In 1978, the NFL switched to a 16 game season and 30 years later, the Detroit Lions became the first team to lose every single one of them. This past season, the Cleveland Browns became the second team to lose all 16 regular season games.
What would happen if these two dismal teams played against each other? Who would win the showdown to determine who is the worse 0-16 team in history? This is why I am here to break down the matchup. To find out who wins this game, we will look at both teams strengths, weaknesses as well as both head coaches.
Factor #1: Both Team’s Strengths
Let us start with the Lions. The first player that comes to mind is future hall of fame wide receiver Calvin Johnson who at the time was in his second year in the league. In 2008, he recorded the first of his seven 1,000 yard receiving seasons and caught 12 touchdowns which tied him for league lead with Larry Fitzgerald.
The Lions also had their longtime kicker Jason Hanson who made 21 of 22 field goals, which included eight from 50 plus yards away. On the offensive line, Jeff Backus started every game for the Lions in 2008. Despite those strengths, this team still had major holes which will be addressed later.
Speaking of offensive lineman, this brings us to the Browns strengths. Future hall of fame left tackle Joe Thomas who up until week seven this past season did not miss a single offensive snap in his 10-year career. Other than Thomas, nothing else stood out about the 2017 Browns. The winner of the strengths battle is the Detroit Lions.
Factor #2: Both Team’s Weaknesses
One weakness about the 2008 Lions that stands out was the revolving door at the quarterback position. Five different signal callers took the field for the Lions that season including Jon Kitna who suffered a season ending back injury. The bigger weakness however was their defense. This was one of, if not the, worst defensive team to ever play in the NFL. They gave up a grand total of 517 points (32.3 points per game) and they intercepted four passes all season, ouch.
The Browns also had issues at the quarterback position like they always have ever since they returned to the league in 1999. Rookie Deshone Kizer started 15 of the Browns 16 games and threw 22 interceptions. Kevin Hogan started one game for Cleveland and Cody Kessler played in four games this past season. The Browns also had a severe lack of talent in the receiving core. Yes, Josh Gordon returned to the league but he did not make much of an impact because he only played in five games.
The Browns also lack talent in the secondary, absolutely no playmakers at all on defense. Not even the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft Myles Garrett made much difference on the defensive line. Both teams weaknesses are extremely apparent but I think the Lions are in worse shape in this regard.
Factor #3: The Head Coaches
The head coach of the 2008 Lions was Rod Marinelli who was fired after that season. In three seasons as head coach he posted a 10-38 record. He since then proved to be a very good defensive coordinator but he was not a good head coach. As for a notable coach on his staff, Joe Barry who was the defensive coordinator went on to have some success with the Redskins and is now the assistant head coach of the Rams.
Hue Jackson for the Browns is a completely different story. In two seasons as head coach, he posted a 1-31 record, yes you are reading that correctly. He only has one win as the head coach of the Browns. While Jackson did a nice job as offensive coordinator with the Bengals, it was clear that he would struggle with a considerably less talented roster in Cleveland.
With the incompetency that the Browns have at the head coaching position the winner in this department are the Lions.
After all of the analysis, I have concluded that the 2008 Lions would beat the 2017 Browns. The Lions have more talent especially on offense with a young Calvin Johnson and Jon Kitna being a better quarterback than Deshone Kizer. Plus I think Marinelli’s defensive schemes will make it hard for the Browns to move the ball on offense.