Back on the first weekend in February, the Seattle Seahawks won the franchise's first Super Bowl title in its 38th year of existence. It's safe to say that Pete Carroll's team was far from a surprising preseason selection to win a championship.
Okay, here's a tougher question.
Dating back to realignment in 2002, the owners of the five worst regular-season records in the National Football League belong to the Detroit Lions (58-134), Oakland Raiders (64-128), Cleveland Browns (65-127), St. Louis Rams (70-121-1) and Buffalo Bills (77-115).
Not surprisingly, four of those teams (Bills, Raiders, Browns and Rams) own the longest active playoff droughts in the league. Hence, it's been a while since the wagons were circled, no one's rocking in O-HI-O, there's been no recent commitment to excellence and they're singing the blues in St. Louis.
So here's a look at the not-so-fantastic four, a mention of their last playoff game and where the team may be headed this season.
Bills (lost to Tennessee Titans, 22-16, in 1999 AFC Wild Card Playoffs)
From a franchise that made an unprecedented four straight Super Bowl appearances from 1990-93 to a club that finished dead last in the AFC East for each of the last six years. Doug Marrone (the team's seventh head coach since Marv Levy's retirement following the 1997 season) led the club to a 6-10 finish this past season but rookies such as quarterback EJ Manuel, middle linebacker Kiko Alonso and wideout Robert Woods showed plenty of promise. Since 2008, the Bills are just 9-27 vs. their AFC East rivals but did manage a 3-3 divisional record in 2013. Can new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz help a team that has allowed 425, 434, 435 and 388 points, respectively, in each of its last four seasons?
Browns (lost to Pittsburgh Steelers, 36-33, in 2002 AFC Wild Card Playoffs)
The franchise has been the focal point of discussion in recent days thanks to yet another series of changes in the front office. After one season under Rob Chudzinksi, Mike Pettine is now the newest sideline leader for a team that is a combined 27-69 (losing 11 or more games each of the last six seasons) since finishing with a 10-6 mark in 2007. How's this for a harsh dose of reality? The club is a dismal 77-163 since its return to the NFL in 1999 and Pettine is the team's eighth different head coach. Still, this a team with talented Pro Bowl players such as wide receiver Josh Gordon, tight end Jordan Cameron and cornerback Joe Haden.
Raiders (lost to Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 48-21, in Super Bowl XXXVII)
It's now been over a decade since that less-than-memorable Sunday in San Diego when league MVP Rich Gannon threw five interceptions, three returned for touchdowns, and the Silver and Black were mauled by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII. Over the last 11 seasons, the Raiders have failed to post a winning record in any of those campaigns and are a miserable 53-123 in the process. Dennis Allen will begin his third year as the team's head coach in 2014 and it's worth noting that no Raiders' head coach has lasted at least three full seasons since Jon Gruden did the job from 1998-01. Just ouch, baby.
Rams (lost to Atlanta Falcons, 47-17, in 2004 NFC Divisional Playoffs)
While the team did reach the playoffs in 2004 and actually defeated the Seahawks in the wild card round, that was an 8-8 St. Louis team. Hence, the Rams have not actually enjoyed a winning season since 2003. How bad has it been for this club, especially since it was once known for its "Greatest Show on Turf" attack? Last season, the team scored 348 points (21.8 PPG) and it marked the first time since 2006 that the Rams had averaged at least 20 points per game during the season. Head coach Jeff Fisher has brought respectability back to the club but the team has still managed only seven wins in each of the last two seasons. Moving up in the NFC West these days is easier written than done but this is a squad that has drafted extremely well the last two years.
So which of these clubs is the first team off the skids and into the playoffs? Very inquiring and highly frustrated minds want to know.
Russell S. Baxter has been covering the NFL for 30-plus years on all platforms. He is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com, writes for numerous websites and publications across the country and is blessed with an encyclopedic memory. Ready to talk NFL? Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.
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