Five games into the season is more than enough time to take the pulse of a team, to know if it’s headed anywhere near the right direction. Things can change, of course, and in a league of parity everyone’s still in the race.
Some are just a little more in it than others.
Which makes this a good time to look at five teams that just can’t seem to get a grip on success – teams that need to re-evaluate their entire plan and just start over. For some, that will mean firing the coach or the general manager. For others, they just need wholesale changes in personnel.
Whatever they need, here are five teams that are just spinning their wheels at best, and should be plotting a course to some sort of change in direction:
New York Jets (2-3) – They have become the poster children for a team without a plan, which is so odd considering they looked so focused two years ago. Dominated by Rex Ryan’s defense and led by an emerging young quarterback, they had come off two straight AFC championship games and looked to be on the verge of a new era.
Now? It’s hard to tell if they even believe in Mark Sanchez anymore, especially after they saddled themselves with the burden of Tim Tebow. They are a team that relies on gimmick plays and a gimmick change-of-pace quarterback, putting Sanchez in an unenviable position. It’s impossible for a young quarterback to grow if everything the team does screams about a lack of faith.
Add in a defense that is a shell of itself and the Jets may just need to blow the whole thing up. If GM Mike Tannenbaum isn’t already on the hot seat for his strange personnel moves, he certainly should be. Ryan is a good coach, but his act has grown cold.
Dallas Cowboys (2-2) – It’s hard to imagine anything but a run at the Super Bowl will safe Jason Garrett when he’s working for an owner like Jerry Jones. That’s especially true after they spent money this offseason to improve their secondary – their biggest weakness.
But the bigger question with this franchise is this: Is Tony Romo really the quarterback you want to trust to lead you to a championship? He’s a good quarterback. He puts up impressive numbers. But it seems undeniable he can be a liability in big games. His five-interception performance against Chicago was a major red flag.
A new quarterback means completely starting over, but it might be something the Cowboys will have to consider soon.
Buffalo Bills (2-3) – They stopped acting like a small-market team when they made a big-market-like move for defensive end Mario Williams during the offseason. Adding him to what seemed like a decent defense was supposed to be what put them over the top.
Instead the Bills currently have the second-worst defense in the NFL and a shaky quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick who throws too many interceptions. The pieces seem to be there (even the quarterback has showed some promise) but when the production is so dramatically different than what’s expected, the plan comes into question.
It’s a good bet that Chan Gailey is already on the hot seat. If he’s not, he should be. The Bills have a window to get into the AFC East race over the next couple of years, but they may need someone else to help them do it.
Cleveland Browns (0-5) – This is an obvious team to include on this list because it seems a given that they will be starting over. They have a new owner and that almost always leads to change – especially when the team is 0-5.
But where to start? It’s easy to blame coach Pat Shurmer – and he’s almost certain to be one of the fall guys – but where exactly is the plan with this franchise. Start with the quarterback, where they’ve gone from Jake Delhomme to Brady Quinn to Seneca Wallace to Colt McCoy and now to 28-year-old rookie Brandon Weeden in just the last three seasons. How is that any way to build any consistency?
And is starting over with a 28-year-old rookie a smart move? By the time Weeden puts it all together he might be 31 or 32 and the Browns will already be looking for his replacement. Yes, they seem to have made a great pick in running back Trent Richardson, but much of the rest of the roster looks bare.
That will change, but before it does there’ll be more pain for the city of Cleveland, where the Browns just haven’t been able to get anything right since returning to the NFL in 1999.
Kansas City Chiefs (1-4) – There was such hope two years ago when the Chiefs went 10-6 and made the playoffs as a wild-card. There was even more hope last year after they shook off a disastrous 0-3 start by winning four straight games. OK they lost five of their next six, but they did win two of their last three – both against playoff teams – under then interim coach Romeo Crennel, sparking hope again.
It’s gone now, of course, despite a powerful rushing attack and the NFL’s 10th-ranked defense. If you want a reason why, look no further than QB Matt Cassel who has five touchdowns and nine interceptions. An NFL team can’t win with a ratio like that – and it’s even more inexcusable considering how well Jamaal Charles is running (551 yards) and that Cassel has a target to throw to like Dwayne Bowe.
Crennel is a quality coach who knows how to get the most out of his team, but he may not be able to get much more out of the Chiefs without a more trustworthy quarterback. There’s a chance GM Scott Pioli could be on the hot seat in Kansas City. If he’s not, he may need to put Cassel there instead and spend the offseason trying to find someone else.
—By RALPH VACCHIANO