Kicking off our previews of all 32 teams for the upcoming NFL season, we start at the very bottom. I should clarify, too, that in establishing the initial NFLuminati scale for this upcoming season, the rankings are based purely on Vegas odds as to who will win the Super Bowl. This means you do not have to get panicked because your favorite team that was ranked here at number 23 is two spots below another team that you are pretty sure is worse. It’s strictly Vegas odds, so if you don’t like it, well, use that to your advantage and gamble. These four teams at the very bottom of our list can best be called the Wretched of the Turf, and all four should be in the running for next year’s number one draft pick. Yet, to be this bad of a team, it takes an organizational-wide dedication towards dysfunction and ineptitude, so all of that might be of little solace if you were unfortunately born or brainwashed into rooting for any of these teams.
#32: TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
PERTINENT DATA: 3-13 last season; 150 to 1 odds to win Super Bowl XLV.
TEAM BRAIN TRUST: Well, unfortunately for the Buccaneers, it’s hard to really claim a real brain trust in charge. Paul and Malcolm Glazer owning the team certainly doesn’t bode well for them, as those dudes have an international reputation for screwing things up. This has not done much to maintain the Buccaneers fan base in a place where there’s a ton of other stuff to do, any time of year. In fact, this preseason, the Buccaneers were blacked out locally (meaning they hadn’t sold out their home games, so the game is not shown on local television, which I guess is supposed to make people not be too poor to go to NFL games somehow), and nobody really cared. Welcome back to being the Buccaneers.
FRESH BLOOD (new force on the team): It’s not exactly the days of Monte Kiffin’s old Tampa-2 defensive masterminding ass stalking the sidelines, but the Buccaneers history really only has that one brief bright spot, and rookie DT Gerald McCoy certainly conjures those memories of Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber and John Lynch to mind. There’s not a whole lot around him though, so even if he ties up the middle of the O-line with his intense immensity, I’m not sure it’ll create a lot of other things.
DRUNKEN SOUL (most awesome force on the team): On a not-so-good team, with little hope to turn it around in the foreseeable future, the true heart of a team is the guy who is still fighting, which, in this case, is big ugly and mean starting tackle Jeremy Trueblood, who is a throwback to when it was not who scored the most points but who ended up with less stitches.
THE DEION (most cancerous force on the team): TE Kellen Winslow is really the only offensive threat left on this team, and his career has been one full of dumb mistakes and underachievement. At some point, he’s going to believe he’s better than everyone else around him, and rather than elevate their play, he’ll demand to be traded or given wheelbarrows full of those satchels with dollar signs on them.
TEAM ELDER (longest tenured dude on team): CB Ronde Barber has been with the Bucs since 1997, seeing the entirety of their one good spell. I always liked those old orange Buccaneers uniforms, even if they were rip-offs of the Tennessee Volunteers, and did not buy into that whole “those jerseys were doomed, which is why Tampa Bay wasn’t good until they switched them.” But then they wore them again last year a few home games as throwbacks and it looks like they’ve unleashed a Pandora’s box of terrible football again. Poor Ronde Barber.
WILD SAMOAN: I have a Samoan football fetish and feel that every team should have either a defensive lineman or fullback who is Samoan and crazy and probably has weird tribal in a not-stupid “I’m a former Marine who really likes the UFC” type of way. Sadly though, the Buccaneers have no obvious Samoans (perhaps a contributing factor to their mediocrity), so instead we shall give daps here to back-up LB Niko Koutouvides. And with the way the World’s economy continues to slowly deteriorate, the Greeks and Spaniards and Portuguese will be no better off than Samoans or Filipinos anyways, hoping for 48-cents-a-day textile jobs.
THE ICKY (best name on team): And perhaps a sign of things to come now that kids are coming of age after having been born since gangsta rap spread through America, but Defensive End Stylez G White may have the best name in the NFL. And the G doesn’t stand for anything; it’s just a G.
’80S MOVIE ANTANGONIST (most evil rich white high schooler name): Kicker Connor Barth, who tormented Ralph Macchio in Karate Kid 2.
RAP VIDEO JERSEY FANTASY (nonsense): Even if they are cursed, an orange #99 Warren Sapp throwback, driving in a borrowed 1974 Lincoln Continental jacked up on some 26-inch rims, pumping old DJ Magic Mike tapes that some white kid in Orlando screwed and chopped (except he had some other term for it, like “sliced and diced” or “slopped and cropped”
NFLUMINATI KARMIC FACTOR (franchise’s psychic power within pro football): The Bucs got a brief bump there building up to their Super Bowl win in 2003, but it is not certain whether this was a long-term program to build Tony Dungy up as a God-fearing football good guy of the first order, or some sort of payoff to the Glazer family for whatever behind the Wizard’s curtain big money barterings of human cattle, but it is obvious that whatever was the factor, the Buccaneers are again very much just the Buccaneers, for as far as the eye can see. Negative 4 factor.
CRYSTAL METH BALL: With alleged QB of the future Josh Freeman already hobbled by injuries and the season hasn’t even started, the Bucs are looking solidly at a 2-14 season, last place in the NFC South, and the number one overall pick in next year’s NFL draft.
#31: ST. LOUIS RAMS
PERTINENT DATA: 1-15 last year; 150 to 1 odds to win Super Bowl XLV.
TEAM BRAIN TRUST: Steve Spagnuolo, aka Coach Spags, is in his second year of trying to prove after a lengthy hype job as Super Head Coach-in-Waiting when he was the Defensive Coordinator with the Giants, that he is actually a good Head Coach. He hasn’t exactly been blessed with the most well-stocked kitchen, but the Rams should have enough in place at this point to start the slow climb back to respectability. Luckily, they are in the NFC West, so it’s not that far back to the top, even from being the worst team in the NFL last year.
FRESH BLOOD: Rookie QB and number one overall pick Sam Bradford is richer than everybody else on the team already, and is looking to be getting the Matt Ryan/Mark Sanchez treatment of “throw the kid in there and let’s see what happens.” Unfortunately, with his collegiate history of injury, we may finally be getting ourselves another Ryan Leaf/Akili Smith to scare teams away from trying this rookie QB nonsense for a few years.
DRUNKEN SOUL: RB Stephen Jackson is a dreadlocked workhorse of a player, who has busted his ass in relative obscurity as the Rams have sucked pretty consistently in recent years. The sad thing is, the shelf life on RBs, especially with “let me poke my brain into your gut and force myself downfield” runners like Jackson, is far shorter than it used to be. And going into his seventh punishing year, holmes may not be around to see the Rams get halfway decent again.
THE DEION: On a roster that’s had a lot of turnover the past three years, there are no outright negative factors, especially since long-time defensive lineman/chronic drinker and driver Leonard Little has thus far decided not to play again this year, so we’ll go with starting T Jason Smith, simply because I don’t like the way he looks.
TEAM ELDER: Long snapper Chris Massey – number 45 in your program and number like 49 in your hearts – has been with the Rams since 2002, when he was a 7th round draft pick out of Marshall University. Long snappers tend to be the longest-tenured guys on teams, because it’s a very specialized skill, and they always make the league minimum.
WILD SAMOAN: Rookie TE Michael Hoomanawanui is trying to crack a low level roster spot, even though he never really starred on offense in college at all. But he has the heart of a Samoan, and should be cracking skulls on special teams come the second week of September.
THE ICKY: I was very sad to read the Rams already cut fringe DT Leger Douzable, because I’m not even sure how to pronounce that, and was all set for him to take this spot. That name sounds like something a drunk dude says on a retro episode of Cops; like the cop says, “You’re not supposed to do this, it’s illegal,” and the guy goes, “Nah nah, leger douzable, mister police ossifer.” In his absence, fellow defensive lineman C.J. Ah You is the best name on this roster.
’80S MOVIE ANTAGONIST: Starting cornerback Bradley Fletcher, who totally drives his dad’s Porsche Carrera on road courses with custom-made tennis rackets in the trunk.
RAP VIDEO JERSEY FANTASY: Personally, I think those new gold and blue jerseys are played out, and I’d rock the old school yellow and blue #29 Eric Dickerson, playing “Air Force Ones” while smoking a grape blunt inside a ’68 Chevelle, all primedered out in three tones, but with $2400 worth of rims on it.
NFLUMINATI KARMIC FACTOR: The Rams are not a hated franchise, being an old school team from when half the league was in the Rust Belt, so their movement up or down is steady, not trapped in the lower level of hell they are in now. You can see a future for these guys. Plus 2 factor.
CRYSTAL METH BALL: If Sam Bradford can keep from becoming paralyzed for at least two-thirds of the year, which he should so long as the O-line doesn’t get too injured up, the Rams will go 6-10, but still finish last in the NFC West. But like I said, the springboard from 6-10 to first place in the NFC West is not that hard a move to pull off.