Anatomy of Super Bowl Winners Part IV: Best & Worst Franchises Since Start Of 16-Game Schedule

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To Suck, Or Not To Suck is a series exploring whether franchises have a better chance of winning a Super Bowl by suffering through some terrible seasons to get higher draft choices, or whether winning begets more winning. Each article will look at this question from a different angle. All will be based on quantifiable data. Varying interpretations and debate are highly encouraged!

Detroit got off to a 5-0 start. They were the talk of the league, and for good reason. I dedicated an article to them for ThisGivenSunday, after doing some research that revealed no other franchise had lost more games since the advent of the 16-game schedule in 1978. It occurs to me that this research may be of interest to those debating whether losing in order to gain higher draft picks can lead to winning.

Here’s an excerpt from that article:

Many fans take for granted that bad NFL teams will become good teams over time. Talent wins football games, and nothing beats high draft picks when it comes to adding talent. The Lions have walked an almost impossible line of producing bad team after bad team, and still managing to squander high draft picks at a rate high enough to sustain their losing. Detroit has a league-worst .380 winning percentage since 1978 (see chart), averaging only six wins per season. They have made the playoffs only eight times in that span. Only the Arizona Cardinals (4) and Cincinnati Bengals (6) have played each season since 1978 and had fewer playoff apperances (the Saints also have eight playoff appearances in that time). 

Much of that suckage can be traced back to instablity at the quarterback position. The Lions have had 17 different passing leaders over the course of those 33 seasons. Even a near-.500 franchise like the Seattle Seahawks have only had 9 passing leaders in the same time frame. The Lions are basically churning through a new starting quarterback every other season. That’s no way to build a winner. 

Mathew Stafford was drafted three offseasons ago, and has finally stayed healthy long enough to give Lions fans hope that they might finally have a franchise quarterback.The Lions have had exactly zero Pro Bowl quarterbacks in the past 33 seasons. Every fan knows it is hard to find a franchise quarterback, but what Detroit has managed seems harder.

Note that St. Louis and Tampa Bay are the only two franchises to win a Super Bowl in the Bottom 10 winning percentages since 1978. There have been 33 Super Bowls since the 1978 season, with two teams in each, for a total of 66 teams appearing in a Super Bowl since 1978. Of those 66 teams, only 9 were represented by the Bottom 10 records. On the flip side, 33 of the 66 teams, a full 50% came from the Top 10  winning percentages since 1978.

Winners win. Losers lose. The data continues to back that up.