Fixing The Worst Teams In The NFL


by Chris Boyle

As the saying goes, the first step is admitting you have a problem.

Just looking at the record of the five worst teams in football, we’re well beyond that point.

The Browns, 49ers, Bears, Jaguars and Jets are just about the only franchises practically – or in Cleveland’s case, mathematically – eliminated from the playoff race. With that in mind, it’s time to turn to the future and look at solving the problems.

Here’s what each team needs to do in order to achieve a turnaround.

Cleveland Browns (0-11)

The Browns have five more chances to avoid matching the 2008 Detroit Lions’ dubious distinction of completing a winless, 16-game season. Cleveland struggles in just about every aspect, ranking 30th in scoring (16.7 points per game), 31st in points allowed (29.5), 27th in passing (218.1 yards per game) and 25th in rushing (93.0 ypg).

Cleveland’s top priority should be to keep Hue Jackson, regardless of record. The Browns dismissed each of their last four head coaches – Eric Mangini, Pat Shurmur, Rob Chudzinski and Mike Pettine – in two years or less. There’s been no time to establish a culture, build through the draft and maintain consistency. Plus, if you fire Jackson, what message does that send to potential replacement candidates?

From there, Cody Kessler deserves a longer look at quarterback. Considering the relatively weak crop at the top of the 2017 draft board, Cleveland can’t afford to gamble on a young passer. Myles Garrett could do wonders to improve a stagnant pass rush.

San Francisco 49ers (1-9)

This is another situation in which it’s fair to ask – Where to start?

Is Colin Kaepernick the answer at quarterback? He’s completed only 53.1 percent of his passes and averaged 174.7 passing yards per game.

To be fair, Jeremy Kerley – previously the New York Jets’ slot specialist – is the team’s leading receiver.

But, the 49ers’ first priority needs to be addressing the run defense. They have been embarrassing against opposing running backs this season, allowing 179.5 yards per game – that’s nearly 36 yards per game more than any other team in football. San Francisco, unsurprisingly, surrenders a league-worst 31.3 points per game.

Heavily investing in the front-seven, via the draft and free agency, is a must.

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8)

Gus Bradley, by all accounts, is a good man, and a perfectly adequate defensive coach. Unfortunately, he’s going to fall on the sword at season’s end, currently holding an all-time head coaching record of 14-44.

With that in mind, the Jaguars should hire a quarterback-centric head coach. Blake Bortles’ mechanics have regressed terribly, and his decision-making hasn’t been much better. In 40 career games, Bortles has thrown 10 pick-sixes – the most in the league over the last three seasons.

But with an affordable, fully guaranteed contract, he’s likely not going anywhere this offseason. And he flashed plenty of potential in 2015, so it’s a matter of building Bortles back up as opposed to tossing him by the wayside. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels should be at the top of the list of potential head coaching candidates.

Chicago Bears (2-8)

Has any team in recent memory endured a rougher week than Da Bears?

Since Nov. 14, both Alshon Jeffery and Jerrell Freeman earned four-game suspensions for PED use, Leonard Floyd was stretchered off the field in Sunday’s game with a concussion, Josh Sitton needed the cart, Zach Miller broke his foot and Jay Cutler endured a shoulder injury which will likely keep him out of action in the short term.

Step right up, Matt Barkley.

Chicago’s starting quarterback for 2017 probably isn’t on the roster. Among the bottom five squads, the Bears have the biggest glaring need under center. The skill positions, offensive line and defense are adequate, at least compared to Cleveland and San Francisco.

The Bears need to part ways with Cutler, who once led Chicago to the NFC Championship game. It will cost them a $2 million cap hit, according to ESPN reporter Jeff Dickerson, but will ultimately save the team $13 million. From there, the front office must choose between North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson as the heir apparent.

New York Jets (3-7)

And speaking of quarterback-needy teams, the Jets have already started three men under center, most notably turnover-machine Ryan Fitzpatrick. But unlike the Bears, the Jets should explore the market for a veteran.

Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg are long-term projects, but Todd Bowles needs to win in 2017 to maintain his job security. Let’s just call Jets fans an impatient bunch.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen report the cost for Romo could be “a conditional mid-round pick.” Of course, the 36-year-old is an enormous health risk, missing 22 of the Cowboys’ last 26 games. But it’s hard to believe Romo’s only two seasons removed from his best season (3,705 yards, 34 TDs, 9 INTs, 113.2 passer rating).

One thing that can’t go unnoticed, Romo’s been a pro through the entire 2016 season, gritting his teeth and conceding that rookie Dak Prescott gives Dallas the best chance to win. That won’t be lost on the Jets or their two young quarterbacks.

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