Professional sports leagues are packed with some of the most competitive people on the planet. It’s a safe bet that anyone who makes it to the top level of their chosen sport would like to have their name recorded in the history book. But some records are better left untouched.
Using NFL stats kept at Pro Football Reference, The Football Database and Mcubed.net, we’re highlighting some of the all-time records that most players and franchises would rather not hold. Here are some of the worst ways figures and teams have made NFL history.
Quarterback Bud Schwenk won a championship with the Cleveland Browns in the All-America Football Conference in 1946, but he made NFL history in 1942. That season, Schwenk was playing with the Chicago Cardinals — now known as the Arizona Cardinals — and he had a remarkably bad season throwing the ball. His passer rating of 25.5 is the worst single-season mark in history among starting quarterbacks with at least 200 passes in a season. He completed 43% of his throws, including just six touchdown passes to 27 interceptions in 11 games.
Poor Gary Marangi. He was a backup quarterback who probably wouldn’t have attracted much attention if the starter in front of him, Buffalo’s Joe Ferguson, hadn’t gotten hurt in 1976. In seven games as the Bills starter that year, Marangi, seen on the far right here, completed just 82 of 232 passes for an all-time single-season low completion percentage of 35.3%. His passer rating was a dismal 30.8, and it would end up being the final year of a three-season NFL career. The team was 0-7 in that stretch, despite Marangi having Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson in the backfield.
Speaking of legendary running backs, Joe Washington was a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro selection during his NFL tenure, but he also holds one unimpressive all-time record. From 1977-1985, Washington carried the ball 1,195 times but only scored 12 times on the ground. That’s the lowest tally of rushing touchdowns among all NFL running backs with at least 1,000 carries. For comparison’s sake, the great Jim Brown had 106 rushing touchdowns over roughly the same number of years. To be fair to Washington’s legacy, he was a great receiving threat and had 18 touchdowns through the air.
Aside from having an all-time great name, King Hill’s NFL career was mostly forgettable. Although he did make history by being a remarkably inaccurate quarterback. From 1958-1969, Hill played in 123 games and threw 881 passes, completing just 48.7% of them. His career passer rating of 49.3 is the lowest among all quarterbacks with at least 100 games on their resume. You can see him posing on the right here with Sonny Jurgensen, a Hall of Famer who had a career passer rating of 82.6.
Journeyman quarterback Rick Mirer started games for five different NFL franchises from 1993-2003 and is mostly remembered for his time with the Seattle Seahawks. In his career, he made history by having the lowest touchdown passing percentage among all NFL quarterbacks with at least 1,000 completions. Of Mirer’s 2,043 total pass attempts, just 2.4% of them were touchdowns. To put that number into context, many of the best passers in history have a touchdown passing percentage above 5%, while Hall of Famer Sid Luckman has the greatest mark ever at 7.9%.
Before a guy named Russell Wilson came along, Dave Krieg was arguably the best passer in Seahawks history. He was a three-time Pro Bowler with the team in the 1980s, but he also earned a distinction that’s not nearly as positive. In an NFL career that lasted nearly 20 years, Krieg lost 3,794 total yards from being sacked. Those are the most yards any quarterback has ever lost from sacks, edging out Hall of Famer John Elway by just nine yards.
Let’s be clear about something: some of the greatest players in NFL history hold some of the worst records on the books, and that’s certainly the case with Tony Dorsett. The Hall-of-Fame back racked up more than 12,000 rushing yards in 12 seasons, from 1977-1988, but he also dropped the ball a lot. Dorsett’s 90 fumbles are tied for the most in NFL history among all running backs. He shares the record with Pittsburgh Steelers icon Franco Harris, but Dorsett had slightly fewer total carries so we’re singling him out.
Lamar McHan is probably best known for being the Packers starting quarterback in 1959 before an injury led him to be replaced by the legendary Bart Starr. His 10-season career is also notable for another reason. McHan, seen standing in the center here, holds the single worst career completion percentage for any quarterback who played at least 100 games in the NFL. From 1954-1963, he completed just 42.3% of all his throws. A closer look at his figures shows that McHan also threw just 73 touchdowns to 108 interceptions.
Another quarterback who played for Vince Lombardi in Green Bay but also holds one embarrassing all-time record is Zeke Bratkowski. He won three NFL championships with Lombardi’s Packers, including the first two Super Bowls, and served as Bart Starr’s backup in the 1960s. However, Bratkowski threw a lot of interceptions. In fact, his interception percentage of 8.2% is the highest among all quarterbacks who played in at least 100 games. That means he threw a pick nearly every 13 times he threw a pass.
In Steelers lore, Terry Bradshaw is virtually a god. He led the franchise to its first four Super Bowl wins and was named the NFL’s most valuable player for the 1978 season. Yet despite all his success, his career started in a very shaky way. During Bradshaw’s rookie season in 1970, he had a passer rating of 30.4, which is the lowest single-season passer rating among qualifying quarterbacks since the 1966 AFL-NFL merger. To reach that rock-bottom rating, the Hall of Famer threw six touchdowns versus a league-leading 24 interceptions and completed only 38% of his passes.
When you throw as many passes as Brett Favre did in his long NFL career, you’re bound to set some undesirable records. The “Gunslinger” earned his nickname by launching the football all over the field with reckless abandon, many times with disastrous results. Favre’s 336 career interceptions are easily the most in NFL history and are about 100 more than many of his fellow Hall-of-Fame passers. Favre also holds the league’s undesirable all-time marks for pick sixes, fumbles and times sacked.
Bert Bell was a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and was one of the most influential figures in NFL history as league commissioner — but he was a historically bad head coach. Before he was elected as the NFL’s top executive in 1946, he coached the Steelers and Eagles to miserable results. From 1936-1941, Bell’s teams had an overall record of 10-46-2, never even sniffing a postseason appearance. His career win percentage of .179 is the worst among all head coaches in league history.
While Bert Bell’s NFL coaching record is the benchmark for futility, Hue Jackson holds the mark among modern coaches. From 2011-2018, Jackson spent four seasons as head coach of the Raiders and Browns, and he never had a team finish better than third place in its division. His head coaching record was 11-44-1, which is remarkably similar to Bell’s from more than 70 years earlier. Jackson’s career win percentage of .205 is the worst among all head coaches since the merger.
Marvin Lewis is the winningest head coach in Cincinnati Bengals history, but his futility while coaching in the playoffs is the stuff of legend. While coaching the team from 2003-2018, Lewis had a record of 131-122-3 and led some very good teams into the postseason. His teams made the playoffs seven times in 16 seasons but remarkably never won a single playoff game. Lewis’ career record of 0-7 in the playoffs gives him the most postseason appearances without a victory of any head coach in history.
Jeff Fisher had a lengthy career as head coach of the Oilers/Titans and Rams that included a trip to the Super Bowl after the 1999 season. When you spend more than 20 years in that job, you’re bound to lose a lot of games. Fisher had a career record of 173-165-1 from 1994-2016 and that record gives him the most losses of any coach in NFL history. His 165 losses are tied with Dan Reeves — we’ll get to him in a moment — but since Fisher had the lower win percentage, we’re picking on him here.
The “Swamp Fox” Marion Campbell was a decorated two-way player in the 1950s and early 1960s with the 49ers and Eagles, but his career as a head coach was much weaker. Campbell coached from 1974-1989 and amassed a career record of 34-80-1 for a dismal win percentage of .300. However, his win percentage isn’t what makes him a historically bad coach. Campbell’s mark of 46 games below .500 are an all-time record of futility among head coaches.
Norm Van Brocklin
Norm Van Brocklin was one of the most influential quarterbacks in the early days of that position becoming what we recognize it as today. He landed in the Hall of Fame for his playing career, which included two NFL championships, but certainly not because of his coaching tenure. Van Brocklin coached the Vikings and Falcons from 1961-1974 and somehow never had a team reach the playoffs. His “achievement” of coaching 173 NFL games without a single postseason appearance is the worst such mark ever.
The longtime coach of the Broncos, Falcons and Giants set his own frustrating mark during an otherwise impressive career on the sideline. Dan Reeves coached in 357 games from 1981-2003 and took his teams to the Super Bowl four times. Unfortunately, they never won a single one. Since the Super Bowl era began in 1967, no other person in NFL history has coached in as many games without winning the big game.
Too add insult to injury, Reeves is also the only eligible coach to have coached in at least 350 games but not been elected to the Hall of Fame.
It’s tough to imagine today but in the bygone days of the NFL, teams often relied on a position player to double as the kicker. Wayne Walker was one such guy, playing linebacker as his primary job but also kicking field goals when called upon. The Detroit Lions star was a three-time Pro Bowler for his defensive efforts but not so much for his leg. From 1958-1972, Walker made just 40.5% of his field goal attempts, giving him the worst percentage of any kicker ever.
Interestingly, this photo was taken from one of his best kicking performances ever, when he hit three field goals in a 1962 win against the Bears.
Washington Football Team
The Washington Football Team has a proud history that includes five NFL championships, but it also set an embarrassing record in one of its biggest games. In 1940, the team went 9-2 and made it to the NFL Championship Game, looking for what would’ve been its second title in four years. However, the team ran into a buzzsaw in the Chicago Bears, who handled them in the most lopsided game in league history. Chicago would win 73-0, but we have to give Washington credit for getting revenge in the 1942 title game, beating the Bears 14-6.
As a franchise, the Miami Dolphins are probably best known for finishing the 1972 season at 14-0, becoming the only team in history to finish an NFL season undefeated and win the Super Bowl. But the team set an all-time mark in a terrible way more recently. In the playoffs after the 1999 season, in which they had gone 9-7, the Dolphins met the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars in a divisional-round matchup that became the biggest blowout in NFL playoff history since the merger. The Jags won 62-7 in a game some have argued “broke” the Dolphins franchise for decades to come.
Since that game, Miami has only made the playoffs four times, winning just one postseason contest.
Of all the suffering fan bases across the NFL, you really have to feel for the poor souls who back the Detroit Lions. This franchise holds perhaps more unfortunate all-time marks than any in the league. For starters, the Lions hold the record for most consecutive playoff losses in history, a nine-game streak that started in 1991 and continues today. The team also easily has the worst playoff win percentage of any franchise since the Super Bowl era began in 1967, winning just 7% of its playoff games in that span.
Finally, Detroit set the league’s all-time record for consecutive losses on the road when it lost 26 straight from November 2007 to November 2010. That streak broke the NFL’s old record, which was 24 straight road losses from 2001 to 2003 — also held by the Lions.
If you were a football fan in the early 1990s, you know all about the unfortunate all-time record set by the Buffalo Bills. From 1990-1993, the Bills appeared in four consecutive Super Bowls and lost every single one of them. The franchise remains the only to ever appear in four straight Super Bowls and also the only to lose that many consecutive times in the big game. The entire heartbreaking story of Buffalo’s historic run was covered in great detail in the ESPN documentary “Four Falls of Buffalo,” if you need a little pick-me-up during this pandemic.
New Orleans Saints
When the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl in 2010, it brought relief to a fan base that had endured many lean seasons. The toughest years of all for Saints fans came at the beginning of the franchise’s history. From 1967, the first year of the team’s existence, through 1986, the Saints didn’t make the playoffs once. That 20-season streak is still the longest NFL playoff drought of the post-merger era.
While Saints fans had to sit through 20 years without a playoff appearance, fans of the Cardinals had to endure a much longer period without a victory in the postseason. Following the franchise’s win of the 1947 NFL Championship — when it was the Chicago Cardinals — the Cardinals wouldn’t win another playoff game until 1998. That marked a 51-year stretch between playoff victories, which is the league’s all-time mark. Meanwhile, the team is still trying to win its first league championship since that 1947 run.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have only been around since 1976, but the team has set many historic marks of ineptitude since then. For starters, the franchise started its history with 26 straight losses from September 1976 to December 1977, which is the longest losing streak in NFL history by a good margin. The Bucs 1977 team holds its own bit of history for averaging just 7.4 points per game, the worst single-season scoring average ever. The franchise also had 14 consecutive losing seasons from 1983-1996, which is another all-time mark.
However, a Super Bowl win in 2003 made a lot of that previous pain seem like a distant memory for the team’s fans.
New York Giants
With a history that stretches back to 1925 and includes eight league championships, the New York Giants are one of the NFL’s most storied franchises. However, all that history means plenty of chances for terrible seasons. The 1966 Giants set an all-time mark in the worst way when the team’s defense proved it couldn’t stop anyone. That team allowed 35.8 points per game to its opponents, which is the worst single-season average for a scoring defense ever. It’s little wonder why the G-Men went 1-12-1 that year.
It’s probably a good thing sports-talk radio didn’t exist back then.
It took the Denver Broncos nearly 40 years to win its first league championship, and that stretch included one truly heartbreaking loss in the big game. The Broncos had the AFC’s best record in 1989, going 11-5 and riding all the way into the Super Bowl. But the team ran into a brilliant San Francisco 49ers team that easily dispatched of the Broncos. The 49ers won the game 55-10 for a 45-point blowout that remains the most lopsided loss in Super Bowl history. It’s the only time ever that the game has been decided by a margin of more than 40 points.
Las Vegas Raiders
The 2011 Raiders season was memorable for being the final one under the ownership of Al Davis, who died in October of that year. Maybe the iconic figure’s death was a major distraction for the players because the team certainly played like it was distracted all season. The Raiders were penalized 163 times during the 2011 season, which is the all-time mark for penalties in a single season. In 2016, the franchise set another historical mark by racking up 23 penalties in a single game against the Buccaneers.
While the Raiders set the all-time mark for penalties in a single game, the team didn’t break the record for penalty yards in a single game. That one belongs to the Tennessee Titans, who lost a staggering 212 yards to penalties during a 1999 game against the Baltimore Ravens. What’s more incredible is that the Titans actually won the game 14-11 and would end up playing the franchise’s first Super Bowl at the end of that season. After the historic game, Titans coach Jeff Fisher said, “If there’s such a thing as playing bad and winning, you saw it today.”