With The Saints Out Of The Way, Houston Claims Title As Worst Football City In America
Now that the Aints finally is, three cities remain as contenders for the title of Most Inept Pro Football City in the World: Cleveland, Detroit, and Houston.
Jacksonville is the only other city whose team has never made a Super Bowl, but as a baby franchise they don't count. Especially since they have made the AFC Championship game twice in their 15-year history.
So, who's the worst?
The Case for Detroit: Lions and former Texas Longhorn great Bobby Layne cursed the Lions after his 1958 trade, saying that the team wouldn't win for 50 years. Not only was he right, but the Lions marked the end of Layne's half-century curse in real style, completing the NFL's very first 0-16 season. The Lions have won only one single, solitary playoff game in the 46-year ownership of William Clay Ford. They also failed to win a single road game from 2001-2003. All that plus the genius of Matt Millen and his wide receiver fetish. While you can't blame Millen for the city of Detroit's Stalingrad-like, scorched-earth appearance, many in Motown would likely try.
The Case Against Detroit: They did win four championships -- in 1935, twice in the '50s when helmed by Layne, and once more under his injury replacement Tobin Rote. Also, unlike the teams in Houston or Cleveland, the Lions have never left Detroit. (In Detroit's case, only the fans have relocated.) Also, like the Texans, the Lions at least have the decency not to elevate fan expectations, unlike the Browns and the Oilers.
The Case For Cleveland: Lost their franchise to Baltimore, one of the few North American cities in more serious decline than Cleveland, and then were forced to watch as the Ravens went on to win a Super Bowl...Unlike the Lions, their Rust Belt brethren-in-ineptitude, the Browns have had some very good teams relatively recently. Their most notable recent run was from 1985-89, when Bernie Kosar and a tough, Pro Bowler-studded defense propelled them to deep playoff runs. Sadly for Browns fans, John Elway and the Broncos stood in their way in three of those years: most memorably in 1986 and 1987, when the Browns were on the losing end of two "The" games -- "The Drive" and "The Fumble." In the other two years, they muffed three chances at recovering a late onside kick against the Oilers and were beaten by Elway yet again, but at least that time he killed them mercifully. But since the new Browns were founded, they have sucked. And finally, Cleveland is the only city to have never either sent a team to nor hosted a Super Bowl.
The Case Against Cleveland: In the years preceding the rise of the Packers and the Super Bowl era, the Browns were one of the NFL's dominant powerhouses, winners of five straight league championships from 1946 to 1950 and three more between 1954 and 1964. That 1964 win would be the last to date for a major Cleveland pro sports team....When the Browns moved to Baltimore, the city secured rights to the team name and colors, thus providing local fans at least the illusion of continuity.
The Case for Houston: Most recently, as the Houston Texans, expansion ineptitude caused by laughably bad drafts engineered by Charley "the Charlatan" Casserly. The Texans are the only team in the NFL that has yet to qualify for the playoffs. And when the Oilers were in town, you had years of Lions-like incompetence interspersed with occasional years of excellence, most often capped off with epic playoff choke-jobs. More than any other local sports team, the Oilers were responsible for the "Choke City" nickname the city was stuck with in the early '90s. Blowing 32-point leads in the second half of playoff games can do that for you. And then there is the whole branding debacle: few teams had as organic a bond between their city's raison d'etre and nickname as the Houston Oilers did. While I'm no hater of the Texans name, I do lament the loss of the Oilers name, colors and logo. Superficial? Yes. Keenly felt? You bet.
The Case Against Houston: There were those two championships in the first two seasons of the AFL, back in those Mad Men days when Eisenhower and JFK were in the White House and the Oilers played at Jeppesen Stadium. (Now Robertson Stadium on the UH campus.) And that's it.
While the Oilers or Texans have never been quite as bad for quite as long as the Lions, neither have they won the championship of a fully legit league, and the Oilers losses were far more heartbreaking than the Lions' sustained shittiness streak. And while the Browns did abandon their city, at least they were reincarnated in their same form a few years later.
Nope, now that the Saints have won the Bowl, the crown for the world's worst football city just migrated 300 miles west on I-10.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.