Can you think back to November 18, 2013? Lorde’s “Royals” was the number one song in the country. The price of gas was $3.30/gallon. Barack Obama was the President. And Matt McGloin (3 touchdowns, no interceptions) and Rashad Jennings (150 rushing yards) had just led the Raiders to victory over the Houston Texans.
That upped Oakland’s record to 4-6, although the team wasn’t quite that good. At the time, Football Outsiders ranked the Raiders as the 31st best team in football. On the other hand, the week 11 victory came in McGloin’s first start: surely, good things were on the horizon, right?
As it turned out, not so much. McGloin would lose each of his next five starts; Terrelle Pryor started the finale against Denver, which would be another Raiders loss. Derek Carr has since taken over, but he has yet to win a game in his young career. At 0-9, he has a chance to break both the rookie record for losses in a season (14) and the single-season record for quarterbacks losses (15).
We’ll keep an eye on those records, but another mark is closer on the horizon: a loss in San Diego on Sunday will mark the Raiders 16th consecutive losing effort. That would mark the 13th time in professional football history that a team had lost 16 straight games. Let’s recap:
Rochester Jeffersons, 1922-1925 – 16 straight
As you probably know, the Jeffersons went a combined 0-11 in 1923 and 1924, scoring just 13 points while allowing 297. Rochester, located in upstate New York, also lost the team’s final four games of 1922, after a spirited 13-13 tie in the ’22 opener against Akron. A loss in the ’25 opener brought the streak to 16 games before a tie the following week against the rival Buffalo Bisons. Over four years in the NFL, the Jeffersons went 0-21-2, and folded before ever winning a league game.1
Dayton Triangles, 1927-1929 – 17 straight
The Triangles went 1-6-1 in 1927, losing their final four games of the season in the process. Dayton, located in Ohio, was a traveling team, forced to play every game on the road due to poor gate numbers. The Triangles went 0-7 in 1928, and then 0-6 in 1929, before being bought by an ownership group led by Bill Dwyer. He moved the team to Brooklyn and named them the Dodgers. The team tied in its first game in 1930.
Chicago “Cardinals”, 1943-1945 – 29 straight
World War II was not good for many people. Very far down at the bottom of that list — but still technically on the list of people who might gripe about the War — would be Phil Handler. Playing with depleted rosters, Handler’s Cardinals went 1-29 from 1943 to 1945. Chicago, under Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Conzelman, ended the 1942 season with six consecutive losses. An 0-10 record under Handler in ’43 brought the streak up to 16; it went to 26 by the end of ’44, and the team did not win until its fourth game (against the rival Bears) in 1945. Those 29 straight losses include the ’44 season where the Cardinals played as a combined unit with the Steelers, hence the quotation marks around Cardinals at the top of this section.
Washington Redskins, 1960-1961 – 17 straight
Washington began the 1960 season with a 1-1-2 record: that’s not so bad. But the team lost eight straight to end the season, and began the ’61 year with an 0-9 record. By this time, the entire NFL was integrated other than the Redskins, and it showed in the team’s performance. The team finally integrated (under duress) in 1962, and Bobby Mitchell (via a trade with Cleveland) became the first African American player for Washington in the modern era. In his first season, he caught 72 passes for 1,384 yards and 11 touchdowns that year, leading the team to a 5-7 record. Fortunately, racial issues are now a thing of the past for Washington.
Oakland Raiders, 1961-1962 – 19 straight
In 1961, the Raiders started the year 2-6, but ended the year on a six-game losing streak. Tom Flores, not then cloaked in winner sauce, was the team’s quarterback in ’61, but he would miss the entire 1962 season with a lung ailment. After an ugly week 1 performance in 1962, the Raiders traded with the Chiefs (then the Texans) for ex-Baylor quarterback Cotton Davidson in 1962.2 The trade was not a good one: the Raiders lost 11 straight under Davidson, and another loss brought the team’s losing streak to 19 games. Davidson did lead the Raiders to a win in the season finale, ending the streak, but the damage was done. Oakland had sent the first pick in the draft to Kansas City, who selected Buck Buchanan. On the other hand, it wasn’t all bad for the Raiders: Al Davis was hired as the team’s head coach beginning in 1963.
Pittsburgh Steelers, 1969-1970 – 16 straight
1969 was the team’s first season under Chuck Noll. The new era started nicely: Joe Greene was selected with Noll’s first draft pick, and the team won its first game of the ’69 season. But the Steelers would lose their final 13 games, and by virtue of a loss to the otherwise winless Bears, the Steelers finished with the worst record in the NFL. Pittsburgh won the coin flip for the first overall pick, and selected Terry Bradshaw. Noll would trade Roy Jefferson at the start of the 1970 season, and wound up winning four Super Bowls. But first: an 0-3 start to the 1970 season, that brought Pittsburgh’s losing streak up to 16 games.
Houston Oilers, 1972-1973 – 18 straight
Bill Peterson was a pretty good coach at Florida State in the sixties; in 1971, he went 3-7-1 as the head coach at Rice. That was enough to land him a job with the…. Oilers? Peterson lost his first two games in 1972, then won in week 3; from there, Houston lost 11 straight games. The Oilers lost their first five in 1973, at which point Peterson was fired. He was fired by Houston’s general manager, who decided he would do double duty and take over as head coach. That man was Sid Gillman. The Oilers lost two more games, bringing the streak to 18 straight, before a come-from-behind victory led by Lynn Dickey in Baltimore. The most incredible part of this streak? Dan Pastorini went 1-21 in 1972 and 1973, and lost 21 consecutive starts stretching in to 1974. Amazingly, both of the Oilers quarterbacks from the ’73 season would still be in the NFL a decade later.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1976-1977 – 26 straight
Tampa Bay’s struggles as an expansion franchise are well documented; the team lost its first 26 games, before ending the 1977 season with back-to-back wins. The final tally on quarterbacks: Steve Spurrier (12 losses), Jeb Blount (4), Randy Hedberg (4), Gary Huff (4), Parnell Dickinson (1), and Terry Hanratty (1). Huff won the team’s final two games of ’77, but gave way to first round pick Doug Williams in 1978.
Houston Oilers, 1982-1983 – 17 straight
A decade after losing 18 straight, the Oilers would drop seventeen straight games. That’s some sandwich around the Luv Ya Blue era. Houston defeated Seattle in week 2 of the ’82 season, just before the season was halted by the players’ strike. When action returned, Gifford Nielsen and Archie Manning combined to go 0-7. The following year, Nielsen (0-7), Manning (0-3), and Oliver Luck (2-4) led Houston to a miserable 2-14 record, which prompted the team to go out and sign Warren Moon. That sort of environment is why I’ve given Moon a pass for his less-than-stellar numbers early in his career. Houston began the ’83 season 0-10, bringing the streak to 17 games, before Luck and Earl Campbell led the team to a win over the Lions. The real question here is what the heck went wrong with Gifford Nielsen’s sons.3
Miami Dolphins, 2006-2007 – 16 straight
The Dolphins have been such a stable franchise for so long that it’s weird to remember them being terrible. From 1970 to 2013, Miami won at least 7 games in 38 of 44 seasons, the most of any franchise during that period. But the Cam Cameron era was a real thing. Miami was 6-7 before losing its final three games of the 2006 season under Nick Saban. Who would have guessed than the team would then begin the ’07 season with 13 straight losses? Only an overtime victory over Baltimore prevented a winless season in South Beach. That win must have been very impressive to the Ravens, who then hired Cameron as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2008. He stayed there just long enough to get thrown under the bus in 2012, before the team went on its Super Bowl run. Cameron and Saban were last seen trying to kill offensive football.
Detroit Lions, 2007-2009 – 19 straight
You remember the ’08 Lions, still the only team to finish a season with an 0-16 record. It’s easy to forget that Detroit went 7-9 in 2007, although the team was not quite as good as its record. The Lions lost the season finale in ’07 under Jon Kitna, and received winless starts from Dan Orlovsky (7 games), Daunte Culpepper (5), and Kitna (4) the following year. The Lions then drafted Matthew Stafford with the first overall pick in 2009, and finally won in week 3 of that season. Random note that has some relevance this week: Detroit’s first two picks in the 2007 draft were Calvin Johnson and Drew Stanton, who will have a lot to say about who wins week 11’s pivotal showdown between the Lions and Cardinals.4
St. Louis Rams, 2008-2009, 17 straight
NFL coaches never die: they just get reassigned. Scott Linehan went 3-13 as the Rams coach in 2007, and lost his first four games in 2008. That resulted in him being fired; after five uneven years as the offensive coordinator in Detroit, he’s now the nominal offensive coordinator in Dallas.
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett was promoted to interim head coach, and St. Louis won its first two games under Haslett. But he ended the season on a 10-game losing streak, and Haslett is now in his fifth uneven season as the defensive coordinator in Washington.
To replace Haslett, St. Louis tapped former Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who famously shut down the 2007 Patriots offense with a small assist from Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, and Osi Umenyiora. Spags went 10-38 as head coach of the Rams from ’09 to ’11, which is worse than Dennis Allen’s record with the Raiders. In 2012, he failed miserably as the defensive coordinator in New Orleans, and is now the secondary coach/defensive assistant in Baltimore.
Sorry for the sidetrack. After losing 10 straight to end the ’08 season (all under Marc Bulger), the team hired Spagnuolo and then played it safe (whew!) in the draft by selecting Jason Smith. St. Louis lost the team’s first seven games in 2009 (five under Bulger, two under Kyle Boller) before beating the similarly hapless Lions for the Rams only win of the season. Include the first two games under Sam Bradford in 2010, and the Rams went 1-27 over a 28-game stretch from 2008 to 2010.
Oakland Raiders, 2013-201? – ?? straight
The Raiders have not yet lost 16 straight games. But the smart money is on them joining this list in a few days. And with the Chiefs on deck the following week, 17 straight is a pretty good bet, too. In fact, other than the Rams game in two weeks, the schedule continues to be brutal for Oakland. Bill Barnwell pegs the team’s chances of going 0-16 (and running the streak to 22 games) at 21%, and that seems pretty reasonable to me. These are dark days in Oakland, but at least for now, it doesn’t seem likely that the streak will end for the Raiders the way it did for the Jeffersons or the Triangles.