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2019 Seasons In Review

by Patrick Daugherty
Updated On: February 5, 2020, 9:32 pm ET

Teams listed by draft finish, minus trades. 

32. Cincinnati Bengals 

The Bengals paid a steep price for moving on from the warm interiors of Marvin Lewis’ 7-9 cocoon, flirting with relevance for all of one week before staggering to 2-14 and the draft’s No. 1 pick. After a surprisingly competitive Week 1 showing in Seattle — who isn’t surprisingly competitive in Seattle these days? — the objective quickly shifted from competing to out-tanking the Dolphins. The Bengals emerged triumphant with a climactic Week 16 overtime loss in Miami. This result was achieved by a process that involved finally benching Andy Dalton. If Dalton is the benchmark for average, far worse rookie fill-in Ryan Finley was a reminder of how difficult it is to even reach the Dalton line. Back where they’ve always been in the football world’s consciousness — the basement — the Bengals are already guaranteed to make one of the offseason’s highest-impact moves, selecting LSU’s Joe Burrow with their hard-earned No. 1 selection.    

31. Washington Redskins 

The peaks have been unattainable under owner Daniel Snyder but there are always new depths to plumb. Even for an organization accustomed to farce, 2019 was a tragicomedy. Retained one year too long, Jay Gruden was dismissed 10 games early. His ouster came one day after a video emerged showing him in various states of misbehavin’. League sources wondered aloud if the team was the origin of the leak. It served as a welcome distraction from franchise player LT Trent Williams holding out because of his belief that the medical staff botched his cancer diagnosis. On the field, sporadic Terry McLaurin highlights were overawed by the establishment of 34-year-old Adrian Peterson and Dwayne HaskinsJosh Rosen impression. 3-13 after four years in 7-9/9-7 Fisher zone, the Redskins greeted the offseason with the long-overdue firing of GM Bruce Allen. In his place remains a front office power vacuum as swirling as ever.      

30. Detroit Lions 

The Lions actually learned their lesson, throwing the car in reverse after 2018’s obsession with Paleolithic football. No team threw deep more often in the first half of the season. Then Matthew Stafford broke his back, landing him on the shelf for the first time since 2010. 3-4-1 (lol) with their quarterback, the Lions went 0-8 without him, “earning” the No. 3 overall pick. Stafford’s injury had plenty of help in securing the top-three selection. Kerryon Johnson got hurt. Quandre Diggs got better after he was traded. Most of all, coach Matt Patricia got befuddled, overseeing one of the league’s worst defenses. Without Patricia taking care of his side of the ball, the Lions had no prayer on offense sans Stafford. The lone respite was David Blough’s one quarter of Minshew-ing on Thanksgiving. With reinforcements needed at every level of the defense, Patricia lacks a coolant for what will be a 2020 hot seat.


29. New York Giants 

The Giants finally accomplished the seemingly impossible feat of benching Eli Manning — it took three years and two coaches — but managed just four wins while getting outscored by 110 points. The G-Men have posted six-or-fewer victories five of the past six seasons. In Manning’s place was No. 6 overall pick Daniel Jones, who flashed promise but specialized in giving the ball to the other team. In 13 appearances Jones tossed 12 picks while losing a whopping eight fumbles. Generational runner Saquon Barkley should have been the stabilizing force on offense but instead missed three games with a high-ankle sprain before being limited for at least seven more. The end result was Pat Shurmur’s pink slip, putting New York on its third coach in four years after Tom Coughlin held the throne for 12. With museum piece Dave Gettleman running the front office, the Giants are praying to sun gods instead of poring over spreadsheets.    

28. Miami Dolphins 

Outscored 102-10 in Weeks 1 and 2, the Dolphins were well on their way to reinventing the tanking wheel before Brian Flores decided he better do a little coaching. With even reasonable observers expecting 0-16, Flores made 5-11 feel like a first-round bye, capping the year with a dynasty-ending 27-24 victory over the Patriots in Week 17. For a season designed to do little more than buy time and accumulate draft picks, it was a rousing success. With the front office waiting out the clock, actual on-field developments were few and far between. Josh Rosen looked like a lost cause. Kalen Ballage made history as the least efficient runner of the post-merger era. DeVante Parker contributed the most hilarious dispatch to the “Exposure of Adam Gase” dossier. It was a feel-good tank, but a tank nonetheless. 5-11 won’t feel so good if it’s repeated in 2020.     

27. Los Angeles Chargers 

The Chargers’ 2019 in review? “S--- sad.” Those were the words of Keenan Allen following the Bolts’ gutting Week 6 loss to the Steelers. He had to retweet it in Week 7 following a somehow even worse defeat to the Titans. Losing to quarterbacks named “Duck.” Fumbling the ball away at the goal line with 15 seconds remaining. Throwing an interception with 18 seconds remaining. Getting walked off by Drew Lock in his NFL debut… basically if you can think of a devastating loss, the Chargers suffered it. Anthony Lynn’s squad had a -8 point differential — the AFC’s seventh best — and went 5-11. Nothing mattered except for maybe Philip Rivers’ picks. He tossed 20 of them, a fact that would have drawn far more attention if not for Jameis Winston’s 30. Perennial underachievers, the Bolts had the looks of a team in need of a cleansing fire. With Rivers’ contract expiring and the team finally moving to an actual NFL stadium, 2020 might provide it.  

26. Carolina Panthers 

It’s about the team. Unless the team is bad. Then it’s about whatever individual accomplishments you can find. So was the Panthers’ 2019, which quickly devolved from gunning for the NFC South to getting Christian McCaffrey in the record books. He obliged by breaking his own running back receptions mark and becoming just the third player in league history to reach 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season. All other storylines were contrived, with keyboard warriors doing their best to prop up Kyle Allen as Cam Newton’s heir apparent before the second-year UDFA collapsed under the weight of his own mediocrity. Allen made 13 starts. He contributed multiple passing scores in just five of them. Elsewhere, D.J. Moore emerged and Curtis Samuel broke the air yards model. Ron Rivera persevered before finally running the ship aground after nine years of tightly hugging the coast. Luke Kuechly retired. Greg Olsen is gone. Change is coming. Anyone who watched a 2019 Panthers game understands why.    

25. Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals decided 2018 was all a dream. On his ninth life as general manager, Steve Keim moved on from unimaginative sideline hire Steve Wilks in favor of Kliff Kingsbury, a recently-fired college coach whose teams allowed 37 points per game in the Big 12. In the draft, Keim made the Cardinals the first team in 30 years to use consecutive first-round picks on quarterbacks. The net result was just two more victories but a whole lot more optimism. Kingsbury trailed only Kyle Shanahan in terms of imaginative run-game design while Murray flashed rare arm talent and athleticism. Murray and company hung with NFC champion San Francisco twice and won 2-of-3 games to end the year. Talent deficiencies remain across the board, but despair — seriously, why can’t Mike McCoy involve David Johnson in the passing game? — has been replaced by hope.    

24. Jacksonville Jaguars 

The Jags kept 2017 on an island, blundering through yet another lottery campaign, winning fewer than seven games for the eighth time in nine years. The tone was set 10 minutes into the season, as free agent addition Nick Foles fractured his collarbone in the process of rainbowing a 35-yard touchdown to D.J. Chark. Gardner Minshew “mania” broke out in Foles’ absence, but he proved to be more meme than actual solution. Minshew was good for a sixth-round rookie. That’s not the same thing as being good. Foles, for his part, was terrible after his Week 11 return, getting benched in Week 13. Chark was a bright spot. Leonard Fournette, a continued disappointment, turning monstrous workloads into replacement-level production. The Jags head into the offseason bottom two in cap space. Bafflingly, only antiquated team president Tom Coughlin was shown the door. GM Dave Caldwell, whose rosters boast a .321 “winning percentage” in seven years, remains.       

23. Cleveland Browns 

It was a normal Browns season. It wasn’t supposed to be. Throttled by the Titans 43-13 in Week 1, the Browns improved to 2-2 with a stunning victory over the Ravens. It would be the last time they tasted .500. Every last thing went wrong. Baker Mayfield was a disheveled disaster, tossing just one more interception than touchdown. Odell Beckham injured himself in the preseason and played hurt the entire year. Myles Garrett earned an indefinite suspension for assaulting a backup quarterback. Freddie Kitchens looked every bit to be an obscure former RBs coach thrust into the wrong place at the right time. Through it all, an undermanned offensive line left nowhere for anyone to hide. The Browns tried a different process. It produced the same result: A new coach and general manager.      

22. New York Jets

A maze of streaks and narratives, Adam Gase’s first season in New York was a fittingly operatic fiasco. Before the back page editors could even blink, Sam Darnold provided a gift from heaven, getting diagnosed with mono following the Jets’ season-opening loss to the Bills. The father to a thousand memes, Darnold’s illness had a profound on-field effect, forcing sub-XFL talent Luke Falk into the lineup for a series of beatdowns. When Darnold returned in Week 6, it was to a stunning upset over the Cowboys. That would prove to be Gang Green’s only win the first half of the season. The second was much better, with the schedule softening sufficiently for the Jets to finish 6-2. This being the Jets, one of the losses was a 22-6 humiliation to Cincinnati, the league’s worst team. Robby Anderson played well enough to ensure the Jets will not pay him in free agency while Le’Veon Bell fulfilled Gase’s prophecy that the two would not get along. As usual, questions were more plentiful than answers. 

21. Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders 

The Oakland Raiders were booed off the field in their final ever home game. Has there ever been a more Raiders fact? Games 17-32 of the Jon Gruden era were only marginally better than 1-16. The record improved from 4-12 to 7-9, but the point differential remained a caustic -106. Sitting at 6-4 with a shot at the playoffs, the Raiders endured a three-game losing streak where the average score was 38-11. Gruden’s latest lunging attempt to acquire a playmaker, March’s acquisition of Antonio Brown, was a catastrophic failure. Derek Carr continued his increased efficiency under Gruden but grew no more explosive. The defense stunk. The possessor of two top-20 picks, Gruden’s last, best chance to change his comeback’s trajectory will come this spring.      

20. Indianapolis Colts 

The third preseason game is typically known as a team’s “regular season dress rehearsal.” It’s when the Colts learned they were not going to have a season, at least not in the way they originally understood it. Tired of fighting his body, Andrew Luck called it quits on August 24. The Colts had arguably the league’s best backup ready to go in Luck’s stead, but “best backup” is a bit like being the quietest firecracker. You’re still a backup. Jacoby Brissett gave it his Matt Cassel all but could not overcome an unrelenting wave of injuries on offense. The defense was laid similarly low, making 7-9 a rather impressive feat. Amidst the injury carnage, it was difficult to conduct meaningful evaluation heading into 2020, making another year of post-Luck purgatory a real possibility.        

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Jameis Winston threw for the eighth most yards in NFL history and also the most interceptions since Vinny Testaverde in 1988. It was the logical conclusion to the league’s most aerial-obsessed coach — Bruce Arians famously refused to adjust the game plan for even Drew Stanton or Ryan Lindley  — designing offense for its most mistake-prone quarterback. The Bucs’ seven wins were their second most since 2012 but also their eighth losing season of the now-concluded decade. The running game was nonexistent. The defense, Big 12 in its nonchalance about defending the pass. Through it all, Arians seemed oddly disengaged. Is this a school project designed to showcase loyal assistants Byron Leftwich and Todd Bowles or an actual attempt at winning football?      

18. Denver Broncos 

The Broncos started their fifth, sixth and seventh quarterbacks in four years since Peyton Manning’s retirement. It produced their third straight losing campaign, their first such streak since 1970-72. There was reason for hope in a 4-1 finish under rookie starter Drew Lock, though the second-rounder mostly impressed for what he didn’t do (throw a million interceptions). If Lock was the late-season storyline, Courtland Sutton dominated the whole year, emerging as a true No. 1 receiver, one capable of harvesting souls down the field. 61-year-old rookie head coach Vic Fangio kept the team playing hard. It was a thoroughly 7-9 campaign for a winning franchise anxious to break a rare losing cycle.  

17. Atlanta Falcons 

The process? Head coach Dan Quinn firing all three of his coordinators last offseason. The result? A 1-7 record heading into the bye. Only more coaching changes salvaged what little remained of another lost season, with Quinn delegating defensive play-calling duties to spark his squad to a stunning post-bye win over the Saints. A 6-2 finish followed, but it went unnoticed with the Falcons long out of the playoff race. It was hard not to notice Matt Ryan, whose mobility appeared worryingly limited after he missed Week 8 with a high-ankle sprain. Before the ailment, Ryan completed 72.1 percent of his passes and averaged 335 yards. After, 62.2 and 287. Devonta Freeman, Calvin Ridley, Austin Hooper and Julio Jones all missed time with injury. Mohamed Sanu shipped out to New England. The defense, as always, underwhelmed. The NFL’s resident Jason Garrett with Garrett no longer employed as a head coach, Quinn is out of excuses heading into 2020.

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