Fandom is supposed to be fun and the short, regimented schedule of the NFL attempts to maximize that. On Sundays in the fall (with the occasional Thursday or Monday), you clear your schedule, get the beverages on ice, fire up the grill and prepare to kick back from three hours to watch your favorite team. But it's the same short, regimented schedule that makes the NFL season so aggravating. Lose in baseball, you come back tomorrow for another. Lose in football and it ruins the week and, perhaps, the season. I consider Thanksgiving to be a success if my team is still alive and Christmas is always sweeter when there's playoffs ahead. But for all the teams that contend every year, there are a dozen others that bring nothing but angst and anger to their fans.
We've ranked all 32 NFL teams based on how depressing it is to root for them. Because we're living in the moment, consider this list to be accurate as of Sept. 21, 2016. By the end of the season it could look very different though, if recent history is any indication, probably not.
Getty ImagesPatrick McDermott
The 17 years of the Dan Snyder era, summarized from its beginning in 1999: Surprise early success. Offseason shopping spree. Unwanted stability with milquetoast coach. Late-season panic. Failure. Offseason shopping spree. Hire opposite of last coach - this time a tough football lifer. Watch him finish the year 8-3 and bring hope to the franchise. Fire him. Get what you've coveted all along and hire the biggest name in college football. Offseason shopping spree. Watch the Hindenburg crash and burn while the ol' ball coach says, "not very good!" Throw, and complete, the biggest Hail Mary of all and bring back one of the three greatest coaches in NFL history. Fail to give coach the front-office structure needed to run a team in this era. Offseason shopping spree. Watch as coach makes two playoff appearances anyway, one after his star player was murdered in the middle of the season. Watch coach walk away. Look for new coach while every viable candidate declines, thinking "well, if Joe Gibbs can't win there..."
Eventually hire an offensive coordinator, continue to fail in coaching search, change offensive coordinator's job title to head coach even though the highest rung on the coaching ladder he'd reached was quarterbacks coach - in Seattle. Yada, yada, yada; let enough time pass to make another "this will change everything hire" and bring in a Super Bowl winner (who'd never won without John Elway).
Watch him not win without John Elway. Offseason shopping spree. Trade away an entire draft for the rights to a dynamic Heisman Trophy winner. Witness the coach who hadn't won without John Elway get close to winning without John Elway, then see the rookie's leg explode and change everything. Fire that coach the next year after bizarre season in which the infighting at Redskins Park led to more beef than an Arby's and as many leaks as the Andrea Doria. Fail to hire a coach again and end up settling for a guy famous for being another guy's brother. Somehow make playoffs in 2015. Vow it will all be different in 2016. Stay quiet. No shopping spree. No quarterback controversy in the summer. New. Calm. Different. Immediately go 0-2, panic and see that things are pretty much back to where they were in 1999. It's Redskins fans who are the most depressed because their biggest problem isn't a player or coach; it's an owner who isn't going anywhere for a long, long time.
Getty ImagesPatrick McDermott
Hope plays a big role in these rankings. The Jets are one of the most tortured teams but they don't appear at the top of this list because every Jets fan expects the worst come September. It's in their DNA. Cowboys fans don't hope either - they know. They know Tony Romo is going to win a Super Bowl. When Tony Romo gets hurt, they know Dak Prescott is their quarterback of the future. They know Ezekiel Elliott is the second-coming of Jim Brown even though his hands appear to be the second coming of a young Tiki Barber. They know that even though Jason Garrett is exactly .500 in his career (8-8, 8-8, 8-8, 12-4, 4-12, 1-1) he is somehow going to eschew mediocrity. It never happens and the Cowboys, with the team's true fans and then the hangers-on who liked them during the glory days and can't switch now, get the same punch in the gut every winter. At least Jets fans are long gone by the time fate takes its swing.
MCT via Getty ImagesFort Worth Star-Telegram
New England Patriots
Tom Brady is 39 years old. Bill Belichick is 64 and has a "could retire at any time" vibe about him. There's no grand succession plan in place once they all leave. And because of all the videotaping and (alleged) tapping and ball deflations and, I don't know, probably hosting Hillary's email servers in the basement of Gillette Stadium, they can't enjoy their success in the company of others because their foibles are always going to be brought up. (You know, for all that trouble, shouldn't American society change the -gate suffix to something Pats related? I mean, Nixon had one controversy. The Pats have had like 18.5! No more -gate! How about Waterelichick. Serverelichick. Belichickelichick. You know, for the next one.)
Pats fans are too defensive to admit the fears about the oncoming future. And maybe that's okay - as long as Brady and Belichick are around they contend for Super Bowls (that need to be won by kickers and/or Russell Wilson interceptions), are on national television seemingly every week and don't have off years - without fail - mainly because the rest of the teams in your division would finish behind Vanderbilt in the SEC.
Getty ImagesEthan Miller
Just two weeks of Carson Wentz and Eagles fans are planning parade routes and filing trademarks for "ninepeat." Ordinarily, Philly might be close to No. 1 on a list such as this but you take the optimism wherever you can. The instant Wentz becomes a Nick Foles-like mirage, they'll sneak back up. It's been more than a decade since Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid teased fans with routine NFC championship appearances and fans haven't had much to do since except boo, explain the Santa Claus story and try to rationalize rooting for Michael Vick. But what's most depressing is Eagles fans thinking they belong in the conversation because they happen to be in a division with teams that have played in 36% of Super Bowls. Hey, wearing black pants and a red shirt to a golf course didn't make you Tiger Woods. (It may now.) Every Eagles fan I know (including my wife) believes a Super Bowl win is a birthright and not the half-century quest of futility it really is. And that's depressing, Holmes.
Getty ImagesMitchell Leff
Green Bay Packers
Like anybody who's watched a recent Johnny Depp movie, you know there's nothing more heartbreaking than watching great talent squandered. And thus you have the Green Bay Packers, blessed with the best quarterback in football, being a regular-season power that goes into hibernation in January. Yes, they have one Super Bowl win in the 2010 season, but other than that the Pack are 3-6 in the playoffs under Rodgers. If, and when, Rodgers gets that second ring, Green Bay will plummet down the list. For now, it's the worst waiting game ever.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
You know it's rough when the annual glimmer of hope lasts one week and comes after a home loss.
Getty ImagesSam Greenwood
Isn't eight years of Jay Cutler punishment enough?
Getty ImagesJason Miller
Watching Peyton Manning win the Super Bowl last year must be what it feels like when Brad Pitt watches Angelina Jolie win a - well, not an Oscar - a Golden Globe and Jennifer Aniston win a - well, not a Golden Globe - People's Choice Award.
Getty ImagesJoe Robbins
At least they'll have 50 weeks to work through the stages of grief about the demise of Adrian Peterson's career.
Getty ImagesJamie Squire
New York Jets
The Jets know. Their fans know. This leads to acceptance and appreciation when things (rarely) get good. But just because you've accepted your lot in life doesn't mean depression can't set in, which it seems to every Sunday at 3:42 p.m. ET when Ryan Fitzpatrick makes that one awful play that costs the Jets a win.
For all the years the Lions and Browns have stunk up the league, they only had one worse two-season stretch than Tennessee's 5-27 run in 2014 and 2015. (Detroit had two wins in 2008-09.) But with Marcus Mariota comes hope.
Getty ImagesStacy Revere
New Orleans Saints
It's more fun to be a bad team with a great offense than a bad team with a great defense. And that Super Bowl win, for a franchise that had so little playoff success, will sustain fans for years.
Getty ImagesChris Graythen
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis Winston hasn't done that much to show why he was a No. 1 pick but, more importantly, he hasn't done anything to show he shouldn't have been a No. 1 pick.
Getty ImagesMike Ehrmann
After not making the playoffs for the first nine years of its existence, Houston has been in the postseason three of the past five years and is looking good (2-0) to make it back in 2016. For a team created from the castoffs of other franchises, that's not bad. (It took a while to recalibrate expectations for an expansion team. Just seven years before Houston came into the league, the Jaguars made the playoffs in four of their first five seasons and played two AFC championship games including in its second season. Carolina also made the championship game that year.) So, Houston is paying its dues. And while Texans is the best name for a modern expansion team in any sport, the real reason to be upset is that the Oilers name was lost to Tennessee and Houston, and the world, was kept from those glorious Columbia blue jerseys and helmets with the stately oil derrick on the side.
Getty ImagesScott Halleran
Kansas City Chiefs
I was trying to think of the least-hated teams in the NFL. The most-hated are obvious: Cowboys, Steelers, Patriots (for the next two or three years), Redskins and Giants. The least-hated is where it gets tougher. I did a quick poll and the Jaguars hit every list, while the Texans made the second-most appearances. But while I technically think that's true in theory, it's only because the teams are non-factors and nobody cares about them. So let's amend that: Which teams that have been around a while and have natural rivals are the least-loathed by the rest of the country? I sort of tipped my hand by writing this in the Chiefs section but I think that, other than division foes in Denver and Oakland, most people kinda like the Chiefs. And when you're well liked, how can you, as a fanbase, be glum?
TNS via Getty ImagesKansas City Star
While the threat of the team moving to Las Vegas hangs over this season, there are three upsides: 1) The team looks good in a division that's up for grabs; 2) Games in Vegas mean games in Vegas; 3) Games in Vegas mean games not in Oakland, where every word you speak increases the possibility of a brawl by 2%.
Getty ImagesThearon W. Henderson
On one hand, having no playoff wins since advancing to the 1991 NFC championship (a game they lost 41-10) should be a dealbreaker for any fan. But the Lions at least gives fans enough nibbles - Matthew Stafford isn't bad, the defense unloaded some stars and is no worse for it, their offensive coordinator named Jim Bob will one day become head coach, the NFL (rightfully) never took Thanksgiving away - that they don't feel like the perennial doormat they once were.
Getty ImagesTom Dahlin
Having a guy like Ryan Tannehill is a gift and a curse. On one hand, you don't have to start Case Keenum. On the other, he's just good enough to keep around but not so good that he'll carry a team to the playoffs.
Getty ImagesRich Schultz
As a Jets fan once said to me, "it's impossible to get too angry about a farce." So, my advice for Bills fans: Wait until Rex gets fired and is replaced by Jim Schwartz - then you can get upset.
Getty ImagesTom Szczerbowski
Legitimate question: Is it better to be 4-12 every season, like the Bengals of the late-90s, or to be 10-6 every season but fail to win a playoff game, as the Bengals of the teens? I'd argue for the latter: I'd much rather watch my team lose by four touchdowns than lose by a last-second field goal that was brought on by catch overturned purely because of semantics.
Getty ImagesJohn Grieshop
If you gave the Falcons a bye every week, I think it'd be like a month before anyone in Atlanta caught on and about six weeks for the rest of the country to get wise to it.
Getty ImagesKevin C. Cox
The Ravens still have a fine coach, a top-notch general manager, an owner who does it the right way, a steady quarterback, two championships this century and are only one 5-11 year removed from a playoff win. Yet, weirdly, they've never felt more inessential, like an NFL version of Calvin Harris.
Getty ImagesRob Carr
San Francisco 49ers
It's gotta hurt to read about Jim Harbaugh being out there in the Midwest getting all tough about skim milk, seeing Craaaabtree win games for the Raiders and watching the quarterback of those almost-title teams - wait, what was his name again? Haven't heard much about him of late. Anyway, we're not far removed from the 49ers being one of the great NFL teams. Now it's Chip Kelly's last NFL stop before he goes back to college and accepts the Tennessee job.
Getty ImagesRobert Reiners
New York Giants
Within the next 10 years, the Giants will go on a January heater and win a random Super Bowl. It'll just happen. If it doesn't, they'll blame Ben McAdoo, who's getting the benefit of the doubt now because workin' the sweet New Jersey State Trooper on his upper lip.
Getty ImagesAl Bello
San Diego Chargers
One must have fans to have depressed fans.
Getty ImagesSean M. Haffey
Wait, why are the Browns so low on the list? This is an awful football franchise. It's impossible to follow because it changes its lineup more often than Guns N' Roses. It's never won a Super Bowl and has two of the most famous championship-game losses in history. This is the definition of a tortured fanbase -- or is it? That all depends on your definition of torture. To me, torture isn't just pain but the robbery of hope. Browns fans are way beyond depressed. They have to be. It's the only way to cope. Looking ahead to a Browns season is like peering into a black hole. It's dark, frightening, endless and even Stephen Hawking can't fully explain it.
Getty ImagesGregory Shamus
After years of sitting on metal stands watching awful teams play in a college stadium, getting to see a playoff contender compete in a jewel of a stadium is more than enough for Cards fans - for now.
Getty ImagesGregory Shamus
Seahawks fans can see things starting to unravel ever-so-slowly. The team has done a magnificent job of holding on to its top talent. But soon everybody will want to get paid and it'll all fall apart. But there's time.
Getty ImagesLeon Halip
Six Super Bowl titles. (A record.) Three coaches since 1969. (A record.) A legitimate belief that every season will end deep into the playoffs.. The Steelers always adapt.
Diamond Images/Getty ImagesDiamond Images
You have the shiniest, fastest, coolest toy in the game and he has about four or five years left in his prime. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Getty ImagesGrant Halverson
Los Angeles Rams
Back in Los Angeles, where football belongs.
Getty ImagesJeff Gross
Reigning Super Bowl champions do not get to be depressed no matter which Ivy League safety school your new quarterback attended.