Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Bengals among NFL's worst ever



By Joe Kay
The Associated Press

Scan the stats sheet, and the Cincinnati Bengals look like just another mediocre NFL team. It's the won-loss column where they truly stand out.

"Our numbers are not nearly what our record is," coach Dick LeBeau said.

The bottom line says that these Bengals are bad. They have the league's worst record at 2-13 and are the league's long-standing measure of misery.

How do they stack up against other Bengals' teams? Better yet, where do they rank among the NFL's worst of all time? In any ranking of rank teams, this one holds its own.

It will finish as one of the worst in Bengals' history. A loss in Buffalo on Sunday would leave the Bengals with the most losses in the franchise's 35 seasons. They've given up 429 points, 31 shy of the team record from 1999.

By franchise standards, this team stands out. By NFL standards, it has made it to the second tier of bad teams.

The short-term measure for futility is Tampa Bay, which entered the league in 1976 and lost its first 26 games. The Buccaneers got shut out 11 times during that span of awful football.

These Bengals aren't even close to those bad Bucs.

The New Orleans Saints are the undisputed champs of long-term futility. They didn't have a winning record in any of their first 20 seasons in the league (1967-86), earning their "Aints" nickname while winning only 30.9 percent of their games.

Cincinnati has the longest current streak - 12 years without a winning record. Since 1991, they've gone 55-136 (a 28.8 winning percentage) while earning their "Bungles" nickname.

Since the All-America Football Conference merged with the NFL for the 1950 season, only eight franchises have gone 10 or more years without a winning record.

Tampa Bay went 14 seasons, while three others went 13 years. In 13 of those seasons, the Bucs lost 10 games or more, going from 1983-1994 with double-digit losses.

The Bengals are in some bad company, and it's dragging them down.

"I've been through a lot," right tackle Willie Anderson said Tuesday. "I don't know if I can do it again, I really don't. I know that's a big statement, but I'd be lying to you if I said I'm really looking forward to next year. Right now, I'm really not."

Anderson, a Bengal for seven years, has been through more losing than anyone else on the team. He watched former Bengals tight end Tony McGee struggle to handle all of the losing during his nine seasons in Cincinnati, and now understands how it feels to be a mainstay on a historically bad team.

"At the end of Tony's career, Tony wasn't negative, but he just didn't believe in anything anymore," Anderson said. "I was like, 'What's wrong with you?' He'd just been crushed. He couldn't see anymore. Everything was cloudy to him.

"I said, 'Man, I don't want to ever get like that,' but I'm like that now. It's sad for me to say."

There's really not much any of them can say. The numbers say it all.

"We know we're better than our record," linebacker Brian Simmons said. "but our record is what it is."

By any measure, it's bad.



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