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What was the scariest movie of 2019? IT 2? Midsommar? The Curse of La Llorona?
I nominate “Cats”.
Cats the movie was based on the wildly successful and legendary play which, as of 2012, made $3.5 billion since first opening in 1981. The production has accrued numerous awards and praises and is currently the fourth-longest running Broadway show and the sixth-longest running show in London.
What better play to base a movie on, right?
So, so, so wrong.
Cats cost $100 million to make, and recently closed their eight-week domestic run after making $27.2 million. I’ll save you the time, that’s a loss of $72.8 million.
The movie should have been much, much better, but Universal Studios trusted a graphic design studio for the animation that apparently shared office space with an opium den. The CGI fur-covered humanoid creatures are a horrifying sight that comes straight from the depths of hell. No one should be subjected to this optical waterboarding and anyone unfortunate enough to be exposed to this atrocity is without a doubt worse off than they were only 2 hours prior.
But here’s the thing – it should have been better.
A legendary and acclaimed story. A big-name studio willing to put up $100 million for production. A cast filled with Grammy and Oscar award nominees and winners such as lan McKellen, Judi Dench, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba.. the list goes on.
They underperformed. They had the talent and resources to do better but fell absolutely flat.
While contemplating Cats and thinking of ways to get the movie out of my head without giving myself permanent brain damage, I was inspired to compile a list of NFL teams of the past 20 years who didn’t play up to their potential.
I call it the “Cats” list. Teams that had the talent and ability to have a better season but severely underperformed.
These teams were ranked by using the Pythagorean winning percentage (not other lists which use data from things like the Sportsbook app from betrivers).
The Pythagorean winning percentage is a fairly simple equation that uses a team’s points scored and points against for a period of time and gives a winning percentage, or a record, that the team should have achieved. It is a commonly used formula that was first developed in baseball but has since expanded to all the major sports.
Using this formula, you can go back and see how teams should have performed versus how they actually performed.
For example, if a team scored 25 points a game and gave up 20 points a game, then after using the
formula their expected record is 10.07 – 5.93. There are certain situations when that record isn’t achieved. Was the team plagued with horrible play calling? Did the team miss a tremendous amount of field goals? Did the team consistently lose games by thin margins?
As you can see, the record is listed as a decimal. In a preview of what’s to come, the team at #10 finished the year 5-11, but should have had 2.78 more wins than their record. So, I listed the additional wins the team should have had next to their name, (2.78 in this example) and instead of saying the team should have been 7.78-8.22, I have displayed it as the team should have finished 7-9 or 8-8. Got it?
An important distinction – these are teams who should have done better but didn’t. Teams who should have more wins based on their production during the season, not teams who underachieved their preseason expectations. For example, you won’t find the winless 2008 Lions on this list (although they were very close) because that team was so unbelievably trash. They deserved every single one of their 16 losses.
Below I have the list of teams who should have done better. Teams who had the skill and talent to reach a certain record but fell much below expectations.
5. 2004 TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS +2.91 WINS
Projected: 7-9 or 8-8
You would have a hard time convincing someone that the 2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers were two years removed from winning the Super Bowl.
The offense was in complete disarray as during the season three different quarterbacks lined up under center, and the team ranked in the bottom half of the league in offensive yardage.
The real kicker (pun intended) was Martin Gramatica. As I wrote here, Martin Gramatica left the 2002 Super Bowl with a permanent Super Bowl Hangover.
The thing is, it wasn’t a normal hangover. A normal Super Bowl hangover for players or teams is underperforming the next year. Starting out slow, playing sluggish and losing winnable games, and in a lot of cases missing the playoffs. That hangover is a; going out all night with your friends slamming $3 tequila shots, waking up the next morning without a phone, wallet, and having only one of your shoes type of hangover.
No, Gramatica’s Super Bowl hangover was a; waking up every morning and reaching for the liter of $5 vodka on your nightstand, being the first one waiting for the liquor store to open, friends and family’s search history is variations of “How expensive is Passages Malibu?” type of hangover. Gramatica finished the 2003 season kicking field goals at 61.5%, then started 2004 kicking at 57.9% before getting canned mid-season.
Unfortunately, the damage was done as the team lost 4 of their first 6 games by a combined 30 points.
However, it wasn’t all bad for the Buccaneers and the reason they are so high on this list.
Defensive end Simeon Rice, coming off two straight Pro-Bowls, finished 5th in the league with 12 sacks. Alongside cornerback Ronde Barber and linebacker Derrick Brooks, who received AII-Pro honors in 2004, the group led the Tampa Bay defense to 5th overall in yardage and 10th overall in points against.
4. 2008 GREEN BAY PACKERS +2.92 WINS
Projected: 8-8 or 9-7
In 2008 the Green Bay Packers found themselves in the middle of a divorce.
The year prior, in 2007, Brett Favre led the team to a 13-3 record, losing to the eventual champion New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game.
After the season Favre gave his farewell, a tearful retirement speech that had peculiar undertones of feeling unappreciated. Swirling around the media were rumors that the Packers were content with ushering Favre out the door and letting Aaron Rodgers take the reins.
Come mid-summer, Favre applied for reinstatement, telling many media members that he wasn’t actually ready to retire and felt pressured by the Packers to do so. What came next was a messy back and forth that culminated in Favre forcing the Packers to start him or trade him.
Overall it was a huge distraction for the team, but years later we have to ask why did Favre seemingly have so much resentment for Rodgers and why did he waiver so much in deciding his retirement?
Legend has it that one night after coming home wine drunk from the local VFW, Favre’s wife said in the middle of an argument that Rodgers looks much better in a pair of Wranglers than Favre. From that day forward, Favre vowed revenge on Rodgers and Green Bay as a franchise.
Suddenly in a bind with Favre unexpectedly coming out of retirement, the organization was forced to choose between Brett Favre, the Hall of Fame quarterback, or Aaron Rodgers, the Hall of Fame quarterback. I can’t even imagine what the organization and the fans were going through that must have been so traumatizing.
By the start of the 2008 season, the Packers got what they wanted. They parted ways with Favre by trading him to the New York Jets, and the Rodgers era had begun.
With all of that being said, it is truly perplexing how this team finished 6-10, considering they were 13-3 the year before with Favre, and Rodgers led them to 11-5 in 2009.
Their defense was in the bottom half of the league in yards allowed, but their offense should have more than made up for it.
Their potent offense finished 5th in points per game, with Rodgers finishing 4th in passing yards and touchdowns, Ryan Grant finishing 9th in rushing yards, and Greg Jennings finishing 6th in receiving yards.
The team started 4-3, then proceeded to lose the next 7 of 9 games. On the year, 7 of their 10 losses were by 4 points or less.
Maybe they just lacked the mental fortitude after the Favre circus to start the season?
3. 2019 DETROIT LIONS +3 WINS
Potential record: 6-10 or 6-9-1
The 2019 Detroit Lions felt like they had a full-on identity crisis. The organization was fully embracing
the tank, but the players continued to play their hearts out.
The team started off the year by blowing a fourth-quarter lead against the Arizona Cardinals and finished in a tie, and luck was not on their side going forward.
They had Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs on the ropes at home week 4, but just couldn’t hold on at the end of the game as the Chiefs drove down and scored a touchdown with 23 seconds left in the game.
They took Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers the distance at Lambeau in week 6, but some very questionable calls down the stretch by the officiating crew arguably proved to be the difference as they ended up losing by 1 point.
Quarterback Matt Stafford got injured, running back Kerryon Johnson got injured, and the organization threw up their arms and yelled “F-k it!” in week 7 and inexplicably traded veteran leader and locker room favorite cornerback/safety Quandre Diggs.
Google “Quandre Diggs trade” and one of the first articles you will stumble upon is one entitled “The
Quandre Diges trade is officially a disaster for the Lions”.
Diggs was reportedly blindsided by the trade and told the Detroit Free Press that, “I think it was more of just a control thing. [The organization] wanting to control the locker room. Control the locker room, control voices in the locker room.”
Despite the early season heartbreaking defeats, despite the apparent incompetence by the organization, the players continued to play their hardest.
Defensively, they were absolutely atrocious.
Offensively, on the other hand, they ranked middle of the league even with undrafted quarterback David Blough under center for more almost half of the year. They finished 17th in total offensive yards; sandwiched between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers, two playoff teams.
At the end of the day, however, the 2019 season is just another microcosm for the Detroit Lions as a
whole. No direction, no hope for the future, no plans. Saying their organization is behaving like a chicken with its head cut off is an insult to decapitated chickens.
2. 2001 SAN DIEGO CHARGERS +3.32 WINS
Potential record: 8-8 or 9-7
The 2001 Chargers were trying desperately to bounce back from their 1-15 season the year before which can be found on this list at number nine.
After an unspeakable atrocity which was the 2000 running game, the team clearly had their eyes on some immediate help in the backfield.
Preparing for the 2001 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers had the first overall pick. Rather than staying with their selection and drafting consensus first overall Michael Vick, they decided to trade their first overall pick with the Atlanta Falcons for the fifth overall pick, two other picks and receiver Tim Dwight.
Big mistake, right?
Not exactly, as with the fifth overall pick the Chargers drafted running back LaDanian Tomlinson. While only seeing action for one game during the 2001 season, it is notable that the team also selected quarterback Drew Brees with their second pick. How many times has a team drafted Hall of Fame players back to back?
Throughout the season Doug Flutie lined up under center, finishing at 10th in the league with 3464 passing yards, while also playing the role of Mr. Miyagi to Drew Brees.
LaDanian Tomlinson was a staple of the Chargers offense from the start, and Tomlinson shined with his opportunities by finishing 9th in the league with 1236 rushing yards, and 4th in touchdowns with 10.
Defensively, they were led by defensive end Marcellus Wiley, linebacker Junior Seau, free safety Ryna McNeil, and strong safety Rodney Harrison who all made the Pro Bowl that year. They finished firmly in the top-mid half of the league in all the major categories.
But somehow, that wasn’t enough.
Throughout history, mankind has been faced with many mysteries of our time.
“How did they build the pyramids?”
“Are we alone in the universe?”
“Who closes the bus door after the driver gets out?”
And now, “How did the 2001 Chargers finish 5-11?”
The team was in the top half of the league on offense and on defense. They had legitimate stars on both sides of the ball but just couldn’t put it together. The Chargers started the year 5-2 before tail spinning with nine straight losses. Six of those losses came by a touchdown or less.
Maybe leadership was in question? Coaching concerns? Mental breakdowns?
No matter the reason, the 2001 Chargers season was certainly a mystery.
1. 2017 CLEVELAND BROWNS +3.35 WINS
Potential record: 3-13 or 4-12
Finally, we have reached the crown jewel of underperforming teams. The winner of the “Cats” award. If I had any skill at all I would photoshop head coach Hue Jackson’s face on the fur-covered humanoid monstrosities of the box office nuclear bomb just to illustrate just how bad this season was.
At the end of this year, Hue Jackson’s coaching record over two years with the Browns was 1-31. 1-31. And do you know what the best part is? HE KEPT HIS JOB FOR THE NEXT SEASON.
Go 1-31 on anything and see if you keep your job. Go 1-31 getting the drinks right while bartending and you’ll be a bouncer by the end of the night. Go 1-31 batting at the start of a baseball season and your team might ask you to help selling popcorn in the stands by the middle of your third game because the concession staff is shorthanded. But go 1-31 as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns AND YOU MIGHT GET A CONTRACT EXTENSION!
I can’t even tease this one, what went wrong for the Browns this year was coaching, coaching, coaching.
The 2017 Browns and the 2008 Lions are the only teams to ever lose 16 regular season games in one season.
But that’s the thing and the reason they are #1 on this list – the team wasn’t that bad. They certainly didn’t deserve to be winless like the Lions did. Let’s look at the stats.
I’m not saying the Browns deserved to make the playoffs, I’m not saying they deserved to even have 6 or 7 wins, but what I am saying is that they did not deserve to go winless.
Their numbers blow the 2008 Lions out of the water, in fact if the two teams were able to play each other I would expect the Browns to win in convincing fashion.
The Browns had promising rookies in defensive end Myles Garrett who had 7 sacks in 11 games, running back Duke Johnson, and tight end David Njoku.
What killed them? As I said earlier, the number one reason was completely incompetent coaching.
However, there is a lesser known reason.
With the first overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft the Browns selected Myles Garrett, a very solid pick who has shown more and more promise every year. With their second pick, they drafted DeShone Kizer, their hopeful quarterback of the future.
Kizer failed to tell the team, and hid from the pre-draft medical staff, that he had developed a very
serious condition. Just before the NFL Draft he contracted a rare disease called Erythrophobia.
Erythrophobia is also known as the fear of red.
As in, DeShone Kizer was the worst red zone passer in the league and it wasn’t even remotely close. His passing stats inside the 20 were; 32.5 cmp%, 8 TD, 6 INT, with four of those interceptions coming inside of the 10. Not only did he lead the league in red zone interceptions, he doubled the amount of second place.
In the last decade, on a minimum of 30 attempts, only two quarterbacks had a worse completion percentage than Kizer in the red zone, and no one had more red zone interceptions.
Kizer’s red zone bungles didn’t stay in the red zone, as he contributed 28 interceptions to the Browns’ 41total turnovers on the year. As a team, their turnover percentage was 21%. The gap between the Browns and the second worst team was the same size as the gap between 2 and 11.
Turnovers and coaching were the Achilles heel of the 2017 Browns, but the team was too talented on paper to go winless.
And that, my friends, is why they are the unequivocal winner of the “Cats” award.