franchises really gives us a different experience because although the franchise that became the Arizona Cardinals was founded in 1920, they didn’t actually become the Arizona Cardinals until 1994 and begun life in Chicago and didn’t leave until1960.

The number that really interested me though was the win-loss percentages as this seems a better test of overall record and takes into account the different ages of the various franchises.

Top of this list are the Dallas Cowboys who in their fifty nine seasons have got a winning percentage of 57.3% but the entire top five are familiar names as they are in order the Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, New England Patriot, and especially for Dan fifth are the Miami Dolphins.

It surprised me that the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t even make the top ten but it should be remembered that before 1972 the Steelers made the playoffs just once in 1947 and it wasn’t until Chuck Noll established them as winning franchise in the 1970s that things turned round for them.

And I thought the Bengals’ run in the 90s was bad!

The Baltimore Raven, who are of course the rebadged Browns franchise who didn’t get to keep the history (the historical records of the US franchise system are weird to us Europeans unused to clubs moving locations) are the only of the four later (i.e. post 1976) expansion teams to crack the top ten in win percentage. The Carolina Panthers are solidly mid-table being ranked eighteenth by win percentage whilst the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans are come in twenty-seventh and thirtieth respectively.

For those of you waiting, the Cincinnati Bengals come in a lowly twenty-fifth by win percentage, just one place above the New York Jets who they match for total playoff appearances at fourteen although the Jets’ obvious counter to this is their one Super Bowl win but I’ll come to playoff achievement in a moment.

Before I do however, I’ll roll out the bottom five teams by win percentage, starting with one of two teams in the bottom five in win percentage to have a Super Bowl, namely the New Orleans Saints. Following them we have the Atlanta Falcons, the afore mentioned Houston Texans, the Arizona Cardinals and last in the league by win percentage going into this year are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who manage this feat whilst also having a Super Bowl win!

Now thanks to there being rival leagues we didn’t get the Super Bowl until the 1967 merger and it wasn’t until the third championship game that the name Super Bowl really stuck and was retroactively applied to the previous two championships.

The focus on the Super Bowl is understandable given that this is the format we know today, but I wanted to make a couple of comments about overall championships before I start counting Super Bowls and that is for one very simple reason, I want to start with a team that most people wouldn’t consider.

Never mind the Green Bay Packers’ thirteen championships and the Chicago Bears’ nine, I want to specifically mention the joint third ranked team who despite their recent record have a winning record and eight championships, yes that’s right folks – the hapless now promising Cleveland Browns were formidable before the Super Bowl era. I would like to think that people are aware of Jim Brown, who was a great running back and won a championship with the Browns in 1964 as part of a hall of fame career but the Browns also won four AAFC Championships between 1946 – 1949 and four NFL Championships in 1950, 1954, and 1955 as well as the one with Jim Brown in 1964.

Despite their recent run the New England Patriots are not even in the top five of teams by all championships but if we switch to Super Bowls their five is good enough for third. The leader thanks to their one for the thumb are the Pittsburgh Steelers and yes if you are paying attention that does mean that the only AFC North without any championships are the Cincinnati Bengals.

There are five other teams that have never won any kind of championship and thirteen who have never won a Super Bowl. The only two teams older than the Bengals who have never won a championship are the Atlanta Falcons founded in 1966 and the Minnesota Vikings founded in 1961.

And on that depressing note let us step away from historical records, unless you have any questions about your teams – you know where to find me.