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The most miserable seasons in Eagles history

Suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked

Bobby Hoying #7

This month Football Outsiders is ranking their Anti-Dynasties, “honoring” teams that were really bad for a while. It’s a fun concept, but the execution is a little bland. We’re fortunate that for most of your life the Eagles have been at least an above average team. Since 1978, the Eagles have made the playoffs 22 times and missed them 20.

It’s been a long time since the Eagles were consistently bad. But we’ve had some absolutely miserable individual seasons. Let’s drill down a little and laugh at the misery that has been endured by some truly miserable teams in Eagles history. Not all bad teams are created equal. Andy Reid went 5-11 in 1999, only four teams had a worse record. That’s an objectively bad team, and it certainly wasn’t anything approaching fun. But it wasn’t miserable either, because there is excitement in having a new coach, and in having a top draft pick QB. These seasons may have started with excitement but by the time the final game was played, all that was left was suffering.

We’ll limit this to the Super Bowl era, because otherwise we’d have to include the first ten seasons of the Eagles history, among other eye sores. We’ll examine the factors that go into making a team miserable to watch.

Record: Duh. But this isn’t simply a list of teams with horrible records. In some cases the team winning actually made it worse.

Was it the coach’s last year? Most, but not all miserable seasons end with the coach getting fired.

First round bust? The further back in football history you go, the less important draft picks were. But there’s always a misery factor when the team’s top rookie can’t play. At least a bad team with a good rookie can give a little hope.

The QBs: Even in the three yards and a cloud of dust days, a pretty good indicator that a team is having a miserable year is how bad the QB situation was.

League wide ineptitude: Just how miserable were they compared to their peers? Spoiler warning: these are going to be some awful offenses. The Eagles have been fortunate to have good defenses for most of their history in the Super Bowl era. The backbone of the Vermeil, Ryan, Kotite, Rhodes, Reid and Pederson eras were quality defenses, even in lousy seasons. When the Eagles have been pathetic, the offense has been the main culprit.

Extra demerit: Misery loves company, but each bad season is different. We’ll examine what makes each team uniquely awful.

Misery factor: My completely subjective take of how pathetic this season was.

1994 - Don’t count your chickens before they hatch

Record: 7-9, but it’s how they got there that matters.

Coach’s final season? Yes. Rich Kotite was fired at the end of the season.

First round bust? Bernard Williams, selected 14th overall, started every game his rookie year. He never played again after being suspended by the league for failing multiple drug tests.

The QBs: Randall Cunningham (7-7) was benched for Bubby Brister (0-2).

How bad were they compared to the rest of the league? The Eagles started 7-2, which skews things. In their final seven games the defense grabbed 14 turnovers. The offense committed 13. In his first 9 games, Cunningham had a passer rating of 85, which would have been 5th best over the course of the season, tying a career best ranking. He was on pace for 25 TDs, which would have been his second best total, and 3996 yards, easily a career best. In his final five, it was 58, which would have been last. In those final five games he threw just two touchdowns, both in the same game.

Extra demerit: In the spring of 1994 Jeffery Lurie bought the Eagles. It was too late in the NFL year to change coaches, and Cunningham missed 12 games in 1993, so fair or not Kotite was on thin ice. Lurie publicly declined to back Kotite, saying that he would evaluate the situation after the season. In Week 10 the Eagles won to improve their record to 7-2, which included a 40-8 blowout of the 49ers, who would go on to win the Super Bowl. Riding high after that Week 10 win against his predecessor and former boss Buddy Ryan, Kotite sarcastically brought up Lurie’s non-committal comments. He had to be feeling really good about that.

The Eagles lost the rest of their games, and Kotite lost his job.

In the final game of the season the Bengals kicked a field goal with 7 seconds to go to tie the game, having trailed by 10 late in the 4th quarter. The Eagles fumbled the kickoff return. The Bengals kicked another field goal. That’s pretty much the story of the season.

Misery factor: This team makes the list because starting 7-2 and finishing with a losing record without major injuries is quite simply pathetic. When we talk about great games, we usually mean games with great 4th quarters, we usually don’t talk about a touchdown drive midway through the 2nd quarter. The same is true for seasons, and the opposite is true for bad seasons.

What works against this team is that nobody liked Rich Kotite (except then-Jets owner Leon Hess, who said he wanted to win now and fired Pete Carroll and hired Kotite, who went 1-15). A joke of an ending to the season, but it closed the book on the pre-Lurie era. Had Kotite made the playoffs it would have been hard to fire him (though not impossible), and if you want to go down the What If rabbit hole, bringing Kotite back for another year (assuming he would get fired after 1995) means maybe his replacement gets four years just as Ray Rhodes did, so maybe they never get to hire Andy Reid… the butterfly effect will mess with your mind.

1968 - Eagles drop the Juice

Record: 2-12, the two wins only made it worse.

Coach’s final season? Yes. Joe Kuharich would be fired at the end of the season, he had eleven years left on his contract. You read that right.

First round bust? No. Tim Rossovich, drafted 14th overall, was a solid player who would make the Pro Bowl in 1973. He was an interesting character.

The QBs: Norm Snead broke his ankle in training camp, when he returned he went 2-9. In his stead King Hill [great name] (0-2), and John Huarte (0-1) held down the fort like it was the Alamo. QBs in this era turned the ball over a ton compared to today, but the 1968 trio were exceptional. All three QBs had a 2:1 INT to TD rate. Snead tied for the league lead with 21 (to just 11 TDs), his co-leader played in 3 more games and had over 100 more attempts. In a 45-13 loss to the Cowboys, Hill had 5 INTs.

How bad were they compared to the rest of the league? 3rd worst record in the league, which actually made it more miserable than finishing dead last. More on that next. The 1968 Eagles were 15th out of 16th in scoring offense, and 13th in scoring defense, “aided” by the most turnovers on offense and least on defense. This was a classic bad at everything team, and that included being bad at being bad...

Extra demerit: What made this team especially miserable wasn’t their ineptitude, and to be clear they were inept, it was that they shit the bed at being bad. If a season like the 1968 Eagles happened now, a segment of the fan base would be apoplectic, and that’s not a judgement on them. Remember how the 2020 Jets were on track to draft Trevor Lawrence, they then had a winning streak? That was the 1968 Eagles. They started off the season losing 11 straight games, a franchise record. They were in the driver’s seat for the top pick in the 1969 draft, O.J. Simpson. At 0-6 they played the 0-6 Steelers in what was dubbed “The O.J. Bowl.” They of course lost. At 0-11, Simpson was in sight. But then they won two games in a row, which dropped them to third in the draft, where they selected running back Leroy Keyes, who was so bad they moved him to safety in 1971.

Misery factor: This was a truly pathetic season, best remembered as the season with Santa Claus. I am sorry to even mention it. But it has two things that keep it low on the list for me, both of which are in hindsight. One is that blowing the top pick that year wasn’t that big a miss because the franchise was so incompetent. Simpson didn’t turn the Bills, an equally bad franchise at the time, around. There’s no reason to believe he would have turned the Eagles around. It would have been better to have a great player than a bust, but it’s not like they missed out on Peyton Manning and took Ryan Leaf.

The other one is never having to hear “Eagles legend O.J. Simpson”.

2015 - I would like to speak to the manager

Record: 7-9

Coach’s final season? Oh yeah. Chip Kelly was fired before the season was over. He’s the only coach in Eagles history who in his tenure made the playoffs in one year and in another year was fired before the season ended.

First round bust? Eventually Nelson Agholor would be a good cog in a Super Bowl winner, but before then he looked useless.

The QBs: Sam Bradford (7-7) of course missed time, giving way to Mark Sanchez (0-2).

How bad were they compared to the rest of the league? The offense finished 13th in scoring and 12th in yards. The defense was 28th in points and 30th in yards. Both of these were misleading because both units were on the field so much because the offense ran so many mediocre plays at high tempo.

Only four teams punted more than the Eagles, and only four turned the ball over more on a per drive basis. The offense was 7th in passing attempts and 21st in yards per attempt, and 29th in yards per catch. They were 27th in percentage of offensive possessions ending in a score. The offense averaged a dismal 2:03 time of possession per drive. The next worst team averaged 2:18. At least it was over quickly. It’s like the Woody Allen joke “the food here is terrible, and in such small portions.”

Extra demerit: Winning double digit games in back to back seasons is usually enough to save a coach from following it up with a 7 win season. Usually. Everything that led to Chip Kelly’s firing was his own doing, and it was downright miserable.

Sam Bradford was dreadful. DeMarco Murray was pathetic on and off the field, complaining to Jeffery Lurie on the team plane about playing time after a win. Miles Austin played in 11 games and caught 13 passes. Riley Cooper existed. On the same day they signed Murray, they also signed Ryan Mathews. And that was because of Frank Gore. After the season Walter Thurmond retired and tried his hand at professional wrestling. LeSean McCoy was traded for Kiko Alonso, who didn’t even start. Byron Maxwell got paid. The bright side was the signing of Malcolm Jenkins, but Kelly couldn’t even get that right, he was plan B after failing to sign Devin McCourty.

And yet through all of this, what cost Kelly his job was that he was an ungrateful asshole. In what is probably overstated but indicative of how it was going behind the scenes, Kelly got Lurie to rearrange his beloved holiday party so he could prepare for the next game. In that game the Eagles gave up 4 TDs to Kirk Cousins. And then of course with a woeful season going down the drain after being given complete control of the roster, Kelly nailed his coffin shut by bizarrely claiming he wasn’t the GM of the team. See ya.

Misery factor: This team was somehow just two years away from winning the Super Bowl. So it’s a little hard to judge this team harshly, sometimes you need to take a step back to take several forward. But at the time this was 2011 all over again, a coach going insane with free agency/trades and putting out a miserable product.

What made 2015 infuriating was that a year and a half earlier Chip Kelly looked like an offense genius, by the end of his tenure he ran an exceptionally bland offense and didn’t seem bothered to care.

2020 - All good things must come to an end, and bad things too

Record: 4-11-1. Another misery bonus tie!

Coach’s final season? Yes, but even that was screwed up. The Eagles didn’t end the season intending to fire Doug Pederson, but they did.

First round bust? It’s too early to be definitive, but it’s not looking great for Jalen Reagor.

The QBs: Carson Wentz (3-8-1) was benched for Jalen Hurts (1-3), who was benched for Nate Sudfeld.

How bad were they compared to the rest of the league? This is still fresh in our minds so let’s just take the nickel tour. Carson Wentz co-led the league in interceptions with 15, and only two players had more than his 10 fumbles, which is really noteworthy since he was benched for four and a half games. Jalen Hurts had 9 turnovers in four starts; his 9 fumbles on the season was 6th most in the league. The offense was last in completion percentage, yards per attempt, and sack rate, and were 10th in pass attempts, so there was a lot of bad QB play to watch. It was 1998 all over again (more on them later).

Extra demerit: By the end of the season it was clear that either the coach who won the goddamn Super Bowl or the QB who helped get them there with an MVP caliber season was going to go. In the end both were gone, and neither was upset about it.

Misery factor: 2020 was as sad as it was miserable. Doug Pederson won the Super Bowl and Carson Wentz was a big reason why. These should have been good times, but a few years later they barely talked to each other. The clock runs out on everyone, even coaches, but the suddenness was maddening. The 2020 season was not dissimilar to any other team’s bad season that ended with double digit losses, the coach getting fired, and major changes to the roster. Those seasons almost never come a few years after winning the Super Bowl.

2011 - A nightmare

Record: 8-8. The 2012 Eagles were a worse team. But this isn’t a list of bad teams, it’s a list of miserable teams, and the 2011 team was more miserable. At least for 2012 expectations had been lowered. In 2011, the Eagles had Super Bowl expectations.

Coach’s final season? No, Andy Reid got one more year. It did not go well.

First round bust? Danny Watkins has as strong a claim as anyone for biggest draft bust in Eagles history, and I would like to point out that the first draft pick in the history of the NFL was by the Eagles, Jay Berwanger, who never played in the NFL. Watkins was worse.

The QBs: Mike Vick (7-6), with Vince Young (1-2) appearing in relief, while Mike Kafka came off the bench twice and threw 2 INTs on just 16 attempts.

How bad were they compared to the rest of the league? The only thing the 2011 Eagles loved to give away more than money was the ball. The offense was 8th in points and 4th in yards. The defense was 10th in points and 8th in yards. Those are Super Bowl contender rankings. But they were 31st in offensive turnovers. They threw more interceptions (25) than touchdowns (22), those 25 INTs led the league. They turned the ball over multiple times in 12 games. Young threw 8 INTs in three starts. Vick had a turnover in 11 of his 13 games. The only game they did not turn the ball over was the game after their bye.

Extra demerit: Where to begin. Oh, where to begin. The warning signs were everywhere.

Making Juan Castillo the defensive coordinator after hiring Jim Washburn to coach the defensive line was beyond bizarre.

There was the lockout. Not sure how or when free agency would even take place, Reid committed the draft day sin of using the draft to plug holes on the roster as it existed on that day. He needed an offensive lineman, so he drafted a 27 year old fireman pretending to be one. He needed a safety, so he drafted one. He needed a kicker, so he drafted one.

When free agency finally happened, Reid put on a master class of what not to do. The Cowboys thought they had reached a deal with Nnamdi Asomugha but Reid swooped in and signed him, an apparent coup that was in reality crap. Also regrettably signed or traded for were Jason Babin, Ryan Harris, Cullen Jenkins, Ronnie Brown, Jarrad Page, Donald Lee, the lesser Steve Smith, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Vince Young. The one brightside was Evan Mathis.

Then there were the games. A team that had sky high expectations started 1-4, then was 3-6, then was 4-8. They were on the road to justifiably getting rid of everyone. But then they won four straight against losing teams to finish on a high of perfect mediocrity at 8-8, a game out of the playoffs. 4-12 would have finished last in the division.

Misery factor: There have been worse teams by statistical measures and by records, but for a “fuck this team” factor, the Dream Team is hard to top. Fuck that team.

1998 - An offensive offense

Record: 3-13, the worst Eagles record in the 16 game era.

Coach’s final season? Yes, Ray Rhodes was fired at the end of the year.

First round bust? Not in the least. Tra Thomas was drafted 11th overall. That draft also produced Jeremiah Trotter, Allen Rossum, Brandon Whiting, and Ike Reese. At least something went right.

The QBs: Three players started games at QB. To call them QBs is an insult to the players who have played QB. Bobby Hoying (1-6), Koy Detmer (1-4), and Rodney Peete (1-3) all won one game, at least they were consistent at that. And consistent at sucking.

How bad were they compared to the rest of the league? The 1998 Eagles were, adjusting for context, the worst offense in Eagles history. It was one of the worst offenses in the 16 game season era in NFL history, only 6 teams scored fewer points. By Pro Football Reference’s Simple Offensive Rating System, the 1998 Eagles were the worst in franchise history, and it isn’t close. The 1972 offense was -9.2, the 1998 offense was -12.3. That is a gap of 3.1, the next biggest gap in Eagles history is 1.5.

They scored 10.1 points per game. You have to go all the way back to 1940 to find an Eagles offense that scored so few points per game, and that team wasn’t even the worst offense in the league. The offenses of the 1930s Eagles scored fewer points per game, but relative to the league the offense wasn’t as bad as the 1998 edition. The 1936 Eagles scored the fewest points in franchise history with 51 in 12 games. The second to worst offense in the league that year scored 74 points, the Eagles scored 68.9% of the total of the next worst team. The 1998 Eagles scored 66.8% of the total of the next worst team. How they got there was impressive. You would think they turned the ball over at will, but they were only 13th in turnovers. They ran the ball fairly well, 7th in rushing yards per attempt and were 19th in rushing touchdowns. The defense was, all things considered, respectable, 19th in points against and 17th in yards. A team this bad should be bad at everything, but they weren’t.

They simply could not pass the ball, and when they did it didn’t go anywhere. The Eagles were 12 in passing attempts and last in both yards and touchdowns. They were 26th in completion percentage, and dead last in TD%, yards per attempt, yards per catch, and yards per game. Duce Staley, who is of course a running back, led the team in receptions, and he didn’t even start every game. They threw just 7 TDs. Seven.

Extra demerit: This team has to report for Saturday school.

-They were shut out three times. Three!

-The more time they had to prepare, the worse they were. They lost the season opener 38-0 to the Seahawks. The season opener! They had all summer to prepare for that and they lost 38-0. Their post-bye game—on a Monday night for an extra day of preparation—was a 34-0 loss to the Cowboys. Two of their wins came on short weeks: one was the week after that MNF loss, another was a Thursday night game.

-Their three wins were by a combined nine points.

-They scored 20+ points once. They lost.

-At the end of the 1997 season, Bobby Hoying was a bit of a hot commodity. The Eagles went 2-3-1 with him at the end of a 6-9-1 season, and he threw 11 TDs to 6 INTs. He finished the season 10th in passer rating. There was optimism, and it wasn’t unwarranted.

Hoying never threw another TD in his career. In his career.

-1998 marked the second straight season that the Eagles did not win a game on the road, going 0-7-1 in 1997 and 0-8 in 1998.

-Chris Boniol made only 66.7% of his field goal attempts.

-In a 13-10 loss to the Ryan Leaf led Chargers, Charlie Gardner rushed 9 times for 8 yards, one of those attempts was for 12 yards. So the other 8 attempts were for -4 yards.

-The offense had more fumbles (20) than touchdowns (17).

-If every interception they threw for was magically changed into a touchdown, the Eagles would only finish 9th in passing touchdowns.

-If every turnover was magically turned into a touchdown, they wouldn’t have a top 10 scoring offense.

-The NFL Films recap basically gaslights the year. In the opening Pat Summerall says the season “did have its share of exciting moments” it then shows one (1) play from 1998 and immediately transitions into a preview of the 1999 season.

-The offensive coordinator to start the season was Dana Bible, who took over for Jon Gruden after he left to coach the Raiders. Bible, besmirching the name of college football legend Dana X Bible, was fired midway through the season. He is still coaching. This is too good to be true but it’s absolutely true, you can look it up: he’s coaching for Chip Kelly.

Misery factor: The most inept offense in franchise history puts this team near the top of the list. But the rest of the team was too good to take the top spot. You could look at this team and think they were a QB and a coach away from being a good team. And you’d be right. Two years later, they went 11-5 and won a playoff game. 8 starters on offense and defense from 1998 were starters in 2000, and three more were backups. In a way that makes the season more miserable if it wasn’t for the offense being such crap the team wouldn’t be bad. But there was a worse team.

1972 - A new low

Record: 2-11-1. A tie is a misery bonus!

Coach’s final season? Yes. Ed Khayat took over midway through 1971, he was fired after the 1972 season. In 1987 he would win Arena Football Coach of the Year!

First round bust? In a time when teams were giving away first round picks in trades like they were nothing, John Reeves, drafted 14th overall, was worse than nothing. He led the NFL with a sack rate of 14.5% and threw an interception in 8 of the 11 games he appeared in. He’d stick around as a backup in the NFL (and USFL starter) until 1987, but after 1972 he attempted only 39 passes for the Eagles, and threw an INT on three of them.

The QBs: John Reaves (0-7) and Pete Liske (2-4-1) split duties.

How bad were they compared to the rest of the league? They were an embarrassment.

Their 145 points scored was a record for ineptitude, the lowest amount of points scored in a 14 game season at the time. It would be broken in 1974, but in 1972 it was the low water mark of the league.

The 1972 Eagles played 14 games. In half of them they failed to score even 10 points. They were shutout once, and twice scored 3, 6, and 7 points.

It wasn’t just the offense that made this team incredibly pathetic. The defense was 22nd out of 26 in scoring, 24th in yards, and 23rd in yards per play. They had the 2nd worst sack rate and the worst yards per passing attempt. They gave up the 3rd most passing touchdowns and the 4th most rushing touchdowns. They did nothing well.

Extra demerit:

-Their two wins were each by a single point.

-They had two rushing touchdowns. The next worst team had 5.

-Ahead of a Week 11 game at the Giants, owner Leonard Tose predicted the 2-7-1 Eagles would beat the 6-4 Giants. The Giants won 62-10.

-In a 28-7 loss to the Cowboys, Reaves threw for 85 yards and was sacked for 62 yards. Liske dropped back three times and was sacked on two of them. It’s a miracle they scored at all.

-In a 14-0 loss to Washington, Po James had 14 carries for 14 yards. One of those rushing attempts was for 12 yards, meaning that the other 13 attempts he had went for 2 yards.

-In a 34-3 loss to the Rams, Tony Baker had four carries for 10 yards, his longest carry was 11 yards. You can do the math on that one. In this game the Eagles were sacked for more yards (68) than they ran for (47).

-The Bears’ Bobby Douglass went 1-9 (for 44 yards, lol), the Eagles lost 21-12.

-In their 18-17 win over the even more hapless Oilers, the Eagles did not score a touchdown. Tom Dempsey went 6 for 7 on field goals.

-They had the fifth fewest first downs and gave up the third most. The offense averaged 14.5 first downs a game. The defense gave up that many in all but two games.

-They had the worst per game scoring differential in Eagles history at -14.8, and have the worst total point differential in team history despite only playing 14 games.

Misery factor: If you doubled their scoring in every game they would have finished 6-8. So if they were twice as good, they’d still be bad.

Imagine having to sit through this slop all year long. They had two five game losing streaks. The followed their second win of the season with a net passing of 6 yards. They followed an upset of the Chiefs with a loss to the then winless Saints. In the five games where the defense had 3 or more turnovers, they went 1-4. The defense gave up less than 300 yards in four games, they went 1-2-1. They also went 1-2-1 in games where they outgained their opponent.

They only lost one game by a single score because the rest of their losses weren’t competitive. Their average margin of victory was losing by two touchdowns. They lost their 12 games by an average of 19 points.

The offense was historically inept, and the defense was total trash. This is the most miserable team in Eagles history. Until the next one.