The worst teams in NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL history

Browns have a tough choice with top pick (0:59)

Now that the Browns have the first pick in the NFL draft, Cleveland will have to decide between several college stars. (0:59)

The Cleveland Browns are on the cusp of becoming the second team in NFL history to lose 16 games in a season.

The Detroit Lions were the first to do it, back in 2008. And by virtue of point differential (the Lions were outscored by 249 points during their winless season), Detroit is considered the worst team in NFL history.

Which got us to wondering, what are the worst teams across the other three major sports?

Here's a look:

MLB: 2003 Detroit Tigers

Manager: Alan Trammell

Record: 43-119

Season summary: Yes, the 1962 Mets went 40-120, but that was an expansion team. This was an established franchise that had spent 10 seasons building to be historically awful. It somehow finished 13 games worse than the 2002 team, which lost 106 games. It earned this dubious achievement. Under first-year skipper Trammell, the losing started immediately; the Tigers lost their first nine games and were 1-17 after their first 18. Proving that stretch was no fluke, they had a 1-15 run in August that included an 11-game losing streak and then had a 1-16 stretch in September.

The staff ace was Mike Maroth, who went 9-21 with a 5.73 ERA; he’s the last pitcher to lose 20 games and the only one since 1980. Rookie Jeremy Bonderman went 6-19 with a 5.56 ERA, while Nate Cornejo went 6-17 with a 4.67 ERA and just 46 strikeouts in 194 2/3 innings. He had nine starts where he didn’t strike out a single batter! Chris Mears and Franklyn German tied for the team lead with five saves.

Here’s one way to show how bad this team was: It actually went 19-18 in one-run games, but it was 7-40 in games decided by five or more runs. That’s how you get outscored by 337 runs. The Tigers were shut out 17 times and allowed 10-plus runs 21 times. They were 20 wins worse than Tampa Bay, the second-worst team.

The Tigers began the final week with a 38-117 record, staring at those 120 losses of the ’62 Mets. The national media descended on Detroit. They lost 12-6 to the Royals on Monday but then won the next two and beat the Twins 5-4 on Thursday on a Shane Halter walk-off home run in the 11th inning. After losing on Friday, they had to win their final two games to avoid tying the Mets’ record. Then came the Saturday Night Miracle. They trailed the Twins 8-0 but rallied to win 9-8. The winning run -- true story -- came when Warren Morris struck out on a wild pitch and Alex Sanchez scored from third, capping the Tigers’ biggest comeback since 1965. They still needed to win on Sunday. Craig Monroe hit a go-ahead home run in the sixth as the Tigers won 9-4. The winning pitcher? Maroth.

What happened next: General manager Dave Dombrowski, who had taken over in April 2002, set about rebuilding. He signed Ivan Rodriguez and Rondell White and traded for Carlos Guillen before the 2004 season. With the second pick in the draft, the Tigers drafted Justin Verlander (who fell to the Tigers when the Padres selected Matt Bush, thank you very much). The Tigers improved to 72-90. In 2005, they signed Magglio Ordonez as a free agent and acquired Placido Polanco during the season from the Phillies for Ugueth Urbina. The team finished 71-91, and Dombrowski felt it was time to make a bigger push. He fired Trammell and hired Jim Leyland for 2006.

The Tigers made two final big free-agent signings: starter Kenny Rogers and closer Todd Jones. The farm system, which had been mostly barren for more than a decade, produced Verlander, Curtis Granderson and hard-throwing reliever Joel Zumaya, all playing their first full seasons. The Tigers turned in one of the most surprising turnarounds in MLB history, going 95-67. In just three seasons, they had improved by 52 wins. They reached the World Series, losing in five games to the Cardinals.

Quote: “We’re not the worst team in baseball, no matter what. We’re going to have a better winning percentage than the Mets, and we beat their record. You’ve got to compare apples with apples, not apples with oranges. OK? They played 160 games and we’ll play 162.” -- former Tigers first baseman Carlos Pena after the dramatic Saturday night win.

-- David Schoenfield

NBA: 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats

Coach: Paul Silas

Record: 7-59

Season summary: When the 2011 NBA lockout ended, experts and fans alike wondered which team would suffer most from the extended break and shortened offseason. It didn’t take long to find out. The Bobcats, who were coming off a mediocre but not terrible 34-win season in 2010-11, actually won their season opener (by one point), but then dropped an unfathomable 26 of their next 28 games, leaving them with a 3-26 record midway through February.

Incredibly, the team managed to win four games over the next 30 days -- not exactly anything to write home about, but still a vast improvement over the season’s first six weeks -- putting Charlotte at 7-36 with 23 games to play. A single win in those final 23 games would have given the Bobcats a season win percentage of .121, slightly better than the 9-73 Philadelphia 76ers of 1972-73. But they couldn’t even manage that. The Bobcats ended the season on a 23-game losing streak, falling by 20 points in the season finale against the New York Knicks to cement their place in history.

While this Bobcats team wasn’t devoid of talent, it mostly had players either too early in their careers (rookie Kemba Walker, third-year guard Gerald Henderson) or too late (Corey Maggette in his second-to-last NBA season). Most emblematic of the seven-win Bobcats was probably Boris Diaw, a former first-round pick who’d gotten so out of shape and ineffective that he was benched, then eventually bought out midway through the season. He was then immediately picked up by the San Antonio Spurs, where he transformed himself into a key contributor on back-to-back Finals teams.

Charlotte’s misfortune extended to the offseason, when it was leapfrogged in the draft lottery by New Orleans -- the franchise that had abandoned the city a decade earlier -- causing it to miss out on Anthony Davis.

What happened next: After selecting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist a pick after Davis and replacing Silas with Mike Dunlap, the Bobcats actually got off to a strong start in 2012-13. The Bobcats won their season opener again, snapping that 23-game losing streak, and it took Charlotte just 12 games to match its dismal win total from the season before. However, things quickly fell back to earth, and the team finished 21-61 in Dunlap’s first, and only, season. However, the next season -- the final one in which the team was known as the Bobcats -- the team managed a more successful turnaround.

Steve Clifford was hired as Dunlap’s replacement and immediately changed the defensive identity of the team, vaulting it to fifth in the NBA in defensive rating in 2013-14, up from dead last the previous two seasons. Free-agent acquisition Al Jefferson gave the Bobcats a solid threat at both ends of the court, averaging 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, and Walker, now in his third season, chipped in 17.7 points and 6.1 assists per game. The Bobcats finished an impressive and unexpected 43-39 but were swept by the defending champion Heat in the first round of the playoffs in a series that Jefferson was limited because of a foot injury.

The renamed Hornets took a step back in 2014-15 but returned to the playoffs a year later and earned their first playoff victory since 2002, but they fell to the Heat again in seven games.

Quote: Team owner Michael Jordan, who’d played on a Chicago Bulls team that set what was then the NBA’s single-season wins record, summed up the 2011-12 Bobcats in November 2012 by saying the franchise had “hit rock bottom,” adding “I'm not real happy about the record-book scenario last year. It's very, very frustrating.”

-- Adam Reisinger

NFL: 2008 Detroit Lions

Coach: Rod Marinelli

Record: 0-16

Season summary: The Lions -- at least for a few more days -- are the only 0-16 team in NFL history. This came after a 4-0 preseason, showing the meaningless nature of exhibition play. Signs of a potentially rough year started in 2007, though, when the Lions lost seven of their last eight games. Detroit’s biggest issue was it couldn’t stop anyone. The Lions were last in the league in run defense and 27th in pass defense. They allowed 32.31 points per game. Offensively, they weren’t much better, ranking 30th in offense (268.3 yards per game) and rushing offense (83.3 yards per game). They also scored only 16.75 points per game, 27th in the league that year. They lost 10 of their 16 games by double digits. Including Jon Kitna, who was put on injured reserve after the first four games of the season, the Lions played five quarterbacks that season with three different starters. None of them had a completion percentage over Kitna’s 56.7 percent. Defensively, the Lions had only four interceptions all season and allowed quarterbacks to complete 68.4 percent of passes against them. Essentially, Detroit had to play close to perfect to win a game and it just never happened, although there were close calls against Minnesota in Week 5 (a 12-10 loss that included quarterback Dan Orlovsky running out of the end zone and a game-winning Ryan Longwell field goal with nine seconds left) and against Chicago in Week 9, when the Lions blew a 10-point halftime lead to lose 27-23.

What happened next: The changes began during the 2008 season, when team president/general manager Matt Millen was fired. After the season, the Lions fired coach Rod Marinelli, too. Detroit replaced them with team president Tom Lewand, general manager Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz. They then took Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford with the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft. The 2009 and 2010 seasons were rough, but the Lions made the playoffs with a 10-6 record in 2011 after Stafford threw for 5,038 yards, 41 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. The success of the group, though, was fleeting. Schwartz was fired after two more under-.500 seasons and replaced by Jim Caldwell. Lewand and Mayhew were let go in the middle of the 2015 season, and Detroit hired team president Rod Wood and general manager Bob Quinn to replace them. As a franchise, the Lions have gotten better since 2009 and made the playoffs in 2011, 2014 and 2016, but they are still in the world of mediocrity. Detroit has one playoff win in the Super Bowl era and has not won a division title since 1993.

Quote: “We were struggling on defense to stop teams, and we were not going to be good enough on offense to outscore everybody. So it, it’s just a combination of things. Some of the games were close. Cleveland went through it last year. They won that one game, the 15th or 16th game to win the game. Sometimes you keep playing and do the best you can and you’re just not quite good enough.” -- former Lions offensive coordinator Jim Colletto

-- Michael Rothstein

NHL: 1974–75 Washington Capitals

Coach: Jim Anderson (4-45-5), Red Sullivan (2-16-0), Milt Schmidt (2-6-0)

Record: 8-67-5 (21 points)

Season summary: As much as the Vegas Golden Knights were set up to succeed by the 2017 NHL expansion, the expansion Washington Capitals were destined to fail in 1974. The rules were rough: The NHL’s 16 teams could protect 15 players and then pull back one player each time they lost one. But the biggest impediment for the first-year Capitals was an unprecedented shallow talent pool. Including Washington, the NHL had added 10 teams in a six-year span, while the rival 14-team World Hockey Association was vacuuming up players as well.

The Capitals were a bad team on paper and the worst team of all time on the ice. There have been 1,506 team seasons in the NHL over the past 100 years; the Capitals collected 0.131 percent of their available standings points, which ranks them at No. 1,506. Their 5.58 goals against per game makes them the worst defensive team in NHL history (over at least 60 games). They also looked the part, wearing hideous white pants that were easily soiled.

But they had a sense of humor about it, at least on one night. After winning in Oakland to end a 37-game road losing streak, forward Tommy Williams pulled a trash can out of the dressing room, had some teammates sign it, and a few Capitals skated it around the rink in celebration, calling it “The Stanley Can.”

What happened next: The Capitals followed the worst season in NHL history with what stands as the 12th worst -- 11-59-10 in 1975-76, with a paltry .200 points percentage and 25 straight games without a win. The only thing notable over the next few years was defenseman Yvon Labre, whose number was retired after 334 games with the team.

Washington finally made the playoffs in its ninth year after minor league coach Bryan Murray was hired instead of giving Don Cherry total control of the team. The Capitals made the playoffs for seven straight seasons under Murray and 14 straight overall from 1982 to '96.

The franchise can be split into four eras: its pathetic beginnings, its playoff consistency, the folly of trading for Jaromir Jagr and subsequent tank job in the early 2000s, and the post-2005 lockout “Rock The Red” era starring Alex Ovechkin. But the Capitals have made the Stanley Cup Final only once as a franchise, losing in 1998 to the Detroit Red Wings, so the count remains one Stanley Can, zero Stanley Cups.

Quote: “It was a pretty scary hockey club, not a whole lot of things you remember about it as great. You look at a lot of things that took place, [like giving up] 13 goals at Buffalo and four of them by your own defensemen. You could make a pretty good movie out of it,” said goalie Ron Low, via NHL.com.

-- Greg Wyshynski