We all enter the season with hopes and dreams. Some are more realistic than others but they have to start off with the playoffs. That’s quite a realistic goal for any fan: all but three teams have been to the playoffs since 2015. That is quite the turnaround and real evidence that the league’s preaches of parity ring true. A team can go from the famine of the first overall pick to the feast of the dance in a year or two.
As I said, three teams have not been to the playoffs since 2015 and after last week, unfortunately they won’t be ending their runs, which are all significantly longer than four years.
New York Jets (2010)
The Jets haven’t been to the payoffs since Mark Sanchez’s sophomore year. Having been on the brink with Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2015, they are now rebuilding with Sam Darnold under centre.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2007)
After winning the Super Bowl in 2002, the Bucs were nearly men in the early 2000s. Their last trip to the playoffs came 12 years ago with Jon Gruden coaching and Jeff Garcia under centre.
Cleveland Browns (2002)
With the Rams, Raiders and Bills recent playoff trips, the Browns are in the midst of the longest playoff drought at 17 years. In fact, the Browns streak is only bettered by the Seattle Mariners in major US sport. Big things were expected this season but they will need to wait at least another year.
While getting to he dance is one thing, the next stage is progression. Winning a playoff game has proven a lot harder. A total of eight teams haven’t won a playoff game over the last ten years. Five of them are in the AFC, where the Patriots have won 16% of all playoff games this decade. While seven of these are eliminated from playoff contention, one team has a chance to right the wrongs of the last decade, nay two and a half.
The team from Landover, Maryland have not won a playoff game since 2005, beating Tampa Bay in the wildcard. They’ve lost all four attempts since then, three of them to Seattle and most recently in Green Bay.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers & Oakland Raiders (2002)
Ironically, neither the Bucs or the Raiders have won a playoff game since they played in the Super Bowl in San Diego. The Raiders have only been to the playoffs once since then. They lost in the wildcard in 2016 with a very exciting season ending with a limp Wildcard exit as third-string QB Connor Cook was under centre after Derek Carr broke his leg late in the season.
The Bucs have the second longest playoff drought currently, with two playoff losses to the NFC East, the 2005 Wildcard to Washington and 2007 Wildcard to the Giants, on their way to Super Bowl victory.
Miami Dolphins (2000)
The Dolphins haven’t won a playoff game since beating Peyton Manning, in his third season as a pro, in overtime. Three visits since, in 2001, 2008 & 2016 are yet to bring a victory. After two losses to Baltimore, their most recent loss came in a game QB Matt Moore somehow played on in despite taking one of the biggest hits in NFL history.
Buffalo Bills (1995)
This is the one team on this list with a chance to break the streak. The Bills haven’t won a playoff game since the 1995 AFC Wildcard, two years after their run of Super Bowl ended. Since then they have the fourth longest wait for a playoff win. That was with Jim Kelly under centre. The Bills went to the playoffs three times in the late nineties but had to wait until Tyrod Taylor took them to the playoffs in 2016. At the time, that was the longest playoff drought in the league.
With their best team in 20 years, the Bills have a great chance to win a playoff game, even if they are on the road.
Cleveland Browns (1994)
Despite being longer ago, the streak of seasons is actually shorter than the Bills, due to being dormant for three years. Bill Belichick was in charge of the Browns last playoff victory. Since they’ve been to the playoffs twice, losing to the Steelers both times, and not at all since 2002.
Detroit Lions (1991)
The last two streaks are really long, owned by two of the NFL’s most downtrodden teams. The Lions have been to the playoffs eight times since losing the NFC Championship Game to Washington in 1991. Barry Sanders was a 23 year old third year pro back then. Mark Rypien then led Washington to Super Bowl victory. Wildcard losses to the Packers, Eagles, Buccaneers and Washington again followed in the 1990s. They have lost to the Saints, Cowboys and Seahawks in the last decade too.
Cincinnati Bengals (1990)
The Bengals are rapidly approaching 30 years since a playoff win. Their last playoff progress involved two teams that no longer exist. They beat the Houston Oilers in the Wildcard 41-14 in 1991 but went no further, losing to the LA Raiders 20-10. 15 years went by before going to the playoffs at all. That’s when they lost to the Steelers as Carson Palmer tore his ACL. They then went to the playoffs six times in seven years between 2009 and 2015. However they were unable to win any of the Wildcard games to the Jets, Texans, Chargers, Colts or Steelers.
That was with Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton. Now with Lewis gone and Dalton seemingly on the way out, the Bengals are close to the first overall pick this year. They literally couldn’t be further from the playoffs.
The Bengals can’t have nice things but one playoff win over thirty years shouldn’t be too much to ask.
So even with playoff parity in the NFL, it says a lot that only one of the nine teams on this list is in the playoffs this year. With countless QBs, coaches and coordinators employed by the nine teams since then, questions must be asked of the ownership and culture. Or perhaps the culture is “pretty damn good” and it’s all luck.