Another Sunday has come and gone (thankfully) proving beyond a doubt that the this is going to be a long season. Well lets face it, we all knew in our hearts of hearts that this was going to be a painful season. However, I believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Over the past five years there have been several teams that went from a joke to a legitimate contender, boosting young and strong rosters. There are five teams that have made the most impressive turn arounds.
2008; Rock bottom, actually I would say more like mantle bottom, as the Detroit Lions ended the season 0-16. The worst record in NFL history! Even if the Jaguars go 0-16 they will not be the first team to accomplish this feat. Yet, the Lions were able to claw their way out of this massive hole that they dug themselves and brought there respectiblity up from a laughing stock to a serious threat.
The Lions fate changed on draft day 2009, and with the first overall pick the Lions selected Matthew Stafford. The 2009 season saw the Lions wins go up by 200% to 2-14, followed by 6-10 in 2010, 10-6 in 2011, and 4-12 in 2012. Now this is not the model child of consistent improvement but there was significant improvement to say the very least. (This is why they are number 5 in my list).
In 2010 the Lions drafted Ndamukong Suh second overall, and in 2011 paired Suh with Nick Fairly. The 2012 season saw the Lions select OT Riley Reiff, while this past draft the Lions selected Ezekiel Ansah. Other than these selections mentioned above the Lions drafting has been…unimpressive, yet they have built a team that has one of the best passing offenses’ in the NFL.
San Francisco 49ers
This may seem like a surprise pick considering their recent Super Bowl appearance, but there was a time when the 49ers were TERRIBLE. Once upon a time there was a football team with Jeff Garcia as the QB and Terrell Owens as WR and they marked the beginning of the end for a once great franchise. The 2003 season proved to be an underwhelming swan song for Terrell Owens, as he was traded to the Eagles in the off season, the team finished 7-9 (a pipe dream for Jags fans right now) and Garcia was cut in the off-season.
The 2005 season was not much better. That season saw the introduction of draft picks Alex Smith (1st overall) and Frank Gore (3rd round) and the team finished 4-12 after an injury plagued year. Smith’s career was nearly written off as a bust until the 2011 season, when he was introduced to his 6th offensive co-ordinator in six years and third head coach. As we all know Vince Lombardi incarnate, Jim Harbaugh, was hired to lead the 49ers to greatness yet again.
From 2003 the 49ers went 7-9, 2-14, 4-12, 7-9, 5-11, 7-9, 8-8, 6-10, 13-3, 11-4-1, a pretty nice jump from mediocrity to Super Bowl runner up (I hope Flacco gave Boldin half of his signing bonus considering Boldin did all the work, but thats neither here nor there). Unlike the Lions, the 49ers have been on of the best drafting teams in the NFL, drafting players such as Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Patrick Willis, Joe Staley, Dashon Goldson, Michael Crabtree (meh), Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati, Taylor Mays, NaVarro Bowman, Aldon Smith, Colin Kaepernick, and Chris Culliver (oh and Flacco owes him a big thank you for some blown coverages).
Kaepernick took over the reins at QB following another injury to Alex Smith mid season in 2012, leading the team to a heart breaking Super Bowl loss. Yet the bright spot being that they are built to compete and be contenders for a long time coming, especially with Kaepernick under center.
Now the Jaguars have not seen anything near a 8-8 season in a very long time, yet just like the 49ers needing a new GM and coach, the Jaguars got their Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh in David Caldwell and Gus Bradley, at least we all hope.
When have the Redskins had a solid QB? The answer: a long time. The Washington Redskins were the time that drafted Patrick Ramsey in the first round, who you may ask is that? Point proven. The Redskins are one of the most storied franchises in the NFL with 23 playoffs appearances, 13 Division Championships, 5 Conference Championships and 3 Super Bowl victories. Victories that seem very far in the past.
The 2008 season seem to be the descent into darkness, similar to the one that occurred to the Jaguars that same year. Jim Zorn was hired as head coach, replacing Joe Gibbs, and inherited a team that had made the playoff two of the past three seasons. However, Zorn was unable to build on the playoff appearance the season before and the Redskins finished 8-8, 3rd in the division. Jason Campbell, drafted in 2005, was still seen to be the future of the franchise at QB, and it was hoped the Zorn could help develop Campbell into a champion level QB. However, this was not to be.
The 2008 8-8 season was followed by going 4-12 in 2009, 6-10 in 2010, and 5-11 in the 2011 season. Following the 6-10 season Zorn was given his walking papers and Mike Shanahan was hired. Following Zorn was Jason Campbell who was traded to Oakland after Washington traded for Donavan McNab. McNab proved to be…underwhelming in his one and only season with the Redskins and was promptly released the following off season. Taking over the reins at QB was Rex Grossman, followed by John Beck.
The 2009 draft saw Washington drafting Brian Orakpo, who frankly is a beast. While in 2010 Washington drafted Trent Williams and Perry Riley, these being the only players to note. Washington supplemented their so so drafting with spending insane money on FA like Albert Haynesworth, which was an amazing success. In the 2011 draft Shanahan passed taking Blaine Gabbert (something I will never forgive him for) and drafted Ryan Kerrigan. Also in this draft Washington drafted Jarvis Jenkins, Leonard Hankerson, and Roy Helu being notable names.
Then the savior of the franchise, RGIII. In the 2012 draft Mike Shanahan traded away Washington’s future first round picks and his first born (Kyle Shanahan still doesn’t know) for Robert Griffin the Third. Also in this draft class were the likes of Kirk Cousins and Alfred Morris. This draft class helped propel the Redskins to the wildcard round of the 2012 Playoffs, and even if it was a loss it was progress.
The moral oral of this story is that each of these teams have dealt with terrible QB situations and have built themselves up from the being bottom of the barrel. Washington was willing to wait on RGIII in have Rex Grossman play for them. The 49ers spent seven years building through the draft, while the Lions hit rock bottom with a 0-16 season. However, each team has found their QB of the future and once they were found improvement was accelerated.
Other teams that have followed similar patterns are Seattle with sticking with T Jackson for a year until they drafted Russell Wilson, while Carolina dealt with Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen before they got Cam Newton.
The Jaguars are not in a rebuilding process, they are in a building process. The difference being rebuilding implies that there was a foundation to build off, which is not the case. The resent trade of Eugene Monroe is a prime example. David Caldwell was not willing to pay the expected extremely high price that Monroe will be asking for next off-season, and chances are Monroe would get much better offers from contenders.
The 2013 draft class is the foundation which Caldwell is building this team, with FA acquisitions being scaffolding supports until the rookies can can on their own two feet. There will be some reuse of old build material like Paul Posluszny, Russell Allen, Cecil Shorts, Justin Blackmon, Bryan Anger and Josh Scobee could very will fine continued success with the team. However, again the Monroe trade shows that anyone could be traded.
This will be a long season, and chances are that next season will be long as well. Yet the night is always darker before the dawn, so I hope you all are not afraid of the dark.