The NFL brought the 16-game era to a close at the end of March when the owners voted to adopt a 17-game schedule starting with the 2021 season.
Playing 16 games served the NFL well from 1978 through 2020, but the lure of additional television revenue proved too much to resist for the league’s owners, so more football for everyone carried the day.
The move to expand the schedule for the first time in 43 years led Kendall Baker from Axios to break down how each of the league’s 32 teams did, based on winning percentage, while playing 16 games.
What team is most surprising? pic.twitter.com/TRNG9zcwcD— Kendall Baker (@TheKendallBaker) April 9, 2021
Not surprisingly, given their struggles from 1999 until last season, the Cleveland Browns did not present a strong showing, finishing at No. 31 on the list with a record of 251-379-2 for a winning percentage of .399 - just edging out the Detroit Lions, who went 268-410-2 for a winning percentage of .396.
As for the other teams in the AFC North Division, the Pittsburgh Steelers came out at No. 1 overall with a winning percentage of .609 (413-265-2), the Baltimore Ravens are at No. 5 with a winning percentage of .564 (225-174-1), and even the lowly Cincinnati Bengals bested the Browns, coming in at No. 27 with a winning percentage of .429 (290-386-4).
The 16-game era was not all bad news for the Browns, of course, as there were bright spots over the years, including:
- A three-year stretch starting in 1978 where the Browns challenged for the playoffs, culminating in a division title in 1980. During those three years, the Browns posted a winning percentage of .583.
- A five-year stretch from 1985 to 1989 where the Browns made the playoffs each season and had three appearances in the AFC Championship Game. During that run, the Browns posted a tidy .627 winning percentage.
- The surprising playoff run in 2002 that ended with a loss in the Wild Card round.
- The even-more shocking 10-6 record in 2007 that, well, ended up going nowhere.
- The team’s return to prominence in 2020 that saw the Browns clinch their first playoff appearance since 2002 and win their first road playoff game since 1969. The fact that it came against the Steelers made it that much sweeter.
The Browns helped to usher out the 16-game era with a return to the playoffs and, along the way, buried a few ghosts that have haunted the franchise since its return to the NFL in 1999.
Now that the league is ready to embark on a 17-game schedule, the Browns have an opportunity to hit the reset button and claim their place at the top of any future rankings of the winningest teams during this new era of the NFL.