One win. That’s all that separates the 2016 Cleveland Browns from the 2008 Detroit Lions. I won’t lie, I really thought the Browns would be the next team to hit 0-16. If we’re being totally honest here, out of complete selfishness, I was hoping they would.
Regardless of that one win, it’s safe to say the Cleveland Browns of 2016 and the 2008 Detroit Lions are the two worst teams in NFL history. But who is the better team? Or in this case, who is the worst? Well that’s just what today’s piece is about.
Obviously we’ll never truly know because these teams will never play each other, but what we can do is a little detective work. So here’s what we’ll do. We will break this all down into a few categories. First, we’ll leave it to a vote. Then we’ll compare stats. Then we’ll check in with analysts that represent the Browns and the Lions. Lastly we’ll do a simulation.
Who would win? 2008 Lions or 2016 Browns? Next week I'm going to find out the answer. First, let's get your votes.— Mike Payton (@POD_Payton) January 20, 2017
I promise you, folks, the results here aren’t rigged. Over 1,000 football fans voted for the 2008 Detroit Lions to beat the 2016 Cleveland Browns. It’s interesting because most Lions fans are aware of how bad that 2008 team was, but, apparently, they still don’t find them quite as dreadful as this year’s Browns. Nevertheless, there you have. The Lions get the first edge.
So what we’ll do here in the stats portion is break it down by categories. For offense it will be passing and rushing. For defense it will be defense. Let’s jump into the horrible passing stats.
Offensive passing stats
Alright, you may want to sit down for this stat: All those statistics are between eleven different quarterbacks. In what world does a team play five or more quarterbacks in one season? Only in Detroit and Cleveland.
The Browns are going to get the edge here. They lead just about every category. This will be the only time the 2016 Browns quarterback corps will be told it’s better than another corps.
Offensive rushing stats
Looks like the Lions are going to have to relinquish another edge here. What’s interesting though, is that Isaiah Crowell’s and Kevin Smith’s stats are almost the same. Crowell finished with 952 yards and seven touchdowns. Smith finished with 976 yards and eight touchdowns. Weird.
Offensive receiving stats
Okay, I’m going to cheat a little here. I’m giving this one to the Lions. Just because of the work Calvin Johnson put into that season. He finished with 78 receptions, 1,331 and 12 touchdowns. That’s incredible. While Terrelle Pryor had a great season, the Browns could have survived without him... or not. Nobody survived these games.
These are both really bad defenses. For comparison’s sake, the 2016 Lions allowed 5,676 yards and 358 points. It’s hard to say either of these defenses win anything, but, once again, the Browns get the edge here. Things aren’t looking good for the 2008 Lions.
A talk with the Browns guy
I wanted to get a Browns point of view of all this. so I went to Cleveland, visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and got an autograph from Pedro Cerrano. After all that, I talked with Steven Kubitza of Dawg Pound Daily. Here’s what he had to say.
POD: Let’s start with the obvious. Who wins this game?
SK: "The 2016 Browns by a score of 24-20 in a Week 17 game when both teams are 0-15. The Browns will give up an early touchdown because it’s the Browns, but will take control of the game thanks to some trick plays involving Terrelle Pryor. The Lions will score late, but a failed onside kick attempt will leave Lions fans keeping those paper bags on their heads, while Browns fans do the same."
POD: Why do you make that pick?
SK: "Call me biased, but the 2016 Browns had more talent than the 2008 Lions. The Lions did have Calvin Johnson, but it was hard for the rest of the offense to succeed with Dan Orlovsky running out of the end zone (sorry I had to bring it up), or Jon Kitna and Daunte Culpepper pretending to be younger.
The Lions were able to score more points on average than the 2016 Browns, but their defense was atrocious. The Browns didn't fare all that well on defense in 2016, but the talent would take over against such a bad Lions team.
The Browns would only win this game if Cody Kessler or Josh McCown were playing quarterback, so let's assume that is the case. "
POD: Who’s the player that makes the difference?
SK: "Isaiah Crowell would be the biggest factor in a Browns victory, as he would get a significant amount of touches due to the fact the Browns wouldn't be trailing right away in the game. He struggled with finding carries in 2016 thanks to a horrible defense and an offense that couldn't pass the ball, but the 0-15 Lions are a bit easier of an opponent.
Calvin Johnson would have a big game for the Lions, but it would show up only on the stat sheet. The Browns' corners would be fine with giving him big gains, as long as they didn't result in touchdowns, which was something seen often for much of Johnson's career. "
A talk with the Lions guy
For the Lions, I wanted to get a guy that’s an outsider. Someone that’s not one of us crazy guys here at Pride Of Detroit. So I called in some favors and got Ty Schalter, co-host of Bleacher Report radio on Sirius and contributor at about a hundred other places like FiveThirtyEight and Vice. He also happens to be a pretty big Lions fan. Let’s see what he has to say.
POD: Okay, so who do you think wins this game?
TS: "There's absolutely zero doubt: The 2016 Browns are a better team than the 2008 Lions were, and they'd be more likely to win the game."
POD: And why do you say that, sir?
TS: "Now it depends on who's quarterbacking the Browns; they had six different quarterbacks (plus tailback Duke Johnson) throw passes for them. Even so, the Browns scored 264 points on the year, just four fewer than the Lions scored in 2008. Meanwhile the Lions allowed a whopping 517 points--second-most in the history of the NFL, and 65 more than this year's Browns. If the Lions were unlucky not to win a game or two, the Browns were "really" a 4-5 win team that had a lot of quarterbacking problems. "
POD: So who’s your pick for player that makes the difference?
TS: "The player that makes the difference? I'm tempted to say Terrelle Pryor, but it's actually the 2008 Lions' horrific run defense that always did them in. I'm gonna say Isaiah Crowell has the biggest day."
To perform the simulation, the original idea was to do a game through Madden. But when we realized it would have taken six months and a lot of therapy to create all the players and make that happen, we opted to take the route that kept us sane. Instead, our simulation will be done by the good people over at What If Sports. Here’s what we got. I decided to do three simulations. Each team gets a home game. Then if needed, a third game would be held at a neutral site of my choosing. Here are the results.
In the first game, the Browns destroyed the Lions at Ford Field by a score of 47-13. That was embarrassing. Kevin Smith was the star for the Lions with 77 yards. Calvin Johnson had two catches for 15 yards. RGIII threw four touchdowns for the Browns, and Isaiah Crowell ran for 137 yards.
In the second game, the Lions did better. But they still let the Browns score 41 points on them. This time Calvin went off for 123 yards and a touchdown, but for some reason, RGIII scored four touchdowns again. The Browns won 41-19.
So that third game was not needed. But because this simulator is addicting, I decided to see how many tries it would take before the Lions actually came out winners. It took six tries, but I finally was able to come up with a Lions win. They won 50-29. Kevin Smith and Rudi Johnson had the greatest game a running back duo has ever had. Smith had 142 yards and Johnson had 86. They both scored.
So there you have it. The 2016 Browns are clearly better than the 2008 Lions. They seem to come out winners at every angle. Maybe Browns fans can take that as a small beacon of hope. Things got really bad for them, yet still not as bad as they could have been. For Lions fans, here’s a sense of how far your team has come since the 2008 season. Alright, now I’m going to go cry myself to sleep.
What do you think Lions fans? Or hey Browns fans. If you’re here too, what do you think? Be sure to leave your comments below.