The NFL is a maddening league—one where a team that seems inept during one season can show an inverse in ability during the next. If such a statement seems ludicrous, just ask the Kansas City Chiefs how they are feeling at 3-0 after their 2012 season of sucking allotted them with the number one overall pick in the most recent NFL Draft.
But, the fact is that even legendary NFL dynasties like the 1970’s Steelers, the 1980’s 49ers, the 1990’s Cowboys, and the 2000’s Patriots have their roots in rather unfortunate beginnings. Also, there have also been many teams like the Browns, the Raiders, and the Lions that had their days of dominance. Such winning ways may be in erstwhile decades, but they still came to pass.
When good teams were bad:
San Francisco 49ers
The Niners weren’t the same team without the duo of Steve Young and Jerry Rice. The team managed for a few seasons, but the team was without a winning record from 2003 to 2010. After the firing of Mike Singletary, Jim Harbaugh took over the team and—after reinventing Alex Smith—brought the most out of the previously underachieving roster.
However, every football fan would insist that the truest Niner glory days took place in the 1980’s, when Joe Montana took up quarterbacking duties and led San Francisco to four Super Bowl championships.
But, Montana was drafted in 1979 and never saw true playing time until the next season. From 1973 to 1979, the Forty Niners’ best record came in 1976—a season where they posted a record of 8-6. In 1978, when the NFL moved to a 16 game schedule, the Forty Niners went 2-14 for back-to-back seasons. And, in 1980—Montana’s first year as a full-time starter, the Niners went 6-10.
But, Dwight Clark’s legendary catch against the Cowboys altered the Niner’s fortunes for the next two decades; while inspiring a young Tom Brady—a member of the crowd on that day—to dream of NFL stardom.
With six Lombardis—the most recent coming in 2008—the Steelers lead the NFL in Super Bowl hardware.
With coaches Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher, and Mike Tomlin, the Steelers have made NFL fans think of a pervasively physical and downright nasty NFL team.
Players like “Mean” Joe Greene, Mel Blount, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, and many others have solidified the Steelers’ legacy of toughness throughout the decades.
But, there was a time before all of the aforementioned. To many, the current struggles of Pittsburgh seem to be somewhat unprecedented. But to many others, their tumultuous 2013 season is reminiscent of darker times.
The Steelers showed the NFL that they were legitimate contenders in 1972—posting an 11-3 record. However, their first season was in 1933– starting out as the Pittsburgh Pirates– and their record from the previously stated year until 1940 was an abysmal 24-62-2 —a winning percentage of roughly 29%
To put this in perspective, the Detroit Lions record under Matt Millen was 31-81—a winning percentage of roughly 29%
It didn’t get much better for the Steelers in the 1940’s, when the team changed their name to the Steelers. The 1940′s were a decade of futility for Pittsburgh, and it was highlighted by an 0-14 record in 1944.
And, to conclude everything, the Steelers only posted a winning record seven times during their miserable 1933-1972 existence.
It is safe to say that the manner in which the Cowboys conduct business is pervasively grandiose. The reason for being as such is simple; legendary quarterbacks like Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman gave the franchise a Texas-sized aura that few teams can match.
But, despite their mediocre record since the last days of Aikman, Smith and Irvin, the team has had days darker than the most recent.
Barring a winless debut season in 1960, the Cowboys failed to post a winning record until 1966. Which—at a mere six years—is quicker than what it took for the other current Texas NFL team to post a winning record.
For the longest time, coach Tom Landry had his team competing in the NFL. But, during the end of Landry’s legendary tenure as the Cowboy’s head coach, Dallas was among the worst teams in the NFL.
From 1986- 1990, the Cowboys were a collective 25- 54.
Retrospectively, Herschel Walker in a Vikings uniform must have been the sweetest sight for Cowboy nation.
New England Patriots
Boston faithful often boast of their recent “Decade of Dominance”—a span of 10 years where the Patriots, the Bruins, the Red Sox, and the Celtics all won at least one championship in their respective leagues.
Baseball, hockey, and basketball aside; the Patriots—a team of that has dominated the win column for the past decade—didn’t always cultivate such a winning culture.
Beginning their existence in 1960 as the Boston Patriots, the team went 5-9 in their debut season. And, for the next few seasons, the Pats experienced a decent streak of winning. But, as of the early 1990’s, the team began to devolve into embarrassment.
It began in 1989, when the team—only a few years removed from their Super Bowl thumping at the hands of the now-legendary 1985 Chicago Bears—went 5-11. A year later, they went 1-15 and were a team that is now regarded as one of the worst of all time—an offense that only has a nomenclature similarity with its 2000’s counterpart.
After their historically bad year, the team went 13- 35 over their next three seasons. Until—in 1994—the team posted their first winning record in five years.
Finally, in 2000—the year that the Patriots made a very particular 199th selection in the NFL Draft—the team went 5-11, only to have Tom Brady take over as the starting quarterback during the next season.
When bad teams were good:
The Lions may have been the victims of the least-spoken-of curse in all of sports—a hexing that brought about the era of Matt Millen, Joey Harrington, and all those failed wide receiver draft picks (aside from the one really, really good pick at wide receiver).
All in all, the Lions were the worst team of the 2000’s—highlighting an abysmal streak with the only 0-16 season in NFL History.
But, as stated earlier, there may have been a mystical reason for such an era of futility. In 1958, the Lions traded Bobby Layne—their star quarterback. After which, Layne cursed the Lions to be horrible for the next fifty years. Considering that their winless season—in 2008—marked the 50-year anniversary of the curse, the coincidence is jarringly eerie.
Starting his career with the Lions in 1950, Layne led the Lions to three NFL Championships while making several Pro Bowl appearances.
While Layne was with the team, the Lions only posted a losing season once. And, during Layne’s time with the team, the Lions posted a record of 65- 40- 3.
In recent memory, the Browns moved to Baltimore—effectively ending football in Cleveland for a few seasons. After their hiatus, the Browns returned along with their losing culture—failed picks like Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, and—most recently—Brandon Weeden all falling short of the massive shadow cast by legends like Jim Brown and Otto Graham.
With Otto Graham as their first quarterback, the Browns came into existence in the most winning of fashions—posting a 12-2 record in their debut season. Taking home an unprecedented seven league championships in a span of ten years, the Browns were the most feared team in football.
A few years after Graham’s early retirement, Cleveland drafted Jim Brown. Winning an NFL Championship in 1964 with Brown, Cleveland’s record with their legendary running back was 79- 34.
To make things crazier, the Browns’ all-time record is still a winning one—posting a 480-387 all time record.
The Raiders’ mantra is “Just Win Baby”—something that they haven’t done a lot of since their most recent Super Bowl appearance.
Founded in 1960, the Raiders were one of the original teams of the American Football League—an organization that rose to relevance after Joe Namath and the New York Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.
But the truth is that the recent Raider days of JaMarcus Russell and other inept quarterbacks are highly uncharacteristic when addressing the whole of the franchise’s history.
The Raiders have a total of 13 former members in the NFL Hall of Fame, which is among the highest amount of players of any franchise.
With players like Fred Biletnikoff, George Blanda, Dave Casper, Jim Otto, Gene Upshaw, Ken Stabler, Jim Plunkett, and Marcus Allen; the Raiders struck fear in their opponents for a majority of their history—even if the lattermost of the previously listed players seldom played in his later days with the team.
During a sixteen-year span, the Raiders won 4 championships—one with the AFL and three others in the Super Bowl era. During that time, the Raiders only had one losing season and boasted a record of 175- 61.
Others could have been mentioned, the New Orleans Saints have been among the NFL’s best teams during past few seasons and they are a team that—until Drew Brees’ arrival—was thought to be entirely futile.
Moreover, even teams as young as the Jacksonville Jaguars have nostalgic glory days.
But, the underlying point to all of this is simple: never lose faith in your team, even the great NFL dynasties have roots in times worth forgetting about.
From The Web