|I would like to take a moment to thank all the Minnesota Vikings fans in St. Louis who have nothing else to do than write grammatically incorrect responses on Steelers web sites. Their mindless ramblings and dedication to a team long-since maligned with lackluster support on the whole compels these weekend warriors to speak on behalf of a fan base which they openly admit exists 700 miles away. We should take a lesson and not pay attention to the people who actually live in the city in question who are making these observations.
It was that thought that gave me inspiration for my next column. As pointed out earlier, of the 35,000 hits a month this site takes, and of the few people who are goodly enough to read this trifle of a communication tool, the person who wrote the longest is a Missourian who roots for the Vikings.
Is there any wonder why he’s scanning opposing teams’ sites?
I will clarify for the record I don’t hate the Vikings. There is clearly no team more entertaining in the off-season than Minnesota (Wizzinator, a coach who scalps tickets, the state’s reaction to the Randy Moss trade, the list goes on). Nor do I pity their fans. The sad thing is, since 1998, both the Steelers and the Vikings have had remarkably similar success/failure. Both teams have lost their conference championship games twice, both have had 15-1 seasons without Super Bowl wins and they have won a comparable amount of games.
So minus the off-the-field-circus that is the Vikings, fans of the Steelers and Vikings have to be roughly equally happy and excited for their team’s chances in the future. We have to consider ourselves some of the luckier fans in the league. Both teams have young talent as well as experience and are safely under the salary cap. Both have marquee quarterbacks and good skill players.
Not every team can boast the same. Seemingly oblivious to Pittsburgh and Minnesota, there are contract disputes (Terrell Owens and Philadelphia Eagles), poor upper-office management (Detroit Lions) and a roster chock-full of criminals (Baltimore Ravens) running rampant over other teams.
In this spirit, I have ordered the last 6 teams I would want to be a fan of in the NFL.
Keep in mind the criteria: Lack of production over the last few years, no real dominant marquee players, stagnant coaching, lousy market, lack of tradition and basically anything that would make fans cringe.
With that, I give you the latest list, the 6 teams for which we will never be fans.
6. Washington Redskins
The only smart move this team has made since Daniel Snyder bought them is NOT drafting Kellen Winslow Jr. Instead, they took Sean Taylor. “Ewww
no, I don’t want to take an arrogant, self-promoter, I’ll take the alcoholic criminal!” Taylor has already had run-ins with the law. Twice. Once for boozin’ and cruisin’ and once for assault, which he is currently facing (he refused to accept a plea bargain, and his trial will more than likely be continued until after the season). RB Clinton Portis hasn’t really brought much life to Joe Gibbs’ offense, and the franchise still has egg on its face from the Steve Spurrier Experiment. Taylor was supposed to revolutionize the secondary with his freakish speed for a man his size and pure athleticism. He hasn’t been able to steer clear of trouble, the mark of an immaturity that will damper his growth. Despite signing the age-less wonder Mark Brunell to band-aid their problems at quarterback, the fact is they haven’t had a productive passer since Mark Rypien in 1991. Redskins fans probably were pretty excited about their future a year ago, but none of it panned out and they seem to be in the same position they were in when Spurrier left; no quarterback, no defense and ego problems galore.
5. Detroit Lions
Similar to Washington, upper management seems hell-bent on continuing to make the mistakes of the past. While not an incredibly strong defensive team, the Lions seem to figure their way out of the basement of the NFC North is through the air. Despite the fact QB Joey Harrington hasn’t improved much since he was drafted, and the selection of WRs Roy Williams and Charles Rogers in the last two seasons, Detroit went skill offense in the draft in 2005 (WR Mike Williams), all but assuring VP of Football Operations Matt Millen will be let go after his team finishes at its usual 5-11 spot after this year. This won’t be because either Williams’ or Rogers will be bad players, but more than Harrington will officially become a bust after this season, and the team will have over 20 percent of their 2006 salary cap in five players (Harrington and their trio of receivers and what’s left of the pro-rated portion of Az-zahir Hakim’s contract). Despite one of the game’s newest stadiums and a roster full of potentially great WRs, the Lions have little more to look forward to over the next year or two than hosting the Super Bowl in 2006.
4. New Orleans Saints
While the hapless Saints are still waiting for Aaron Brooks to convert himself into a respectable quarterback, Deuce McAllister has had to handle just about all of the offensive load. And that philosophy is not resulting in wins. Brooks (just like cousin Michael Vick) cannot complete passes consistently (percentage in the mid-to-high 50s on a good game) and draft busts like Donte Stallworth have not given Joe Horn the needed second receiver most top No. 1 receivers have. With 21.5 sacks coming between Darren Howard and Charles Grant, they have one of the best pass-rushing DE tandems in the game, but with Brooks’ stock dropping faster than Tom Cruise’s reputation, Saints fans will be singing the blues for another few years.
3. Miami Dolphins
This is about as deflated a franchise as it gets. Certainly Ricky Williams earned utter banishment from South Beach, but the residual effects of last season (no running back worthy of anything and the curse of having Jay Fiedler as an active quarterback) will stretch for at least another season. The ‘Fins would have taken the top spot on this list if it wasn’t for 1st round pick Ronnie Brown. There hasn’t been a player with more expectations put on him upon being drafted since Vick. The Dolphins have been limping through the last few years with dominant defensive players in Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas and Junior Seau, but with that trio’s combined age of 34.3 years, the future (sadly to say) is on the offensive side of the ball with Brown. Throw in Sam Madison and the age of Miami’s defense adds up to one of the highest in the league. Dolphins fans should get used to looking to Mel Kiper for the most exciting news on their team for the next few years.
2. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have been in a tailspin since Terrell Owens and Jeff Garcia left, and if you follow football, you’ll know the statement “They haven’t played well since Jeff Garcia left” means your team is really in trouble. This team had two positives last year; Kevan Barlow and Julian Peterson. Both underachieved royally, Peterson succumbing to injury and Barlow…just not really seeming to care. I won’t even get into their entire PR nightmare in regards to their videos on how to deal with the media, but this team is set for disaster for a few more years. Like Miami, this team’s future is about as bright as Ben Affleck’s, save one player. While QB Alex Smith (first overall pick 2005 draft) looks to be a bit more effective than Tim Rattay, it’s not going to happen with such a low-talented offense any time soon. This says nothing of the media hailstorm which will prove to be a distraction for the entire season. 49ers fans are going to be kicking themselves when they grab the first pick of the draft and have to pass on Matt Leinart.
1. Cleveland Browns
New head coach Romeo Crennel has himself a challenge in Cleveland. Nothing has gone the Browns way since they squandered a 13-point fourth quarter lead at Pittsburgh in the 2002 playoffs (and no, I haven’t forgotten that game). It’s safe to say the Browns have yet to have an effective draft since the franchise resurrected in 1999. From Tim Couch to Gerard Warren to Kellen Winslow Jr., the Browns have proved to be the most sorry off-season team in all of sports. They spent two first-round picks in recent years on running backs William Green and Lee Suggs, and now just traded away for Broncos RB Reuben Droughns. As much as it hurts me to bash Cleveland [AHEM] they really have not had a productive quarterback since Bernie Kosar. Read that sentence again. Stop laughing. I’m serious. Bernie Kosar. While I’m still surprised Tim Couch has yet to be mentioned as one of the great all-time first-overall pick busts, the fact remains that Trent Dilfer is leading this team with no young backup. They should really just tank the 2005 season and land Leinart in 2006, but I think the lack of talent on that team will take care of losing for themselves now and in the future.
You can contact Neal Coolong at firstname.lastname@example.org.