It's May in the NFL. The month of OTAs and hope springing eternal.
Except where it really doesn't.
Because we all know this is a league of haves and have nots. And it seems more extreme than ever as best I can tell, after an offseason of team after team making power moves. I believe this league is more divided than ever between the owners who are really going for it, and the ones mired in a rebuild and the ones on cruise control content – or relatively content – to reap the fiscal rewards while going through the motions on the roster side of things.
Regardless, this is a time of looking forward. With the schedule posted last week, Vegas now has early odds for every game next season. The futures betting market is at least a smidge more secure, I suppose, now that we know the entire schedule. Fools like me are writing columns about next year's playoff teams while rookie minicamp is going on, for goodness sake. So, well, I figure it's as good a time as any for fools like me to write about the franchises that are the most hapless and hopeless. There is a hierarchy (lowerarchy?) to that as well, and as far as I'm concerned there is a sub-sect of this league for whom the 2022 season itself is just a preamble to whatever they hope to accomplish in years to come.
It's a wash, well before it ever starts.
Now, there were no shortage of teams that this could apply to. But I had to draw the line somewhere. The Giants have been a joke seemingly for a decade, but they are under capable management, finally, and there is nowhere to go but up. I have some significant reservations about Zach Wilson and the Jets, but, again, I tend to think that rock bottom might be behind them. And the Jaguars are going to be really bad, still, but there is no way they could completely punt on a year of Trevor Lawrence's development again as they did under Urban Meyer, and they made a massive upgrade in Doug Pederson.
So this isn't merely about identifying the worst teams in the league. It's about shining a light on those operations that have given no sign that they are trending even minutely in the right direction. It's a warning sign to their fans to buckle up, and be wary of what is being marketed to you should you support these teams. It's gonna be a rough ride, and it's probably going to get worse before it gets better.
Do they have a discernible direction? They are basically rebuilding, except, well, don't you dare ask about Robert Quinn after they shipped off Khalil Mack. Justin Fields has been handed a crap sandwich in terms of skill players around him and the offensive line for that matter. Not sure I would be inspired by the hires they have made, especially given the way things ended with the last regime. Not much there, but an awful lot of hopes and prayers. Is there anything this team seems to be poised to be particularly good at? Has ownership gotten anything of note right anytime recently? What are their strengths? Generally, the Bears just leave me dazed and confused and I don't see much reason to expect anything less than a limp and tepid-at-best season from them. Even in the suspect NFC. Maybe they scratch out five or six wins. Godspeed.
It's pretty clear that for the second straight year ownership/team officials really, really, really wanted to hire Josh McCown as head coach, but couldn't bring themselves to do it, fearing significant backlash from the fanbase, the league as a whole and the league office as well, I presume. The optics would have been rough. Not to say McCown wouldn't have worked, but when you have two straight circuitous and bizarre coaching searches, and to say nothing of the Deshaun Watson situation, well, these are trying times. Maybe Davis Mills is the guy, but I'm not sure this is the way to find out. Yeah they have a bunch of draft picks in their pockets, but it also seems pretty clear that results in 2022 are not all that important. Again.
Going with Marcus Mariota as your starting quarterback is waving the white flag, whether they want to admit it or not. I like Arthur Smith a lot and believe he might have some special sauce to his offense, but we're not going to find out with this QB, and the defense still looks fairly brutal. This is another team that seems to be caught somewhere in between. Waited too long to unload primo talent. Never got a draft haul in return. Stuck behind two better teams in the NFC South. Figure to continue to pay the price for that for years to come. Coming up against a suspect quarterback class in the 2022 draft was another issue. I figure we see Desmond Ridder plenty in the upcoming season, so we'll know more about that. But the Falcons remain a very tough sell in Atlanta.
Not sure there is a more meandering franchise in the NFL right now. Don't have enough draft capital to restock. Chasing their own tail forever at quarterback. Shoulda sold Christian McCaffrey long ago and when they do, it will likely end up being for cents on the dollar. They have the makings of a solid enough defense, but overall it's a top-heavy roster that will continue to be bogged down by the horrible quarterback play. Can you imagine another lost season for them, stumbling around the depths of the NFL while everyone waits to see if the coach and QB come back in 2023? Yuck.
If you haven't had your fill of controversy, scandal, drama, ignoble behavior and results and a generation's worth of basically giving seasons away, well, stand back. The franchise formerly known as WFT and a racial slur are at odds with the best player on their offense, they are dealing with a constant onslaught of off-field allegations and investigations, they play in a total dump that people go out of their way to avoid and they are going to try to be the latest team to prop up Carson Wentz. Good grief. Ron Rivera wears too many hats, the flow chart and division of labor is nebulous at best, they always seem to be hunting and pecking here or there with no real endgame in sight and the buck starts with an owner who is facing probes by the NFL and on Capitol Hill. Sounds like another season where there isn't any real intrigue on the field – this outfit is going nowhere – but a sickening amount off of it.