So the NFL regular season's over and the playoffs begin Saturday and there's one stat from the season that we find almost as amazing as LT's 31 TDs: In the NFC there were 10 teams that had a poorer record than the Giants; 10 that couldn't beat out Herm Edwards's Chiefs in the AFC. Seems hard to believe but there it is. So if you root for any of those 20 teams what do you have left? Hopes for the future? Dreams of great drafts and brilliant free agent signings? Or do you face weeks of excuses? Blame and finger pointing? Avoidance? Maybe a few lies?
OK, you're a fan of the Detroit Lions and you blew a chance at the No. 1 pick and you still hope that the Ford family which owns the team could finally get something right and make a change at the top and then you read this:
``I'll never quit,'' Lions President **** ****** said in an interview. ``I can't do that. I don't even consider that. It's the way I'm made.'' The reign of the current Lions president has been such an obscene failure we censor ourselves from using his name.
And the Fords, showing the ingenuity that has taken their car company down the tubes, think this it's a good idea that **** ****** stay on. So now Lions fans face an off-season of knowing the worst may be yet to come; the draft holds perilous possibilities with wideouts like Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson and USC's Dwayne Jarrett available for **** ****** to pick. We don't need to go over the team's recent grim draft history. Lions fans be afraid, be very afraid.
You're a Dolphins fan and you think back to the season opener when Genius Coach didn't drop a replay flag where any official could see it and the Steelers got away with one. That is when you Phinfans should have known what was coming. GC signed the wrong free agent QB (hoo boy did he ever) and late in the season All World DE Jason Taylor starts making noise about retiring. This is not good. And all through the final days of the lost season, GC is promising, guaranteeing, assuring that all that talk about him going back to college and coaching Alabama was just talk. See there was one problem: each time GC made those promises, his lips moved. And that, we have found, is a pretty sure way to know a coach is lying. Just once, once, maybe one of these guys could tell the truth. No wait, what fun would that be? Never mind.
How much do you think Miami God Don Shula enjoyed trashing GC when he went to Alabama, there to replace MG's son Mike as Bama coach. He did everything but click his heels that the wicked Genius was gone.
So Phinfans get their choice of a whole new cast of (lack of) characters to cool their offseason. And now there's news that Ricky Williams is planning a Miami return. Can it all get any better?
And out West, it seems Al Davis thought about giving Art Shell another chance and apparently thought better. Now Art was a great offensive lineman in his day as a Raider player and a fairly successful coach in his first go-round with the Raiders. Now he's clueless and silent. While all around him are losing their heads, and the football, too, Art is doing nothing. When he admitted a mistake about two thirds through the season in his hiring of his old pal (and once and future bed and breakfast operator) Tom Walsh as O coordinator, Art turned to John Shoop, who soiled the sheets in Chicago in years past. The difference? The offense under Walsh averaged an anemic 11 points a game. Shoop took over and coordinated that unit all the way to an average of 7.2 points a game. We know there are a number of huge Raiders fans in the Nation, but if Art comes back as coach (and Shoop along with him) you have no chance at any joy.
You see a pattern here? Teams stink in the NFL for a reason. Bad coaching, bad managing, bad drafts, and, sometimes, just bad players.
Then there's a team like the Arizona Cardinals. Could there be hope out in the desert? There is definitely lots of playing talent but an offensive line might help. There is a great new stadium to play in. And there is some great football being played there. Unfortunately it's being played in college bowls, not NFL games. But best news of all: Denny Green was told to take his arse, his crown and his microphone and get lost. Of course the Cardinals have a long tradition of failure. Their franchise dates to 1898 (really) and in that time they've won all of two championships. Would it surprise anyone to recall that their roots are in Chicago, city of White Sox and Cubs and Blackhawks? Can't help but feel that any real hope a Cardinal fan (there are some, yes?) has is false hope at best.
Let's see who else missed and what do those fans have to contemplate all winter, spring and summer?
- Bengals: Marvin how ya gonna keep ‘em out of jail after they've seen Cincinnati. Oh, and while you're at it, practice that long snap, please.
- Packers: "Should I stay or should I go?" Brett you were, and really still are a great player, but you are NOT taking this team to the playoffs ever again. I vote go and will promise to support you for the Hall as soon as you're eligible.
- Minnesota: Every time you think there's progress, another player does something incredibly stupid off the field. Latest beauty was WR Travis Taylor who took on some cops outside a club. At least the Vikes got their foolishness onto dry land.
- Buccaneers: Who's your QB? It's definitely not any of the ones who finished the season (Rattay and Gradkowski). Can it possibly still be the horribly injured and recently re-signed Chris Simms? Chucky's got some issues.
- Redskins: Now far be it from a fan of the Big Blue Team of Destiny to revel in the lack of success of the Deadskins but tee-hee. Don't know what Coach Gibbs was thinking by staying with Brunell so long but it sure cost them. Now, Coach Gibbs is saddled with those ridiculously expensive and marginally successful O and D coordinators and the offseason at Redskin Park could be awfully stressful. NASCAR, NASCAR, NASCAR.
- Jaguars: Man, Jack Del Rio looked good coaching in a suit. But again, who's your QB, nobody loves the receivers but this may be a team with real hope. They couldn't beat out the Chiefs, but still.
- Bills: This team lost to the Lions and if that's not enough to make you lose hope, what could be?
- Rams: Again a team with hope even if it couldn't do better than the Giants for god's sake. Steven Jackson is a top fantasy pick next summer if nothing else. And the really good news: they're another season removed from Mike Martz.
- 49ers: An offseason of wonder for you Niner fans: Is Alex Smith really a good QB? Is Frank Gore really the best RB in the NFC? (Memo to Bryant Gumbel: Frank Gore plays for the Niners, Al Gore plays politics.)
- Steelers: The Big Chin says he's not sure about next season; the Rooneys want (and deserve) an answer. By the time you read this, the decision may be made and the Steelers will look for a new coach for the second time since 1969. Of course, if an extra few million bucks should float from the Rooney's checkbook into the Chin's bank account, well, they may not have to. For now: expect Cowher to sit a year in North Carolina and hope that the Panthers have another off year.
- Titans: Good news comes in 2 letters: VY.
- Texans: At least they can't blow the first pick in April's draft.
- Falcons: At least Jim Mora Jr. will now shut up about the team. Jim Mora Sr., not so sure.
- Panthers: Injuries, age and the looming presence of that Chin is what you fans can look forward to.
- Browns: So boring a team, they should change the name to the Beige.
- Broncos: We had some fun with this list but now we have to say how sorry we are to the team and the players and the family of Darrent Williams. By all accounts he was going to be a good player and a much better guy and we all know the NFL needs a lot more of those.