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An 0-2 Record Isn't a Death Knell For NFL Teams Entering Week 3

“Never tell me the odds.” — Han Solo.

All of the 0-2 teams in the NFL would be wise to take Han’s advice in "The Empire Strikes Back" because there have been a lot of numbers thrown out there this week regarding 0-2 teams in the NFL and their playoff chances moving forward, and frankly, they aren’t very pretty.

Most recently, in the last five years, only three of the 39 teams that started the season 0-2 made the postseason. That’s a paltry 7.7 percent.

I’m here to tell all of the teams that find themselves in that boat, especially the Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Chargers, why they should have hope.

Things Can Turn Around

For one, most teams that start 0-2 are just not very good. Certainly, teams like the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, etc., seem to fit into that category right now.

Secondly, 0-2 is not a season-ending start. Not even close. And on that, I speak from experience.

Not once but twice in my career, I was on a team that started the year 0-4 or worse and ended up in playoff contention the last week of the season.

The first time was my rookie year in Washington in 2001. We started the season 0-5 and were the last winless team in the entire league. It wasn’t looking pretty in Week 6 until LaVar Arrington’s pick-six of Carolina quarterback Chris Weinke got us our first victory.

It was like that play turned around our whole season as we went from 0-5 to 5-5 in the blink of an eye and remained in the thick of the playoff race until the end of the season, eventually coming up just short of the postseason at 8-8.

The second time was my fourth year in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills in 2004. Again, just like with Marty Schottenheimer in Washington, we had a new head coach in Mike Mularkey. This time, we started 0-4 before going 9-2 in our next 11 games until we lost to a 14-1 Pittsburgh team that had already clinched home-field advantage in Week 17. If we won the game, we would’ve made the playoffs, so losing to a Steelers squad that played a lot of back-ups throughout the contest is one of the games that still stings to this day.

That, however, is not the point.

The point is both of these teams got off to much worse starts than the nine squads that go into Week 3 at 0-2 right now and were still able to battle back to play meaningful games the rest of the season.

Nothing Much Needs to Change

So, what changed for those teams to be able to turn it around so abruptly like we did?


The commonality between both seasons is that the head coach stayed true to his beliefs and declined to make any major changes. There was no quarterback switch or coordinator firing that was the impetus for the improved play. Mularkey and Schottenheimer were similar in that they believed deeply in the people on their staff and roster and focused on the process of the work week and eventually, we started to play better and things went our way.

In fairness, Schottenheimer did cut our starting quarterback, Jeff George, after the second game of the season, which sent shockwaves throughout the building. However, we still lost three more games in a row after that, so it is hard to say that had any kind of impact on the turnaround. However, it was an eye-opener for a rookie undrafted free agent like myself. As in, “they can just cut the starting quarterback after a game like that?”

We did have a players-only meeting, the kind of which you will probably start to hear about next week once some of these teams drop to 0-3. However, if memory serves, we still lost two more games after that, so it is hard to point to that as being a major factor, although I do think it was healthy that guys got some stuff off their chest in terms of playing time and who was getting the ball and things of that ilk. It at least let everyone know what the others were thinking and gave us a sense of togetherness and accountability.

But, like I said, we still lost a couple more games after that and were staring 0-6 in the eyes until Arrington made that play.

And in Buffalo, I don’t recall any type of players-only meeting or session like that. We just played a fellow 0-4 team in the Miami Dolphins, finally got a win, and started to get some confidence and momentum.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Being in an NFL facility and starting the season winless is miserable. People don’t even want to look each other in the eye when passing each other in the hallway as the weight of not having a win yet hangs over everyone’s head like a dark cloud.

Eventually, though, if you believe in what you are doing and stay the course, it is possible to get it turned around.

I’d bet there’s a pretty good chance at least one of these 0-2 teams, like the Bengals a year ago, makes a run to the postseason. The question now is which one?

Ross Tucker is a former NFL offensive lineman who played seven seasons for the Cowboys, Bills, Patriots and Washington after graduating from Princeton University in 2001. He works as a color commentator for both CBS Sports and Westwood One in addition to hosting a number of podcasts, including the popular Ross Tucker Football Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @RossTuckerNFL.