Only three weeks into anything but a normal 2020 NFL season and we can already clearly identify the have-nots in the current hierarchy of professional football. The Atlanta Falcons have been historically bad on defense but let’s leave them out of this discussion. As we examine 5 other teams that have yet to strike the win column. Is it too early to say- the race is on for Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence?
New York, New York
This is not a pretty sight. Both the NY Football Giants and the, “can’t get out of our own way,” NY Jets are bad. These two teams were outscored by a combined 72-16 over the weekend. The Jets are a total grease fire, but that has been the case for several years. I struggle with teams that are run by head coaches who got their jobs based on their perceived area of expertise, especially when that area really stinks the most. In the curious case of Jets Head Coach Adam Gase his MO was in quarterback development. However, this team has a coach whose offense has produced 37 total points in three weeks. For comparison sake, the Seattle Seahawks have scored 111 points (only one FG) over this same three-week span. His quarterback, Sam Darnold, whose career is in his hands, has not developed at all and Darnold still makes the same kind of head-scratching decisions that he made in college at USC. Take this from someone who evaluated him for the draft. I remember saying then that he needs the most polish but could shine the brightest in the end if he gets with the right coach/system. That refinement has just not happened. The breeze that Jets fans are currently feeling is from the Buffalo Bills QB, Josh Allen, who has zoomed by Darnold with his development and now has a chance to be a star.
And now, in my opinion, the news is worse. The Jets have rolled out a team around Darnold that, outside of this year’s #1 pick, LT Mekhi Becton (who looks to be the real deal), is devoid of talent. They have left Darnold all alone and flailing in the ocean for a life preserver. The hope in the future is that acquiring picks (GM traded away their best defensive player before the season started, when he did not have to) and drafting more unproven players will be the best way to turn around the fortunes of this team. I have my doubts. I don’t know GM Joe Douglas. He may be the next Ron Wolf for all I know, but to entrust him as the savior, as a first-time GM, in an unforgiving market the size of New York City, seems risky at best. I just don’t see these jobs, in a market like this, as one where “on the job training” works. Recent history shows (last three GM’s have been first timers at the job) that the Jets are fighting an uphill battle. The combo of GM-HC-QB all have to show some promise, FAST. The fire is in Gase’s lap presently.
The Jets roommates in Gotham, the Giants, have problems of their own. They have a QB who can’t hang onto the ball and they have lost their most explosive player on offense, RB Saquon Barkley, for the season. Their lesson on injuries should come from the team that just beat them, the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners, missing nine opening-day starters, just worked them over 36-9 with mainly backup players and it wasn’t even close. The good news for the Giants is even at 0-3, they still are only one game out of first place in the NFC East, the weakest division in football. That’s not to say they can save anything this year. They are young and developing on defense (I know, it’s a reach) however, overcoming an inept offense in a league where scoring is at an all-time high is the real problem. On Sunday, the Giants did not enter the red zone a single time vs SF. This team just lacks talent and an identity.
Mile High Let Down
Injuries have taken a toll across the entire league, and do every year. I'm not going to give the Broncos a pass for losing their best pass rusher and their QB, due to injury for the time being. Good GM’s have a plan. The swings and misses that Denver has had at QB- is a column, all to itself. Especially, when you look back and realize they could have drafted Bills QB Josh Allen (who went 2 picks later to Buffalo) in the 2018 NFL draft, from right up the road in Wyoming and instead chose DE Bradly Chubb, whose career has been sidelined with injury, to date. What I’m most disappointed in is John Elway and his staff determined that journeyman QB Jeff Driskel was their best option to serve as the backup and mentor to developing project, Drew Lock. There’s simply no positive evidence that Driskel can come in and win games. I know they have signed Blake Bortles, late of the Jacksonville Jags and Los Angeles Rams, as insurance. That’s like fighting a fire with a garden hose in my opinion, not to mention a day late and a dollar short. I’d feel different if Bortles had been there throughout camp and knew the system like the back of his hand. It gets worse in my opinion, the Broncos made their 3rd QB, Brett Rypien. Rypien, undrafted out of Boise St, finished last week’s game and is the presumptive starter for their Thursday night tilt vs the aforementioned New York Jets. I’m sure Rypien is a great kid but most NFL evaluators will agree, he is not an NFL talent. I’m going to call this a mistake in roster management that could cost the Broncos and coach Vic Fangio their season. The swings and misses the Broncos have had at QB (with the exception of Peyton Manning) over the last 10 years have set the rest of this franchise back. It’s really not fair to HC Vic Fangio. Of course, there is blame enough for all. The Broncos find themselves at the bottom of the AFC West looking up at the rest of the other teams. Time will tell if Lock can be the answer to this mile-high problem but for now, they are staring 0-4 right in the face.
So, you say we still have a chance?
Two other last-place teams who are currently on the struggle bus but have an opportunity to redirect their seasons play each other in Week 4. For two teams with 0-3 records who had Super Bowl aspirations, the Minnesota Vikings visit to Houston to face the Texans will have my full attention. Texans HC/GM Bill O’Brien’s offense has been sketchy at best over the first three games. O’Brien, the GM, has put O’Brien, the head coach, in a tough spot. Actually, he’s done him a disservice. He constructed a team that has flaws because he thought he could scheme the offense and make up for a lack of talent on that side of the ball. That hasn’t happened. The Texans look disorganized. They can’t protect Deshaun Watson, the star QB, and people in Houston are starting to question the “one voice is smarter than all” approach. In Minnesota, they have a defensive-minded head coach who wants to stop the run. However, Mike Zimmer’s defense has been gashed the last two weeks by physical, hard-nosed, downhill-running offenses. I just don’t see a team built with the identity their head coach had hoped. In WWF words, this is a “loser leave town match” that reeks of two desperate teams. Whichever team wins will still have hope.