ESPN The Magazine has released its list of the worst franchises in all of North American professional sports for 2015. According to the ESPN story, over 1,000 fans from all over North America were polled in order to obtain the necessary information needed to put together this list. The following items all played a factor: Affordability, the strength of a team’s coaching staff, how fan relations are perceived by paying customers, the reputation of team ownership, reputations of the players signed by the team, stadium experience, championships won coupled with expectations had by fans, and “bang for your buck.” Major League Soccer franchises were not represented in this piece.
The National Hockey League, National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball are all in the massive shadow that is cast by the National Football League. While this is going to remain the case for the foreseeable future – more people watch the NFL every single season than before – there are clearly many things that NFL teams get wrong. Five of the top-ten spots of the worst sports franchises for 2015, per the ESPN information, are taken up by NFL clubs. Odds are that you can probably guess which is the absolute worst if you think about ownership and the team name.
Start spreading the news. Two different New York sports franchises are among the worst in North America for 2015. One of them pressed the figurative “reset” button earlier in 2015, and that decision has, as of October 15 of this year, proven to be a smart move. Whether or not it will lead to a championship has yet to be determined, but long-suffering fans are hoping that they will be able to celebrate a Super Bowl championship sooner than later. Supporters of the other New York team cannot make such a boast. That franchise is showing no signs of turning things around between now and next summer.
20. San Francisco 49ers
It was only a few years ago when the San Francisco 49ers were Super Bowl contenders and a franchise that had the makings for greatness. San Francisco had a young an exciting quarterback, a feared defense and maybe the best head coach in all of the NFC. That young quarterback now looks lost during games, the defense is a shell of what it was, and the coach has moved on to the University of Michigan. It seems, on paper, that the 49ers would be wise to think about trading QB Colin Kaepernick. The problem is that the club may not get much for him in return.
19. Seattle Mariners
The Seattle Seahawks have, all things considered, been the best NFL franchise of the past two seasons. MLS club the Seattle Sounders bring in massive crowds every time they play a home game. As ESPN Senior Writer Jim Caple explained, things are not so bright for the Seattle Mariners:
The start of the season always looks so promising for Mariners fans — King Felix Hernandez is on the mound, the city is full of pride after a Super Bowl appearance from the crosstown Seahawks, and newly inked free agents are primed for breakout years. And yet all of that never seems to lead to a playoff appearance.
18. Oakland Raiders
The first of three NFL franchises constantly rumored to be moving to a new home is the Oakland Raiders. Oakland moving is, of course, nothing new. Re-branding as the Los Angeles Raiders would be more of a homecoming for the club than it would be a relocation. Put the idea that the Raiders may be leaving Oakland out of your mind for a minute, and remember that there is some hope for the future of the club. Quarterback Derek Carr has shown promise that he could be a franchise quarterback. Rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper has shined in his first year in the NFL.
17. Miami Marlins
Ryan Yousefi of the Miami New Times had the following to say about the Miami Marlins in August of this year: “The Marlins are having their worst season ever.” Miami fans were flying high last November when they learned that slugger Giancarlo Stanton had signed a historic contract that should keep him with the Marlins through the prime of his career. Following the signing of that massive deal, Stanton was a spectator for about half of the season because of a wrist injury. That was only one of the many woes that plagued the Marlins over the past 12 months. Better luck next year, Miami.
16. Phoenix Suns
Professional sports franchises are, above anything else, entertainment businesses. The question that has to be asked about the Phoenix Suns as of the posting of this piece is simple: What about the Suns leads you to believe the team will offer all that much entertainment during the 2015-16 NBA season? Anthony Olivieri of ESPN explained: “Rebuilding is fine and all, especially when your franchise has missed the playoffs five years running, but that’ll wear on fans’ patience.” One cannot blame Phoenix basketball fans if they find other ways to spend their time during the winter of 2016.
15. St. Louis Rams
The St. Louis Rams will be playing in Los Angeles before the 2019 NFL regular season. It is an idea that has been accepted as fact so much so that some football fans may not know that there is actually no plan in place for that move as of the posting of this piece. As Jarrett Bell of the USA Today explained in October 2015, the Rams making a return to LA could be both “inevitable and complicated.” Of course the NFL would love to have multiple franchises in a market such as Los Angeles. The league also does not want it to appear as if St. Louis has been abandoned. The back-and-forth continues.
14. Cleveland Browns
Oh, the Cleveland Browns. You could begin this section with one of several different points. General manager Ray Farmer was suspended four games for sending text messages to coaches during games in 2014. A team that was supposed to be built on a dominant defense and a strong running game cannot stop opposing offenses and cannot run the ball in 2015. There were, in September of this year, at least some signs that second-year pro Johnny Manziel may be able to be a legitimate starting quarterback at some point down the road. That’s a start for what has been one awful franchise over the past eight years.
13. Colorado Rockies
Congratulations go out to the Colorado Rockies for not being the worst baseball franchise of 2015! Things were so bad for the Rockies early on in 2015 that it was seen as a matter of when and not if the club would deal away Troy Tulowitzki. That trade occurred during the summer months, and it served as the unofficial conclusion of the season for the Rockies. Fans of professional sports franchises are asked to be patient during “rebuilding processes.” It happens. It is hard to envision the Rockies hanging with the likes of the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Cubs and New York Mets in 2016, and that does not help the state of the Colorado franchise.
12. Brooklyn Nets
Remember when the Nets moving from New Jersey to Brooklyn would lead to immediate success for the team? Remember when modeling transactions made by the Boston Celtics years ago – most notably building a roster of aged veterans – was sold as smart team-building by the Nets? Whoops. Anthony Puccio of NetsDaily.com pointed out in October 2015 that forecasts and predictions for Brooklyn’s upcoming seasons paint sorrowful mental pictures for supporters of the club. The Barclays Center is a beautiful venue, and those black uniforms that Brooklyn wears are sharp. Fans of the Nets have those two things, at least.
11. Edmonton Oilers
“Is it time to blow up the Edmonton Oilers?” This is a topic that was brought up by TSN analyst Craig Button and by David Staples of the Edmonton Journal in October of 2015. That says quite a lot about the state of the Oilers considering the fact that the 2015-16 NHL season was in its infancy at the time. Are you a fan of first overall draft picks that do not result in a team winning anything of merit? The Oilers just might be the NHL franchise for you! Connor McDavid is the next great prospect who will, whether he likes it or not, be asked to be the savior of Edmonton pro hockey. No pressure, young man.
10. Vancouver Canucks
This is, per ESPN Insider Doug Mittler, the second consecutive year in which the Vancouver Canucks are among the 20 worst sports franchises in North America. It may be hard to believe that it was only four years ago when the Canucks were but a series victory away from winning the Stanley Cup. Attending Vancouver home games is, as explained by Mittler, costly, as the Canucks have “an average ticket price of $84.87, more than $20 above the NHL average.” That would be acceptable among fans if the Canucks had the goods to compete for a title. The team doesn’t, and so it isn’t.
9. Chicago Bears
They wouldn’t be willing to admit it for the obvious reasons, but it is not a stretch to suggest that the Chicago Bears do not love that the Chicago Blackhawks and Chicago Cubs have enjoyed so much success in 2015. The Bears are nowhere near competing for a Super Bowl championship this fall. Quarterback Jay Cutler continues to be an anchor that keeps the Bears from rising because of his massive contract that has never been earned by his play. Fans of the Bears have to continue hoping that Cutler will eliminate the mistakes he makes during games. It’s the only way Chicago can win on a consistent basis.
8. San Diego Chargers
Where will the San Diego Chargers be playing home football games by the end of the decade? It is the question that continues to hover over the club during the fall months. Football fans seemingly cannot go a week without hearing the latest rumor about why the Chargers will soon be playing in Los Angeles. The Chargers are going to get a new stadium sooner or later. That much is clear. The location of that stadium remains a mystery to those of us who are not part of those negotiations. It would be best for everybody involved if the team could provide some clarity on the situation.
7. New York Jets
The worst thing that could have happened to the New York Jets was the New York Giants winning the Super Bowl twice across four seasons. That is what happened in February 2008 and February 2012, and the second of those victories represented the first Super Bowl title won by either the Giants or the Jets since the opening of MetLife Stadium. Head coach Rex Ryan was a fan-favorite among many who support Gang Green, but it was clear to outsiders that a change needed to be made. Todd Bowles has been well-received among members of the New York media and among fans, but he has a ways to go before the Jets are no longer the little brothers of New York pro football.
6. Tennessee Titans
Quarterback play makes or breaks NFL franchises, and that is going to again be the case for the Tennessee Titans. The future of the Titans now centers around rookie QB Marcus Mariota. Mariota has looked the part more often than not during his first year under center. He has also, as any reasonable person would expect, had struggles during the opening month of his pro career. A quarterback who fetches a high pick as did Mariota is going to either be a bust or a star for the team that selected him. There is no middle ground. The Oregon product will be asked to begin winning as soon as next season.
5. Philadelphia Phillies
Take everything else out of the equation, and focus on the fact that the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series back in 2008. Things have largely gone downhill for the Phillies since that moment of glory. One could nevertheless easily think of franchises that would take one championship per decade, which is where the Phillies will be for at least another few seasons. Casual sports fans know all about the struggles of the Chicago Cubs over the past century. Cleveland professional sports teams have not won a championship in over 50 years. Things could be worse for the Phillies. Just ask the Eagles.
4. Denver Nuggets
The difference that separates “team with some young talent” from “squad that is able to contend for a championship” is massive. Fans of the Denver Nuggets could attest to this as the start of the 2015-16 NBA regular season looms ahead. When responding to Denver’s spot in the list of the worst sports franchises of 2015, Anna Katherine Clemmons of ESPN attempted to find something positive. She struggled: “Uh, well, very little, but let’s go with the prices, which aren’t … terrible?” That would be some advertising campaign: “Come pay OK prices to watch a team that isn’t winning the NBA Championship this season!”
3. Washington Redskins
“Disaster” may not be a strong-enough word to describe the Washington Redskins as of October 2015. Dan Snyder is, according to at least one poll, the most hated owner in all of the NFL. Snyder refuses to listen to reason as it comes to the last name of his club, a name that could be changed without the franchise losing a noticeable amount of fans or money. Just as important as it pertains to a list of the worst franchises in sports is that Washington is a lousy football team. Quarterback Robert Griffin III has become an afterthought. Kirk Cousins is not the answer at the position.
2. New York Knicks
The New York Knicks check off just about every box for what would make up a terrible professional sports franchise. Terrible coaching? Check. Hated ownership? Double check. A team president who has his job for reasons that remain questionable among customers? Check. A supposed superstar player who is likely doing more harm than good because of the amount of salary cap that he is eating up per NBA season? Check. Oh yeah. Fans hated the first-round draft pick that the team made earlier in 2015. At least the Knicks don’t play home games in an expensive city that prices out casual fans. Oh. Right.
1. Toronto Maple Leafs
There was once a time when the Toronto Maple Leafs were a proud professional hockey franchise that was known for having a winning tradition. That was a different generation ago, and fans of the club who were not born before 1967 have never witnessed the Leafs hoist the Stanley Cup in celebration. Nobody can blame a lack of dedication from the fan base for Toronto’s hockey woes. The city becomes one of the top party destinations in all of North America whenever the Leafs host a first-round playoff game. Fans of the Leafs deserve better, but those fans are unlikely to witness a title run anytime soon.