Consider it a drawback of parity. As one of the only sports leagues in the major American sports that can truly lay claim to seasonal swings from basement dwellers to Super Bowl Champions, the NFL supports the notion that anything can happen on any given Sunday. So much so, in fact, that the popular slogan exists in the common lexicon. This is a good thing, and one of the reasons for the enduring popularity of the game itself. Because of the wild swings in polarity, though, there are just as many busts, disappointments, and heartbreaks as there are glorious successes and victories.
They don’t have to all happen on the field, either. We took a look back at the 2014 NFL year (the preseason, the previous offseason, and the actual season) and examined all the things that were supposed to, or should have, worked out in a much different fashion. From draft picks that didn’t measure up to front office members dropping the ball, here are the most depressing parts of the latest iteration of the National Football League.
1. Robert Griffin III
This was supposed to be the year. There was no more Mike Shanahan. The disastrous knee injury was far enough in the past that even a passable recovery was in the works. Of course, none of that wound up materializing, as Griffin lost his starting gig to Colt McCoy after a decidedly underwhelming showing early in the season. We’re about to hit year four of the RGIII era and we’re openly wondering where he’s going to be playing next year. That kind of says it all.
2. Thursday Night Football
Believe it or not, one of the big storylines headed into the 2014 season was the fact that there would be Thursday Night Football games to watch on normal television, rather than the NFL Network. CBS spent $275 million to make this happen, and put many more dollars into advertising this fact, but at the end of the day, we still wound up with Thursday Night Football, and no one likes TNF.
3. Jadeveon Clowney
During his tenure with the SEC, Jadeveon Clowney looked like he didn’t belong. Bigger, faster, and stronger than everyone else on the field, Clowney’s NFL readiness was never in doubt — if you were playing a pickup game, regardless of the sport, you were picking him first. His talents were as apparent as they were otherworldly. Taken first overall by the Houston Texans, Clowney injured his knee and was sidelined for the rest of the season, eventually undergoing microfracture surgery early in December.
4. Johnny Manziel
To paraphrase a statement from Deadspin’s Kyle Wagner, the whole Johnny Football phenomenon is only really possible if Manziel is good at the game — otherwise he’s just another egotistical athlete with an unrealistic view of his own abilities. That’s not fun. What is fun is the brash young quarterback who actually can help the Browns get better. So far, there’s been little evidence that J-Foots can actually accomplish any of that.
5. Roger Goodell
The worst vibes from the NFL, though, came straight from the league office, and specifically the commissioner, Roger Goodell. Over the course of the year, he’s botched the Josh Gordon case, the Ray Rice suspension, the Adrian Peterson suspension, and the concussion discussion. That’s a remarkable track record of failure for the man who is ostensibly in command of a billion dollar sports behemoth. Everyone’s getting tired of talking about how bad Goodell is, and you won’t find people clamoring for his resignation anymore, but the fact remains: We’re not mad, Roger. We’re just disappointed.