This is not about the baseball team. This is about a football team that played 18 games from 1933-1934, losing 16 of them (and tying once) before folding.
We’ll begin in 1933, the Reds’ inaugural season. We have to preface this with the fact that the 1933 NFL was sort of odd, as was the league in these times. Some teams played 14 games, some played 13, some played 12, some played 11, some played 10. The Philadelphia Eagles (in their inaugural season) played 9. This was so long ago that there wasn’t even an NFL Draft. The league’s leading passer, the Giants’ Harry Newman, only threw for 973 yards. Only 10 teams were in the league, including the Boston Redskins, Brooklyn Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Portsmouth Spartans.
There are about zero pictures of this team, and only one of their head coach, which we’ll get to in a bit. The 1933 Cincinnati Reds started their season against the Portsmouth Spartans (now known as the Detroit Lions). Since this was 1933, there are no recorded statistics (e.g. yardage, turnovers), but the score stands at 21-0 in favor of the Spartans.
The next week, the Reds faced the Chicago Cardinals, and fell 3-0 in a presumably riveting game. The Reds have now played two games and scored 0 points.
The Reds finally got on the board against the Pittsburgh Pirates, where they managed a field goal but still lost 17-3. The Reds are averaging 1.0 points-per-game.
In their next three games, the Reds scored 0 points. Their points-per-game stat is now standing at 0.5. They tied, 0-0, against the Pittsburgh Pirates. In their last four games, the Reds kept scoring, and won three games, scoring 12, 10 and 10 points in their wins, respectively. So, in 10 games, the 1933 Reds scored only 38 points, an amazingly low amount, even considering how prehistoric the offenses were at that time. Their defense wasn’t bad, giving up only 11.0 points-per-game, but it’s way more than the offense could manage (obviously). The Reds set the record for the fewest yards gained in a season (1,150), fewest passes attempted in a season (102), fewest passes completed in a season (25), and the fewest passing touchdowns in a season, with 0. Nine different members of the team threw passes, and seven of them threw interceptions. Their boiled down quarterback rating stands at 3.7. The Reds only averaged 2.7 yards-per-play, threw 15 interceptions as a team and rushed for 795 and 2 touchdowns on 320 attempts.
The Reds entered 1934 with a new head coach, a guy named Algy Clark. Apparently, this is a picture of him as a player, but there’s no confirmation. Clark’s task was to rebuild the league’s worst offense, a tall task considering the financial issues of the franchise as well as the existing talent on the roster. Algy, you didn’t do a good job.
The Reds began the 1934 season with two straight shutouts, much like 1933, but they gave up only 21 points. Provided the defense kept playing well, there was reason to believe the Reds would eventually snag some wins once the offense got itself together.
Reinforcing this belief (not by a lot, but it was there), was a 21-3 loss to the mighty Chicago Bears. After the loss, the Reds suffered another shutout defeat, this time to the Cardinals. The final score was 16-0.
The Reds were averaging only 0.75 points-per-game after four games. After four games, they had been outscored by eight touchdowns. Optimism was low, but a win or two was possible down the stretch.
In their next game against the Packers, the Reds finally collapsed. Their defense, burdened with such a weak offense, finally snapped and allowed 41 points to Green Bay, a crazy amount considering offenses at that time. The Reds themselves managed 0. Against the Bears (who would finished 13-0), the Reds scored their first touchdown, but still lost 41-7.
The Reds never scored again, losing 38-0 to Detroit and 64-0 to Philadelphia. Only 2,000 fans were present for that game, and no Eagles team since has scored as many points as the Eagles did on that day. The Reds, after the game, folded. In 8 games, they had scored only 10 points and given up 243, meaning that their average game was a 30-1 loss. Their W-L statistical projection stands at 0.0-8.0.
The Reds’ replacements, the St. Louis Gunners, played out the remaining three games on the schedule. Several players, including head coach Algy Clark, jumped over to St. Louis to continue playing. While there, the Gunners finally secured a win with a 6-0 triumph over the Pittsburgh Pirates, but suffered two losses to close out the season. The Gunners scored 27 points in three games, far more than the Reds mustered through eight.
The Reds, while still in Cincinnati, accumulated some mind-bogglingly awful stats. The Reds averaged 3.4 yards-per-play, finished with a -9 turnover differential (along with a -233 point differential). The team completed only 26 of 88 passes they threw for 248 yards, zero touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The team’s only touchdown came on a rush against Chicago. As a rushing unit, they racked up 731 yards and only 3.7 yards-per-rush.
On defense, the team gave up 30 touchdowns in 8 games, along with 1,631 rushing yards and a staggering 6.40 yards-per-rush despite having to defend only 255 attempts. The next worst rushing defense in NFL history, the 1950 New York Yanks, gave up 5.63 yards-per-rush and had to defend 434 attempts. The Yanks also played 12 games. So, regarding the Reds gave up that average in eight games and 189 fewer attempts…
The team ranked 10th/11th or worse in nine out of fourteen offensive statistics. The team’s leading passer, Lew Pope, finished with a 23.8% completion rate, 115 yards, 0 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His quarterback rating stood at 0.0, so for an entire season, the Cincinnati fans had to endure Russell Wilson’s first half in the 2014 NFC Title game every week. No player on the team ran for over 200 yards, and the team’s leading receiver (Cookie Tackwell was his name…how can I make this up?) caught only 5 passes for 58 yards and zero touchdowns.
That’s it. That was the story of the Cincinnati Reds, an awful football team in the 1930’s. The more you know.