By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts kitnologist
When QB Jon Kitna of the Lions bragged that his team would win 10 games this year – a seven-game improvement on the 3-13 season of 2006 – we wondered if he'd been monitoring the CHFF hard drive.
Whether it's the Lions or someone else, a Cinderella story like the one Kitna foresees is more or less a lock.
Over the past 10 years, 19 teams have posted improvements of six games or more from the previous season and 19 more have dropped six games from the prior season.
Almost without exception, teams that dropped off by six or more games did so because of injury, but the ascenscions have had a myriad of causes.
- 1997 Jets +8 (Bill Parcells takes over as coach)
- 1998 Falcons +7 (Jamal Anderson rushes for over 1,800 yards)
- 1999 Colts +10 (Peyton Manning matures)
- 1999 Rams +9 (Kurt Warner and the Greatest Show on Turf)
- 2000 Saints +7 (Jim Haslett replaces Mike Ditka)
- 2000 Eagles +6 (Donovan McNabb's first full year as a starter)
- 2001 Niners +6 (defense improves from No. 28 to No. 9)
- 2001 Bears +8 (defense improves from No. 20 to No. 1)
- 2001 Patriots +6 (Tom Brady takes over as QB)
- 2002 Panthers +6 (John Fox takes over as coach)
- 2003 Bengals +6 (Marvin Lewis takes over as coach)
- 2004 Steelers +9 (Ben Roethlisberger takes over as QB)
- 2004 Bucs +6 (Bucs go 6-3 in close games after going 2-8 previous season)
- 2004 Chargers +8 (Drew Brees has dramatic comeback season)
- 2005 Falcons +6 (Jim Mora Jr. takes over as coach)
- 2005 Bears +6 (Defense improves from No. 13 to No. 1)
- 2006 Saints +7 (Sean Payton takes over as coach, Brees takes over as QB)
- 2006 Ravens +7 (Defense improves from No. 10 to No. 1)
2006 Jets +6 (Eric Mangini takes over as coach, Chad Pennington returns from injury)
Looking at it simply, there are four major ways for teams to take big steps forward: new coach, new QB, breakout offensive star or huge defensive improvement.
All of the bad teams from 2006 could fit one of those categories:
Will all of those teams find the answer? Hell no. But will one or two or three of them? You can bank on it.
Now if we could just figure out which one, we can all get rich and live in a land rich with grilled meats and naked women.