Comparing Every NFL Team to a 90s Sitcom
Photo courtesy of simpsoncrazy.com
The things that draw fans to the NFL can be pretty similar to what draws viewers to their favorite TV shows.
Fans want to root for their favorite team members or characters. The fans want a compelling plot line to keep us excited each week. At the very least, they need a reason to keep watching the next week's game or episode.
With that in mind, fans of the NFL game find themselves at a unique time in the game's history, particularly in terms of passing offense. Yardage has shot through the roof, and long-standing records are dropping quickly. Not every team is perfect (looking at you, Indianapolis Colts), but their work on the field today will resonate long after the next generation has taken over.
This period of productivity is pretty comparable to the kinds of sitcoms produced through the 1990s. While not every effort was perfect, the decade produced a large number of memorable shows that continue to resonate among TV viewers today.
Here is every NFL team and their comparable 1990s sitcom.
Arizona Cardinals: Perfect Strangers
The sitcom Perfect Strangers told the story of two distant cousins who manage to live together despite wide differences.
Like the sitcom, the Arizona Cardinals have an issue of colliding personalities when it comes to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and their quarterbacks. It's not that Fitzgerald has any attitude problems whatsoever, but instead his likely frustration comes from the team's quarterbacks failing to get him the ball.
Seriously Kevin Kolb/John Skelton...throw the ball in Fitzgerald's direction. There's a good chance that he's going to get it.
Atlanta Falcons: Everybody Loves Raymond
Underneath what appears to be two very positive situations lies a tragic element that can be tough to swallow.
For Everybody Loves Raymond, you have a man who cannot seem to get a word in edgewise with either his wife or his mother, who lives right across the street. No matter what he does, he's quickly brought in line.
Likewise, behind the playoff success of Atlanta Falcons lies a very worrisome proposition: They have not gone past the first round in at least five years. They'll have a lot to prove when action kicks off this season.
Baltimore Ravens/San Francisco 49ers: Seinfeld
The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers are coached by the league's only set of brothers, so it's only fitting that they find themselves in similar situations going into 2012.
Both are trying to recover from cruel playoff exits, which came in games which costly mistakes blew their chances. The Ravens were doomed by a late missed field goal, while the 49ers saw their chance blown due to some late turnovers.
What does this have to do with Seinfeld? Diving into the waters of the playoffs, they experienced shrinkage on the big stage.
If there's any hope for these teams in this comparison, it's that no matter what happens in one episode of the show, everything seems to reset for the next one.
Buffalo Bills: The Drew Carey Show
This comparison is a matter of consistency.
The Drew Carey Show for its first several seasons was one of the funniest things on TV, but as it progressed it tacked on several new characters and scenarios that made it border on absurd. It just wasn't the same.
Likewise, the Buffalo Bills were an excellent team for the first half of the year, tacking on several quality wins.
At that point, Buffalo rocked!
However, as injuries and poor play took over, the team ended up with a 6-10 record and last place in the AFC East.
No matter what brought them down, they just weren't the same team. They have to hope some recovery time and the addition of some defensive help will strengthen their squad going into 2012.
Carolina Panthers: Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Is Cam Newton as the Fresh Prince of Charlotte? I can definitely see it.
An addition to the Panthers as the top draft pick in 2011, Newton brought some life to an organization that had become pretty stagnant (not unlike the Banks family before Will Smith joined them). The Panthers will have plenty of challenges in 2012, but with Newton under center look for their offense to carry on smoothly.
To really make this sitcom comparison work, Newton could also celebrate a touchdown with a dance like the one Carlton pulled off several times in the series.
Chicago Bears: Frasier
Frasier proved itself to be one of the smartest shows on television, with some fantastic performances from the cast and some very sharp writing. However, some of the show's best moments came when the writers loosened up from some of that perceived seriousness to go for some more low-brow comedy.
One example that comes to mind was an episode where Frasier and his brother Niles agree to participate in a charity bike ride, despite never having learned how to ride a bike (I can't believe the full episode is on Youtube).
Likewise, the Chicago Bears have to hope firing offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who runs one of the most complex offensive systems in the pro game, will result in some better play. If a less serious playbook allows the Bears' offense to be more competitive, this could be the move of the offseason.
Cincinnati Bengals: The Nanny
The Cincinnati Bengals have entered into the world of teams in playoff contention, after making it through a very difficult AFC North to snag a coveted wild-card spot.
With some great young players on both sides of the ball, they will now live with some major expectations from fans to build on their past success and rise to their new status.
Likewise, one of the main elements of The Nanny was her rapid rise in social stature after becoming the nanny for a well to do family. She may have felt like the woman kicked out of the bridal shop in Flushing Queens, but her new job brought new status and new expectations.
If the Bengals can manage like Fran Drescher did (with a smile and a memorably annoying laugh), they should be just fine.
Cleveland Browns: Homeboys in Outer Space
Like the Cleveland Browns' past few seasons, it's easy to look back on UPN's Homeboys in Outer Space with a sense of confusion and wonder. How could this show get approved? Who would watch a show like this? Did anybody think this show had a chance of succeeding?
The Browns team also raises several question marks. How could this team stay so bad? What happened to all of those high-level draft picks? Did anybody in the team's front office think this team had a chance of succeeding?
Needless to say, both sets of questions lead to some very uncomfortable answers.
Dallas Cowboys: The Critic
One can only look at the struggles of The Critic and the Dallas Cowboys and be amazed they're not big hits.
The Critic, made by several former creators of The Simpsons, was a brilliantly written show that expertly satirized Hollywood and the awful formulaic films they produce. The show's main character, film critic Jay Sherman, spoke for us all when he proclaimed "It Stinks!" in his reviews. Despite getting great ratings and running after The Simpsons, the show was taken off the air, where it languished in limbo before being cancelled.
The Cowboys, despite having great pull with free agents, nearly unmatched resources and worldwide recognition, haven't made the playoffs since 2009. There's no doubt team owner Jerry Jones is fuming at the thought of another year with an early exit.
Despite this frustration, the team's return to title contention just got harder: They were hit by a tough ruling from the league which required a massive cut to its salary cap, estimated at $10 million.
Denver Broncos: Roseanne
Both Roseanne and the Denver Broncos are not things you have moderate opinions about. You either love them or hate them.
Like the title character of Roseanne, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow gets the most of this polarizing attention. While his likable personality, winning ways and inspiring story have won him fans across the county, his lack of traditional quarterback skills and his very public espousing of his religious views have generated some backlash.
While his future in Denver is in question due to the team's pursuit of Peyton Manning, there's no way the debate on Tebow and his success will go away anytime soon.
Detroit Lions: Spin City
Michael J. Fox shined in the sitcom Spin City, where he worked to help prevent the media from reporting embarrassing things about his boss, the mayor of Detroit.
If only he had worked for the Detroit Lions. The Lions' PR department was working at full speed for good portions of the year, especially after several dirty-looking hits from the otherwise likable Ndamukong Suh.
Their department has most likely been on full damage control after another incident, in which Suh was reportedly speeding wildly down an Oregon highway.
Green Bay Packers: Friends
The Green Bay Packers for most of 2011 were the team to beat, only losing in the playoffs when the catches they usually made didn't go their way. Otherwise, they're a great team that deservedly gets a lot of fan support for not only its play on the field, but for its classy fans off it.
Likewise, the success of Friends was a given, as fans immediately latched on to the great chemistry of the show's cast. There were laughs in almost every show, and other than a few missteps this was a great series that deserved the immense amount of fan support it received.
Houston Texans: The Wonder Years
As the Houston Texans entered the playoffs for the first time last season, one has to wonder if players were talking themselves through the big moment like Kevin Arnold in The Wonder Years.
"And so there we were...in the playoffs. If only we can get a win."
Indianapolis Colts: Woops!
After the world is somehow accidently blown up, the show Woops! documents the lives of six people who somehow survived the blast (I couldn't find a clip of the show, so I'm using a generic explosion video to illustrate).
While the show's characters may have survived, the results were certainly terrible. The show was short-lived and not very funny.
Likewise, the Indianapolis Colts will survive its nuclear explosion of free agent releases, they're immediate results should be disastrous. The Colts will likely do well in the long-term with their projected pick of quarterback Andrew Luck, but for now the team's season outlook will be very ugly.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Shasta McNasty
With only a few fans, a confusing overall message and a complete lack of direction, it's no wonder that this group of guys in Shasta McNasty didn't really build up any major fan support.
Wait...who am I talking about here?
Kansas City Chiefs: The Single Guy
Everything was set to be in good shape for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2011. They had just taken the division championship, and brought back most of their squad.
However, injuries and poor coaching doomed the team to failure, and their hopes for a repeat were canceled.
Likewise, The Single Guy was set to be NBC's next big hit, and landed a prime-time spot.
However, critical and viewer response was abysmal, and the show fell out of favor in only two seasons.
It was a fast ending to one of the network's most highly viewed programs.
Miami Dolphins: Dharma and Greg
This may be a bit harsh given the team's great second half, but I have a tough time getting fired up about the Miami Dolphins. Their season was awful by almost any standard, and the team has a lot of holes to fill in the upcoming free agency period.
Likewise, I could never get excited about Dharma and Greg. There was little chemistry, and the laughs were few and far between. There were too many holes to fill in this show, and I'm amazed it got six seasons (there's must be something I'm missing with this one).
Minnesota Vikings: Saved by the Bell: The College Years
This one's simple: The Minnesota Vikings are one awful, awful team, and Saved By The Bell: The College Years is one of the worst crimes against television audiences of all time.
(Interestingly enough, Bob Golic, former NFL player and brother of Mike Golic, now of ESPN fame, starred on the show as a residential advisor.)
New England Patriots: The Simpsons
The New England Patriots are the standard of organizational success over time, remaining a title contender for nearly a decade. They may have only won a few of their Super Bowl appearances in that time period (they lost to the New York Giants again in the most recent Super Bowl), but most teams would dream of that kind of competitiveness.
Likewise, The Simpsons series is an icon of our times. Many of the jokes and stories it told have aged remarkably well (watch "Homer at the Bat" if you don't believe me.)
Despite these successes, you'll always hear whispers that both entities' best days are behind them.
New Orleans Saints: Ellen
The New Orleans Saints could be in big trouble after the league learned of its bounty program, and can only hope to get past the scandal better than the show Ellen.
The show floundered after the show's star Ellen DeGeneres revealed she was gay (on the show), with many religious groups actively protesting ABC for keeping the star and the show.
Hopefully, the Saints can get past its own scandal while keeping its success alive.
New York Giants: Saved by the Bell
The students of Saved by the Bell never felt major repercussions for anything they did on the show (other than a mild talking to from Mr. Belding). Usually, all problems were solved by the end of the episode with a smile, a thumbs up and maybe a short monologue to the audience.
Likewise, it didn't matter what the 2011 New York Giants did in the regular season, or who they lost to, because they came prepared when they got to the playoffs. Despite the early setbacks, the team managed to put together a major hot streak and come away with the Super Bowl trophy.
BONUS: Enjoy this clip of Michael McDonald singing the show's theme song.
New York Jets: Married with Children
The model family (of dysfunction), it was tough at times to watch the Bundy family bungle their way through life's challenges in Married With Children.
Likewise, the New York Jets are the league's most dysfunctional franchise, especially after the way it ended last season in a firestorm of distrust in the locker room. Despite these issues (mainly focused on quarterback Mark Sanchez), the team gave him a contract extension this week.
Look for things to stay just as dysfunctional in 2012 as they were near the end of 2011.
Oakland Raiders: Full House
The Oakland Raiders have a full house in the worst way, as they sit several million dollars over the salary cap. They're going to have to clear some players immediately, and do some major contract restructuring if they want to make this work.
All the Raiders can hope for is that in the cuts they don't clear out some promising young talent, who could branch off like the Olsen twins of Full House and turn out to be major producers elsewhere.
Philadelphia Eagles: Freaks and Geeks
Sometimes, things just aren't meant to work.
Despite a wealth of talent on both sides of the ball, the Philadelphia Eagles couldn't get things rolling in 2011, failing to make the playoffs.
Likewise, despite some great writing and a cast of several future stars (including Jason Segel, Seth Rogen and James Franco), the show Freaks and Geeks never really made a mark in the ratings, being cancelled after only 18 episodes. The show has in recent years become a cult hit, and is now shown in syndication on IFC.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Mad About You
Lost in the mix of other romantic sitcoms of the decade, Mad About You won't come up on many people's lists for best shows of the decade. That's a shame for a show that received good reviews and had a nice cast.
Likewise, the Pittsburgh Steelers could find itself lost in the mix unless they right the ship. A lot of the team is aging quickly, and as a result they need some young talent to continue the team's success down the road.
If they can't make these improvements, look for the team to get lost in the mix of other AFC playoff contenders.
San Diego Chargers: NewsRadio
Breaking down politics, relationships and current events, NewsRadio was a underrated favorite of many people. However, that favoritism could not help it as it slid into cancellation after only five seasons (even after it won an Emmy!).
Likewise, the San Diego Chargers should be a team people like, as they have a lot of talent and have been a playoff contender for several years in a row. However, that run could be in jeopardy as the team has let go of several top free agents in the past few years (including the excellent Darren Sproles), underachieved in pressure moments and is now stuck with an uncomfortable hot seat for both coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith.
If they're not careful, the pair could find their employment cancelled sooner rather than later.
Seattle Seahawks: All-American Girl
When you build your success around one person, you better get the right one for the job.
Seattle Seahawks pinned their hopes in 2011 on Tarvaris Jackson, despite his years of struggling with the Minnesota Vikings. Fox pinned their hopes on comedian Margaret Cho for All-American Girl.
Needless to say, both efforts failed to build a lot of success critically or with fans.
(By the way, if you were looking at this part of the slideshow for the San Francisco 49ers, go back to the Baltimore Ravens, as the two teams share a sitcom.)
St. Louis Rams: Home Improvement
Like Tim Allen with a buzzsaw or a wrench in Home Improvement, the St. Louis Rams will be able to do plenty of improvements with young talent after their trade with the Washington Redskins. The move landed them at least three extra picks in the next couple drafts, enough to pick up some major pieces to become a future contender.
Even better, the Rams' trade only moved them back to the No. 6 pick in the first round, so they should be able to find some great talent in this year's draft as well.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Step by Step
Imagine the young, struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers of a few years ago, with slightly more talent, more franchise instability and more division competitiveness. You now have the Buccaneers of 2012.
Likewise, imagine the Brady Bunch, but with less humor and none of the memorable moments. You've now got Step by Step, the show in which two divorced parents and their kids try to make a new family. It's a cute show, but not one that anybody would call a classic.
Tennessee Titans: 3rd Rock from the Sun
They were only a few wins away from challenging Houston for the AFC South title, but I just can't get excited about the Tennessee Titans in 2012. They're too far in transition for me to say they're ready for any kind of run.
Likewise, I just could never get into 3rd Rock from the Sun. The show, following a family of aliens who are sent to spy on Earth, got a lot of great reviews, but I just never found it all that funny. The show was just too far off the beaten path for me to get excited about it.
Washington Redskins: Family Matters
The Washington Redskins have been perennial disappointments, and many have blamed the team's owner, Daniel Snyder, for meddling and overspending on the wrong guys to get the team over the hump.
That question will rear its head again, after the team's front office in essence gave up the next few drafts in order to secure the second pick and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.
If Griffin is successful, Washington has found its quarterback of the next decade. However, if he doesn't match (the unrealistic) expectations, Snyder may end up quoting Urkel's most famous line: "Did I do that?"
This sentiment was worded perfectly by Kanye West on his track Dark Fantasy.