Here at Goliath, we recently told folks about the NFL players and teams that are having breakout seasons in 2015 and setting the league on fire. The flipside of that coin is the biggest disappointments of the 2015 NFL season. Nearing the midpoint of the season, it is becoming painfully clear to pundits and fans that this year is a bust for many players and teams. While certain players and teams were highly touted during the offseason and pegged to do great things, the crushing weight of reality has come down on many of those much hyped players and teams. So here is a list of the 10 biggest disappointments of the 2015 NFL season – so far.
10. The Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys were one play away from a trip to the NFC Championship last January. So expectations were, understandably, running high in the Lone Star State this offseason. Many pegged the Cowboys to reach the Super Bowl this season. Especially since quarterback Tony Romo was coming off a career year in 2014, and the team had the best offensive line in the league. However, a broken collarbone suffered by Tony Romo, a broken foot to Romo’s favourite wide receiver Dez Bryant, plus the loss of running back DeMarco Murray to the division rival Philadelphia Eagles, and the 2015 season has turned into a bust for Big D. The team now sits at the bottom of the NFC East Division at 2-4. And while some Cowboys fans are holding on to the hope that the team’s fortunes will rebound when Tony Romo returns to the field in December, it will likely be too late by then.
9. Jimmy Graham – Tight end, Seattle Seahawks
It was the most shocking trade of the offseason and generated a lot of media attention. Nobody could believe that the New Orleans Saints traded away star tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks. After all, Graham had long been the favourite target of Saints quarterback Drew Brees and their chemistry helped Graham amass more than 5,000 receiving yards and 50 touchdowns since entering the league in 2010. Still in his prime, Jimmy Graham was expected to be the missing piece in the Seattle Seahawks offense. A big target for quarterback Russell Wilson to hit deep down field and a red zone threat to boot. Graham, many believed, would complement the Seahawks running game and put the team over the top to another Super Bowl victory. But heading into their eighth game of the 2015 campaign, the Seahawks sit at 3-4 and in third place in the NFC West division. And Jimmy Graham has been a non-factor for the team. So far in 2015, number 88 has just over 350 receiving yards and two touchdowns. In the 2013 and 2014 seasons, Graham combined for more than 2,000 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns. As ESPN recently opined: “It’s like Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll has forgotten that he has Jimmy Graham on his team.”
8. DeMarco Murray – Running back, Philadelphia Eagles
Speaking of exciting offseason acquisitions that haven’t panned out, how about DeMarco Murray’s move to the Philadelphia Eagles from the division rival Dallas Cowboys? Fans in Philadelphia were sticking it to the Cowboy faithful when their Eagles acquired DeMarco Murray following a contract dispute with Dallas. And why wouldn’t Eagles fans be excited. After all, in 2014 Murray broke Jim Brown’s 1958 NFL rushing record for most consecutive 100 yard games to start the season. He finished last season as the league’s top rusher, was named to his second Pro Bowl, and concluded his second straight 1,000 yard season. Oh, and he was named the “NFL Offensive Player of the Year.” The shine on DeMarco Murray was indeed bright. But now, not so much. This season, Murray is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry and has only had one game with more than 100 yards rushing. And when he played his old team, the Dallas Cowboys, in Week Two of the 2015 season, Murray was held to just two yards on 13 carries. Awkward!
7. Peyton Manning – Quarterback, Denver Broncos
There were glimpses at the end of the 2014 campaign that veteran quarterback Peyton Manning, 39-years old, was feeling the effects of age. Father Time was blamed for Manning’s terrible performance in the playoffs in January, as the Denver Broncos lost in the divisional round to Manning’s former team, the Indianapolis Colts, by a score of 24–13. However, nobody expected Peyton Manning to tank the way he is this season. Never mind that the Denver Broncos are undefeated at 6-0 and leading the AFC West. Through six games, Peyton Manning has thrown 10 interceptions to just seven touchdowns. And most of those interceptions have been ugly and costly. If it weren’t for the heroics of the Broncos defense, this team could very well be 0-6. And while many pundits have written, hopefully, of a return to form for Manning, retirement after 2015 looks like a much more likely outcome.
6. Ndamukong Suh – Defensive tackle, Miami Dolphins
He was the anchor of the Detroit Lions defense and one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL. In 2014, Suh racked up 53 tackles and 8.5 sacks in another dominant campaign. Now in Miami with the Dolphins, the much feared Ndamukong Suh has barely made a whisper with his new team. Half way through 2015 and Suh has recorded just two sacks with the Dolphins, whose defense has looked in disarray for much of the year. Many analysts speculate that Suh is having trouble adjusting to a new defensive scheme and organization, as he previously spent his entire career with the Lions. Other people cite the disarray within the Dolphins organization as a whole (they recently fired head coach Joe Philbin mid-season). Whatever the reason, fans in Miami are understandably underwhelmed with Ndamukong Suh, who secured a six-year, $114 million contract with $60 million guaranteed from the Dolphins during the offseason.
5. The Buffalo Bills
Once again, it was supposed to be a new era in Buffalo for the much maligned Bills, a team that has not been in the postseason since 1998. New head coach Rex Ryan was expected to bring his defensive prowess to the team, and there were flashes of brilliance from newly installed quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Yet fans in Buffalo, who have gotten used to heartbreak over the years, what with the whole four consecutive Super Bowl losses and all, are once again accepting that 2015 will go down in the books as yet another lost campaign. After beating the Indianapolis Colts in Week One, Rex Ryan and Bills fans everywhere were riding high and chanting “We want Brady.” A week later, Brady and the Patriots thumped the Bills at home and the team has not looked the same since. With Tyrod Taylor out with an injury and hapless back-up quarterback E.J. Manuel installed under centre, the Bills recently lost to the terrible Jacksonville Jaguars. And so goes another Rex Ryan led team.
4. Chip Kelly – Head coach, Philadelphia Eagles
Some people called him a “genius” this past offseason. Others labeled him a “mad sorcerer.” And a few people called him “insane.” But regardless of what he was called, expectations were high that Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly knew what he was doing and was putting together a stellar team that would put the Eagles back in the playoffs and, hopefully, in the Super Bowl. Not happening. Turns out that Chip’s decision to dismantle his talented roster and bring in players such as quarterback Sam Bradford, running back DeMarco Murray and linebacker Kiko Alonso just aren’t working out. And the much vaunted offense that Chip Kelly ran in the college ranks while head coach of the University of Oregon Ducks has not translated well to the professional ranks. With the Eagles sitting at 3-4 on the season, most analysts expect Chip Kelly to be fired after the 2015 campaign. Can you blame them? Chip Kelly even brought Tim Tebow into training camp this season.
3. Colin Kaepernick – Quarterback, San Francisco 49ers
Remember when Colin Kaepernick played in Super Bowl 47 back in 2012? Seems hard to imagine now, with Kaepernick playing absolutely terrible through the first seven games of 2015, and his team, the San Francisco 49ers, at 2-5 and in last place in the NFC West. So far this season, Kaepernick looks like he couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn and has regressed terribly in his play. And unlike Peyton Manning, the situation cannot be blamed on age. So far this season, Colin Kaepernick has completed just 61% of his passes for six touchdowns and five interceptions. He looks like a back-up quarterback out there – and not a very good one. To be sure, there were a lot of changes to the 49ers in the offseason, including a new head coach in Jim Tomsula. But still, for Kaepernick to fall off the way he has, it’s a real head scratcher.
2. The Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts made it to the AFC Championship last season and added a number of marquee veteran players in the offseason such as wide receiver Andre Johnson, running back Frank Gore, and back-up quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. So one could see how media analysts and league experts could label the Colts as the presumptive AFC Champions in 2015 – the team that would knock the New England Patriots off their high horse and secure a birth in Super Bowl 50. Sadly this has not been the case. With quarterback Andrew Luck injured and unsure of himself, the team has sputtered to a woeful 3-4 start and look like a pale shadow of the team they were last season. The offensive line and defense look awful, and the Colts have gotten nothing out of the veterans they signed, save for Matt Hasselbeck who won two games for the team in relief of Andrew Luck, who had a shoulder injury. The good news is that the Colts are still in first place with a losing record in the dreadful AFC South that includes the left-for-dead Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Tennessee Titans. The bad news is that the Colts are likely to get creamed if they reach the playoffs.
1. The Seattle Seahawks
What’s happened to the Seattle Seahawks? That’s the question being asked all over the league this season as the team is sitting on a losing 3-4 record and in third place in the NFC West. Worst of all, the defensive unit that seemed so dominant a year ago is now missing in action. Sure, the defense improved when contract holdout Kam Chancellor returned, but overall they look like a shadow of their once dominant selves. And while quarterback Russell Wilson has been playing well, newly acquired tight end Jimmy Graham looks lost on the team and power running back Marshawn Lynch has been bedeviled with injuries to his back. The team has also been beset by infighting over which players got big contract extensions after the team’s back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in 2013 and 2014. Many players were said to be upset after quarterback Russell Wilson signed a four-year, $87.6 million contract extension in the offseason. Whatever the reasons for the problems, the Seahawks now look like they won’t even make the playoffs this season, let alone return to the Super Bowl.