Will the New York Jets Go Winless?

By Patrick Hayes   December 7, 2020 

Will the New York Jets Go Winless?

Going winless over the course of an entire NFL season isn’t exactly common, but it has become less rare over the last 20 years. 

The NFL started playing a 16-game season in 1978, and there was not a winless season for 30 years under that format. But the Detroit Lions celebrated that 30th anniversary of the 16-game schedule by going 0-16 in the 2008 season, followed by the Cleveland Browns repeating the feat in 2017.

This year’s New York Jets are currently 0-12. Having the worst record in the league isn’t exactly the worst thing that could happen to them – the Jets would love to add a quarterback with Clemson Trevor Lawrence’s star power with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. But they’d probably prefer to do it without having to suffer the indignity of a winless season to get there.

How do they compare to the Browns and Lions, though? Well, their point differential doesn’t tell a promising story. In 2017, the Browns went 0-16 with a –176-point differential. The Browns were only reasonably competitive in six of those 10 games (meaning they lost by one score or less). They scored the fewest points in the league (234) and gave up the second-most (410). They averaged 14.6 points per game and gave up 25.6, for an average loss margin of 11 points per game.

In 2008, the Lions had even uglier numbers. Their –249-point differential was even worse than Cleveland’s, and Detroit was also near the bottom of the league in the league in scoring (268) and first in points allowed (517). They were competitive even fewer times, losing by one score or less just five of those 16 games. Detroit averaged 16.8 points per game and gave up 32.3, for an average loss margin of 15.5 points per game.

Right now, the Jets are last in the league with a –170-point differential. They’re also last in scoring (152) and third to last in points allowed (322). Currently, their 13.8 points per game are worse than what both Cleveland and Detroit put up in their dismal seasons, and their 29.3 points allowed per game would be right in between Cleveland and Detroit’s marks. They’re losing games by 15.5 points per game, tied with the Lions’ average margin of defeat. And extrapolated out over an entire 16-game season, they’re on pace for a –248-point differential, just one below the Lions and much worse than Cleveland. In short, the NFL odds are not in the Jets’ favor, historically speaking.

Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets fumbles after he is sacked by Clelin Ferrell #96 of the Las Vegas Raiders during the first half at MetLife Stadium on December 06, 2020 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

So, obviously a lot has to go wrong for a team to be on the cusp of a historically bad season, and the Jets are no different. But there are a few reasons things have gotten so bad after a 7-9 season a year ago appeared to have them on track to improve.

Things start with quarterback Sam Darnold. The third-year quarterback has been worse than his rookie season. He’s thrown for just over 1,200 yards in seven games, is completing just 58 percent of his passes, and he’s thrown three touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Darnold was the third pick in the 2018 draft and completed 62 percent of his passes last season. Prior to this season, he’d also taken better care of the ball – he had 46 touchdowns with 28 interceptions his first two seasons.

Things aren’t all Darnold’s fault. He’s taken a beating in his career behind a porous offensive line. He’s been sacked 85 times in 33 career games, and missed 10 games in his young career due to injury.

The Jets also have no running game to speak of. The team cut Le’Veon Bell during the season, just one year after signing him to a big free agent contract. His replacements, Frank Gore and La’Mical Perrine, are averaging just 3.7 yards per carry. 

Things would look bleaker for the Jets if not for their defense’s ability to force turnovers. The Jets have recovered six fumbles and intercepted seven passes this season.

The Jets are likely to fire coach Adam Gase after the season, and they are reportedly going to pursue Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy as his replacement.

The Jets don’t have a lot of help in trying to avoid a winless fate, either. Their final four games are against teams competing or playoff spots – the Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams, Cleveland Browns, and New England Patriots. Three of those four games are also on the road. 

Whether they tie the Lions or Browns in the history books or not remains to be seen, but the Jets have already tied the 2001 Lions for the seventh-worst start in the last 20 years. The Lions lead all teams – if you can call it that – by being the last team to get a win in a season four times. Here’s a look at the last winless team each season over the last 20 years.

  • 2019 – Cincinnati Bengals, 0-11
  • 2018 – Arizona Cardinals, 0-4
  • 2017 – Cleveland Browns, 0-16
  • 2016 – Cleveland Browns, 0-14
  • 2015 – Detroit Lions, 0-5
  • 2014 – Oakland Raiders, 0-10
  • 2013 – Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 0-8
  • 2012 – Cleveland Browns, 0-5
  • 2011 – Indianapolis Colts, 0-13
  • 2010 – Buffalo Bills, 0-8
  • 2009 – St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 0-7
  • 2008 – Detroit Lions, 0-16
  • 2007 – Miami Dolphins, 0-13
  • 2006 – Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans, 0-5
  • 2005 – Houston Texans, 0-6
  • 2004 – Miami Dolphins, 0-6
  • 2003 – San Diego Chargers, 0-5
  • 2002 – Cincinnati Bengals, 0-7
  • 2001 – Detroit Lions, 0-12

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