Poorly run franchises are a proud NFL tradition. A combination of messy management and bad luck can sink a team to the bottom of its division and keep it there for years to come. And no team is immune; the dynastic runs of the Patriots and Cowboys came only in the wake of years upon years at the top of the draft.
The trend is alive and well in 2019. The Jets fired their general manager less than three weeks after he made the team’s selections at the NFL Draft. The Giants have spent that same stretch defending GM Dave Gettleman’s decision to draft zero-time All-ACC honoree Daniel Jones with the No. 6 pick. The Raiders’ brain trust is P.F. Chang’s most loyal customer, that guy from Monday Night Football you used to mute, and the draft analyst who thought orangutans were making a mockery of the sport.
But who is truly the most dysfunctional franchise this season?
The Giants are a shit hurricane
I feel badly for Pat Shurmur. Every time the touted offensive mind raises his stock high enough to slide back into head coaching consideration, he gets poached by a team in a hopeless situation. It happened in 2011 with the Cleveland Browns, and now it’s happening again in New York.
The Giants currently have no idea what to do with Eli Manning, the 38-year-old who is either going to be immediately replaced by Daniel Jones or start for the next two or three years instead — Gettleman isn’t sure yet. They let All-Pro safety Landon Collins leave in free agency with nothing but a likely compensatory pick in return. They shipped All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns in exchange for a safety to replace him and the No. 17 overall pick — a pick that made Gettleman’s decision to take Jones in the top 10 even more frustrating. They then used that 17th selection to select Dexter Lawrence, who replaces Damon Harrison ... who Gettleman traded away for a fifth-round pick last fall.
New York has taken a shotgun-blast approach to ship out existing stars and replace them with debuting lottery tickets. But the past year suggests any homegrown talent won’t stay for long in the belly of a franchise that’s unable to move in any one direction before spinning out, turning around, and spectacularly detouring back to mediocrity. — Christian D’Andrea
J-E-T-S, JETS! JETS! JETS!
It’s been 50 years since the Jets’ lone Super Bowl win (and appearance). They haven’t made the playoffs in nearly a decade, and they’ve finished at the bottom of the AFC East four out of the last five seasons.
When Todd Bowles was fired at the end of the 2018 season, it would’ve been logical to let general manager Mike Maccagnan go too.
Instead, the Jets let the guy who used a second-round pick on Christian Hackenberg to stick around and hire the next head coach. He chose Adam Gase, who finished with a losing record in three years in Miami and elicited an extremely “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” reaction from Dolphins players when he was axed.
Maccagnan then handpicked the newest Jets players, spending $120 million in free agency — sometimes to the objection of Gase — and drafting the rookies who will wear the team’s CFL-looking jerseys.
Fast forward a couple weeks and everyone is pointing and laughing at the Knicks for not winning the Zion draft lottery. A day later, that’s when CEO Christopher Johnson decided the Jets needed our attention again for all the wrong reasons and fired Maccagnan.
Now, team is in the hands of Gase, who has the wild-eyed lunacy of Dennis Hopper in, well pretty much everything, but especially those Nike commercials from the early 90s:
That came a few months after:
Chris Johnson says he would not hire a head coach who demanded total control #Jets— Geoff Magliocchetti (@GeoffMags5490) December 31, 2018
And a couple days after:
Adam Gase: Rumor about rift with Jets GM Mike Maccagnan “pisses me off.”— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) May 10, 2019
Story: https://t.co/Zl9x8unyio pic.twitter.com/XUfrIpspV1
And a couple hours before Gase’s first big move as interim GM was to trade 2016 first-round pick Darron Lee to the Chiefs for ... a sixth-round pick? Yikes.
Oh, and now Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley both know their new coach doesn’t think they’re worth the money they were paid.
Even if reports are true, that won’t stop me from doing what I came here to do...everyone has a job to do, and I’m gonna do mine whether peopIe “like” me or not. I’m here to win football games.— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) May 16, 2019
And they’re taking cues from the Raiders?!
Just months after NFLN Draft Analyst Mike Mayock took the Raiders’ GM job, his replacement Daniel Jeremiah is under serious consideration for a prominent front-office position with the NY Jets, per sources. NFLN Draft Analyst job has become breeding ground for front-office jobs.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 15, 2019
They could’ve let the Giants and Knicks battled for New York’s dumpster fire crown. But nope. That dishonor belongs to the Jets, a team that birthed The Buttfumble and had Bill Belichick as its head coach for one day before he went to New England to begin his dynasty. Bravo. — Sarah Hardy
The Bengals? More like the Bungles
The Bengals have to be on the Mount Rushmore of cheap sports franchises. For a team that drafts relatively well, they really struggle to retain some of their top talent.
Let’s rewind the clock back to 2015. The Bengals had one of the best offenses in the league. Andy Dalton finished second in the league in passer rating, Cincinnati was ranked seventh in points per game, and the Bengals won the AFC North with a 12-4 record.
Unfortunately, Dalton got injured and the Bengals ended up losing in the Wild Card Round to the Steelers, continuing their decades-long playoff winless streak. That offense was loaded with players. Andrew Whitworth, Kevin Zeitler, Mohamed Sanu, and Marvin Jones were key cogs on that playoff team. None of them are still on the team.
Letting Whitworth and Zeitler walk in free agency was especially confusing. Whitworth has been one of the best left tackles in the NFL over the past decade and was a fan favorite. After the Bengals lowballed him, he signed with the Los Angeles Rams prior to the 2017 season and has still been a shutdown left tackle.
Zeitler was the Bengals’ first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and became everything they could want in a guard: a monster in the run game and the pass game. But Cincinnati just refused to pay him and he ended up signing a five-year, $60 million deal with the rival Cleveland Browns.
What happened next was fairly predictable. The Bengals were unable to replace two stud offensive linemen and their offense immediately fell off a cliff. They were eventually able to help fill the void left by Sanu and Jones with Tyler Boyd, but they haven’t been able to replicate that 2015 success.
When you have extremely talented players, open up the checkbook for them — especially when you have the cap space to do it, and the Bengals almost always do. — Charles McDonald
The Jaguars blew their only Super Bowl window in a decade
The Jaguars have never had a great quarterback. You might be saying, “Hey what about Mark Brunell? David Garrard?” but calling them anything more than “OK” is a stretch. When Blake Bortles threw 35 touchdowns in 2015, he destroyed the franchise record for touchdown passes in a season by 12 freakin’ touchdowns.
There were 15 players in 2018 who would’ve had the second-most prolific passing season in franchise history if they were in a Jaguars uniform. That includes Baker Mayfield, who had 27 touchdowns as a rookie in only 13 starts.
Maybe their historical lack of success at the position is why they’re still so hilariously terrible at evaluating it. After a dominant defense and a powerful rushing attack got the team to the AFC Championship in January 2018, the Jaguars decided Bortles was worth a three-year, $54 million contract extension. Everyone who has watched Bortles play football laughed and — one year later — the quarterback was released, sticking the team with $16.5 million of self-inflicted dead cap space.
The solution to the problem — in Jacksonville’s eyes — was giving Nick Foles a four-year, $88 million deal. That mammoth deal that includes $50 million guaranteed came despite the fact that there were no other significant suitors for Foles. According to Mike Garafolo, the Jaguars paid him that much because “they need Foles to walk in there and be the leader” and were worried he wouldn’t get the same respect at a lower salary. Smart!
Is Foles worth that much? Nope. He’s inconsistency personified with a passer rating at 96 or higher in three seasons and a rating below 82 in four seasons. He posts outstanding completion percentages by being arguably the best passer of all time at checking down well short of a first down.
The Jaguars could’ve drafted Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson in 2017. Lamar Jackson was on the board in 2018, and they could’ve gone after Dwayne Haskins or Drew Lock this year. Instead, Jacksonville’s first bit of relevance in the last decade is circling the drain because of the team’s staggering inability to find a worthwhile quarterback. — Adam Stites
The Chokeland Raiders, amirite?
The NFL is much more fun when the Raiders are good and able to be the bad guys. They make perfect villains. The problem is that the only people they’re terrorizing are their own fans (and the Steelers, once every other year or so, for some reason).
Reggie McKenzie was far from the best general manager in the NFL, but he inherited a Raiders team that was happily paying Richard Seymour and other veterans far too much money. The team was still recovering from bringing in guys like JaMarcus Russell (ahahaha) and Kwame Harris (AHAHAHAHA), and it had no first-, second-, third-, fourth-, or seventh-round draft picks for that year.
When McKenzie took over in 2012, the Raiders were more than $30 million over the salary cap thanks to the mismanagement of Al Davis, whose propensity to meddle and make poor decisions really hurt the team.
McKenzie purged the bad contracts, and slowly — very slowly — brought the Raiders around. He got rid of Hue Jackson, Seymour, Michael Huff, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Rolando McClain. Carson Palmer was the face of the franchise for a while, a move that was made by Jackson before he was let go, but McKenzie eventually traded him. He then added standouts like Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, and Amari Cooper, bringing together a young core that would likely lead the Raiders back to contention.
Except it didn’t. The Raiders went 12-4 in 2016, with McKenzie being named Executive of the Year. But soon Mark Davis started butting in again, sacking Jack Del Rio and giving Jon Gruden a stupidly large contract ($100 million, if you forgot) and full control over the roster, making McKenzie redundant.
Gruden, a man who many believe was and still is stuck in the past, quickly dispatched with McKenzie and then proceeded to absolutely decimate the Raiders roster. Mack and Cooper were both traded, and instantly became stars for their new teams.
Now the Raiders have Gruden, a depleted roster severely lacking in young talent, and just turned three first-round picks into a “C” draft grade.
Oh, and I didn’t even talk about the absolute shitshow that was (and is) their relocation to Las Vegas. A terrible back-and-forth with the city of Oakland went nowhere, fans were misled, arguments over nothing occurred, and the Raiders are heading to Vegas next year. I’m sure they’ll be well-liked there — look at the Vegas Golden Knights — but it’s essentially twisting the dagger that’s been stuck in the hearts of Raiders fans for well over a decade now. — James Brady