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Jets crash even further: Updated look at the longest playoff droughts in US sports

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Longest playoff droughts in US sport

It’s been a painful stretch for many fan bases, but a few teams have been recently scratched off the list of longest playoff droughts in US sports, like the Sacramento Kings. So who tops the pain rankings, across the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB now?

Every team aims for the post-season.

But for some, it’s been a treacherous, agonising wait to make a return to the promised land.

In all of the major American sports leagues across the nation, there are franchises that have unfortunately amassed a lengthy drought. Their fan bases are desperate to taste the post-season once again.

THIS STORY DETAILS THE LONGEST PLAYOFF DROUGHTS IN THE NFL, NBA, MLB & NHL

For some, the drought has only been a couple of seasons long and things look destined to change. For others, a decade has come and gone without a single feature in the post-season. Turning their fortunes around couldn’t come any sooner.

The success of the Sacramento Kings making the playoffs in the 2022-23 NBA season and breaking their longest playoff drought currently in the NBA has shown that good drafting, great trading and elite coaching can change a side’s destiny drastically. It’s a combo all the franchises on the longest playoff drought list wish they had.

The Texas Rangers ended their six-year drought in the best possible way last Major League Baseball season, winning a drought-breaking World Series. The team they beat, the Arizona Diamondbacks, had broken a five-year drought of their own, while the Baltimore Orioles also broke through for their first pos-season run in six attempts.

So with all that out of the way, here’s an updated look at the longest playoff drought runs across all four major competitions in the United States.

Jets playoff image
PAIN. New York Jets fans have done it tough for too long | Longest Playoff droughts

NFL: Longest playoff droughts

1. New York Jets – 13 years

2010 was the last time the New York Jets played a playoffs game, going down to the Indianapolis Colts 30-17 in the AFC Championship game. They essentially went ‘all-in’ to end this dire era; trading precious draft capital for a year or two of Aaron Rodgers… and that sadly lasted four offensive plays in the 2023 season. The team was once and for all put out of its misery in Week 15, extending the drought to 13 years — the worst across any of the country’s major sports.

Rodgers will be 40 entering the 2024 season — it truly is Playoffs or bust for New York.

Longest Playoff drought in US sport
Aaron Rodgers has been brought in to help the Jets end the longest playoff drought in US sports.

2. Denver Broncos – 7 years*

The Denver Broncos and their fans definitely know about the highs and lows of sport with the franchise’s last playoffs game in Super Bowl 50; a win against the Carolina Panthers. Peyton Manning retired after that game, of course, which was won primarily through its defence.

But the franchise hasn’t got the recipe right ever since and are hoping high profile coach Sean Payton can get them over the line in 2023-24.

3. Detroit Lions – 6 years*

Early 2016 was the last time Lions fans experienced the NFL playoffs with Detroit being dismantled by the Seattle Seahawks 26-6 in the NFC Wild Card weekend.

This fan base has been absolutely starved of success and big games for a huge stretch of time and while the pressure of a hoodoo cannot be underestimated, the Lions’ drought is about to end.

4. Carolina Panthers – 6 years

Similarly to the Lions, the Panthers last appearance in the post-season was in the Wild Card round. They fell at the hands of the Saints 31-26 in a close one.

Carolina became the first team ruled out of post-season contention in 2023 and the franchise is in a world of pain. The team sent Chicago a small fortune for the rights to the first overall pick in the 2023 Draft and took quarterback Bryce Young. It may turn out to be one of the worst trades in NFL history, but only time will tell.

5. Atlanta Falcons – 5 years*

Tied with the Panthers on a five-year playoffs drought entering the 2023 season, the Falcons’ last taste of the post-season was against the eventual Super Bowl winners the Philadelphia Eagles, going down 15-10 in the 2017 NFC divisional game — a nail-biting finish. It’s been a deep rebuild since then and still there’s only glimmering light at the end of the tunnel.

NBA: Longest playoff droughts

1. Charlotte Hornets – 7 years*

It’s been a tough few years for Hornets fans with stars leaving the North Carolina side and young guns struggling to stay fit to help them push towards a playoff run.

The last time Charlotte made the post-season was the 2015-16 season where they were eliminated in Game 7 of the first round by Miami.

2. Detroit Pistons – 4 years*

The Motor City’s last appearance in an NBA playoffs game didn’t go according to plan, losing to European superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks to finish off a 4-nil first round sweeping.

However, they’ll be hopeful that will change quickly if they can land the first overall pick in the upcoming NBA draft, who will be French sensation Victor Wembanyama, as the franchise has a 14% chance of landing the lottery pick.

3. San Antonio Spurs – 4 years*

A Game 7 defeat in Denver against the Nuggets back in the 2019 playoffs was the last time legendary coach Greg Popovich and the Spurs featured in post-season, going down 90-86 in that final match.

The drought is not only the Spurs longest in decades, but also Popvich’s longest playoff drought in his 27-year coaching career.

2023 NBA Draft Lottery, Victor Wembanyama
San Antonio’s fortunes changed in 2023, landing the first overall pick in the Draft and taking Victor Wembanyama.

4. Orlando, Indiana, Thunder, Rockets – 3 years*

As it always is in the NBA, there is a constant rotation of teams making the playoffs each season and for these four franchises they have been in a rebuilding stage for the past few years and finding themselves on the ‘longest playoff droughts list’ won’t last long.

All of them besides Houston were eliminated in the opening round, whilst the Rockets fell to the eventual champions the Los Angeles Lakers in the ‘bubble’ playoffs.

5. Portland Trail Blazers & Washington Wizards – 2 years*

You might not call it a drought but the two year absence from the post-season for the Trail Blazers and Wizards is the fifth longest playoff drought currently in the NBA; both eliminated in the first round of the 2021 playoffs.

MLB: Longest playoff droughts

1. Detroit Tigers & Los Angeles Angels – 9 years

It’s edging closer and closer for both the Tigers and the Angels to a decade-long absence from the post-season, with their last appearances being in the 2014 ALDS where they both were swept.

2. Pittsburgh Pirates & Kansas City Royals – 8 years

A crushing National League Wild Card match against the Cubs back in 2015 was the last time Pittsburgh featured in the playoffs, going down 4-0.

And for Kansas City supporters, their last memory of the post-season was a rather good one, winning the World Series 4-1 against the Mets that same season.

Longest Playoff droughts, US Sports
Longest Playoff droughts | Paul Rudd was one of the long-suffering Royals fans that thoroughly enjoyed Kansas City’s breakthrough World Series win in 2015.

3. Colorado Rockies – 5 years

Similarly to the Diamondbacks, the Rockies were swept in their last playoffs series in 2018, losing Game 1 by the slimmest of margins 3-2. However, the next two games were difficult to watch if you were a Colorado fan, with the side unable to register a single run across both matches.

4. Washington Nationals – 4 years

Quite like the Royals above, the Nats last trip to the post-season was a winning World Series run. Washington hasn’t been in the frame for more success since that title-winning campaign in 2019.

5. Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Oakland A’s – 3 years

A few Major League outfits share fifth spot on this list of US sport’s longest playoff droughts.

NHL: Longest playoff droughts

1. Buffalo Sabres – 12 years

The 2010-11 Stanley Cup Playoffs was the Sabres last appearance in the post-season going down to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 7 of the first round.

2. Detroit Red Wings – 7 years

The Tampa Bay Lightning had no issues brushing past the Red Wings in Detroit’s last playoff series, dusting them 4-1 in a best of seven series.

3. Ottawa Senators – 6 years

They were one win away from a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals back in 2017 in their last playoffs appearance but now six years later Senators fans desperate for a return to the promised land.

4. Anaheim Ducks – 5 years

Ducks fans are praying for a new memory of the post-season considering their last appearance was a 4-nil sweeping at the hands of the Sharks.

5. San Jose Sharks – 4 years

San Jose were improving season by season heading into the 2019 NHL season, with the Californian side making the conference finals that season.

But unfortunately for Sharks fans, a playoffs drought is steadily building and as many teams above with longer droughts could attest, four years can quickly become ten in a blink of an eye.

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