The San Francisco 49ers are a bad team, and they are one with seemingly no direction in sight. Yet there are other NFL franchises in worse situations than the Niners heading into 2017. Let’s look at five of them.
Dec 11, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers cornerback Jimmie Ward (25) pushes New York Jets quarterback Bryce Petty (9) out of bounds during the fourth quarter at Levi’s Stadium. The New York Jets defeated the San Francisco 49ers 23-17. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
A “dumpster fire” might be the most accurate moniker to assign to the San Francisco 49ers in 2017.
The team is going to be on its fourth head coach in as many seasons. San Francisco’s fan base is alienated and has disappeared from Levi’s Stadium. The roster lacks talent across the board. And, worst of all, the Niners haven’t had any semblance of success in recent years outside the four-year stretch of former head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Yeah, it’s bad.
But it could be worse. In fact there are a number of other teams who are just as bad as, or worse than, the 49ers heading into this new season.
If we take a step back and look at the bigger picture, it’s not far fetched to realize San Francisco’s “clean slate” is actually a decent scenario. The Niners own the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft and may have as many as 11 selections overall (including compensatory picks).
Tack on nearly $80 million in cap space for 2017 — which could be make some easy-to-do roster cuts — and this situation isn’t all that horrendous.
As long as CEO Jed York and Co. don’t muddy the waters too much, of course.
Let’s look at five other teams who are actually in a worse situation than the 49ers heading into this season.
Dec 11, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; A Cleveland Browns fan holds a sign signifying the Browns futility during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
No list of bad NFL teams would be complete without mentioning the Cleveland Browns.
One might argue the Browns are in a slightly better situation than San Francisco because they’ve committed to head coach Hue Jackson turning things around, fully realizing it’s going to take time.
And a lot of it.
Like the 49ers, the Browns don’t have to worry about cap space. They’re projected to have $110,438,388 in space this season, according to Over the Cap, which is substantially higher than the Niners.
Cleveland owns the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft too. The Browns also have the No. 12 overall pick — the one acquired in last year’s trade with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Yet the Browns’ roster is, with little argument, wholly worse than that of the Niners. While San Francisco has promising pieces like DeForest Buckner, Rashard Robinson, Carlos Hyde and NaVorro Bowman, Cleveland can’t boast any of that.
Unless Cleveland wants to consider running back Isaiah Crowell and wide receiver Terrelle Pryor cornerstone pieces.
In short, the Browns are the Browns and lack any sort of NFL credibility. They haven’t had anything of resemblance for a long, long time.
Dec 5, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) is hit by Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway (91) as he throws a pass during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
New York Jets
Oh, what a disappointment 2016 was for the New York Jets.
Sure, San Francisco’s quarterback situation is a big question mark. But the Jets’ situation was a complete disaster. Ryan Fitzpatrick? No. Geno Smith? No. Bryce Petty? No.
At least New York has some solid wide receiver talent. But that’s about it. The Jets defense regressed in a major way (where has Darrelle Revis gone?) and, to make things worse, New York is projected to run $927 over the cap this year.
The Jets won’t, of course, but they’ll need to take some hard looks at cap casualties this offseason. Needless to say, they’re in some financial problems.
Smith is the only big name out of this group set to hit the free-agent market anyway.
Nov 20, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) lays on the field after a late hit by New York Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon (54, not pictured) at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Head coach John Fox and quarterback Jay Cutler. Need we say more?
True, Cutler could be cut from his current contract this offseason without substantial damage to the Chicago Bears’ current cap situation, which isn’t bad. And there are some pieces on the defensive side of the ball to get excited about.
But it looks as if this is a team in need of a complete rebuild at every other spot. And that starts with Fox.
Dec 4, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) reacts after throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Lavonte David (kneeling) during the second half at Qualcomm Stadium. Tampa Bay won 28-21. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Chargers
The San Diego… err, Los Angeles Chargers are yet another team in a worse situation than the 49ers.
Unlike the Bears, the Chargers are going through that massive overhaul. Heck, they even up and left San Diego for greener… err, smogier pastures in L.A.
OK, that might help get them into the limelight in a few years. But it doesn’t help the team is the forgotten franchise in a suddenly booming AFC West. Los Angeles is the doormat of this division now, not the Oakland Raiders anymore.
Hiring former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn as head coach was the right move. But aside from a few pieces on either side of the ball, and an aging quarterback in Philip Rivers, the Chargers have relatively few pieces to make them relevant.
They’ll have enough money to make a splash or two in free agency, but that’s it. And with the way the division is playing out, it’s likely the Chargers are going to be bad for a long, long time.
Jan 1, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) is pressured by Arizona Cardinals free safety D.J. Swearinger (36) and nose tackle Corey Peters (98) in the fourth quarter during a NFL football game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Rams
So the Rams fired head coach Jeff Fisher. That was a good move. Yet Los Angeles is still clinging to general manager Les Snead, whose position is more precarious now than ever before.
And a lot of that falls on Snead’s gambling to move up to the No. 1 spot in the 2016 NFL Draft to select quarterback Jared Goff. L.A. gave up quite a bit in the trade — a transaction that can come back to haunt the offensively challenged Rams over the next few years.
The team does have approximately $40.1 million in cap space for the offseason. But the team also owes a ton of money to wide receiver Tavon Austin, who is signed through 2021 and performing nowhere near the caliber one would expect out of a first-round pick.