It is time for Gridiron Experts to have some more off-season fun. Like the series of worst NFL draft picks, we celebrate not the best, but the worst of the past. Who is the worst NFL team of the last sixteen years? This is the un-Sweet Sixteen NFL Toilet Bowl Bracket. A tournament pitting the worst NFL teams over the last sixteen seasons against each other in a March Madness format. Some years there was a tie for worst record so my tiebreaker was largest point differential. Here is one writer’s take on how these ‘dream’ match ups would play out. Unlike most tournaments, to advance, the team must lose until we get down to the two worst teams of the last sixteen years. Here is round one for your enjoyment.
2004 49ers (2-14) vs. 2003 Cardinals (4-12)
The Cardinals came out strong behind the running of Marcel Shipp, but the Jeff Blake and Anquan Boldin combination was the difference on offense. Star rookie Boldin took advantage of the 49ers’ 30th ranked passing defense to build a ten point lead. Unable to get their 30th ranked running game on track, the Niners benched an ineffective Tim Rattay and went to Ken Dorsey for a spark. The only spark he was able to provide was for the Cardinals. The safety combination of Adrian Wilson and Dexter Jackson each picked off a second half pass setting up field goals. The Cards were unable to put the game out of reach because goal line back Emmitt Smith – who at this point in his career was obviously only interested in padding his rushing totals and his bank roll – was unable to punch in a game sealing touchdown. The 49ers’ offense was unable to mount anything consistent on offense forcing the 49ers into the second round with a 20-10 loss.
2005 Texans (2-14) vs. 2002 Bengals (2-14)
The Bengals took control of the game early. Expecting to be sacked nearly every time he dropped back to pass – who could blame him with the number of sacks he had already taken in his short career – David Carr and the Texans had trouble getting the ball downfield. DespiteCincinnati’s 20th ranked pass defense Takeo Spikes and Justin Smith harassed Carr all day. On offense Corey Dillon shredded the Texans’ defense for 135 yards and two touchdowns. They got just enough out of the passing game with Jon Kitna and Chad Johnson to keep the Texans from stacking the box in route to a comfortable 27-10 win. The Texans “advance” to round two and will face the 49ers.
2006 Raiders (2-14) vs. 2001 Panthers (1-15)
Both offenses were terrible most of the game. Chris Weinke was picked off twice by Nnamdi Asomugha and Kirk Morrison racked up twelve tackles for the Raiders who had a 9-0 lead at half time. Richard Huntley’s running didn’t give much support to Weinke as an aging Warren Sapp was still able to plug up the middle. Randy Moss, not involved in the first half, played when he wanted to play and caught a deep ball from Andrew Walter – who replaced an ineffective Aaron Brooks – for the game’s only touchdown. The Raiders’ defense was the story of the game dominating the punch-less Panther offense, winning 16-3 and keeping Carolina in the hunt for worst team in the last sixteen years.
2007 Dolphins (1-15) vs. 2000 Chargers (1-15)
In another game that will set offensive football back fifty years, two mediocre defenses with proud leaders Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, Rodney Harrison and Junior Seau to name a few, over-matched two quarterbacks that couldn’t get out of their own way their entire careers. With neither team able to mount much of a drive, turnovers would be the story. Ryan Leaf and Cleo Lemon both were turnover machines including Leaf throwing a terrible interception deep in his own territory that would result in the game’s only touchdown. Jason Allen jumped a deep out-route and took it to the house late in the third quarter to give the Dolphins a commanding 16-3 lead. Leaf would be replaced after the pick and would look completely uninterested in the final quarter and a half in the team’s 16-6 loss. The Chargers will meet Carolina in round two.
2008 Lions (0-16) vs. 1999 Browns (2-14)
With neither Dan Orlovsky from the Lions nor Tim Couch of the Browns able to do much through the air, this match up came down to who could run the ball better. In what might look like an upset, the winless Lions get their first victory. The Lions’ running game – behind Kevin Smith – was able to put together enough offense to stay on top of the Browns. The linebacker combination of Ernie Sims and Paris Lenon bottled up the punch-less Clevelandoffense and allowed Orlovsky to hook up with Calvin Johnson enough times to keep the offense balanced and put up three touchdowns – more than enough to stay ahead of the battered Browns, 27-10.
2009 Rams (1-15) vs. 1998 Bengals (3-13)
The Bengals make their second appearance in the tournament. This time the game came down to the final play of the game. Both Corey Dillon from the Bengals and Steven Jackson from the Rams have great days punishing the opposing defenses. Tied at 21 going into the fourth quarter, the Rams Ron Bartel picked off a Neil O’Donnell pass – that might have been worse than the pick he threw in the Super Bowl to Larry Brown – to set up a late Josh Brown field goal. O’Donnell and Dillon mounted a late drive sparked by a thirty yard reception by Carl Pickens, but Doug Pelfry’s 44 yard field goal fell short, giving the Rams a 24-21 victory. The Bengals will take on the Browns in the next round.
2010 Panthers (2-14) vs. 1997 Colts (3-13)
The pre-Peyton Manning Colts actually had some nice talent on the roster in 1997. They take control of the game early behind Marshal Faulk, Marvin Harrison and Jim Harbaugh. Both Faulk and Harrison find the end zone in the first half to build a 17-7 lead. Both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have some success on the ground, but when the Colts keep their lead through the third quarter, Panther quarterback Jimmy Clausen is forced to put the ball in the air often, with predictable results. Colts corner Carlton Gray picked off a lazy deep-out from Clausen to set up one more Faulk touchdown to put the game away 24-10.
2011 Colts (2-14) vs. 1996 Jets (1-15)
The final match-up pits two of the favorites – as far as this tournament goes – for the title. Two truly awful teams match up in round one. Neither squad is able to generate much offense through the first two quarters. Awful quarterback play from Neil O’Donnell (his second mention in this story, didn’t any GMs get the hint?) and Curtis Painter prevent either offense from putting any consistent drives together. Less good defense and more terrible offense, especially from Painter, keeps the game scoreless through three quarters. Keyshawn Johnson is seen screaming at head coach Rich Cotite on the sidelines asking why he is not being thrown the damn ball. All Cotite can say is the offensive line can’t protect the quarterback against Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney. The verbal exchange seems to light a fire in ‘Key’ as he finally gets a look from O’Donnell and picks up a key first down, but Wayne Chrebet lead the team in receptions, including the game’s lone touchdown in a 10-3 victory. The Colts advance to take on Carolina in round two.
Brian covers basically all high school sports, but mainly football and wrestling in Minnesota where he has lived his entire life. Fed up with his day job he decided to try writing as a hobby over ten years ago and that hobby has turned into sort of a second career. He has been involved in some way with football since he was a water boy for his high school team when he was in elementary school and has been playing fantasy football since before he could vote.