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Over their last 16 games — the final 12 games of 2016 and the first 4 games of 2017 — the Cleveland Browns are 1-15. Over the Browns last 16 games before that, Cleveland is 2-14: Cleveland began the 2016 season 0-4, and was 2-10 over the final 12 games of 2015. But the first game in that streak was the 5th game of the 2015 season, a rare Browns victory. Which means if the Browns lose to the Jets on Sunday, Cleveland will be 1-15 in their last 16 games, and 1-15 in the 16 games prior to that.

How bad is a 2-29 stretch over 31 games? Well, the Browns are just the fourth franchise to pull off that feat.

The World War II Cardinals

The Chicago Cardinals lost 29 games in a row during World War II, and went 1-36 during one 37-game stretch.

1972-1974 Oilers

The 1971 Oilers were not very good, and hired cross-town Rice head coach Bill Peterson to turn things around.  It did not work: Houston went 1-13 in ’72 and ’73, with Sid Gillman replacing Peterson after five games in 1973.  A 2-26 record over two seasons is bad, but the first of those wins came in the third week of 1972.  So when Houston started 1-5 in 1974, the Oilers were 2-29 on a trailing 31-game basis, just like the current Browns.  Houston followed that up with a 4-game winning streak, and went 10-4 in 1975.

The Post-Matt Millen Lions

As hard as this may be to remember, the Lions began the 2007 with a 6-2 record.  It went very downhill, very quickly, from there.

  • Detroit lost 6 straight games, going 1-7 in the second half of 2007.
  • The Lions went 0-16 in 2008, firing Millen four games into that season.
  • Detroit started 0-2, then beat the Redskins, before losing another 6 games to begin the year 1-8.  At this point, the Lions had a 2-31 record in their last 33 games.
  • The 2009 Lions won the next week, upping their mark to 2-8, but proceeded to go on a 10-game losing streak stretching into the 2010 season.  Entering week 5 of the 2010 season, Detroit had gone 2-35 in the team’s last 37 games.

The good news? The Lions went 6-6 the rest of the 2010 season, and then 10-6 in 2011.

The Current Browns

The 2015 Browns went 1-10 during the final 11 games of the Mike Pettine era, and Cleveland finished 1-15 in the first season under Hue Jackson last year.  The 0-4 record so far in 2017 brings Cleveland to 2-29 in its trailing 31 games, but a home game against the Jets could begin to turn around the team’s fortunes. For the second time in three weeks, Cleveland is a rare favorite.

Are the Browns are the cusp of turning things around?  The early returns are not good: Cleveland ranks 31st in ANY/A, barely ahead of the Ravens, and 29th in points defensive ANY/A and points allowed.  For what it’s worth, injuries have hit the team: #1 overall pick Myles Garrett has yet to take the field due to a high ankle sprain, although there’s a good chance he will make his debut against the Jets this weekend. And 2016 first round pick WR Corey Coleman has missed most of the year, while LB Jamie Collins has missed the last two weeks with a concussion.

But expectations were getting higher in Cleveland, and the team appeared position to make a playoff push in 2018.  If that is still going to be in the cards, Cleveland is going to actually have to win some games to justify that praise.

  • It seems nearly impossible for a team to be so bad for so long. I was looking more into the Lions. I know you were doing the two seasons equivalency, but the Lions 6-6 finish in 2010 included a four game winning streak to close the year. So between their 6-2 start in 2007 and their 4-0 finish in 2010, they went a combined 5-47 in that 52 game stretch. Yikes.

    I would love to see a look at the reverse – most dominant 32 game stretches. I wonder if anyone has gone with back to back 15-1 stretches.

    • Wolverine

      “It seems nearly impossible for a team to be so bad for so long.”

      You’re telling me, man. I’m fully aware that the Lions of the current decade have plenty of warts, and haven’t come close to really contending. However, my experience from the prior decade has given me plenty of perspective on how much worse it could be. I’ve learned to appreciate and enjoy a winning record with a 1st round playoff defeat the way Patriots fans probably enjoy a Super Bowl run.

    • t.d.

      The Bears going 15-1 in their Super Bowl year and then 14-2 the next year is probably closest. From about mid 1984 through mid 1987, they never lost when Jim McMahon started (I believe he won 22 straight, including playoffs, which was the longest quarterback winning streak ever at the time- not sure whether Brady broke that with his late 2003 into 2004 streak; I believe Peyton Manning has the longest regular season streak)

      • Yeah I thought of the Bears too. It’s amazing that McMahon had that win streak (I looked it up – 25 games)- it’s also amazing that because of injuries and the players strike that he only started 25 games in 4 years time. If the Bears had had some stability at QB, they could’ve been the greatest dynasty ever.

        The 49ers came darn close to back-to-back 15-1 stretches too in 1988-90. They won their three playoff games in 1988 and then their first three games of 1989. Then they lost to the Rams, won six straight, then lost to the Majik Man and the 1989 Cardiac Pack. They wouldn’t lose again for 371 days. They reeled off an 18 game winning streak that carried them through another Super Bowl title and a 10-0 start in 1990. Finally their streak was snapped in the 11th game of the 1990 season when they lost to the Rams again. Before that loss, they were 30-2 in their previous 32 games: one 14-2 stretch and one 16-0 stretch. I would say that counts.

        • Richie

          36-year-old Doug Flutie could have been the stability they needed. Did Flutie need to go to Canada to become that player? Or did the Bears blow it by not giving him more of a chance in 1986 and 1987? In 1986 he attempted 46 passes for the Bears and led the team in ANY/A with 5.79 (which was 14th-best in the NFL amongst QB’s with at least 46 attempts).

          The Bears were mostly a good defense through 1993. If they had developed Flutie and kept him around with that good defense, that would have been interesting.

          • That’s a good question. I sense that he wouldn’t have developed the same with the Bears. It’s hard to tell from such a small sample size, but there was just something about that Bears offense that didn’t look right. It always looked so difficult for them to pass, like they were a 50s passing offense dropped in the 80s and 90s. When they were playing Washington or San Francisco, (or even Dickey or Majkowski’s Packers), it kinda looked primitive by comparison. They never had great QBs, but the guys they had were almost always better once they went elsewhere. Harbaugh was a bottom quarter starter with the Bears, but was legitimately good with the Colts. Tomczak was awful in Chicago, maybe slightly less awful in Green Bay, and a pretty effective spot starter in Pittsburgh. Even Jim McMahon was nearly as good in Philadelphia and Minnesota as he was for his average season in Chicago despite being a broken down shell of his former self physically. I don’t think Flutie would’ve developed into Buffalo Bills-level Flutie in Chicago.

          • sacramento gold miners

            Flutie was starting to develop in New England, but the Patriots never saw him as a starter. In the 80s, QB height was still a big deal, and some thought Flutie was more a gimmick than a real pro QB. Had Flutie come along today, he would have had much more opportunity in the NFL.

      • Mark Growcott

        McMahon did win a record 22 straight Regular Season games (1984-87) which was not broken till Manning won 23 straight (2008-09). Brady came close winning 21 straight (2006-09).

        • Richie

          Brady also had a 22-game winning streak (2003-2004), including playoffs.

    • Tom

      Agreed. I’m thinking if you’ve got year after year of high draft picks, at some point you’d at least be average.

  • Mark Growcott

    Those early 70s Oiler teams reminds me of their QB Dan Pastorini who at one stage as their starting QB lost 21 straight games (1972-74), a record that is unlikely to ever be broken. Chris Weinke challenged that record for a time when he lost 17 straight (2001-06) with the Panthers.

    Pastorini in his first 32 starts with the Oilers went 5-27 but as we know he enjoyed far greater success later in the decade under Bum Phillips and in his next 80 starts with the Oilers went 51-29 to finish at .500. Pastorini’s story is a remarkable one which you probably wouldn’t see repeated today as he would not have been given the extended opportunities that came his way in today’s era.

  • Clint

    Fun fact: The 09 Lions beat the 09 Browns in an insane game.

    Also, I’ll always say the 09 team was the worst I’ve ever seen. At least through the first 12 games. Won their last 4 and I believe that’s the last time the Browns have won a game in week 17

    • Mark Growcott

      Since that Week 17 win against the Jags in 2009, the Browns have faced the Steelers every year bar 2014 when they met the Ravens. This season they again face the Steelers. Only the Rams have a longer active losing streak in their final Regular Season game having last won in 2006.

      • Richie

        Im having a hard time figuring out what you’re trying to say here.

        • Mark Growcott

          Clint was saying that the Browns hadn’t won a Week 17 game since 2009 and I was just pointing out that they have faced the Steelers nearly every season in their finale since then, no doubt their toughest Division opponent so not that surprising.

  • The Browns are now 2-32 in their last 34 games. Cleveland went 1-10 in their final 11 games of 2015, 1-15 in 2016, and are now 0-7 in 2017.

  • Mark Growcott

    The Browns and 49ers are the last remaining winless teams this season. If the Browns are the last winless team again this season, they will be the first team since 1993-94 Bengals to be the last winless team in consecutive seasons.

  • The Browns are now 2-33 in their last 35 games. Cleveland went 1-10 in their final 11 games of 2015, 1-15 in 2016, and is now 0-8 in 2017. They join the 2007-2010 Lions and the World War II Cardinals as the only teams to do that. The Lions team won the games before and after that streak, so with one more loss, Cleveland would be the only team in modern history to go 2-36 in a 38-game stretch.

  • After an 0-9 start, the Browns are now 2-34 in their last 36 games. Only the WW II Cardinals and the 2007-2010 Lions can match that.

    Cleveland also joins the 1943-1944 Cardinals, 1976-1977 Bucs, and
    1983-1984 Oilers as the only two teams to begin 0-9 in consecutive years.