Until 2016, the answer would have been yes. In 1937 the debut edition of the Cleveland Rams and their 0–10 (.090) record put in a performance of on-field futility that surpassed even the inaugural Cleveland Browns II of 1999 (2–14, .125).
And then along came the Browns of 2016 and their 1–15 (.067) record.
Yes, Cleveland football fans—not just Browns fans but fans of all Cleveland NFL teams through the decades—have never seen an NFL season more awful than the one they’ve just witnessed. And that’s saying a lot.
You see, Cleveland was a charter member of the American Professional Football Association (APFA) all the way back in 1920—just shy of a century ago. We now know the APFA as the National Football League, born of man in that famous
manger Hupmobile dealership in Canton, Ohio; and believe it or not, it actually took some time for NFL football to take hold in what was then baseball- and boxing- and college-football-mad Cleveland.
Three NFL teams predate the Rams and the Browns in Cleveland: an NFL charter franchise called first the Tigers then the Indians in 1920 and 1921; a Canton Bulldogs / Cleveland Indians blend (1923-1927) newly christened the Cleveland Bulldogs in time to become NFL champs in 1924; then, for one single season that was underwritten by the league in hopes of getting something started in Cleveland, a second version of the Indians. But that team was was disbanded after compiling a 2-10 record, thereby qualifying it for fifth on Cleveland’s all-time infamy list.
In terms of losing percentages the 2016 Browns have beaten ’em all—the debut rosters of four different expansion teams included.
Optimistic Browns fans might choose to derive some hope from the Rams’ rags-to-riches story. And it is indeed true that after cycling through four head coaches and turning over their entire roster between 1937 and 1944, the Rams dove deep into the 1944 NFL draft and selected, with the 42nd overall pick, a dark-horse quarterback out of UCLA who hadn’t even earned All-American status. The very next season, 1945, Bob Waterfield passed the Rams to a 9–1 record and the NFL championship.
The Browns can only hope the 2017 player draft in April brings much the same result. They currently hold the number-one pick.