Eight most maddening NFL teams

Andy Dalton
Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

Fans of some NFL teams really need to be careful who they complain around. For example, how would a fan of the Minnesota Vikings feel if he heard a New England Patriots or Pittsburgh Steelers supporter complaining about some tough loss?

Some teams definitely have it better than others. Like any sport, the NFL has its haves and have nots. The have nots get our attention today.

These NFL teams consistently give some reason for hope, but just as consistently falter.

Which are the most consistently frustrating and maddening teams in the NFL?

Cincinnati Bengals

We can sum up the maddening element of the Bengals with two words — playoff ineptitude. Of course, the bulk of that really falls on coach Marvin Lewis, and quarterback Andy Dalton.

Compared to the era that preceded him in Cincinnati, Lewis might as well be Vince Lombardi.

In 14 years with the Bengals, Lewis has compiled a 118-103-3 record, won four division titles and made the playoffs seven total times. In the 14 seasons before Lewis (1989-2002), the Bengals were 72-152, won a division title, and notched one playoff appearance.

But that one playoff appearance yielded one win. Thus far, Lewis is still waiting for his first postseason win.

A lot of that failure has come with Dalton at quarterback. Dalton has guided the Bengals to five postseason appearances and is 0-4, missing one playoff loss with an injury.

Now, the positive is that while 2016 was an exception, Cincinnati has consistently reached the playoffs with these two men. Naturally, that would make the Bengals a possible team to step in when the current era of dominance comes to an end.

But a deeper look at Cincinnati’s playoff record shows how far away this team is.

Of the seven teams to defeat the Lewis led Bengals in the playoffs, only the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers made a run to the Super Bowl. Only one of the teams to defeat Dalton even won its next game.

Twice the Bengals have lost to Ben Roethlisberger’s Pittsburgh Steelers. But this hasn’t been a matter of running into the 2005 Steelers, Tom Brady’s Patriots, or Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts/Denver Broncos.

No. More often than not, these Cincinnati teams have failed by not being able to beat the teams that couldn’t beat the AFC’s elite. That means the Bengals have consistently been at least two rungs below where they should be.

For a fanbase that’s never seen a Super Bowl victory, that is maddening.

Detroit Lions

In some ways, the Lions are similar to the Bengals.

Detroit is a long way removed from the 0-16 team of 2008. But it doesn’t seem like a true Super Bowl contender will be in the Motor City any time soon, either.

The Lions haven’t won a playoff game since the 1991 season. That’s more than six full presidential terms. Since that ugly 2008 season, Detroit has logged three playoff appearances, losing to the New Orleans Saints in 2011, Dallas Cowboys in 2014, and Seattle Seahawks in 2016.

All three of those opponents lost their next game.

For so long in the post Barry Sanders era, the Lions were just a laughingstock franchise. That peaked with 2008’s winless season.

Things have turned around since. But now, Detroit is not a laughingstock. It’s just a team that constantly gives its fans false hope. Few things are more maddening than that.

Houston Texans

Houston has made the playoffs in four of the last six seasons. That looks like a solid, contending team. But in reality, the Texans are a long way from being a true contender.

Houston has never made it beyond the Divisional Round. The Texans have made the playoffs four times, but their only playoff wins have been against the aforementioned Dalton-led Bengals (twice) and an Oakland Raiders team starting a third-string quarterback.

Houston can’t really claim to be close to a breakthrough, either.

It has lost its four elimination games by an average of 17 points. In this year’s Divisional Round game against the New England Patriots, Houston’s defense was stellar. The Patriots were never able to find a consistent rhythm on offense and Tom Brady had a terrible performance.

Still, when all was said and done, New England won by 18 points, thanks to the maddeningly poor play of Brock Osweiler.

That puts Houston well behind the AFC’s best teams. But while we can’t call them one of the league’s teams, we can put them high on the list of the NFL’s most maddening.

Minnesota Vikings

Walk up to a Buffalo Bills fan over the age of about 35 and ask him where he was when “Wide Right” happened. You might have to listen to some swear words, but you’ll get a very specific answer.

Now walk up to a Vikings fan and ask where he was when “Wide Left” occurred. Again, you might hear some foul language, but you’ll also be asked to be more specific. Gary Anderson or Blair Walsh?

For more than 50 years, Minnesota has been a maddening team. It’s made four trips to the Super Bowl, losing all four times. Since then, the Vikings have endured numerous playoff heartbreaks like Anderson, Walsh and Brett Favre.

If you’re not a fan of history, we can just focus on 2016. Early in the year, it looked like Minnesota would overcome injuries to Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson.

It didn’t work out that way.

Players, coaches, and even stadiums have come and gone in Minnesota. But one thing has been constant — this franchise loses in heartbreaking ways.

The 2016 season was another entry on what was already a long list.

Kansas City Chiefs

Which outdoor stadium is loudest? Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, or Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium. The answer seems to be whichever one has hosted the most recent nationally televised game. But Seattle has a huge edge over Kansas City in one area.

The Seahawks have won 10 straight postseason games at home. The Chiefs, meanwhile have dropped five straight at home.

Home or road, the Chiefs have only won a single playoff since Joe Montana retired. That was a 30-0 drubbing of the Texans, another team on our list.

As long as Kansas City has Andy Reid coaching and Alex Smith at quarterback, it will be a relevant team. But the goal shouldn’t just be relevance. In reality, the goal shouldn’t even just be to win a Super Bowl.

Instead, the goal should be to set a team up that can win a Super Bowl and not surprise anyone. With Reid and Smith locked into the most important positions, the Chiefs don’t have that. If Kansas City wins Super Bowl LII in February of 2018, it will be a surprise. In truth, that means that a Super Bowl win is probably not happening.

The Chiefs have been just good enough to be disappointing for a long time. That doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon, either.

Arizona Cardinals

Is Carson Palmer a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback? He’s 37 years old and has won a single postseason game. So, anyone who thinks that he can win a Super Bowl also feels that something significant can change and change fast.

Palmer hasn’t been good enough to win a Super Bowl. But he has been good enough to inspire hope with fans wherever he’s been. Just ask fans in Cincinnati, Oakland and now Arizona. Palmer rarely quarterbacks bad teams. But he never quarterbacks great ones.

The 2015 season seemed to be a break from that. The Cardinals went 13-3, won the NFC West and qualified for the NFC Championship Game. In that game against the Carolina Panthers, the dream became a nightmare. Palmer was completely lost against the Carolina defense, which sacked him three times and forced four interceptions.

Was that knock on the door the beginning of something great, or the beginning of the end?

The 2016 season would suggest the latter. The Cardinals went 7-8-1 and missed the playoffs. Granted, that’s not far from the playoffs. Still, it felt more like the end of an era.

Palmer is 37. Larry Fitzgerald is 33. Even coach Bruce Arians is 64. It’s hard to see this nucleus of Arizona players getting to a Super Bowl. Unfortunately, if that’s true, it will just be a continuation of a long struggle.

With the Chicago Cubs World Series victory, the Cardinals have the longest championship drought in American professional sports.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are different from the other teams on this list. While Andrew Luck hasn’t won a Super Bowl, there’s really no doubt that he can. In reality, that’s what makes Indianapolis so maddening.

Luck is a franchise quarterback. He’s a star. While it was a completely obvious pick in 2012, we can even give Ryan Grigson some credit for making it. After all, the trade offers had to be strong.

Unfortunately, we can’t credit Grigson for much else that he’s done as the team’s general manager. It’s just been one mistake after another. Luck hasn’t been given adequate protection on the offensive line. Yes, the team went 11-5 and made the playoffs in each of his first three seasons. But he was still among the most pressured quarterbacks in the league.

So, when the playoffs rolled around, it was hard to ever take the Colts seriously as a Super Bowl contender. In the subsequent two years, Indianapolis has missed the playoffs.

But the playoff misses have been close enough that the team and its fans had at least some hope for most of the season. In turn, the Colts ended up in a bad place to be. Not good enough to contend for a Super Bowl or even make the playoffs, but not bad enough to get a high draft pick.

The tide isn’t going to turn unless two things happen.

One, Luck needs to be protected. Two, the defense needs to be at least semi-competent against good opponents. Don’t hold your breath on either happening.

Jim Irsay seems completely willing to head into 2017 with Grigson at general manager and Chuck Pagano as the coach (though he did gun for Jon Gruden and Peyton Manning). With those two running the show in Indianapolis, the smart money says that this team will only become more maddening to watch.

Philadelphia Eagles

Much like the Vikings, the frustration of the average Philadelphia fan has been going on for decades.

The Eagles have never won a Super Bowl. They had a championship caliber defense in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s but never had an offense to back it up. From 2001-2003, the Eagles always saved their worst game of the season for the NFC Championship Game, losing three years in a row. In 2004, they broke through and made the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, that’s where Donovan McNabb got sick, leaving Philadelphia three points short. Shortly after, a potentially dominant McNabb/Terrell Owens duo was broken up when the two couldn’t get along.

The Eagles experienced plenty of frustration in 2016, too. With rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, the team started 3-0. Philly lost the next two games but rebounded to hand Minnesota its first loss. After that, the Eagles didn’t win again until Week 16, when they were already eliminated.

Wentz showed a lot of promise, but he also regressed. Philadelphia has its quarterback of the future, but also has reason to be skeptical.


It’s an old story with the Eagles. The names and faces change, but the results are consistently disappointing.

The 2016 season was more of the same. It left Philadelphia with reasons to be hopeful and skeptical about the same player.

If that’s not maddening, nothing is.