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Lakers, Clippers, and All Teams In Between

Ranking the pro sports franchises of the past 25 years.

by James Leroy Wilson
September 10, 2009

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Lakers, Clippers, and All Teams In Between
In honor of the start of the NFL season, I am switching gears this week to talk about sports. - JLW
 
Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Cable is being investigated for assault against an assistant. Cable is the fifth Raider coach in the last six football seasons. Cable's previous head coaching experience was a disastrous run at Idaho earlier in the decade. Cable succeeded Lane Kiffin, who lasted 20 games after being hired as a 31 year-old college assistant when another college assistant turned down the job. The Raiders don't seem to attract the top coaching talent.
 
The Oakland coaching carousel is just one of several reasons to make me question the competence of Al Davis, the Raiders' owner and general manager. Under Davis's leadership from the late-60's through the mid-80's, the Raiders were a premier pro football franchise. But I wonder what he has accomplished since the Raiders' final Super Bowl victory in January, 1984.
 
25 seasons have passed since then. A quarter-century. A generation. I wondered how Davis's franchise compared to other NFL teams over that period.
 
Then I went overboard and asked myself: how did Davis's team fare against all the major pro sports franchises from the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB?
 
It is natural to respond, how can one compare franchises of different sports?
 
I settled on four criteria:
 
  • One point for each winning regular season. If the fan saw every game and came away satisfied with a victory more often than not, that's saying something. A record above .500 is evidence of being "above average" and a possible or probable play-off contender.
  • One point for each semifinal appearance - i.e. conference championship or league pennant series appearances. In 1984, only four Major League Baseball teams made the play-offs, whereas 16 of 21 NHL teams did. In other words, "making the play-offs" is not a fair measure. But there was always a "final four" in each, and to be among these teams is to achieve an elite level of success.
  • One point for each championship (i.e., Super Bowl, NBA Championship, Stanley Cup, or World Series title).
  • Deduct two points for each time the franchise move to a new city. This indicates some degree of franchise instability. The Titans moved from Houston (as the Oilers) to Memphis and then to Nashville and therefore lose four points. No other team loses more than two points. (The Raiders' move back to Oakland from L.A. means they lose two points. Their initial move from Oakland to L.A. occurred prior to 1984.)
 
I add all these points together and divide by 25 years. This becomes a "Success Index." If a team had a winning season, made the semifinals, and won the championship every year, it would total 75 points for a 3.0 Success Index rating. (Not that that happened in any sport). A team that had a winning season all 25 years but did not make the semifinals and never won a championship would have 25 points - one for each winning season - and a 1.0 Success Index. (That didn't happen either, no team in any sport had a winning season all 25 years.)
 
I do not include franchises that played less than 25 seasons. This excludes the Baltimore Ravens, whom the NFL prefers to treat as a franchise with a new history and not a continuation of the old Cleveland Browns. It also excludes the Cleveland Browns, because it was out of business for three seasons. I have, however, listed these and expansion franchises separately for reference.
 
A flaw may appear in from the fact that the list is top-heavy with NHL teams. The ninth NHL team appears before the fifth NFL team. This includes three NHL teams with no titles, ranked ahead of the NFL's Giants and Cowboys, each with three titles. As a further reference, then, next to each team's overall ranking is a ranking in parentheses of their standing within their own league. Perhaps in your eyes being the 5th most successful NFL franchise is more impressive than being the 5th-most successful NHL or NBA franchise.
 
Even so, I do anticipate objections. For example, the Utah Jazz, with zero titles in this time span, is ranked ahead of the Chicago Bulls, who have six. Shouldn't championships count for more? Well, consider the other hand. The Bulls had winning seasons in only 13 of the 25 seasons, lowest of any in the top 37, yet are ranked twelfth. And the Jazz are tied with the Lakers with the most winning seasons - yet are ranked only ninth!
 
Every team but one on the top half of the list had winning seasons for a majority of years. The loan exception is the Chicago Blackhawks, who made up for it by showing up in the conference finals six times - more than anyone ranked below them. Even then, they barely scraped the top half.
 
Every NHL team is disadvantaged because of the lost 2004-05 season due to a lockout. Because of it, the Red Wings may be #2 instead of #3. But this is the collective fault of every NHL team, including the Red Wings. A MLB team would also move up if they had won the 2004 World Series, but no one did on account of a strike. Nevertheless, the majority of games had been played that year and I count the teams that had winning seasons that year.
 
The test of this criteria is, does it ring true? Would you rank the most successful franchises of the past 25 years some other way?
 
Here is the list.
 
WS=Winning seasons; FF= final four (semifinal appearances); T=Titles; *= deduct two points for franchise move. The number in parentheses is the team's rank among teams of its own sport.
 
1. NBA (1) Los Angeles Lakers: WS: 22 FF: 13 T: 6 41/25 1.64
2. NBA (2) Detroit Pistons: WS: 19 FF: 11 T: 3 33/25 1.32
3. NHL (1) Detroit Red Wings: WS: 18 FF: 10 T: 4 32/25 1.28
4. MLB (1) New York Yankees: WS: 21 FF: 7 T: 4 32/25 1.28
5. NBA (3) San Antonio Spurs: WS: 19 FF: 7 T: 4 30/25 1.20
6. NFL (1) San Francisco 49ers: WS: 17: FF: 8 T: 4 29/25 1.16
7. NHL (2) New Jersey Devils: WS: 19 FF: 7 T: 3 29/25 1.16
8. MLB (2) Boston Red Sox: WS: 19 FF: 8 T: 2 29/25 1.16
9. NBA (4) Utah Jazz: WS: 22 FF: 6 T: 0 28/25 1.12
10.NFL (2) New England Patriots: WS: 17: FF: 7 T: 3 27/25 1.08
11.NFL (3) Pittsburgh Steelers: WS: 17: FF: 8: T: 2 27/25 1.08
12.NBA (4) Chicago Bulls: WS: 13 FF: 8 T: 6 27/25 1.08
13.NBA (5) Houston Rockets: WS: 20 FF: 4 T: 2 26/25 1.04
14.MLB (3) Atlanta Braves: WS: 16 FF: 9 T: 1 26/25 1.00
15.NHL (3) Edmonton Oilers: WS: 14 FF: 7 T: 4 25/25 1.00
16.NHL (4) Pittsburgh Penguins: WS: 16 FF: 6 T: 3 25/25 1.00
17.NFL (4) Denver Broncos: WS: 16 FF: 7; T: 2 25/25 1.00
18.MBL (4) St. Louis Cardinals: WS: 16 FF: 8 T: 1 25/25 1.00
19.NHL (5) Montreal Canadiens: WS: 19 FF: 4 T: 2 25/25 1.00
20.NHL (6) Philadelphia Flyers: WS: 17 FF: 8 T: 0 25/25 1.00
21.MBL (5) Toronto Blue Jays: WS: 17 FF: 5 T: 2 24/25 .960
22.NHL (7) Boston Bruins: WS: 20 FF: 4 T: 0 24/25 .960
23.NHL (8) *Colorado Avalanche: WS: 16 FF: 7 T: 2 23/25 .920
24.NBA (6) Portland Trailblazers: WS: 18 FF: 5 T: 0 23/25 .920
25.NBA (7) Boston Celtics: WS: 14 FF: 6 T: 2 22/25 .880
26.MBL (6) New York Mets: WS: 16 FF: 5 T: 1 22/25 .880
27.NBA (8) Phoenix Suns: WS: 17 FF: 5 T: 0 22/25 .880
28.NHL (9) Buffalo Sabres: WS: 18 FF: 4 T: 0 22/25 .880
29.NFL (5) New York Giants: WS: 14 FF: 4 T: 3 21/25 .840
30.NFL (6) Dallas Cowboys: WS: 14 FF: 4; T: 3 21/25 .840
31.MLB (7) Los Angeles Dodgers: WS: 17 FF: 3 T: 1 21/25 .840
32.MLB (8) Houston Astros: WS: 18 FF: 3 T: 0 21/25 .840
33.NFL (7) Miami Dolphins: WS: 17 FF: 3: T: 0 20/25 .800
34.NHL (10) Washington Capitals: WS: 18 FF: 2 T: 0 20/25 .800
35.NHL (11) Calgary Flames: WS: 15 FF: 3 T: 1 19/25 .760
36.NFL (8) Green Bay Packers: WS: 14 FF: 4 T: 1 19/25 .760
37.NFL (9) Philadelphia Eagles: WS: 14 FF: 5: T: 0 19/25 .760
38.MBL (12) Oakland Athletics: WS: 13 FF: 5 T:1 19/25 .760
39.NFL (10) Indianapolis Colts: WS: 14 FF: 3 T: 1 18/25 .760
40.NHL (13) St. Louis Blues: WS: 17 FF: 2 T: 0 19/25 .760
41.NFL (11) Washington Redskins: WS: 13: FF: 3: T: 2 18/25 .720
42.NFL (12) Chicago Bears: WS: 13: FF: 4 T: 1 18/25 .720
43.NFL (13) Minnesota Vikings: WS: 15: FF: 3 T: 0 18/25 .720
44.NHL (14) Chicago Blackhawks: WS: 12 FF: 6 T: 0 18/25 .720
45.NBA (9) Cleveland Cavaliers: WS: 15 FF: 3 T: 0 18/25 .720
46.MBL (13) Chicago White Sox: WS: 14 FF: 2 T: 1 17/25 .680
47.MBL (14) Los Angeles Angels: WS: 13 FF: 3 T: 1 17/25 .680
48.MBL (15) San Francisco Giants: WS: 14 FF: 3 T: 0 17/25 .680
49.MBL (16) Minnesota Twins: WS: 11 FF: 3 T: 2 16/25 .640
50.NHL (15) New York Rangers: WS: 12 FF: 3 T: 1 16/25 .640
51.NFL (14) Buffalo Bills: WS: 11 FF: 5 T: 0 16/25 .640
52.NBA (10) Dallas Mavericks: WS: 14 FF: 3 T: 0 16/25 .640
53.NBA (11) New York Knicks: WS: 12 FF: 4 T: 0 16/25 .640
54.NHL (16)- Toronto Maple Leafs: WS: 12 FF: 4 T: 0 16/25 .640
55.MBL (17) Cleveland Indians: WS: 11 FF: 4 T: 0 15/25 .600
56.NFL (15) Kansas City Chiefs: WS: 14: FF: 1 T: 0 15/25 .600
57.NBA (12) *Oklahoma City Thunder: WS: 13 FF: 3 T: 0 14/25 .560
58.MBL (19) San Diego Padres: WS: 12 FF: 2 T: 0 14/25 .560
59.NBA (13) Denver Nuggets: WS: 12 FF: 2 T: 0 14/25 .560
60.NBA (14) Philadelphia 76ers: WS: 12 FF: 2 T: 0 14/25 .560
61.NHL (17) *Dallas Stars: WS: 14 FF: 5 T: 1 13/25 .520
62.NHL (18) *Carolina Hurricanes: WS: 11 FF: 3: T: 1 13/25 .520
63.NBA (15) Indiana Pacers: WS: 11 FF: 6 T: 0 17/25 .520
64.MBL (20) Detroit Tigers: WS: 9 FF: 3 T: 1 13/25 .520
65.MBL (21) Cincinnati Reds: WS: 10 FF: 2 T: 1 13/25 .520
66.MBL (22) Seattle Mariners: WS: 10 FF: 3 T: 0 13/25 .520
67.MBL (23) Chicago Cubs: WS: 10 FF: 3 T: 0 13/25 .520
68.NBA (16) Milwaukee Bucks: WS: 11 FF: 2 T: 0 13/25 .520
69.NHL (19) Vancouver Canucks: WS: 12 FF: 1 T: 0 13/25 .520
70.NFL (16) Seattle Seahawks: WS: 12 FF: 1 T: 0 13/25 .520
71.NBA (16) Atlanta Hawks: WS: 13 FF: 0 T: 0 13/25 .520
72.NFL (17) *St. Louis Rams: WS: 9: FF: 4: T: 1 12/25 .480
73.MBL (24) Philadelphia Phillies: WS: 9 FF: 2 T: 1 12/25 .480
74.MBL (25) Kansas City Royals: WS: 9 FF: 2 T: 1 12/25 .480
75.NFL (18) New York Jets: WS: 11 FF: 1 T: 0 12/25 .480
76.NFL (19) **Tennessee Titans: WS: 13: FF: 2: T: 0 11/25 .440
77.NFL (20) Tampa Bay Bucs: WS: 8 FF: 2: T: 1 11/25 .440
78.NBA (17) New Jersey Nets: WS: 9 FF: 2 T: 0 11/25 .440
79.NHL (20) Los Angeles Kings: WS: 10 FF: 1: T: 0 11/25 .440
80.NHL (21) *Phoenix Coyotes: WS: 11 FF: 0 T: 0 11/25 .440
81.NFL (21) San Diego Chargers: WS: 8 FF: 2: T: 0 10/25 .400
82.MBL (26) Baltimore Orioles: WS: 8 FF: 2 T: 0 10/25 .400
83.NHL (22) New York Islanders: WS: 9 FF: 1 T: 0 10/25 .400
84.MLB (27) Texas Rangers: WS: 10 FF: 0 T: 0 10/25 .400
85.NFL (22) *Oakland Raiders: WS: 8 FF: 3 T: 0 9/25 .360
86.NBA (18) Sacramento Kings: WS: 8 FF: 1 T: 0 9/25 .360
87.NFL (23) New Orleans Saints: WS: 8: FF: 1 T: 0 9/25 .360
88.NFL (24) Atlanta Falcons: WS: 6 FF: 2 T: 0 8/25 .320
89.MLB (28) *Washington Nationals: WS: 9 FF: 0 T: 0 7/25 .280
90.NFL (25) Detroit Lions: WS: 6 FF: 1 T: 0 7/25 .280
91.MBL (29) Pittsburgh Pirates: WS: 4 FF: 3 T: 0 7/25 .280
92.NBA (19) Golden State Warriors: WS: 7 FF: 0 T: 0 7/25 .280
93.MBL (30) Milwaukee Brewers: WS: 6 FF: 0 T: 0 6/25 .240
94.NBA (20) Washington Wizards: WS: 6 FF: 0 T: 0 6/25 .240
95.NFL (26) Cincinnati Bengals: WS: 4: FF: 1 T: 0 5/25 .200
96.NFL (27) Arizona Cardinals: WS: 3 FF: 1 T: 0 4/25 .160
97.NBA (21) Los Angeles Clippers: WS: 1 FF: 0 T: 0 1/25 .040
 
Franchises with less than 25 years of history
 
MLB Arizona D'backs: WS:7 FF: 2 T: 1 10/12 .833
NHL Minnesota Wild: WS: 6 FF: 1 T: 0 7/9 .778
NHL Ottawa Senators: WS: 11 FF: 2 T: 0 13/17 .765
NBA Miami Heat: WS: 12 FF: 3 T: 1 16/21 .762
NHL Anaheim Ducks: WS: 8 FF: 3 T: 1 12/16 .750
NFL Baltimore Ravens: WS: 5 FF: 2 T: 1 8/12 .666
NBA Orlando Magic: WS: 10 FF: 3 T: 0 13/20 .650
NFL Jacksonville Jags: WS: 7 FF: 2 T: 0 9/14 .643
MLB Florida Marlins: WS: 6 FF: 2 T: 2 10/16 .625
NHL San Jose Sharks: WS: 8 FF: 1 T: 0 9/18 .500
NFL Carolina Panthers: WS: 4: FF: 3 T:0 7/14 .500
NHL Florida Panthers: WS 7 FF: 1 T: 0 8/16 .500
NFL Cleveland Browns: WS: 7: FF: 3 T: 0 10/22 .455
NHL Nashville Predators: WS: 5 FF: 0 T: 0 5/11 .455
NBA *New Orleans Hornets: WS: 11 FF: 0 T: 0 9/21 .429
NHL Tampa Bay Lightening: WS: 5 FF: 1 T: 1 7/17 .412
NBA Minnesota T'wolves: WS: 7 FF: 1 T: 0 8/20 .400
MLB Colorado Rockies: WS: 5 FF: 1 T: 0 6/16 .375
NBA Toronto Raptors: WS: 3 FF: 0 T: 0 3/14 .214
NHL Atlanta Thrashers: WS: 2 FF: 0 T: 0 2/10 .200
MLB Tampa Bay Rays: WS: 1 FF: 1 T: 0 2/11 .182
NHL Columbus Blue Jackets: WS: 1 FF: 0 T: 2 1/9 .111
NBA *Memphis Grizzlies: WS: 3 FF: 0 T: 0 1/14 .007
NBA Charlotte Bobcats: 0: 5 FF: 0 T: 0 0/5 .000
NFL Houston Texans: 0: FF: 0 T : 0 0/7 .000
 
My question has been answered. From 1984-2008 Al Davis's Raiders ranked 85th out of 97 pro teams and 22nd out of 27 NFL tems. By Success Index, it even falls below most expansion teams, which have had fewer years to become successful.
 
Perhaps it's time for the man to retire.

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