Not every NFL team is cruising through life like this season’s Super Bowl champions. It is quite the opposite for several struggling NFL clubs that are losing a whole lot more than winning.
As a result of a poor season, or perhaps multiple bad years, some new head coaches are arriving to clean up the mess. In other cases, quarterback drama or lack of having a quality starter altogether is suffocating the team’s efforts. One could say, when the offense is putting its best effort, the defense is giving up the farm to the opposition.
With much work to do in the offseason, the following dumpster fire teams should be working diligently to improve their basement level statuses.
1. Can the Buffalo Bills rebuild post Ryan Bros. devastation?
After two third-place finishes in the AFC East, the two-year Rex Ryan era came to an abrupt ending. Not surprisingly, the team sent Rex’s brother Rob packing as well.
The Bills hired Sean McDermott as the new head coach. This makes the seventh coaching change in 17 years. It’s McDermott’s first NFL coaching job and he arrives to Buffalo having spent the last six seasons as the defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers.
One of the major tasks at hand for McDermott’s Bills will be to deal with quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Taylor’s future is in doubt considering McDermott has yet to commit to him as a member of the team in 2017. If the team moves on from Taylor, E.J. Manuel —a major first-round draft bust from 2013 — is hardly the answer. He will likely not be re-signed.
Beyond the quarterback saga, the Bills have a talented offense that unfortunately is difficult to keep healthy. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins in particular is a prime example here. The 2014 first-round draft pick has started in just 21 games over the last two seasons.
On defense, the Bills were terrible at stopping the run, allowing 133.1 yards on average per game and 21 touchdowns on the season. As a unit, Buffalo’s defense ranked 19th in the league. McDermott’s defensive coordinator background should be a plus here.
The Bills have not produced a double-digit win season since since 1999. That was the last time Buffalo made the playoffs.
2. Los Angeles Chargers already off to a humiliating start
Instead of the Oakland Raiders being the laughingstock of the AFC West, the Chargers one-upped them big-time. First, they finished last in the division with just five wins. Then, they launched a hideous new logo after announcing their plan to leave San Diego.
The fact that they’ve been losing in recent seasons is unfortunate considering the Chargers have one of the most stable and healthy quarterback situations in league. Phillip Rivers has thrown for 9,178 yards and 62 touchdowns the past two years. Right now, that amounts to a hill of beans because only nine wins came along the way.
Now, Rivers and his teammates face a cumbersome move to relocate to a temporary home in Los Angeles. This, at a time that the Chargers need the support of their fans the most. But that’s not what is happening.
Besides a swift move across county lines, the Chargers will be debuting Anthony Lynn as their new head coach. Lynn is already famous for botching his opening presser with foul language and referring to the team as “San Diego.”
He will have the giant task of coaching a team on the move and a roster that housed 14 players on IR by last season’s end.
3. Could cutting Cutler revive the Chicago Bears?
The Bears have been trying (and failing) to fight their way out of the dumpster, placing fourth in the NFC North three seasons in a row. As much as head coach John Fox has attempted to turn the team around, he has only nine wins during his two years coaching in the Windy City.
This last season saw quarterback Jay Cutler miss 11 games due to various injuries and wind up on IR. Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer suffered a broken arm in October, and the team had to lean on young Matt Barkley under center.
Not much was going to help turn the Bears’ season around in 2016. It didn’t help that Barkley was awful. He completed 59.7 percent of his passes and tossed 16 interceptions compared to eight touchdowns in seven games.
The bright spot on offense was rookie Jordan Howard. But the Bears as a whole only managed 17.4 points on average per contest.
It’s highly likely the team gets some new blood in at quarterback. Cutler’s gigantic contract — signed in 2014 — finally eases up in how much it will cost to let him go. If the team cuts him, it would only cost $2 million in dead cap.
It’s possible that moving on from Cutler completely and starting anew at quarterback could be the winning formula in Chicago moving forward.
4. Cleveland Browns really trying not to be clowns
Captain Obvious here dictates that the Browns must have a spot on this list. With all of the dysfunction, where do we start?
The Browns just finished an ugly 2016 season that saw them barely notch one win. This came against the lowly Chargers in Week 16. During the season, the typical annual parade and revolving door at quarterback continued to be the team’s downfall.
First of all, the Browns took a grand leap of faith and signed the embattled Robert Griffin III to the squad. Unfortunately, RGIII got injured right out of the gate in Week 1.
— Ted Demianczyk (@TedDemianczyk) September 12, 2016
Sadly, Griffin was placed on IR the next day. He was able to make a late-season return and started a total of only five games.
In Griffin’s absence, both Josh McCown and rookie Cody Kessler were featured starters and both dealt with injury issues. Go figure.
Try as the team might, the Browns completed 2016 with the NFL’s 30th-ranked offense and 31st-ranked defense. That’s about as rock-bottom as it gets.
In looking at the franchise at large, Cleveland has not been a playoff game since 2002. Between that Wild Card loss and now, the team has burned through seven head coaches and 14 different starting quarterbacks.
Heading into 2017, there are so many areas of need to address. The Browns have two first-round draft picks and could potentially trade one away or use one for a new quarterback. It should be interesting to see what offseason moves the Browns make to enhance a roster that is constantly in rebuild mode.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars, all meow no bite
Jaguars fans are growing tired of hoping that their team will finally make a breakthrough in the AFC South. Since 2011, the Jaguars have had five different head coaches. The team has not finished better than third in the division since that season.
In 2016, Jacksonville pulled up the rear in the division and managed only three wins. It was a disappointing campaign after the team went through some extensive offseason moves to improve.
Quarterback Blake Bortles was under a spotlight all season, showing a tremendous level of regression in the process. He passed for only 3,905 yards and 16 touchdowns compared to 4,428 yards and 35 touchdowns in 2015. Along the way he tossed 16 interceptions. Jacksonville’s offense ranked 23rd as a result.
On defense, the Jags ceded an average of 25 points per game to opposing teams.
The positive here for the Jags is they play within a division that is not easily dominated by another team. Why they constantly fail to take advantage is another issue.
6. Rams in Los Angeles, a bust in Season 2?
The Rams had anything but a glorious and harmonious relocation to the west coast in 2016. It was supposed to be all glitz and glam for a team that went through multiple hurdles to land Jared Goff with the first pick in last year’s draft.
That did not work out so swell. Goff only started in the team’s last seven games. Sadly he went 0-7, completing 54.6 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and seven interceptions in the process.
Jared Goff really struggles with underneath zone defenders. Pick six for Deion Jones here. pic.twitter.com/i9sVMX1It1
— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) February 19, 2017
Overall, the Rams won only four games in 2016 with Case Keenum under center.
By mid-December, head coach Jeff Fisher was finally removed of his duties. But it was not just one bad season for Fisher. Under his leadership since 2012, the Rams never won more than seven games in any season. In addition to this, Fisher-led teams never finished better than third in the division.
Prior to the Fisher era, the team featured five head coaches since 2004. That marks the last year the franchise saw a postseason berth. For now, the Rams surely have their work cut out for them with a first-year head coach and an unproven starter under center.
7. Were Mark Sanchez’s New York Jets’ years really that bad?
Believe it or not, the Jets were more productive and won more games during the Mark Sanchez era than they have won over the past four seasons without him.
In Sanchez’s first two seasons, the Jets made it to the conference championship round and the team had 20 regular season wins. During Sanchez’s four years as a starter, the team won a total of 34 games and placed second in the AFC East three times.
Post Sanchez, from 2013-2016, the team has missed the playoffs each year. During this time, the Jets won only 27 games and finished last in the division twice.
Geno Smith, selected in the second round in 2013, has essentially been a bust. Ryan Fitzpatrick had one star year in 2015, then helped tank the Jets’ season in 2016.
Defensively, the Jets allowed their opposition to score 409 total points last year. This made for the highest allotment of points scored against the Jets since 1996.
Needless to say, the Jets’ brass has a ton of homework to do this offseason. Finding a quality-caliber starting quarterback is of the utmost importance.
8. For San Francisco 49ers fans, patience is a virtue
The 49ers will be starting anew once again with their fourth head coach in as many years. Perhaps the fourth time will be a charm here.
New head coach Kyle Shanahan has arrived to the rescue. Hopefully.
Shanahan last coordinated a Falcons’ offense that scored a league-high 33.8 points per contest in 2016. For comparison sake, San Francisco’s offense averaged just 19.3 points per game and won twice during that 16-game span.
Good things could be on the horizon if Shanahan keeps up with his success. The quarterback situation will of course need to be dealt with in the coming months. Colin Kaepernick recently indicated he would “be open to returning” to his team in 2017. This follows a previous report suggesting Kap plans to opt out of his current contract.
The last two seasons in particular have been filled with ups and downs at quarterback. Both Kap and Blaine Gabbert were given opportunities to start, resulting in each of them being benched. During this stretch, the 49ers won seven games and lost 25.
On defense, the 49ers were the worst dumpster fire in the league. The team gave up 406.4 yards and 30 points on average in 2016.
This is all truly disheartening to fans who watched their team compete in a Super Bowl just four years ago.
— Sportsnaut (@Sportsnaut) February 9, 2017