The NFL – - Broader Perspectives

NFL fans tend to get caught up in the results of a single weekend so thoroughly that they can miss the “broader perspective”, so let me try to offer some of that perspective here in the middle of a week. Let me begin by posing this question:

    What is the worst football organization in the NFL now?

Note I did not say which is the worst team; which is the worst organization? Some candidates would have to be:

    Cincinnati Bengals: Last playoff win was in 1990. Winning seasons are considered an endangered species in that city. This was the first team in the NFL to retain a bail bondsman for the squad.

    Arizona Cardinals: Last time they won their division was in 1975; Gerald Ford was President then. Since 1948 – when Truman beat Dewey – they have won a total of one playoff game.

Having paid tribute to those monumentally bad organizations, I submit that they do not hold a candle to either the Detroit Lions or the Oakland Raiders in 2008. The story of the Raiders dysfunctionality plays itself out on the field and in the newspapers on a fairly regular basis. Reports are that the coach wants to be fired and is being somewhat obstinate and insubordinate so that he will be fired; that way he collects his salary and gets out of Dodge. Al Davis will not fire him and demands that the head coach keep a defensive coordinator that the head coach has no use for. Does Al Davis enjoy seeing his head coach “twist in the wind” [/Bob Haldeman] The team spent huge dollars to sign Tommy Kelly, DeAngelo Hall and Gibril Wilson to shore up the defense and the defense is still porous.

Al Davis was once a giant in the cosmos of pro football; he was the coach of the Raiders; he has been the motive force behind the great Raiders’ teams of the 70s and 80s; he was commissioner of the old AFL; he was a significant actor in the merger between the AFL and the NFL. But in 2008, I think Al Davis’ buggy has gone round the bend and the Raiders will not excel – except by dumb luck – until he is no longer in control of the franchise.

Having said all of the above, my personal pick for worst organization is the Detroit Lions. Since the merger of the NFL and the AFL, they have lost more games than any other franchise – - as of now, they are at 347 losses and counting. Since Matt Millen took over the GM role there, the Lions are 31-84; that means the average season for the Lions in his regime generates just over 4 wins per year. In that time, the Lions are 8-51 on the road.

Perhaps the Lions suffer from some curse associated with the letter “M”. The GM is Matt Millen; the three coaches he hired are named (Marty) Mornhinweg, Mariucci and Marinelli.

The Broncos are 3-0. If you deconstruct their season, you wonder if they are the team of destiny for 2008. After blowing out the Raiders in Week 1, they beat the Chargers on an infamous blown call by a referee and then beat the Saints when the Saints did not get an obvious offsides call late in the game and then missed a long field goal. The Broncos led both the Chargers and the Saints 21-3 and the Broncos defense turned into a defen-sieve letting both opponents back into the game. Drew Brees was 39-48 for 421 yards in the Saints’ game; total offense for the Saints was 502 yards. The Broncos’ secondary is giving up an average of more than 315 yards per game passing; that just will not suffice. Long ago, someone gave the Broncos’ defense the nickname, “Orange Crush”. If this defense keeps playing the way it has, I think it should be called “AIG” - – because they need help desperately.

The Tennessee Titans’ defense has given up only 29 points in their first three games. It’s not difficult to be 3-0 if all you need to do is score 11 points a game…

Not only did the Pats’ 21-game regular season winning streak end last weekend; that was the first time Matt Cassell started and lost a football game in more than eight years. The Pats had been in the AFC East lead – or shared the lead in that division – for 49 consecutive weeks until Sunday night. The Bills now have the lead in the AFC East.

After the Pats’ loss on Sunday, Rodney Harrison had this to say:

“You’ve got a bitter taste in your mouth. The only way to get rid of that bitterness is to come in and work hard. You get bitter and you get better.”

      Is there any way to get this message through to the Lions, Rams and Chiefs?

The Washington Redskins have yet to commit a turnover in 2008. That portends well for the Redskins in 2008. However, the Skins have not been effective on third down; so far they have converted only 11 times out of 35 opportunities. That does not portend well for the Redskins in 2008.

The Giants’ defense is the unit that gets all the praise in NY. Well, the Giants’ offense ranks third in the NFL so far this year gaining 400 yards per game. Not bad.

Yes, Carson Palmer threw his first TD of the season last week in the third game of the season. However, the Bengals’ OL allowed him to be sacked six times in that game. On balance, this is not good.

The Steelers lost in Philly last weekend. The last time the Steelers won in Philly was in 1965. Lyndon Johnson was about to launch the War on Poverty then. The Steelers are a good running team but the Eagles’ defense held them to 33 yards on 19 carries – - do the math.

Do you realize that the Colts are 0-2 in their new playpen?

All four of the NFL’s “newbie-coaches” won last weekend.

Do not rush off to Google to answer this. What team leads the NFL in rushing after three games? It is the Atlanta Falcons averaging 203 yards per game. Before you stand in awe of that data, consider that they played the Lions and the Chiefs in two of those three games.

There were 21 penalties in the Vikings/Panthers game. Six of them were false starts on the Panthers. I think I know what one of the focus points for practice in the next couple of weeks should be in Carolina.

The Rams rank 31st in offense so far in 2008. Actually, that’s the good news for the team because they also rank 32nd – - dead last – - in defense so far in 2008. With all the focus on the Lane Kiffen situation in Oakland, there is little attention paid to just how poorly constructed and prepared this Rams team is. This is Year 3 for Scott Linehan in St. Louis and his record there is 11-24. That is not good by any measure, but what makes it worse is that the trend is downward; the Rams are 3-16 in their last 19 games.

Last summer the Rams signed Marc Bulger to a mega-deal – - 6 years/$65M. Next week, he will start the game on the bench wearing a baseball cap; Trent Green will play QB. While that should not be humorous in any way for Rams’ fans, it does demonstrate how the universe moves in circles. Trent Green was the Rams’ starting QB in 1999 when he suffered a knee injury and opened the door for Kurt Warner to play and to create “The Greatest Show On Turf”. When Warner was injured and ineffective, Bulger took over those duties and played well. Now Bulger is not getting it done and Trent Green comes back to St. Louis as the QB. Wheels within wheels …

The Rams have scored only 29 points in three games this year. That’s bad but the Browns are worse. They have only scored 26.

The Chiefs are bad; there is no doubt about that. Nonetheless, Tony Gonzales continues to play well. In three games, he has 15 catches and a TD. I wonder if he dreams at night about what he might do with a team that had a QB that was even marginally proficient and at least the threat of a downfield passing game. By the way, the Chiefs only average 4.1 yards per snap on offense this year. That is disastrously ineffective.

Finally, here is an observation from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“Parting thought: An all-white jury has been seated for O.J. Simpson’s trial on kidnap and armed robbery charges. O.J.’s lawyers failed to seat their preferred jury, whose demographic consisted of older Buffalo Bills fans who stopped following current events around 1993.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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  • Rob  On September 24, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    How bad are things in Oakland that the coach is trying to get himself fired? This, in a profession where job security is a luxury!?

    Well… I have come up with some surefire ways for Kiffen to get himself fired, and therefore, escape a dire coaching situation.
    1). Come to Sunday’s game wearing a Ladainian Tomlinson jersey and then pretend nothing is wrong.
    2.) Go up to Al Davis and say “Coach Belichek called, he says he wants his hoodie back.”
    3.) Spike the Gatorade with gin and tonic and then get the special teams players to do the “Electric Slide” with the cheerleaders during the game.

    Or… he could just quit. It worked for coach Whatshisname in Atlanta when he realised that Micheal Vick was about to wear prison stripes.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On September 25, 2008 at 10:14 am


    If he quits, he doesn’t get paid for the rest of the season. That is what Davis wants; he asked Kiffen to resign during the offseason and Kiffen refused.

    Suggestions (1) and (2) might work.

    Suggestion #3 might be the most entertaining part of Sunday’s game and it might tickle Al’s fancy. That one might backfire…

  • JJC  On September 25, 2008 at 11:40 am

    Hands down the worst organization is the Lions. Not that I mind. Removing Matt Milan doesn’t change a thing. When they fire the owner then you might have something. I believe it started when Barry Sanders quit on them which came about 5 years after the Lions quit on Sanders.

    Oakland tries to hard to be the worst team in football and it really has become a cult. The Bengals are in need of a good firing as the coaches and whatnot have spun out of control. The Cards are making the right choice in playing Warner and have been making slow but noticeable progress in the last few seasons. The Lions are so far in the hole that they can’t see the light of day and just dig in any and every direction in the hopes of glimpsing a ray.

    And Rob, LOVE #1. Really do. I know it meets the requirement of wearing only NFL approved apparel.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On September 25, 2008 at 1:17 pm


    Removing Matt Millen keeps the national NFL writers from having such an obvious target on hand to poke fun at the Lions. His firing does accomplish that end.

    But you are correct in your assessment that this does not make the Lions organization even borderline “functional”.

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