This is an article from the Nov. 16, 2009 issue
Cleveland is hands-down the most dysfunctional team of 2009. First-year coach Eric Mangini was fleeced in two trades with his former club, the Jets, and his handpicked G.M. is already gone. The defense is on pace to allow more yards than any other NFL D this decade. (Coordinator Rob Ryan has said he hates himself for the way the club is playing.) And the QB situation has gone from bad (Brady Quinn: 1 TD, 3 INTs in three starts) to worse (Derek Anderson: nine or fewer completions in three of his five starts) to bad again (Quinn). LOOKING AHEAD With upcoming games against the Ravens, Bengals and Chargers, there will be no quick fix. The most pressing issue is whether owner Randy Lerner will stick with Mangini; if he's fired, the Browns will owe him an estimated $12 million, on top of what they're already paying ex-G.M. Phil Savage and former coach Romeo Crennel. Bottom line, the Browns are worse off than they were as an expansion franchise in 1999.
While rookie QB Matt Stafford has shown flashes, the No. 1 pick has struggled as expected, throwing more than twice as many interceptions (12) as touchdown passes (five). His development has been slowed by a knee injury that cost him two games and by the absence of standout wide receiver Calvin Johnson (knee) when Stafford did return. LOOKING AHEAD The Ford family must show patience with first-year G.M. Martin Mayhew, who'll need time to put the right pieces around the franchise QB. The second-half schedule is brutal, with only two games (Cleveland and San Francisco) against teams with losing records.
Two St. Louis losses were by a field goal or less, but the five others were by an aggregate of 179--33. QB Marc Bulger is suffering his worst season, in part because his receiving corps might be the most dismal in the league. And while running back Steven Jackson has been productive, the Rams can't capitalize: Their last 11 trips into the red zone have produced only one touchdown. LOOKING AHEAD Coach Steve Spagnuolo and G.M. Billy Devaney, both in their first year, are trying to build a team that's big, fast and physical. But with a potential ownership change looming, no one knows if they'll get a chance to finish the job. Fans want a look at rookie sixth-round QB Keith Null, but the former West Texas A&M standout doesn't figure to see the field before December.
Kansas City failed to win more than four games in either of the past two seasons, and the Chiefs aren't going to do any better in Year 1 of the Scott Pioli--Todd Haley regime. Personnel shortcomings have meant struggles for a defense that's transitioning from a 4--3 to a 3--4, and on offense Haley lacks the perimeter playmakers he had as Arizona's coordinator. K.C. is the only team without a rushing touchdown, and on Monday temperamental back Larry Johnson was cut. LOOKING AHEAD With Pittsburgh, San Diego, Cincinnati and Denver (twice) among the final eight games, Haley and Pioli know 2009 is about laying a foundation for the future. Still, the job ahead is difficult: Kansas City is in dire need of an edge rusher, a wideout to pair with Dwayne Bowe long-term, a No. 1 back and help on both lines.
It was a running joke the first six weeks: Need your first win? Dial up Washington. The Giants, Lions, Panthers and Chiefs all got their initial—and in the case of Detroit and Kansas City, only—win against the Skins. Owner Daniel Snyder has called the season an embarrassment, a tame assessment from a man who committed $174 million in new contracts to defense when offense was the problem. Coach Jim Zorn has been stripped of his play-calling duties, and QB Jason Campbell still hasn't found his way. LOOKING AHEAD The schedule is not kind, with Denver, Dallas (twice), Philly, New Orleans, the Giants and San Diego still to play. The main intrigue in D.C. concerns which big-name coach will be working the sideline next season, with Zorn long gone.