Hopelessness the worst of things for NFL fans

andy-dufresne

Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things.”

     – the indefatigable Andy Dufresne in Stephen King’s The Shawshank Redemption

By contrast, the worst of things – if you’re a football fan – is the prolonged misery of watching your team come up short.

Under the same head coach. Under the same starting quarterback. The same painful ways. Over multiple seasons.

There isn’t a shard of hope to be found anywhere in that half-mile-long sewage pipe.

The angriest fan bases in the NFL are mired in such hopelessness. Long gone in their cities is the grace period a new head coach is afforded, or a new starting quarterback. Fans of those fresh-faced teams can rationalize the initial losses, clinging to the best of things – hope for the future.

Not so much for fans of lousy teams with established head coaches and quarterbacks.

One way to identify those in the Hopelessness club is by going back exactly one year and figuring out which NFL teams do not have a winning record in the interim.

This week there are 19.

Five are under the guidance of a new coach in 2012, trying to install new schemes and a new culture – namely, Jacksonville’s Mike Mularkey, Tampa Bay’s Greg Schiano, St. Louis’ Jeff Fisher, Oakland’s Dennis Allen and Kansas City’s Romeo Crennel.

They’re all getting a pass locally – well, except for Crennel. And rightly so. His Chiefs are by far the sloppiest, least-inspired team in the league.

Then there are the four teams breaking in a new quarterback – Ryan Tannehill in Miami, Brandon Weeden in Cleveland, Jake Locker in Tennessee, and Robert Griffin III in Washington. That’s a legitimate asterisk. Yet Browns head coach Pat Shurmur is on thin ice, and Titans head coach Mike Munchak is already waist deep in the water.

That leaves 10 other teams sporting a .500 or worse record since Dec. 1, 2011 – teams that returned the same head coach and same starting QB. They are Buffalo, the New York Jets, Dallas, Carolina, Philadelphia, Detroit, Minnesota, San Diego, Cincinnati and Arizona.

With the exception of Minnesota and Cincinnati, these are the hot-seat furniture-manufacturing capitals of America. Eight teams.

Their head coaches and, in most cases, their quarterbacks are getting slaughtered by fans and the local press.

The worst of these Eight-Ain’t-Greats is Buffalo.

The Bills are 5-11 since Dec. 1, 2011: 1-4 to end last season, and 4-7 this season. Head coach Chan Gailey and his quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, if anything, are getting worse together in Year 3.

Gailey can keep restating his belief in Fitzpatrick until his beard actually grows in. Bills fans aren’t listening anymore. They don’t need a subscription to ProFootballFocus.com to see that Fitz can’t complete passes downfield like a good NFL thrower should. With the playoffs all but out of reach for the 13th straight year, sections worth of empty seats remain for Buffalo’s final three home games.

A trio of the Eight-Ain’t-Greats are 6-10 over the past 12 months: the New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers. Rex Ryan expresses full faith in Mark Sanchez in New York. Ditto Jason Garrett in the Cowboys’ Tony Romo. Fans hate them for it. The Panthers’ Cam Newton, at least, still has a world of unextracted talent and upside; whether head coach Ron Rivera survives to extract it is another matter.

The two 7-9 Eight-Ain’t-Greats are Detroit and Philadelphia.

Jim Schwartz did wonders to turn the 0-16 club he inherited in 2009 into a worthy playoff team last year. But little has gone right this year for Detroit, as QB Matt Stafford has battled injuries and inaccuracy. The locals are mad. They’ve seen this act for decades: overachieving Lions team makes playoffs, then lamely returns to loser-lite status the following year.

As for the Eagles, even head coach Andy Reid and QB Michael Vick must inwardly want out of Philly by now. It’s over.

Finally, the two 8-8 Eight-Ain’t-Greats. (Say that five times.)

Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona has a helluva defence. But he’s handled his returning quarterbacks – Kevin Kolb and John Skelton – horribly.

And Norv Turner in San Diego is … not going to be in San Diego much longer. Locals have had it with him, his longtime quarterback Phil Rivers and their disappointing seasons.

All these coaches can only hope they wind up like Andy Dufresne in Shawshank – crawling through a river of you-know-what before coming out clean on the other side.

And the fans? They just want their teams to get busy living – not dying.

 

IN THE PAST 52 WEEKS …..

Teams with the worst records in the NFL since the end of Week 12 last year:

TEAM                  SINCE DEC. 1        NEW COACH?   NEW QB?

Cleveland                3-13                            No                             Yes

Jacksonville           4-12                            Yes                             No

Oakland                  4-12                            Yes                             No

Kansas City            4-12                            Yes                             No

St. Louis                 4-11-1                         Yes                             No

Buffalo                 5-11                          No                           No

NY Jets                6-10                          No                           No

Dallas                    6-10                          No                          No

Carolina               6-10                          No                          No

Tennessee               7-9                              No                            Yes

Philadelphia       7-9                           No                           No

Detroit                   7-9                           No                           No

Minnesota           7-9                            No                           No

San Diego             8-8                          No                            No

Cincinnati           8-8                           No                            No

Arizona                 8-8                          No                            No

Miami                     8-8                             Yes                             Yes

Boldface indicates teams with a returning head coach and starting quarterback in 2012.

 

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