Most NFL teams enter the season with big hopes, but for many, those hopes are unfulfilled. Sometimes, that team is coming off a Super Bowl run and trying to make it back to the big game; other times, a team that added the last couple of free-agent pieces, after a few years of near misses, is trying to make the jump. Either way, there have been teams with high expectations that ended up crashing and burning or, perhaps worse, middling along with a frustrating 9-7 wild-card season when fans feel as though that championship season is so close yet so far away.
Here are our picks for the 10 most disappointing teams of the past 25 years.
10. 1995 Cleveland Browns
Bill Belichick is known as a control freak, but his last year in Cleveland was derailed by something completely out of his control. The Browns were building on a 1994 playoff appearance and were a chic Super Bowl pick when they raced out to a 3-1 start. However, at midseason, Cleveland was sitting at 4-4 when the news broke that owner Art Modell was going to relocate the team to Baltimore. The Browns' offensive DVOA in the eight remaining games slid from 3.6 percent to minus-12.6 percent, and the defense's DVOA ballooned from 2.0 percent to 15.4 percent. (You can find an explanation of FO's defense-adjusted value over average metric here; remember that a higher defensive DVOA is worse.) Cleveland would win only one more game that season -- its final game in Cleveland Municipal Stadium -- and Modell decided not to bring the dour Belichick along to Baltimore, partly in fear that he would depress ticket sales. Since then, Cleveland has suffered through three seasons with no franchise and another dozen with a largely forgettable Browns team. Belichick? He turned out all right.