1990 Patriots Still One Of the Worst

The Detroit Lions may have lost 16 games to become the first team in NFL history to go winless in a 16 game season, but they're not the only bad team in league history. The 1990 New England Patriots would have given them a run for their money.

With all the success the New England Patriots organization has had the last decade, the franchise will always be a contender for one of the worst teams in NFL history.

The 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that went 0-14 during its inaugural season, has always been the first team mentioned at the top of the list as being the worst of the worst, while the Detroit Lions did their best (or worst) this season to stake their claim as being the best of the worst with their 0-16 record.

Since the turn of the century, the New England Patriots have set the standard for excellence and winning for a franchise. They won three Super Bowls in four years, had a 21-game win streak, and had the first perfect 16-0 regular season in league history. With all the great recent history for the New England franchise, the Patriots still have a nasty skeleton in their closet. That skeleton is the 1990 New England Patriots.

In 1990, the Patriots finished with a league worst 1-15 record. Even after their lone win in Week Two against the Indianapolis Colts, the aftermath would prove to be an embarrassment to the franchise and the league.

While Boston Herald reporter Lisa Olson interviewed players in the Patriots locker room on a practice day at Foxboro Stadium, several Patriots players taunted her by walking naked, making vulgar comments and gestures in her presence. After Olson complained, team owner Victor Kiam allegedly described her as a “classic bitch.” Kiam was also quoted saying “I can’t disagree with the players’ actions. Your paper’s asking for trouble sending a female reporter to cover the team. Why not stand in front of her if she’s an intruder?”

After an investigation of the incident, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue later fined three players and the team nearly $68,000, and a 60-page report from the league stated that Olson was “degraded and humiliated” and in a letter sent to Kiam, Tagliabue wrote that he believed the incident had “damaged” the league.

After the incident, they were destroyed on the football field by the Cincinnati Bengals 41-7. It was the first of 14 straight losses to end the season. In fact, the only win was a close two point victory over the eventual 7-9 Colts, who incidentally went 1-15 in 1991. The Patriots scored an inept 181 points for the entire season while allowing 446 points. Their offense ranked 26th out of 28 teams and their defense ranked as the second worst in the league. The “Patsies” gave up 5,921 yards on defense and gained just over 4,600 on offense. They were just bad on and off the field.

At the end of the season, Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan wrote “The Patriots have out-Murphyed the entire league put together. If something bad in the game of football can happen, it will not only happen to the Patriots, it will happen in a new and different way. The way things are going, they would be no better than even money in an intra-squad scrimmage. Each week we ask, ‘How can things get worse?’ and each week they do.”

The Patriots managed only one touchdown in three games: the 41-7 loss to the Bengals; a 37-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and a 42-7 pummeling at the hands of the New York Jets. They also managed only a field goal in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-3 and were shut out by the Buffalo Bills 14-0. The team actually failed to score more than 10 points in 10 games, including the final five.

The only positive to come out of that season was that all the Patriots home games were blacked out on local television and no one in New England had to watch eight of those horrible games.

Other bad Patriots teams included the 1970 Boston Patriots who finished with a 2-12 record and dead last in the AFC East; the 1981 New England Patriots went 2-14 and tied for last in the AFC East; and the 1992 Patriots finished 2-14 and the worst record in the league.

Other monumentally bad teams throughout the history of the NFL includes the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-14), the 1973 Houston Oilers (1-13), the 1971 Buffalo Bills (1-13), the 1981 Baltimore Colts (2-14), the 1991 Indianapolis Colts (1-15), the 1952 Dallas Texans (1-11), the 1980 New Orleans Saints (1-15), the 2001 Carolina Panthers (1-15), the 1960 Dallas Cowboys (0-11-1), the 1996 New York Jets (1-15), the 1992 Seattle Seahawks (2-14), the 1989 Dallas Cowboys (1-15), the 1982 Baltimore Colts (0-8-1), the 2000 San Diego Chargers (1-15), the 2007 Miami Dolphins (1-15), and the 2002 Detroit Lions (2-14).

* Information from TIME Magazine, “Trouble in the Locker Rooms,” 10-15-1990; and the New York Times, “Patriots and 3 Players Fined in Olson Incident,” 11-28-1990, were used for this story. Other sources included USAToday.com and ESPN.com.

Kevin Saleeba is a frequent contributor and columnist to Patriots Insider. A former beat writer for local media, Kevin has extensive knowledge of the team and experience covering the Patriots. Share your thoughts on this article, or send your questions to Kevin here.

Kevin Saleeba is a frequent contributor and columnist to Patriots Insider. A former beat writer for local media, Kevin has extensive knowledge of the team and experience covering the Patriots. Share your thoughts on this article, or send your questions to Kevin here.

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