Oh, my! Lions set NFL record for futility at 0-16
By NANCY ARMOUR – 10 hours ago
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — They'd known for weeks it was possible, each loss bringing them one stumble closer to a mark no team wants — or even wants to think about.
Yet when it finally happened, the Detroit Lions were still stunned, unable to find words to adequately describe the shame in their accomplishment. They are losers of historic proportion, the worst team ever in the NFL. Sixteen games, 16 losses, the perfectly imperfect season.
"I don't have anything positive to say," Calvin Johnson said.
What's to be said? That can be printed, that is.
With a 31-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, the Lions brought a merciful end to their "annus horribilis." Not since 1976, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 0-14, had a team failed to win at least one game in a full season. (And those Bucs had the excuse of being an expansion team, not to mention some really bad uniforms. Detroit, in its 75th season, is one of the NFL's senior citizens.)
The New Orleans Saints during their worst days, the Indianapolis Colts before Peyton Manning arrived, the most woeful of the New York Jets teams — they may have flirted with the Bucs' mark, but none was this bad. Even the Oakland Raiders, who've been putting the fun in dysfunctional the last few years, managed to finish off the year with a win.
But not the Lions. Just as they had all year, instead of finding the will to win, they found a way to lose.
Any Given Sunday? The only given with these Lions were losses.
"We all knew this was a possibility," Jeff Backus said after the Lions were jeered off the field by chants of "0-and-16! 0-and-16!" "Nobody wanted it to happen, nobody thought it would happen. I'm sure it's going to bug people for a long time."
Actually, what's bugging the Lions has been ailing them for years.
They've been on a downward spiral for most of this decade, done in by one bad personnel move after another by TV analyst-turned-general manager Matt Millen (who drafts a wide receiver in the first round three years running? Better yet, who doesn't get SOMETHING out of three straight first-round picks?). Their efforts on the field weren't much better, stringing together so many losses it looks as if an "L" key got stuck on a keyboard.
But this season was a debacle of epic proportions.
They were outscored 517-268 in their 16 losses. Oh, sure, they came close to winning a few times, including two losses to NFC North champion Minnesota by a total of six points. But there were plenty of ugly ones, too. Like a 37-point blowout by Tennessee and a 35-point rout by New Orleans — both at home.
"We just plain and simple didn't get it done, for whatever reasons," said Backus, who, as Millen's first draft pick, has had a front-row seat for Detroit's carnage. "Execution, talent, schemes — at different times it was different things.
"It was just one of those years it all kind of came together."
One series against the Packers pretty much summed up the entire season. Already trailing 7-0 in the first quarter, the Lions needed a yard for a first down. Dan Orlovsky kept the ball and got the yard, only to have the play waved off because a timeout had been called.
By the Lions.
Rookie running back Kevin Smith would get the first down, Detroit's first of the game. But on the very next play, Orlovsky was picked off by Charles Woodson, setting up Green Bay's second touchdown.
"As a Lions fan, we're used to them stinking," said Adam Gadsby, one of several Lions fans who made the eight-hour drive from Detroit to watch their team stake its dubious claim to history in person.
"But they've never stunk as well as they're stinking this year."
There's no telling when it's going to get better, either. The Lions have won just once in their last 24 games. While Millen is long gone, coach Rod Marinelli's future has yet to be decided and owner William Clay Ford has already said front-office heads Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand will be back.
"This didn't come out of nowhere," said kicker Jason Hanson, who knows ugly when he sees it as the longest-tenured of the Lions. "Every aspect of what we do has to be rethought, reanalyzed."
Even if the Lions make a miraculous turnaround — look at the Miami Dolphins, bound for the playoffs a year after a 1-15 finish — they will never erase the stain of this dubious record. Every player on this roster, no matter what he does the rest of his career, he'll always be remembered as part of that Lions team that went 0-16.
Don't think they don't know that, either. The silence in their locker room after the game was crushing, interrupted only by the occasional sound of luggage being zipped up. Smith made sure he kept his gloves, tucking them into his bag so he would be reminded every day this offseason of how awful he felt Sunday.
"It's over now. We're 0-16," Smith said. "I wish it was just a dream. I wish I could wake up and it'd be over. But it's not."
The Associated Press: Oh, my! Lions set NFL record for futility at 0-16