• Safa Shooshtry

The Armchair Quarterback Volume 39: Famous Pretender Teams Throughout NFL History

Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann

After starting the 2019 NFL season 3-0, the San Francisco 49ers were still thought to be pretenders by league “pundits.” The buzz around the league was that the team hadn’t faced any real competition. In all fairness that was a fair assumption. However, after soundly defeating the Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Rams, the football world was forced to take notice. At a solid 5-0 and the only undefeated team left in the NFC, the new word used to describe them is… contender!

There have been quite a few teams throughout history that have been all hype and failed to live up to it, though. They had soaring expectations in the preseason, and then they quickly proved to be pretenders once the season played out. Many times, this fall from grace was a slow burning dumpster fire, one that makes a 16-game season feel more like a 162-game baseball season. In other words, long and excruciating. Let’s fondly remember a couple of those teams and the mediocrity that ensued.

Philadelphia Eagles (2011)

The 2011 Philadelphia Eagles were dubbed the “The Dream Team” (by backup quarterback Vince Young). They were coming off a 2010 Wild Card defeat, 21-16, to the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. But all their offensive studs were returning from the previous season. Names like Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, and Jason Peters were among those names. And they decided to go further on their depth on both sides of the ball in the offseason.

The Eagles signed cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and defensive end Jason Babin in free agency, both of whom were coming off Pro Bowl seasons. And they traded for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in a deal with the Arizona Cardinals. In addition, running back Ronnie Brown and quarterback Vince Young were brought over as well to serve as depth pieces on offense. All these moves should’ve improved the team, right?

By many accounts “The Dream Team” just didn’t have chemistry and the players weren’t able to jell together in the system. The offseason being shortened as well due to a collective bargaining standoff didn’t help either. The dream quickly turned into a nightmare. And the team ended the season the most mediocre way possible, at 8-8. They missed the playoffs after three straight trips in the previous seasons. And they earned a place on this list of pretenders.

Cleveland Browns (2019)

Listen I understand the 2019 season is not over, but the Cleveland Browns are already looking like pretenders. They sit at 2-4 (with a whopping 0-3 record at home, go figure) and are tied for second place in the AFC North. This is a far-cry from the division champs and contenders they were being anointed as prior to the start of the season.

After a record setting rookie season, quarterback Baker Mayfield came into his sophomore season with sky high expectations. And with the addition of perennial 1,000-yard receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the offseason, the Browns looked to have an extremely potent offense. This does not seem the case as they currently rank nineteenth in yards per game. Mayfield also has a 39.8 QB rating, which needless to say is awful. Their defense is performing equally as bad, ranking at twenty-fourth in yards allowed per game.

It is still early enough in the season for the Browns to turn it around. But they would need thoughts, prayers, and possibly an extreme act of God. So, for now they remain… PRETENDERS!

If asked about the two teams above, the ever-famous guru and ayatollah of rock-n-rolla David Eric Grohl would have three words for them. “You're the pretender.” And thus, I leave you with that, stay faithful my friends!

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