The loss of Super Bowl 51 still stings for the Atlanta Falcons.
For fans of some teams in the National Football League, they will be quick to get frustrated if two or three years go by and their favorite team has not reached the postseason; but little do they know that it could be worse. The Cleveland Browns have not made the playoffs since 2002, while they are well on their way to a tenth consecutive losing season. After going 3-13 in 2015, and 1-15 last year, the Browns are already 0-5 this season as they are in the process of producing the worst three-year stretch in the NFL since the league expanded to a 16-game regular season schedule in 1978.
Since the Browns re-entered the National Football League in 1999, they have had three different owners, eight general managers, nine head coaches, and a whopping 27 different starting quarterbacks which allows you to fully understand why this franchise continues to have the futility that it has had.
That constant turnover at these key positions within the organization has resulted in Browns owner Jimmy Haslam being more patient with his current brain trust of general manager Sashi Brown and head coach Hue Jackson. Both Brown and Jackson are in their second year with the Browns as Haslam acknowledges that this won’t be a quick turnaround which is why he is practicing patience with his club.
So far this season the Browns have shown a ton of fight as three of their five losses have come by three points. However the Browns need something to get them over the top as they are lacking on-field leadership.
The Browns only have three players on their 53-man roster who are 30-years of age or more, while just three players on this team have postseason experience as it is hard to learn how to be a professional when nobody is around to teach you. This year alone the Browns drafted ten players which included three in the first round. However the fact that the Browns are lacking a solid veteran presence in their locker room will hinder the progression of their youngsters. This season saw the Browns begin with a rookie quarterback in DeShone Kizer under center. And after Kizer was 8-of-17 passing on Sunday for 87 yards with a critical red zone interception versus the New York Jets, Jackson benched him for quarterback Kevin Hogan who himself is just in his second season in the National Football League. Jackson does have the luxury of going back to Kizer, but the fact that he is set up to continue taking a beating puts him well on his way to being ruined before his career even gets started.
Along with Browns team president Paul DePodesta who up until last year had never been involved in professional football as his background was developed in Major League Baseball, the current front office in Cleveland has focused more on analytics, and stock piling draft picks, while putting the human element on the back burner. It is okay to go with a young team as well as getting a fair share of draft picks. However draft picks are only good if you know what you’re doing; especially when selecting players early on in the first round which is something that the Browns have consistently done for nearly 20 years.
Defensive end Myles Garrett was the first overall selection of the 2017 National Football League Draft by the Browns, and he was able to get his first game action yesterday as he was able to record a pair of sacks versus the Jets. But will Garrett be able to avoid the dreaded curse that most recent players selected in the first round by the Browns have had to endure which is being a bust?
If Haslam is going to be patient with DePodesta, Brown, and Jackson, they must hit home runs between the draft and free agency in finding players that are going to change the culture within the Browns locker room. The Browns must seek out players that hate to lose more than they enjoy winning; especially with free agency as Cleveland needs to bring in vets that know what it takes to win in the National Football League in order to school the youngsters.
The Browns still have 11 games this season which includes rematches with all three of their counterparts in the AFC North. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, and Cincinnati Bengals all have victories over Cleveland this season, while they have not respected this team for the longest time, nor should they due to the futility. Victories will be continue to be few and far between this season for the Browns who don’t know what it takes to win in the National Football League. And as an organization the Browns don’t even know where to start in regards to developing the formula for it.
For more than 50 years the Chargers called the City of San Diego home. And although that the Chargers were never able to win a Super Bowl Championship in the 6-1-9, they provided plenty of excitement for their fan base which included the “Air Coryell” offense of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, to the AFC Championship team in 1994 which included Hall of Fame middle linebacker Junior Seau. But all of that love was replaced by ill will when Chargers owner Dean Spanos announced his intentions this past January to move his club from San Diego to Los Angeles. Spanos had been seeking a new stadium for years from the City of San Diego which never came to fruition, and thus he decided to hop on Interstate-5 took take his club to L.A.
The plan is for the Chargers to share a brand new, state-of-the-art stadium in Inglewood once it is completed with the Rams who returned to Los Angeles in 2016 after they spent 21 years in St. Louis, Missouri. Until the stadium is complete, the Rams are playing their home games in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum which was their home from 1946-1979 before they moved to nearby Anaheim, while the Chargers are playing at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. The Coliseum is able to accommodate more than 93,000 fans for football which the Rams have been unable to fill. The Chargers have also had issues in selling out their temporary home which only seats 30,000 people. But the Chargers issues are much worse off than that of the Rams.
In three home games this year the Chargers have failed to sell out once, while some of the seats have tarp over them. In each contest at the StubHub Center, there have been more fans in the stadium supporting the opposing team which was magnified during the Chargers loss this past Sunday to the Philadelphia Eagles as the stadium sounded more like Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
Initially the Chargers played one season in Los Angeles before they moved to San Diego in 1961, which is a far cry from the Rams who played in the L.A. area for nearly 50 years before leaving for St. Louis. For nearly 15 years there was a growing contingent of people who wanted to see the Rams return to Los Angeles which the National Football League finally came to grips with in 2016. However the NFL was hell bent on having two teams in the L.A. market which is currently blowing up in their faces like the Hindenburg.
Los Angeles is not ready, nor will they ever fully accept the Chargers. And it doesn’t help the situation that the Chargers have begun this season with a record of 0-4. The Chargers are well on their way to a third consecutive losing season which would have gotten lost in the shuffle in San Diego, but not under the Hollywood spotlight.
Yahoo Sports recently published an article about the National Football League possibly sending the Chargers back to San Diego. According to the article, the NFL never wanted to lose the San Diego market. But after Spanos had tried for years to get a new stadium in San Diego, he saw no other alternative for his franchise but to move to Los Angeles.
Having the Chargers in Los Angeles has not sounded right ever since it was announced and after three home games it has been illustrated for the viewing audience. Putting the Chargers in Los Angeles is a classic example of greed by the National Football League as there has been a solidified fan base in San Diego which now feels betrayed, while the team is now playing in a city that has shown that they don’t want them.
The Chargers still have five home games this season which includes contests versus the Denver Broncos, Washington Redskins, and Oakland Raiders. These teams all have established fan bases which means that the StubHub Center will continue to sound like a visiting stadium for the Chargers.
Winning could make fans in Los Angeles warm up to the Chargers more, but this team cannot get out of their own way as they’ve consistently found ways to lose games in recent history which included their first two games this year as kicker Younghoe Koo missed a field goal in the waning seconds of each contest.
But it would be ironic if the National Football League were to send the Chargers back to San Diego, especially since there is no love lost between the city and Spanos. However a return to San Diego for the Chargers would mean that NFL must acknowledge that they made a mistake which is something that does not happen that often, while there would also be the issue in regards to who would then help the Rams foot the bill for the new stadium in Inglewood.
This saga is far from over as the Chargers could be playing “musical stadiums”. But one thing for sure is that the National Football League and Spanos have clearly outsmarted themselves.
In 2005, the San Francisco 49ers made quarterback Alex Smith the first overall pick of the National Football League Draft after he led the Utah Utes to an undefeated season. Smith was expected to be a piece in the 49ers turnaround, but his first five years in San Francisco were marred by multiple head coaches, offensive coordinators, and benchings. Smith didn’t begin to realize his potential until 2011 when Jim Harbaugh became the Niners head coach. That year Smith would have the best season of his NFL career to that point as he completed more than 61% of his passes while helping San Francisco reach the NFC Championship game for the first time since 1997. However when Harbaugh took over as the 49ers head coach, he used a second-round pick on quarterback Colin Kaepernick who was perceived as San Francisco’s quarterback of the future. And when Smith was injured during the 2012 NFL season, it opened a door for Kaepernick that he would not relinquish.
With Kaepernick under center in 2012, the Niners were able to advance to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1994 National Football League season which made Smith expendable.
Following the season Smith would be traded to the Kansas City Chiefs as he would now be under the tutelage of another quarterback guru in Chiefs head coach Andy Reid. Prior to becoming the Chiefs head coach in 2013, Reid had made the playoffs nine times while employing four different starting quarterbacks, and all signs pointed to him adding to what Harbaugh had started with Smith.
In 2013, the Chiefs went 11-5 for their first playoff appearance since 2010 and in the process Smith earned his first Pro Bowl selection. With Smith and Reid working together, the Chiefs have never had a losing record which includes them making the postseason three times, while Smith has become one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the National Football League.
During Smith’s time with Kansas City, he has completed more than 65% of his passes, while his overall record is 44-20. And with the Chiefs hot start here in 2017, Smith has to garner some early consideration in regards to being the National Football League’s MVP.
So far in 2017, Smith has completed nearly 77.5% of his passes which leads the National Football League, while he has yet to throw an interception. Smith did the impossible in Week 1 when he helped the Chiefs get a road victory over the heavily favored New England Patriots.
It was the home opener for the Patriots who entered the season as the defending Super Bowl Champions, and in the process they were ready to debut another title banner. But Smith outplayed his counterpart in Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to the tune of passing for 368 yards on 28-of-35 passing. Smith even threw a 78-yard touchdown pass which silenced myself as well as some of his other critics in regards to his arm strength as he and the Chiefs put the football world on notice after getting the best of big, bad Pats.
Smith has kept that momentum going as the Chiefs have gone on to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles as well as the Los Angeles Chargers. And whereas both the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders lost yesterday, Kansas City now sits alone atop the AFC West.
In recent years Smith has become the product of good coaching which is no fault of his as it is the head coach’s responsibility to put his players in the best possible position to win. Reid’s variation of the West Coast Offense relies on the quarterback getting the football out quickly, while not focusing on one receiver, and this is an aspect that Smith has grasped. The Chiefs are loaded with speed with players such as running back Kareem Hunt and wide receiver Tyreek Hill leading the way. And if this isn’t enough, tight end Travis Kelce has rapidly developed into the poor man’s version of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. But if opposing defenses want to focus too much on the Chiefs backs and receivers, Smith can beat teams with his legs as he has rushed for 1,350 yards while wearing a Kansas City uniform.
Smith is the leader of this Chiefs team and in the process he has become the de facto point guard of this team due to his ability to facilitate. Some people will look at the fact that Smith has talented players at the skill position around him, while he is being coached by Reid, but it takes a special person to not make the situation bigger than his or herself and do what is best for the common good of everyone.
There is still plenty of football that remains to be played this season, but the hot start of this Chiefs team has people that follow this club thinking about the Super Bowl, while Smith’s ability is being magnified more than ever as he is in the running to be the first player in Chiefs franchise history to be named National Football League MVP.