A perfect season is a sports season including any requisite playoff portion, in which a team remains undefeated and untied. The feat is extremely rare at the professional level of any team sport, and has occurred more commonly at the collegiate level in the United States. A perfect regular season (known by other names outside the United States) is a season excluding any playoffs, where a team remains undefeated and untied; it is less rare than a complete perfect season but still exceptional.
A perfect season may be part of a multi-season winning streak.
Exhibition games are generally not counted toward standings, for or against. For example, the 1972 Miami Dolphins (below) lost three of their preseason games but still are considered to have a perfect season.
National Football LeagueEdit
Since the National Football League began in 1920, only one team has played a complete perfect season (both regular season and playoffs): the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who won their fourteen regular season games and three postseason games, including Super Bowl VII, to finish the season 17–0–0.
The Dolphins briefly extended their winning streak before losing to the Oakland Raiders on September 23, 1973. It has often been reported that the surviving members of the 1972 Dolphins would either gather to drink champagne when the final undefeated team earned its first loss, or send a case of champagne to the team who beat this final undefeated team. The head coach of the 1972 Dolphins, Don Shula, denied this in a 2007 interview with ESPN.
NFL undefeated seasons (with ties) prior to 1932Edit
Prior to the development of a playoff system in the NFL in 1932, there were four teams who completed seasons undefeated, but with one or more tied games: the 1920 Akron Pros, the 1922 Canton Bulldogs, the 1923 Canton Bulldogs, and the 1929 Green Bay Packers. Under NFL practices at the time, tied games were discounted when the win percentage was calculated; so, these four teams were recorded with perfect win percentages of 1.000. (In 1972, the NFL retroactively altered its standings to treat tied games as being worth half of a win - so these four teams are no longer recorded as having the perfect 1.000 percentage).
The 1921 Buffalo All-Americans were controversially denied a similar type of near-undefeated season, when they believed that their final game, a 7-10 loss to the Chicago Staleys, was an exhibition game which would not count to the final standings; the NFL records that game as official, and Buffalo's record as 9-1-2.
Other NFL perfect regular seasonsEdit
In 1934, the Bears played a 13–0–0 regular season and became the first NFL team to complete an undefeated regular season without tied games, but lost the 1934 NFL Championship Game against the New York Giants. Despite losing several players and head coach George Halas to military service in World War II, the 1942 Bears finished 11–0–0 but again lost the NFL Championship Game, this time against the Washington Redskins. The 2007 Patriots became the first team after the NFL expanded its regular season to sixteen games in 1978 to finish undefeated. They won the divisional and conference playoffs before losing Super Bowl XLII to the New York Giants, giving them a final record of 18-1. While the 1972 Miami Dolphins did complete the perfect season at 17-0, before ultimately losing in Super Bowl XLII the 2007 Patriots did surpass their total by one game with an 18-0 record.
Pre-NFL era and competing leaguesEdit
An NFL predecessor, the Ohio League, had many perfect seasons. The Massillon Tigers (1904, 1905), Akron Indians (1909), Shelby Blues (1911), and Dayton Triangles (1918) all had perfect seasons during this era. In the New York Pro Football League, another league that contributed teams to the NFL, the Buffalo Niagaras went 5–0–0 (6–0–0 including a forfeit) in a league that consisted of teams entirely from the city of Buffalo in 1918. In 1920, the Union Athletic Association of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania (later known as the Philadelphia Quakers), played in a league mostly consisting of local teams and earned a perfect season, claiming for itself a mythical national championship. Prior to the Ohio League, the 1900 and 1901 Homestead Library and Athletic Club teams, as well as the 1903 Franklin Athletic Club, all had perfect seasons.
The caliber of talent was neither as high nor as consistent between teams at the time, the seasons were generally shorter (7 to 11 games), and it was not uncommon for top teams to play all their games at home while lesser teams played all of their games on the road. In 1918, Dayton and Buffalo had the additional advantage of having its strongest competitors suspend operations due to the Spanish flu and the First World War. Thus, it was much easier to earn a perfect season than it would become in the NFL.
1937 Los Angeles BulldogsEdit
The Los Angeles Bulldogs were a member of the second American Football League, who joined the league in 1937 after the Cleveland Rams defected to the NFL. Playing a combination of AFL teams and independent franchises (such as the Providence Steam Roller and the Salinas Packers), the team went 16–0, with 8 of those wins coming against AFL teams. The Bulldogs’ dominance is cited as one of the key factors in the AFL’s demise, and the next season as an independent with a 10–2–2 record including a 2–1–2 record against NFL teams, several of the team’s players were invited to play on the "Pro All Stars" team in the NFL’s first Pro All-Star Game in Los Angeles. The Bulldogs are considered to be one of the few independent teams to have ever achieved parity with the NFL.
1948 Cleveland BrownsEdit
The Browns were a member of the All-America Football Conference, a professional football league that played from 1946 to 1949. In 1948, the Browns won all fourteen regular season games and the 1948 AAFC championship to post a 15–0–0 record. Cleveland’s perfect 1948 season was part of a longer string of 29 straight wins, which stretched from 1947 to 1949 and included both the 1947 and 1948 title games. Overall, the Browns won all four AAFC championship games and were accepted into the NFL when the two leagues merged after the 1949 season.
Neither the NFL nor the Pro Football Hall of Fame recognizes the Bulldogs’ or Browns’ perfect seasons.
Close to perfectEdit
Since the NFL expanded to a fourteen-game regular season in 1961, eight teams have had regular seasons with one loss and no ties:
|Team||Wins||Losses||Playoff results||Final result|
|1962 Green Bay Packers||13||1||Won NFL Championship against the New York Giants||14-1|
|1968 Baltimore Colts||13||1||Won two playoff games including NFL Championship but lost Super Bowl III||15-2|
|1976 Oakland Raiders||13||1||Won three playoff games including Super Bowl XI||16-1|
|1984 San Francisco 49ers||15||1||Won three playoff games including Super Bowl XIX||18-1|
|1985 Chicago Bears||15||1||Won three playoff games including Super Bowl XX||18-1|
|1998 Minnesota Vikings||15||1||Won one playoff game before losing conference championship game||16-2|
|2004 Pittsburgh Steelers||15||1||Won one playoff game before losing conference championship game||16-2|
|2011 Green Bay Packers||15||1||Lost division playoff game to New York Giants||15-2|
Most of these teams suffered their regular-season loss early in the year and only the 1962 Packers (10-0), 1985 Bears (12-0), and 2011 Packers (13-0) were on track for a perfect season when they lost. Coincidentally, the 1985 Bears’ lone loss came to the Miami Dolphins.
The best start from an NFL team who failed to complete a perfect regular season was by the 2009 Indianapolis Colts, who started 14–0 before losing their final two regular season games to the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills to finish 14–2. Indianapolis, having clinched the top seed in the AFC, sacrificed its chances at a perfect regular season and instead rested its starters the final two games to protect them for the playoffs. The Colts would go on to Super Bowl XLIV but lost to the New Orleans Saints.
Four other teams have started 13–0 before losing their fourteenth game: the 1998 Denver Broncos, 2005 Indianapolis Colts, 2009 New Orleans Saints and 2011 Green Bay Packers. The 1998 Broncos, 2005 Colts and 2009 Saints lost at least two of their final three games but the Broncos and Saints recovered to win the Super Bowl. The 1953 Cleveland Browns and 1969 Los Angeles Rams started 11-0 in twelve- and fourteen-game seasons respectively; both lost their only playoff game.
The following is a list of teams in minor or alternate leagues that compiled perfect seasons of six games or more, including postseason games, with no ties:
- The Hollywood Bears, a member of the Pacific Coast Professional Football League, went 8–0–0 in 1941.
- The Hollywood Rangers were a member of the American Football League of 1944 (formerly the Northwest War Industries League), a short-lived competitor to the Pacific Coast Professional Football League on the West Coast. In their 1944 season, they went 11–0–0 and defeated the PCPFL champion San Diego Bombers (who had also had a perfect season in their league, going 9–0–0) in a two-game series.
- The Charleston Rockets of the Continental Football League won all 14 games of the league's inaugural season in 1965, going on to defeat the Toronto Rifles in the league’s championship.
- The Hartford Knights went 17–0–0 in 1972 as a member of the Seaboard Football League, including a victory over the Chambersburg Cardinals in the league’s championship. The Knights, unhappy with the level of competition (many of the Knights games had margins of victory of 40 points or more), quit the league the following year.
In indoor football, the following teams have had perfect seasons:
- The Quad City Steamwheelers went undefeated in the inaugural season of arenafootball2, accruing a record of 19–0–0 including playoffs and an ArenaCup I win.
- The Ohio Valley Greyhounds of the National Indoor Football League accrued a perfect season in 2003.
- The Sioux Falls Storm of United Indoor Football won back-to-back perfect seasons in 2006 and 2007, winning the United Bowl championship both years.
- The Fayetteville Guard won a perfect season in 2007 in the NIFL.
- The Rochester Raiders won a perfect season in 2008 in the Continental Indoor Football League, but withdrew from that league during the playoffs in a dispute.
- The Baltimore Mariners won a perfect season in 2010 in the American Indoor Football Association.
At least twenty-three other semi-professional football teams have had perfect seasons, seven of them being at least 17 games long. The Chambersburg Cardinals won a record 72 straight games between 1977 and 1984.
There have been no perfect seasons (or even perfect regular seasons) in the American Association, World Football League, United States Football League, XFL, or, to date, the Arena Football League. The United Football League has had two perfect regular seasons, but neither qualify for the list: the 2009 Florida Tuskers finished 6–0, but that team lost the subsequent championship game; the 2012 Las Vegas Locomotives had a record of 4–0 when the league abruptly suspended operations halfway through the season.
The 1933 Providence Huskies (possibly a successor to the Providence Steam Roller) played arguably the most perfect season ever recorded by a professional or semi-professional team: a ten-game season in which they won every game and did not concede a single point during any game.
A true perfect season (no losses and no ties through the regular season and playoffs) has never been achieved in professional Canadian football. Only one team, the 1948 Calgary Stampeders, has completed a perfect regular season.
The current CFL schedule would require a team to win 20 games (18 regular season, 1 playoff after bye week, and the Grey Cup championship) to post a perfect record.
1948 Calgary StampedersEdit
Under head coach Les Lear, the 1948 Calgary Stampeders completed a perfect regular season with a record of 12–0; they had two wins and a tie during the playoffs to finish with a record of 14–0–1, the only undefeated complete season in Canadian pro history. In the Western Interprovincial Football Union playoff series (a home-and-home series decided on total points) against the Regina Roughriders, the first leg was tied 4–4, and the Stampeders won the second 21–10, to win the entire series 25–14. The Stampeders then defeated the Ottawa Rough Riders 12–7 for the 36th Grey Cup.
Canadian Interuniversity SportEdit
1975 University of Ottawa Gee GeesEdit
In 1975 the number one ranked University of Ottawa Gee Gees had the first CIS undefeated season. After completing their perfect regular season at 8-0, the Gees Gees won their first play-off defeating the number two ranked Toronto Varsity Blues 14-7. The Gees Gees then demolished the Windsor Lancers 45-6 to win the Yates Cup and the right to play for the national championship and the Vanier Cup. The undefeated season was completed on November 21, 1975, when the Gee Gees defeated the University of Calgary Dinos 14-9, at CNE Stadium in Toronto. That night the Gee Gees became the first undefeated team in CIS and Vanier Cup history. The 1975 Gees Gees roster had a big impact on the CFL. Gee Gee Players from the 1975 team played in the CFL for a cumulative total of 96 years and throughout their professional careers in the CFL accomplished: one Canadian Football Hall of Fame Inductee, one Grey Cup Canadian MVP, two Frank M. Gibson Trophies for Outstanding Rookie Eastern Division, two CFL Leo Dandurand Trophy Outstanding Lineman Eastern Division, twenty CFL and Divisional All-Star Selections, twenty-three Grey Cup Appearances and a total of twelve Grey Cup Rings.
2003, 2005 Saskatchewan Huskies Edit
In 2003 and 2005, the Saskatchewan Huskies completed perfect regular seasons. However, in both years they lost in the playoffs: in the Vanier Cup to the Laurier Golden Hawks in 2005, and in The Canada West Semi-Final To Alberta Golden Bears in 2003.
2007 Manitoba Bisons Edit
A perfect season was attained in 2007 by the Manitoba Bisons, the football squad representing the University of Manitoba, located in Winnipeg, Canada. The Bisons were undefeated in Canada West Universities Athletic Association play during the 8-game schedule. In the playoffs, Manitoba comfortably handled the Calgary Dinos 27–5 in the opening round. The Bisons followed up with a 48–5 defeat of the Regina Rams in the Hardy Trophy and a strong 52–20 showing against the perennial contenders from the University of Western Ontario, the Western Ontario Mustangs, in the Mitchell Bowl. On Friday, November 23, 2007, two days before the 95th Grey Cup game in Toronto, the Bisons defeated the Saint Mary’s University squad, known as the Saint Mary's Huskies, 28–14 to claim their first Vanier Cup championship since 1970, and third overall title. That victory capped their perfect 12 win season.
2010 Laval Rouge et Or Edit
In 2010, the Laval Rouge et Or located in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada had a perfect season of 13–0. They were undefeated with an 8–0 record in the QUFL. During the playoffs, they beat the Bishop’s Gaiters 56–1 in the opening round. The Rouge et Or won the QUFL championship and the Dunsmore Cup by a close win of 22–17 against the Sherbrooke Vert et Or. They followed with a win of 13–11 against the Western Ontario Mustangs in the Uteck Bowl. Finally, on Saturday, November 27, 2010, in their home stadium in Quebec City, they won the Vanier Cup 29–2 against the Calgary Dinos, capping a 13–0 season.
American collegiate sportsEdit
Due to relatively short seasons through most of college football history, the list of undefeated Division I football teams includes dozens of teams. The highest level of college football, the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, does not use a play-off to determine a champion, instead relying on a combination of polls and computer rankings to choose two teams to play one title game in a system known as the Bowl Championship Series. Prior to 1992, no attempt was made to match up the top two teams in a championship game, further increasing the chances of multiple teams achieving a perfect season. The record for most wins in an undefeated season is 14–0, accomplished in 2002 by Ohio State, twice in 2009 by Boise State and Alabama, and in 2010 by Auburn.
The University of Washington’s FBS record 63 game unbeaten streak included five consecutive perfect seasons from 1909–1913. The University of Oklahoma’s FBS record 47 game winning streak included three consecutive perfect seasons from 1954–1956.
- Imperfect season, the opposite of a perfect season, where a team loses every game.
- ↑ “Shoes ... The Jaw ... by any name, Shula still the king,’ by Gene Wojciechowski, ESPN.com, Feb. 1, 2007
- ↑ Last undefeated NFL Team in Each Season
- ↑ Steven Brainerd (2010). Minor league football records - Winning streaks.
- ↑ "Semi-pro Football / Minor League Football - Team Points Records". Semiprofootball.org. http://www.semiprofootball.org/minor/records/teampnts.htm. Retrieved 2013-01-23.
- ↑  Grey Cup History (CFL.ca), Accessed December 13, 2007
- ↑ Dolphin Historical Football Rankings Retrieved December 7, 2006
- ↑ Home page of the Bowl Championship Series