Epic Degrees of FAIL: The NFC

We handled the AFC last night, and now assess the things that killed the hopes of the 10 teams that failed to make the playoffs in the NFC, ranked from least devastating to the most.

At Least The Building Blocks Are There

Chicago Bears – Buck up, Chi-town. Even though you missed the clear shot at a Wild Card slot (and a shot at your division-winning rivals in Minnesota this weekend), you gained this: a QB with the serious potential to be franchise in Kyle Orton and an RB who is definitely franchise in Matt Forte.  Now,  if you can get an actual receiver in there, because Devin Hester hasn’t quite developed hands yet and you can’t throw it to Greg Olsen and Des Clark all the time. Oh, right. Another safety and a corner to shore up when Mike Brown winds up on IR every year wouldn’t hurt, but still, you’re not grasping at straws or anything.

Washington Redskins – 6-2 followed by a 2-6 and a .500 finish. There was going to be lag with Jason Campbell trying to learn yet another offensive system and a first-year head coach who’d never been an OC trying to learn the ropes. O-line and some front-seven help are needed here; more important is that your megalomaniac of an owner relax for a four-year period and not panic. Fear not, Children of the Zorn.

Coming Out Of The Haze

San Francisco 49ers – Gee, if the Yorks had known that concentrating some authority in one person and hustling Mike Nolan out of town would have resulted in some hustle and heart, they’d have canned him earlier. Mike Singletary did all the things Mike Nolan wouldn’t: hold players accountable, reign in the OC who probably thought the interim title would be his, and gave the team some semblance of an identity with wins it probably wouldn’t have pulled out mere weeks ago.  Plus, he’s funny:

Touch Me, I’m Sick

Seattle Seahawks – Sometimes a team just accumulates so many injuries that it’s absolutely impossible to compete, even in the sport’s worst division. Losing somewhere in the range of five wideouts in the first few weeks of the season along with a chunk of secondary and watching the QB suffer through back problems (i.e., getting old) put a crimp in the O-Dub Mike Holmgren’s (OW = Original Walrus) last season. Looks more devastating than it actually was because of the cumulative craptacular year it turned out to be for Seattle sports fans, and at least Seahawks fans know Seneca Wallace can play QB well enough if Matt Hasselbeck is still down.

You Can Spell “Post-Season” Without a D, But You Won’t Get There Without One

Green Bay Packers – Saddled with a poor run defense thanks to a combination of injury and ineptitude, the Pack is fortunate that its former QB failed to make the playoffs after they shipped him off to the Big Apple, because then all the talk would have been about Aaron Rodgers not getting a playoff berth when it wasn’t really his fault.

New Orleans Saints – One year later, a trade for Jonathan Vilma, and the beefing up of the secondary, and the Saints’ D is still best described as Cover Zero.  This naturally put the onus on Drew Brees to sling for more than 5,000 yards just to keep them at the .500 level. (We’ll leave the less-than-stellar Jeremy Shockey trade out of this, except to note that the front office burned a couple of useful draft picks that could have gone to shore up said D for the former Giant; however, I still like Shockey and one year isn’t enough to judge a trade like that.)

There Are No Responsible Adults In Charge Here

St. Louis Rams – Very, very lucky that there are more visibly dysfunctional organizations in bigger cities to draw attention away from the void left by the death of The Showgirl, the lack of anyone with football acumen in the organization, and a head coach much too far in over his head in Scott Linehan. I mean, what do you say about a team that decides the best choice to back up a frequently injured QB (Marc Bulger, victimized by his O-line yet again) is another frequently injured QB who has concussion issues (Trent Green)?  Jim Haslett went from sure thing to have the “interim” removed after two surprise wins to “oh, now we remember why he got fired in New Orleans” right quick.

The Reverse Gipper Effect

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – D-coordinator Monte Kiffin wanted honesty and admitted what everyone knew: that he was joining his son Lane at UT come next season, and his mostly veteran defense decided to tip the scales to the side of “old” by giving up gashes of rushing yardage in its last four games (all losses), much more than Tampa’s relatively low-scoring O could hope to keep up with. New DC Raheem Morris must know an overhaul and refreshing of the Tampa Two is a necessity. Only pro: Antonio Bryant at least gives them somewhat of a #1 receiver now.

Bad Scene, Everyone’s Fault

Dallas Cowboys – Tony Romo is the A-Rod of football, T.O. is T.O., one Roy Williams is washed up and the other disappeared after coming to Dallas, Jason Garrett is in danger of being a flash in the pan OC, the secondary was too banged up to be useful, Adam Jones was dumb enough to get in a fight with his bodyguard, Flozell Adams false starts at least once a game, Patrick Crayton talks like he’s a #1 receiver but drops it like a guy who’s stuck to the bottom of the depth chart, the folks not named DeMarcus Ware on the D found their games a bit too late. All of this culminated is a wonderful display of Schadenfreude against the Ravens in the last game at that dumb-ass Hole in the Roof, and the final indignity of five consecutive offensive possession ending in a turnover at Philly (two of them resulting in defensive touchdowns.) Jerry Jones really can’t fire Wade Phillips because the presumptive replacement (Garrett) isn’t any better, and really, this team’s collapse has his fingerprints on it more than Wade’s.

Hitting Rock Bottom Usually Involves Admitting You Have A Problem

Detroit Lions – It’s really not enough to be the first team to go 0-16. A combination of overmatched head coach, coordinators who had no business being coordinators, a starting line-up consisting of some players who wouldn’t crack third-string on other teams, wrapping up the disastrous reign of a geeneral manager who had no business being a general manager….and yet, this futility over the 45-year ownership tenure of William Clay Ford, Sr. is not likely to change — because he just promoted two of the front office types involved in this wanton display of destruction to team president and general manager. It’s not enough to go winless throughout an entire NFL season, which is hard work in and of itself. It’s taking steps that could give some of us the idea that the franchise intends to do the same thing all over again in 2009, and that I believe it could actually happen.

3 Responses

  1. Just when I thought the Orioles were the worst organization in sports, along come the Lions. It’s so cold in the D :)

  2. I’ve never been a member of the Kyle Orton Fan Club, and performances like the ones he’s put up in the last three-four weeks are a big reason why. Yes, he hurt his ankle and yes, the Chicago WRs were the least open bunch in professional football and yes, Rex Grossman would probably have thrown more interceptions (although if you turn all of the lucky drops I saw into the picks they should’ve been, and KO doesn’t look too good either). All that is granted.

    But we simply cannot be having with a QB that can’t throw down the field to loosen up the defense. Love him or hate him, that’s what you got with Rex, and that’s why Lovie kept starting him. Kyle was competent enough to put some points on the board against some good, underachieving teams early in the season (Indy, Philly) in a bad year for defenses all over the league, but he’s still a caretaker QB in the mold of Jim Miller from where I sit. He’s earned the right to be the presumptive starter next year, assuming the perfect free agent doesn’t fall into our laps — but serious potential to be the franchise? Not so much.

    Matt Forte, on the other hand, is the real deal. It’s a little early to be mentioning him in the company of Walter Payton, but I feel quite comfortable mentioning him in the company of Brian Westbrook, and Chicago is a team that’s already structured to be carried on a stud RB’s back.

    Now we just need to fix the defense again — turns out that firing Ron Rivera after he took us to the Super Bowl and hiring Lovie’s BFF as a replacement was not exactly the best personnel decision after all. Funny how that works.

  3. des – there’s some digging to do.

    Ajax – we’ll never agree on this, and I think we’ve admitted as such. QBs are often as good as their wideouts, and I would rather take a caretaker who’s not going to make the ill-advised deep throw. The Bears won’t actually spend money on a QB, though….so Orton may decide to head elsewhere even if he gets better.

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