Bell, 3-11 Gru­den lead list of NFL let­downs

Stamford Advocate (Sunday) - - Sports - NFL

The hype trains tout­ing NFL off­sea­son ac­tiv­ity typ­i­cally start leav­ing their sta­tions each Jan­uary, when new head coaches are hired and fan bases are fired up about the fresh start that sends hope soar­ing high like the foot­ball in the air on the open­ing kick­off of a game.

There’s an­other round of de­par­tures in March, when the big­gest free-agent con­tracts are signed to put some of the high­est-pro­file play­ers in the league on new teams snatch­ing up miss­ing pieces to their Su­per Bowl puz­zles. Then, the first-round draft picks clam­ber aboard at the end of April.

By December, well, the de­rail­ments are in­evitable.

From Le’Veon Bell to Jon Gru­den to Leonard Four­nette, here’s a pick-six of the big­gest dis­ap­point­ments in the NFL this year:


The mil­lions of fan­tasy foot­ball play­ers who snagged Bell for a seem­ing bar­gain in their auc­tions and drafts would whole­heart­edly agree, though the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers sur­vived the ab­sence of the two-time All-Pro run­ning back due to the emer­gence of James Con­ner and, most re­cently, Jaylen Sa­muels.

Bell bet on him­self, stead­fastly re­fus­ing to sign his fran­chise ten­der with­out the prom­ise of a con­tract ex­ten­sion one of the sport’s most dan­ger­ous po­si­tions and ul­ti­mately ac­cept­ing his in­el­i­gi­bil­ity for the sea­son . The Steel­ers didn’t blink, ei­ther, and it’s as­sumed Bell will restart his ca­reer with an­other team in 2019.


The Oak­land Raiders, eye­ing an even­tual move to Las Ve­gas, gave Jon Gru­den a 10-year con­tract worth about $100 mil­lion to re­turn to the fran­chise he got his start with as a head coach.

The Raiders are in this for the long haul, af­ter burn­ing through nine head coaches in the 16 sea­sons that passed af­ter Gru­den shed his sil­ver and black. Their 3-11 record two years af­ter a 12-4 fin­ish, how­ever, is a shaker of salt in the wound for the Bay Area loy­al­ists on the verge of los­ing their team. Watch­ing traded stars Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper thrive else­where has only made this sea­son hurt worse. No team has been eas­ier to score on this year than the Raiders, with an av­er­age of nearly 30 points al­lowed per game.


Part of a strong crop of rookie run­ning backs last sea­son, Leonard Four­nette fin­ished fifth in the league in yards rush­ing per game as the Jack­sonville Jaguars came so close to beat­ing the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots in the AFC cham­pi­onship game. The Jaguars as a team would qual­ify as the league’s big­gest let­down, so Four­nette is hardly alone. But even with a mul­li­gan for miss­ing six games be­cause of a ham­string in­jury, Four­nette has taken a clear step back.

The fourth over­all pick in the 2017 draft has av­er­aged only 3.4 yards per at­tempt (46th in the NFL) and 56.6 rush­ing yards per game (24th in the NFL). Last week in a three-point loss to Washington, Four­nette spent most of the sec­ond half on the side­line while un­drafted rookie Dave Wil­liams ate into his play­ing time.


Draft­ing a quar­ter­back in the first round is a de­ci­sion made with as much long-term view as any in the league, and suc­cess for rook­ies at this high-pres­sure po­si­tion can be aw­fully dif­fi­cult with­out strong sup­port­ing casts.

Still, more and more quar­ter­backs in their early 20s are com­ing to the NFL with the skills to be an in­stant suc­cess, and given the im­pa­tient na­ture of a re­sults-driven cul­ture, there’s been no short­age of com­plaints about Sam Darnold (third over­all pick), Josh Allen (sev­enth over­all pick) and Josh Rosen (10th over­all pick), par­tic­u­larly when judg­ing them against first over­all pick Baker May­field’s late-sea­son surge with the Cleve­land Browns. With a com­bined 30 touch­down passes against 38 in­ter­cep­tions, Darnold, Allen and Rosen have dis­played a need for more ex­pe­ri­ence and more help. The New York Jets, Buf­falo Bills and Ari­zona Car­di­nals have a col­lec­tive record of 12-20.


Sure, Chicago and Green Bay play on grass in cold cli­mates, but Minnesota and Detroit have in­door sta­di­ums. NFC North teams have en­joyed a long line of suc­cess­ful kick­ers. This year, though, has been a strug­gle, with 12-year vet­eran Matt Prater of the Lions the only spe­cial­ist whose sea­son has be­come a story. The Vik­ings cut rookie Daniel Carl­son af­ter two games and three missed field goals that cost them a vic­tory against the ri­val Pack­ers, who had their own is­sues with Ma­son Crosby. Cody Parkey ranks 28th in field goal per­cent­age for the Bears, one spot be­hind Crosby.

Phe­lan M. Eben­hack / As­so­ci­ated Press

Jaguars run­ning back Leonard Four­nette is av­er­ag­ing only 3.4 yards per at­tempt (46th in the NFL) af­ter fin­ish­ing fifth in the league in yards rush­ing per game last sea­son.

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