THE STEVE SPURRIER REDSKINS
by Chris Mottram
"[He’ll] bring a supercharged, exciting and dynamic brand of football to our great fans."
This was the promise made by Dan Snyder in early 2002 on the day the Redskins hired Steve Spurrier to be their next head coach. In hindsight, it’s possibly the most depressing quote of the Dan Snyder Era, which has been one long loop of infinite sadness.
But before Spurrier even coached a game for the Redskins, his hiring was already The Most Dan Snyder Move Ever.
In January of 2001, the Redskins were coming off an 8-8 season, during which Norv Turner was fired in the middle of his sixth year as head coach after a 7-6 start. (Note: Skins fans would kill for a 7-6 start now.) Needing a new coach, Snyder hired Marty Schottenheimer, who led the Skins to another .500 season in 2001. Despite finishing the year 8-3, Schottenheimer was fired one week after the season ended. But not because he only won eight games – Steve Spurrier had just left Florida and made it clear he was ready to try out the NFL. Dan Snyder had to have him. Of course he did.
So, Snyder sent Marty on his way, along with the $7.5 million the team still owed him on the four-year deal he’d signed just one year prior. The next day, Snyder gave Steve Spurrier the biggest coaching contract in professional football history: five-years, $25 million. Snyder had now, in essence, paid $32.5 million to bring Spurrier’s "supercharged" football to Washington.
What followed was a "dynamic" preseason quarterback battle between rookie first-round pick Patrick Ramsey and two ex-Gators that would have otherwise been out of football -- Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel. Matthews was named the Week 1 starter. The 2002 Redskins QB depth chart was Matthews/Wuerffel/Ramsey.
Matthews managed to lead the Skins to a win over an awful Cardinals team in Week 1. But then Week 2 came, and Spurrier’s "exciting brand" was unleashed: It was his quarterback-by-committee approach. He’d go with the "hot hand." Matthews started Week 2 and was replaced by Wuerffel after throwing 22 passes for 67 yards. Wuerffel completed six passes, and one to the opposition. The Skins lost, and the revolving QB door started spinning.
In Week 3, both Matthews and Wuerffel saw action in a loss. In Week 5, Ramsey started, and won. In Weeks 6 and 7, Ramsey started and lost, which meant in Week 8, Matthews was the starting QB again. He was the quarterback for Weeks 8-11, but following back-to-back losses, it was Wuerffel’s turn to start in Week 12. He won. In Week 13, he lost. In Week 14, it was a rotation of Ramsey and Wuerffel in a loss. In Weeks 15-17, it was back to just Ramsey. Each QB started at least four games and appeared in at least seven. The Redskins finished 7-9, miraculously.
In 2003, the offense was reduced to only two QBs: Ramsey and Tim Hasselbeck. The rotation of quarterbacks was reeled in by Spurrier, but his Fun N’ Gun was not. Despite a porous offensive line, the Ball Coach routinely used the type of spread offenses that worked so well at Florida, going with four and five-wide sets, often resulting in a sack before the routes could develop. Ramsey was one of the most sacked QBs in the NFL. In Week 13, he was finally hurt bad enough to force Hasselbeck into the starting lineup. In Week 15, against the rival Cowboys, Hasselbeck threw four interceptions, zero touchdowns and was 6-for-26 with 57 total yards. His passer rating was 0.0. The Skins lost 27-0. It was rock bottom for the Spurrier Era. The dynamic offense was a dud. The Skins finished the season 5-11.
Of course, the Skins woes during the Spurrier Era weren’t simply because of their merry-go-round behind center. They lacked talent at every skill position (in ’02, their No. 1 WR was Rod Gardner; in ’03 their No. 1 RB was Trung Canidate), and their offensive line, as mentioned, struggled. But what led to the depression during those two years was a direct result of Spurrier’s complete ignorance. He had no idea how to put together an NFL style offense. He was committed to the Fun N’ Gun -- it was all he knew, after all. When in doubt, put another receiver on the field. And if that doesn’t fix it, maybe a different former Florida quarterback will. It was a disaster from Day 1. And there was nothing Spurrier could do to solve it.
In December of 2003, Spurrier quit after two years of his five-year deal and finished his NFL coaching career with 12 wins and $10 million of Dan Snyder’s money. Skins fans were brought out of their depression with the re-hiring of Joe Gibbs before the 2004 season. That move led to another losing season, but it was followed up with a playoff berth in ‘05. The Skins were .500 in ’04-’05, and it was a marked improvement from ’02-‘03. And this is how success is measured for Redskins fans in the 21st century: Was it as bad as the Spurrier Era? And no matter how many once-great coaches or Jim Zorns are hired, the answer will always be "no."
THE 2003-09 OAKLAND RAIDERS
by Tom Ziller
This era of Oakland Raiders football actually begins on January 26, 2003, at roughly 4 p.m. Pacific Time, when it became completely obvious to everyone watching that in the Silver and Black's first Super Bowl in two decades, the team would be completely embarrassed by the coach that the owner, Sett Ra, had traded to the Tampa Bay Bucs. To watch the second half of that Super Bowl as a Raiders fan was to bath in boiling spinach. It was complete torture as the Bucs picked off Rich Gannon time after time.
From there, it was all rainbow sherbert and donkey burgers. Bill Callahan had done what Jon Gruden could not in getting the Raiders to the Super Bowl, but Gruden exposed the Raiders in totality, and Callahan crumbled. The next season, the time went 4-12 -- yes, Super Bowl to last place. To inspire a confused fan base, the owner hired ... Norv Turner. Look at how depressing the coaching progression of this era is: Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell, Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable. That's almost as bad as the quarterback progression (Sad Rich Gannon, Kerry Collins, Andrew Walter [!], JaMarcus Russell). It's an episode of Serious Oprah stretched over six years.
There was also the matter of every truly exciting player (Randy Moss and Charles Woodson, most notably) totally tanking during their Raiders years only to return to award-winning stature after leaving. Not only were Al Davis and the Football Gods crapping on us, but the players joined in. BOO.
STUPID RYAN HUDSON AND HIS STUPID CRAPPY PATRIOTS
by Ryan Hudson, stupid jerk
The other day, the Internet's Jon Bois emailed some of the editors here at SB Nation, asking us to contribute to a piece about the NFL's "most unwatchably bad teams."
"Basically," Jon B. wrote, "we'd take turns reminiscing on the most depressing NFL eras of our lives."
"Neat idea!" I said. "Sure thing!"
Of course I’ll be able to come up with a depressing Patriots' era (oh right, I’m a Patriots fan). I know recently life’s been pretty fantastic rooting for New England, but I figured they must have had some rough patches since joining the NFL in 1970 -- after all, they recorded double-digit wins in just eight of the first 30 years in the league. And even though most of that was before my time, as people who are too lazy to specifically offer a time frame say, I was sure that Bill Parcells and Pete Carroll (how weird is that combination, by the way) brought with them some less-than-remarkable seasons in Foxboro.
My personal fandom, which began in the early 90s, around the time I was nine or 10 years old, surely had to be littered with some tough times. Seasons after season of disappointment, hopes crushed and dreams shattered. But guess what? I was wrong! Whoops!
As it turns out, the Patriots have been kind of awesome the whole time. Like, really, really awesome.
Since 1996-97, the Patriots have been to five Super Bowls, won three of them and made 11 trips to the playoffs. In those 15 seasons, New England has had just one losing season. ONE!
In the past 15 seasons, the Bengals, Lions, Cardinals, Raiders and Bills have COMBINED for 14 winnings seasons -- Just one more than the Patriots' 13.
Since I’ve been alive, the Patriots have had 18 winning seasons, with more than half coming in the past 10 years. And they’re not just edging past nine years -- New England has won 12 or more games in five of the past eight seasons.
So, yeah -- there really haven’t been too many depressing times for Patriots fans.
Add in the fact they still have arguably the best head coach and best quarterback in the NFL, an owner who just helped end the NFL lockout, a detailed and regimented system for acquiring new players, either through trade or free agency, a savvy and disciplined draft strategy and a cold willingness to cut any player on the roster, and, well, it seems like this winning could continue for some time.
Turns out, this era of being a Patriots fan is the opposite of depressing (just pressing?). To quote Louis C.K., you can’t even hurt my feelings.
Ohhhhh … this is why everyone hates us, isn’t it?
THE 1990s SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
by Brian Floyd
There was a time when the Seattle Seahawks nearly became the Anaheim Seahawks. The moving trucks showed up at the team headquarters in Kirkland, with then-owner Ken Behring hellbent on taking the team away and bringing an NFL franchise back to L.A. And he wasn't messing around. Looking back, that should've been the moment I realized what a tortured life Seattle sports fans live.
It all started in 1992 -- for me, at least. I was seven-years-old, and some of my first memories were of the Seahawks getting pasted at the Kingdome. This team was bad and had, perhaps, the worst offense to ever grace an NFL field. Mark McGwire's brother, Dan, was on the three-deep and threw 30 passes for the Seahawks that year. I had no idea Mark McGwire had a brother at the time, and I'd rather forget he, and the rest of that 1992 team -- other than Cortez Kennedy -- existed. This was a team that scored 13 touchdowns on the year -- nine passing, four rushing. But at least Cortez Kennedy won the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award.
1992 was the low-point on the field and the early months of 1996 were rock-bottom off it. The moving trucks hauled everything away to Anaheim as fans watched in horror, and the Seahawks were suddenly gone. The spring played out like something from a movie, with legal battles, buffoonery and Kennedy, a massive defensive tackle, reading his contract like a lawyer and refusing to head to Anaheim because he was obligated to play for the Seattle Seahawks.
Behring eventually relented, the Seahawks returned to Seattle and Paul Allen purchased the team and provided a stable ownership with no affinity for moving trucks. Qwest Field was built and all was well again as professional football saw a resurgence in Seattle, culminating with a Super Bowl berth in 2006.
Though the Seahawks stayed in 1996, 12 years later we watched another team disappear into the night as the Sonics became the Oklahoma City Thunder, and took with them all of our cities basketball history. Seattle, this is your sports life.
THE 2007 ATLANTA FALCONS
by Jason Kirk
You'd hate for this to turn into a competition. I'll assure us against that distraction by pointing out my team's biggest-ever star was sent to jail a day before its new head coach quit midseason.
After 2006, Falcons fans had lost patience with Michael Vick. The convenient story would have you believe his rebirth in Philly has been the result of a second chance. Not quite. Heading into 2007, he'd flipped off Falcons fans and gotten caught with what he later admitted was weed, with those events following the Ron Mexico thing and a foreshadowy pair of incidents involving his knucklehead Virginia friends, among other adventures.
Bobby Petrino took the Falcons job in March. We didn't know what to make of the college coach who'd switched teams every two or three years since 1983.
His specialty was designing offenses around quarterbacks. He claimed he could turn Vick into a 65 percent passer. Concerns aside, Vick finally getting focused, responsible coaching for the first time since 2003 was just about all we needed to hear.
There are two sides to every story, but 10 losses into a 4-12 season Petrino was grinning about his new job without having told his players good bye, other than via a one-paragraph letter. It wasn't the most shocking sudden abandonment ever. He hadn't gotten to coach Vick, pro players had scoffed at his collegiate methods and Arthur Blank didn't trust him.
Petrino didn't trust his players, either. Vick's replacement committee -- Joey Harrington, Byron Leftwich and Chris Redman -- whirled in and out of the huddle. Young Jerious Norwood, the team's best weapon, averaged six yards per carry and 10 yards per catch but sat behind veteran Warrick Dunn, who averaged 3.2 and 6.6. Offensive genius!
The day before Petrino quit, in a nationally televised blowout loss to the archrival Saints, Roddy White displayed a FREE MICHAEL VICK shirt after a touchdown and DeAngelo Hall sported MV#7 eye black. The team without a coach had watched its absent leader spend the year in court and prison, and directionless players were left looking like something out of Lord of the Flies.
Like Willie D once said, wipe that frown off your face. Your team's worst year ain't worse than the 2007 Atlanta Falcons.
THE 2007 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
by Jon Bois
2007 was sort of a bummer of a year for me. I was changing a tire when three guys cornered me and one stuck a knife at me. When I ran away, they exacted revenge by taking a tire iron to my car and rendering it legally un-driveable. So I rode my bike, and then that was stolen. In unrelated incidents, my house would be broken into three times over the course of a few months, and I would lose most possessions of value that I owned.
It was October before I finally managed to move out of the neighborhood and into a comically small studio apartment. The 150-year-old building creaked, and leaked, everywhere. The heat, for the most part, did not work. It was in this room that the 2007 Kansas City Chiefs and I made our stand.
I had actively rooted for the Chiefs since I was seven years old; in the 17 seasons that had passed, they had finished as badly as 6-10 only once, and they went to the playoffs more often than not. When they didn’t have a suffocating defense, they had an explosive offense. They were always fun. It was a long march, but a fun one, and I was somehow certain that a Super Bowl would be at the end of it.
In 2007, they continued to trace the general arc of my life and ran into the ground, finishing 4-12. Longtime quarterback Trent Green had been concussed off the team the year prior, and there was a "substitute teacher" quality to Damon Huard that would never leave him. The starts were split between him and Brodie Croyle, who was no better. The running game was good for a grand total of six touchdowns.
There was nothing fun about this team, and not only because there is nothing fun about losing the final nine games of the season. There was no element of excitement. There wasn’t a Dante Hall or top-form Priest Holmes or Joe Montana or Derrick Thomas. Or maybe there was. I may well have completely missed it.
I was far too fiscally challenged to even think about subscribing to Sunday Ticket, so I resorted to watching my team on unauthorized Internet video feeds. Usually, it would be a hopelessly blocky, hiccuping mess that would lock up every time the ball was in the air.
On one occasion, I came across a feed that, to this day, strikes me as unbelievable: it was set up by a man who, while technologically capable of setting up a live video feed, was apparently somehow incapable of making a direct video connection to the broadcast. His solution was to upload a video feed from a camcorder that was pointed at his television
It was the only feed of the Chiefs game, so I watched it. The uploader could be heard yelling at his kid, who was probably three or four. In the second quarter, during a fit of rough-housing, the kid knocked the camcorder on its side. It took nearly an hour for the man to notice. I remember trying to construct some sort of joke about Damon Huard being situated vertically for a change.
And I watched this! I watched this team, and I watched them this way! I reflected on the days when I would sit in the living room with my family, a pizza, and a bucket of Legos, and watch the Steve DeBerg Chiefs on the local broadcast. It was warm. I reflected on this while shivering under blankets, leaning forward and squinting into a computer monitor, eating Ramen noodles out of a microwavable container, trying to figure out how Herm Edwards and his pals were spending their Sunday.
I remember on one occasion sitting down, turning on the game, and thinking, "I will not enjoy this. I will sit here and watch the entire thing, and I will not see a single thing that is any good. I am not going to like any of it. I am going to hate it all." I was right. And I sat there and watched it anyway, because that is what sports to do people, and because the Chiefs were a part of me. We were at the very bottom, and we were there together.