Poof! Five NFL teams that were big, bad busts in 2013
Some NFL teams are preparing for the postseason. Then there are others that entered the fall with high hopes but couldn’t wait to kick up the feet after Week 17. Here’s a closer look at five squads that disappointed in 2013 . . .
HOUSTON TEXANS (2-14)
Lowlights: The Texans make an easy case for the NFL’s largest bust. Coach Gary Kubiak guided them to 22 combined wins the prior two seasons, both of which ended in the playoffs. They entered the year with hopes of winning the AFC, but they became an afterthought by midseason.
Houston won its first two games before dropping its next 14. Some of the defeats turned ugly: A 30-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, a 34-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, a 38-13 loss to the St. Louis Rams, a 25-3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, a 37-13 loss to the Denver Broncos.
No surprise: Kubiak was fired for the meltdown.
Reason for the flop: It’s never a good combo when you rank 31st in scoring offense (17.2 points per game) and 25th in scoring defense (26.8 ppg). This was a complete failure on both sides of the ball.
Looking for someone to blame, though? Scan no further than the men behind center. The Texans’ quarterback corps of Matt Schaub, Case Keenum and T.J. Yates combined for 22 interceptions. Schaub, in particular, was a disaster. He threw at least one interception in his first five starts and closed with 14 picks and only 10 touchdowns.
Reason to hope: Kubiak is gone. For a season that began with such hope, this was a sad, strange spiral.
There was no way the Texans could continue to sell Kubiak to the fan base after such a dramatic collapse — even after he helped build Houston into a contender the past two years.
This choice had to be made.
Reason to mope: It’s hard to lose 14 games in the NFL. It’s harder to lose 14 games in a row.
Sure, the Texans can replace Kubiak. But will all the deficiencies on both sides of the ball be fixed? When they weren’t being blown out, they seemingly invented ways to lose: The Texans dropped five games by three points or less.
These issues run deep.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS (3-13)
Lowlights: Rewind to Washington’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the 2013 NFC wild-card round to find the reason why this season was the worst in Mike Shanahan’s four-year stay in the District. Quarterback Robert Griffin III tore the ACL and LCL in his right knee that day, setting into motion the events that led to Shanahan’s firing.
Griffin was never the same in his sophomore campaign, even after reconstructive surgery and a much-hyped rehab that included the "All In for Week 1" ad campaign by Adidas. With less mobility, his rushing production plummeted from 815 yards as a rookie to 489.
With Griffin’s decline as its dominant storyline, Washington was 3-5 after Week 9 before losing its next eight games. Shanahan was fired, to no one’s surprise.
Reason for the flop: Too much tension.
There was tension between Shanahan and Griffin. There was tension between Griffin and Kyle Shanahan, the Redskins’ offensive coordinator. There was tension between Shanahan and owner Dan Snyder.
How can a franchise accomplish anything that way?
Well, the Redskins did little after mid-November, other than embarrassing themselves.
Reason to hope: Griffin, with the right coach, can be dynamic again. Best-case scenario: The extra rest in December, along with a drama-free offseason, gives him the clean start he needs to lead Washington back to relevancy.
The Redskins will go nowhere without him healthy. The situation at Redskins Park turned toxic in the final weeks of the Shanahan era. It’s best everyone moves on.
Reason to mope: Snyder is still in charge. Washington has produced one playoff appearance in the last six years. That’s largely an indictment of Snyder, who’s the most power-hungry owner this side of Jerry Jones.
Don’t expect much change as long as the man signing the checks remains one of the largest problems.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (4-12)
Lowlights: Pick your poison. This lost season included a health scare that affected three players (MRSA), a rogue quarterback (Josh Freeman), eight consecutive losses to start the year and an offense that sputtered to do anything.
Remember when everything was supposed to be different? After the Bucs made splashy signings of safety Dashon Goldson in free agency and cornerback Darrelle Revis through a trade with the New York Jets, addressing a wretched pass defense from 2012, it wasn’t a stretch to think the Bucs could play meaningful games in November and December.
So much for that. Tampa Bay failed to make its schedule meaningful past October. Even after Freeman was benched, the Mike Glennon experiment failed to save coach Greg Schiano’s job.
The Bucs, mentally and physically, were a flawed team. The result: Goodbye to Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik.
Reason for the flop: Need proof for how important quarterbacks are in the NFL? Look no further than the Freeman fiasco, which knocked the Bucs’ season off the rails before a Week 5 bye.
Freeman, in three starts, was ineffective. He went 43-of-94 passing for 571 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. His off-the-field drama, though, was the most damaging.
There was an unauthorized television interview. There were controversial media leaks. There was perceived tension between him and Schiano.
He entered the year with a chance to become a rich man in a contract year. Instead, he was benched before Week 4 and became irrelevant after signing with Minnesota.
Reason to hope: The talent is there. On defense, the Bucs were decent, and the unit boasts the teams’ two Pro Bowlers: Revis and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (linebacker Lavonte David should have been the third). On offense, wide receiver Vincent Jackson and running back Doug Martin can be difference-makers — if they have the quarterback and offensive line to maximize their ability.
With the right coach, this can be a playoff team in 2014. Look no further than the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs as models for a possible Tampa Bay turnaround. Yes, the next leader must repair an offense that only averaged 18 points and 277 yards per game. Still, this situation’s not completely hopeless.
Reason to mope: The Glazers have a recent reputation of bad hires. They whiffed on Schiano and Raheem Morris. Now, Tampa Bay’s postseason drought has reached six seasons.
So the recent track record isn’t good. With that, it remains to be seen what the Bucs will do about their quarterback situation. Likely, new leadership will exhaust all options — a possible trade, free agency, the draft (they hold No. 7 overall pick) — to fill the need. But Glennon likely will receive a look.
ATLANTA FALCONS (4-12)
Lowlights: The Falcons were five points away from making the Super Bowl in the 2012 season. Those days seemed far, far away at times this fall.
Injuries were the main culprit for why Atlanta fell so short of expectations. Julio Jones had three 100-plus-yard receiving games — 580 yards total — before he was placed on injured reserve in October with a right foot injury. Other key pieces such as Roddy White, Steven Jackson and Sam Baker also were sidelined at various times.
The Falcons started 1-4 before their bye week and never recovered. The result was their worst season under coach Mike Smith.
Reason for the flop: It’s all about the injuries. Jones’ absence was devastating. He had a career-high 1,198 yards receiving in 2012, and he likely would have topped that mark had he stayed on the field all season.
The injuries meant more pressure on Matt Ryan. After throwing a career-high 32 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 2012, he finished with 26 touchdowns and 17 picks this year.
Reason to hope: All these health problems can’t happen again, can they? It seems unlikely that the Falcons will limp through another year as bad as this one.
This is a franchise that began 2013 coming off three consecutive seasons with at least 10 victories. Under Smith, the Falcons have made the playoffs four times in his six years there.
They are proven winners. They just need their key players on the field.
Reason to mope: The injuries can happen again. The Falcons’ lack of depth was exposed this season, placing them in a precarious state that led to losing streaks of three and five games before Week 13.
Also, how much more does Jackson have left? If Ryan’s targets are sidelined, Jackson must do more on the ground. He finished with a career-low 543 yards rushing, marking the first time he closed with fewer than 1,000 since 2004.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (5-10-1)
Lowlights: Minnesota had the dubious distinction of owning the NFL’s most bizarre quarterback rotation. The Vikings started the year with Christian Ponder as their No. 1 option. But in time, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman were used as well.
That was only part of the problem. Minnesota’s defense was nothing short of awful, ranking 32nd in scoring defense (30 points per game), 31st in pass defense (287.4 yards per game) and 31st in total defense (397.8 ypg).
The Vikings started 1-7, and it was downhill from there. Leslie Frazier’s job became a casualty.
Reason for the flop: No team can win with such a bad defense. Early warning signs were there: The Vikings allowed 34 points against the Detroit Lions and 31 to the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns in their first three games.
Consider how many points they had to score in the games they won: 14 against the Lions, 23 against the Bears, 34 against both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins, 48 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
With so many concerns at quarterback, coupled with a Swiss cheese defense, this was a doomed year from the beginning.
Reason to hope: It will take work, but the defense can receive a facelift with a new regime. On offense, the Vikings must find an answer at quarterback in the offseason. But they still have the game’s most dangerous running back in Adrian Peterson.
This was a bad year, but there are teams in worse shape. When you have No. 28, you have a chance.
Reason to mope: The Vikings’ schedule allows little room for error. The NFC North is the division of Aaron Rodgers, Calvin Johnson and Jay Cutler, if he doesn’t leave in free agency.
This defense must get better, and fast. Without major changes on that side of the ball, the Vikings will be irrelevant again.