Pushing the Panic Button on the Winless NFL Teams
Even at this early stage of the season, statistically only one of the following seven winless NFL teams has any real shot at making the playoffs. Too early to press the panic button? Never. This is a full-blown case of free fall and there is not a lot of hope for these teams.
In 1993, the Cowboys started 0-2 but they also only needed to pay the man who would go on to be the all time rushing leader in the NFL in order to fix it. Re-signing Emmitt Smith during his prime had a pretty big impact. Currently, there is not a situation like that. These NFL teams are taking a long hard look at Charley Steiner and the alarms are going off.
The problem with the Washington Redskins seems to be cultural. Mike Shanahan is in year two of a two-year process attempting to prove that Robert Griffin III is not a viable long-term answer at quarterback. During Griffin’s rookie campaign, the objective was to show that Griffin’s style of play was ultimately detrimental to him playing football. The result was a playoff injury and a long off-season. This at least gets agreement that Griffin needs to be protected in the pocket.
The second step is to prove that Griffin cannot handle the quarterback position from the pocket. After the first two first halves of the season, the grumbling is already starting in DC to bench Griffin in favor of Kirk Cousins. This is not going to go over well with the Redskins fan base, but that leads to another issue. The fan base for Robert Griffin III are buying athletic jerseys not the tickets to the game. In short, Griffin is a cultural phenomenon and not necessarily a football phenomenon.
Shanahan not only wants Griffin out, he wants people to agree with Griffin being out. They are starting to. After about the first five games, the Redskins will probably start to turn it around so that Shanahan can keep his job, but who knows what will happen with RGIII.
New York Giants
Of all the teams on this list, the Giants are the ones that feel like they lost two games rather than started 0 and 2. The Dallas game is always close no matter what the record is, and Eli had not beaten Peyton in two previous attempts.
Traditionally, the Giants under Eli have been very streaky, and the next three teams on the Giants schedule are the Panthers, Chiefs, and the Eagles. The Panthers are 0 and 2 as well and it seems a lot more likely that the Giants will walk away with a win in that one than the Panthers. The Chiefs are undefeated and a nice story. However, they are going into a very emotional game against the Philadelphia Eagles and the return of Andy Reid. A 3-0 Chiefs team would be vulnerable to the Giants at that point. The Eagles are a division game and a bit of a lab experiment under first year Head Coach Chip Kelly. The Giants would seem most likely to come out of the five game stretch at 3-2.
Christian Ponder is barely a better fantasy quarterback than Chad Henne. For the record, Henne is technically a back-up on the admittedly terrible Jacksonville Jaguars. The offense is supposed to be supplied by the superhuman efforts of Adrian Peterson at running back but Peterson is averaging less than a hundred yards per game. If you took away his opening carry of the season, he hasn’t performed all that well since. If Peterson shrugged right now, the world would fall off only because it was put there and not because Peterson was holding it up.
Defense may win championships but you do actually have to out score the other team. If you can’t run or pass, then you might want to start leaving the roof down when it falls on you. The other issue is who exactly the Vikings plan on beating in their division. They certainly are not going to challenge the Packers or the resurgent Bears. The Lions have a ton of problems, but they are not terrible. Minnesota might well start hoping for ice fishing season now.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Greg Schiano regime is all told out in the statistics. If Schiano’s Bucs had held on to all of their fourth quarter leads, they would be 13-5 during his tenure. The numbers actually get worse. The Bucs have lost two games by a total of 3 points this season. Quarterback Josh Freeman only has one more completion (24) than the Bucs have penalties (23). Keep in mind that Schiano was hired primarily because he was supposed to be a disciplinarian. Teams run by disciplinarians should have more discipline than to average 12 penalties a game.
The running storyline on the Bucs is trying to figure out which players actively hate their coach and which players are attempting to get traded. Coaching is often a convenient excuse, but in this case coaching seems to be at the root of the problem.
When someone gives an interview for the Carolina Panthers, it is generally Cam Newton. When there is a story about the Carolina Panthers, the story is about Cam Newton. Everything about the Carolina Panthers is about Cam Newton.
Meanwhile, the theoretical head coach of the Carolina Panthers (Ron Rivera) is off to one of the worst starts by a head coach of all time. This terrible start also happens to coincide with the Cam Newton era. At this point, Cam Newton’s mother is probably ready for that kid to keep loosening his arm so that she can have a new favorite player.
The Cam Newton Superstar experiment is a failure. This is not to say that Cam Newton cannot be a viable quarterback in the NFL, he is just not currently a viable NFL quarterback. This is also to say that the face of the franchise now needs to be a head coach and not the quarterback. The Panthers actually need to go out and find a coach who is a bigger personality than Newton so that something approaching team development can begin.
The Browns are just starting to wake up from the Holmgren Hangover. They have a new coach as well as a new general manager and only one draft under their belt. Holmgren was proven to not be the team builder in Cleveland that he was in Seattle. In short, no one’s reputation came out of the situation unscathed. The Browns honestly deserve at least one year as well as another draft to really find a direction.
The good news is that the AFC North is really terrible. The Bengals are prohibitive favorites and the Steelers are actually on this list. The Ravens had to get rid of all of the good China just to afford Joe Flacco, and struggled to win their game against the Browns. The point is that the Browns (especially if Weeden can re-capture a little pre-season magic) may have a legitimate chance of not being a complete laughingstock. The bad news is that is really the high side of optimism here. They are still the Browns.
Does any one else remember the ‘Bad Boy’ Detroit Pistons in the early 1990s? The most electrifying image was Isiah Thomas hurting his hand punching Bill Laimbeer. That would have been a fine show of ‘some fight left in an old dog’ if Laimbeer had not actually been Thomas’ teammate.
The Steelers most exciting and promising young player (Mike Wallace) is now a member of the Miami Dolphins. Quietly, the Steelers have had a decade of a now over thirty Ben Roethlisberger. James Harrison is now with the Bengals. Hines Ward has retired. The entire defense is aging and the secondary is receiving AARP literature in the mail. The Steelers have simply held on to a successful formula for two long. They missed the playoffs last year and have not won a game this year.
Mike Tomlin’s coaching reign in Pittsburgh has always been predicated on having a winning team with a lot of winning players. We don’t know what he will do with an actual need to do much more than manage a team and not make a bad situation worse. Now, it is a bad situation. The question for Tomlin is whether or not he can make this any better with what he has left.
Twenty fans or so gathered for a rally for Tim Tebow to be signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars. The rally was actually covered by ten more journalists than people attending the rally. After it was all over, no one could decide if all of the attention was over the Tim Tebow connection or 20 people admitting to being Jaguars fans.
Tim Tebow is the only story coming out of Jacksonville and Tebow is not even on the team. A local television station apologized for being forced to air their games. This is a team which could not even convince HBO’s Hard Knocks to cover them. Keep in mind, every year that show has NFL teams turn them down.
The saddest part is that we are also talking about a franchise which once knocked John Elway out of the playoffs in Denver. The Jaguars were nearly the fastest team ever to go from expansion to Super Bowl. Now, they have made misstep after misstep into obscurity as well as perpetual relocation talks. The Jaguars once fired Tom Coughlin in order to take the ‘next step.’ Is it possible that the ‘next step’ was intended to be a step down?