12 Recent Sports Teams That Got Really Bad, Really Quickly

Nick Dimengo@@itsnickdimengoFeatured ColumnistOctober 29, 2015

12 Recent Sports Teams That Got Really Bad, Really Quickly

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    We all know that nothing lasts forever. In sports, the saying is all too spot on. As much as we all want to think that our teams will be good forever, a number of factors makes that impossible.

    Sure, there are exceptions to this rule like the San Antonio Spurs and New England Patriots, but more often than not, a team tends to compete for titles for a few years and then declines as other squads develop, players get older and personnel change.

    For those fans who have lived through it, it's not fun.

    With a few recent teams showing this trait, I figured I would take a look and see which ones have had the worst luck in going from really good to really bad in a hurry.

Detroit Tigers

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Back when I was growing up, the Detroit Tigers were always that team that no one ever wanted to go see play because they just weren't very good.

    In the '90s, the Tigers never made the playoffs during the decade and became quite the laughingstock.

    Of course, that changed over the next 10 years, as Detroit went to the postseason five times, including making two World Series appearances.

    It's too bad the team fell back this season, going 74-87 and missing the playoffs—even with an Opening Day payroll of $173.8 million, good enough for fourth-highest in the MLB.

    After a bit of a fire sale led the team to trade away some of its stars and future free agents, the Tigers had initially announced they wouldn't bring back manager Brad Ausmus, but they reversed course and are now left wondering what they need to do next season to get back into contention.

Orlando Magic

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Over the past three seasons, the Orlando Magic have compiled a record of just 68-178, so don't feel bad if they haven't really stayed at the top of your mind.

    However, the success of the franchise had been pretty solid for a good decade-plus, as Orlando went to 10 postseasons in 15 years, including an NBA Finals appearance in 2010 that showed it had a good balance of inside and outside talent.

    Whether it was a combination of age, decline or players leaving via trade or free agency, the Magic have found themselves in full rebuild mode, hoping to develop a new wave of talent to build a core that competes like those teams in the past did.

    Going from a perennial 50-plus-win team to what the Magic have shown in recent years is a major drop-off, though.

New Jersey Devils

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    Rich Schultz/Associated Press

    From 1987 to 2011, the New Jersey Devils were one of the best franchises in sports, not just the NHL, going to the playoffs in 21 of 24 years and winning three Stanley Cups.

    Those in Jersey really wish those days were still around, because the Devils have been awful ever since their last playoff and Cup Finals appearance in 2012, missing the postseason in each of the past three years.

    Making things even worse, the Devils have seemed to go backward, finishing worse and worse over the past three seasons in their own division.

    Nothing lasts forever, but no one could have foreseen this mess coming.

USC Trojans Football

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    From 2002 to 2008, the USC Trojans were the belle of the ball and the most prized college football program in the country, winning two national titles (one of which was vacated) and routinely sending players to the NFL.

    The mighty men of Troy have fallen hard, though.

    After sanctions from the fallout from the Reggie Bush fiasco cost them scholarships and hit their reputation hard, the Trojans were expected to rebound and be back in the national championship hunt by now. It hasn't happened.

    Employing four coaches after Pete Carroll, whether interim or full time, the Trojans were expected to be a top-10 team this season but are once again looking for a new head coach after firing Steve Sarkisian.

    USC will continue to rake in talent, but it's not going to become a serious program again until it finds the right coach who knows how to manage all of that ability.

Cincinnati Reds

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    It's not as if the Cincinnati Reds were building some sort of dynasty in the Queen City, but they were building a team that was believed to be good enough to compete for playoff appearances year after year.

    The past couple of seasons, though, the Reds have been anything but contenders, going just 140-184 in those two years after reaching the playoffs in the three of four years prior and averaging 89 wins in that same time frame.

    With the team deciding to keep manager Bryan Price, as of now, for 2016, he'll have a short leash to return Cincy to where the front office had grown accustomed to being—near the top of the NL Central.

Illinois Fighting Illini Basketball

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    Duane Burleson/Getty Images

    With great history and a reputation as one of the top men's hoops program in the Midwest, the Illinois Fighting Illini have become mediocre since firing former head coach Bruce Weber in 2012.

    Weber, who helped guide the Illini to a national final appearance and six NCAA tournaments in his nine years in Champaign, may not have been the only problem with the team, though, as the Illini have reached just one NCAA tourney since John Groce took over the club and haven't been able to re-establish themselves as a national contender.

    For years, Illinois was a perennial tournament team that could win a couple of games with a deep roster. That seems like a long time ago, though.

New Orleans Saints

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    In his eight-plus seasons with the New Orleans Saints, which includes numerous playoff appearances and a Super Bowl win, head coach Sean Payton has compiled a .615 winning percentage while gaining the reputation of an offensive genius.

    It's too bad he can't just flip a switch and have his current team revert back to the 2009-10 version when the Saints finished as Super Bowl champs.

    While Payton has had great success and has a future Hall of Famer in Drew Brees leading the huddle, the team continues to struggle, missing the playoffs in 2014 and already lagging behind in the NFC South race in 2015.

    With Brees aging, major salary-cap issues in the near future and a ton of unproven weapons on both sides of the ball, things don't seem to be so easy down in The Big Easy.

New York Knicks

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    Like a few others on this list, the New York Knicks were never in a championship game or had built a reputation of being a serious contender while he's been on the team, but, for all the crap he gets, the Knicks did go to back-to-back postseasons after acquiring Carmelo Anthony in 2011.

    After a 54-win campaign in 2013, though, New York has sputtered, struggling to attract other star players to play alongside Melo and spending unwisely on B-level guys who aren't a good fit.

    Again, the Knicks were probably never going to seriously contend for a championship with Melo, but in a weak Eastern Conference and with one of the top scorers in the NBA, you would think they would win more than 54 games combined in the past two seasons.

Texas Longhorns Football

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Much like the aforementioned Southern Cal Trojans, the Texas Longhorns—who beat USC in the 2006 national title game—have fallen on really tough times in recent years.

    Once one of the premier programs in the country, routinely winning double-digit games and landing top recruits, the Horns have become an afterthought in the college football world, making headlines for doing the wrong things instead of the right ones.

    Head coach Charlie Strong was supposed to bring toughness and help get the burnt orange back to being a powerhouse, but that hasn't happened in his near two seasons yet, which has led many to speculate he may be gone by the time 2016 rolls around.

    All that would mean is more rebuilding and a longer time frame until Texas returns to glory.

Boston Red Sox

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Who says that all the money in the world can buy a team a championship? Tell that to the Boston Red Sox who, despite having the third-highest Opening Day payroll in 2015, still finished with a below-.500 record and missed the playoffs for the second straight season.

    It wasn't supposed to be like this for the Sox, though, as the front office believed it had improved the team enough from a disastrous 2014 season to get back to the World Series-like camaraderie that Boston had in 2013.

    Other than winning the whole thing in 2013, Boston has had no other playoff appearances since 2009, which means it has to do something drastic to turn things around and get back to a championship level.

San Francisco 49ers

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    With so many major changes over the past couple of years, it sure seems like a long time ago since the San Francisco 49ers played in three straight NFC title games, which included a Super Bowl appearance.

    After they boasted one of the most dominant defenses and efficient offenses in the league under former head coach Jim Harbaugh, things fell apart in 2014 and have just snowballed downhill ever since.

    Various factors have taken place, with a number of players departing the team for a number of reasons, Harbaugh and San Francisco mutually splitting and quarterback Colin Kaepernick struggling after signing a massive new contract in the summer of 2014.

    With few impact players left and a head coach in Jim Tomsula who seems to still be learning on the job, the Niners and their fans have little faith that things will get better anytime soon.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    Since relocating to sunny California before the 1960 season, the Los Angeles Lakers have always been the flashiest team in the league, routinely boasting star-studded players and fans who put other teams to shame.

    Like many movies filmed in the city, though, not every one of the Lakers teams are hits—and the past two seasons have been major flops.

    Winning just 48 combined games, the team has struggled to maintain health and is mired in a tough situation with superstar Kobe Bryant. The Lakers refuse to admit they're in full rebuild mode but are far from ready to compete.

    Prior to the 2013 season, though, the Lakers had gone to the playoffs in eight straight years, winning two titles and doing what they could to land star players to play alongside Bryant.

    Seemingly striking out with most of the moves it has done, L.A. has to wonder what type of performance it will have this upcoming season. One thing is for sure: Kobe isn't getting any younger and leading the team to a title anytime soon.


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