NFL's Biggest Single-Season Declines
The Oilers traded perennial Pro Bowl quarterback Warren Moon after the 1993 season, leading to a 10-win decline and first-to-worst finish the following year. The upside was that, in the middle of the wretched season, Houston fired coach Jack Pardee and replaced him with Jeff Fisher, whose 16-plus-year run -- which ended after the 2010 season -- made him the NFL's longest-tenured coach. In terms of winning percentage, the Oilers suffered the greatest decline in the four major pro sports (.750 to .125 for a difference of .625). Read on for the rest of the NFL's biggest single-season drop-offs (excluding strike-related seasons).
The nine-win fall wasn't all that surprising: The Bears' only winning season from 1996-2004 came in 2001, when the league's stingiest defense carried a team quarterbacked by the pedestrian Jim Miller.
After rushing for an NFC-leading 1,846 yards and 14 touchdowns for the NFC champion Falcons in `98, Jamal Anderson played only two games in '99. Combined with injuries to quarterback Chris Chandler and a decline in defensive performance, the Falcons' point differential went from plus-153 to minus-95.
San Francisco 49ers
With Young setting career highs in passing yards and touchdowns, the '98 Niners extended the franchise's streak of seasons with at least 10 victories to 16. But Young suffered a concussion in the third game of '99, ending his career and hastening the transition to Jeff Garcia, who struggled that season but had San Francisco back in the playoffs two years later.
No secret to the eight-win decrease: John Elway retired after back-to-back Super Bowl victories (leaving Brian Griese to play quarterback) and Terrell Davis played only four games in '99 (though Olandis Gary was a solid fill-in) as the Broncos tumbled from second to 18th in scoring.
Ray Lewis and Co. had high expectations for '07 after bringing back the core of a 13-3 team that had the league's stingiest defense. But, after a 4-2 start, injuries, a league-worst turnover differential and slippage on defense led to a last-place finish and the firing of coach Brian Billick.
New England Patriots
The Patriots overcame Steve Grogan's 22 interceptions in 12 games to nearly make the playoffs in '80, but they bottomed out the following year with a four-game losing streak to start the season and a 10-game skid to end it. Coach Ron Erhardt, deemed "too nice a guy" by ownership, was fired after the franchise's worst season.
Several NFL teams have experienced seven-win declines, including the '08 Packers (see the next page) and these Raiders. Led by NFL MVP Rich Gannon, the 2002 team went to the Super Bowl under first-year coach Bill Callahan and lost to former Raiders coach Jon Gruden's Bucs. But Gannon was hurt for much of 2003, leading to a forgettable QB stint from Rick Mirer, as the Raiders began a run of seven consecutive seasons with at least 10 losses.
Green Bay Packers
Not surprisingly, Green Bay slipped during the transition from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers -- but the rebuilding didn't take long. Rodgers subsequently guided the Packers to 10- and 11-win seasons, culminating in a victory at Super Bowl XLV.