Ahh, the sweet, warm smell of training camp. It's a time when "pundits" gush breathlessly about how good each player looks in practice, and a time when hopelessly naive and wishful thinking clouds the minds of teams, players and fans all across this vast football-loving land.
Fans, coaches and players in 32 cities think that their team has a shot to win it all. They're fabricating in their twisted little minds the scenarios that will allow their hopelessly overmatched second-rate franchise to rise from oblivion and hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Of course, fans in 31 of these 32 cities are dead wrong.
Naturally, it takes an outlet with the sober, shocking reality of a baseball bat to the lungs to snap these feeble fans and reporters out of their dreamy summer reverie and to shower them with the chilly truth of the Cold, Hard Football Facts. The reality is that there's a 96.9 percent chance that your team's season will end with frustration and disappointment. The truth is that your team sucks, and has no shot of winning sh*t this year.
So get over youself, foootball fans and pigskin "pundits." Snap back to reality. Here's the reason why your team sucks and has no chance to win it all this year. See our NFC edition here
The promising Joe Flacco Era has produced just more of the same: a one-dimensional, defense-dominated team.
The Ravens have ranked No. 3 in scoring defense each of the past two years, but 11th and 9th in scoring offense. It's decent. It's encouraging. But it hardly makes the Ravens the second-coming of the 1972 Dolphins. And it was this slightly-above average offense that failed the team in its biggest game of 2009, a punchless 20-3 loss to the Colts in the divisional playoffs. Flacco, for his part, was awful: 20 of 35, 189 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT.
Trent Dilfer, the guy who threw one pick in four playoff games in 2000, shook his head in shame at that flaccid Flacco performance.
You can't win in the NFL without a quarterback and, well, here's some news for you Buffalo: You don't have a quarterback.
All three QBs on the Bills roster with game experience share a statistical curiosity. All three have thrown more picks than TDs – a true statistical miracle here in the era of big passing stats, when a 2-to-1 TD-INT ratio is the norm for a competent QB.
Here are the four QBs hoping to lead Buffalo to another 6-10 season: Brian Brohm (0 TD, 2 picks in two NFL seasons), Trent Edwards (24 TD, 25 picks, three seasons), Ryan Fitzpatrick (21 TD, 27 picks, five seasons). And then there's rookie Levi Brown, who we believe is the dude who knocked up Sarah Palin's daughter.
Perhaps this is a good time to remind Bills fans that your old coach benched Doug Flutie before the 1999 playoffs, dickhead. The Curse of Flutie will live forever
, and you have only your feeble-minded owner to blame. You deserve all the misery that has come your way.
Bad organizations make bad decision, and we could write a book about the bad decisions that your team has made in the post-Paul Brown years.
Bad decisions surrounding wide receivers seem to be a speciality in recent years (Laveranues Coles underproduced last year, Antonio Bryant has yet to practice this year). All Cold, Hard Football Facts readers know that receivers are the last piece of a championship puzzle, the last position you look to fill when all others are solid. The Bungles are completely unaware of this eternal truth of pro football.
The latest bad decision came just last week, when Cincy cornered the market on petulant prima donna wide receivers by signing Terrell Owens. No doubt, Owens, back in his day, was one of the great productive receivers in history. But, like all receivers, he was a role player, and not the difference between championships. And last we saw, Owens was struggling (55 catches, 5 TDs) with the 6-10 Bills (another pathetic franchise that took a shot on an aging wideout when they had so many other needs)>
The only conclusion we can come to is that Cincy management was making a cynical move not to improve the product on the field, but to drum up the drama, the publicity and the ticket sales. Cincy fans who fall for it are suckers who follow a sucker organization.
We don't need to take the wind out of your sails, Cleveland. Eric Mangini did it for you a few weeks ago when he announced the all-important QB job "is Jake Delhomme's to lose
We'll hold out hope for you, Broncos fans, when the day dawns on Denver with the knowledge that the season lasts more than eight games.
Instead, strong starts and pathetic second-half implosions have become the hallmark of your organization in recent years. Let's recount the recent track record:
2009 – 6-0 start, 2-8 finish
2008 – 4-1 start, 4-7 finish
2007 – 5-5 start, 2-4 finish
2006 – 7-2 start, 2-5 finish
Ohh, football is such a fickle bitch, Broncos fans. Each year for the past four you thought you were watching a contender, only to learn so cruelly that you were watching a pathetic pretender. We can't explain it. But we do know that institutional trends develop within organizations so strong that they survive changes of players and leadership. So far, Denver's inability to play 16 games has all the makings of one of this deep-seeded institutional flaws.
The NFL has done everything in its power to make expansion franchises competitive as quickly as possible, yet yours Texans continue to flounder about like a floppy fish gasping for water on the deck of the Goodship Gridiron.
You're now an organization in which mediocrity (such as 8-8 and 9-7 records) passes for success.
The NFL added two teams in 1995. By 1996, both the Jaguars and Panthers played for the right to go to the Super Bowl. The Seahawks and Buccaneers joined the NFL in 1976. The Seahawks suffered just two losing seasons before piecing together back-to-back winning campaigns. The Bucs won the old NFC Central and reached the conference title game in 1979, and then reached the playoffs in 1981 and 1982. The Dolphins were an AFL expansion team in 1966. But the early 1970s, they were dominating the NFL. The Vikings and Cowboys were both expansion teams in the early 1960s and dominant NFL powers by the end of the 1960s.
And then there's Houston: now entering its ninth season in the NFL, it's never reached the playoffs and has only one winning campaign under its belt: last year's 9-7 effort. We'd like to call it something to hold out hope for. But in the history of expansion franchises, Houston has really given us nothing.
Hmm, let's see if this rings a bell, Colts fans:
show video here
As we've long noted, watching your overrated QB blow it in the biggest game of the year is par for the course at the Manning Country Club. We expect more of the same in 2010. Sorry, girls.
Your Pittsburgh Lite strategy is simply not working.
Coach Jack Del Rio has tried to emulate the traditional Steelers strategy of winning with a run-first offense and a beefy defensive front. The difference is that Pittsburgh has paired that strategy with a clutch, big-game quarterback and a shutdown pass defense to win championships.
The Jaguars have failed miserably in both counts. David Garrard was almost perfectly mediocre last year (83.5 passer rating), while the pass defense was among the very worst in football (dreadful 96.0 Defensive Passer Rating).
As we noted in the offseason
, The NFL is all about the passing game, yet the Jaguars seem obsessed with running the ball on offense and building a stocky run group of run stoppers on defense. They must change this mindset to become legit contenders.
Hank Stram's not walking through that door, Chiefs fans.
Coaching decisions have consequences, as Chiefs fans learned the hard way when the team hired Herm Edwards back in 2006 to replace Dick Vermeil. It was a bad decision at the time, and we immediately lambasted the organization for making the move. There was no reason to believe the team would win with Edwards. There was every reason to believe that he'd drive the team into ruin.
And drive the team into ruin he did. The Chiefs were 10-6 and fielded one of the league's best offenses (403 points) in 2005, the last season under Vermeil. It took Edwards just three years to turn that 10-6 team with the high-powered offense into a 2-14 team with a dreadful offense.
So Edwards was out. And the Chiefs brought in the proven winner ... Todd Haley? Here's a guy who rode Kurt Warner's prolific arm to a single Super Bowl appearance during a brief two-year stint as the offensive coordinator at Arizona. And somehow the Chiefs saw in him the guy to lead the organization to the promised land.
Sooner or later the Kansas City organization will realize that success starts at the top. Sooner or later, they'll bring in the big-name coach who's proven he can build winners. Until that day, expect the misery to continue in KC.
The cowardly Lion had no courage, the tin woodsman had no heart, the scarecrow had no brain, and the Dolphins got no identity.
Seriously, who are the Dolphins these days? The organization has produced little in the way of big stars, big wins or signature moments over the past decade. Sure, the wildcat offense of the past couple years was a curious (and much-needed) little twist in a league desperate for innovation. But it's produced few tangible results on the field.
At the end of the day, it's a franchise that's been in search of an identity since the end of the Dan Marino days and in search of a title for nearly 40 years. Some Miami fans still seem deluded by the notion that this is an elite NFL franchise, a status Miami enjoyed for a good 30 years. But young football fans certainly don't think of Miami as an elite organization. Hell, the team even ceded its long-held title of NFL's winningest franchise last year
Instead, it's an organization that's been searching to find itself for a decade ... and failing in the process.
The glory days are long gone, Patriots fans. Tom Brady is one of three players on the training camp roster who's been on New England's three Super Bowl teams (Kevin Faulk, Matt Light).
Blame your "genius" coach who couldn't manage a draft with Cliff and Normy by his side.
Bill Belichick has been in a desperate search for shutdown pass defenders since he last harvested one in 2003 (Asante Samuel). Instead, he's produced one or two unproductive picks in the secondary every year since it's the single greatest reason why the once-promising dynasty has failed to win another championship for five straight years. The organization will not win again until it finds a way to field the kind of lockdown secondary that helped lift it to three Super Bowl titles way back in the day.
From the old Shea Stadium to Giants Stadium to the New Meadowlands – hell, even to Wall Street – few people get out ahead of reality faster and farther than New Yorkers in general, and Jets fans in particular. Perhaps it's the inflated sense of self worth you get living amid the vast magnificence of Gotham.
But whatever the reason, Jets fans always think their team is better than it really is, and you can sense that vibe coming out of New York this year with all the subtle stench of a Staten Island trash dump.
The Jets had a great run last year, a 9-7 team that fought for the right to go to the Super Bowl. And Rex Ryan's defense certainly lived up to the hype: the league's top unit by every measure, including in our Quality Stats.
But at the end of the day it was a one-dimensional team with plenty of woes on offense and at quarterback. And there's no reason to believe that second-year QB Mark Sanchez and washed-up old running LaDainian Tomlinson suddenly make this a Super Bowl caliber offense.
Al Davis is still your owner.
And here's a sobering list of numbers: 65.0, 76.1, 76.0, 56.2, 70.9, 71.6, 62.0. That's not the average monthly temperature in Oakland. It's not even the blood-alcohol level of the average Raiders fan on game day.
Nope, it's the year-by-year teamwide passer rating since the club's devastating Super Bowl loss in 2002. Not once in the seven years since then have the Raiders posted an average passer rating, and in 2003, 2006 and 2009 the passing attack was about 20 points or more below the league median. Can't win if you can't pass, folks.
Your franchise quarterback was melted away right before our very eyes. We've always liked Ben Roethlisberger as a quarterback. The bottom line is that the Steelers re-emerged as true Super Bowl contenders the day he took command of the offense.
But right now he's about as popular as a blanket of small pox in a Mohican tee-pee. You know it's bad, when dirt bag rapper Eminem is making fun of your lifestyle in his "songs." Of course, Roethlisberger has never been charged with a crime. And even a lengthy Sports Illustrated profile this summer essentially accused him of nothing worse than being an arrogant dickhead. But, hell, we were arrogant dickheads, too, when we were 25 – and we had no money and no Super Bowl rings.
So Steelers fans and the organization has to do a little soul searching: do you want to keep winning, or do you want your QB to win Boy Scouts medals? If you want the latter, good luck. If you want the former, get off your high horse and get behind two-time champion, big-game QB Big Ben.
Just don't follow him into the bathroom any time soon.
You just paid $36 million to your record-setting franchise quarterback ... oh, wait, that's what you paid your TIGHT END? Are you f*ckin' kidding us? A tight end? $36 XX-large for Antonio Gates? You guys suck.
Now, we now he's a prolific and productive pass-catching tight end. But it's moves like this on offense that has made the Chargers who they are today: a consistently glitzy, high-powered outfit that also consistently fails to win it all.
It's a signing indicative of an organization that's never learned anything over the past 47 fruitless years of harvesting the fields of NFL success. As the Cold, Hard Football Facts have chronicled over the years, the Chargers have an institutional aversion to piecing together balanced teams. Instead, what they've given us over the years, is a series of glitzy, high-scoring teams that simply fail to get it done time and again in the postseason.
The recent years have been no exception. The Chargers have finished in the top five in scoring each of the past six years. What do the Phillip Rivers' Chargers have to show for it? The same thing that the John Hadl, Dan Fouts and Drew Brees Chargers had to show for it. The same thing the 2010 Chargers and their $36 million tight end will have to show for it: N-O-T-H-I-N-G.
Jeff Fisher is still your coach.
Yes, we realize it's politically incorrect in pigskin circles to criticize Fisher. He's something of a sacred cow for some reason, constantly praised for his tough teams and the fact that he's survived 16 straight years as a coach with the same team.
But perceived toughness and obvious longetivity alone are not something to worship. The truth is that Fisher's clubs are wildly inconsistent: a series of bad to mediocre teams puncuated here and there by brief periods of near-success that make it unpopular to send him packing. In the last five years, Fishers Titans have won as few as four games and as many as 13.
And it's been six years as they tasted so much as a single playoff victory, and the one Super Bowl appearance in his 15 years ended with a loss -- and that was a decade ago.
The 2009 season summed up the frustrating inconsistency of the Fisher Years in the space of five short months: Tennessee stumbled out of the gates at 0-6, including a 59-0 loss to the Patriots, the biggest beat-down any NFL team has suffered in 30 years. Then they beat up a bunch of second-rate teams over the final half of the year to manage an 8-8 record.
Still, everybody loves Jeff Fisher ... everybody, it seems, but the Cold, Hard Football Facts. We love coaches who produce Super Bowl champs
. And, so far, we have 15 years worth of evidence that tells us that Fisher does not produce champions. He won't produce one again in 2010.