Who Was Worse? - 2017 Cleveland Browns vs 2008 Detroit Lions
These two teams accomplished what many people thought was impossible. Today I compare the 2017 Cleveland Browns and the 2008 Detroit Lions to see who had the worse team.
I take into account everything from players, coaches, executives, and other factors that could have derailed their seasons.
Lions: Detroit saw five different quarterbacks see playing time on the year.
Jon Kitna was the opening day starter, but a back injury placed him on injured reserve after four games. He finished the year the season throwing five touchdowns and five interceptions.
Backup Dan Orlovsky started seven games on the year throwing for 1,616 yards, eight touchdowns, and eight interceptions. He also unfortunately made the blooper play of the year when he ran out of the back of his own end zone for a safety in a game against Minnesota.
Midway through the season, The Lions signed Daunte Culpepper out of retirement and started five games before a shoulder injury ended his season. He completed just 52% of his passes for 786 yards, four touchdowns, and six interceptions.
Drew Henson and Drew Stanton saw playing time when games were already lost. Henson completed 1-2 passes and fumbled twice. Stanton completed 6-8 passes for 94 yards and a touchdown in relief of Daunte Culpepper.
Browns: Three quarterbacks saw playing time for Cleveland.
Rookie DeShone Kizer won the starting job after an impressive preseason. He ultimately showed he wasn't ready. Kizer struggled protecting the ball all year, leading the league with 22 interceptions and was ineffective in the red zone. He also had the worst completion percentage in the league at 53.6.
Kevin Hogan started one game after Kizer was benched. He responded by throwing three interceptions and Kizer got his job back.
Cody Kessler played in three games off the bench. He was ultimately ineffective completing 47.8% of his passes for 126 yards and a pick.
Worse Situation: Cleveland
The Lions may have used more quarterbacks on the year, but the Brown's quarterbacks accounted for 26 interceptions next to the Lions 19. While they weren't always effective Detroit's quarterbacks ultimately weren't the source of their losses.
The Running Games
Lions: A third round pick in 2008, Kevin Smith won the starting job after an impressive preseason.
Smith was benched in favor of recently signed Rudi Johnson after week four, but regained the job midway through the season. Smith led Detroit with 976 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Johnson finished the year with 325 total yards and two touchdowns.
Browns: Cleveland used to primary backs on the season with Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson.
Crowell was the main starter and finished the year with 853 yards and two touchdowns. Johnson was a versatile change of pace back and became the second running back in history to have 500 yards receiving in his first three seasons. He finished the season with 348 rushing yards for four touchdowns and also had 73 receptions for 693 yards and three touchdowns.
Worse Situation: Detroit
While Kevin Smith showed promise as a rookie, Crowell and Johnson were a good combo and Johnson brought in added value as a receiver.
The Receiving Corps
Lions: Detroit had one lone bright spot on their team in 2008.
Calvin Johnson was entering his second season and while he wasn't up to his Megatron level form, he did finish with 78 receptions for 1,331 yards and a league leading 12 touchdowns. The rest of the receiving corps was nothing special. Starting receiver Roy Williams was traded to Dallas prior to Week 6 and Mike Furrey landed on injured reserve. The tight ends didn't offer much in the passing game.
Browns: As bad as the quarterback play was for Cleveland, the receivers were just as disappointing.
Josh Gordon didn't get reinstated until Week 13 and while he played well, it was all for nothing. Corey Coleman missed much of the year with a broken hand and dropped the pass that sealed Cleveland's imperfect season. Sammie Coates and Ricardo Lewis were non factors and Rashard Higgins was disappointing until the final game of the year. Tight end David Njoku led the team with four touchdowns but caught one or fewer passes in eight games.
Worse Situation: Cleveland
When the most reliable receiver in your offense is a running back, that's never a good sign. While Detroit's receiving corps as a whole was a disaster, Calvin Johnson still should have been named to the Pro Bowl for leading the league in touchdown catches.
The Offensive Lines
Lions: While most of the offense was in disarray, this unit held their own for the most part.
Tackle Jeff Backus was a fixture on the blindside for 186 consecutive games. Gosder Cherilus started at right tackle after Week 3 and played well for the most part.
Browns: Cleveland's offensive line went downhill fast.
Tackle Joe Thomas landed on injured reserve after tearing his triceps in Week 7. The injury ended Thomas' NFL record for consecutive snaps played by an offensive lineman. The team signed Kevin Zeitler and JC Tretter in the offseason and it took time for them to find their footing. Spencer Drango struggled replacing Thomas and team's were able to take advantage of him.
Worse Situation: Cleveland
The Browns may have allowed fewer sacks than the year before, but losing a future Hall of Famer like Joe Thomas put a lot of pressure on Spencer Drango and the rest of the line. Had they had Thomas the whole season, they might have won a game.
Lions: The set up was a mess all year.
Third round pick Cliff Avril registered five sacks but was far from his future Pro Bowl form. Linebackers Paris Lenon and Ernie Sims each had over 100 tackles on the year.
The defining embarrassment of the defense was Thanksgiving Day against Tennessee as the defense gave up 47 points as Chris Johnson and LenDale White ran all over them. In all, the Lions gave up 517 points during the season and their 32.31 points per game allowed on defense is the third worst of any NFL team since the 1960s.
Browns: While Cleveland's offense struggled, the defense had a lot to make up for.
The defensive line saw improvement in the run defense and had added depth, bit injuries to key starters ultimately plagued them. Emmanuel Ogbah landed on injured reserve after 10 games. Rookie Myles Garrett led the team with seven sacks but missed five games due to injury.
Linebacker Joe Schobert went from backup to tying for the league lead in tackles and was named to the Pro Bowl. A knee injury ended Jamie Collins' season midway through the year.
The secondary gave up 28 touchdown passes and intercepted only seven. Opposing quarterbacks completed an average of 68.6% of passes and registered 102.3 passer ratings. Rookie Jabrill Peppers struggled to make plays and he knew it. Jason McCourty was solid for the most part finishing with three interceptions.
Worse Situation: Detroit
Cleveland lost six games by a touchdown or less while Detroit lost four games by that margin. And accounting for the Brown's lone Pro Bowler, I say the Lion's defense couldn't stop any modern day offenses.
The Head Coaches
Lions: Rod Marinelli was seen as a defensive specialist but ironically that was the biggest problem with Detroit.
Prior to being named head coach in 2006, Marinelli spent 10 seasons as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive line coach. There he worked to develop linemen such as Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice into Hall of Fame caliber players. During Marinelli's tenure in Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers earned more sacks than any other franchise. He was known for his structured approach and his commitment for trying to get the most out of his players.
Marinelli was fired right after the 2008 season. His record during the 3 seasons with the Lions was 10-38, one of the worst in NFL history for a head coach with at least three years' experience.
Browns: The offensive minded Hue Jackson has so far generated next to nothing for the Browns.
Before coming to Cleveland, Jackson served as offensive coordinator for Cincinnati. He make Andy Dalton a more efficient Pro Bowl quarterback.
In two seasons in Cleveland, he has a 1-31 record.
Worse Situation: Draw
While both coaches records are embarrassing and laughable, I don't believe either of them would have been in their situations had they received better helped from the next guys in this hub.
Lions: Matt Millen was in charge of the team for just over seven years and Detroit only managed 31 wins.
Millen spent 12 seasons as an NFL linebacker winning four Super Bowls between three teams and was a two time All-Pro. He moved to broadcasting post retirement where he remained until he was hired by Detroit.
Millen was the Lions' CEO and general manager for seven full seasons and Detroit's .277 winning percentage was among the worst ever compiled by an NFL team over a seven year period. During the early part of Millen's tenure, the Lions failed to win a road game for three years. Added the wasted draft picks and lack of great free agent signings, Millen was fired three games into the 2008 season.
Browns: Like Millen, Sashi Brown had no front office experience.
Brown previously served as head counsel for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2005-2012. He then worked at a Washington D.C. based law firm before the Browns hired him.
Brown was named Vice President of football operations in 2016. Following Week 13 of the 2017 season, Brown was fired and replaced by John Dorsey.
Worse Situation: Cleveland
While Matt Millen's tenure as a general manager is far from accomplished, at least he had been around the game for decades. Sashi Brown had no business running an NFL franchise. When it was revealed that he passed on Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson against Hue Jackson's wishes, it showed he didn't have what it took to make Cleveland a contender.
Who Was Worse?
Looking back at these two teams, there were a lot more similarities than differences. Both teams had a perfect 4-0 preseason, both had a revolving door at quarterback, and both had one bright spot.
The differences were exact opposites. Detroit had a worse defense and Cleveland had a worse offense. If we were to put the two teams together it might be the worst game ever.
But when it comes down to it, I have to say the worse team is......
The one stat that is hard to ignore from the 2017 Browns is the -28 turnover differential. Defensively the Browns weren't horrible and had the offense played more consistently, the would have won a couple games.