Playoff drought leaves Dolphins' fans parched for a winner

Warning: Prolonged losing can wear on a team's fans. Look what it did to these Dolphins fans in '07. Joel Auerbach/US Presswire

Yes, there was a method to our madness in ranking NFL teams' fan bases. Five Bristol muckety-mucks sat in a room and hatched the genius idea of having our NFL division bloggers rate fan bases in their divisions over the past five seasons. Mike Sando (NFC West), Matt Mosley (NFC East), Pat Yasinskas (NFC South), Kevin Seifert (NFC North), Bill Williamson (AFC West), Tim Graham (AFC East), Paul Kuharsky (AFC South) and James Walker (AFC North) evaluated their teams in these categories:

Stadium factor (St.): Loud? Great atmosphere?

Live and die factor (LDF): Fans take loss hard? (That's a good thing.)

Traveling road show factor (Travel): Big presence in other guys' stadium?

Loyalty when team sucks (Loyal): You score points with us if you stick with a loser.

Hate factor (Hate): Other teams' fans dislike your fans? (Hate is good in our book.)

Tailgate factor (TG): Home tailgates sizzling or stale?

Home fans' creativity (CF): Wacky ideas … or not?

A rating of 1 is great, 5 the worst.

After the bloggers' ratings were digested by our Bristol computer, we had several ties. Enter The Professor, John Clayton of ESPN.com. Clayton -- who's covered more NFL games over the past 10 years than almost anyone -- broke all ties. Scientific? Nah. Fodder for debate? Certainly. Let the arguments begin (but keep 'em clean).

ESPN.COM NFL FAN BASE RANKINGS: 1-10 | 11-22 | 23-32

23. Texans

Consecutive sellouts: 60 | Season-ticket waiting list: 3,500

In 2006, when local hero Vince Young returned as a member of the division rival Titans, fans couldn't have greeted him more warmly. When he won the game with a TD run in overtime, most of Reliant Stadium cheered him. Texans fans are desperate for a winner and appreciate first-class ownership. They score well in loyalty (though as Young proved, a good share of it is to the University of Texas.) Though they can be whiny on a Monday morning, they've had a reasonable amount to whine about.
-- Paul Kuharsky

24. 49ers

Consecutive sellouts: 259 | Season-ticket waiting list: Undisclosed

San Francisco fans must be dedicated to sell out 259 consecutive games at one of the league's worst stadiums. The impressive sellout streak has nearly ended more than a couple of times during lean years, but fans keep coming back. The team's glory years in the 1980s helped, solidifying a fan base well beyond the Bay Area. The parking lots at Candlestick Park produce some memorable fare. The team has had trouble securing public funding for a new stadium, always a tough sell in California, even as fans keep turning out for games.
-- Mike Sando

25. Panthers

Consecutive sellouts: 41 | Season-ticket waiting list: None

There's a bit of a wine-and-cheese atmosphere at Panthers games, but there is a strong core of diehard fans who bring energy to Bank of America Stadium. Charlotte lives and dies with the Panthers because there aren't a lot of other options in the sports world.
-- Pat Yasinskas

26. Bengals

Consecutive sellouts: 36 | Season-ticket waiting list: Undisclosed

Bengals fans are disenchanted with their team. Cincinnati has just one winning season in the past 17 years, and during that span the city has grown accustomed to having a sub-par football team. Cincinnati historically is a baseball town, not a football town, and there is no natural pigskin rival to root against. If anything, Bengals fans spew most of their venom on their own. They're upset at star receiver Chad Johnson for his antics and wanting to get out of town. They turned on Carson Palmer recently for supporting USC -- his alma mater -- over Ohio State. A majority of fans turned long ago on the Bengals' front office led by owner Mike Brown. Granted, Cincinnati does draw well and has more loyal followers today than during the lean Dave Shula/Dick LeBeau/Bruce Coslet years. But Bengals fans remain very skeptical of their franchise.
-- James Walker

27. Jaguars

Consecutive sellouts: 0 | Season-ticket waiting list: None

Even with tarps covering seats to cut Jacksonville Municipal Stadium down to a more reasonable capacity, the building doesn't fill consistently enough. Three of the NFL's 10 blacked-out games last year were in Jacksonville. The team says it had the option of corporate bailouts to prevent those, but didn't accept them on principle. The city was spoiled some by the team's early success, but this piece of SEC country has not developed the hardcore loyalty to its NFL team that you find in Nashville.
-- Paul Kuharsky

28. Dolphins

Consecutive sellouts: 77 | Season-ticket waiting list: None

The Dolphins might have the most alluring fans in the league. You won't see any sweatshirts or parkas around Miami Dolphins Stadium. Chances are pretty decent there will be bikinis and midriffs showing off tanned bodies. Problem is, the fans are supposed to enjoy watching what's on the field, not each other. A six-season playoff drought has led to rows of empty orange seats. The visiting crowd has been louder at times.
-- Tim Graham

29. Rams

Consecutive sellouts: 2 | Season-ticket waiting list: None

St. Louis is a baseball town, and the Rams' roots in the city go back only to 1995. The Edward Jones Dome gets plenty loud when the Rams are on their game, but the enthusiasm has dropped off in recent seasons. With the team's future in question following the death of owner Georgia Frontiere, fans can't be sure if the franchise will stay in St. Louis for the long haul. Two consecutive sellouts aren't much to brag about.
-- Mike Sando

30. Falcons

Consecutive sellouts: 0 | Season-ticket waiting list: None

The Georgia Dome has the potential to be loud, but it seldom has been. The Falcons have struggled through much of their existence. The Braves and the University of Georgia are the favorites in this town, and the Falcons only draw attention when they're good.
-- Pat Yasinskas

31. Lions

Consecutive sellouts: 49 | Season-ticket waiting list: 0

Visit Ford Field in midseason and you feel like you should keep your voice down. That's how quiet it is. Of course, given the Lions' long history of disappointment, it says a lot about the loyalty of those who do come to the games.
-- Kevin Seifert

32. Cardinals

Consecutive sellouts: 20 | Season-ticket waiting list: 2,500

The team's new stadium has helped draw sellout crowds, but the franchise faces challenges. Too many football fans in the region had already latched onto other NFL teams, notably the Cowboys, by the time Bill Bidwill brought the Cardinals to the desert in the 1980s. Mismanagement and losing seasons kept fans away. The franchise is on an upswing and the fans are responding, but the Cardinals must win to turn skeptics into full-fledged believers.
-- Mike Sando

ESPN.COM NFL FAN BASE RANKINGS: 1-10 | 11-22 | 23-32