The NFL ‘1 Win Club’

With 2009 Week 12 in the books it looks like we have several teams up for candidacy in the ‘1 Win Club’. Going back to the beginning of the Super Bowl era in 1966, there have been about a dozen teams who have entered this fraternity of shame. Possible 2009 recruits include the Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the St Louis Rams. Below are a few stories of their official brethren.

ATLANTA FALCONS: The 1967 Atlanta Falcons went 1-12-1 in their second season in the NFL. They were coached by Herb Hecker who was replaced during the1968 season after a 0-3 start. His replacement was Norm Van Brocklin who completed the season at 2-9. Starting in 1969 Van Brocklin coached 5 full seasons for the Falcons. The first 2 seasons where losing efforts (6-8, 4-8-2), but he turned things around in the following 3 season with records of 7-6-1, 7-7, and 9-5. There were no playoff appearance under his leadership and he was replaced mid-season in 1974 after a starting record of 2-6.

BUFFALO BILLS: From the birth of the NFL, being an NFL coach has been a tough gig. In 1966, Joe Collier took over for the previously successful Lou Saban. That year the Bills earned a 9-4-1 record and an appearance to the playoffs. I would guess most of the credit for that season was given to Saban because the following year saw a negative turn around manifesting itself in a 4-10 season. In 1968, Collier was let go after a 0-2 start. His successor Harvey Johnson didn’t do any better accumulating a 1-10-1 record and membership into the 1 Win Club. Of course Johnson was let go at the end of the season. However, 2 seasons later in 1971, Johnson was brought back to Buffalo to coach the Bills. Johnson led his team to their second 1 win season at 1-13. He is the only person in the history of the NFL to coach multiple 1 win seasons (not to mention they were in non-sequential years).

CAROLINA PANTHERS: What many people don’t know about former head coach George Seifert is that he is also a member of the 1 Win Club. He did not acquire this dubious distinction with the SF 49ers, but with the Carolina Panthers. Seifert coached for 8 butt kicking years with the 49ers (1989-1996). With a Win-Lose% of .766 he retired. After several years of R&R and missing the NFL, Seifert returned to coaching with the Panthers. Coming into a then losing organization, Seifert appeared to have the team back on a promising path. In 1999, the Panthers were 8-8. The following year the 2000 Panthers lost a little ground with a 7-9 record. In 2001, after winning their opening game against the Minnesota Vikings, the unthinkable happened. The Panthers lost every single remaining game. Seifert was let go becoming yet another member of the honorable 1Win Club.

HOUSTON OILERS: The Houston Oilers, which became the Tennessee Oilers in 1997 and then the Tennessee Titans in 1999, are technically the only team in the NFL SB era to have 3 1-win seasons. In 1972, legendary college coach Bill Peterson took the head coaching position. Although he was known as the ‘Coach of Coaches’ mentoring such coaching greats as Joe Gibbs, Bill Parcells, Bobby Bowden and more, the NFL pretty much chewed him up and spit him out. The Oilers went 1-15 that year and Peterson was released in 1973 after starting the season 0-5. The 1982 Houston Oilers also had a 1 win season (1-8). But in 1982 there was a 57 day player strike which significantly reduced the numbers of games in the season. With 7 more games to play, I think it would have been possible for them to win one more game.

ADDITIONAL MENTION: The Chicago Bears had a 1 win season in 1969 with head coach Jim Dooley and running back Gale Sayers. In 1989, Jimmy Johnson, replacing legendary coach Tom Landry, led the Dallas Cowboys to their only 1 win season. The 1989 Cowboys had a 1-15 season under first year NFL coach Johnson and rookie Troy Aikman. Johnson survived 4 more years in Dallas and Aikman became a superstar. The 1991 Indianapolis Colts entered the club with then head coach Ron Meyer, QB Jeff George, and (soon to retire) Eric Dickerson. After 4 fairly good years Meyers led the Colts to a 0-5 records and was replaced by Ric Venturi. The 2007 Miami Dolphins went 1-15 only to be reborn last year (2008) via the leadership of VP Bill Parcells and head coach Tony Sparano.

The remaining club members:

Pittsburg Steelers 1-13 1969

New Orleans Saints 1-15 1980

New England Patriots 1-15 1990

New York Jets 1-15 1996

San Diego Chargers 1-15 2000

As I review the remaining schedules for this year’s candidates (Browns, Bucs, and Rams), I would like to nominate the following clubs for membership: Tampa Bay Bucs and the St Louis Rams. I look forward to the remaining season and the official results.

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