It seems that, in every NFL season, there anywhere from five to eight teams that are pretty much finished by the trade deadline. Come Thanksgiving, you have about sixteen or eighteen teams fighting for twelve playoff spots.
In other words, fourteen to sixteen teams have very little to play for.
Fans of the Lions, Bills, Raiders, and 49ers can attest that the last few seasons have been a continuous nightmare of mistakes, ineptitude, and exercises of humiliation. What do they really have to look forward to come December?
Nothing, other than watching teams and players they hate go down in flames.
Ah, schadenfreude. Without it, we’d all be perfectly nice.
As a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles fan, I’ve never seen my team win it all. That doesn’t mean that every year has been a waste for me, because I’ve gotten to see the likes of Michael Irvin, Terrell Owens, Tony Romo, Brett Favre, and others fall short in glorious fashion.
That having been said, here are fifteen examples of players, teams, and ideas you can root for this season should your team find itself locked out of playoff hopes early on. Just because your team can’t win it, it doesn’t mean your worst enemies should either, right?
IF YOU HATE: Terrell Owens and Chad OchoCinco
THEN ROOT FOR: The Cincinnati Bengals
This one seems self-explanatory. Two showboats, one who’s never won a playoff game, the other who’s destroyed more bridges than the Enola Gay, that came together last year in Cincy, and put more work into their reality show antics than they did the Bengals, who went 4-12, despite boasting this supposed one-two combination from Hell. From Hell, alright. Seeing the currently hapless Andy Dalton drag the Bengals to at least a playoff victory would be a thrill.
Then again, there’s a reverse to this thought, as the owner, Mike Brown, is such a jackass that he won’t trade Carson Palmer at his request, despite likely being able to acquire important puzzle pieces in exchange. Cutting your nose off to spite your face (face being Palmer, but is also representative of the Bengals long-suffering fans) should result in no Lombardi trophy for Brown, no matter how much we hate “T-Ocho”.
IF YOU HATE: Mike Shanahan, and/or Kyle Shanahan
THEN ROOT FOR: Donovan McNabb
A source told ProFootballTalk this past spring that Kyle Shanahan (Mike’s son, Washington’s offensive coordinator) and Donovan McNabb never got off on the right foot last season in DC, and that Mike ultimately backed his son. By year’s end, McNabb, who signed a major extension in November (that was partially voided through certain wording), was riding the pine just weeks later in favor of Rex Grossman.
This is the same Mike Shanahan that watched Jake Plummer lead the Broncos to the AFC Title game in 2006, have a bad game against a great Pittsburgh defense, and then traded up in round one of that year’s draft to get Jay Cutler.
Ever since John Elway rode off into the sunset, Mike’s been an inefficient “quarterback whisperer”, and he seemed all too happy to placate his wet-behind-the-ears son in his supposed master plan to make John Beck the eventual starter at McNabb’s expense. The impatience of Mike and the shadiness of Kyle will be quite laughable if McNabb has a bounce-back year with Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, and Visanthe Shiancoe as his prime targets.
IF YOU HATE: Brett Favre
THEN ROOT FOR: Tarvaris Jackson
But maybe you don’t want Minnesota to succeed, that is, if you felt bad for Tarvaris Jackson getting railroaded in the summer of 2009. Guy leads the Vikes to the NFC East title a year earlier, then plays bad against a rejuvenated Eagles defense in round one, and, six months later, is the butt of the ESPN media blitz of Favre’s second comeback.
A year later, with Favre fence-riding again in the summer, Jackson’s own teammates (Steve Hutchinson, Ryan Longwell, and Jared Allen) flew to Favre’s house to beg him to come back. If Jackson had Steve Smith’s temper, there’d be three ambulances on their way to a Minneapolis hospital with stab wound victims.
But since Jackson’s classier than that, root for the man to take Seattle deep into the playoffs, even if it seems unlikely. Vikings fans may cringe, but it’s a nice middle finger for those who treated him like a second class citizen.
IF YOU HATE: Brett Favre
THEN ROOT FOR: The Green Bay Packers
Much like ESPN, we’re never done discussing Favre. As much as I dislike Clay “HGH tests before games? Uh oh…..” Matthews, watching Aaron Rodgers lead Green Bay to a second consecutive Super Bowl title ties him with Bart Starr for rings in Green Bay, and puts Favre in a lonely third place. But, he’s still a gunslinger, you know.
IF YOU HATE: Randy Moss
THEN ROOT FOR: The New England Patriots, The Minnesota Vikings, and The Tennesee Titans
If you don’t like Moss, he who ran over a traffic cop, insulted the Marshall plane crash, ripped a free catering spread, and was a rotten teammate to so many, then wouldn’t it be funny to see a team that he was on last year win the Super Bowl without him? The best part would be the person who catches the winning touchdown re-enacting David Tyree’s helmet catch.
IF YOU HATE: Jeff Fisher
THEN ROOT FOR: Vince Young
Ah, but what if you’re a Vince Young fan that remembers Fisher’s snotty comments from 2009 about the quarterback change? After the Titans went 0-6 with Kerry Collins to start the 2009 season, including a 59-0 plundering by New England, Young reclaimed his job as starter, but not before Fisher stated:
“I’m still in Kerry Collins’ corner because I don’t believe that our record is a reflection of the quarterback play. It’s a reflection of the team play. I’m still in his corner, but we’ve decided to go ahead and make this change.”
Sounds to me like Bud Adams was holding a bemused Fisher at gunpoint there. Young went 8-2 the rest of the way, but Fisher seemingly couldn’t wait to bench him again, doing so after Young messed up his thumb halfway through the 2010 season (despite Young’s 98.6 passer rating). This led to the rift that would seal VY’s fate in Tennessee. If the Eagles’ “Dream Team” wins Super Bowl XLVI with Young as a back-up, or starting after an injury to Michael Vick, then Fisher’s Titans would be the only place Young didn’t win a title.
IF YOU HATE: People who get away with their misdeeds
THEN ROOT FOR: Pete Carroll to have a meltdown
I’m sure it was just a coincidence that Pete Carroll snuck out of his glamorous job as USC Trojans just before the team received a two-year playoff ban, among other penalties, for a litany of violations in recruiting and illegal payoffs. New coach Lane Kiffin (no saint in his own right) and incoming freshmen would lose opportunities that other people lost for them.
While the Trojans went “Bowl-less”, Carroll coached into the second round of the NFC Playoffs with the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks. But there’s always a chance this season could break that weasel, especially if Seattle stumbles, and Carroll is forced coach week after dysfunctional week a subpar football team.
It’s fun to think about, isn’t it? “Pete Carroll Fired” is a beautiful headline.
IF YOU LOVE: Head coach press conference meltdowns
THEN ROOT FOR: The Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions to fail
Speaking of head coaches losing it, we haven’t had a historical press conference explosion since Dennis Green insisted in 2006 that the Bears are who he thought they were. Jim Mora’s are hard to top, and the likes of Bill Parcells and Mike Ditka were always good for a laugh, but not since Green has there been a YouTube-ready meltdown, with the lone possible exception of Mike Singletary ripping Vernon Davis.
The two best candidates for a rekindling of this art form are KC’s Todd Haley (looks like a crazed alcoholic, and had that wonderful shouting match with Anquan Boldin in the NFC Title game in 2009) and Detroit’s Jim Schwartz (always screaming, always fired up, always borderline homicidal). Both teams are improved from just a few years ago, so maybe there’ll be nothing but positive chatter in post-game media addresses, but a long losing streak by either team has the best chance to provide comic fodder.
(NOTE: I actually like both men, for Haley’s risk taking and Schwartz’s commitment to winning (see the story of how he brought Kyle Vanden Bosch to Detroit), so I sincerely wish the best for both. That said…..)
IF YOU LOVE: Karma
THEN ROOT FOR: James Harrison to suffer a gruesome injury
James Harrison doesn’t injure people; he just likes to HURT THEM. And if he’s not allowed to HURT PEOPLE, then he just might retire! It would be nice to see some offensive lineman clip him badly and tear his ACL out (not that I condone injury, *cough*), but that’s too easy. Seeing Cedric Benson or Ray Rice plow into his solar plexus and break some ribs is pretty bad ass.
Besides, it’ll be hard for Harrison to complain if it hurts to breathe.
IF YOU HATE: Joe Buck
THEN ROOT FOR: Fox’s Saturday college games to do monster ratings
Finding someone that enjoys Joe Buck’s commentary is like finding someone that would tear up a winning lottery ticket. I don’t find him as smarmy as others do, but I agree that his lack of enthusiasm is embarrassing, especially for someone that’s the ace play-by-play man on FOX.
There’s other good choices for a #1 guy. Kenny Albert is efficient, as is Thom Brennaman. Ron Pitts might be the most underrated “nuts and bolts” announcer in the NFL today. But with FOX’s acquisition of the increasingly popular Gus Johnson to do mostly college football, here’s hoping that there’s enough games with exciting endings (leading to Johnson having his shrill, hyperactive screams that punctuate big moments) that Johnson develops an even bigger following, and unseats Buck on fan sentiment one day.
My ideal A-Team for FOX is Johnson and Brian Billick, who is the best announcer in the game today. Give me that as the top team each week, and I won’t complain.
IF YOU HATE: LeBron James
THEN ROOT FOR: The Cleveland Browns
Oh, this is too easy. “Witness” can’t bring a title to Cleveland (or South Beach), and it would be hilarious to see Peyton Hillis, Joe Haden, and Colt McCoy do just that. If the Browns won the Super Bowl, would they be the Big Three? I hope that doesn’t mean Delonte West has kinky sex with McCoy’s mother or anything.
IF YOU HATE: Josh McDaniels
THEN ROOT FOR: Peyton Hillis
Continuing the Browns theme here. I’m not a Denver fan or anything, but it was sickening how McDaniels mucked up the Broncos winning season in 2009 by nose-diving the team into mediocrity, scapegoating Mike Nolan, and then drafting Tim Tebow, who’s more of a bust every day (we’ll come back to him later).
But that’s not the worst of it. Trading Peyton Hillis for Brady Quinn (three quarterbacks? Why three if one’s never going to play?) might be the worst NFL trade in recent memory. Seeing Hillis rack up a few more 1000 yard seasons and help lead Pat Shurmur’s team to typically-elusive success is enough to rub in the face of that hyperactive douche McDaniels.
Besides, McDaniels has wasted two years of Brian Dawkins career. For that, I ain’t forgiving him.
IF YOU LOVE: The Madden Curse and its legendary status
THEN ROOT FOR: Peyton Hillis to break something
Then again, if the Browns don’t go anywhere this year (what else is new?), it’ll still be exciting to see how and what fashion Peyton Hillis ends up on injured reserve. Maybe a crazed Josh McDaniels will hide in his closet with a Bowie knife or something. Though I hope not.
IF YOU HATE: Tim Tebow
THEN ROOT FOR: Kyle Orton
With all that said, how does the average fan NOT root for Orton to keep stomping Tebow’s head down the depth chart ladder? If Denver somehow wins the Super Bowl, I hope Tebow is placed on waivers during the season so he can’t get a ring. Let Savior Tim finish his year trying to exorcise the demons out of Oakland.
Actually, this has less to do with Tebow hatred and more to do with wanting to see ESPN try to rationalize Kyle Orton’s triumph. Steve Bunin or Neil Everett being forced to say, “Okay, Tebow is not that good, and we need to give Kyle Orton more attention. Because of this gross oversight, we are a collective ass.” Is music to my ears.
IF YOU HATE: The fact that we suffered through a four and a half month lockout
THEN ROOT FOR: The Super Bowl MVP to spit in Roger Goodell’s face during the postgame ceremony of Super Bowl XLVI
The ultimate “you remember where you were when it happened” moment. Hundreds of millions of eyes watching, and Goodell scrambling to find dignity and words. Would it be worth a lifetime suspension for that player?
I’d like to think so.
Justin Henry is a freelance writer whose work appears on many websites. He provides wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture columns for CamelClutchBlog.com, as well as several wrestling columns a week for WrestlingNewsSource.com and WrestleCrap.com. Justin can be found here on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/notoriousjrh and Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/cynicjrh.
It seems that, in every NFL season, there anywhere from five to eight teams that are pretty much finished by the trade deadline. Come Thanksgiving, you have about sixteen or eighteen teams fighting for twelve playoff spots. In other words, fourteen to sixteen teams have very little to play for.