why the nfl’s 13 worst teams are so bad
Probably you already have a good idea how the NFL’s best teams are faring as the season enters its final four weekends. Before we forget about the teams at the other end of the success spectrum until the pre-draft cycle kicks in after the Super Bowl, let’s look at what went wrong for the 13 teams with losing records entering Week 14, listed in approximate draft order if the season ended now.
It’s important to note that of the 13, eight teams are now starting a different quarterback from Week 1, either because of performance or injuries. Also, two teams already have fired their head coach, and seven already have fired a co-ordinator or key assistant coach. They won’t be the last. OAKLAND RAIDERS RECORD: 2-10 WINS: Cleveland (OT), at Arizona WEEK 1 QB: Derek Carr WEEK 14 QB: Derek Carr
HEAD COACH STATUS: Jon Gruden (first year). Presumably as safe as safe gets. Has nine more years to go on the reported 10-year, $100-million contract owner Mark Davis gave him in January. ANY ASSISTANTS FIRED YET? No WHAT WENT WRONG: Gruden blew up a roster and shipped away two of Oakland’s most talented players, arguably the game’s greatest pass rusher in Khalil Mack, and WR Amari Cooper. No NFL coach/executive made more head-scratching moves in 2018. Lost his lockerroom early. SAN FRANCISCO 49ers RECORD: 2-10
WINS: Detroit, Oakland WEEK 1 QB: Jimmy Garoppolo WEEK 14 QB: Nick Mullens HEAD COACH STATUS: Kyle Shanahan (second year). Presumably safe, but with impatient Jed York running the Niners, who’s on his third head coach since he ran Jim Harbaugh (.695 in four years) out of San Fran in December, you never know. ANY ASSISTANTS FIRED YET? No WHAT WENT WRONG: Garoppolo going down in September with a torn ACL killed the Niners’ season, full stop. C.J. Beathard proved no better in Year 2 — two losses to Arizona in October, c’mon man — then he got hurt. Mullens stepped in and flashed promise in a win over Oakland, but little since. There’s still so much roster work to do for GM John Lynch. NEW YORK JETS RECORD: 3-9 WINS: at Detroit, Denver, Indianapolis WEEK 1 QB: Sam Darnold
(rookie) WEEK 14 QB: Darnold or Josh McCown
HEAD COACH STATUS: Todd Bowles (fourth year). Widely accepted he’ll be fired at season’s end. He’s 23-37 (.383) with no playoff berths, although he came close in 2015. ANY ASSISTANTS FIRED YET? No WHAT WENT WRONG: Starting a 21-year-old rookie QB with a weak roster on both sides of the ball isn’t a recipe for a good year. After blowing out Detroit in the opener, little has gone right. Over his last three starts before suffering a foot injury in early November, Darnold completed just 47 per cent of his throws for two TDs, seven picks and a 43.3 passer rating. ARIZONA CARDINALS RECORD: 3-9 WINS: at San Francisco, San Francisco, at Green Bay
WEEK 1 QB: Sam Bradford WEEK 14 QB: Josh Rosen (rookie) HEAD COACH STATUS: Steve Wilks (first year). In serious danger of being a one-and-done.
ANY ASSISTANTS FIRED YET?
Yes. Offensive co-ordinator Mike McCoy, after Week 6. WHAT WENT WRONG: The Cardinals are a mess. It’s not often you read numerous accounts before December explaining why a franchise must move on from its first-year head coach. On both sides of the ball, this team has been a disaster in 2018. Offensively, the Cardinals still rank last despite McCoy’s firing eight weeks ago, and defensively, they can’t stop the run or intercept the ball. BUFFALO BILLS RECORD: 4-8 WINS: at Minnesota, Tennessee, at N.Y. Jets, Jacksonville
WEEK 1 QB: Nathan Peterman WEEK 14 QB: Josh Allen (rookie) HEAD COACH STATUS: Sean McDermott (second year). Safe, and should be. He’s done an exceptionally good job in his specialty, coaching up the defence. Only blind spot is a big one: QB assessment and management. Oh, and in-game coaching challenges (he’s 1-for-9). ANY ASSISTANTS FIRED YET?
No, but McDermott at times has taken over defensive play-calling duties from co-ordinator Leslie Frazier. WHAT WENT WRONG: Repeated mismanagement of the quarterback position, based on a string of faulty assessments. March free agent signee A.J. McCarron didn’t pan out. Peterman remained historically bad, but it took more than two months to finally cut him. That led to the emergency signing and starting of old, inept pivot Derek Anderson. Massively disappointing receiver Kelvin Benjamin was another impactful offensive roster whiff.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS RECORD: 4-9 WINS: at N.Y. Giants, New England, N.Y. Jets, Indianapolis WEEK 1 QB: Blake Bortles WEEK 14 QB: Cody Kessler HEAD COACH STATUS: Doug Marrone (second year). On the hot seat, big time. Director of football ops Tom Coughlin is more animated during games than the entire Disney film vault. ANY ASSISTANTS FIRED YET?
Yes. Offensive co-ordinator Nathaniel Hackett, after Week 12. WHAT WENT WRONG: Blake Bortles. Blame Coughlin, GM David Caldwell and Marrone for deciding to re-sign the fifth-year QB in February to a three-year, $54-million contract with $26.5 million guaranteed. Bortles was so bad before being benched two weeks ago that, without a starfilled defence, the Jags easily could be winless.
NEW YORK GIANTS RECORD: 4-8 WINS: at Houston, at San Francisco, Tampa Bay, Chicago (OT) WEEK 1 QB: Eli Manning
WEEK 14 QB: Eli Manning
HEAD COACH STATUS: Pat Shurmur (first year). Likely safe. He’s made mistakes, but won’t confirm or share the frustrations he shows on the sideline during games. ANY ASSISTANTS FIRED YET? No
WHAT WENT WRONG: No.2 overall draft pick RB Saquon Barkley has been as advertised, and a good WR corps remained healthy. But the OL remains the big problem, and Manning ’s pocket courage was AWOL early on. Also, an injury-pocked defence never came around.
DETROIT LIONS RECORD: 4-8
WINS: New England, Green Bay, at Miami, Carolina WEEK 1 QB: Matthew Stafford WEEK 14 QB: Matthew Stafford HEAD COACH STATUS: Matt Patricia (first year). Probably safe. Whether he should be is another matter. Looks for all the world like he could be the latest former Belichick assistant who brought his mentor’s arrogance and media aversion, but not the coaching acumen. ANY ASSISTANTS FIRED YET?
Yes. Special teams co-ordinator Joe Marciano, after Week 8. WHAT WENT WRONG: Forstarters, getting blown right out of Ford Field in every way in the Monday night opener by a bad Jets team. Their season couldn’t have got off to a worse start. Even thumping New England in prime time in Week 3 didn’t provide much momentum. Offence and defence are taking turns being the Lions’ biggest disappointment. As always. ATLANTA FALCONS RECORD: 4-8
WINS: Carolina, Tampa Bay, N.Y. Giants, at Washington
WEEK 1 QB: Matt Ryan
WEEK 14 QB: Matt Ryan
HEAD COACH STATUS: Dan Quinn (fourth year). On the barbecue seat. That Super Bowl berth two years ago might as well be 20 years ago. Since then the Falcons are 14-14, with Ryan and Julio Jones another year closer to retirement. ANY ASSISTANTS FIRED YET? No WHAT WENT WRONG: Last year’s offensive blips have grown into full-blown dysfunction. With this talent, how can Atlanta not be an offensive juggernaut? And how can they be worst in the league at rushing ? The defence has been ravaged by injuries, but still shouldn’t be among the NFL’s worst in the red zone, on third down and almost everything else. GREEN BAY PACKERS RECORD: 4-7-1
WINS: Chicago, Buffalo, San Francisco, Miami
WEEK 1 QB: Aaron Rodgers WEEK 14 QB: Aaron Rodgers HEAD COACH STATUS: Mike McCarthy, fired after Week 13. Joe Philbin is the interim coach.
ANY ASSISTANTS FIRED YET?
Yes. Linebackers coach Winston Moss, this week, in part for tweeting less than harmonious comments. WHAT WENT WRONG: In what had been brewing for years, Rodgers and offensive play-calling head coach McCarthy reportedly agreed less and less on what kind of offence to run, and what plays to run in a given game. To the point the Packers offence now is constantly sputtering. Also, O line and secondary injuries again undermined this team.
CLEVELAND BROWNS RECORD: 4-7-1
WINS: N.Y. Jets, Baltimore (OT), Atlanta, at Cincinnati WEEK 1 QB: Tyrod Taylor WEEK 14 QB: Baker Mayfield
HEAD COACH STATUS: Hue Jackson (third year), fired after Week 8. Gregg Williams is the interim coach. ANY ASSISTANTS FIRED YET?
Yes. Offensive co-ordinator Todd Haley, also after Week 8. WHAT WENT WRONG: Taylorwas a shorter-term bridge QB than expected, over troubled waters. It’s now clear that Mayfield didn’t respect either Jackson or Haley, who had clashed all year until their joint dismissals. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS RECORD: 5-7 WINS: at New Orleans, Philadelphia, Cleveland (OT), San Francisco, Carolina
WEEK 1 QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick WEEK 14 QB: Jameis Winston HEAD COACH STATUS: Dirk Koetter (third year). He’s on late-April ice, it’s so thin. Barring a December to remember, he’ll be the latest in a line of forgetful Bucs coaches this decade. ANY ASSISTANTS FIRED YET?
Yes. Defensive co-ordinator Mike Smith, after Week 6.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Despite all that September “FitzMagic,” the Bucs’ defence was dreadful. Since then, the Ryan Fitzpatrick/ Jameis Winston QB carousel has wobbled. They have combined for 32 (!) turnovers: Fitz 16 (12 picks, four fumbles); Winston 16 (11 picks, five fumbles).
CINCINNATI BENGALS RECORD: 5-7 WINS: at Indianapolis, Baltimore, at Atlanta, Miami, Tampa Bay WEEK 1 QB: Andy Dalton
WEEK 14 QB: Jeff Driskel HEAD COACH STATUS: Marvin Lewis (16th year). Who knows? If owner Mike Brown hasn’t fired Lewis yet after zero playoff wins, and no playoff appearances since 2015, what’s his breaking point? ANY ASSISTANTS FIRED YET?
Yes. Defensive co-ordinator Teryl Austin, after Week 10. WHAT WENT WRONG: Nothing much after a 4-2 start. Dalton got off to a hot start, which peaked with the unlikely last-minute comeback he led in a 37-36 win at Atlanta in Week 4. Then the schedule got more difficult. Dalton and star WR A.J. Green are now gone for the year with injuries.
The biggest fall from grace in the NFL this season has been the decline of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags went from playoff team to 4-9, due in great part to the poor play of quarterback Blake Bortles, who eventually lost his job after signing a big-money contract.
The Oakland Raiders are 2-10 despite having signed head coach Jon Gruden to a 10-year, $100-million contract. The decline of quarterback Derek Carr has been problematic.