If you break the season into four quarters, like most coaches (and knowledgeable internet-based nerdbergs like myself) do, then this week we enter the 4th quarter of the NFL season of 2011 year of our fake Christian God who is ratcheting up the pressure for you to blow all your barely-earned leftover credit at this point on crap for other people in a weak ass attempt to prove you love them. For prefessional foozball teams though, there is no present to be given by anyone else. All you can do is suffer under the weight of your own mismanagement and terrible choices, and be rewarded with compensatory draft position the following season. And the NFL has mostly avoided the pitfalls of the NBA, where teams tank chunks of the season to get a more favorable slot in the draft, mostly because with football, one player really doesn't make that huge of a difference. (This is also why all the Andrew Luck talk, and Suck for Luck campaigns have been kinda funny, because there's no real proof he'll make that much of a difference on a team, and it's a shit-ton of pressure to put on that kid, to say he's the best prospect since Elway and that somehow it makes sense to outright get rid of Peyton Manning and replace him with a rookie Andrew Luck.) During the normal part of the season, I break off a quarter of the league for this index by divisions, but for the 4th quarter, I like to go back to what echelon of the league they are in. And for this first part of our 4th quarter, I figured there's no better place to start than the bottom. These are the teams that are already out of it, and are basically positioning themselves for the draft. Sure, some of them could bust off a four-game winning streak to close out the season at .500, but more likely than not, that ain't happening. (In fact, in choosing what two 4-8 teams to leave off this week's listing of crappy teams, I specifically ignored the Eagles - due to their underachievement - and the Dolphins - because they've been winning a ton lately.)
And I am going to also do something I've never done in analyzing these teams for what is the last time in this year's (sporadic) NFLuminati Index - I am going to do a mock draft, since all of these teams stand a good chance of having a top 10 overall pick. But instead of actually pretending to waste your time with next April's picks, I'm just gonna look at their top 10 overall picks from the past decade, and we'll mock them for how stupid they are (or give them props if that's proper).
So here are the Wretched of the Turf, as we move into the final quarter of this NFL season - the teams that are already done for all intents and purposes...
#1: TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (4-8, 25th overall, -1.0 rating) - The Bucs were a huge disappointment this year, as last year Josh Freeman was positioning himself to be the next big breakout QB of the NFL, perhaps on par with other up-and-comers like Matty Ryan and Joey Flacco. Four months later, he's just another shitty QB on a mediocre team without any real identity. That's how the NFL works. On my fantasy team where I got to keep one keeper from last year, I actually chose Freeman over Peyton Manning, and though that has made sense purely from a statistical standpoint for me, due to Peyton's injury, it's hardly been a boon to my team. I think I actually start fucking Alex Smith now. But I digress...
The Buccaneers last year were led by a young hip hop coach and had a mobile player who protected the ball, and now they are 4-8 and staring at another classic Tampa Bay shitty season (of which there's been many), and leaving the team floating towards whatever. Unfortunately, due to last year's near success, this is not a team that will blow anything up, because next year will either have to prove that this year was an anomaly or that it was a sign of reality.
But let's look back at their Top 10 overall picks of the past decade... In 2009, they drafted DT Gerald McCoy with the 3rd overall pick. He has mostly torn his biceps in his two seasons, and spent more months on IR than he has sacks. In 2007, they drafted DE Gaines Adams with the 4th overall pick. He is dead. And in 2005, with the 5th overall pick, they took RB Cadillac Williams. He had some decent years but suffered injuries, and was eventually made expendable by LeGarrette Blount, and now plays an injury-plagued back-up role for the Rams. So judging from their history, they will probably draft a defensive player who doesn't really amount to shit with their big pick next year.
#2: WASHINGTON REDSKINS (4-8, 26th overall, -1.4 rating) - I am not even sure what to say about my Redskins. The fact they finish 2nd on any sort of list other than things that cause me to contemplate hanging myself from the oak tree in my pigpen is a shock. I know all too well their recent draft history, so I jump into previous top 10 overall picks from the past decade with a pre-bias. Last year, with the 4th overall pick, they took OT Trent Williams, who has not been necessarily something I'd be impressed with, and is currently suspended for the rest of the season because even after getting a free pass, like 10 other players, for failing a drug test after the lockout, still somehow managed to fail a drug test since the lockout was over, which results in a four-game suspension. Had the lockout failure counted, he'd be gone for a year. He is a proven dumbfuck, already. In 2007, with the 6th overall pick, they took S LaRon Landry, who looks good in a muscle shirt, but has mostly been injured, and is overrated because he flexes a lot after knocking people down in a vicious manner that pays little regard for the actual nuances of field position or football. He'd make a good professional wrestler, but is not much of a presence on a football team, although maybe his Achilles heel has stifled his career more than publicly known. He also used to have a lime green Lamborghini. With the 9th overall pick in 2005, the Redskins took CB Carlos Rogers, who ended up being mocked by Redskins fans, made to feel unwanted by ownership, and is now having the best season of his career in San Francisco, where he's got like 4 or 5 interceptions, and is part of an actual good defense. With the 5th overall pick in 2004, the Redskins took S Sean Taylor. He is dead, and probably still our best player on defense. So judging by that recent history, I assume we will draft someone for our secondary, who will not live up to the lofty expectations of Redskins fans, unless he is murdered before we can hate him.
#3: CAROLINA PANTHERS (4-8, 27th overall, -1.5 rating) - The Panthers have done better than expected under Cam Newton, but still though, a running QB has a short shelf-life of awesomeness in the NFL. People adjust, and 22-year-old legs grow older (and slower). And though they've been competitive, it's not like the Panthers are on the cusp of greatness or anything. Really all they're on the cusp of is trying to prove drafting Cam Newton first overall wasn't stupid. By the way, to tie it back into my mock draft theme, of course Cam Newton was the first overall pick this past spring, and he's performed better than critics expected, but he's no Randall Cunningham. He's not even Tim Tebow. Oddly enough that was their first top 10 pick since 2003, when they took OT Jordan Gross with the 8th overall pick. That was a pretty solid pick, as he's been a key figure in that O-line ever since, and they've had a pretty successful running game over the years. In fact, as I was perusing nerd data this afternoon, I saw the Panthers actually have three guys with over 500 yds rushing. Not sure how often that happens in the NFL. In 2002, they got DE Julius Peppers with the 2nd overall pick, and although he's in Chicago now, that was a solid pick as well, as he gave their defense an identity for a while, and went away to richer pastures the Panthers didn't want to foot the bill for. So judging by their history, as well as the fact they don't show up at the top of the draft all the time, I have to assume the Panthers will make a sensible pick next spring. In fact, by judging all that, I have to think they might have known more than me when I was all laughing about them taking Cam Newton. Go figure.
#4: CLEVELAND BROWNS (4-8, 28th overall, -1.8 rating) - The Browns are in a state of flux, because the QB that was supposed to be the answer (Colt McCoy) doesn't look to be the answer. And he's the second or third wrong answer in a row they've had there. Not to mention a couple of wrong answers at coach as well. Fat walrus Mike Holmgren is in charge still (I think), and probably needs to do something quick-like to prove he's not a fucking fool who never did shit without an Ol' Gunslinger slinging the ball around for him to look good with. With the 7th pick overall in 2010, they took CB Joe Haden, who has been a pretty good presence in their defensive backfield. Their 3rd overall pick in 2007 was OT Joe Thomas. He's been pretty good too, though you'd hope by now there'd be more around him to get a running game going or have some consistency on offense. But I don't think anybody would blame Joe Thomas for this problem. Before that was the weaker years, with the 3rd overall pick in 2005, taking WR Braylon Edwards, and with the 6th overall pick in 2004, taking TE Kellen Winslow Jr. Both ended up being headaches, doing stupid shit, and both are elsewhere now, where they can be appreciated as kinda good being their current teams didn't waste a top draft pick on them. So recent history suggests the Browns might make a good move, so maybe Mike Holmgren isn't as stupid as I like to think he is because of how he looks (meaning stupid).
#5: JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (3-9, 29th overall, -2.2 rating) - The Jaguars are the one team on this list who have already shit-canned their head coach. And good lord man, they have a long parade of top ten overall picks, which really suggests something is terribly wrong with this franchise. But they now have some crazy Pakistani owner who looks like some sort of bizarre warlord, and has a blonde American wife, so I imagine they'll be an upwardly mobile franchise from here on out. With the 10th pick this past April, they took QB Blaine Gabbert, who is already immersed into their starting line-up, and hasn't exactly been gangbusters, but hasn't looked terrible either. He's good enough to live with and see what happens. Last year, with the 10th overall pick, they took DE Tyson Alualu, who has been good but anonymous (perhaps owing to the Jacksonville address) and certainly not as awesome as a Samoan named Tyson should be. But it's only his second year, and he's not been a Gerald McCoy thus far. With the 8th pick in 2009, they took OT Eugene Monroe, who comes from UVA, a local college, and I was pretty shocked he went that high, as I didn't see him being that good. Not sure how he's done in Jacksonville, but I would imagine he's more of a Robert Gallery force of disappointment than an overwhelming presence on their line, though I guess Maurice Jones-Drew does lead the league in rushing, so maybe I'm wrong. In 2008, with the 8th pick they took DE Derrick Harvey, who sucked, and was cut this past preseason. Now he's in Denver. In 2004, with the 9th overall pick they took WR Reggie Williams, who was okay but never great, got dropped from the team, and in 2009 got in a fight with cops while being arrested for cocaine possession. With the 7th overall pick in 2003, they took QB Byron Leftwich, who was their starter for a while, then got supplanted by David Garrard, and now is a back-up in Pittsburgh (though on IR). He looks good in that uniform too, and being from Marshall, what with the western Pennsylvania football pride mentality, I bet he's got a lot of "friends" in that strange blue collar part of the country. Before that, in 2002, with the 9th overall pick they took DT John Henderson. I don't even know who the fuck that is. That's seven Top 10 overall picks in the past decade, with not much to show for it in terms of building something. Thus, expect a big fat "whatever" with what they do this coming draft, unless their new owner lights a fire of American Dreaming into the franchise.
#6: MINNESOTA VIKINGS (2-10, 30th overall, -2.4 rating) - The Vikings seem to be pointed in the right direction, you'd think. Offensively, Christian Ponder hasn't looked bad, and they have Adrian Peterson, and a good line. Defensively, they're pretty good in the front seven. I mean, you sprinkle in some good skill position players, and this might be a good team pretty quickly. But it might not, as they are also old on defense and the O-line. Last top ten pick they had was in 2007, when they took Peterson with the 7th pick. That obviously has worked out well. In 2005, they took WR Troy Williamson with the 7th pick. That obviously did not work out so well. He was traded to the Jaguars in 2007, and dropped from the NFL in 2010. However, before that, in 2003 the Vikings took DT Kevin Williams with the 9th overall pick, and in 2002 took OT Bryant McKinnie with the 7th overall pick. Both were long-term presences, Williams still playing, and McKinnie finally succumbing to injuries (though he still plays with the Ravens I think?). But they didn't do bad with either of those picks. So expect them to draft a top-flight speedster for WR or DB, or get a lineman. Or whatever really. I don't give a fuck about predicting the future.
#7: ST. LOUIS RAMS (2-10, 31st overall, -3.0 rating) - The Rams have not done very well this year, which is even worse considering they play in the NFC West, where doing good should be easy. Sam Bradford was the top overall pick in 2010, and I think the jury's still out on this dude. He might be as good as Matthew Stafford, but I ain't ready to say that yet, because he also looks like he's 12 years old and might suck as much as a Chris Simms if given more of a chance. Their 2009 2nd overall pick was OT Jason Smith, who has been solid, but is not Orlando Pace, so he will not be loved. In 2008, they took DE Chris Long with the 2nd overall pick, and I love that dude being from UVA and having actually single-handedly won some games for them, which I've never really seen ever before from a defensive lineman, but he's been a disappointment in the NFL, considering his draft position. Expect them to mire some college superstar in obscurity with next year's 2nd or 3rd overall draft pick.
#8: INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (0-12, 32nd overall, -7.3 rating) - The Colts are quietly making a run towards 0-16 (haha, Dan Orlovsky shall live in infamy), and really the talk amongst them is whether they draft Andrew Luck or not, whether they keep Peyton Manning or not, and whether they'll be good again or not. In the past decade, they've not ever had a top ten overall pick, so there's no history there to look at. But it does seem silly to expect Andrew Luck would replace Manning, although getting what you can for what might be permanently damaged goods in Manning might not be a bad move either, as there are always sucker franchises like the Browns or Redskins that might make such a stupid move. I don't really care, as I hate the Colts, and Andrew Luck looks too much like an athletic version of that one kid from Freaks & Geeks, so I can't really hate Andrew Luck, therefore it would be better for me philosophically if he didn't play for the Colts, unless Peyton Manning stayed on too and took on a surly Brett Favre role where he didn't really want the new kid to ever start a game, ever. Then it would fit my personal biases perfectly.