10 Recent Sports Team Rebuilds That Went Right
What does it take to successfully rebuild a franchise in professional sports? The answer isn't as cut-and-dry as one would think.
Plenty of franchises have attempted to blow their teams up and rebuild, but only a few have achieved that goal. Teams like the Kansas City Royals and Golden State Warriors serve as blueprints for that type of success.
In that same vein, we wanted to pay homage to 10 teams in sports that have undergone successful rebuild projects over the last decade. We're talking about an NBA squad that purged itself of a Big Three. A soccer club that changed our perception of what success looks like. Even an iconic MLB franchise now bound for success made the list.
So here they are. It's time to check out 10 sports team rebuilds that went right.
The Oakland Raiders haven't made it to the postseason since 2002. That's unacceptable, especially since this team is one of the most recognizable franchises in the NFL.
Countless efforts to rebuild this team have taken place since the '02 campaign. None of them—minus a brief 8-8 season in 2011 with Hue Jackson as head coach—have worked out.
Finally, it looks like the Raiders are on the rise. With head coach Jack Del Rio entering his second season, this squad has enough pieces to contend for a postseason birth. Between quarterback Derek Carr, wide receiver Amari Cooper and defensive standout Khalil Mack, the Raiders are full of youth and sustainable energy.
Oakland is fresh off a 7-9 crusade, competing within a loaded AFC West division that also hosts the Kansas City Chiefs and Super Bowl-winning Denver Broncos. But even with the odds stacked against it, this looks like a rebuild effort that's on the right track.
Golden State Warriors
All general managers in the NBA should look at the Golden State Warriors and understand that's how you rebuild a team.
The Warriors' ascent to NBA elite has been a long time coming. It started with excellent scouting and an ability to draft the right players at the right time.
After Stephen Curry landed, picks like Klay Thompson and Draymond Green—not to mention Harrison Barnes—proved Warriors general manager Bob Myers had a calculated plan. Adding veterans like Andrew Bogut to serve as a balancing beam worked perfectly.
The result of this rebuild has been a staggering turnaround from 2011 until now. Golden State has gone from winning 23 games five seasons ago to being on the verge of securing an NBA-record 73 victories heading into the 2015-16 playoffs.
This is a team that's already won an NBA championship, and it did that by constantly pushing the envelope when it comes to offensive basketball. No franchise out there on the hardwood today even comes close to the Warriors.
Theo Epstein's role as president of baseball operations was one he took on after the 2011 MLB season concluded.
A successful, World Series-winning rebuild project with the Boston Red Sox gave Epstein enough historical clout to move anywhere he wanted. The Chicago Cubs—another franchise starved for a title—turned out to be his next stop.
Epstein's decision to gut the roster and start from scratch has already paid dividends after a slow start. After four seasons of winning 73 games or less, the Cubbies surged in 2015, winning a staggering 97 times.
They've now become World Series front-runners, as 13 ESPN.com writers selected them to win the title this year.
It's all about consistency and rebuilding the right way—like hiring Joe Maddon as manager in 2014. And Epstein's master plan to steep the roster with youth and power could bring the Cubs its first World Series title in 108 years.
The NFL's rebuilding process isn't set in stone like other sports. Changes in football tend to either come rapidly or over an extended period of time.
In Minnesota, the Vikings have managed to fall into that quick, sustainable turnaround category.
It all starts at the top. General manager Rick Spielman has used the NFL draft to his advantage, landing solid foundational pieces across the board.
Despite all of the pieces he's added over the years, Teddy Bridgewater steals a bulk of those headlines. He's the quarterback, and no matter what, the NFL is always about the quarterback.
With head coach Mike Zimmer's hiring in 2014, there now is a guy who can manage all of that talent.
Zimmer's first year turned a 5-10-1 team into a 7-9 unit. And last season, all of the pieces fell into place.
The Vikings jumped into the playoffs at 11-5, led by a defense that surrendered the fifth-fewest points per game in football, per ESPN.com. Unlike a fluky season in 2012—where the team won 10 games—all signs point to this version of the Vikings competing for a long time.
Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals are a shining example of another extensive rebuild project that has finally panned out.
Before this team played in back-to-back World Series—winning in 2015—the Royals hadn't tasted playoff action since 1985. That drought was filled with disappointment, culminating with excellent players like Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye and Carlos Beltran heading for greener pastures.
That's no longer the case. The Royals planted their flag and have become a destination for winning.
MLB.com's Richard Justice wrote about how this rebuild went down. Justice's praise of the Royals started with owner David Glass and focused on his decision to lure in general manager Dayton Moore.
Moore drafted, traded and molded the Royals exactly how he saw fit. And after years of mediocrity, the Royals broke through the ceiling and won 86 games in 2013 before winning it all two seasons later.
These days, it's Brad Stevens over everything, and the Boston Celtics know it.
When the 2012-13 season came to an end, the Celtics were a team that still featured Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce. Those three names represented an aging—minus Rondo—but traditional core.
The Celtics achieved great things with that roster—plus Ray Allen. But that season would be the last for this unit in Boston.
The team dealt Pierce and Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets, and then-head coach Doc Rivers subsequently left to coach the Los Angeles Clippers. General manager Danny Ainge used this opportunity to frantically push the reset button, employing former Butler Bulldogs head coach Brad Stevens to usher in a new era.
It's worked out beautifully.
Stevens' Celtics acquired fresh faces like Isaiah Thomas, and now, two years into an aggressive rebuilding project, this team has wrapped up the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Assuming they can land another marquee scorer, the Celtics should be a serious contender for the foreseeable future.
New York Mets
Pitching. It's a word we all cherish in baseball, but few teams consistently get it right. The New York Mets' entire rebuilding scheme hinged on exuberant pitching and, more importantly, patience.
Unlike a lot of teams in sports, the Mets faced a financial future that was in ruins. Bernie Madoff's headline-sweeping Ponzi scheme and other issues put the franchise in a dark place.
Owner Fred Wilpon told Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated in 2011 that the team was "bleeding cash." That loss of income resulted in a change of philosophy, as Forbes contributor Jason Belzer detailed.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson focused on rebuilding without the use of colossal free-agent contracts. He also made it a point to use the club's farm system and put it all together by securing a slew of young arms.
Today, the Mets have Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz all representing the fruits of Alderson's labor.
This team can hit, pitch and play defense. It's no wonder they reached the World Series last year.
Before the Arizona Cardinals brought in Bruce Arians as head coach, the team hadn't reached the NFL playoffs since 2009.
But once the former Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator took control of the team in 2013, the Cardinals haven't won less than 10 games in a single season.
It's been about play-calling, elite coaching and magnetic chemistry. Arizona has leaned on veterans like quarterback Carson Palmer and mixed him with explosive young playmakers such as John Brown and David Johnson in order to take Arians' offense to a different plateau.
Merged with a tenacious defense—ranked No. 7 in points allowed per game last season—the formula has made the Cardinals a model franchise in terms of NFL reconstruction.
Arizona was more of an instant fix, and that's rare in sports. Sometimes, when talent is there and the right coaching is in place, things pick up in a hurry.
It's a big deal that the Florida Panthers have maneuvered their way back into the NHL playoff picture. The last time we saw them there, the year was 2012. That season turned out to be a preview of what was to come.
The Panthers would win 15 games a year later before this rebuild began to take on a life of its own. Now, they've managed to win 47 times, finishing first in the Atlantic Division.
We can correlate this turnaround with former Chicago Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon, who took the same position with the Panthers in 2010.
Doug Harrison of CBC Sports discussed how Tallon conducted business earlier this year: "Tallon, whose philosophy in Chicago and Florida has been to go young and build a Cup contender through the draft with a shrewd trade or free-agent signing sprinkled on top, went to work quickly in Florida."
His focus also wasn't strictly on fresh talent. Tallon appreciates veteran players as well. His choice to bring 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr to Florida was huge on all fronts. And to show you how good he’s been, Larry Brooks of the New York Post even declared him this season's MVP.
It's been a heck of a ride so far, and hopefully, it's one that the Panthers can sustain. They look like a team destined for great things.
We can track Leicester City's improbable run to the top of the Premier League back to their extensive rebuild. A mere two seasons ago, this team was out of the Premier League. They were nothing more than a footnote. A squad looking in from the outside while everyone else relished in success.
But change started when the club nabbed longtime manager Claudio Ranieri this past offseason. His presence elevated this team to new heights.
Another way they turned the Premier League on its head was by signing players that have far exceeded people's expectations. Defensive standout Robert Huth is a clear-cut example of those tactics.
All in all, Leicester City now sits atop the Premier League. This has been a concise, brilliant approach. They've successfully taken over a league normally dominated by the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and others.
All stats and information via Sports-Reference.com unless noted otherwise.