In any competitive medium, somebody has to be on the bottom. But some NFL franchises are so poorly run, in such obvious ways, it goes beyond taking tough losses. It becomes a question of incompetence.
There are four teams that most NFL fans could rattle off without hesitation as the worst run organizations in the league. The Cleveland Browns, the Detroit Lions, the Washington Redskins, and the Cincinnati Bengals seem incapable of making their own success. If anything, they seem to create their own misery.
Let’s explore the worst franchises in the NFL, and illustrate why one of these inglorious organizations deserves the title of the worst managed in the NFL.
The race to the bottom between the Browns, Lions, and Redskins
The Cleveland Browns made the most public case for being among the worst run teams in the NFL. Their long-term struggles culminated in a 0-16, historically awful train wreck of a season.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield was meant to be the savior of the organization. Instead, Mayfield never got going. The team was mired in controversy. Odell Beckham Jr. was wasted. The disaster continues.
The Detroit Lions refuse to help themselves. Sports Illustrated readers voted them as one of the worst teams in the NFL. That was mainly in response to the organization sticking with head coach Matt Patricia for seemingly no good reason. The front office seems irrationally dedicated to turning yet more awful seasons, like the 3-12-1 year they just wrapped.
The Washington Redskins seem to be patient zero for full-scale institutional rot. Yes, they went 3-13. They don’t play great on the field. But worse still, they seem to have ongoing issues with providing reasonable medical treatment for their players. The Redskins are so poorly run, they hurt players’ careers well after they separate from the team.
And then there’s the Bengals.
The worst of the worst: the ongoing Bengals disaster
The Bengals’ original owner, Paul Brown, died in 1991. His son Mike took the reins. They haven’t won a single playoff game ever since. Once a breeding ground for tactical innovation and legendary players, today’s Bengals are downright hopeless. And they take no measures to help themselves out of this quagmire.
Consider their situation at head coach. Longtime skipper Martin Lewis was understandably fired after failing repeatedly to win any big games. But Bengals fans didn’t get much time to celebrate. His replacement, Zac Taylor, was a quarterbacks coach with the Los Angeles Rams. Not even an offensive coordinator, a quarterbacks coach.
Owner Mike Brown regularly interferes with picks and trades. He always spends up through the entire salary cap, attempting to save money in odd places. It consistently adds up to wonky teams with poor coaching. Most crucially, he vacuums up some decent players that end up being completely wasted.
Their high draft picks are constantly wasted on suspect picks like defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson and infamously awful QB David Klingler. It’s Mike Brown’s team. He is in the one position that is almost impossible to do anything about. Until he moves on, the Bengals will likely keep losing.
Do the Bengals have any hope of turning things around?
QB Joe Burrow is widely regarded as the shoo-in for the number one pick in the 2020 NFL draft. Outside of questions about his small hands — a “problem” that Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes also suffers from — Burrows keeps fielding the same pointed question.
How can he possibly be excited about playing for the Bengals? Simply put, Burrow’s a professional. He says he’ll leave it all on the field no matter who he plays for. But the question gets asked because, well, the Bengals earned it. And he’s their best chance of at least building up some momentum.
Unfortunately, Burrow will have very little to work with in Cincinnati. His head coach’s background working with quarterbacks, in particular, should help. But the lack of sensible investment on both sides of the ball still looms over any hope for notable improvement in 2020.
Most likely, Joe Burrow will put on the best show he can while the worst franchise in the NFL continues to collapse around him.