Behind The Sticks
Shots With MZE
Behind The Sticks
Shots With MZE
Put a Ring on it (or not)
Hello, Blitzers! It’s your old pal, MZE, back with more content after a little holiday vacation time. We’re into the NFL’s second season where hopes are both found and lost in a heartbeat. The ultimate goal is, of course, to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. It’s a goal that has eluded one dozen NFL teams. I decided to dig into these franchises and have come up with my four top franchises without a Super Bowl title.
Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans
I'm leading this column with the Titans because even though they've never won a Super Bowl, they'll always have the title of "Patriots Dynasty Enders". God bless you, Derrick Henry.
The Houston Oilers were founded in 1960, joining the AFL. The team won back-to-back AFL titles in its first two seasons and made it to the title game in 1963. They joined the NFL in 1970 but didn’t achieve a .500 season until 1974. From 1978 to 1980, coached by O.A. “Bum” Phillips and his signature cowboy hat, the Oilers made the playoffs but came up short each time. It would be 1987 under Johnny Cash wannabe, Jerry Glanville, that the Oilers would get back to the post season. For the next seven seasons they would be a playoff team, three years under Glanville and the last four under Jack Pardee, but wouldn’t get any deeper than the divisional round. In 1997 the franchise moved to Nashville and changed names from the Oilers to the Titans. The 1999 season saw them advance all the way to the Super Bowl with dynamic quarterback, Steve McNair, and under the tutelage of Jeff Fisher, who apparently took several barrels of Texas oil for his hair. They’d make it all the way to the three yard line where their championship dream would end against the Rams (watch the replay because Kevin Dyson was not even close to only a yard short of the end zone). They’ve been back to the playoffs six times since that Super Bowl but have yet to make it back. This franchise’s history has become a country song without the dog dying.
San Diego/LA Chargers
Another team that had AFL success makes this list. From 1960 through 1969, the Chargers made five appearances in the AFL title game, winning once in 1963. They were merged into the NFL in 1970 but it wouldn’t be until 1979 and the advent of “Air Coryell” that they’d make the playoffs. For the next four seasons with Dan Fouts at quarterback (long before he was telling Brent Musberger to shut up while covering the Bourbon Bowl) the Chargers would be a playoff team, falling short each time. It would be 1992 before they’d get back to the post season under head coach, Bobby Ross, and puffy quarterback, Stan Humphries. In three of the next four seasons they would be a playoff team, making it to Super Bowl XXIX where they would succumb to Steve Young and company, 49-26. During the 21st century the franchise has made seven more playoff appearances with 2007 being the closest they’d come to making another Super Bowl visit, losing 21-12 to the Patriots in the AFC title game (but hey every team except for one from New Jersey lost to that team). Two California locations for the franchise and no Super Bowl rings won. I hear Burbank is a nice city.
The third and final AFL crossover team on my list is the Buffalo Bills. Another franchise that had success prior to joining the NFL, the Bills won back-to-back AFL titles in 1964 and 1965 before merging into the NFL in 1970. They made their first NFL playoff appearance in 1974 under head coach, Lou Saban, but were defeated by the Pittsburgh Steelers. They wouldn’t be back to the playoffs until 1980 then again in 1981with quarterback, Joe Ferguson, and head coach, Chuck Knox. They’d lose road games to the Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals in each of those years. Man, remember when the Bengals were relevant? It would be 1988 before the team would see the playoffs again but it would begin a fairly successful run for the franchise. With head coach, Marv Levy, and Hall of Fame quarterback, Jim Kelly, they would make the playoffs in eight of nine seasons. In the middle of this success came the most frustrating run in Super Bowl history. From 1990 through 1993 the Bills would represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. They would lose Super Bowl XXV when Scott Norwood would miss a field goal that made the words, “wide right,” send Bills fans into therapy for several years. They would spot the Redskins a 24-0 lead in Super Bowl XXVI, never recovering. They would be outscored 82-30 combined by the Cowboys in Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII making the Bills the only team in history to lose four consecutive Super Bowls. The team would make the playoffs as a wild card in 1998 and 1999 under Wade Phillips. The 1999 team would put Bills fans back in therapy thanks to the words, “Music City Miracle,” and a controversial kickoff return for touchdown that to this day still causes outrage among Orchard Park residents (I don’t have the heart to tell them it may actually have been a backwards pass). The Bills have only made the playoffs one time this century, losing 10-3 to Jacksonville in the 2017 AFC Wild Card game but as far as franchises go, they’ve been left out in the cold and I don’t mean the December temps in New York’s Southern Tier.
You Like That? With all due respect to the above three franchises, no franchise in existence since 1960 has been more beleaguered than the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings were formed in 1961, joining the NFL as an expansion team. They actually won their first ever game. It would be 1968 under second year coach, Bud Grant, that the team first made the playoffs. One year later they’d make their first Super Bowl appearance where they would be upset by the Kansas City Chiefs, the last one before the AFL-NFL merger. From 1968 through 1982 the Vikings would miss the playoffs just three times. They would play in Super Bowls VIII and IX, losing first to the Dolphins and then the Steelers. The 1975 team would be eliminated from the playoffs when Drew Pearson assaulted Nate Wright to free himself for a 50-yard touchdown pass from Roger Staubach on what would be dubbed, “The Hail Mary.” Apparently offensive pass interference is a gift from the heavens but I digress. Super Bowl XI would be the fourth one lost by the Vikings as they were pounded by the Raiders, 32-14. In all the Vikings have made 29 playoff appearances. They have lost games on the lone kick missed by a Hall of Fame kicker on the season (although that one was really lost by poor coaching choices but that’s for another time), the inability of a coaching staff to count to 11 after a time out, missed chip shot field goals, and other fun and exciting ways (writer’s note: these ways were not fun nor exciting for the writer). A franchise that has produced more Hall of Fame talent than any of the other four and the best overall franchise W-L record among the group but still one that has not been involved in a parade down Main Street, U.S.A. Maybe someday, most likely the day after my funeral.
What franchise without a ring would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments and please read the work of my fine cohorts in crime among the Blitzed family.
Until next time, don’t qualify as a wild card because winning on the road is a bitch, use the time on your bye week wisely, and if you haven’t won a ring yet just use the pull tabs from that six pack you just finished as a substitute.
Yours in football.
Mike Zimmers Ears is a die hard Vikings fan (SKOL!) and a regular columnist for Blitzed Football. You can listen to his Heart and Skol podcast here.
Bankin' on Tankin'
Hello, Blitzers. It’s MZE back to talk about another topic that’s been on my mind. We are watching some really bad football this 2019 season coming from Miami, Cincinnati, our nation’s capital, and New Jersey (twice). Being bad sometimes can be considered good. Being the worst in the NFL nets a team the first overall choice in the coming draft. The motto for awful football in 2019 is, “Tank for Tua,” as in Alabama quarterback, Tua Tagavailoa. I began to wonder how well this ‘tanking’ philosophy has worked for teams in the past. I grabbed the laptop and investigated number on picks from 1995 through 2014 to see who has gone big and who has gone home. You may ask, “But MZE why stop at 2014?” Then again you may just leave the page to grab a brew and a sandwich. For those asking my reasoning is I wanted to give the draftees time to play through their rookie contract in order to make a ruling on these picks and what they did with the team that drafted them. Question out of the way, I give you my personal three biggest flops and three biggest props.
David Carr (Houston Texans – 2002)
David Carr lit up the college scene at Fresno State University. He threw for 4,839 yards and 46 touchdowns in his senior year in leading the Bulldogs to an 11-3 record. The expansion Houston Texans thought they had their ride for years to come. Unfortunately this Carr turned into a hoopty that barely made it down the block. Carr had 75 starts for the Texans with his team going 22-53 in them. He threw for 13,391 yards with 59 touchdowns against 65 interceptions over that time. His offensive line didn’t wasn’t exactly Turtle Wax either in terms of protection the Carr as he was sacked 249 times during his time in Houston. This Carr turned out to be quite the lemon.
Ki Jana Carter (Cincinnati Bengals – 1995)
Ki Jana Carter was part of one of the best offensive teams in Penn State history. He ran for 1,539 yards and averaged 7.8 yards per carry during the 1994 Penn State regular season and added three touchdown runs in the Rose Bowl including an 83-yarder on Penn State’s first play from scrimmage to complete an undefeated season (which should have netted them the National Championship but I digress). The Bengals were coming off of a 3-13 season and had no clear cut bell cow running back. Carter seemed to be the perfect fit so they traded with the Carolina Panthers up to the one spot to get him. In his first preseason game, Carter blew out his knee at the Silverdome and his career never reached the level everyone had hoped. He was with the team for 64 games getting just 227 carries for 747 yards and 16 TDs. He also had 52 catches for 375 YDS and a touchdown. The team won just 22 of those games the former Nittany Lion never did earn his Bengal stripes.
Jamarcus Russell (2007 Oakland Raiders)
Russell was a strong-armed QB out of LSU. In total he threw for 6,625 yards over three years with a 61.9% completion rate, which improved in each of his three seasons 52 touchdowns and just 21 interceptions. The Raiders finished 2006 with a 2-14 record and between Andrew Walter and Aaron Brooks their quarterback situation looked dismal. Russell seemed to be a match for the Raiders but he quickly proved to be a bigger headache than help. He held out prior to his first training camp and made just one start as a rookie. After a 5-10 second year, Russell must have gotten a thumbs down from Chuck Norris or something as he showed up for camp weighing over 300 pounds. He would make just nine more NFL starts and ended his career with a 7-18 record, 4,083 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions. The man who allegedly could throw a football 70 yards from his knees couldn’t seem to push himself away from the dining table.
Orlando Pace (1997 St. Louis Rams)
Pace was a mountain of an offensive lineman out of Ohio State University. The St. Louis Rams were coming off of a 6-10 season looking to bolster their offensive line. They traded their first round pick to the Jets, who held the top spot, and took Pace. In his 12 seasons with the team, the Rams made five playoff appearances and won a Super Bowl. Pace was named to seven Pro Bowls, was a three-time Pro Bowler and in 2016 was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Seems like the Rams were smart to keep Pace.
Eli Manning (2004 San Diego Chargers/New York Giants)
Right now you’re probably saying, “MZE, what the hell?” I get it but hear me out. This is an interesting case. In 2004 the San Diego Chargers had the first pick in the NFL Draft and chose Eli Manning from Ole Miss. It was here when we first got the professional version of the “Eli Pout.” Manning did not want the Chargers to choose him and let it be known. The Spanos family stuck its collective fingers in their ears and chose Eli anyway. He lasted about an hour with the Chargers and was dealt to the Giants for their first pick, Phillip Rivers, as well as other choices in the draft. Manning has made it to the Pro Bowl four times and took two Super Bowl rings away from Tom Brady, warranting him a place in my heart forever. As of the writing of this piece, Eli has a 116-116 record as a starter with 56,537 yards, 362 touchdowns, and 241 interceptions. He is also 8-4 in six playoff appearances. While Rivers has had a nice career with the Chargers, the Book of Eli has been an overall better read.
Peyton Manning (1998 Indianapolis Colts)
Peyton Manning had a fabulous career with the Tennessee Volunteers (remember when they actually fielded a good football team?). In his four-year college career, Peyton threw for 11,201yards, 89 touchdowns, and just 33 interceptions. The Colts were coming off of a miserable 3-13 season with Jim Harbaugh behind center and chose Manning with their first pick. He did not pout his way out of town. Instead Peyton started 208 games with the Colts, going 141-67 in that time. He amassed 54,828 passing yards and threw for 399 touchdowns in his time there. The Colts made 11 playoff appearances with Peyton at the helm and won a Super Bowl ring in 2006. He was named to 11 Pro Bowls and garnered five All-Pro honors as well. It’s clear that in the 1998 draft, Peyton found his place.
While most of the number one overall draft picks in this study had at least one playoff appearances with several having multiples, only Peyton Manning and Orlando Pace won Super Bowl rings with the team that drafted them. The individual honors among this group are many but is tanking for the top pick really worth it? If rings are the ultimate goal, MZE says it’s a no.
Until next time my friends, may all your number one picks be stars, may all your needs be filled, and may the only tanking you do involve choosing a lobster for dinner with your special someone.
Yours in football,
Mike Zimmers Ears is a Minnesota Vikings expert ad regular columnist with Blitzed Football. You can listen to his new Vikings podcast, Heart and Skol here.
Coach, NOT First Class
With Jay Gruden finally getting the axe (and really Redskins, what took you so long?) and Dan Quinn’s time in Atlanta on life support, I began thinking about other unsuccessful coaching tenures in NFL history and what it took for these guys to finally be let go. Now we aren’t talking one and done coaches like the immortal, Les Steckel’s 3-13 single season in Minnesota. I still have nightmares about that. At a minimum my coaches had to have three seasons of mediocrity with one franchise to make my list. With that in mind, here are some of my fantastic failures in the coaching ranks.
Tom Flores – Seattle Seahawks (1992-1994): Flores had a solid coaching career with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders from 1979 through 1987. In that time he led his team to 83 regular season wins against 53 losses and claimed two Super Bowl rings. He would eventually move on to the Seahawks front office in 1989 and finally back to the coaching ranks in 1992. He should have quit while he was ahead. His three seasons on the Seahawks sidelines all ended in double-digit losses. A 14-34 record later Flores was fired as head coach, unable to repeat his success with the Raiders. If only he’d first taken a head coaching job at USC where he could quickly escape town amidst scandal before coaching the Seahawks. Ah well 20/20 hindsight.
Mike Ditka – New Orleans Saints (1997-1999): Dikta was a great tight end for the Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, and Dallas Cowboys. From 1982 through 1992 he would coach the Bears. His no-nonsense attitude helped him achieve a career regular season record of 106-62 and a Super Bowl ring in 1985 with one of the most dominant teams in NFL history. After finishing the 1992 season with a 5-11 record, Ditka and the Bears parted ways. Ditka had a five-year hiatus before coming back to coach the New Orleans Saints. His tenure there became a travesty. After two 6-10 seasons, Ditka sold the farm to move up in the 1999 draft to take Ricky Williams. The low point of this tenure was his magazine cover with Williams wearing a wedding dress. The honeymoon ended quickly as the Saints went 3-13 prompting fans to look for their Aints paper bags. The Ditka magic was gone and he was fired after the season.
Dave Campo – Dallas Cowboys (2000-2002): Dave Campo joined the Dallas Cowboys as a defensive backs coach then eventually the defensive coordinator under Jimmy Johnson. He was part of three Super Bowl champions in his assistant coaching role. He seemed to be a natural choice to take the head coaching reins when Chan Galey was fired after the 1999 season. He was dealt a difficult blow right off the bat during his tenure when he lost Troy Aikman for the season due to a concussion (which eventually turned into his retirement after the season). It really never got better. In his three seasons Campo would have a 15-33 record, finishing each season with identical 5-11 records. No other head coach in Cowboys history has never had at least one playoff appearance so he’s got that going for him, which is nice if you don’t root for the Cowboys.
Rod Marinelli – Detroit Lions (2006-2008): Marinelli was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as their defensive coordinator when the Lions offered him their head coaching job. Marinelli had been successful in Tampa with Jon Gruden, winning a Super Bowl ring. He has to wonder what ever made him leave the Florida sun. After a 3-13 first season Marinelli gave Lions fans hope getting the team to off to a 6-2 start in season two. Over his next 24 games, Marinelli would have a Hue Jacksonesque 1-23 record, including the first ever 0-16 season in NFL history. It’s difficult to be the most disappointing coach in Lions history but Rod Marinelli managed to pull of the …feat?
There you have four of the biggest coaching disappointments in NFL history. I’m sure there are several more but these names stuck out most to me. Drop your choices in the comments and read the works of my Blitzed colleagues.
Until we meet again never design a killer play on a cocktail napkin, don’t trip over the kid you hired to hold your headset cord, and for God’s sake take off the headset anyway. Why do you need a headset and a kid hired to handle the cord when you’re walking around your kitchen in your lounge pants. That’s just wrong.
Yours in football,
Mike Zimmer Ears is a Minnesota Vikings expert, podcaster, published author and a regular columnist for Blitzed Football. You can find his latest book on baseball here.
Hello, Blitzers. It’s MZE back with another shot just for you. This time it’s a little different than my trip down memory lane. This past weekend I made some memories in Orchard Park, NY, with my friends from the Bills Mafia. Last season I made my inaugural trip to New Era Field for the Titans/Bills game. At that time I had no real AFC affiliation and that day I was repping the Titans. Long story not worth talking about. That day I met the Blitzed Barkeep and immediately felt a kinship to this fan base. It was a great game won by the Bills on a Steven Hauschka field goal. While that particular day was not my greatest experience, it started something life changing for me. In December of 2018 my friend Lora, who I met on Twitter (you can follow her here) and in person the first time that day in October, invited me to the season finale against the Dolphins. I borrowed her Bruce Smith jersey and repped the 716.
The Bills buried the Fins, Kyle Williams caught the only pass in his pro career, and I had an AFC team to call my own. I had made a few other Bills Mafia friends, thanks to the Bills-Vikings game and my praise for the Bills performance. They asked me if I was coming for the home opener against the Bengals this season and I couldn’t say no. I hopped in my car and made the four plus hour ride. When I got there I found my friends, Mike and Celeste, who have a Bills-themed wedding planned for next year.
They actually made the final cut for a chance to be married at halftime of the Bills-Patriots game but the honor went elsewhere. It was great seeing them and after a quick visit, it was time to visit the legendary Red Pinto Tailgate for a bit.
Tailgating in Orchard Park is always epic but Red Pinto is the must see party every week. They literally use an old, red Pinto and several other items not normally used for cooking to create the day’s feast. They serve breakfast in the morning and incredible tailgate cuisine for lunch. The menu is in a book out front but there are no prices. Everything is on the Pinto folks.
The real show though is, “The Bowling Ball Shot.” The rules are simple. You step up to the portable bar and they pour a cherry liquor that makes cough syrup seem tasty into the holes of an old bowling ball. Guests then pick up the ball, down the shot, drop the ball to the ground, and sound the horn. Don’t worry though, it’s very sanitary. They wipe down the ball with baby wipes after every shot.
After a little time at the Pinto party, my friend, Lora, arrived. We went to Lot 7 to hang out with the Bills’ Stormtrooper. Yes, they have a Stormtrooper and it’s glorious. Lora usually brings a box of shots and they always have Jell-O shots in syringes for the guests. Lora has a plan for every home game. Drink early, stop by noon, and be ready to get home safely after the game. She has it down to a science and it always works. Everyone is invited whether they know you or not. In time, you become family. There’s always a group picture before kickoff it’s tradition. The call of, “Hey a-holes! We’re doing the picture!” rang loud and we all took our spots. It’s not harsh. It’s just who they are. If you are at the game with Lora, be prepared to say hi to a lot of the Bills’ game day staff. She’s a season ticket holder and everyone there knows her. They’re all part of the family too.
The Bills home opener is always a special day but this one was different. This one was for Pancho. Ezra Castro, know amongst Bills fans as Pancho Billa, passed away this past off season due to cancer. He fought the good fight and did a lot of good in his time on this Earth. The Bills made this day for him. His family was on the field for the pregame and Bills’ owners, Terry and Kim Pegula, presented them all with special jerseys to commemorate the day. After a military fly over during the National Anthem, it was time for some football. The crowd was deafening from the opening kickoff.
A 14-0 halftime lead was erased by 17 unanswered Bengals points. Josh Allen led a big drive late, capped by a Frank Gore touchdown with 1:50 to play. A Tre White interception off of a tipped ball sealed the 21-17 win for the home squad and the Bills went to 3-0. I sat in my customized Bills jersey happy for them all. They get the label of ‘table jumpers’ but until you spend real time with them, you just don’t get it. They’re so much more than that awful stereotype. They’re good people who love their team and who open their arms to anyone willing to open them back. My heart will always belong to the Vikings but now I truly know what BuffaLOVE feels like. Can “Skol Bills!” become a thing?
Until next time, Blitzers, may your wings be crispy, your bowling ball holes be clean, and for God’s sake leave the ranch dressing at home.
Yours in football,
Hey, Blitzers. It’s MZE back for more fun and frolic from the football field…unless you’re a Dolphins fan. It appears that the Miami Dolphins are tanking to a level Rachel Phelps would envy. Two games into the season the Fish, who don’t even realize they're named after a mammal, are 0-2 and so far have been outscored 102-10 AT HOME. To keep that in perspective, the 2018 Chicago Bears didn’t allow their 102nd point until Week Seven of the season. To go even further, after two games the 2019 Dolphins have already allowed over a third of the points the Bears allowed for the entire 2018 season. One Fitzpatrick has already been traded to Pittsburgh. The other hasn’t even given the Dolphins his standard three games of hope at quarterback. From my experience, it's never as easy an explanation as 'they're tanking'. So what's behind this epic collapse in South Beach? Here are a four other factors that I believe may be contributing to this historically bad team.
Underutilizing Kenyan Drake
I may be wearing too much of a fantasy hat here, but I expected a lot out of this guy. After spending much of his first two seasons on the bench, Drake emerged in the final five games of the 2017 season putting up 444 rushing yards and showing promise as the next emerging star. Since then he’s had just 566 rushing yards in his last 18 games. What is it about Drake that the Dolphins don’t like? Is this because he went to Alabama where Nick Saban ended up after walking out on Miami? Are they holding a grudge against an innocent bystander? Guys, Nick Saban doesn’t care. He has taken you out of his contacts, unfriended you on Facebook, and moved on. Maybe you should too and find out what Kenyan has to offer.
Trading Jarvis Landry
In four years with the Dolphins, Jarvis Landry was the go-to receiver. He had 400 catches and 4,038 yards in receptions. The 400 catches were the most for a receiver in his first four years in the league. Jarvis and the Dolphins just couldn’t get along. He wanted a big deal and the Dolphins would have none of it. Know what they did to teach him a lesson? The Dolphins sent Jarvis from the shores of South Beach to the Flats of Cleveland. Hah! That’ll show him. Oh wait…
Drafting Tannehill with no Plan B
Ryan Tannehill came to the Dolphins as the overall 8th pick of the 2012 NFL draft. He had a great career at Texas A&M, giving the Fins high hopes for the future. The Dolphins were all in on Ryan and never had a Plan B. He wasn’t bad but he really wasn’t very good. The team went 42-46 in his career starts and while he threw 124 TDs, he also threw 75 INTs. The Dolphins finally cut bait this season, allowing Tannehill to become the backup QB in Tennessee. They traded with the Arizona Cardinals for Josh Rosen, who is just a year removed from being their first round draft pick. Rosen currently sits behind the man with the golden beard, Ryan Fitzpatrick, wondering what famous retirement community he’ll be traded to next.
No Stability on the Coaching Staff
The Dolphins have begun to go through coaches the way the Kardashian women go through NBA players. Since 2015 they are on head coach number four, offensive coordinator number five, and defensive coordinator number five. Do the coaches even know each other? You know these guys have to present ID every time they show up for work. It’s hard to find a winning combination when you wrote it down on a gum wrapper and flushed it down the commode.
The Dolphins were once a proud franchise, with the only unbeaten season in NFL history, a legendary coach in Don Shula, and a Hall of Fame quarterback in Dan Marino. Now their story is tragic, they can’t remember who the coaches are, and their quarterback has a better beard game than game plan. Somewhere Ray Finkel is smiling…or is it Einhorn?
Until next time, Blitzers, take your talents to South Beach at some point, talk about your favorite member of the Golden Girls, and hit the clubs like Crockett and Tubbs.
Yours in football,
Mike Zimmers Ears is a Vikings fan and a regular columnist for Blitzed Football. You can follow him on Twitter here.
Hello, Blitzers! It’s MZE back from vacation and ready for some regular season football. Folks are out here making all kinds of predictions. Add MZE to the list but my predictions are outside of the keg. Let’s take a trip around the league as I do my best Nostradumbass impression.
There they are, my predictions for every team this coming season. What are some of your wild predictions? Hit us up in the comments.
Until next time Blitzers, I predict @Blitzed_Coach still won’t know how to use a Smartphone before Tom Brady retires, every mistake on the Blitzed Radio show will be blamed on @Blitzed_Barkeep, and my compensation for writing for Blitzed won’t buy me a pre-chewed stick of gum.
Yours in football,
Preseason football is underway and we, the football fans of the world, are giddy with excitement. And whether or not your team is killing it or getting massacred in the preseason, don't let your expectations get the better of you. Your pal, MZE, was sitting around on his back deck throwing back a root beer float and got to thinking about some of the best and worst teams in NFL history and how they fared in the preseason. So I wiped the vanilla ice cream moustache from my lips and got to work. Here are some of the best and worst teams the NFL has ever seen and their preseason performances. And once you give this a read, you'll pretty much understand why preseason results don't really matter at all in the grand scheme of things. At all.
Whoa, it's like, really bad.
2008 Detroit Lions
Preseason (4-0) Regular Season (0-16)
The 2008 Detroit Lions gave their fans higher hopes than Panic at the Disco could even dream. The team would sweep its four preseason games with names like Dan Orlovsky, Drew Stanton, Artose Pinner, Brian Calhoun, Kevin Smith, and Dave Rayner leading the way. Athletic apparel companies were on stand-by to make playoff tees. Additional ticket stock was purchased for those inevitable playoff tickets. Fans were already looking into hotel rooms in Tampa. A funny thing happened on the way to Raymond James Stadium. The Lions remembered who they were. The team would finish the regular season 0-16. The offense ranked 27th in the NFL while the defense was dead last, allowing 30+ points in 11 of 16 regular season games. Jon Kitna, Drew Stanton, and Daunte Culpepper (yeah Culpepper was a Lion) all started games and overall the Lions played five different QBs (no Eric Hipple wasn’t one of them). Kevin Smith had a decent season rushing for 976 rushing yards and Calvin “Megatron” Johnson had 1,331 receiving yards, providing a bright spot in a dismal season. Artose Pinner would get cut and never played in the NFL again. Calhoun was also a forgotten man. Dave Rayner made six of seven FG attempts in two preseason games. Jason Hanson would go six for eight in 16 regular season games. It’s no wonder Rod Marinelli was fired after the season. In 2008 Detroit came in like Lions and went out like lambs.
2017 Cleveland Browns
Preseason (4-0) Regular Season (0-16)
Cleveland Browns fans have been beleaguered for decades. “The Drive,” “The Fumble,” and a team that packed up in the middle of the night and won a Super Bowl ring in another city. The 2017 preseason brought hope to the “Dawg Pound.” They appeared to have a wealth of QBs ready to lead the team as DeShone Kizer, Kevin Hogan, and Cody Kessler all did solid work in a perfect preseason. Sadly the three would combine for a 61.4 passer rating while losing all 16 regular season games. They would rank 32nd in points scored, scoring fewer than 20 points in 12 of 16 games. The defense wasn’t much better as it ranked 31st in points allowed. For a winless team the Browns were fairly competitive, losing six games by a TD or less, but in the end it’s a dawg eat dawg world and the Browns had Alpo in their jock straps.
1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Preseason (1-5) Regular Season (0-14)
The 1976 season saw expansion in the NFL. Down in Tampa a new squad with a colorful head coach in John McKay and even more colorful uniforms was born in the Buccaneers. The hideous creamsicle uniforms (don’t @ me on this because those things burned my corneas) were nothing compared to how the team performed on the field. On August 14th the Bucs would win its preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons. It would be the highlight of their inaugural season (well aside from John McKay quotes). The team’s starting QB for the bulk of its games was Steve Spurrier, who went 0-12 with a 57.1 QBR. There is no truth to the rumor that he wanted to quit midway through the season. The running game was lead by the less than legendary, Louis Carter, with 521 rushing yards. The top receiver was Morris Owens, who had 390 receiving yards or roughly what Andre Johnson puts up in three weeks. Compared to this team’s results, those uniforms looked like Armani suits.
Hey, it's not so bad!
1972 Miami Dolphins
Preseason (3-3) Regular Season (14-0)
In 1972, back when NFL teams played six preseason games instead of four, the Miami Dolphins had a 3-3 preseason with losses to Detroit, Green Bay, and their final preseason loss to Washington on August 31st. That preseason loss would be the last time the Dolphins would lose a game all season. On offense the Dolphins scored 385 points to lead the NFL, led by two 1,000-yard rushers in Larry Czonka and Mercury Morris. Their “No-name Defense” was just as strong, allowing just 171 points to also lead the NFL. When Bob Griese went out with an injury after a 5-0 start super backup, Earl Morrall, stepped in and won all nine of his starts. Griese would return to the field midway through the AFC title game and would start the Super Bowl win over the Redskins, 14-7. If you’re going to win a rematch, the Super Bowl is good time to do it.
1984 San Francisco 49ers
Preseason (2-2) Regular Season (15-1)
The 1984 San Francisco 49ers gave little indication that they would be a team to watch when the preseason ended. In those four games, they would score just 58 points. The regular season would be a lot different. Led by the greatest quarterback to ever strap on the spikes in Joe Montana, the Niners scored 475 points in the regular season, which was 2nd in the NFL. The leading rusher wasn’t Roger Craig but Wendell Tyler, who had 1,262 yards. Here’s where the legend of Joe Montana steps into the spotlight. There was no Jerry Rice or John Taylor. His top receiver that season was Dwight Clark with 880 yards. The defense allowed just 227 points, which was 1st in the NFL. The only blemish on the team’s record was a 20-17 v PIT in Week 7. Heck, even Matt Cavanaugh got a win in his lone start at QB. The team may have been better in the playoffs, as the average margin of victory was almost 19 points per game, culminating in a 38-16 Super Bowl win over the Miami Dolphins and the second of four rings for Montana.
1985 Chicago Bears
Preseason (1-3) Regular Season (15-1)
The 1985 preseason began horribly for the Chicago Bears. They would drop their first three preseason games and gave Bears fans a feeling in their stomachs worse than eating an undercooked deep dish pizza. The final preseason game gave them hope when they drubbed the Bills, 45-13. No one could foresee just how much hope. The Bears 456 regular season points would be 2nd most in the NFL. Jim McMahon quarterbacked the team to 11 wins while Steve Fuller went 4-1 in his starts, the only loss coming to the Miami Dolphins on a Monday night in December. Hall of Fame running back, Walter Payton, ran for 1,551 yards on the season. The 1985 Bears were the 2nd consecutive 15-1 team to not have a 1,000-yard wide receiver as former track star, Willie Gault, let the team with 704 yards. The real key to this team was its defense. Buddy Ryan’s unit would give up a mere 198 points, 1st in the NFL. His dominant 4-6 scheme led the team to allow 10 or fewer points in 11 of 16 regular season games. The Bears were even more dominant in the playoffs, outscoring its opponents 91-10, including a 46-10 Super Bowl win over the pre-Brady/Belichick New England Patriots. William “The Refrigerator” Perry scored as many post-season touchdowns as Bears’ opponents. Cue, “Fat Guy in a Little Coat.”
So there are my six preseason results compared to regular season successes or failures. One one team in my six pack was skunky from start to finish. Who would you add to the list? Post it in the comments and please follow and read the work of all my Blitzed colleagues.
Until next time, Blitzers, don’t run out and buy a player’s jersey because he’s had a great preseason or you may end up with a closet full of DeShone Kizers.
Yours in football,
Mike Zimmers Ears is a die hard Minnesota Vikings fan and a regular columnist for Blitzed Football. You can follow him on Twitter here.
Trades That Make You Go Hmm....
Hey Blitzers it’s me, MZE. It’s been a while but with the Hall of Fame game just a few weeks away I thought it was time to get back at it. In the past two years we’ve seen big NFL trades like Khalil Mack to the Bears, garnering the Jon Gruden statue talk to begin in Chicago, and as of late OBJ going to the Browns. It got ol’ MZE’s brain churning. I wondered what other trades in NFL history blindsided fans. I got myself an Arnold Palmer and did some research, and in my humble opinion, these are three of the biggest NFL blindside trades ever made.
Sam Huff (NY Giants to the Washington Redskins)
Sam Huff was a staple for the Giants defense from 1956 to 1963. As a linebacker for the G-Men he recorded 18 interceptions, was elected to the Pro Bowl four times and was named an All-Pro twice. Prior to the 1964 season, the Giants inexplicably sent Huff to the division rival, Washington Redskins, along with Offensive/Defensive lineman, George Seals.
In exchange the Giants got defensive end, Andy Stynchula, halfback, Dick James, and a 5th round draft pick who became punter, Frank Lambert. Huff would play five seasons with the Redskins, intercepting 12 more passes and making another Pro Bowl. Meanwhile none of the players the Giants received made much impact at all. There is no truth to the rumor that Dave Gettleman initiated the trade during his junior high study hall.
Eric Dickerson (L.A. Rams to the Indianapolis Colts)
Eric Dickerson exploded on the scene out of SMU as the 2nd overall pick in 1983. In 4+ seasons he ran for he ran for 7,245 yards including 2,105 yards in 1984. Rams fans felt they had their star tailback for several years but late in the 1987 he was involved in a three-way trade between the Rams, Colts, and Bills. As some know, a three-way can sound great but may ultimately disappoint in the end.
The Rams accumulated six first- and second-round picks in the deal. Dickerson wound up with the Colts and while he averaged just over 85 yards a game in his 4+ seasons with the Colts, his production was nowhere near what it was as a Ram with his production dropping off of a cliff after his second season.
Joe Montana (San Francisco 49ers to the KC Chiefs)
The San Francisco 49ers were a struggling franchise until they drafted a quarterback out of Notre Dame named Joe Montana. “Joe Cool” took them from nasty to dynasty. In his 13 years with the Niners, the Hall of Famer won four Super Bowl rings, was a two-time MVP, was named to eight Pro Bowls, and was a three-time All-Pro.
Sadly, Joe left the land of Rice-A-Roni for some BBQ when he was traded to the Chiefs prior to the 1993 season. In his final two NFL seasons, Montana went 17-8 in Kansas City. He would lead the Chiefs to the 1993 AFC title game and the 1994 Wild Card game but would never win another Super Bowl. Meanwhile the 49ers found some kid named Steve Young. Ever heard of him?
Those are my three most unexpected trades in NFL history. Tell us who you’ve got in the comments and please follow all of my colleagues on Twitter. They are so worth it.
Until next time, Blitzers, double-check your no-trade clauses, be sure to make friends with bartenders in every city you visit because you never know where home may be, and if you’re traded for a draft make sure at least the mug is frosted.
Yours in football,
Mike Zimmers Ears is a Minnesota Vikings fan and regular contributor on Blitzed. He also hosts his own Vikings podcast Sound the Gjallahorn.
New Home... Who Dis?
This NFL offseason has seen some big-name wide receivers and running backs change addresses. Odell Beckham Jr. promises to make Cleveland great aga…eventually. Antonio Brown has run his mouth from the Three Rivers to the Oakland Bay Bridge. Le’Veon Bell now calls New Jersey (yeah don’t @ me on this Jets fans because you play in Jersey) his home and I’m sure he and Adam Gase are already making plans to go out for tacos and beer.
All this change had old MZE thinking, “What other wide receivers and running backs have changed addresses and have had success in their new locations?” I rolled up my sleeves (okay, I don’t usually wear long sleeves so just humor me) and dug deep. I chose only from players who have played at least one season in the past five (2014-2018) and came up with my three best in each category. In my humble opinion, dear readers, here are the best:
Pierre Garcon - Washington Redskins
Garcon began his career in Indianapolis. In four seasons with the Colts he had 188 catches and 2,519 yards with 16 touchdowns. Garcon headed to Washington in 2012 and the change of scenery did him well. While with the Redskins Garcon caught 376 balls, including 21 for touchdowns, and amassed 4,549 receiving yards. This Garcon became the man in D.C.
Golden Tate - Detroit Lions
Tate started his career in Seattle where he had 165 catches, 2,195 yards, and 15 touchdowns in four years. In 2014 it was time for him to go full throttle to the Motor City. Tate spent the better part of five seasons with the Lions where he became a primary target for Matthew Stafford. In 71 games with Detroit, Tate had 416 catches, 4,741 yards, and 22 touchdowns. It wasn’t just a good move for the Lions, it was purely Golden.
Wes Welker - New England Patriots / Denver Broncos
Seems like the Patriots can always find a slot guy who’s basically the same player with a different name and make him a success. It all started with Wes Welker. Welker suited up for one game as a Charger in 2004 before playing for Miami. His three years with the Dolphins were fairly quiet as he had just 96 catches and 1,121 yards. Here came the Patriots. Welker spent six seasons in New England. In those seasons Welker made a ridiculous 672 catches, collected 7,459 receiving yards, and scored 37 receiving touchdowns. He added 146 yards on the ground, averaging 8.1 yards per carry. By the time Welker left New England, the only Patriots fan who didn’t like him was Gisele.
But that's not all. Welker even had success in Denver, catching passes from jilted Paeyton Manning who was out to prove to everyone (read: Jim Irsay) he wasn't done. in 2013 Welker caught 73 passes for almost 800 yards and 10 TDs, which ain't bad considering three other receivers on the Broncos caught 10+ TDs apiece that year.
Frank Gore - Indianapolis Colts
Frank Gore spent his first 10 years in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers. He left the bay area with almost 14,000 yards from scrimmage. Many running backs would have been happy and called it a career. The "Ageless One" just headed to Indianapolis and kept grinding. In his three years as a Colt, Gore ran for 2,953 yards, had 789 more receiving yards, and scored 19 touchdowns. In terms of a career, you can’t spell ‘Gorgeous’ without Gore.
LeSean McCoy - Buffalo Bills
One of the best dual-threat backs in the NFL was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009. For his first six seasons, McCoy ran for 6,792 yards, added 2,282 receiving yards, and scored a total of 54 touchdowns. If your nickname is “Shady” seems almost appropriate for you to become part of the Mafia at some point and McCoy did. In 2015 he joined the Buffalo Bills and continued his dual-threat excellence. McCoy has been a Bill for four seasons. In that time he has 3,814 rushing yards, added 1,334 receiving yards, and has put up 30 total touchdowns. In terms of talent, he is the real McCoy.
Marshawn Lynch - Seattle Seahawks
The Bills had a pretty good running back prior to Shady McCoy coming to Orchard Park. Marshawn Lynch was drafted in 2007 with the 12th overall pick. The former Golden Bear spent three plus seasons with the Bills where he ran for 2,765 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns. He added 94 catches and 670 receiving yards for good measure. In 2010 ‘Skittles’ was paired with coffee when he was traded to Seattle after four games with the Bills. Over the next five plus seasons, Lynch ran for 6,347 yards, caught 158 passes for 1,309 yards, and scored a total of 65 touchdowns. If only Pete Carroll had a chance to go into the future to read this blog post but I digress.
There you have it. My three best wide receivers and running backs who chose a new address in the past five seasons and managed to make it work. Have someone I missed? Hit us up in the comments. We love to hear from you.
Until next time, make sure you fill out those damn cards for the post office, don’t forget to call your cable provider, and throw a kick-ass party before you make an address change.
Yours in football,
Recently the NFL completed its draft in the Music City. Some think Dave Gettleman may have overdone it on Tennessee whiskey when he chose Daniel Jones with the 6th overall pick. Fan bases either rejoiced, whined, or were too drunk to care. It got me thinking. I wondered from 2009 through 2018 what five NFL teams were the best (read: luckiest) with the draft. Worry not, Blitzers. I dug deep and did the research. My list is based on Pro Bowlers and All-Pros on active rosters. Only players drafted since 2009 were eligible. This list is based on my research and my opinions, so naturally there is no scientific formula involved. The painstaking review of rosters was all the MZE brain could handle. So, without further ado, I give you the best drafters in the past decade.
5. Minnesota Vikings
You’re probably out there saying, “Oooh, big surprise! The guy whose Twitter handle pays homage to the Vikings’ head coach put his team on the list.” (thanks for following btw). Not so, my friends. Let me share with you the key players that made me put the Vikings on the list. In 2010 the Vikings drafted Everson Griffen with the 100th pick. Griffen has made three Pro Bowls in his career. That same year the New York Giants took Linval Joseph 54 spots earlier. Joseph has been a Viking since 2014 and has appeared in two Pro Bowls.
One year later the Vikings went deer hunting. They took Kyle Rudolph with the 43rd pick. Kyle has made it to the Pro Bowl twice. In 2012 the Vikings went back to the Golden Dome and grabbed safety, Harrison Smith, with the 29th pick. Harry has been to the Pro Bowl four times and was named an All-Pro in 2017. That same season the Redskins took some fourth round insurance when they picked Kirk Cousins with the 102nd pick. Kirk was a Pro Bowler in 2016 and threw for 30 touchdowns in 2018.
The 2013 draft netted the Vikings Xavier Rhodes with the 25th overall pick. The Rhodes have been tough traveling for opposing receivers ever since. He’s been to the Pro Bowl twice and was named an All-Pro in 2017. In 2014 the Vikings raised the Barr with the 9th pick in the draft taking linebacker, Anthony Barr. Since becoming a Viking, Barr has made it to the Pro Bowl four times. That same year some undrafted kid from Minnesota State tried out for the Vikings. He made the squad, playing special teams. Since then he’s made it to a pair of Pro Bowls and has become the team’s most reliable wide receiver, giving Vikings’ fans that lovin’ Thielen, Adam Thielen to be exact. Rounding out my list is the 2015 88th overall pick of the draft. Danielle “Bounty” Hunter was picked out of LSU. He already has 40 career sacks and has made it to a Pro Bowl. Now, if they could only win a Super Bowl.
4. Houston Texans
When I looked into this team I didn’t think they had enough to even be considered. Old MZE was dead wrong. Beginning with 2011 the Texans brought in some electricity when they picked some guy named J.J. Watt 11th overall. Watt’s been to five Pro Bowls and has been an All-Pro five times since being drafted. In 2012 the Miami Dolphins took Lamar Miller with the 97th pick. After four seasons there he joined the Texans in 2016. He made his first Pro Bowl in 2018 and has over 7,400 scrimmage yards in his career. In 2013 the Texans took a wide receiver with the 27th overall pick in the draft.
DeAndre Hopkins has paid off big making it to three Pro Bowls and being named an All-Pro twice since being drafted. In 2014 nobody thought anything was funny when the Texans chose Jadeveon Clowney first overall. With 29 career sacks and three Pro Bowls, no one’s laughing. In 2015 the Texans found Benardrick McKinney at the 43rd pick of the draft. He has 239 career tackles and made his first Pro Bowl in 2018. In 2017 the Texans found another gem in the first round. At number 12 overall they grabbed quarterback, Deshaun Watson, out of Clemson. His 2018 got him his first Pro Bowl appearance. In case you lost count, that’s four first round picks in 10 years making names for themselves in the NFL. Houston, I don’t think you have a problem.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
Despite the recent drama in the Steel City that makes any of the Real Housewifes series look tame, the team still has some solid talent drafted from the last ten years. In 2010 the Cleveland Browns took Joe Hayden with the 7th overall pick. After seven seasons in Cleveland, the Steelers added the two-time Pro Bowler to its roster in 2017. That same 2010 draft year saw Pittsburgh grab center, Maurkice Pouncey, 11 picks after Hayden went. Pouncey has been a mainstay on the Steelers offensive line, making seven Pro Bowls and being named an All-Pro twice.
The 2011 draft saw the Steelers draft Cameron Heyward at 31 overall. The defensive end out of Ohio State (sorry, I will not put that three-letter word in front of the college so deal) has recorded 45 career sacks while making the Pro Bowl twice and being named an All-Pro once. In 2014 the Steelers added Army graduate Alejandro Villanueva to the roster as an undrafted free agent. They’re glad they chose to go Army as the offensive lineman has made the Pro Bowl twice. The 2017 draft saw Pittsburgh add two exciting young players.
On defense they went with some pedigree, taking T.J. Watt, J.J.’s little brother, with the 30th pick. He’s accumulated 20 sacks in two seasons and made the Pro Bowl in 2018. On the offensive side of the ball they got JuJu Smith-Schuster from USC with the 62nd overall pick. The bike-riding wide receiver made his first Pro Bowl in 2018 and already has over 2,300 yards receiving. That’s some good JuJu.
2. Seattle Seahawks
Out in the land of coffee, the Seahawks have given opponents the jitters quite a bit thanks to some solid drafting. In 2010 the Seahawks found a gem with the 133rd pick in the draft. Kam Chancellor, defensive back from Virginia Tech, was an anchor in the “Legion of Boom” defense. Since draft day he’s been named to four Pro Bowls. While he missed the 2018 season and will miss 2019 due to a severe neck injury, he is still part of the Seahawks thus getting him included on this list. Also in 2010, the San Francisco 49ers went with an offensive guard out of Idaho with the 17th overall pick.
Mike Iupati spent five seasons in San Francisco then the last four in Arizona. The four-time Pro Bowler was signed by the Seahawks in March of 2019. The 2011 draft saw the Seahawks add another pair of Pro Bowl players. At the 99th overall pick that year the Seahawks took linebacker, K.J. Wright, from Mississippi State. Wright has 480 career solo tackles and made the Pro Bowl in 2016. After the draft, the Seahawks added an undrafted free agent wide receiver out of Stanford. Doug Baldwin has over 6,500 career receiving yards and two Pro Bowl appearances.
The 2012 draft netted the Seahawks yet another dynamic duo in the draft. With the 47th overall pick, the Seahawks found Utah State linebacker, Bobby Wagner. Wagner has 591 career solo tackles, has made five Pro Bowls, and has been named an All-Pro four times. In the next round with the 75th overall pick, the ‘Hawks took undersized quarterback, Russell Wilson. Ever heard of him? Russ is a five-time Pro Bowler with over 25,600 career passing yards and a Super Bowl ring. Six players and 20 Pro Bowls among them. That’s more potent than a double-shot of espresso.
1. Los Angeles Rams
After my many hours of research, I settled on the Rams as the team with the best draft class over the past ten seasons and I won’t even talk about recently-signed 2009 linebacker draftee, Clay Matthews, who made six Pro-Bowls and was named an All-Pro in 2010 as a Packer. Wait, I think I just did. In 2011 the Rams signed undrafted free agent, Jake McQuaide, out of Ohio State. This long-snapping specialist made the Pro Bowl in 2016 and 2017. In 2012 the Rams went kicker with the 171st overall pick when they grabbed Greg “Legatron” Zuerlein from Missouri Western. He’s converted 83.5% of his career field goals, hit 28 from 50+ yards, and made the Pro Bowl in 2017 when he converted 95.0% of his field goals. Also in 2012 the Rams found themselves another big leg when Johnny Hekker was signed as an undrafted free agent punter out of Oregon State. Hekker is averaging 47.0 yards per punt in his career. In 2018 he actually made a field goal and an extra point. Oh and the four-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro also has 156 career passing yards.
The 2014 13th overall pick went to the Rams and with it they took Aaron Donald. Donald has 59.5 career sacks, has made five Pro Bowls, and is a four-time All-Pro. In 2015 Georgia running back, Todd Gurley II, was taken 10th overall in that draft. He has over 4,500 rushing yards in four seasons, has made three Pro Bowls, was named an All-Pro twice, was the 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year, and in 2017 was the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year. Eight picks later the Chiefs took cornerback, Marcus Peters, out of Washington. The two-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro was signed by the Seahawks in 2018.
The Rams padded their roster with two more Pro Bowl players in 2016, one via draft and one via undrafted free agency. Cory Littleton, a linebacker from Washington, was signed after the draft. Littleton made his first Pro Bowl in 2018 with 125 combined tackles and three interceptions. That same year the Rams had the first overall pick in the draft. With it they chose California quarterback, Jared Goff. After struggling in his first season, Goff has gone on to two Pro Bowl appearances in the last two seasons and led the Rams to Super Bowl LIII. Now, if the team can finally decide on a home city, all would be right with the world.
There you have it. The MZE top five teams from the 2009-2018 draft classes are in the books. Sure, these teams drafted well. But at the end of the day, did it really matter? After all, these five teams account for exactly ONE Super Bowl win in the last 10 years (Seahawks won Super Bowl 48. The Steelers barely missed, winning it all BEFORE the 2009 draft).
So, who would you put on this exalted list? Let us know in the comments.
Until next time, Blitzers, may you be a late round sleeper on the weekends, may you never need to send a scout home unless she forgot to bring your Thin Mints, and may your drafts always be ice cold.
Yours in football,