People spend most of their time focused on the best teams in a league trying to sort out which of the top teams is actually THE best team. It is a useful train of thought and it can generate plenty of debate. Here in Curmudgeon Central, I spend time focused on the worst teams in a league trying to figure out why they are so bad and what they might do to get better. It is not a particularly productive train of thought and it generates little if any debate since most other people do not care much about the really bad teams. I mention this here because I have been thinking about what I believe are the 4 worst teams in the NFL right now.
I am not going to “rank” this “Quartet of Futility” because it would serve no purpose. Rather I want to try to figure out how these teams might get out of the situation they are in right now.
First up are the Tampa Bay Bucs. With a record of 1-7, the Bucs sit at the bottom of the woeful NFC South. Their lone win came at Pittsburgh in stunning comeback fashion. They also have lost to some other not-so-good teams such as the Falcons, Rams and Panthers. They have surrendered 56 points to the Falcons and 48 points to the Ravens and I think that is important because their new head coach, Lovie Smith, is purportedly a “defensive guru”. What this “defensive guru” did almost as soon as he got the keys to his office door was to sign journeyman QB Josh McCown and announce that McCown was the Bucs’ starting QB. The “defensive guru” immediately inserted himself into one of the most critical decisions on the offensive side of the ball. Neither McCown nor Mike Glennon – the backup QB who had been displaced by McCown – has covered himself in glory this season.
McCown started 3 games and averaged a measly 140 yards per game passing.
Glennon started 5 games and has been sacked more than 3 times per game.
At age 35, McCown is not the “QB of the Future” in Tampa; Glennon may or may not be but the Bucs will not know that if they put McCown back as the starter. Obviously, the team has other things to fix too; no QB is responsible for giving up 56 points in a game and it is the OL that has to improve to minimize the number of times a QB is sacked/hurried/hit. I have never thought of Lovie Smith as a top shelf coach – even when he guided the Bears to the Super Bowl – so I am not sure he is the guy to find a way out of this morass.
Next up, we can stay in Florida and think about the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags record is 1-8 and they are the only team in the league that has given up 100 more points than it has scored this year. Like the Bucs, the Jags have a young QB. Blake Bortles got the starting job in Week 3 after Chad Henne did nothing interesting in Weeks 1 & 2. Bortles has struggled as you would expect of a rookie on a not-very-good team, but the real problem in Jax seems to be the defense. The opening game of the year was an omen.
The Jags led the Eagles 17-0 at halftime; the Eagles had more turnovers in the first half than a bakery.
In the second half, the Jags defense allowed 34 points; the Eagles stopped turning the ball over; the final score was 34-17.
Week 2 was no better for the Jags. Playing the Skins, RG3 dislocated his ankle putting Kirk Cousins into the game. Cousins’ first play was a 35-yard TD pass to a receiver so open that I thought of the old Lil Abner character, Lonesome Polecat. The Jags defense rolled over, played dead and lost that game 41-10. The Jaguars need a talent transfusion on the OL, at WR and most assuredly on defense. If you can name three starters for the Jags on defense, it means one of three things:
1. You live in the TV footprint of the team and have to see them on TV more often than you want to.
2. You got stuck with the Jags’ defense in your fantasy league.
3. You have way too much time on your hands.
The third team in this “Circle of Stink” is the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are 0-8. In my pre-season analysis, I said the team would win 5 games and be improved over last year. That is simply not going to happen and the main reason it is not going to happen is that the Raiders’ OL is miserable. With the exception of Stefen Wisniewski, I do not think any starter on the Raiders OL would start anywhere else in the league. Consider these rankings:
Raiders are 32nd in the NFL – dead last – in rushing attempts, rushing yards and rushing TDs.
Raiders are 4th in the NFL in passing attempts (because they are behind so much and cannot run the ball) but only 22nd in yards passing and 29th in yards per passing attempt.
Raiders have scored 12 TDs in 8 games.
If the Raiders do not fix the OL, it will make no difference who plays QB or who coaches the team. Yes, the Raiders need upgrades at other positions (WR and CB come quickly to mind); this is going to be a multi-year rebuilding process. If anyone in the Oakland hierarchy thinks that this team can be fixed in one year, they probably are counting on Al Davis returning to the team with his football acumen of the 1970s reinstated. In short, not gonna happen…
Last on the list are the NY J-E-T-S, Jets Jets Jets who have a 1-8 record as of today. Because they are in NYC, the Jets get more scrutiny and national attention than the other three teams on my list so even casual NFL fans probably know about the QB fiasco there and the poor play of the secondary. However, let me offer two points to try to show how ineffective the Jets’ defense is:
In 9 games, the Jets’ defense has created 3 turnovers; the last one was on October 5 – more than a month ago. Only 1 of those turnovers was an interception.
The defense has allowed 24 TD passes in 9 games.
The problem for the Jets is simple. They have talent on the DL and at LB; other than that, they are deficient and like the Raiders, the fix is not going to be quick. However, the impatience of NY fans and the NY media will likely put pressure on the Jets to make some quick-fix moves. I do not think that will help…
A group of Jets’ fans has raised money to buy a billboard ad near MetLife Stadium that will say “Fire John Idzik”. A pilot flew a small plane over the Jets’ practice field towing a sign that said the same thing. These folks have issued public statements to the effect that they represent the body of Jets’ fans who are disgusted and whose voices will now be heard. A coach – I cannot remember which one – once said that if you start listening to the fans in the stands you are likely going to join them as fans in the stands. GM John Idzik might want to take heed here…
Finally, here are two snarky comments about the NY Jets. As I said, they are in NYC so they get more attention than the other three teams on my list:
“The Jets are starting Michael Vick because of Geno Smith’s interceptions. Looking to Vick as a solution to your turnover problem is like hiring an obese chain smoker as your personal trainer.” [Greg Cote, Miami Herald]
“Here is a new and important announcement from the CDC. You will not become a Jets’ fan through casual contact with a Jets’ fan.” [David Letterman]
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………