NFL Teams Stuck in a Rut Heading into 2019
Some NFL teams just can't get out of neutral—or worse.
Teams stuck in purgatory aren't hard to identify. They struggle to make the postseason consistently. Their front offices rip through quarterbacks or stick with middling ones for too long, and they don't give coaching staffs enough time to prove themselves.
Granted, success is still possible for these teams. Breakouts happen, like when the Buffalo Bills made the playoffs in 2017 for the first time since 1999.
The following teams aren't entirely hopeless, but longstanding mediocrity and a poor outlook heading into 2019 paint a sour outlook.
The Miami Dolphins are punching the reset button again, this time with Brian Flores as head coach.
The longtime New England Patriots assistant coach is trying to revamp the culture in Miami, hence why he brought in former Pats like Dwayne Allen and Eric Rowe. But when those two, plus Ryan Fitzpatrick, are the team's most notable adds in free agency, the cracks in the outlook become clear.
The Dolphins have won more than eight games in a season once since 2008 with one playoff appearance in that span. They've gone to the postseason twice since 2001.
While Flores doesn't have to deal with Ryan Tannehill purgatory, his options under center are Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen, who comes over from Arizona after just one NFL season and will have to adjust to a new coaching staff.
Keep in mind the Dolphins only made one pick in the top 50 of the draft this year. Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, the No. 13 overall selection, won't do enough on his own to cover the losses of guys like Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake. Flores and Co. are stuck in a holding pattern while continuing to cross their fingers that Tom Brady isn't ageless.
The Kliff Kingsbury-Kyler Murray era is underway for the Arizona Cardinals.
Even so, the muted hype for the team speaks volumes about its reputation and outlook. The Cardinals haven't won more than eight games in a season since 2015, the second of two consecutive playoff appearances. Before that came four non-playoff seasons following two postseason showings during the brief Kurt Warner era.
The only hope for the Cardinals in 2019 is that Kingsbury is some sort of savant. The Cardinals took a major gamble in hiring an inexperienced head coach to join the league's offensive-minded trend. It could end up being a gross overcompensation for the former staff, which couldn't figure out how to use running back David Johnson properly and threw Josh Rosen to the wolves, resulting in 45 sacks, a 3-13 record and the No. 1 pick.
On top of that, the Cardinals allowed 26.6 points per game last year and ranked dead last against the rush at 154.9 yards coughed up per game. Don't forget the drama with Patrick Peterson this offseason.
A patchwork job in free agency, so-so drafting, a rookie quarterback, a tough division and a massive question mark after yet another change to the coaching staff indicate the Cardinals aren't getting out of the rut soon.
New York Giants
The fact that many can't tell what the New York Giants were trying to accomplish this offseason says it all.
The Giants have been to the playoffs just once dating back to 2011 and have posted a .500 mark twice over that span.
If the front office had drafted quarterback Daniel Jones and called it a day, there would be a clear-cut succession plan, and most could probably get behind it.
But it isn't so simple. The Giants pushed Odell Beckham Jr. out the door and let Landon Collins walk, robbing both units of top-tier players. At the same time, they're sticking by Eli Manning under center and tried to counteract the loss at wideout by bringing on Golden Tate, throwing him $37.5 million.
Keep in mind Manning is coming off a five-win season with a 66 percent completion percentage, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also took 47 sacks. Beckham's 1,052 yards and six scores from a year ago in just 12 games are gone, as are Collins' team-high 96 total tackles and four passes defensed—also in 12 games.
Put another way, the Giants have created a quarterback controversy, dramatically downgraded in a few areas and didn't fix problems like left tackle, a leftover mistake from one offseason ago. In the NFC East, it's a recipe for being a staple on lists like this.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bruce Arians isn't going to be able to save the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC South.
One of the quietest teams in the NFL hasn't been to the postseason since 2007 and has only peeked its head over the .500 line three times in that span. The Bucs have six or fewer wins on the resume in five of the last six seasons.
There isn't any reason to think this changes soon. The biggest hit of free agency for Tampa Bay was retaining offensive tackle Donovan Smith. The front office then used a top-five pick on Devin White, an inside linebacker. White could be great, but the value seems off.
Somehow, the offensive problems trump a defense that is looking to bounce back from coughing up 29 points per game.
Arians is maneuvering like Jameis Winston is salvageable after 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last year. Winston doesn't have much behind him in the backfield considering 2018 second-round pick Ronald Jones averaged 1.9 yards per carry last year. Wide receivers Adam Humphries (76 catches, 816 yards, five touchdowns) and DeSean Jackson (41/774/4) are gone.
Maybe the Buccaneers can wiggle out of the NFC South cellar with a new set of eyes on the roster, but the team is working at a disadvantage.
The Cincinnati Bengals might be the poster child for teams stuck in a rut.
While one could argue five consecutive playoff appearances (2011-15) isn't much of a rut, the fact is Marvin Lewis couldn't win a game in any of them. The Bengals are also underperformers given the talent on the roster.
Now the Bengals haven't won more than seven games three seasons and running. They moved on from Lewis and gambled on a young, relative unknown in Zac Taylor, which could backfire.
The Bengals at least get credit for trying—which is a nice summary of the Taylor era so far. They used a first-round pick on Jonah Williams and placed him at left tackle, but he suffered a torn labrum in OTAs and will likely miss the season. The offensive line will once again look mostly like the league-worst unit from a year ago.
Sprinkle in the usual Bengals gambles too: Tyler Eifert is back on a one-year deal, John Ross is struggling to match expectations of a top-10 draft pick, linebacker mostly went ignored despite being a major problem and the majority of Taylor's staff looks green.
The Bengals took a chance that these moves could make them an innovator, but it is more likely to leave them in a rut.