One of the fun things to do during the offseason is look at some of the NFL teams that have had bad offseasons, which might lead to severe disappointments compared to the previous season, like for the Denver Broncos, or for those going through a rebuilding period, and expect very little success in 2016.
No team did better than the Denver Broncos in 2015, winning the Super Bowl for the third time in franchise history, and a first in 16 years. Peyton Manning retired after a so-so season but a second triumphant playoff, and the Broncos defense provided an impressive tour de force throughout the entire season and especially in the playoffs, proving you can win the Super Bowl without a functioning quarterback situation.
But the Broncos were always going to have a difficult time maintaining their success due to cap space and their jumbling of the quarterback situation. Manning retired, but going with him in the playoffs made Brock Osweiler angry. Instead of heading into the 2016 season with a proven quarterback, the Broncos are starting from scratch. Mark Sanchez was signed just to cover all the options, but Denver drafted Paxton Lynch, hoping that the former Memphis star becomes a multi-year option for them at quarterback.
Osweiler left to the Houston Texans, but he wasn’t the only player the Broncos lost: Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan, Evan Mathis, David Bruton, Ryan Harris, and others left. The defense isn’t going to be as good. The offensive line, despite Russell Okung joining, might be taking a step back. But the Broncos are defending Super Bowl champions, and at least on the outside, aren’t making the 2016 season preparations about a rebuild.
Two teams in rebuild mode are the 49ers and Browns. The Browns won just three games last season. The 49ers won just five. Both teams were more focused on acquiring future assets than adding players who can contribute now. This isn’t a bad plan; some teams sacrifice the present for a brighter future. But the Browns have been at this for almost 20 years. The 49ers are simply sinking lower after firing Jim Harbaugh.
The Browns let Alex Mack, Tashaun Gipson,Mitchell Schwartz, and Travis Benjamin. The additions of Robert Griffin III and Demario Davis were about their price, not the quality of players. The draft wasn’t as successful as they had hoped for, but it doesn’t matter. Despite the new head coach, the Browns are heading into 2016 with plans of winning the AFC North or something like that. Losing is an expected part of the equation.
It’s weird to think of the 49ers being in the same situation, but they are. From almost winning the Super Bowl in 2012, to the NFC championship game a year later, to 8-8 and the parting of ways between the team and Jim Harbaugh, to 5-11 last season. Hiring Chip Kelly might be the right move towards a good rebuild, but it doesn’t mean immediate success, not when the quarterbacks are the same ones as last year, and the team hasn’t shown any sign of wanting to upgrade.
The 49ers blew it with the Colin Kaepernick contract situation. They made weird draft moves. However, it doesn’t change the fact that most of their hopes rely on their younger players, their draft picks, and that’s the way it’s going to be for the next year at least, but probably more.