Despite More Competition Than Ever, No Team's Better at Being Bad Than the Colts

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterSeptember 22, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 17: Jacoby Brissett #7 of the Indianapolis Colts is tackled by Tyrann Mathieu #32 of the Arizona Cardinals in the second quarter of a game at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 17, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Who's the worst team in professional football?

"The Jets," said one NFC assistant coach. "It's not even close."

"The Bears," said another NFC assistant coach. "Look at that quarterback and tell me I'm wrong."

"I'd say the Colts," an AFC front office executive said. "They have the worst roster in the league."

"Might be the Colts," former NFL lineman and current analyst Geoff Schwartz told B/R. "The Colts don't have a good quarterback situation right now. They can't lean on the OL and they are in a total rebuild around their roster with a new GM. Got embarrassed by the Rams and should have beaten a bad Cardinals team at home. The Jets and Bears just have better rosters."

It's difficult to decide which team is the NFL's worst. It's much easier to determine the opposite. The best team is still likely New England, or maybe the Falcons. There are far fewer choices.

Sorting through the candidates for the dubious title of NFL's worst feels a little like deciding between getting punched in the face or kicked in the goolies. The options are all bad. And while we can have some fun with this, there's also a larger issue at stake here.

The growing disparity between teams run capably and those that are not is one of the most underdiscussed topics in the sport. That gap now is as wide as I can ever remember. This isn't only about records. It's about competence, and how wildly inadequate some teams have become at building not just contenders, but competitive franchises.

To be fair, it isn't easy. Some team executives believe that building a team—or rebuilding, ratheris more difficult than it's been in a long time.

Sep 10, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Mike Glennon (8) fumbles the ball during the second half against the Atlanta Falcons at Soldier Field. Falcons won 23-17. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

First, the scrutiny is more intense than ever before. That causes executives to take fewer chances in free agency and the draft. No one wants to be ridiculed on Twitter, Facebook or TV.

Second, quarterback play is as bad as it's been in a long time. (Interestingly, none of the half-dozen NFL sources interviewed mentioned offensive line play as a top-two culprit.)

The young teams that are doing well, like the Cowboys and Broncos, have promising young talent at quarterback. Denver's Trevor Siemian, for example, has made a believer out of his team.

"I think Trevor is in complete control of the offense," head coach Vance Joseph said this week, according to quotes distributed by the team. "His ball placement is excellent. The play he made to [wide receiver] Emmanuel [Sanders] with the first touchdown [against the Cowboys in Week 2], that's a big-time throw with the right [speed] and the right placement of the ball. That's hard to do. The more he plays, the better he is going to get. In my opinion, he is in total control of the offense right now."

When you look at the teams that are struggling, it's easy to see why quarterback suckitude is such a huge factor. The 0-2 teams are the Jets, Browns, Colts, Chargers, Giants, Bears, Saints, Bengals, and 49ers. The Saints are the only team among that group with a solid quarterback situation.

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Mario Edwards #97 of the Oakland Raiders tackles Josh McCown #15 of the New York Jets at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 17, 2017 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Jets have one of the worst quarterback depth charts in recent league history with Christian Hackenberg, Bryce Petty and Josh McCown. The Jets would be better off with Bell, Biv and DeVoe.

The Browns are rebuilding at the position. Andrew Luck hasn't practiced, at least officially, in months. Philip Rivers hasn't been awful, but he hasn't been spectacular. Eli Manning has looked 90 years old. Mike Glennon's play in Chicago has been so bad that it led to this spectacular headline. Andy Dalton appears to have regressed. Brian Hoyer is playing for his fourth team in four years and has 292 yards passing, no touchdowns, two picks and a 60.7 passer rating in two games

Which brings us back to the original question: Which is the worst team in football?

It comes down to the Jets or Colts. And with a roster that is one of the worst not just in today's NFL but possibly in the past 10 years, the Colts deserve this dishonor.

Years of poor drafting under previous general manager Ryan Grigson have taken their toll. The unwillingness to draft offensive linemen led to Andrew Luck being obliterated almost weekly. That's bad enough, but the team also has among the fewest number of capable playmakers in the league.

Countless variables make it difficult to quantify which team is the NFL's worst, but poor quarterback play is the largest common denominator.

AJ Mast/Associated Press

The Colts are years away from putting a solid team together. At least the Jets have the makings of a decent defense. That isn't much of a difference—the Jets are still putrid—but it's something to build on.

Yes, Indianapolis has Luck, but I'm not convinced Luck wants to be in Indianapolis. If he develops eyes for another team, the Colts will be in a world of hurt.

And with so many teams challenging the Colts' level of ineptitude, that speaks volumes.

      

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.