They could be terrible. They could be OK. There is even a small chance they will be very good. The only thing certain about the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013 is that they will be different. Very different.
The Cleveland Browns have not proven themselves adept at doing a whole lot well since the team returned to the field in 1999. The only thing the Browns have done consistently in these last 14 seasons is change. Front office to front office, players to players, coach to coach — the constant change has been the only theme with a team that can’t win.
After four straight non-playoff seasons, you can say this about the Dolphins: They are decidedly different. Jeff Ireland, the holdover general manager, spent the offseason deploying owner Stephen Ross’ cash and his draft pick stash to transform the roster, leaning on input from second-year coach Joe Philbin.
Two significant obstacles stand between the Redskins and the next step in their turnaround: The fitness of quarterback Robert Griffin III’s right knee and the $18 million salary cap penalty the club is serving in 2013. Washington could hardly enjoy its first NFC East division championship in 13 seasons because Griffin had surgery on Jan. 9 to revise the reconstruction of his ACL and repair his lateral collateral ligament and medial meniscus.
Paradise lost would be the way to describe the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their first year under coach Greg Schiano. The resort atmosphere disappeared, replaced by more rules and regimentation than a boot camp.
Six starters fled the Jets in free agency, including their top running back and two safeties. Their best player, one of the great shutdown cornerbacks in football, was traded to Tampa Bay just prior to the draft. Their big free agent signing was a 35-year-old quarterback who retired in May.
Doug Marrone, the former Syracuse head coach, is off to a banner start with the Buffalo Bills. Channeling some of that college spirit, Marrone ordered up two 20-feet-tall banners picturing the Vince Lombardi Trophy to hang behind the goal posts of the team’s field house.
Ron Rivera’s third season as the Carolina Panthers’ head coach may be his last if the team can’t make the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 season. Team owner Jerry Richardson made Rivera wait six agonizing days after the 2012 season before deciding that the former NFL linebacker for the Chicago Bears deserved another shot at leading the team in 2013.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie was just warming up last year when he overhauled the scouting department and made a few changes to his roster. The heavy lifting on what is clearly a complete reconstruction project in Oakland began after the Raiders capped a disheartening 4–12 season in Year 1 under McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen.
So maybe the Detroit Lions haven’t arrived, after all. A year after making the playoffs for the first time since 1999, they found themselves back in the NFC North cellar again, wondering what happened to all the momentum they’d built in the three years since that infamous 0–16 season.