A weekend for the ages
I split my Sunday afternoon three ways: watching the Bucs plaster the Falcons, watching the local Cleveland Browns outlast the Buffalo Bills on what resembled the Siberian plain and watching the Dolphins come within one foot of going 0-14. All of these games appealed to me on a fan level. The Bucs and Dolphins games also appealed to me as an amateur historian.
Bucs vs. Falcons
For only the sixth time in franchise history the Tampa Bay Buccaneers claimed a divisional championship. As a lifelong Buccaneer fan I never take any kind of championship lightly, so I am quite proud of this group and yes I freely admit that I was wrong about Jon Gruden and his chances for success in 2007. Humble pie tastes quite good in the playoffs though!!
To top it off Micheal Spurlock’s return brought me off of my couch and almost out on the porch to scream to the heaven’s that I had actually lived long enough to see the Bucs return a kick-off all the way when it counted. Then I realized I live near Cleveland and the weather at Browns Stadium was the same weather on my front porch, so I just yelled in the living room instead.
I have lived through the touchdown returns of Bobby Futrell and Frank Murphy in meaningless pre-season games. I recalled sitting in my bedroom on a visit home in 1994 and hearing the deafening roar through my radio speakers as Vernon Turner sped back with the first punt-return in franchise history. I thought fondly of Karl “The Truth” Williams, one of my favorite Bucs of all time, zig-zagging to paydirt on multiple punt returns and of course Ronde Barbers sprint that outraced history itself on an interception return in the NFC Title Game.
But none of them could have prepared me for Spurlock. I immediately informed my wife Amy that if we ever have a son, we’re naming him Spurlock. She immediately told me to go away and leave her alone. Oh well, we’ll always have December 16, 2007.
Dolphins vs. Ravens
I was torn throughout this game. As a fan, I wanted to see the Dolphins go 0-16. Growing up in Tampa the Dolphin fans were always so smug, lording their Super Bowls and perfect season in Buccaneer fan faces. I wanted to see their fans suffer and I thought it would be absolute poetic justice if the Dolphins went winless in the same season as the Patriots went lossless.
However as the game moved into overtime I couldn’t help but remember the words of Lee Roy Selmon. In an interview on Inside the NFL he mentioned that he wanted the Dolphins to win because he remembered so vividly the pain of 1976 and he wouldn’t wish that on his worst enemy. I realized I have nothing against the Dolphin players, so it felt good to see them celebrate a victory even if it was only one.
However, with apologies to Lee Bromfield, part of me is pulling for the Patriots to go 19-0 if only to shut up the 1972 Dolphins forever. Think of Lee Roy and other members of the 1976 Bucs rooting for the Dolphins because they don’t want any team to suffer as they did. Now think of the 1972 Dolphins celebrating the defeat of all teams because they don’t want anyone to enjoy a season as they did. Which one of these teams appears classier to you?
The Quest for 0
Had the Dolphins lost to the Ravens they would have been just the second team since the 1976 Bucs to go 0-14. The other team? The 1980 New Orleans Saints. “The Aint’s” as they were known lost their first 14 games before upsetting the New York Jets 21-20 at Shea Stadium in Week 15. The Saints lost their final game to finish 1-15, the worst record in a sixteen-game season at the time.
Since 1980 five other NFL teams have gone 1-15 but only one had a legitimate shot at going 0-14 or more:
1989 Dallas Cowboys: Finished 1-15 but won a game in Week 9 (13-3 at RFK Stadium) against the Washington Redskins.
1990 New England Patriots: Yes, the same franchise that is now on a quest for perfection. The 1990 Patriots only victory was in Week 2 against the Indianapolis Colts (16-14 at the Hoosier Dome).
1991 Indianapolis Colts: Three years, three 1-15 teams!!! The Colts only victory of the season came in Week 11 at the Meadowlands against the New York Jets (28-27). Apparently the Jets love losing to woeful teams.
2000 San Diego Chargers: Remember when there was serious debate about Ryan Leaf vs. Peyton Manning? The Chargers were the closest to getting to 0-14, winning in Week 13 at home against the Kansas City Chiefs (17-16).
2001 Carolina Panthers: Shockingly, the Panthers won at Minnesota in Week One (24-13) and then proceeded to lose the next 15 games.
Dishonorable mention must also go to the 1982 Baltimore Colts and the 1986 Indianapolis Colts (motto: Two Really Nice Cities, Two Godawful Teams). As was written in a piece earlier this year, the 1982 Colts went winless in the strike-shortened season (0-8-1) with their tie occurring against Green Bay in Week Seven (20-20). The 1986 Colts version IND went 0-13 to start the year but then reeled off three wins in a row to finish 3-13.