Three Super Bowl-era teams completed a season winless. The prospects look good for a team without prospects looking that bad in 2017.
While offseason chatter focused on whether the improved New England Patriots possibly replicate the undefeated season of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, a likelier scenario sees an NFL team match the 2008 Detroit Lions in going 0-16.
Whose “0” might not go this season?
New York Jets
Vegas sports books feature the Jets as a 1000-1 longshot to win the Super Bowl. The team lost Brandon Marshall, Nick Mangold, and Sheldon Richardson in the offseason. In place of Ryan Fitzpatrick (not exactly Joe Namath) they field a QB carousel of Bryce Petty, Josh McCown, and Christian Hackenberg (none exactly Ryan Fitzpatrick).
The Browns made the right moves for long-term success in the offseason. But in the short term they remain a team at the bottom of the NFL barrel. They added Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers in a monster draft. But Terrelle Pryor left and an underperforming Joe Haden got his walking papers. The 21-years-young DeShone Kizer plays as this season’s, or at least this week’s, TimCouchTyDetmerBradyQuinnJohnnyManziel, etc. The NFL is still a quarterback league, and the Browns don’t possess any decent options there.
San Francisco 49ers
The good news? The 49ers face no Colin Kaepernick sideline distractions during the national anthem. The bad news? Brian Hoyer, not Colin Kaepernick, lines up under center during games. Like the Browns, the 49ers made moves that made long-term sense, most notably robbing the Bears of three net picks in exchange for moving one spot in the 2016 draft, this offseason. They fielded the worst defense in 2016 but did much to improve their front seven in free agency and the draft. Alas, San Francisco rewarded the offensive mastermind behind the Atlanta Falcons Super Bowl collapse with their head coaching position.
What’s worse: Choosing between Mike Glennon, Mitch Trubisky, and Mark Sanchez to line up behind center or Mike Glennon, Mitch Trubisky, or Mark Sanchez choosing between Kevin White (2016: 19 catches for 187 yards), Kendall Wright (2016: 29 catches for 416 yards), and Markus Wheaton (2016: 4 catches for 51 yards) to throw the ball to?
Does one of the frightful foursome finish the season defeated? It’s definitely possible. But, if for no other reason than the Browns and Jets play in Week Five, the Bears and Browns compete for a win under the tree on Christmas Eve, and the Bears host the 49ers in Week Thirteen, the worst of this season may escape association with the worst of every season.