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The Exact Moment it All Went Wrong for NFL Teams That Didn't Make Playoffs

In 1998, the city of Cleveland was awarded an expansion franchise, which was named the Browns.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Twelve NFL teams are on their way to the postseason, every single one (except the Eagles) with a legitimate chance to win the Super Bowl. Fans of the other 20 teams have nothing else to do now but count down the days until the NFL draft or root against the playoff teams (the Eagles) they hate with all their icy hearts.

But before you spend the upcoming weekends subsisting on vengeance and jealousy, it’s important to understand why your shitty team’s season is over. So here’s a look at the 20 teams that fell short of the playoffs and where things went wrong.


Cleveland Browns (0-16)
Where things went wrong: In 1998, the city of Cleveland was awarded an expansion franchise, which was named the Browns.

New York Giants (3-13)
Where things went wrong: Ben McAdoo was named head coach before the 2016 season, but that wasn’t the issue. McAdoo arrived looking like the kid at the end of Big with his baggy suit and guided the Giants to a playoff trip. It’s no coincidence that the Giants went off the rails when someone bought him a bottle of hair gel over the offseason and gave him a 1980s bad guy movie makeover. But in classic 80s movie style, the nerd (Eli Manning) got the best of the bad guy.

Houston Texans (4-12)
Where things went wrong: No, it wasn’t when Deshaun Watson’s knee tore apart during a mid-week practice with the Texans sitting at 3-4; it was when ownership decided it would rather have Tom Savage than Colin Kaepernick on the roster. Yeah, there were about a dozen teams that should have signed him, but the Texans offense was perfectly suited for Kaepernick’s abilities. But, and you won’t believe this, the franchise run by an old fuck whose response to the anthem protests was “we can’t have the inmates running the prison” didn’t sign Kaepernick before the season or after Watson was injured.

Indianapolis Colts (4-12)
Where things went wrong: Andrew Luck’s decision to let Dr. Nick do his shoulder surgery in January was obviously a mistake.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)
Where things went wrong: You could pin this on the organization’s decision to allow HBO’s cameras into the building for Hard Knocks but the true demise was brought on them by Jameis Winston’s corny-ass pregame song debacle, which was way worse than the one during the regular season before the Saints game. It’s a one-minute speech but feels about as long as The Last Jedi:

Jameis: One, two, three and to the four.
Team: One, two, three and to the four.
Jameis: The Bucs Qs and Cs coming out that door.
Team: The Bucs Qs and Cs coming out that door.
Jameis: Now we don’t know how to do these rhymes.
Team: Now we don’t know how to do these rhymes.
Jameis: We know about pancake blocks and throwing dimes.
Team: We know about pancake blocks and throwing dimes.
Jameis: Now the time has come for us to compete.
Team: Now the time has come for us to compete.
Jameis: Now we gotta do it one way, one team, one heartbeat.
Team: Now we gotta do it one way, one team, one heartbeat.
Jameis: Let’s go out here and have a great day.
Team: Let’s go out here and have a great day.
Jameis: And let’s kick some Jag ass, Tampa Bay.
Team: And let’s kick some Jag ass, Tampa Bay.

I don’t know if it’s worse if Winston took the time to write that in advance or if this was improv, but when Ryan Fitzpatrick tells you your lyrics suck, there’s no coming back from that.

Chicago Bears (5-11)
Where things went wrong: Letting John Fox stick around for another year after he went 9-23 in his first two seasons when the Bears could have made a push for Sean McVay might haunt the organization for years. The team basically wasted a year of development for Mitchell Trubisky, who will undoubtedly have to spend next season learning a new offense.


New York Jets (5-11)
Where things went wrong: During the 2016 draft, someone in the room stood up and screamed, “We are taking Christian Hackenberg with our second-round pick!” Then someone else stood up and every day for next year-plus screamed, “We will never play Christian Hackenberg, no matter how meaningless the game!”

Denver Broncos (5-11)
Where things went wrong: On March 17, 2016, Peyton Manning announced his retirement.

San Francisco 49ers (6-10)
Where things went wrong: On December 28, 2008, Jed York was named chief executive officer of the team by his daddy.

Oakland Raiders (6-10)
Where things went wrong: Derek Carr’s broken leg was the end of the Raiders’ 2016 season and he put a hex on this season when he took to Twitter to praise a 7-year-old collecting garbage so he could perhaps pay for college one day. Carr, who became the highest-paid player in the NFL a few months later, may one day start a college fund for underprivileged youths that's just a big recycling bin filled with plastic bottles children can fight over.

Miami Dolphins (6-10)
Where things went wrong: I don’t want to make it seem like Colin Kaepernick was this season savior nobody wanted and he would have made every sub-.500 team a champion, but when the Dolphins decided on the guy that needed his wife to beg him to leave retirement and a TV gig to take the job, that was the end. Maybe things would have gone exactly the same with Kaepernick instead of Jay Cutler, but signing a guy that was content to post ass shots on Instagram was a white flag. The surrender flag should be replaced by Cutler’s bare ass.


Cincinnati Bengals (7-9)
Where things went wrong: On January 14, 2003, the Bengals hired Marvin Lewis as head coach.

Washington Sports Franchise (7-9)
Where things went wrong: In May 1999, Daniel Snyder purchased the team.

Green Bay Packers (7-9)
Where things went wrong: Aaron Rodgers’s clavicle was turned into a fine powder by Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr. The Packers were 4-1 at the time. A close second reason for the Packers coming up short was “Mike McCarthy was named head coach” but that’s not applicable this season, although he really botched the Steelers game.

Arizona Cardinals (8-8)
Where things went wrong: This is another obvious choice, as Carson Palmer’s season ended with a broken arm in Week 7. And yet, the Cardinals somehow found a way to finish 5-4 with a quarterback duo of Gaine Blabbert and Drew Stanton. That’s maybe the most unbelievable thing to happen this season that nobody will ever talk about.

Dallas Cowboys (9-7)
Where things went wrong: It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment it happened, but at some point between the end of last season and the start of this season, Dez Bryant turned 50 years old. He cracked 80 yards receiving once all season and some of that had to do with a bad knee. But you know who also have bad knees? People that are 50 years old.

Detroit Lions (9-7)
Where things went wrong: The Lions died in Week 3 but it took 13 weeks for it to become official. That loss to the Falcons—which ended on a game-winning touchdown being overturned on review, requiring, by rule, a ten-second runoff when only eight seconds remained in the game—was the difference between Detroit being 10-6 and a playoff team and yet another season that made Lions fans question why they subject themselves to this every year.

Seattle Seahawks (9-7)
Where things went wrong: Clearly it’s Nov. 9, when the Seahawks lost Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor for the season. Yeah, the Seahawks had offensive line issues, but they were a playoff team as long as the defense remained healthy. I’m sure Pete Carroll has a conspiracy theory about the deep state using chemtrails to infect Sherman and Chancellor but the real galaxy brain reason the Seahawks missed the postseason is because the NFL insists on playing Thursday night games, which is when Sherman and Chancellor were hurt.

Los Angeles Chargers (9-7)
Where things went wrong: Starting 0-4 is a death knell for most seasons but it was the loss in Jacksonville that dropped the Chargers to 3-6 that was the nail in the coffin. Consider this one a dealer’s choice—it’s either Joey Bosa’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that set up the tying field goal or Austin Ekeler’s fumble with the Chargers running out the clock. Hey, at least it’s not Norv Turner’s fault anymore.

Baltimore Ravens (9-7)
Where things went wrong: I’m gonna say it was on 4th-and-12 from the Ravens 49 when Andy Dalton threw a touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd to put the Bengals ahead 31-27 with 44 seconds to play in the final game of the season. I’m a bit of a football savant settling on that moment but that’s why I make the big bucks. The Ravens did something even more extraordinary than reaching the playoffs—they allowed the world to mention the Bengals, Bills, and playoffs in the same breath with positivity.