Team meltdowns— we’ve all seen them happen. It happened to the Jets last year. The Buccaneers are in the middle of a meltdown as we speak. If you’re a Raiders or Browns fan, you get to experience a meltdown every year! But how does it happen? How does a perfectly decent NFL team go from a preseason favorite, to an unmitigated deteriorating sack of suck in the matter of a season? Actually, the process is quite simple. Here are the ten stages of an NFL team meltdown.
1. High Expectations
In order for it to be considered a meltdown, people actually need to think your team is talented. By people, I mean any sports writer or commentator not named Skip Bayless. I believe it was Mike Florio, Editor of Pro Football Talk—and a man whose opinion I respect— who picked the Kansas City Chiefs to win the AFC West last year. Instead, the Chiefs were the worst team in the NFL at 2-14. When a respected analyst makes that big of a gaffe, only then can it be considered a meltdown.
2. The Losses
At stage two, the team will begin to lose. Badly. Okay, so maybe the first couple games were close. Then comes the blowout. The QB throws five interceptions and the defensive gives up 40+ points. “It’s a long season,” coaches will tell the media. “We’ve dug ourselves a hole but I have confidence in our guys.”
3. The Grumbling
More losses. Uh oh. Now the fans have taken notice. Every three-and-out is met with a bevy of “boos” cascading down from the bleachers. Fans call radio stations with their “Derp, I don’t know about this [insert underachieving QB] guy, I don’t think he has the fire and the passion, derp derp derp.” This starts a QB controversy. ESPN will spend days on end debating whether or not Quarterback X can be put into the “elite” category. Is he a top-10 QB? A top-15 QB? Is it safe to call him a bust? Is he an elite bust? Is he a top-10 elite bust? PTI debates!
4. Head Coach Stands by his QB
5. Head Coach Benches QB
Wait what? The head coach then pulls a complete 180. “We’ve decided to make a change at QB. We just think [insert fan-favorite backup] gives us a better shot to win.”
6. Team Continues to Lose
With the new QB under center, only one of two things can happen. Either the new QB will be a bumbling disaster, or he’ll actually outplay the previous QB for a couple of games, and then proceed to suffer a season-ending injury. Either way, the team will continue to lose like it’s their job.
7. GM Calls it a “Rebuilding Year”
Those are the words that no fan ever wants to hear. Calling a season a “rebuilding year,” is essentially a GM’s way of trying to save his ass. “Oh yeah, we totally knew we were going to suck this year. I mean come on, this was all part of the plan! (please don’t fire me).”
8. Locker Room Mutiny
At this point, the team is probably like 1-8. They’re mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and are the laughing stock of the NFL. The grumbling that started in the stands begins to creep its way into the locker room. The head coach keeps his “one game at a time” mantra but the players don’t want to hear it. The coach has officially lost the respect of his players.
9. Coach Gets Fired
Inevitably, an unnamed player talks to reporters and a story comes out about the growing divide between the coaches and players. Word gets up to the front office and in a last ditch effort to save his ass, the GM fires the head coach.
10. GM Gets Fired
But alas, the GM’s ass goes unsaved. At this point, the overwhelming sentiment from the media, fans and team owner is “Fuck it.” Blow it up. Everyone’s fired, even the water boy. The team hires all new personnel: new front office people, new coaches, and new players. They’re starting from scratch. For some reason this makes everyone giddy with excitement, despite the fact that the team will almost certainly continue to suck.
You’ll notice a shocking trend in all of this. Public perception is the driving force behind almost every NFL team’s meltdown. It’s amazing that a couple inebriated homers who call up their local radio station can spark a media frenzy that results in the complete collapse of an organization. It’s a symptom of our throw-away society. It’s sad in a way—that the prevailing attitude in our society is “if you try something and it doesn’t work— welp, then fuck it.”