4 NFL Teams On The Decline

As originally posted here.

The playoffs are set. 12 teams are in the playoffs, 20 are not. There are no 7-9 teams in the postseason this year and only one team with a winning record is not going. Here is an in depth look at four teams with profound difficulties that might not even qualify them for 2012 postseason play.

St. Louis Rams (2-14)
The footnote and reason why the New Orleans Saints might not make it all the way to the Super Bowl would be the loss to the St. Louis Rams. They defeated the Saints 31-21 on Oct. 30 which may be the lone highlight of the season.

Owner Stan Kroenke fired head coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Bill Devaney on Jan. 2 after this year’s, 2-14 season. Spagnuolo amassed a 10-38 record in three seasons as coach and Devaney was 12-52 in his four-year tenure. In Josh McDaniels debut as offensive coordinator, replacing Pat Shurmur, who left for the Cleveland Browns, the Rams were 30th in the league (179.4 yards a game) in passing yards and 23rd in rushing yards (104.2 yards a game). Though they were 7th in defensive passing yards giving up 206.7 yards a game, they ranked 31st in giving up rushing yards at 151.7 yards a game.

Coming off a 7-9 year, quarterback Sam Bradford managed 2,164 yards passing completing 53.3 percent of his passes for 6 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. His production was hampered no doubt by injuries. The other important cog of the Rams offense saw a drop in production from running back Steven Jackson. After a successful 2009 season where he amassed 1400 plus rushing yards, his numbers dipped significantly to 1,241 yards in 2010 and now 1,145 in 2011.

The Rams are going to need help at receiver as Brandon Lloyd managed 51 catches for 683 yards and 5 touchdowns. They other key for Rams success is to build on their defense especially on the front line to defending against the run. They can build off the success of Pro Bowlers defensive end Chris Long and linebacker James Laurinaitis, but in order to compete, they will need to build some serious depth and develop some impact players on the defensive line and wide receivers. They should consider trading out of the second overall spot in the 2012 draft for more picks to do that.

Indianapolis Colts (2-14)

The biggest surprise from owner Jim Irsay was the firing of both Bill and Chris Polian from their roles as team Vice Chairman and team Vice President/general manager, respectively. While no announcement has been made about head coach Jim Caldwell’s future, it was shocking to see the first to fall was those responsible for building the perennial playoff contenders for all those years. What strange things a 2-14 season can do.

While many bring up the argument how quarterback Peyton Manning was the one true MVP of the league given how much of a drop-off the Colts had without his presence, guess it goes to show how much your team is worth, when you build just around one man.

Until week 15 against the Titans, the 2011 Colts had a real shot at recreating the 2008 Lions in being winless, but managed to win not once but twice with a win against the Texans the following week. Ironically enough, late season pickup Dan Orlovsky was a member of that same 2008 Lion team which goes to show how desperate they really were. Guess no one has Jeff George on speed dial anymore.

All-in-all, the Colts ranked near bottom of the league in rushing and passing (27th and 26th) offense and 29th in rushing defense. The lack of balance really showed as quarterbacks Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky proved to be not even 1/8 the caliber the quarterback Peyton Manning is with his season-ending neck injury. It proved how much a lack of running game really hurt this team when their field general went missing and his proven talents could mask the lack of one.

There are some major questions marking the team—what do to with the 1st overall pick? How do you replace Reggie Wayne, who is surely on his way out? How certain can you be of Peyton Manning with his neck?

I can at least address the first and third questions here. If you draft Andrew Luck with the first pick, how can you justify benching your first overall pick and paying him the amount you would and have one of the highest paid QBs and perennial Pro Bowler on the same team?

It would be foolish for the front office whoever may be running GM duties to keep both on the roster to sacrifice the franchise on one position. They either need to trade down for the depth they need to complement any free agent pickups or trade Manning away to a contender for picks….or to the Raiders they’re always looking to catch lighting in a bottle *cough* Carson Palmer.

Minnesota Vikings (3-13)

Adrian Peterson is the current Barry Sanders of the NFL. He cannot get help from his passing game and despite his natural talent, defenses are honing in on him and stuffing his production. Peterson’s production dropped playing in three fewer games this season amassing 970 yards on the ground for 12 touchdowns. He was even less of a presence on the backfield catching 18 balls for 139 yards compared to 36 balls from Favre for 341 yards last year. Quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Brett Favre, the prior year, couldn’t give Peterson the offensive stability to make the Vikings a contender.

Now with Christian Ponder at the helm, look at the Vikings to complement Percy Harvin in the receiving corps in order to help better develop him into a better quarterback of the future in the offseason. It would be wise to sign a veteran in the offseason to help mentor him. While head coach Leslie Frazier has had some growing pains, if they don’t improve with next year, expect Frazier to follow his predecessor Brad Childress out the door.

Minnesota ranked 28th overall in passing yards averaging 184.8 yards a game. Peterson and backup Toby Gerhart helped combined for 1,501 rushing yards for the season making the Vikings the fourth best running attack in the league averaging 144.9 rushing yards a game.

The biggest issue of the defense is that they gave up 251.2 yards passing per game good for 26th overall. The bright spot is defensive end Jared Allen who is the Vikings lone Pro Bowl representative and set the franchise record for most sacks in a season with 22.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12)
The ax fell on Raheem Morris and his staff as his “youngry” team quit on him dropping their last ten games of the season to 4-12. If the margins of victory were closer, Morris could have kept his job, but the epic collapse of the Buccaneers which before the losing streak, were sitting atop of the NFC South at 4-2, were nothing short of exacerbating.

Being riddled with injuries is one thing, but this team flat out quit. As charismatic as Morris was in front of the media, he couldn’t mask the lack of effort and heart the team was showing on the field. All he could do is act with business as usual.

In four of those losses, Buccaneers’ opponents topped 40 points. In their last five games, the Bucs were outscored a combined 203-88. The Bucs defense ranked 21st in passing giving up 238.4 yards a game and 32nd in rushing giving up 156.1 yards a game.

Last year’s surprise in LaGarrette Blount busted miserably rushing for 781 yards on 184 carries, which honestly is no surprise when you’re down as badly as these guys were this year. Quarterback Josh Freeman, who threw just 6 interceptions in 2010, had 22 interceptions and 16 touchdowns for the year. Last year’s breakout receiving stars in Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn barely combined to break 1000 yards this year. Now the Glazers will have to re-evaluate their stingy ways to bring a true no. 1 receiver, bring in some veterans in free agency, bring in a disciplinarian to rile in this group of young talent with guidance from said veterans, and they will seriously need to address linebackers and defensive backs.

With Ronde Barber looking to be on his way out and uncertain legal future of Aqib Talib, the Bucs will need much more than band-aids in the secondary.

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About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News, Examiner.com, and Tampa Tribune.
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