From incompetence to outright villainy: the NFL's worst-run teams

<span>Photograph: Bill Kostroun/AP</span>
Photograph: Bill Kostroun/AP

Much has been made of late of the New York Jets’ heroic efforts to lose their best player, Jamal Adams. The Jets are not alone in their bid for the Incompetence Championship Belt, though. Here’s a rundown of the contenders (note: these are the worst-run franchises in the NFL, rather than the weakest on the field. Although, of course, there is often a correlation).

New York Jets

Where do you even begin with the Adam Gase of it all? What we see playing out with Gase and Adams, the Jets’ best player and the franchise’s head coach, is as laughable as it is predictable. Adams, one of the best young defensive players in the league, wants to leave because apparently he can’t stand working with Gase – and many of his teammates are said to feel the same.

If this isn’t a microcosm of Jets Football, nothing is. The ownership chose to employ Gase after he had been fired by their divisional rivals, the Miami Dolphins. He was an embattled, belligerent coach with a losing record who alienated the locker room in Florida. And guess what happened when he came to New York? Yep, he has become an embattled, belligerent coach with a losing record who has alienated the locker room.

The Jets’ incompetence doesn’t stop there though. They have consistently chopped and changed directions over the years. One season, the organization is ready and willing to embrace the draft and develop model. The next, it’s a return to lobbing big paydays at ageing stars. Splitting between the two tracks has left them with a roster bereft of difference-makers.

It’s easy – and fun! – to blame Gase for the Jets’ ills, but it’s the wretched ownership who will still be there when he is inevitable fired. Still, it’s not like anyone is stupid enough to give them responsibility beyond running a football team.

Los Angeles Chargers

Another packed house the Chargers
Another packed house the Chargers. Photograph: Kelvin Kuo/AP

Pour one out for the Chargers. After years of being a first-ballot If-my-team-isn’t-playing-them-I-rooting-for-them team, they have fallen into irrelevancy. The move to Los Angeles, a city that didn’t appear to want one NFL team, let alone two, couldn’t have gone much worse. They started their time in LA playing in a stadium smaller than some Texas high school football arenas – and still couldn’t fill it with home fans. Photos like this and this and this have become as much a part of the Chargers gameday experience as anything on the field. Owner Dean Spanos has already had to deny that the team could be on the move again to London or Oakland or back to San Diego, a city where the team was far move loved than in their new home.

On the field they’re not terrible, just the same old Chargers: full of talent, battling injuries, haunted by brutal losses.

2020 sets up to be ugly. Philip Rivers finally called time on his career with the franchise, uprooting and moving to Indianapolis. The team has one of the bleakest quarterback depth charts in the league, hardly the way they would have wanted to open up their new stadium, even if they are the junior leaseholder.

The one saving grace: they still have the best uniforms in the league.

Houston Texans

Like Gase, Bill O’Brien is a former offensive-coordinator whose work alongside a legend (Gase with Peyton Manning; O’Brien with Tom Brady) has led to him receiving the keys to a franchise.

And like Gase, O’Brien has morphed from a once-promising offensive mind into a cartoon villain. Full of ego and a belief that the Bill O’Brien way is the only way, the Texans head coach has taken to team-building the way a child does to a Madden Franchise: trading a bunch of draft picks to fit an immediate need; swapping out one superstar for a player whose name value no longer matches his play.

The brilliance of O’Brien’s strategy: he can’t lose a job that he gave to himself. After the Texans fired former GM Brian Gaine a year ago, they appointed O’Brien as interim GM – giving the coach the immediate control of who is on the 53-man roster.

It was not a dumb short-term play. The issue: O’Brien started to make big-picture moves. He moved Jadeveon Clowney to Seattle for a third-round pick and two backup linebackers. That was followed up by dealing a bevy of draft picks to plug a hole along the offensive line. The Texans landed the supremely talented Laremy Tunsil but they overpaid for his services.

As a result, the Texans ran an exhaustive general manager search. The answer just so happened to be … Bill O’Brien. One of his first moves: swapping out DeAndre Hopkins, a future Hall of Fame receiver, for David Johnson, a horribly diminished running back who does things like this.

The Texans’ fabulously talented quarterback Deshaun Watson is starting to resemble LeBron James during his first spell with the Cleveland Cavaliers: a generational star sabotaged by the incompetence and arrogance of management.


Dan Snyder is the league’s resident super villain, albeit with little of the “super” and and plenty of the villainy.

Since he took ownership of Washington in 1999, Snyder has overseen a 142-192 record, recorded only six winning seasons and has just two playoff wins. For a team that used to view the regular season as a minor inconvenience on the way to another Super Bowl appearance, it’s a remarkable fall from grace.

Not only that, Snyder has nuked the team’s reputation. It has fallen so low that the Baltimore Ravens surpassed Washington in TV viewership within the DC market. Two, five, 20 years ago, that was unthinkable. Ever the entrepreneur, as the team’s record dawdled from rough to embarrassing, Snyder upped the cost of the gameday experience. The team’s attendance has declined from second in the league in 2009 to 25th in 2019.

And, regardless of your personal views on the name issue, Snyder’s unwillingness to listen or engage in a conversation is a testament to his own myopic viewpoint.

Snyder has employed 10 coaches and any number of personnel maestros, trying all manner of different strategies. The one constant during the era: Snyder himself. You would think such a poor record over such a sustained period of time would dent one’s ego. Not Snyder. He has been so staunchly deaf to criticism, so willing to blame others (including his own fanbase) that you almost get the sense that he enjoys the role of village idiot.