No Good or Bad, Just Ugly: Five NFL Teams in Serious States of Disrepair
In a league where the coaches are just as dispensable as water boys, and free agency has created parity for all, some teams just can’t get it together. Year after year, the usual suspects are the bottom feeders of the league, with no end to their troubles in sight.
What makes a team so wretched? Sometimes it’s just bad luck, other times it’s problems with personnel of one kind or another.
With the regular season over and most major coaching positions filled, it’s safe to evaluate which teams are on the rise and which should already write off the 2010 season and plan for the 2011 draft.
These are the NFL’s most pathetic, most hopeless franchises. Unless things change soon, and in a big way, expect their stock to drop faster than employment rates.
5. Cleveland Browns
This is a tough call for me because I want the Browns to get better. I really do.
It’s hard seeing one of the great, storied franchises of the league, (even if it is a cheap, reincarnated version) fall flat the way the Browns have.
First of all, they’re deeply troubled at quarterback. Derek Anderson showed a flash of brilliance in 2007, throwing for 3,787 yards and 29 touchdowns, as the Browns fell just short of the playoffs. What happened after that is anyone’s guess, but it leaves me scratching my head.
That and the fact that neither he nor former first round pick Brady Quinn can stay healthy or win games.
On top of that, the Browns were dead last in the league in both passing yards per game and total yards per game, and 29th in the league in points per game. The defense was even worse, giving up the second-most yards per game, fourth-most passing yards per game, fifth-most rushing yards per game, and ranking 22nd in the league in points allowed per game.
Thanks in large part to Jerome Harrison and Josh Cribbs, however, the rushing attack wasn’t half bad, and if 2009 second round pick Mohamed Massaquoi gets developed well enough, he could turn into a legitimate No. 1 receiver for the Browns.
This team does have some upside.
With the hiring of Mike Holmgren at General Manager, help should be arriving in the passing game soon. And winning four games in a row to end the season inspires confidence. But until the defense improves and gives the Dawg Pound something to get excited about, this team will remain dead last in the AFC North.
4. Seattle Seahawks
I have absolutely no confidence in the Seahawks. Matt Hasselbeck is aging faster than he should due to the pile of garbage put on the field and labeled as an offensive line, and again, this is the case of a horrible defense.
For a team only four seasons removed from a Super Bowl appearance, you’d think these guys haven’t ever so much as sniffed a .500 record.
The running back duo of Julius Jones and Justin Forsett doesn’t scare anyone. These guys were so bad, Edgerrin James managed to rush 46 times for them this season and nobody seemed to notice.
To be fair, I’d try pretty hard to ignore a 2.7 yards per carry average too.
I don’t believe in their receivers either. TJ Houshmandzadeh is proving himself to be a very average receiver with only two out of nine seasons with 1000 yards receiving and just one season with 10+ touchdowns, Nate Burleson and Deion Branch were inconsistent at best, and tight end John Carlson, even with all of his potential, seems forced into blocking most of the time just to keep the grounds crew from having to scrape Hasselbeck off the turf.
Their only strong point is the kicking game. Olindo Mare hit 24 of 26 field goals, 19 of which came from within 40 yards.
That’s a stat that should set off all kinds of alarms.
Considering a field goal accounts for 17 yards just for being behind the line of scrimmage and crossing the end zone, Mare attempted 20 of his 26 field goals with the line of scrimmage being the 22 yard line or closer.
Meaning Seattle can’t produce touchdowns in the red zone to save their lives.
Hiring Pete Carroll was the wrong move. Sure, Jim Mora was starting to show a pattern of failure as head coach and the team had all right to fire him, but Carroll had a great thing going at USC and was a mediocre 33-31 as an NFL coach. I can’t say I understand the hire.
My advice? Take a great defensive player like safety Eric Berry with your first round pick and focus on your defensive and offensive lines. Wait on next year to draft a quarterback unless you want to take a chance on a sleeper like Dan LeFevour or Tony Pike.
3. Washington Redskins
The Redskins are another team where labeling them as a “fixer-upper” is being way too nice. This team is so bad I expect ‘Skins fans will start wearing bags over their heads like fans of the “Aints” and Lions from years past.
Jason Campbell’s contract is expiring and something tells me he won’t be back in 2010. Fans are fed up with him, and in spite of having the best year of his career, it still wasn’t pretty.
Sure, he completed 64.5 percent of his passes for over 3,600 yards, but a touchdown to interception ratio of 4:3 is an ugly stat to have. Being sacked 43 times doesn’t make the situation any better.
He may have thrown 20 touchdowns, but you’d better air it out if no running back on your team could even break 500 yards on the season.
To give you an idea of how bad the Redskins’ running game was last year, Campbell was second on the team in rushing yards behind the concussed Clinton Portis. He also led the team in yards per carry.
While on the subject of the ground game, it needs to be fixed. Portis is too old and too unhealthy to be an effective running back anymore. Not only that, the Redskins' offense needs to get with the times and implement a two-back system like most other teams in the league.
This isn’t the days of Barry Sanders, Thurman Thomas, and Emmitt Smith anymore; you can’t rely on one workhorse back and expect it to work.
The receivers are just as nauseatingly bad. Santana Moss has the consistency of tapioca pudding, Antwaan Randle El is only good for returning kicks and punts, and to whoever tried to tell me Malcolm Kelly is a legitimate No. 1 receiver in this league can come give me that argument again once he puts up numbers like Reggie Wayne or Larry Fitzgerald, not like Dwayne Jarrett.
To their credit, the defense wasn’t as bad as it could have been. London Fletcher, LaRon Landry, Andre Carter, and Brian Orakpo had great seasons, and with a few more play makers on defense, they might be able to score enough points to keep this wretched offense off the field.
Mike Shanahan knows how to coach. Dan Snider, however, doesn’t know how to run the team.
Throwing all the money you have at the biggest name free agents does not work. You’re not accounting for team needs, team chemistry, or the strategy of your coaches. Trust them—you’re probably paying them too much not to.
2. St. Louis Rams
I’m not even sure where to start with this trainwreck. To make things simple, I’ll tear the offense apart first.
This is hands-down the worst stable of quarterbacks in the league. Marc Bulger is long past any prime he may have had, and has only managed to stay healthy for all 16 games once in his nine year career. Kyle “I should have been a” Boller couldn’t cut it as a starter in Baltimore and can’t even cut it as a respectable backup.
That guy makes Curtis Painter look good by comparison. Boller actually has more than twice the amount of sacks than touchdown passes in his career. Think about that one. I’m not saying anything about Keith Null, because as a rookie, being forced to start for the Rams was far worse than anything they could have done to haze him in preseason.
Steven Jackson is the offense. In spite of a lack of touchdowns this year, he still put up good yardage, and this spares him of my criticism. Easily team MVP.
The Rams don’t have a single competent receiver. Donnie Avery is the closest thing to it, and even he put up numbers that would be considered average for your run-of-the-mill tight end, much less for a wide receiver.
Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo, having previously won the Super Bowl as defensive coordinator for the Giants, isn’t getting results. When you hire a defensive-minded coach to run your team and they give up the second-most points per game and fourth-most yards per game, you’ve made a big mistake.
The Rams need a complete overhaul. They’ll need to utilize every scouting resource available and make the most of their draft picks, which I think includes trading away their No. 1 overall pick in order to get more picks and rebuild this team.
Is it that hard to believe a team wearing their uniforms won the Super Bowl just a decade ago? Yes, it is. This team can’t keep a head coach, they can’t keep quarterbacks healthy or productive, and they can’t win games.
Expect more of the same in 2010.
1. Oakland Raiders
If this surprised you, obviously you stopped watching football after Super Bowl XXXVII.
Once upon a time, Al Davis knew what he was doing. He was a key figure in orchestrating the NFL-AFL merger, he was drafting winners like Marcus Allen, Tim Brown, and Ken Stabler, and he actually made sense in interviews.
Today, his franchise is the laughingstock of the NFL. He drafts players almost exclusively based on their speed (see: Darrius Heyward-Bey), makes a public mockery of himself (remember the Lane Kiffin firing news conference?), and his head coaching position seems every bit as cursed as that of Hogwarts’ Defense Against the Dark Arts teaching position.
From 1963-2002, the Raiders only had seven losing seasons. The seven seasons since have all been losing seasons.
JaMarcus Russell will go down in NFL history as one of the biggest busts ever at the top overall pick in the draft. With a lifetime completion percentage of just over 52 and only three fewer fumbles lost than touchdown passes, Russell may be among the worst quarterbacks ever selected in the first round.
To call the Raiders’ ground game a rushing “attack” is laughable. Former first round pick Darren McFadden is irrelevant, and the combination of Justin Fargas and Michael Bush wouldn’t be good enough to start on most BCS-Conference teams.
As far as the receivers go, I’m going to give a few guys credit. Zach Miller, in spite of his teammates, is one of the best tight ends in the game. He stays healthy and quietly racks up the receiving yards. Accumulating over 800 yards for the Raiders this season would have been miraculous if he hadn’t put up a similar performance last year.
Miller is consistent and he’s too good for this team. I can’t see him sticking around once he has a chance at free agency.
I also see some talent in Louis Murphy. As a rookie, his numbers weren’t bad, but the touchdown reception late in the season where he actually dragged the defender into the end zone with him showed me this kid really wants to make a name for himself. If he keeps that up, he will.
Oakland has a few good players in the secondary in Nnamdi Asomugha and Michael Huff, but other than that, the defense has more holes than swiss cheese. Richard Seymour was a non-factor at defensive end, and I don’t see any defensive players with potential.
What I really don’t understand is why Al Davis brought back Head Coach Tom Cable. The man punched a fellow coach in the face and broke his jaw in addition to not winning. Usually, not winning alone is enough for Davis to fire someone after one year.
Cable is a distraction to the team. For most of the season, Raiders' headlines weren’t about their performance on the field, they were about Cable and the criminal investigation into the aforementioned attack on a fellow coach, as well as digging up dirt about his history of domestic abuse.
The Raiders are far from relevant, and show no signs of changing. With more than just questions at nearly every position on the field, this is a rebuilding process that hasn’t broken ground yet.
The solution? This team won’t be any better until one of two things happen. One, Al Davis somehow is no longer in charge of this team, whether it’s selling the team, being a silent owner and letting someone else be the general manager, or old age takes its toll.
The second option is hell freezing over.
Detroit Lions: I know this is a team only two years removed from a winless 16-game season, but I see a lot of potential in Matthew Stafford. With the right supporting cast and lots of passes to Calvin Johnson, this team might not be bad for much longer.
Kansas City Chiefs: Matt Cassel didn’t have a great year, but once given the nod, Jamal Charles really caught fire and gave the Chiefs a rushing attack to plan against. Get another receiver to take some of the attention away from Dwayne Bowe, and with Charlie Weiss running an NFL offense like he knows how, expect the Chiefs to improve sometime soon.
Buffalo Bills: I like the hire of Chan Gailey at head coach, and as long as this team has a dynamic rusher like Marshawn Lynch and a play making receiver like Lee Evans, it doesn’t matter whether Trent Edwards or Ryan Fitzpatrick starts—this team has potential.
Jacksonville Jaguars: I seriously considered the Jags because of their underachieving nature, but the fact is Maurice Jones-Drew is a great running back and Mike Sims-Walker is a rising star at wide receiver. If David Garrard can stabilize and this defense picks up the slack, the Jags can become contenders.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: This year may have been a complete bust, but what do you expect when you clean house and set up a whole new coaching staff? Give it some time and they’ll figure it out. On a side note, I don’t believe Josh Freeman is going to pan out at quarterback.