By Steve Silverman
» More Columns
Some NFL teams seem to be stuck in the rebuilding process for years. The Buffalo Bills haven’t been to the playoffs since 1999, although there is the possibility that this infamous streak could come to an end Sunday.
The Cleveland Browns are the worst of the worst, one game away from a 0-16 season. Other teams such as the Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets have been stuck in the mud for years.
But there is hope for all these teams, as it’s possible to turn things around and do it fairly quickly. Find the right general manager, head coach and quarterback, and things can go from awful to awesome in one year.
Look at the Los Angeles Rams, who were a 4-12 team in 2016. They had drafted quarterback Jared Goff with the first pick, but he looked like he was on the road to becoming a major bust.
There was not a lot of optimism around the team as last season came to an end, but when general manager Les Snead hired a bright, young head coach in Sean McVay, things started to turnaround.
McVay gave Goff lessons at the quarterback position and a set of goals that he expected the quarterback to meet. Goff was a different player in training camp, and when the bell rang in September, he performed like a competent NFL quarterback.
As the victories mounted and the Rams established themselves in the NFC West, McVay began to look like a genius, and Goff became a top-10 quarterback.
Who’s next on the list? Go up the coast to San Francisco, where the 49ers have retooled their front office, coaching staff and, most importantly, the quarterback position.
John Lynch has gone from the broadcast booth to general manager, and he appears to have the 49ers set up for a period of growth. He hired Kyle Shanahan as head coach, and Shanahan may be as good or better than McVay is in Los Angeles.
Shanahan had proved himself in Washington, where he developed Kurt Cousins into one of the top quarterbacks in the league. He had little to work with in San Francisco until Lynch acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots for a second-round draft choice.
Garoppolo had learned quite a bit from Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, so he already had his QB degree when he arrived in the Bay Area. It took him several weeks to learn the rudiments of Shanahan’s complex system, but he has led the Niners to four straight victories since getting his opportunity to start.
The 49ers will close out the season with a game against the Rams, and since Los Angeles can’t get up to the No. 2 spot in the NFC playoff structure, McVay is resting Goff and star running back Todd Gurley. That should give San Francisco an excellent chance to close the season with a five-game winning streak under Garoppolo.
The 2018 season can’t get here soon enough for the Niners.
In addition to San Francisco, the Houston Texans, Washington Redskins and Buccaneers could be major turnaround teams next year.
The Texans have their quarterback of the future in injured rookie Deshaun Watson as well as a defense that can take over at any time as long as J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus are in the lineup. Clowney has remained healthy this year, but Watt and Mercilus have been sidelined with major injuries.
All the Texans need is a new head coach who can manage all the moving parts, because Bill O’Brien struggles with his decision-making – major and minor – and he is not going to get there.
The Redskins have to find a way to keep soon-to-be-free-agent quarterback Kirk Cousins in the fold, and they also have to get a big-play receiver and a bit more speed on defense. If they do that, coach Jay Gruden can have his team in a similar position to the first-place Philadelphia Eagles next year.
The Bucs could not get out of their own way this year when so much was expected. Instead of contending for the NFC South title or even a wild-card spot, coach Dirk Koetter seemed to make every wrong move. Meanwhile, quarterback Jameis Winston has regressed under Koetter.
A new coach could help turn the situation around.
The Jets are quite confusing because they made tremendous strides on offense with quarterback Josh McCown and wideouts Jermaine Kearse and Robby Anderson. However, the defense, which appeared to be respectable as the season got underway, fell way down the charts.
The Jets obviously need a young quarterback – don’t tell me about Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg – but they need to rebuild the defense as well.
Is GM Mike Maccagnan up to the task of figuring out what to do? He is struggling quite a bit at this point.
Rebuilding a team and regaining stature begins with a general manager, head coach and quarterback. The Rams and 49ers have learned these lessons. The Jets and a few others have miles to go.
Please follow Steve on Twitter at @Profootballboy