In sports, there are great teams that contend for championships. There are good teams that show sparks of greatness, before quickly falling back to Earth. There are mediocre teams that hover around the .500 mark, never really getting fully off the ground.
And then there are terrible teams. Those teams that, either through overall dysfunction or poor play, occupy the proverbial basement of the sports world. Some are just temporary residents, while others seem to have signed a long-term lease.
They are, to use a descriptive term that has skyrocketed in popularity lately, dumpster fires. Big, dirty, dysfunctional hot messes that just can’t seem to get their crap together. Here are the teams that are currently the biggest dumpster fires in sports.
The good thing about the Giants is that their status as a dumpster fire is most likely temporary. This is definitely the worst season of the Tom Coughlin-Eli Manning era, aside from the latter’s rookie year in 2004, but this team almost always rebounds after a down year.
That being said, the Giants are so bad right now that neither Coughlin nor Manning are immune to the shame spotlight currently shining on New York. Coughlin has been on the job for over a decade and Manning is on pace for a record interception season.
As bad as this dumpster fire is right now, it’s going to get a lot more intense if the ship doesn’t right itself in 2014.
The Bucks usually fall somewhere on the spectrum between wholly mediocre and absolutely wretched. Currently, they’re resting comfortably at the far end of that spectrum; as of mid-December, the Bucks are officially the NBA’s worst team at 5-19.
Apparently the Bucks are in rebuilding mode, which begs the logical question: Rebuilding what, exactly? The saddest part about Milwaukee’s futility (if it’s true) is that they’re actually trying to win, rather than “tanking” in hopes of landing a higher pick in the upcoming talent-rich draft.
If this is them trying to win, imagine how bad it’d be if they weren’t.
Last season, the Islanders finally looked like they had made some progress, finishing in third place in their division and making the postseason for the first time since 2007. Although they would lose to the perennially contending Penguins, the fact that they played them so close was something to build on.
Unfortunately for Isles fans, that foundation hasn’t proven strong enough to carry this team, and they did nothing in the offseason to solidify it. As of mid-December, they’re 10 games under .500 and second to only the Sabres, who have a league-worst eight wins.
In this situation, there’s no reason to give the Islanders the benefit of the doubt. It’s now been two decades since they last won a playoff series, suggesting their success last year was more likely an anomaly than the start of a new trend.
Same old Cowboys, right? That phrase has been on repeat for years, every time Dallas chokes away a big lead in the second half of a game or in the division in the second half of the season. It seems that no matter how promising these Cowboys look, they’re almost guaranteed to finish 8-8.
They’ve just got so many issues. There’s the Jerry Jones is delusional and a terrible general manager issue. There’s the Jason Garrett forever on the hot seat issue. There’s the Dez Bryant acting out issue. There’s the perceived issue that Tony Romo is a choke artist who can’t win games issue.
The issue is that these Cowboys are a legit dumpster fire.
Aside from a temporary rebound in 2010, the Sabres have been largely in decline for six years now. During that time, they made the postseason twice but were quickly handled by the opposition in the conference quarterfinals round each time.
It may have seemed promising for fans at the time, but really it was only delaying the inevitable rebuilding, which is now very much underway. Though the Sabres couldn’t possibly sustain their losing pace after starting this season 1-9-1, they’re currently a league-worst 8-23-3.
This Buffalo team is just plain awful, and the further behind they get, the worse they’ll probably play. So it looks like this thing is going to continue to get worse for awhile before getting any better.
The situation in Atlanta is one of the more puzzling ones in sports this year, perhaps because there’s no obvious explanation. The Falcons have finished first or second in their division since 2008, and last year they made it to the NFC Championship game after finishing the regular season 13-3.
In the offseason they were operating like Super Bowl contender, adding established veterans like running back Steven Jackson and convincing key role players like tight end Antonio Gonzalez to give them (at least) one more season. So…what the hell went wrong? Nobody knows.
All that we know for certain is this Falcons team is shockingly terrible and, with their final games against the 49ers and the Panthers, heading for a 4-12 season.
It almost seemed like the Browns were ready to turn the corner this season, but then they remembered they were the Browns and got back down to the business of being…the Browns. After starting the season 0-2, Cleveland knocked out three straight wins, including one over the Bengals.
Then the wheels came off. After a promising two games as a starter, hometown quarterback Brian Hoyer was lost for the season in a close loss to the Bills. They’ve been alternating between Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell ever since. Meaning they’ll probably draft another quarterback in 2014.
The one positive thing you can say about this dumpster fire is that Hoyer really did show some promise and that draft pick they got for pawning off (seemingly) bust running back Trent Richardson on the Colts will certainly come in handy.
After finishing second only to the Heat in the East last season, the Knicks won their first playoff series since dinosaurs roamed the Earth (give or take a few hundred millennia). This season, given the number of East teams in rebuilding mode, expectations for the Knicks were even higher.
The only problem? Well...they are the Knicks. They’re currently employing the richest D-League player in history, having been forced into signing J.R. Smith’s untalented little brother, Chris, in order to land J.R. And, naturally, coach Mike Woodson doesn’t seem to understand what timeouts are for.
Then there’s the Carmelo Anthony situation. ‘Melo made it clear before the season began that he was looking forward to being courted as a free agent. He’s denied that he’s already made up his mind about leaving, but he hasn’t said anything good about the Knicks in months. Of course, who can blame him?
Unfortunately for Knicks fans, this dumpster fire is only going to get worse. You think it’s raging out of control with Carmelo Anthony? Wait until he’s gone next year.
The Angels haven’t been as bad in recent years as many teams on this list, but considering the number of high profile free-agent acquisitions they’ve landed, there’s really no excuse for routinely finishing in second or third (usually third) place in the AL West.
The Angels are stuck in a dumpster fire that they’re trying to spend their way out of, but the money just keeps burning up. The team has been largely in decline since 2009, the last time they won their division. Prior to that, the Angels had been parked in first every season except one dating back to 2004.
In January 2012, the Angels signed Albert Pujols to a 10-year deal worth $240 million. That season he had the worst of his 12-year career, followed by a substantially worse performance in 2013. Pujols' salary will be climbing each year through 2021, when it’ll top out at $30 million.
Think this is bad? We ain’t seen nothing yet. At age 33, Pujols’ performance isn’t likely to rebound in a hugely significant way moving forward. You think it’s chapping the collective ass of the Yankees to pay Alex Rodriguez? Just wait for the big money on this contract to come due.
The Nets, even more than their cross-bridge rivals the Knicks, recognized the opportunity that existed in the Eastern Conference this season. With only the Heat and Pacers distinguishing themselves in any significant way last season, it seemed logical to assume that a few experienced veterans could take them to the next level.
Which is why the Nets jumped at the chance to reconstruct the Celtics wreckage after they decided to blow up what remained of their championship team. They traded away a few younger role players for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry, all of whom are in the twilight of their respective careers. Pierce is the baby of the group at 36.
They also made the decision to hire Jason Kidd to coach in his first season removed from the court as a player. To say that hasn’t quite panned out for the Nets would be an understatement. In essence they dismantled a young, overachieving team for this…dumpster fire…and it’s going to haunt them for a while.
The only team in the NFL that has experienced more of an unforeseen free fall from last year than the Falcons has to be the Texans. Houston finished first in the AFC South the last two seasons and seemed poised to compete again this season after their 2-0 start. And then they lost 12 in a row.
Texans quarterback Matt Schaub morphed from extremely serviceable starter to useless interception machine and running back Arian Foster was lost midway through the year; he was ineffectual at best even when he was playing. Essentially, everything that could’ve gone wrong, went wrong.
The Texans have been so bad that Gary Kubiak became the first coach to be fired in the NFL this season. Just a few weeks after suffering a mild stroke on the field, he was let go following a particularly embarrassing loss to the Jaguars. Fans in Houston still don’t know what hit them.
It’s difficult to say how things will shake out in MLB from season to season, but it’s safe to say that based on 2013, the Phillies are going to be a dumpster fire until further notice. After finishing first in their division from 2007-11, their win total dropped by approximately 20 and 30 games the last two years.
It’s not an issue of spending, because they’re doing plenty of that in Philadelphia. It’s not a managerial issue, because they fired Charlie Manuel last August and nothing really changed. It seems to be more like one of those issues in which nobody can actually identify the issue. Which is, obviously, the hardest issue to address.
The Phillies also recently lost pitching ace Roy Halladay, who surprised the baseball world by announcing his retirement in early December. Yet another offseason issue they’ll have to address. Good luck.
With the Redskins going from a team that made the playoffs in 2012 to a team that may win just three games in 2013, the situation with Mike and Kyle Shanahan in Washington doesn’t seem headed for a happy ending. Though owner Daniel Snyder doesn’t seem eager to send his coach packing with a $7 million severance.
Drafting Robert Griffin III cost the ‘Skins a couple of first round draft picks just a year ago, yet he was recently “shut down” for the season in favor of Kirk Cousins, who was inexplicably selected in the same draft. Last year everything seemed so filled with promise. This year, the only promise is another stretch of uncertainty.
The Marlins are the worst team in professional sports. They have a brand new stadium, which was largely funded by taxpayer dollars, but their infamous 2012 fire sale was proof this franchise has no intention of fielding a competitive team.
Perhaps they'll stumble into some success again at some point and then immediately dismantle everything to save a few dollars. This isn't just a bad team, it's a bad franchise. A dumpster fire, of a franchise.
Thankfully, there aren’t many people forced to witness this one. They are the proverbial tree in the forest; if the Marlins lose in an empty stadium, do they make a sound? Who cares.