In every sport, there will be franchises that are just infuriating. In most cases, it’s your own team who continues to make the same mistakes year in and year out. When their approach fails, they don’t try something different, they just double down on their failed strategy.
In other cases, it’s the exact opposite. Your team’s biggest division rival can seemingly make all the mistakes in the world, they can dig themselves in a massive hole, yet they always pull through. It can seem like their management just put all their skill points into “luck” and ignored everything else.
Whatever the case, there are an established set of teams that are just terribly annoying to have to watch, whether you’re rooting for them or against them. For them, history is always repeating itself in the worst ways. Here are the top 15 most frustrating franchises in the NFL.
15 Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons have done well in the Matt Ryan era. They’ve fielded talented teams and have done very well in the regular season. However, they’ve greatly struggled to take the next step. The height of their success was losing the NFC Championship game in 2012.
For some fans of struggling franchises, they want nothing more than to see their team post a winning season. Perhaps sneak into the playoffs, even if they lose the opening game. But for teams who are consistently competitive, there’s nothing worse than having a nice regular season and then going out early in the playoffs every year. It’s terribly disappointing for fans as they have Super Bowl aspirations heading into every season, then spend the next four months getting hyped up, only to have everything fall to pieces over the course of a couple hours.
When it comes down to it, taking home a Lombardi is all that matters. It felt like Atlanta’s window came and went without the team ever taking advantage of it.
14 Buffalo Bills
Over the past decade, the Buffalo Bills have clearly been the worst team in a terrible division (excluding the Patriots), yet haven’t been quite bad enough to get the picks necessary to properly rebuild the team. That is, without a doubt, the worst position a franchise could possibly be in.
Coach and quarterback are far and away the two most important positions in football, and Buffalo has been terrible in recent years at those positions. They have failed to bring in a coach that can be at least average in the league (the jury is still out on Rex Ryan in Buffalo). They’ve failed to bring in a quarterback that can be a franchise player (the jury is still out on Tyrod Taylor).
It seems every few years Buffalo finally lands the right set up and they have a promising year. It isn’t good enough to make the playoffs, but it at least feels like something they can build off. But then the next year it collapses and they have to hit the reset button.
13 San Francisco 49ers
Any team that goes from Super Bowl contender to one of the worst teams in the league is absolutely doing something very, very wrong.
The 49ers had an elite coach, one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, and an elite defense. However, everything began to fall apart when Jim Harbaugh starting having issues with general manager Trent Baalke and the team’s owner, Jed York. It isn't something that happens to a functional franchise. It resulted in Harbaugh being fired.
What happened next could have been just bad luck, but it could also have been the result of terrible mismanagement. They had a slew of players announcing an early retirement, as well as others who just flat out regressed, including Colin Kaepernick. Their offense fell off a cliff, their defense saw a significant drop off, and it felt like the team lost its entire identity. There was no one you could point out as being the leader of the team.
12 Miami Dolphins
At any position, going from bad to average is far, far easier than going from average to great. The Dolphins have that backwards somehow. They can get top notch positional groups, but then surround them with support that’s among the worst in the league. For example, they’ve had some great defensive lines in recent years, but no linebackers. They’ve had good receivers and running backs, but no one to block for them. Of course, now that their line is on the upswing, they’re losing their talent at the skill positions.
The Dolphins are stuck in mediocrity in the strangest way. Most teams struggle to establish a cornerstone on their roster. Yet, once they do they can quickly build around it and pull themselves up. The Dolphins have seemingly had an easy time gaining core roster components, yet can’t fill in the remaining pieces.
11 New York Jets
The New York Jets spent the entire Rex Ryan era proclaiming themselves to be the team to finally challenge the Patriots. They were going to be the team to unseat them from their throne atop the AFC East.
It started off insanely successfully as the Jets made two impressive playoff runs in the first two years of Rex Ryan’s tenure. They even knocked the Patriots out of the playoffs in 2010. Though, it was short lived. The Jets fell off the year after and slipped into mediocrity. They continually promised that last year was a fluke and the Jets will be a contender this year.
Now, we’re in a similar situation. The Jets are still a promising team as ever. Last year, they came just short of making the playoffs, a result that was marginally less than what everyone expected. In reality, that’s how all the recent Jets teams can be characterized – results that are just a bit below the lower tier expectations.
10 Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles spent the entire 2000s with one of the elite NFL quarterback and coach combos, as well as one of the NFL’s most dominating defenses. They turned that into a bunch of NFC Championship appearances, but no Lombardi Trophies. This is a franchise that has exactly zero Super Bowl wins, which make this failure sting that much more.
Over the past five years, we’ve gotten into a cycle where they reboot every two years or so. First, we had the “Dream Team” nonsense in 2011. Then Chip Kelly was hired in 2013 and completely rebuilt the team. Then Kelly was fired three years later and Roseman came in and undid all the Chip moves and appears to be modeling the team after the Reid era.
It’s so back and forth. There are so many promises to the fans that turned out to be lies. Eagles’ fans want something to stick; they want something that will deliver.
9 Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts have had an insane amount of offensive wealth over the past two decades. They went from a Hall of Fame quarterback to the most promising quarterback prospect ever. Yet, the results are fairly disappointing all things considered.
Granted, they did take home a Lombardi Trophy in 2006, which isn’t to be taken lightly. But still, one Super Bowl after a decade with Payton Manning is a little underwhelming. They had so long to put together a quality defense to give him some help and continually failed to do it.
After Manning’s era ended, they brought in Andrew luck. They initially started him off with a decent team. They had some players that appeared to be cornerstones moving forward, though they lacked some of the filler talent. Their defense in particular wasn’t anything to write home about, but they were at least average; perhaps slightly below average.
Now, they’ve had four years to add talent and take this team to the next level. What they have managed to do is take a below average supporting cast and turn it into one of the worst in the league. Seriously, if it wasn’t for Andrew Luck, then this team may just be the favorite for the first overall pick. Part of that is on the general manager for failing to properly scout talent, but part of it is also on the coaching staff for not being able to develop anyone.
8 Washington Redskins
Over the past two decades, the Redskins have been making many bold moves with the promise of revitalizing the franchise and they have, to this point, failed miserably. The RGIII deal and the Albert Haynesworth singing are the two most notable examples.
Griffin looked like the NFL’s best young quarterback after his rookie year. Yet, the coaching staff failed to develop him and put him in a position to succeed. Now, with his recent injury, it looks like his career may be over.
Haynesworth was expected to be the foundation of their revitalized defense. But the front office got so caught up in the potential that they failed to realize he was only looking to cash a check.
Usually these things get chalked up to bad luck and for some of these situations that may very well be the case. But there is reason why the Redskins continually make major moves that end up failing miserably.
7 Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have had talent over the roster for the past decade and a half. From the Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson combo to Andy Dalton and A.J. Green.
They’ve had success over this period, repeatedly finishing as one of the AFC’s top teams. Yet, they are incapable of finishing. They go out in the first round of the playoffs year in and year out. Last season, it looked like it was finally going to change. But two terrible, terrible penalties gave the division rival Steelers a chip-shot field goal to win the game and send them packing after their first playoff game yet again.
They can’t step up. They should have everything they need to move forward. It seems like something engrained in their DNA is preventing them from walking through the wide open door.
6 Green Bay Packers
NFL franchises can spend decades searching for a long-term answer at quarterback. The Packers aren’t one of those teams. Green Bay went from having one Hall of Fame quarterback to replacing him immediately with another Hall of fame quarterback. Sure, part of it is having talented scouts and coaches that are able to properly develop quarterback talent. However, regardless of how good you are, the biggest factor in getting back-to-back Hall of Famers is pure luck.
There isn’t a single fan in the NFL who can look at the Packers and not go mad from jealousy. They’ve basically been dominating the NFL since the start of the league. It’s tiring for everyone except Packers’ fans.
It’s like when your older brother is playing a video game and won’t let you have a turn even though he’s been playing for nearly a century.
5 San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Charges had one of the elite teams in the mid 2000s, on the back of one of the greatest running backs of all time, LaDainian Tomlinson. Though for as talented as they were, they couldn’t seem to capitalize in the playoffs.
After getting frustrated, the team decided to fire head coach Marty Schottenheimer following an insane 14-win season. The abrupt firing would have been more understandable had they had a quality replacement lined up. Instead, they brought in the uninspiring Norv Turner, who coached the team into mediocrity over the next half-decade. That’s been the story of the Chargers management. Highly questionable moves that make little sense at the time and then play out terribly. Chargers fans have been lucky to watch one of the best QBs in Philip Rivers over the last decade, but the Chargers haven't given him enough tools to win.
4 Los Angeles Rams
The Rams have been having a rough time ever since their “Greatest Show on Turf” era in the late 90s/early 2000s. Since 2003, they haven’t won more than 8 games in a season and have finished 4th in their division six times.
Every single year it has seemed the Rams were just one season away. Sam Bradford was an insanely promising quarterback prospect at the time he was drafted. He had the best arm in college football and had an excellent rookie season. Unfortunately, the Rams couldn’t develop him. Rams fans are praying the same thing doesn't happen to Jared Goff.
They have put together one of the most talented defenses in the NFL, but can’t put together an NFL-caliber offense to compliment them. They have the best young running back in the NFL, but can’t get anyone to block for him.
Some teams struggle to build a roster and it’s understandable. Nothing in guaranteed; every move is a roll of the dice. It can be hard to distinguish a bad idea from one that just didn’t work out. However, with the Rams it’s been clear that they’ve just been making bad moves. The RGIII deal saw them with a plethora of high first round picks to go with their own high first round picks. What they’ve done with those picks has not lived up to expectations. There is a clear issue with how they have been scouting and developing talent.
3 New England Patriots
There has never been a more frustrating franchise for opponents than the New England Patriots. For starters, they drafted the greatest quarterback of all-time in the 6th round back in 2000.
Their story of landing Bill Belichick, the greatest coach of all-time, is equally as absurd. He was originally the coach of the Browns and was fired because the team moved. He served on the Jets as a coordinator before being named the Head Coach. However, he didn’t want the position and immediately left to join the Patriots. And that’s how New England began their dynasty.
Since then, even when things go wrong, they can salvage it. In 2008, when Brady was injured and missed the entire season, the team rode Matt Cassel to 11-wins. In case you have forgotten, Matt Cassel is not a good quarterback.
This season has been another perfect example. They lost Brady for four games. They plugged in Jimmy Garoppolo and rode him to two victories. Then he got hurt and they replaced him with their 3rd string rookie quarterback. He took them to a blowout win against a playoff team with four just days to prepare. These kinds of things don’t happen to any other franchise.
2 Detroit Lions
When thinking of things teams who have wasted tons of high quality draft picks, most fans think of the Browns right off the bat. However, the Lions have been just as bad in that regard for longer. It can be easy to forget given Detroit’s “successful” run over the past few years.
Going back in particular to the Matt Millen (2001 – 2007) era, we can see where things went terribly wrong. Over that period the Lions drafted the following players in the first round –
Jeff Backus, OT – 18th overall
Joey Harrington, QB – 3rd overall
Charles Rogers, WR – 2nd overall
Roy Williams, WR – 7th overall
Kevin Jones, RB – 30th overall
Mike Williams, WR – 10th overall
Ernie Sims, LB - 9th overall
Calvin Johnson, WR - 2nd overall
Of course, Calvin Johnson is the one that stands out. However, he is certainly the exception to the rule. What we see is the Lions wasting 6sixyears of premium draft picks and getting nothing for it. It set the franchise back years and only in the past few years have they begun to dig themselves out of this hole. It’s a process that still on going, but for a franchise that hasn’t had back-to-back winning seasons since 1999-00, it can be easy to see why many of their fans have grown tired of it all.
1 Cleveland Browns
The Browns seem to be rebooting their franchise every few years. They bring in a new set of managers who appoint a new general manager who appoints a new coach who brings in a new quarterback. Every time this happens, they underperform and get canned a year earlier than what they deserve.
As a result, each new regime is faced with expectations that have been getting progressively lower each time. In fact, we’re at the point where the expectation for this year is landing the first overall pick. The Browns can literally be the worst team in football and still widely be regarded as having a successful season. In reality, as long as Corey Coleman looks good and a handful of defensive players look decent, the season is a success.
At this point, the bar is so low that we’ve dug a hole for it. We have even gotten past the point where everyone is openly rooting for the Browns, including their division “rivals.”