Where Careers Go to Die: The Worst Franchises in Sports

Charles Woodson

Courtesy of cbssports.com

As a professional athlete in 2013, there are some organizations that just scream turmoil, ineptitude and utter lack of solidarity and direction. When Charles Woodson was cut from the Green Bay Packers last spring, I thought this was a perfect opportunity for the soon to be 37-year old safety to sign a one or two year deal with a contender (the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers all immediately came to mind). I was dead wrong.

He opted to return to the Oakland Raiders, signing a 1 year, $4.3 million contract, which included a $700,000 signing bonus. I get that he spent the first eight years of his career in Oakland, but that was when Bill Romanowski was roaming the middle of the field as a sideline-to-sideline linebacker and when Rich Gannon was piloting one of the most prolific offenses in the league at the time (with wideouts Tim Brown and Jerry Rice). Woodson has already won a Super Bowl and was named Defensive Player of the year in ’09, but still…you think the guy would choose a contender at a chance for another Super Bowl over what amounts to a fraction of his career earnings playing for a rudderless franchise at the tail-end of his career.

As much as I hated Ray Allen’s move to the Heat in the summer of ’12, it was the right move for Allen. He gave up a guaranteed $6 million (3 year, $12 million offer from the Celtics versus a 2-year, $6 million free agent offer from the Heat) to move to a franchise with the best player in the world, in LeBron James. Allen had already racked up $178 million in career earnings to that point…sad to say but $6 million represented only 3.3% of Allen’s total career earnings at that time. 

You get the point, if I were Woodson I would have joined a contender for less money who was safety needy (New England, anyone?), rather than take a few more bucks to play on one of the worst franchises in professional sports.

With no further ado, I give you the most miserable franchises in all of professional sports and why any athlete across these three sports should avoid these franchises at all costs.

Oakland Raiders

While we’re at it and while this team is still fresh in our minds, let’s start with the Oakland Raaaaaiiidas (cue Chris Berman here). Where do I begin? Oh what the hell, I’ll just bullet out the distinctions here so they’re clear to everyone:

  • There have been 18 head coaches in the history of the Oakland Raiders organization (1960 – present). Since ’02, the Raiders have employed 7 head coaches. That’s right…they have employed an average of one head coach every 1.7 seasons since the ’02 season. That’s a staggering turnover rate.
  • It can’t be mere coincidence that the Raiders haven’t had a winning season since the ’02 campaign, when they won 11 games and advanced to the Super Bowl, where they were steamrolled by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 48-21. Gannon then got hurt midway through the next year and was out of the league after the ’04 season.
  • The Raiders have won 49 games combined from ’03 through ’12. To put this in perspective, the New England Patriots have won 49 games in the last four seasons combined (’09 – ’12). It took the Raiders 10 seasons, or 2.5x longer to reach this amount of wins than the Patriots. Incredible.
  • Al Davis was making all hiring, firing and draft-day decisions up until his death just over two years ago (10/08/11). When an 83-year old man is making all of your personnel decisions you have major problems. Just look at the situation in Buffalo. Why hasn’t Buffalo been to the playoffs in 14 seasons (and counting)? Because Ralph Wilson is still running the team at the age of 94. Moral of the story: If you’re over the age of 75 (Jerry Jones, I’m looking at you, since you’re creeping up to this age), hand the reigns of the team down to younger, more capable talent and enjoy from the games from the press box.
  • Playoff Record since ’02 Super Bowl – 0 wins, 0 losses. Patriots win loss record since the ’02-Super Bowl – 14-7.

If you knew nothing about the Raiders and just read the above information, you now know why they are one of the most downtrodden franchises in all of sports.

If there is one franchise today that is more discombobulated and rudderless than the Raiders, it’s the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Jacksonville Jaguars

One of the criteria I used to measure teams and assess whether they would qualify for this post was each team’s fan base. This was actually my #2 factor. Ah what the heck, I’ll give you the entire list of criteria upon which I based my analysis in order of importance:

  1. Win/Loss –  Historical & Recent
  2. Fan Base
  3. Management (Coaches, GM’s & Ownership)
  4. Player Turnover (free agent departures, terrible drafts)
  5. Local economy/size of market

As you can see, the fan base was a critical component of my analysis. If I ignored fervent fan bases nationwide, the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns would surely make this list, since both teams have gone a combined 23 seasons since reaching the playoffs (’99 was the last playoffs for the Bills & Cleveland last qualified for the postseason in ’02). Due to the fact that these towns are so rich in football tradition and the fans are consistently ranked as some of the most dedicated football fans, I’m giving these two teams the benefit of the doubt.

I digress, back to Jacksonville. Again, where do I start?

The Jaguars (or Jags, as they’re so lovably called by their 10 ardent fans) have enjoyed just 7 winning seasons since joining the NFL asDavid Garrard an expansion franchise prior to the ’95 season. The Jags experienced two short windows of moderate success: the first being from ’97 to ’99, when Mark Brunell was manning the backfield and Tom Coughlin was the coach and from ’04-’07, when Byron Leftwich & David Garrard were the starting QB’s.

The ’07 season represented the high-water mark for this franchise, when the Jags defeated the Steelers in the Wild Card round and fell to the Pats in the 2nd round. Since that defeat, this franchise has yet to qualify for the playoffs. After an 0-5 start this season, the Jags are a near lock to making that six straight seasons without a playoff appearance.

During the last half dozen years the franchise has plummeted to comical lows. It was exacerbated when GM Gene Smith came aboard prior to the ’09 season (he was fired following the disaster of the ’12 season). During the ’09 season, seven of the eight home games were blacked out due to the team average attendance per game plummeting to 50,000. A large reason for the blackouts was due to an apathetic fan base and frankly, is also due to the size of Jacksonville. Jacksonville is one of the smallest NFL markets in the game today.

If I were an NFL player, the absolute last place I would want to play would be in Jacksonville, Florida, for the Jaguars, in front of 18 fans every Sunday. Wow, that sounds awful.

Sacramento Kings

What a disaster this franchise has been for the last decade. The Kings moved to Sacramento in ’85-’86 and enjoyed a nice 6-year sustained run of success a decade and a half later, from ’98-’99 through the ’03-’04 season. While the Kings qualified for the playoffs in the ’04-’05 and ’05-’06 seasons, they weren’t contenders (first round exits in both seasons). Basically, since the Chris Webber /Vlade Divac/Mike Bibby/Doug Christie/Peja Stojakovic/Bobby Jackson Kings were ripped to shreds after the ’04 season, the Kings have never been the same team since.

The biggest issue with the Kings is their lack of direction. The biggest reason for the lack of success during the last decade is directly attributed to awful management. GM Geofff Petrie had been in charge of basketball operations for the Kings since ’94, but after 20 seasons, Petrie was mercifully axed this past May. Left in his wake: uncertainty surrounding the long-term plan for the franchise in Sacramento, a cornucopia of draft pick busts and head cases (re: Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, Jimmer Fredette & Jason Thompson, all of whom are still employed by the Kings, with the exception of Tyreke Evans) and a revolving door of head coaches (six coaches in the last seven years).

As I told my roommate last season, “Sacramento is a place where your career goes to die.”

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors have been bad for as long a period of time as I can remember for a professional sports franchise (excluding the team below this one). Since they joined the NBA as an expansion franchise prior to the ’95-’96 season, the Raptors have never advanced past the 2nd round of the playoffs. That’s incredible, in 18 seasons this organization hasn’t fielded a team that has once been one of the top 4 teams in the league. What are the odds of that, especially when you had, at different times, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter and Chris Bosh playing for your team?

Vince CarterSince the ’02 season, the Raptors have failed to get out of the first round of the playoffs. And during the last five seasons, the Raptors have failed to win more than 40 games in a season.

Add in the fact that fans up in Toronto treat basketball as a second class sport. Hockey is #1, #2 and #3 priority in that town, followed by baseball as #4 and basketball as somewhere between the #10 and #15 priority.

Mix this with awful personnel decisions and you have one mess of an organization. The Raptors gave up on McGrady after his age 20/21 season, after which he had just averaged 15.4 PPG, 6.3 RPG & 3.3 APG as Vince Carter’s swiss army knife side-kick. McGrady was disgruntled though and wanted to lead his own team, so the Raptors stuck with Vince for another 4.5 seasons before shipping him to New Jersey right after his 28th birthday. At the time, Vince was disgruntled as well (guess it runs in the family) and enjoyed career years in ’05, ’06 and ’07 with New Jersey.

The Raptors have the ultimate bad triumvirate of factors working against them: poor, inconsistent management, poor drafting and retention of key players and an awful fan base (one of the worst in the NBA).

Kansas City Royals

Full disclosure: I’m not even a huge baseball fan and even I know how poorly this franchise has performed during the last three decades. Three decades!

Before I begin, I will acknowledge that the Royals actually did have a stellar campaign in 2013, recording 86 wins against 76 losses, the most wins this team has produced since the ’89 season, and narrowly missing the playoffs. To give you a little perspective, I was walking around in a diaper during the summer of 1989.

In baseball, 81-81 is a .500 record and considered exceedingly average. Since 1989, the Royals have produced only four winning seasons out of a whopping 24 seasons. On average the Royals enjoyed only one winning season every six seasons. Yikes!

Although the fan base is one of the most ardent, passionate fan bases in all of baseball, this team has established a new level of futility.

Consider a few more facts about the Royals:

  • The Royals haven’t made the playoffs since the 1985 season (I was -2 at the time), where they beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
  • During their 45 years of existence in Kansas City, the Royals have only qualified for the playoffs 7 times. That’s a playoff appearance once every 6.5 years. Can you imagine how loyal those fans are for putting up with nearly 30 years of futility?

I love Royals fans and I love Kansas City, but their level of futility is unmatched. Can you imagine if the Yankees didn’t qualify for the playoffs for the next 29 years? I would be 55 years old the next time I saw them in the playoffs.

The Kansas City Royals are the most futile, talent-starved franchise of the last 30 years. It’s not even close.


What do you think of my selections above? Which teams did I miss and what teams would you have included in this post? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment in the Comments section below.

About Jim Armstrong

Jim is a life-long sports fan and split his childhood between the ‘burbs of Chicago and central NJ, while throwing in a summer living outside of Boston into the mix. This explains his passion for the 90′s Bulls, late 90′s/early 00′s Knicks and late 00′s Celtics (he will explain in a future post). Jim never played a minute of college basketball or football but did complete a Tough Mudder recently and continues to play in basketball leagues year-round. If this doesn’t make him an expert, then I don’t know what does. Jim crunches numbers for a living and enjoys applying these analytical skills to his sports obsessions. In his free time, Jim enjoys spending time with his family, fishing and writing.

Speak Your Mind