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A great article from Bill Barnwell this week, as he chronicled the rise of the improving Oakland Raiders.  At 6-7 and not playing in the NFC East or AFC South, the Raiders are not in the playoff hunt, but that’s not the only measure of a team’s success. Remember, Oakland started 0-10 last year.  Even that may be a bit of an understatement of where the team was, because the Raiders also lost their final six games of the 2013 season.

Those Raiders represented the 13th time a franchise has lost 16 consecutive games.  The first two, the Rochester Jeffersons and the Dayton Triangles, folded shortly thereafter.1  How does a 9-10 record in the ensuing 19 games compare to the previous 10 teams to lose sixteen straight?

It’s tied for the third best record. The best mark belongs to the Miami Dolphins.  Miami was as decent enough team for most of the ’00s, and began 6-7 in 2006.  Around that time, rumors began to swirl that head coach Nick Saban was going to leave and go to Alabama. Spoiler alert: that turned out to be true.  The Dolphins lost their final three games, and began 0-13 in 2007 under Cam Cameron.  Miami finally won in game 14, finishing the year 1-15.   The next season, Tony Sparano did one of the great coaching jobs in NFL history, taking the team from 1-15 to 11-5. That made the Dolphins 12-7 on the heels of 16 straight losses.

The second best mark involved an early iteration of the Raiders and also some great new coaching. In 1961, Oakland went 2-12, losing the team’s final six games.  The Raiders began 0-13 in 1962, before winning the season finale.  Then, in ’63, Al Davis became the team’s head coach, and Oakland’s fortunes changed almost instantly. Oakland went 10-4 that season, going from 19 straight losses to 11 wins in 15 games.  Oakland started the ’65 season 0-5, though, leaving the Raiders best 16-game stretch during this period capped at 11 wins.

The third best mark is 9-19, now shared by the modern Raiders and the early ’70s Steelers.  Pittsburgh won its season opener in 1969, before finishing the year 1-13 in its first season under head coach Chuck Noll.  The Steelers also began 0-3 in 1970, giving the franchise 16 straight losses and a young Noll a career 1-16 record.  Things obviously changed soon enough for Pittsburgh: the Steelers finished the year with a 5-9 record, and began the 1971 season with a 4-4 record.  That gave Pittsburgh a 9-10 record after losing 16 straight games, tied with what Oakland just accomplished.

How about the other seven teams?

  • The Cardinals lost 29 straight games during World War II, but then went 8-11 beginning with their third game in 1945.
  • The Buccaneers famously lost the team’s first 26 games; from there, Tampa Bay went 8-11.
  • From 1960 to 1961, Washington lost 16 straight games, but beginning with the 8th game of the ’61 season, went 6-10-3 over their next 19.
  • The Oilers lost 18 consecutive games into 1973, before going on a 7-12 run.
  • The Rams lost their final 10 games in 2008, then began 0-7 in 2009.  Things didn’t get all that much better, as St. Louis went 5-14 after that.
  • A decade later, Houston lost 16 straight games for a second time.  After this run, the Oilers went 4-15.
  • Finally, we have the Lions: entering week 3 of the ’09 season, Detroit had lost 19 straight games.  And while the Lions won that game, they won just two more, going 3-16 after in the 19-game stretch after losing 19 straight games.

With a young nucleus of offensive stars, the future looks pretty bright for the Raiders.  Definitely give Barnwell’s article a read, as it highlights a lot of the ways that oft-criticized GM Reggie McKenzie has done a great job rebuilding the roster.

  1. Although the Triangles continued on as the Brooklyn Tigers. []