Given the statistical age that we live in, the 12% number practically screams at fans of teams that have begun the season 0-2. That is to say: only 12% of teams starting their NFL seasons O for two go on to reach the post-season for a shot at the coveted Lombardi Trophy.
You hear the number on the radio, on T.V. and in the lunchroom at work. Numbers schmumbers. The stat is valid only because bad teams often start their season at 0-2. A few years ago, the Giants started out 0-2, but went on to win the Super Bowl. I can recall a Bobby Ross coached Chargers squad in the 80’s starting a season 0-4 before winning 11 of their last 12 in route to a division crown. In 1976, the defending two-time Champion Pittsburgh Steelers started 1-4 before reeling off nine straight wins.
0-2 is not the kiss of death. It is merely a record that usually belongs to bad teams. The operative word for the purpose of this article is usually.
In the spirit of the great sage and legendary football fan Alfred E. Neuman of Mad Magazine, today we’ll look at the seven teams that have had the misfortune of beginning the season by losing their first two games. We’ll assign each team a Mad Parody title based on what we discover, thus separating which of these squads should hang their hopes on next year’s draft and free-agent market, and which should hang tough, adhering to Alfred’s optimistic motto: What, me worry?
Pittsburgh Steelers, The Empire Strikes Out, Issue 220, Jan. ‘82
It should be a tough call to write off a team led by a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, but the OL is porous and there are constantly defenders applying duress to Big Ben. With just seventy-five yards amassed and two first downs on the ground, the run game has turned to the dark side. Without a Jedi to wield a light saber, it appears the defense is the only thing to keep the Steel City franchise from mediocrity, but one sack to date shows very little promise. With the Bears, Ravens (twice), Bengals, Patriots and the Packers still on the schedule, it could be curtains for the Steel Curtain. Outlook: Yes, you worry.
Cleveland Browns, Road to Sedation, Issue 423, Nov. ‘02
Not even Tom Hanks could save this snoozefest of a season for the Browns. Brandon Weeden looked at least watchable in the preseason, but an injury has sidelined him and his 62 QB Rating, now home town boy Brian Hoyer will be handed the keys in lieu of Jason Campbell. While most of Cleveland bemoans their fate, somewhere Bernie Kosar is toasting this good fortune. With enough young talent on the offensive side of the ball and an overachieving D, I expect this mob to win a few games, but they won’t win nearly enough to see the post season. Outlook: Yes, you worry.
After writing this part of the article, I learned of the Trent Richardson trade to the Colts. I won’t rewrite the segment, but I will assign a new Mad Parody title: 201 minutes of a Space Idiocy, Issue 125, Mar. ‘69
New York Giants, Spider-Sham, Issue 418, Jun. ‘02
It’s not just that we’ve seen this team comeback before, nor is it because they find themselves only a game back. When you break it down to the brass tacks, the Giants haven’t played that poorly. Eli has thrown 7 picks on the year, throw in a couple of fumbles and it adds up to 0-2. As sticky a web as that may be, there are positives to be gleaned. The G-Men have outgained their opponents 854-745. They also hold the lead in first downs 49-45. The Defense has been leakier than the sources of The Daily Bugle, but with plenty of playmakers on that side of the ball, we can expect them to shore it up before the levee breaks. Better play from Eli and some consistency in the running game should help to get Tom Coughlin’s crew back on the path to contention. Outlook: What, me worry?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, The Oddfather, Issue 155, Dec. ‘72
Scheduling alone would make the rest of this season difficult. The best teams in the league might struggle with the Saints, Falcons (twice), Eagles, Patriots, Lions and the entire NFC West still on the slate. Throw in the controversies which are starting to brew, Josh Freeman trade rumors, Darrell Revis’ visit to the Don’s office and the Bucs generally lethargic start and they may soon be sleeping with the fishes. I was hard on Greg Schiano last year when he rushed the QB kneel play against the Giants, but he stuck to his guns and his team played pretty well down the stretch. If he manages to raise a phoenix from the ashes this year, give that man an extension offer that he can’t refuse. Outlook: Yes, you worry.
Carolina Panthers, Stuporman ZZZ, Issue 242, Dec. ‘83
Cam Newton has looked more Clark Kent than Superman thus far, averaging a paltry 5.8 YPA in route to being dumped behind the line 7 times for minus 52 yards. He has been too selective as well, hitting only six receivers on the season. His 53 yards rushing almost negate the sacks. Bright spots on offense are the resurgence of DeAngelo Williams (171/4.4) and the play of TE Greg (Jimmy) Olsen (12/140/1). Carolina’s defense may be over-advertised. With 806 yards allowed, the scheme looks more Lex Luthor than Ron Rivera. In a division with both the Saints and Falcons, the remaining schedule may be more lethal than a big chunk of kryptonite. Outlook: Yes, you worry.
Jacksonville Jaguars, Groan with the Wind, Issue 300, Jan. ‘91
What can I say about this team? Frankly, no one gives a damn. Blaine Gabbert, bless his heart, has no business running an offense in this league. Justin Blackmon has been missing in action since leaving Oklahoma St. and Maurice Jones-Drew (our hero) has returned from the war an apparently disabled veteran. If it were not for Cleveland throwing in the towel on the season, this team would be on the clock for next April’s draft. Cecil Shorts has been the lone bright spot thus far…did I mention that no one gives a damn? Outlook: Yes, you worry.
Minnesota Vikings, The Wizard of O, Issue 505, Oct. ‘10
It would be easy to look at the stat sheet and say Christian Ponder hasn’t played well, but stats at a glance can be deceiving. He threw 3 interceptions at Detroit, but 2 of those first hit his receivers’ hands. With the pick 6 he tossed at Chicago, the fault is mostly on Jerome Simpson, who failed to come back to the ball. Ponder is playing much improved over last year, though the breaks haven’t fallen his way. He’s hung tough in the pocket (courage), played heady when nothing was open (brain) and taken the blame on his shoulders at the podium (heart). On a team that has the great and powerful A.D. (AKA A.P., AKA the Wizard), all that is missing is defense. The D has been horrible so far, with 880 yards surrendered and only a single sack registered. The sacks will come, and with them a reduction of yards allowed and first downs to their opponents. There’s no place like home, and with eight home games still on the schedule, this team may yet travel quite a distance down the yellow brick road. Outlook: What, me worry?
In a perfect world I would wrap this up with a clever Mad-style fold-in, perhaps showing an 0-2 record transformed to 12-4 0r 10-6, but if this world were perfect, there would be no Mad Magazine, no fold-ins, no Alfred E. Neuman and no Grid Iron Audible. Thanks for reading. 9/18/13
Photo Credit: Mad Magazine
About the Author
Written by Steve Massey
Steve Massey is the author of Grid Iron Audible at @prosportsblogging.com, a weekly column covering all things NFL related. He is originally from California, but now resides in Northern Arkansas with his beautiful wife and best friend, Debbie. Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveMassey9