The Jacksonville Jaguars are one of the most trendy teams to make a significant jump from annual league doormat to playoff team in 2016. This is because of a string of flashy free-agent signings, the development of their offensive core led by franchise QB Blake Bortles, and a solid 2016 draft class. As the team has found out time and time again, however, the universe might not want the former expansion franchise to ever succeed.
With the recent injury to first-round pick Jalen Ramsey, it’s clear that a trend of bad luck has developed in Northern Florida. Ramsey’s injury is far from the only unfortunate thing to happen to the Jaguars in recent seasons. Last season, their first-round pick from the 2015 draft — Dante Fowler Jr. — also sustained an injury in one of his first practices as a professional football player — an injury that caused the pass rusher to miss the entire season.
With Fowler returning to the fold along with a strong group of rookies that includes Ramsey and Myles Jack, the team’s defense looked ready to support their explosive offense. Ramsey’s injury just might halt the unit’s development for yet another season. Prior to the string of injuries, bad draft picks, injuries to key players, poor coaching choices, and an otherwise losing culture has caused the most terrible stretch for the young franchise since their last playoff appearance in 2007.
Since that appearance, Jacksonville has failed to win more than eight games in a single-season and has a string of five straight seasons with 10 or more losses — one of the worst streaks in the league. With all of that bad luck and lack of success that has accompanied it, it’s worth wondering if the Jags are the most cursed team in the game.
Relatively speaking, the Jaguars’ franchise hasn’t been around for all that long. In 1995, the team experienced its first season in the NFL, making it difficult to compare their bad luck with teams that have been around for more than half a century. However, we did just that, putting Jacksonville’s “curse” against that of two teams that know a thing or two about misfortune — the Detroit Lions and the Cleveland Browns.
The curse of the Browns
When it comes to professional franchises, you’d be hard-pressed to find a place that has dealt with as much hardship as the entire city of Cleveland. The Browns possibly play the biggest role in the city’s hard-to-review history. Aside from the painful fact that the team has yet to reach a Super Bowl and hasn’t won a NFL title since 1964, the ways in which the Browns have failed to reach the highest level of the game are almost unprecedented.
In the ’80s, historic plays like “The Drive” and “The Fumble” kept good Cleveland teams out of the Super Bowl despite reaching conference championship games. Overall, the team lost three times with a trip to the biggest stage on the line during that decade, sending them into a spiral in which they haven’t since recovered.
After the original Browns moved to Baltimore to become the Ravens in 1996, the team returned in 1999. It hasn’t been glorious by any means since that point, as the Ravens have won multiple Super Bowls and Cleveland has managed just two winning seasons and one playoff appearance. With a string of terrible draft choices from Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden to Trent Richardson and Johnny Manziel, the Browns can’t seem to get anything right at this point.
With their ninth head coach since returning to the league (in the form of Hue Jackson taking over), the Browns will try — again — to get things going in 2016. For the sake of their city, one can only hope things get better, but in terms of cursed NFL franchises, the Browns likely take the cake over the Jaguars.
The curse of the Lions
While the Browns and Jaguars have had their share of bad luck, both franchises have had things to cheer about at one point or another. The Detroit Lions, on the other hand, haven’t given their fan bases a lot of reasons to get excited since their last NFL championship in 1957. Since that point, the Lions only have a total of 11 playoff appearances, which includes just one lone appearance to a conference championship game.
Instead of calling the Lions a cursed franchise, it might be more appropriate to call them an unsuccessful one. Still, despite their struggle to find success for much of the last 60 years, Detroit has had some reasons for optimism over that time span — optimism that, of course, has been crushed by some unfortunate situations.
Legendary players like Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson called Detroit home, but both players retired early despite their historical numbers. Sanders’ teams consistently reached the postseason during the ’90s, but never got over the hump before the great running back retired after the 1998 season. Johnson’s team didn’t experience as much success, but the record-breaking wide receiver retired this offseason after only nine seasons in the league, likely closing a potential playoff window for the team.
Essentially, the Lions have been the king of wasting big time talent and production. That’s a different kind of bad luck than what has stricken the Browns and (of late) the Jaguars. These three teams are all somewhat cursed — or so it seems — but if you had to pick the most cursed NFL franchise, no one’s beating the Browns.