Giants, Raiders, Bills and Browns fans are feeling the pain this year. Seems like their only good Sundays are on their bye weeks. How long will their misery last and when it’s finally over, is it really over? Talk in these fanbases is that if they just 'trust the process' their years of patience with sucking will be rewarded with an NFL dynasty - or at very least a winning football team. The Blitzed Crew talked about this on their most recent show.
That got me thinking, how often does that actually happen? So I went back over the last 30 seasons to see how teams fared when coming off of three consecutive, “this team makes me drink,” losing seasons (or in one special case, an expansion team) followed by a minimum of three consecutive non-losing seasons. And only nine teams in 30 years pulled it off. The good news, my friends, is that the average sustained success of these nine teams was about five years. But hold on to your champagne for just a bit as I give you a little breakdown.
New York Jets 1994-96
From 1994 through 1996 the Jets couldn’t get off of the ground. They had a combined record of 10-38. However thanks to the tutelage of pre-Slim Fast Bill Parcells (did he ever really drink that shit?) and a defensive coordinator you may know named Bill Belichick, the Jets produced three consecutive non-losing seasons followed by three more under Al Groh and Herm Edwards, who always played to win the game. Super Bowl appearances during these ‘up’ years: none, nada, zero, zip.
Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens 1995-98
One of the most beleaguered franchises in the NFL went through four brutal seasons from 1995 through 1998, posting a 21-42-1 record (what is it with this franchise and ties?). The first two of those years were in Cleveland before they headed east to Baltimore, where the losing came with them only with better stone crabs. Maybe that good crab meat helped as their next three seasons saw a 30-18 record and a Super Bowl ring after the 2000 season. Ah Brian Billick, how could you do that to us Vikings fans? How? Answer me, dammit!
Jacksonville Jaguars 1995
The Jaguars came into the NFL in 1995 as an expansion team and, as everyone predicted, struggled. The next season, and for four seasons after that, however, they turned it all around and “DUUUVAL!” was living the life. Then came the turn of the century and apparently Y2K hit hard as the team dropped 40 of its 64 games from 2000 to 2003. In his second season as head coach, Jack “His Name’s Del Rio and He Dances on the Sand,” got things turned around and for the next four years the team won 40 of its 64 regular season games. Despite this regular season turnaround, the Jags have yet to even play in a Super Bowl.
San Diego Chargers 1988-91
In the early 80s, “Air Coryell,” lit the skies in San Diego. In the latter stages of the decade and into the 90s, it was more like a whale’s vagina. The team had a combined record of 22-42 from 1988 to 1991, floundering at the bottom of the AFC West. They dipped into the college ranks and found Bobby Ross to become their new head coach. From 1992 through 1996, Ross led the team to a 47-33 regular season and a Super Bowl appearance. Unfortunately they sort of didn’t appear for the game and got housed by the 49ers. It’s pretty much guaranteed that the San Diego Chargers will never play in another Super Bowl.
Seattle Seahawks 2008-11
From 2008 through 2011 not even having a 12th man could help the Seahawks. They were 23-41 in those years and even Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan could find time to take a nap. Then in 2012 third year head coach and Southern California fugitive, Pete Carroll found an undersized and uber-talented quarterback in Russell Wilson. Over the next six seasons the team went 65-30-1 making two Super Bowl appearances, including winning it all in 2013, mauling the Denver Broncos 43-8 and even better, nobody had to vacate anything!
Philadelphia Eagles 1997-99
The Eagles of 1997 through 1999 were worse than a cheesesteak witout da wiz. They had a combined record of 14-33-1 and not even a hot soft pretzel or dreams of pelting Jolly St. Nick with snowballs could satisfy the fans. As the 21st century began 2nd year head coach Andy Reid, who when asked, “Gino’s or Pat’s?” probably answered, “Yes,” calmed the masses. For the next five years the Eagles won 59 of their 80 regular season games, making the playoffs in each season. They played in the Super Bowl after the 2004 season, losing to the Patriots 24-21. Welcome to the club, guys.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1988-96
Over a nine-year span from 1988 through 1996 the Buccaneers lost two thirds of their games. It was a different story from 1997 through 2002. Tony Dungy came in and led the team to four playoff appearances. When he left after the 2001 season things went Spider 2Y Bananas. Jon Gruden led the 2002 team into the Super Bowl and beat his old team, the Oakland Raiders. But he couldn't sustain that winning edge for very long and now he’s back in Oakland beating the Raiders all over again.
St. Louis Rams 1990-98
The Rams called St. Louis home from 1995 until 2015. Prior to that they were in L.A. From 1990 through 1998 it didn’t matter where they called home. They were terrible anywhere with a combined record over the two cities of 45-99. In 1999, his third and final year at the helm, Dick Vermeil, led by former stock boy, Kurt Warner, got a Super Bowl ring by a yard. Mike Martz took over and got the team to the playoffs twice more in 2000 and 2001, including another Super Bowl appearance where they lost to the damn Patriots. That’s right, I said the damn Patriots. I hate them. I really, really hate them.
The Dallas Cowboys - 1988-90
This is easily the most successful of the teams mentioned. From 1988 through 1990 they played more like cow pies than Cowboys, going 11-37 in that span, leading to the firing of legendary head coach Tom Landry. The six seasons from 1991 through 1996 were a hell of a lot different. With a level of success that would make J.R. Ewing look like a gas station attendant, the Cowboys went 60-36 in their regular season games, made the playoffs in all six seasons and won three Super Bowls led by Jimmie Johnson from 1991 through 1993 (two rings) and Barry Switzer from 1994 through 1996 (one ring). Barry Switzer has a Super Bowl ring. Let that one sink in for a minute.
So, is the pain of sustained losing actually worth it? Of the nine teams listed here, there are seven Super Bowl rings among them with five of the nine actually playing in one. So keep your chins up, New York (or is it New Jersey?), Oakland (or is it Las Vegas?), Buffalo and Cleveland (but maybe they’ll move to Baltimore too). Just keep trusting the process and live life with the Lloyd Christmas approach because I’m saying there’s a chance.
Until next time, raise a glass, toss a ball, and keep sticking pins in that Tom Brady voodoo doll.
Mike Zimmer's Ears is a Minnesota Vikings fan from Pennsylvania and is a #TeamBlitzed All Pro. You can follow him on Twitter.