By Sam McPherson
The Oakland Raiders are 0-4, and there’s not much hope for a victory any time soon. As the team prepares to host the San Diego Chargers this Sunday at the Coliseum, the Silver & Black are looking into a deep abyss, devoid of potential wins.
Sure, “any given Sunday” means the Raiders might win a game or two to avoid becoming the second team in NFL history to go winless in a 16-game regular season. Hope and hard work can always produce an upset—but Oakland fans have to avoid wishful thinking.
It’s been a dark 12 seasons for the Raiders, yes—but the team’s past is littered with successes. Those memories keep loyal fans dreaming for a future return to former glories.
But what about the blackest of times for the Silver & Black? Those years when there was no silver lining in the results?
Here are the 10 worst seasons in Raiders history, with the worst at No. 1. These are the squads the current 2014 team is fighting to surpass right now.
No. 10: In 2003, Oakland was coming off three straight playoff appearances. Yes, the team just got blown out in the Super Bowl the previous year, but there was nothing to suggest such a collapse was coming. And did it come. The 2003 Raiders suffered a 255-point swing, in terms of scoring differential, as they dropped to 4-12 and started the current slide into oblivion.
No. 9: The 2007 Raiders were led on offense by such luminaries as Daunte Culpepper, Justin Fargas (1,009 rushing yards) and Ronald Curry (717 receiving yards). That Fargas was the team’s best player says all you need to know about Lane Kiffin’s one full season as head coach in Oakland, which resulted in a 4-12 record.
No. 8: In 2004, Oakland tried to remedy what went wrong the previous year by replacing Bill Callahan with Norv Turner as head coach. Ooops. The team just got worse. Kerry Collins was not the answer at quarterback, although it was hard to go more than 5-11 when your leading rusher was Amos Zereoue with 425 yards.
No. 7: Kiffin was fired in the middle of the 2008 season, but it didn’t help a team with JaMarcus Russell at quarterback. Fargas again led the team in rushing (853 yards), but the real star of the team was cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. But even he couldn’t win games by himself for the Raiders in this 5-11 season.
No. 6: The 2013 squad has a decent enough offense, even with Terrelle Pryor leading the team in passing yards (1,798). But it was the defense last season that opened up the floodgates to a 4-12 season. The Raiders gave up 453 points, the second-worst number in franchise history.
No. 5: When someone named Brandon Myers leads your team in receiving yardage (806 yards), you know it’s a long season. A 4-12 start to the Dennis Allen Era should have been a sign of things to come: this 2012 Oakland team was outscored by an average of 9.6 points per game.
No. 4: In some sense, it’s hard to believe the 2006 team isn’t at the top of this worst-ever list. In Art Shell’s return to Oakland, the Raiders scored just 168 points the entire season. Fargas and Curry were still the team leaders in their respective areas, but QB play was a black hole. Andrew Walter led the team in passing (1,677 yards). The defense gave up only 332 points, amazingly, led again by Asomugha. The 2-14 record netted Russell in the following year’s draft.
No. 3: The 1962 Oakland Raiders won a franchise-low one game during the season, as they finished with the worst point and yardage differential in the old American Football League. They were outscored by more than 11 points per game, finishing 1-13 overall. The only good news here is that someone named Al Davis took over the head coach role in 1963 and led the team to 10 wins—and a fresh start on a new era.
No. 2: Even though the 2009 squad won five games, they are here because this team was outscored by the second-largest margin in franchise history (11.4 points per game). To Tom Cable’s credit, the team was a lot better in 2010. But that still couldn’t save his job. It’s impressive this team won five games with Russell at QB, Michael Bush running the ball and Zach Miller catching it. Thanks to Asomugha, the defense was “good enough” to help win some games.
No. 1: The 1961 Oakland Raiders are officially the worst team in franchise history, getting outscored by almost 16 points a game in the AFL. The only major statistical category the team didn’t finish last in the league was turnover margin – the Raiders were seventh there, in an eight-team league. Future coach Tom Flores was the QB, and center Jim Otto was the best guy on the squad.
For what it’s worth, the current squad is on pace to finish as the second-worst team in franchise history, based on margin of defeat scoring averages. As the list exemplifies above, win totals are often arbitrary based on the outcomes of close games.
Getting blown out repeatedly is no statistical fluke, and the 2014 Raiders have some work to do to stay off this list.
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.