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Rebuilding or rebounding?

March 25, 2009

Last season, there were a number of spectacular and surprising franchise turnarounds: the Dolphins, Ravens and Falcons all rebounded from horrible ’07 seasons to make the playoffs in 2008. Three clubs with more than 10 losses each the previous season all posted double-digit win totals this year, in large part thanks to adding new coaches – messrs. Sparano, Harbaugh and Smith respectively. Given that this offseason has yielded a shedload of changes from coaches, to executives, to GMs to players themselves, have any of the worst teams of ’08 done enough to ‘pull a Miami’? We’re going to look at the 5 worst franchises (in terms of their ’08 win-loss record) and see which (if any) have a chance to surprise us all this year.

Bobby Layne: enemy of Lions fans worldwide.

Bobby Layne: enemy of Lions fans worldwide.

Detroit Lions: 0-16

After having the worst record in NFL history last year, Detroit is looking to restore the roar by totally overhauling their staff. Matt ‘draft genius‘ Millen is (finally) out, and ex-Titans defensive co-ordinator Jim Schwartz replaced Rod Marinelli as the head coach. The Lions are also changing their uniforms in a hope to change the culture of losing which has produced a stagerringly shitty 1 playoff win in over 50 seasons (for which they have Bobby Layne to thank).

Schwartz is going to bring his hard-nose strategy to the Motor City, but even if they take Jesus himself with the #1 overall pick, there’s almost no chance of them having a season with more than 6-8 wins.

Rebuilding or rebounding?: Rebuilding

St. Louis Rams: 2-14

St. Louis hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2004, but the team has been especially suck-tacular in the last 2 years, amassing just 5 wins. Scott Linehan was sent packing midway through the ’08 season, and replacement Jim Fassel wasn’t a lot better so the Rams hired Giants D-coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to take over, and he’s already put his stamp on the club by releasing multi-Pro Bowl veterans Orlando Pace and Torry Holt. The defense needs serious beefing especially at cornerback and Marc Bulger’s erratic play last year is worrying despite the patchwork O-line he was playing behind. Short of one of the best draft classes yet seen, they’re a long ways from a winning season even if man-beast Steven Jackson rewrites the record books.

Rebuilding or rebounding? Rebuilding

Kansas City Chiefs: 2-14

Pioli needs to get his scheming hat on. And possibly go to SpecSavers.

Pioli needs to get his scheming hat on. And possibly go to SpecSavers.

Another bad team, another overhaul of staff. So far, so normal. However, don’t sleep on the Chiefs in 2009. New GM Scott Pioli knows his football, having crafted the perpetually successful Patriots club that’s won three Super Bowls in the last decade. Much like Bill Parcells in Miami, this is a experienced and savvy executive who’s got a good shot at the one-year turnaround. Cardinals O-coordinator Todd Haley has been given the reigns, and with a solid nucleus on offense with Gonzalez, Johnson, Bowe and now Matt Cassel (and don’t forget Tyler Thigpen’s success under center last year), they could be a handful. Defensively KC added the experience of Mike Vrabel to stabilise a talented front seven which includes DT Glenn Dorsey, DE Tamba Hali and LB Derrick Johnson. Add in their weak division, and KC is the team best geared to rebound this year.

Rebuilding or rebounding: Rebounding

Seattle Seahawks: 4-12

The ‘Hawks were perhaps the most disappointing team in the whole league last year; many people (including us) thought they were a shoe-in for the NFC West divisional crown before the season began, and yet they were the worst team in a bad division. Mike Holmgren retired as expected after the season’s finish, and his previously-named heir Jim Mora Jr. has taken the reigns in Seattle. However, unlike every other team in the worst 5, they’ve had no major front-office turnover.  They’re expected to run the same system as they did previously, and outside of last year they’ve had a good deal of success with it.

The team added high-scrabble-scoring WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh from the Bengals in free agency and traded Julian Peterson to the Lions to get DT Cory Redding, beefing up a position which has been bad for them for some time. The main plus for the ‘Hawks is the health of Matt Hasselbeck because if he’s back to 100% as expected then they have a great chance to bounce straight back to the top of one of the worst divisions in the league.

Rebuilding or rebounding? Rebounding

Cleveland Browns fans: need some coffee to wake up and smell.

Cleveland Browns fans: need some coffee to wake up and smell.

Cleveland Browns: 4-12

The Browns came crashing back to earth in 2008 after a great ’07 season. The offense took big steps backward with an unreliable receiving corps and uncertainty under center. Romeo Crennel was ousted and replaced with Eric Mangini – whose tenure with the Jets was up-and-down at best – and Phil Savage was also given the boot, with George Kokinis brought in from the Ravens to fill the GM spot.

Player-wise, the Browns traded TE Kellen Winslow to the Buccaneers and picked up free-agents CB Corey Ivy, WR David Patten and OT Floyd ‘Pork Chop’ (your guess is as good as mine) Womack, but none are going to be hugely impactful. The team needs to address its horrible, horrible D and motivate its offense which does have some potential with Braylon Edwards and 2 good QBs in Derek Anderson and Brady ‘I-love-me-some-questionable-photos’ Quinn. There seems to be much room to improve but on the current roster, even with a massively impressive draft Cleveland won’t be winning more than they lose in ’09.

Rebuilding or rebounding?: Rebuilding

And just because we’re so generous, here’s a quick breakdown of the next 5 worst teams and what we expect of them:

Cincinnati Bengals: Far too many questions on both sides of the ball. Rebuilding

Oakland Raiders: As long as Al Davis continues being himself, they’ll struggle to improve. Rebuilding

Jacksonville Jaguars: A talented core, just need a bit more depth overall and one good WR. Rebounding

Green Bay Packers: Disappointing in ’08, but Rodgers, Jennings, Hawk, Barnett et al are too good to have another bad year. Rebounding

San Francisco 49ers: Still very uncertain at quarterback and in the NFL this means you’ll struggle to succeed. Rebuilding

And just remember, only 168 days until Kickoff 2009!

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