This Team Has Gone the Longest Without a Playoff Win

The Cincinnati Bengals made it to the Super Bowl for the first time in 33 years. That is much longer than its star quarterback, Joe Burrow, has been alive. The drought is by no means the longest in American professional sports. The Boston Red Sox went 86 years (1918 to 2004) without winning a World Series. The period was attributed by some to the Red Sox trading Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1920 and is often referred to as the “Curse of the Bambino,” based on one of Ruth’s nicknames.

The effects of decades of championship drought affect everyone from fans to owners, coaches and players. After a futile period with the Detroit Lions that ran from 2009 to 2020, gifted quarterback Matthew Stafford was traded to the Los Angeles Rams and then he made it to the Super Bowl. He had not won a single playoff game in Detroit because management could not field a competitive team. Over the period, Detroit hired and fired several coaches. The Lions, according to Forbes, are one of the least valuable NFL teams. At least they are owned by the Ford family, which can afford the year after year of debacles.

To determine the team that has gone the longest without a playoff win, 24/7 Tempo reviewed statistics from the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB using the Sports Reference family of sites. NFL teams were ranked by their most recent playoff game win, while teams in the other three leagues were ranked on the last time they won a playoff series. The NHL’s 2020 qualifying round, introduced because of the pandemic, was not considered a playoff series. The MLB’s Wild Card rounds were considered.

Though the 23 teams we considered have gone 10 or more seasons without advancing at least one round in the playoffs, it does not mean they are completely hapless. Many of the franchises that were among our finalists have made a number of playoff appearances in that time but lost in the first round.

The team that has gone the longest without a playoff win is Detroit Lions. Here are the details:

  • Seasons without a playoff win: 30
  • Most recent postseason win: 38-6 vs. Dallas Cowboys
  • Date of most recent postseason win: Jan. 5, 1992
  • Most recent playoff season: 2016
  • All-time Super Bowl wins: 0
  • All-time playoff appearances: 17

In their 92-season history, the Detroit Lions have had just seven playoff wins, six of which came before 1960. The team’s lone Super Bowl era playoff win came against the Dallas Cowboys in 1992. In the 30 seasons since, the Lions actually have made eight playoff appearances but lost in the opening round all eight times. Detroit has some work to do to get back to the postseason. The team has finished under .500 in each of the past four seasons.

Click here to see all the teams that have gone the longest without a playoff win.

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