Preseason football is underway and we, the football fans of the world, are giddy with excitement. And whether or not your team is killing it or getting massacred in the preseason, don't let your expectations get the better of you. Your pal, MZE, was sitting around on his back deck throwing back a root beer float and got to thinking about some of the best and worst teams in NFL history and how they fared in the preseason. So I wiped the vanilla ice cream moustache from my lips and got to work. Here are some of the best and worst teams the NFL has ever seen and their preseason performances. And once you give this a read, you'll pretty much understand why preseason results don't really matter at all in the grand scheme of things. At all.
Whoa, it's like, really bad.
2008 Detroit Lions
Preseason (4-0) Regular Season (0-16)
The 2008 Detroit Lions gave their fans higher hopes than Panic at the Disco could even dream. The team would sweep its four preseason games with names like Dan Orlovsky, Drew Stanton, Artose Pinner, Brian Calhoun, Kevin Smith, and Dave Rayner leading the way. Athletic apparel companies were on stand-by to make playoff tees. Additional ticket stock was purchased for those inevitable playoff tickets. Fans were already looking into hotel rooms in Tampa. A funny thing happened on the way to Raymond James Stadium. The Lions remembered who they were. The team would finish the regular season 0-16. The offense ranked 27th in the NFL while the defense was dead last, allowing 30+ points in 11 of 16 regular season games. Jon Kitna, Drew Stanton, and Daunte Culpepper (yeah Culpepper was a Lion) all started games and overall the Lions played five different QBs (no Eric Hipple wasn’t one of them). Kevin Smith had a decent season rushing for 976 rushing yards and Calvin “Megatron” Johnson had 1,331 receiving yards, providing a bright spot in a dismal season. Artose Pinner would get cut and never played in the NFL again. Calhoun was also a forgotten man. Dave Rayner made six of seven FG attempts in two preseason games. Jason Hanson would go six for eight in 16 regular season games. It’s no wonder Rod Marinelli was fired after the season. In 2008 Detroit came in like Lions and went out like lambs.
2017 Cleveland Browns
Preseason (4-0) Regular Season (0-16)
Cleveland Browns fans have been beleaguered for decades. “The Drive,” “The Fumble,” and a team that packed up in the middle of the night and won a Super Bowl ring in another city. The 2017 preseason brought hope to the “Dawg Pound.” They appeared to have a wealth of QBs ready to lead the team as DeShone Kizer, Kevin Hogan, and Cody Kessler all did solid work in a perfect preseason. Sadly the three would combine for a 61.4 passer rating while losing all 16 regular season games. They would rank 32nd in points scored, scoring fewer than 20 points in 12 of 16 games. The defense wasn’t much better as it ranked 31st in points allowed. For a winless team the Browns were fairly competitive, losing six games by a TD or less, but in the end it’s a dawg eat dawg world and the Browns had Alpo in their jock straps.
1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Preseason (1-5) Regular Season (0-14)
The 1976 season saw expansion in the NFL. Down in Tampa a new squad with a colorful head coach in John McKay and even more colorful uniforms was born in the Buccaneers. The hideous creamsicle uniforms (don’t @ me on this because those things burned my corneas) were nothing compared to how the team performed on the field. On August 14th the Bucs would win its preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons. It would be the highlight of their inaugural season (well aside from John McKay quotes). The team’s starting QB for the bulk of its games was Steve Spurrier, who went 0-12 with a 57.1 QBR. There is no truth to the rumor that he wanted to quit midway through the season. The running game was lead by the less than legendary, Louis Carter, with 521 rushing yards. The top receiver was Morris Owens, who had 390 receiving yards or roughly what Andre Johnson puts up in three weeks. Compared to this team’s results, those uniforms looked like Armani suits.
Hey, it's not so bad!
1972 Miami Dolphins
Preseason (3-3) Regular Season (14-0)
In 1972, back when NFL teams played six preseason games instead of four, the Miami Dolphins had a 3-3 preseason with losses to Detroit, Green Bay, and their final preseason loss to Washington on August 31st. That preseason loss would be the last time the Dolphins would lose a game all season. On offense the Dolphins scored 385 points to lead the NFL, led by two 1,000-yard rushers in Larry Czonka and Mercury Morris. Their “No-name Defense” was just as strong, allowing just 171 points to also lead the NFL. When Bob Griese went out with an injury after a 5-0 start super backup, Earl Morrall, stepped in and won all nine of his starts. Griese would return to the field midway through the AFC title game and would start the Super Bowl win over the Redskins, 14-7. If you’re going to win a rematch, the Super Bowl is good time to do it.
1984 San Francisco 49ers
Preseason (2-2) Regular Season (15-1)
The 1984 San Francisco 49ers gave little indication that they would be a team to watch when the preseason ended. In those four games, they would score just 58 points. The regular season would be a lot different. Led by the greatest quarterback to ever strap on the spikes in Joe Montana, the Niners scored 475 points in the regular season, which was 2nd in the NFL. The leading rusher wasn’t Roger Craig but Wendell Tyler, who had 1,262 yards. Here’s where the legend of Joe Montana steps into the spotlight. There was no Jerry Rice or John Taylor. His top receiver that season was Dwight Clark with 880 yards. The defense allowed just 227 points, which was 1st in the NFL. The only blemish on the team’s record was a 20-17 v PIT in Week 7. Heck, even Matt Cavanaugh got a win in his lone start at QB. The team may have been better in the playoffs, as the average margin of victory was almost 19 points per game, culminating in a 38-16 Super Bowl win over the Miami Dolphins and the second of four rings for Montana.
1985 Chicago Bears
Preseason (1-3) Regular Season (15-1)
The 1985 preseason began horribly for the Chicago Bears. They would drop their first three preseason games and gave Bears fans a feeling in their stomachs worse than eating an undercooked deep dish pizza. The final preseason game gave them hope when they drubbed the Bills, 45-13. No one could foresee just how much hope. The Bears 456 regular season points would be 2nd most in the NFL. Jim McMahon quarterbacked the team to 11 wins while Steve Fuller went 4-1 in his starts, the only loss coming to the Miami Dolphins on a Monday night in December. Hall of Fame running back, Walter Payton, ran for 1,551 yards on the season. The 1985 Bears were the 2nd consecutive 15-1 team to not have a 1,000-yard wide receiver as former track star, Willie Gault, let the team with 704 yards. The real key to this team was its defense. Buddy Ryan’s unit would give up a mere 198 points, 1st in the NFL. His dominant 4-6 scheme led the team to allow 10 or fewer points in 11 of 16 regular season games. The Bears were even more dominant in the playoffs, outscoring its opponents 91-10, including a 46-10 Super Bowl win over the pre-Brady/Belichick New England Patriots. William “The Refrigerator” Perry scored as many post-season touchdowns as Bears’ opponents. Cue, “Fat Guy in a Little Coat.”
So there are my six preseason results compared to regular season successes or failures. One one team in my six pack was skunky from start to finish. Who would you add to the list? Post it in the comments and please follow and read the work of all my Blitzed colleagues.
Until next time, Blitzers, don’t run out and buy a player’s jersey because he’s had a great preseason or you may end up with a closet full of DeShone Kizers.
Yours in football,
Mike Zimmers Ears is a die hard Minnesota Vikings fan and a regular columnist for Blitzed Football. You can follow him on Twitter here.