Unless you’re a team preparing for the playoffs or fighting to get in, at this point everyone in the NFL is evaluating their futures. There are plenty of teams who have some bright spots, or building blocks — but a slim number who have very, very little going for them.
This is not a case of simply mapping the worse teams in the league to their futures. I mean, if you’re a fan of the Lions you’re really excited about what Dan Campbell is building in Detroit. In order to be a “hopeless” team, we’re really looking at organizations with deep systemic problems in need of repair. These are the franchises who might not be the worst right now, but unless something changes they’ll be destitute for years, and years to come.
Sorry to kick off your holiday break with something wholly soul-crushing, but here we are. These are the most hopeless teams in the NFL.
Pros: Two Top 10 picks
Cons: Literally everything else
The Giants are an absolute mess, and this has been brewing for a long, long time. There was a fundamental problem turning the keys over to Dave Gettleman as general manager to right this ship, and it’s become a disaster.
Gettleman has been rumored to be stepping away after this season with a gracious retirement, and that’s a huge boon for the Giants who desperately need someone to shape this roster as if it’s about to be 2022, and not 1972, as Gettleman tends to value football.
The problem is he’s lit everything on fire on his way out the door. The Giants have a stupid amount of money committed to a lot of middling players, boasting one of the most bloated salary figures in the NFL. As it stands the team only has $4M in space for 2022, less than the Los Angeles Rams, and they don’t have a QB of note.
Daniel Jones will likely be out the door. Joe Judge shouldn’t be far behind, because he’s been poor too.
Thankfully the Giants have two first round picks, but that’s not enough to make up for the myriad problems this team has.
Pros: Potentially solid GM, owner willing to spend anything
Cons: Terrible coach, no future QB, limited cap space
The Panthers are a mess for a lot of reasons, but the most pressing concern is that head coach Matt Rhule was given so much control and has made a mess out of it all.
Rhule’s major selling point was his ability to turn around struggling teams. He did it with Temple and Baylor at the college level — then Carolina hit him like a truck upon jumping to the NFL. This is a team that signed Teddy Bridgewater to big money at his behest, then traded for Sam Darnold, and both have been a mess.
The worst part is that Rhule has become addicted to passing the buck for the team’s problems. Offensive coordinator Joe Brady was fired for not matching Rhule’s vision, then he blamed Cam Newton for not executing. It’s the antithesis of the way leadership should be handled, and feels like a drowning rat trying to save himself.
The only saving grace for the Panthers is that GM Scott Fitterer has shown potential, and owner David Tepper has pockets so deep he can afford to pull the plug on this Rhule experiment before it does more damage. It remains to be seen if that’ll happen.
Pros: Solid young QB, cap space
Cons: No future coach, lacking organizational talent, ownership that keeps making mistakes
The Jaguars were smart to get rid of their biggest problem in Urban Meyer, but there are huge issues still remaining.
I’m not sold on Trent Baalke being the football genius the Jags are banking on, but at least the team has Trevor Lawrence. I refuse to believe Lawrence is a lost cause yet, though he could have been had he suffered under Meyer for a few more years.
The biggest problem was Shad Khan hiring a big-name head coach before his GM, and forcing the organization to adapt around Meyer. They need a steadying force at coach and a general manager who can find deeper talent through the draft. Still, I think there’s something to build around — especially with almost $72M in available cap space for the next season.
Pros: Potential solid coach, two first round picks, ample cap space
Cons: Worrisome QB investment, roster lacking talent
I still really like Robert Saleh as a head coach and think he could be the right guy for the job. That paired with two first round picks in 2022, and $55M in cap space could turn this team around.
The issue I have is the investment the team made in Zach Wilson. When you take a QB with the No. 2 overall pick they get a lot of rope, and the early returns on the BYU rookie are a total mess. Wilson was a passer who needed time and development, and he got neither — and this is assuming he can actually be “the guy.”
There’s some worrisome things here, but also the potential to get things back on track.
Pros: Potential solid GM and head coach
Cons: No future QB plan, poor salary cap-to-talent ratio
Don’t let their record fool you: The Falcons are a mess. Sure, the team might be 6-8 on the back of Matt Ryan and their aging talent, but the future prospects are bad.
There’s no doubt the team made a mistake taking Kyle Pitts over Justin Fields in the 2021 NFL Draft. Fields was perfect for the Falcons to have him sit and learn behind Ryan, before being asked to take over. There’s no doubt Pitts will be an elite weapon who’s a problem for defenses for years, but none of that matters if you don’t have a QB.
Ryan is 36 years old, the team only has $14M in space with 29 players signed, which creates a scenario where they don’t have a lot of depth. There’s a good chance the right the ship this upcoming draft and take a QB, but it’s here their 6-8 record becomes a detriment, selecting 9th in 2022, and potentially out of the hunt for a top passer.
Pros: QB of the future, cap space to find talent
Cons: Ineffective GM, horrible coach
I’m firmly of the opinion that the big issue for the Bears is their head coach and general manager. However, at least they have this:
Among quarterbacks with 100 attempts, Justin Fields now ranks:
– 5th in Big Time Throw rate at 6.3%
– 1st in percentage of passes thrown beyond the first down marker at 47.4%
Yes, there are things to clean up like the sacks/fumbles. But Chicago has NEVER had a QB like this… https://t.co/0RYUaWJFyk
— Brad Spielberger, Esq. (@PFF_Brad) December 21, 2021
Everything points to Fields having elite QB potential, which is amazing news considering the Bears invested a lot in selecting him in 2021. Now the team just needs to address how terrible Matt Nagy is, and how Ryan Pace hasn’t done anything to really make this team better since arriving in 2015.
Chicago has $42M in cap space for the upcoming season, meaning they have the tools to find talent to put around Fields — but I don’t trust Pace and Nagy to be the guys to find those players. If the Bears can make the right decision and bring in fresh eyes there could be a chance.
Now we wait to see if that might actually happen.