When it comes to sucking, the Detroit Lions stand alone of the summit of the great mountain. Their 0-16 season in 2008 set the mark for ineptitude. Many teams have tried since, and some have been even worse than that Detroit squad, but none have been able to show the consistency and general commitment to losing that setting this kind of record takes. The 49ers this year have a lot of what you need, but they didn't even have the discipline to lose their first game. They don't belong in the temple of the losing greats. These Cleveland Browns, though, have membership in this very exclusive club in their grasp. Coming off their bye week they have just four games left. Lose them all and they will be remembered forever. Falter and win one and they are just another lousy team that no one will ever remember. They control their own fates. But are they up to the challenge? Can they finish what they have started?:
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The odds: BetOnline is not hugely optimistic that the Browns can join the Lions at 0-16. They have them at +125 to go 0-16 and -155 to win at least one going forward. The Browns have mostly looked awful, so these odds are just an indication - and I am totally sincere about this - that it is extremely hard to lose every game in this league. Even lousy teams can - through injury, weather, schedule or circumstance - find themselves winning one. For proof you only need to look at last weekend - the Bears are a horrific team that shouldn't win anything, but a combination of rough weather and playing a San Francisco team that is just as bad led them to a win.
Recent play: Five games back the Browns came close to a win - they were up 20-7 at the half to the Jets and lost by only three. Since then, though, they have not played well for four straight. They lost to the Cowboys by 25, the Ravens by 21, the Steelers by 15 and then the Giants by 14. They have only barely been putting up a fight. They haven't covered a spread in their last six games, either.
Remaining schedule: The remaining schedule, sadly, isn't as tough as it could be. Not even close. They start by playing the Bengals at home. Cincinnati was better last week against the Eagles than they have been, but they are still in the midst of a lousy season and are playing with little pride. The Bengals should win, but they could blow this. Then they travel to Buffalo and host the Chargers. Both of those opponents are better than Cleveland, but you never really know what you are going to get from either team and they are hard to trust. Cleveland could potentially win either. And then there is the finale against Pittsburgh. The Steelers lack some consistency, but they are the best team on the remaining schedule by far. The problem is, though, that we don't know where they will be at the time. The Steelers are tied with the Ravens for the division lead. If that race stays tight then the Steelers could come into the game fired up and they would likely destroy the Browns. If the race is over one way or the other, though, then the Steelers might not care at all. The worst-case scenario - at least in terms of pursuing 0-16 - is if Pittsburgh has already clinched a playoff spot. Then they could be looking to rest players before the playoffs, and the Browns could face a squad with as many depth issues as they have.
Coaching stability: Hue Jackson has the faith of the front office and his job isn't on the line in the slightest. The team has made coaching overhauls four times since 2010, so surely they have learned that change doesn't equal improvement in all cases. Jackson is a decent coach given not much to work with. The stability at coach makes it harder to bet that the Browns will go winless - teams that are going to lose a coach tend to collapse.
Quarterback: The biggest proof that the Browns are actually committed to joining the Lions in history is their QB decision making. Cody Kessler, against all odds, has actually been alright this year. Incredibly, he actually has the highest passer rating of any Cleveland QB that has thrown at least 100 passes since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999. That's as much a sign of how relentlessly awful this team has been as anything, but it is still significant. Kessler is not starting next week, though. Instead, they are trying Robert Griffin III again. He was awful in the first game and then was hurt and hasn't played since He has a couple of excellent receivers to throw to in Terrell Pryor and Corey Coleman and a couple of decent running backs, but the offensive line that is just awful. Can he stay healthy? And will he be even remotely competent if he does? It's hard to be too optimistic.
The bottom line: I want to believe so badly. I want Cleveland to finish 0-16 more than I want anything else this season. They are capable and it is possible, but I am haunted by the thought that they are going to falter and win one. Like the oddsmakers, I remain pessimistic about them claiming their place in history.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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