Three Teams Compete For NFL’s Worst Franchise
By Noah Gronninger
The nominees for worst NFL franchise are; the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Kansas City Chiefs. Since the 1994 NFL season the Chiefs have zero playoff wins, the Browns have one, and the Jaguars have five. Each struggles to sign top talent via free agency and their drafts are pedestrian at best. The Browns and Jaguars records have usually been near the bottom of the league over the last seven years. The Chiefs have made the playoffs in three of those years, but could never quite come out with a win. Each nominee has a strong case, but only one can win the award. Now, each will plead its case for why it should be named the NFL’s worst.
Is “good enough” good enough?
The Kansas City Chiefs shockingly have not drafted a first round quarterback since 1983 when they selected Todd Blackledge ahead of Jim Kelly and Dan Marino. They did have the services of the best quarterback in NFL history in Joe Montana for two years. Montana almost got them to the Super Bowl in the 93′ season, but the Chiefs fell to the Buffalo Bills as Kimble Anders dropped a wide open pass in the endzone before halftime and Montana was later knocked out of the game.
Since Joe Montana retired after the 94′ season it’s been a steady and unsuccessful stream of journeymen quarterbacks; Steve Bono, Elvis GrBac, Trent Green, Damon Huard, Matt Cassel, and now Alex Smith. Trent Green had some success in Kansas City, but I think we agree he was playing with outstanding talent all around him. As of late, do the Chiefs win more regular season games and make the playoffs more often than the Browns and Jags? Yes, but would you rather be a mediocre team sometimes making the playoffs or a team that’s near the top of the draft and willing to select a quarterback in hopes they can strike gold and be a true contender?
Since 2003 Cleveland and Jacksonville each have drafted two 1st round quarterbacks and seven overall. In that time the Chiefs selected Brodie Croyle in the 3rd round and Ricky Stanzi in the 5th. This 2014 offseason the Kansas City Chiefs targeted six free agents they wanted to acquire: WR Eric Decker, RB Darren Sproles, LB D’Qwell Jackson, DL Red Bryant, WR Emmanuel Sanders, and TE Brandon Pettigrew; they weren’t able to sign a single one. The Chiefs continue to ignore the quarterback position by continuously trading for backup talent and expecting them to lead them to new heights.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. Filling in for Stephen A. Smith on ESPN First Take Freddie Coleman eliquently said, “If you’re not at the top or the bottom of the NFL, you’re nowhere.” That’s exactly where the Chiefs are right now, nowhere. At least the Browns and Jags are continuously bad so they can keep trying for that franchise QB that might ultimately lead them to some meaningful wins. It appears that once again Cleveland and Jacksonville will be selecting 1st round quarterbacks for the 3rd time since 2003 in hopes they can finally find the right player. If the Chiefs (as an organization) are still gun shy from missing on Blackledge back in 1983, they’ll continue wallow until that changes. The Kansas City Chiefs organization epitomizes mediocrity and in the NFL that just happens to be the worst place you can be.
The case against Jacksonville
The Jacksonville Jaguars last playoff appearance was the 07′ season and included a win against Pittsburgh (31-29). They have five playoff victories since 1996, but since losing the likes of Mark Brunell, Fred Taylor, Jimmy Smith, Keenan McCardell, and Donovin Darius they’ve fallen off a cliff. In 2003 the Jags drafted Byron Leftwich with their 1st round draft pick. Arguably they had some good years with him, but it was clear he wasn’t the franchise player they were hoping for. The Jaguars didn’t get scared off from that recent failure as they took Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert in the 1st round of 2011. Gabbert clearly struggled in his time with the Jaguars and was traded to the 49ers where he’ll get a fresh start with quarterback guru, Jim Harbaugh.
Clearly they learned their lesson and will NEVER draft a 1st round QB again, right? Wrong! The Jaguars appear slated to draft a 1st rounder in the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft whether it be Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, or Johnny Manziel. They know how important the position is and aren’t afraid to try again knowing if they strike gold they could be contenders for years. They’ve had awful seasons, can’t get fans to come to games, have trouble attracting free agents, but I love their strategy and willingness to keep trying for the ultimate prize.
The case against Cleveland
Many see the Cleveland Browns as perennial losers. The Browns too have tried drafting 1st round quarterbacks; Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, and in the 12′ draft Brandon Weeden, but none have worked out. Surely they’ll not even be thinking of drafting a 1st round quarterback ever again, right? Wrong again! Cleveland, just like Jacksonville, is thought to be focused on a quarterback again this year whether it be Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, or Johnny Manziel.
The Browns and Jaguars mirror each other in a lot of ways. They could just sign Michael Vick or perhaps traded for Alex Smith (instead of Kansas City) so they could FINALLY be a mediocre team. Instead both remained in the cellar, but continue trying for that elusive franchise quarterback. Both know it’s all about the Super Bowl (being 2 of the 4 teams never having been to one) and that’s why they at least keep trying to find a franchise QB to get to the big dance. You can also build a dominant defense like Seattle, but they still had a very mobile and creative Russell Wilson who made plays at the most crucial of times. These clubs aren’t worried about rising to the level of mediocre, willing to take the down years trying to find that next franchise quarterback to take them beyond mediocrity and turn them into an every year contender.
The envelope please
Each team has had struggled without having a franchise quarterback, but it’s the Browns and Jaguars who keep trying. The Chiefs appear content to strive for mediocrity. Cleveland and Jacksonville know if they miss in the 1st round of 2014 they’re looking at a lot of questions and rough years ahead. They also feel if they hit on one of these young quarterbacks they could become instant contenders and seem willing to take the risk in hopes of reward. The Kansas City Chiefs want nothing to do with that risk and appear unwilling to deal with the possible questions that 2012 brought. They’d much rather find a game manager and keep the fans in the seats instead of taking that shot to be a true contender. I look at the Browns and Jaguars as teams who understand the NFL and the importance of a franchise quarterback. They want to be Super Bowl contenders and are willing to take the risk. For now the Chiefs might have a better record than the Browns or Jags, but once Cleveland or Jacksonville hits on a 1st round quarterback they’ll soar past Kansas City.
And so the award for worst NFL franchise goes to – The Kansas City Chiefs!