The 2008 Detroit Lions set a high standard for low standards. They were the first 0-16 team in NFL history, an achievement that merited an upside-down banner and a parade down a street full of banana peels.
It took almost three decades for a team to go 0-16.
It might take one year for it to happen again.
Four teams are currently 0-5, and at least two of them seem to have a real shot at 0-16. Anybody can be bad for a week. It takes a special team to be bad every week.
Can anybody go 0-16 in 2009? To find out, I measured my gut feeling on a team's overall lack of talent, coaching, and schedule, then assigned numbers to each gut feeling, and added up the numbers to make it seem like this was some kind of mathematical formula.
We will get to the formula in a second. But first, let's pause to pay our respects to the Oakland Raiders, who -- through no fault of their own -- have won a game. The Raiders had so much 0-16 potential. They're awful enough to make Matt Millen jealous. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell couldn't hit the broad side of a barn unless it was draped in an opponent's jersey, the head coach is accused of trying to de-brain one of his assistants, the owner keeps picking up his rotary phone and demands to speak to "that damn Rozelle" -- I mean, it's an extraordinary all-around performance by this organization.
So why did they win a game? Because they played the Chiefs, that's why. JaMarcus Russell completed 7 of 24 passes, the Raiders' only had 166 total yards ... and they won, 13-10. What a remarkable game. Really, it was a shame anybody had to win. And there went the Raiders' chance to live in ignominy. They're just another lousy team now.
That's why schedule is a big factor on our silly formula. As I mentioned, I also judged team's overall lack of talent and coaching. And also: karma. Yes, karma. Sometimes destiny is on your side, and sometimes destiny is never on your side.
Now, on to the hopefuls ...
The Titans are 0-5, which is the only reason they are on this list. No sane person can see this team going 0-10, let alone 0-16. Besides having a lot of the same players who earned homefield advantage throughout the playoffs last year, they are eighth in the league in rushing and third in run defense. This is not an 0-16 team. I don't even understand how this is an 0-5 team.
OVERALL LACK OF TALENT:Chris Johnson is a Pro Bowl running back, the defense still has a lot of valuable pieces ... again, this is not an 0-16 team.
COACHING: Some people think Jeff Fisher is a great coach. Others think he is overrated and should have been fired by now. But like him or not, he knows what he's doing. He's not an 0-16 coach.
SCHEDULE: The Titans visit New England next, which is probably trouble. But then they have this five-game stretch: Jacksonville at home, at San Francisco, Buffalo at home, at Houston, Arizona at home. They should win at least two of those, maybe more. This is not an 0-16 schedule.
KARMA:Kerry Collins is a feel-good story. Vince Young can be a feel-good story. That is not 0-16 karma.
0-16 ODDS: 150-1. It's not going to happen.
The Chiefs have lost 28 of 30 games, which is not as stark and eye-catching as 0-16, but speaks to their overall level of ... uh, craposity. That is two full seasons of stink.
OVERALL LACK OF TALENT: Did we mention this team has lost 28 of 30 games?
COACHING:Todd Haley is a rookie coach. If the Cardinals had lost in the first round of the playoffs last year, would the Chiefs have plucked him off their staff to be the head coach? I don't know, maybe they would have. And maybe Haley will turn out to be a great head coach. But right now ... yeah, you'd have to say he has 0-16 potential.
SCHEDULE: This is where it gets sticky. The Chiefs play the Raiders again (on the road) and Cleveland at home -- they might actually be favored to beat the Browns.
KARMA: When the Lions went 0-16, it almost felt like a lifetime achievement award -- they'd been bad for so long, they were due for a winless season. Well, the Chiefs have been bad for a long time, too.
0-16 ODDS: 10-1. They're bad enough, but that Browns game worries me.
The Bucs started 9-3 last season, and they did it mostly without star running back Cadillac Williams. Can a team really go from 9-3 to 0-20 (counting the last four games of 2008)? Seems impossible.
OVERALL LACK OF TALENT: They have Cadillac, and Josh Johnson has shown a little promise at quarterback, and most of the other skill position guys are at least recognizable. This team needs to rebuild, obviously. But is it really 0-16?
COACHING: Even Raheem Morris can't believe he is coaching this team. Before becoming head coach, he had been a defensive position coach in Tampa -- just like former Lions coach Rod Marinelli. I'm just sayin' ...
SCHEDULE: This week's home game against Carolina, while totally meaningless in every other context, is huge for the 0-16 watch. The only remaining home games after that are against Green Bay, New Orleans, the Jets and the Falcons. Plus, they have to go to London to face the Patriots. There is not an easy win on this whole schedule.
KARMA: They fired Tony Dungy so they could hire Jon Gruden. They fired Gruden so they could hire Raheem Morris. This franchise deserves what it gets this year.
0-16 ODDS: 30-1. Even with that schedule, there is too much talent here to go 0-16.
The Rams are a 10-point road underdog against Jacksonville this weekend, which means they must have had some really good practices this week. How else to explain the improvement? They are giving up 29 points per game and scoring seven. That, my friends, is 0-16-esque.
The Rams have won five of their last 37 games.
OVERALL LACK OF TALENT: A Brief History of the Rams: They had Kurt Warner once. He left. They have been awful ever since.
Plus, if Marc Bulger can't stay healthy, they will be counting on Kyle Boller to lead them to victory. Admit it: if I told you before the season that Kyle Boller would be the quarterback of an 0-16 team, and didn't even tell you what franchise he played for, you would have believed it.
COACHING:Steve Spagnuolo was a defensive genius with the Giants, and sure seemed like a great coaching hire last winter. But he is still a rookie head coach.
SCHEDULE: The worst five teams in the league -- besides St. Louis -- are probably Cleveland, Kansas City, Oakland, Detroit and Tampa Bay. The Rams only have one game against that group, and it is on the road (in Detroit). That does not bode well. Or it does bode well. It depends on your worldview, I guess.
KARMA: They have a new coach, the team is up for sale, and there's potential for the season to be in Kyle Boller's hands. This is not a recipe for winning anything.
0-16 ODDS: 8-1. I really like this team, by which I mean: I don't like it at all.