December turning into January is time to celebrate the teams making it into the postseason, but there are those less good or fortunate; franchises that have forgotten what being in the playoffs feels like. Some of them have fans that weren’t even born the last time they actually played in January.
The state of professional football in Florida is appalling when it comes to postseason success and actually making it there. The Miami Dolphins are the last team of the trio to be in the postseason, and that was back in 2008.
Jacksonville Jaguars, 7 Seasons
The Jags actually started out their NFL life quite well under Tom Coughlin, making the postseason four years in a row from 1996 to 1999. But since then? Only twice, both during the Jack Del Rio years (2005, 2007). Including 2008, they’ve seen four different head coaches try to steer this franchise in the right direction. The result? Only 34 wins in seven seasons, including just nine in the last three years as the team switches quarterbacks as quickly as it does head coaches.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 7 Seasons
Lovie Smith is the fourth head coach for the Bucs during his playoff drought. Jon Gruden left after the 2008 season (finished 9-7, something the Buccaneers can only dream of these days). Since then they’ve had Raheem Morris for three seasons (17-31), Greg Schiano for two (11-21) and now Lovie Smith, who never in a million years thought he’d end up being partially responsible for a 2-14 season. The Bucs haven’t won a playoff game since the 2002-2003 postseason, winning the Super Bowl that year.
St. Louis Rams, 10 Seasons
There are the names: Mike Martz, Joe Vitt, Scott Linehan, Jim Haslett, Steve Spagnuolo and now Jeff Fisher. Some of them were only place fillers, others were supposed to bring back better days. Consistently one of the worst offensive teams in the league since Kurt Warner left, the Rams have had just one season of actually making it to .500 since their last playoff appearance in the 2004-2005 postseason. Things are a bit better under Jeff Fisher, winning 20 games in three years, but they’re not really keeping up with the pace of things in the difficult NFC West.
Cleveland Browns, 12 Seasons
This season sums up perfectly just how bad things have been in Cleveland for over a decade. Mike Pettine guided the team to a 7-9 record in his first year with the team. That’s the Browns’ best season since 2007 and their second best season during their playoff drought. The perfect example of what a four or five win team looks like in the NFL most years (nine of those seasons), the Browns might be heading into next season, for the first time, without the word ‘rebuilding’ attached to their name.
Oakland Raiders, 12 Seasons
Maybe the most dysfunctional franchise in the NFL despite a history of success and Super Bowl victories in more ancient times. Since the 2003 season, the Raiders have peaked at 8-8, reaching that mark two years in a row with Tom Cable (fired after his second season) and Hue Jackson, fired after the season. The man who took over, Dennis Allen, went 4-12 for two years in a row before being fired this season following an 0-4 start. The man who replaced him, Tony Sparano, went 3-9 as an interim coach. That’s actually good enough to put him in contention for the head coaching job for such a dismal place.
Buffalo Bills, 15 Seasons
From 1988 t0 1999, the Bills made the postseason 10 times, including four Super Bowls in a row. They’ve actually had some good years, going .500 or better seven times, including 9-7 this season. Things seem to be going in the right direction under Doug Marrone, but quarterback is still a huge problem, and being in a division with the New England Patriots, a team they and their division-mates just can’t seem to figure out over the long term, hasn’t been helpful. It’s sad, but it’s hard to envision this drought ending in the near future.