The Redshirt Senior: The Tanking for Tua™ Dolphins and Other Bad Teams in the NFL.

by Evan Griffith | 10/4/19 2:00am

We’re four weeks into the 2019 National Football League season and the narratives are already popping up around the media. After all, four data points is more than enough to make definitive statements regarding the state of a team this year, right? Nothing is ever set in stone. For example, the Los Angeles Rams were undefeated going into Sunday with a win against the 2018 NFC runner-up New Orleans Saints; the Rams would lose 55-40 at home against the 1-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Kansas City Chiefs were undefeated and putting up massive points going into Sunday. They would barely beat the often-overlooked Detroit Lions (now 2-1-1) in a game where Pat Mahomes threw zero touchdown passes. The Miami Dolphins even had the lead at one point against the Los Angeles Chargers. Anything can happen!

Going over the major story-lines this season and keeping the topic on bad teams, the Dolphins are bad. I already talked about that last week. But there are some equally bad teams that are being overlooked by the Dolphins’ apparent attempts at Tanking for Tua™. In addition to the Dolphins, there are five other winless teams in the NFL at the moment: the New York Jets, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Denver Broncos, the Washington Football Team and the Arizona Cardinals (at 0-3-1). 

Let’s start with the Broncos, since it gives me the most schadenfreude to write about them as a Raiders fan. The Broncos have been in a perpetual state of rebuilding ever since Peyton Manning retired after Super Bowl 50. After Manning retired, general manager and overrated quarterback John Elway selected Manning’s replacement, 2016 first-round draft pick and quarterback-of-the-future Paxton Lynch. Lynch was everything Elway wanted in a quarterback, meaning he was tall. Nevertheless, Lynch failed to beat out former seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian for the starting job. The Broncos missed the playoffs that year for the first time since 2010 and head coach Gary Kubiak retired and was replaced by the under-qualified Vance Joseph. Joseph never did anything of note as the defensive coordinator for the Dolphins, and he sure as heck didn’t translate well to head coaching. The fabled No Fly Zone defense that helped Denver win the Super Bowl regressed that year with the departure of Aqib Talib to the Rams and with an anemic offense that was not led by Lynch after he couldn’t get the starting job again, the Broncos finished 5-11 in 2017. The next year, nothing else changed except for the signing of Case Keenum at quarterback, and after Lynch didn’t win the starting job AGAIN, the Broncos went 6-10 for the team’s first back-to-back losing seasons since 1971-72 and Lynch was released. Now, the Broncos have signed the elite Joe Flacco to serve as a stopgap for the season while second-round pick Drew Lock learns the offense (on IR). Elway has served as a poor GM during this time for his questionable handling regarding Denver’s quarterback situation, and I hope as a Raiders fan that he never leaves.

I want to pivot to Arizona for a moment since a few of the teams’ struggles are due to bad luck: The Jets have a first-year head coach and the team’s second-year quarterback Sam Darnold was out for a few games with mono, and the Bengals’ offensive line and AJ Green have been injured in addition to the team having a first-year head coach. The Cardinals also have a first-year head coach in Kliff Kingsbury, who had an interesting journey to reach this position. He spent the 2013 through 2018 seasons at Texas Tech University as the school’s head football coach, compiling a 35-40 overall record and a 19-35 record in Big 12 play. He was then fired from the position and was hired by the University of Southern California as the team’s offensive coordinator. He was then contacted by a few NFL teams for head coaching positions, which caused USC athletic director and most overrated player in the NFL Hall of Fame Lynn Swann to block those teams’ calls. Kingsbury then resigned from USC and accepted the head coaching gig with Arizona. I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone falling backward into an NFL coaching gig like Kingsbury has. 

Then taking a look at how the Cardinals ended up with the team’s current quarterback, it’s interesting to think about their approach. The Cardinals traded up in last year’s draft to get Josh Rosen. The team then floundered to the first overall pick with Rosen and a first-year head coach in Steve Wilks. Then the team fired the coach after only one year and picked quarterback Kyler Murray with the first overall pick while Rosen was still on the team. The Cardinals then shipped Rosen off for a second-round draft pick to the Miami Dolphins, basically without giving him a chance to succeed in an offense with continuity. The Cardinals’ experiment with a college offense looked promising for about the last half of the team’s opening weekend matchup with the Detroit Lions that ended in a tie, but the struggling defense has yet to help put wins on the board. Who knows, maybe they’ll try again with a new coach next year.

Washington’s problem is its ownership, which can be a whole separate column from this, but their on-the-field talent is not terrible by any means. If it seems like I’m being crass with my assessments that may be true, I’m writing this after I got out of an interview and I need to let things out. Tune in next week after I’ll have done some yoga for a more positive outlook on things.