More than any other professional sports league, the NFL has the most success with parity, with playoff teams switching out year after year and at least one “worst to first” story every season. Despite this, though, it definitely seems some franchises are better at, well, everything than others.
This could be due to many factors: front-office know-how, solid coaching, All-Pro players. Or, more likely, it could just be which teams have pleased the Football Gods.
So, Cory Graham and I give this list to you:
The Most Godforsaken Franchises in the NFL
32. New England Patriots
Kevin: Historically, they’ve not been overly blessed, but this decade-plus string of dominance is beyond impressive. They’ve basically become the Yankees and Lakers of the NFL, and that sound you heard was Bill Simmons dying a little.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers
Cory: I would argue “That Team” could be No. 32 because for as good as New England has been recently, don’t forget how laughable they were in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. “That Team” just never seems to have a bad year, and even when they do, they just use to reload in the draft and go to the playoffs.
Note: Cory refuses to call Pittsburgh by name, a move I strongly applaud.
30. Green Bay Packers
Kevin: There is no reason for Green Bay to be good at anything outside of cheese, so the fact they’re routinely great at football is a miracle.
Cory: Any time you follow a Hall of Fame QB with another (likely) HoF QB, you get bumped to the bottom of the list (I’m looking at you San Francisco).
29. San Francisco 49ers
Kevin: I’m assuming you mean Montana and Young and not Smith and Kaepernick. However, I couldn’t agree more about your HoF QB theory, so here’s looking at you, Indianapolis.
28. Indianapolis Colts
Kevin: When you let Peyton Manning leave only to draft the best QB prospect in years and make the playoffs, that’s not luck (or Luck); it’s divine intervention.
27. Baltimore Ravens
Cory: They’ve had a nice run since they came to Baltimore from Cleveland (foreshadowing), and had a success historically when they were the Indianapolis franchise.
Kevin: Plus, you can literally get away with murder.
26. New York Giants
Cory: They always seem to trip and fall into talent, then seem to mess around and win Super Bowls.
Kevin: The Tyree catch is proof enough for this list’s placement.
25. Denver Broncos
Cory: Even in the down years, they were still pretty good.
Kevin: Obligatory Tebow joke here.
24. New Orleans Saints
Kevin: They were kind of like Job (years of horrible teams, a city ravaged by a Hurricane, Bountygate) only to find the right mix of a coach and QB to become ridiculously successful. And just like Job, they won a Super Bowl. I’m not too clear on that part in the Bible, though.
Cory: The Saints are a perfect example of “how far back do we go with this?” because the Saints that an 18-year-old remembers are nothing like the Saints that I remember. Go ahead: name a Saint pre-Brees.
Kevin: I’m blanking on that QB? Bobby Joe Royal? Was that his name?
Cory: Wasn’t that a country singer, or was that Billy Joe Royal? (pause) I had to go back and look it up. You mean Bobby Hebert, who is best remembered from George discussing the pronunciation of his name in an episode of Seinfeld. Oh, no, wait – Billy Joe Hobert. Or Billy Joe Tolliver. At one point, the Saints had a revolving casts of Billy Joes and Hoberts and Heberts.
23. Seattle Seahawks
Kevin: This is where the list starts getting tricky, because up until the truly downtrodden franchises in the single digits, this is really just a cesspool of mediocrity. I place Seattle here because they have an inexplicably rabid fan base (good), made the playoffs with a losing record (unbelievable) and made Pete Carroll look like an actual NFL coach (words fail me).
Cory: Seattle is hard to pin down, as to their mediocrity, since they’re a roller coaster. The Seahawks have no idea how to be a .500 team. They know how to be the best team on the planet, or the worst. Right now, the Seahawks look like not only the best team in the league, but dangerously like an “all-time” football team. However, if history is any indication, they will immediately slide into obscurity next season after failing to win a title, and will be drafting at the top of the rotation in 2015. But never fear, Seattle fans, they’ll be an unstoppable force five years later.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars
Kevin: When you have amassed the least-impressive collection of NFL “talent” in years and were still in the playoff race at Week 15, then consider yourself fortunate. Plus, the Jags have somehow made AFC Championship appearances in their past, while the present incarnation has avoided contraction or a move to Los Angeles.
Cory: Those few years of semi-greatness are, unfortunately, enough to bump them out of the upper echelon of maligned fanbases. Of course, to really be a maligned fanbase, you have to have fans. But so is the life of those dozen or so people who count themselves among the Jacksonville die-hards. Take for example, Justin Blackmon. Justin Blackmon is as “Jacksonville” of a player imaginable. The highly touted rookie shows up, is suspended, comes off suspension and blows the doors off the competition, and is suspended again. He’s great, but sorry, you can’t have him. I am convinced that when Jacksonville eventually moves to Los Angeles (they may be packing right now), they will win five consecutive Super Bowls.
21. Miami Dolphins
Cory: I hate the Dolphins, and for no good reason. I can’t even explain why a team hundreds of miles from my home, in no direct competition with any team that I love, could generate such an angry response. Maybe it’s the obnoxious behavior of the undefeated team, maybe it’s the stupid dolphin on the helmet, wearing a helmet, which I also assume features another dolphin wearing another helmet, maybe it’s Jeff Ireland. Maybe it’s none of those things. Maybe it’s just an emotional reaction to people still considering this to be a respectable NFL franchise, when they have accomplished exactly one thing in their existence. The Dolphins are the Uncle Rico of the NFL, losers in the game of life, but confident that they could throw a football over that mountain and eager to regale you with stories of past greatness.
Kevin: Mercury Morris can uncork a bottle of champagne now that they’ve appeared on the list.
20. St. Louis Rams
Cory: The Rams are perfectly summed up by this current season. They have pieces in place, guys who are ready to break out at any moment. They have Washington’s first round pick in next year’s draft. They have a great coach, they are building for the future, and watch out when the pieces come together! Rams fans, I want you to lean in closely, because I have a secret to share with you: It isn’t coming together.The Rams are currently 6-8, and may very well finish 8-8, which is exactly what the Rams are. They are the bullet in Barney Fife’s pocket of the NFL, ready to fire in the event of emergency. Fortunately for the Rams, Sheriff Andy Taylor will always be there (in the form of literally any other team in the division) to keep them in their place with a gentle pat on the head.
Kevin: At the same time, they helped foster in a completely new style of football that has QBs and receivers reaping the benefits to this day. Well, every QB and receiver not currently on the Rams, I mean.
19. Houston Texans
Cory: That noise you heard this season was the window slamming shut on the possibility for Houston to make a run at anything resembling a Super Bowl. The Texans draft well, they play the free agency game beautifully, they put together a respectable coaching staff, and then they fail. They fail every time. To make matters worse, the Texans can’t even put on the old Oilers jerseys on throwback week to give the fans a reminder of brighter days when the only thing they had to deal with was Buddy Ryan punching Kevin Gillbride on the sideline. Nope, those now belong to the Titans, allowing all of the people of Nashville to fondly remember the days when Warren Moon lit up LG Field.
18. Carolina Panthers
Kevin: It’s sometimes easy to forget Carolina has a team, and when I do remember it, I’m never fully sure if it’s North or South Carolina.
Cory: Before Cam Newton came to town, the Panthers were known for one tragic Super Bowl and Rae Carruth. If you’re too young to remember, Rae Rae was a murderer who fled to Nashville after the crime. They’re mildly interesting now, but will forever be associated with Steve Harvey delivering the best moment of his career at their expense:
17. Tennessee Titans
Kevin: Tennessee can best be summed up by the Music City Miracle (good) and falling a yard short in the Super Bowl (not so good).
Cory: Tennessee is THE most generic NFL franchise to have ever existed. They are never good enough to be a threat, but they are never bad enough to be a doormat. Their uniforms look exactly like they were designed with the “Custom Team” function of Madden Football. Their roster is made up of players who are good, but not great, and in the event that a player becomes too good (ala Chris Johnson), that player must immediately regress to the necessary level of “serviceable” before the next season may begin. Tennessee is the swing voter in the world of the NFL, they are the house in the suburbs that doesn’t wow anybody, but is just fine. Tennessee is the Toyota Camry of the NFL, reliable transportation for when you need to get where you’re going, but don’t want to show off. Also, here’s that Steve Harvey clip again:
16. Chicago Bears
Cory: No matter what happens, at the end of every year, the Bears always turn out to be about average.
Kevin: As a Bears fan, I nod my head and cry.
15. Arizona Cardinals
Cory: The Arizona Cardinals are the retirement home of the NFL, which is really fitting since they’re in Arizona. It’s where we sent Emmitt Smith and Kurt Warner off into the sunset, there was talk of Donovan McNabb going there, and now they have Carson Palmer. Even just playing for Arizona makes you seem old. Carson Palmer, for example, seems like he’s been in the league since the days of leather helmets, but believe it or not he was taken in the draft one year before Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger. Those guys are in the “prime of their career,” while somehow Carson Palmer seems ancient. Carson Palmer is three years older than Brandon Weeden, and four years younger than Peyton Manning. How is that possible?
14. Atlanta Falcons
Kevin: The Falcons can’t seem be successful for any sustained period of time. Every decade or so they’ll pop up and win 12-14 games, lose in the NFC Championship, then go back to the bottom of the standings.
Cory: The Falcons and their NBA counterpart Hawks are completely interchangeable. They always seem to have one or two real superstars, and it always seems to get them exactly nowhere. I’m convinced that half the fanbase of Atlanta would have a hard time distinguishing one team from the other, if they were presented to them in a neutral setting. In fact, I’d be willing to be that half of the city still thinks Jerry Glanville is the coach, and half of those people only remember him from his appearance in a Confederate Railroad video. In other news, 87 percent of Atlanta residents fondly remember Confederate Railroad. The Falcons are so incredibly uninteresting that I am now watching Confederate Railroad videos on YouTube, which is far more compelling than anything I could possibly Google regarding the Atlanta Falcons. The band is from Georgia, had the coach of the Falcons in a video, and the song was about a city in Tennessee. That’s exactly how interesting Georgia is, and by extension, the Atlanta Falcons.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kevin: Despite a brief run of success at the turn of the century, Tampa Bay is one of the most sad sack sports franchises ever.
Cory: When Tampa won the Super Bowl, they were quarterbacked by Brad Johnson, the ground game was handled by Michael Pittman and the leading receiver was Joe Jurevicius … truly Hall of Famers, all. But that’s Tampa in a nutshell — just good enough to entice everyone into forgetting what they were, just before returning to form, bringing back horrible memories. More importantly, Tampa is responsible for the rise of Jon Gruden to the top of the heap of football analysts. So, on that note you have to give them some credit for finding a way to infect the entire nation with their own woes each and every Monday Night. Kudos for that, I guess.
12. Dallas Cowboys
Cory: If the Cowboys are America’s Team, then we’re living in a world in which the terrorists won. Dallas is consistently, and inexplicably, awful. Worse than the team, however, are the fans. Cowboys fans are the University of Kentucky basketball fans of the NFL. The undeserved feeling of entitlement, the willingness to throw a player or an entire roster under the bus in the second week of the season, and the general Texasness as a whole. Cowboys fans have managed to convince themselves that Troy Aikman is one of the greatest quarterbacks in history (he isn’t) while simultaneously declaring Tony Romo to be a bum (he isn’t). And then there’s Jerry Jones, who has taken the torch from Al Davis for “Official League Cantankerous Owner” without any of the lovable quirkiness of Davis. I am, however, willing to completely change my opinion of the Cowboys if Jerry Jones will agree to wear a tracksuit and an obnoxious amount of gold. I’m also willing to meet in the middle if he will begin wearing a cowboy hat and a six-shooter.
Kevin: Historically, the Cowboys should be beloved by the Almighty, but just like America turned its back on God, so too has God turned His back on America’s Team. Clearly, Jerry Jones is the devil.
11. San Diego Chargers
Kevin: Perfect weather, great talent, classic throwback uniforms, and absolutely nothing to show for it.
Cory: You can play there, and it’s nice, but you’re not going anywhere. Just ask Ladanian Tomlinson — Hall of Famer, first ballot, pointless career. Every year they trot out a team, and that team plays football. I don’t really know any other way to describe it. They look good doing it, but they just play a little football and go home. And nobody seems to really give a damn that they’ve done this. Writing this, I can tell you that I’m phoning it in, as I can’t even think of anything clever to say about San Diego. I have adopted the persona of a Chargers fan through osmosis. I’m still writing, despite having absolutely nothing to say, just writing words… and now I know exactly what it’s like to play for the Chargers.
10. Buffalo Bills
Cory: I don’t care how many Super Bowls they went to, it doesn’t matter. Those were more cruel than anything else, and as a fan, you just have to wait out the death clock with your owner, knowing that nothing good is ever going to happen as long as he’s there. You aren’t going to get any better, but he’s the only thing keeping the team in the city. So you’re basically forced to accept your fate as a terrible team until your king dies and someone packs up your country and moves it into another country.
Kevin: When I think of “Buffalo Bill,” my first thought is to Silence of the Lambs, so that’s not good for a professional football team.
Cory: That’s terrible branding.
Note: We initially left Buffalo off this list, prompting the following discussion:
Kevin: Is there anything more “Buffalo” than forgetting about Buffalo?
Cory: It really is. Nothing could be more “Buffalo” than making a list of the tragically uninspired teams in the NFL and completely forgetting that they exist.
9. Kansas City Chiefs
Cory: The Chiefs are a pretty good example of a low-end futility team. They couldn’t win a Super Bowl with Joe Montana. They are literally the only team in history to not win a Super Bowl with Joe Montana.
Kevin: But they might win with Alex Smith, maybe the least popular QB in San Francisco history. Go figure.
8. Minnesota Vikings
Kevin: Can you really put Minnesota as less Godforsaken than Philadelphia? The Vikings had a dome collapse and an ADP ACL tear. Both are clearly works of an angry God.
7. Philadelphia Eagles
Cory: But they also had Randy Moss and the “How is this possible” Randall Cunningham season, so in a direct Cunningham comparison, the Vikes got the better Cunningham. The Vikings got the best season of Randall Cunningham’s career, Brett Favre’s career and Daunte Culpepper’s career. Every single one of those situations bests Philly at pretty much any position.
6. Washington Redskins
Kevin: Everyone knows God left DC in 2008.
Cory: The Redskins have to be playing on an ancient Indian burial ground. I’m not one to believe in hexes and what not, but RFK Stadium (or whatever it’s called now) has claimed more victims than the house from Poltergeist.
5. New York Jets
Kevin: Jets fans no doubt long of the halcyon days of Vinny Testaverde.
Cory: The Jets are so “Not Worth A Damn,” that their legendary, all-time Jet is Joe Namath. A guy who is without a doubt the most overrated Hall of Famer of all-time. What is Joe Namath famous for? He’s famous for saying that he was going to win a game, and being drunk on a sideline. Joe Namath is basically every single drunk guy ever, boasting about stuff he can’t do and then kissing Suzy Kolber.
4. Cincinnati Bengals
Cory: The Bengals would be No. 1 on this list, had they not turned it around recently. But it needs to be noted that turning it around in Cincinnati is not for lack of effort at sucking. They literally take every player who no one else wants. They took Andre Smith when he was morbidly obese. They took Pac Man Jones when he was on probation. They took Vontaze Burfict when nobody would touch him, they took Bernard Scott after he punched MULTIPLE coaches.The Bengals are only ranked this low because despite trying to fail, they can’t seem to make it happen. I imagine Mike Brown being like that woman from Major League.
Kevin: A lesson we’re learning is to not have a professional football team in the state of Ohio.
3. Oakland Raiders
Kevin: Name the Raiders coach. Seriously, name the coach. Or their starting QB.
Cory: I honestly don’t even know if Terrelle Pryor is still on the roster, or if he’s hurt, or what the deal with that is. He’s by far the most electric Raider since, I guess Bo Jackson, and I don’t even know what his status is. Because that’s the Raider way.
2. Detroit Lions
Cory: Detroit, much like Cleveland, seems to have a rule in place that demands that no more than three players be effective at once. Stafford, Johnson and Suh are good, so Reggie Bush (by extension) had to be injured. When Bush is back at 100 percent, Suh will either be thrown out of the league, or Calvin Johnson will spontaneously combust on the field.
Kevin: They’ll always be the first 0-16 team, despite not being nearly as bad as their record that year. So, that doesn’t help. Neither does the Matt Millen Reign of Ineptitude.
1. Cleveland Browns
Kevin: I honestly don’t know a Cleveland fan who enters a season with hope. Even with the current team being put together, you know it’s just a matter of time before the Football Gods realize, “Oh, hey, what’s happening in Cleveland? Time to issue an old-fashioned smiting.”
Cory: That’s the thing about Cleveland — there’s a rule that the team isn’t allowed to be successful. It doesn’t matter who is on the roster or the staff. Cleveland currently has a Pro Bowl-caliber defensive back, left tackle, center, wide receiver and tight end, and they’re awful. Cleveland couldn’t win with Bill Belichick. They’re so bad that the instant they moved to Baltimore, they won a Super Bowl. When you have to move to Baltimore to wash the stink off of yourself, you’ve been to an astonishingly stinky place.
Not to worry, though, Cleveland. You still have the Indians. Um, or the Cavaliers. Um, and, I hope, antidepressants.