10 Keys to Turning Around the Sports World’s Worst Teams
How can you possibly turn around the worst franchises currently occupying space in the sports landscape? It's a series of answers people smarter than myself have attempted to find, dating back nearly 10 years—depending on the franchise we're talking about.
But that doesn't mean we can't try. Using the NFL, MLB, NBA and Premier League as guinea pigs, this list of troublesome sports franchises was created.
Each section is detailed with what we perceive to be the No. 1 issue and how it can be fixed. These answers aren't a miracle pill. They won't provide an instant turnaround. What they do showcase is how the process of being terrible can at least be tweaked.
Follow along as we attempt to put on our general manager's cap and present 10 keys to turning around the sports world's worst teams.
Team: Cleveland Browns
No. 1 Issue: Finding a transitional quarterback.
Fixing the Cleveland Browns comes down to finally landing a transitional quarterback. Don't get me wrong: If a franchise quarterback comes knocking at your door, you take the opportunity and run. But they're not readily available.
Head coach Hue Jackson is a quarterback-driven guy. That helps. He spent his developing years as the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals, helping to mold Andy Dalton into a productive downfield thrower.
Jackson's first year with the Browns was a disappointment by all accounts. The team went 1-15, and between injuries to Robert Griffin III and Cody Kessler, the quarterback situation was a roller-coaster ride.
The impending NFL season brings a mediocre class of free-agent quarterbacks to the table, minus Kirk Cousins, who by all accounts should stay in the nation's capital. Does Jackson go after a guy like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer or Mike Glennon? Is there a point to going down that road?
Of all the "top" choices, Glennon makes the most sense. He's experienced, with 18 starts under his belt. In that time, Glennon has thrown for 4,100 yards, 30 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, completing 59.4 percent of his throws.
Those numbers don't look bad when they are laid out over a 16-game season, especially for a team in need like Cleveland. It seems the best way to help the Browns become competitive in 2017 is to ink Glennon to a deal and hunt for a long-term solution in the draft.
Team: Minnesota Twins
No. 1 Issue: Adding arms to solidify the starting rotation.
The Minnesota Twins were once a staple of consistency in the American League Central division. Between 2002 and 2010, the Twins reached the postseason six times and finished with a losing record just once.
Those days are long gone, as the team has left the visceral world of contention, instead opting for a rebuilding period. We've seen one winning campaign in those six years, and in 2016, the club regressed even further by earning only 59 victories.
How do you fix the Twins? The answer could fit into its own article. However, pitching always comes into play. At one point during the 2016 season, opponents were hitting .288 against the Twins, per John Shipley of the Pioneer Press.
You can't win games with those totals, and first-year general manager Thad Levine needs to get the situation rectified if Minnesota wants to rebound. His first offseason so far has been quiet, generating a D grade from Sports Illustrated's Jon Tayler.
The Twins will need to let their young core develop and potentially deal the home run-hitting Brian Dozier to find any sort of solace on the mound.
Team: Brooklyn Nets
No. 1 Issue: Bringing in marquee talent.
The Brooklyn Nets are the worst team in the NBA. That's not hyperbole. It's true. With nine wins this year, this franchise has become a forgotten part of New York City basketball—even with a struggling Knicks team situated in the next borough.
Breaking down and rebuilding the Nets comes down to talent alone. The team is now in a troubling spot after surrendering three first-round picks for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry in 2013—a trade that resulted in a lone playoff series win.
Without a foundational draft pick until 2019, the Nets haven't had a chance to turn live-game action into anything meaningful. They need talent in the worst way, and it starts with lottery picks and making a splash in free agency. By Spotrac's account, there will be a handful of value by season's end, including Blake Griffin, Jeff Green and Tyreke Evans.
The Nets need to add bodies, even if it means overpaying. They also need to deal Brook Lopez and find a way back into the NBA's lottery if they want to transform their woes into wins.
Team: Jacksonville Jaguars
No 1. Issue: Creating a winning culture through coaching.
The Jacksonville Jaguars finally reset the field when they relieved Gus Bradley of his coaching duties after four dismal seasons.
Bradley's tenure with the Jaguars was nothing but heartache. In four seasons under Bradley—even with an increase in talent on both sides of the ball—the Jags never won more than five games, a feat they achieved in 2015.
Even if you aren't sold on Blake Bortles as the long-term answer under center, there's no reason why the Jaguars shouldn't contend in the AFC South. With so many questions surrounding the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans and Tennesee Titans, it's tough to constantly pick a clear-cut winner each year.
That's where coaching comes into play. Bradley was "historically bad," as The Ringer's Rodger Sherman detailed. He couldn't turn things around or win close games. Questionable young talent doesn't help either. Defensive end Dante Fowler and offensive lineman Luke Joeckel have struggled, while Bortles undoubtedly has regressed.
With Doug Marrone inserted to replace Bradley, one has to hope the coaching element gets close to par, allowing the players to go out and compete for the first time in what feels like a decade.
Team: Manchester United
No. 1 Issue: Embracing the current system.
One key point to make is that Manchester United isn't near the bottom of the Premier League standings. The club currently sits in sixth place.
By United's standards, that's not good enough. With 45 points on the season, they are 14 points behind the league leader—and rival—Chelsea.
It's still the beginning stages of the Jose Mourinho experiment at manager, and a lack of cohesion has been apparent thus far. For all the troubling times, United remains a club filled with talent. Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are all valuable assets.
Perhaps with a year of experience under their collective belts, Mourinho's United will venture forward next season and make a sustained push toward the top. Staying within the system and building on the successes of this year are the only ways for Manchester United to contend for the Premier League's title.
Team: Chicago Bears
No. 1 Issue: Hunting for a long-term change at the quarterback position.
What should the Chicago Bears do with Jay Cutler? It's the multi-million-dollar question on the table. ESPN.com's Dan Graziano seems to believe Cutler's time in the Windy City is done, with the San Francisco 49ers looking like a potential suitor.
If that materializes, it opens the door for the 3-13 Bears to start over. That begins with the quarterback position.
Based on their play as a group this season, making sure Brian Hoyer—who's set to become a free agent—and Matt Barkley remain on the roster is a must. Both men have had plenty of experience running the offense, and if Cutler departs, the team will need a steady set of hands.
The next step is the NFL draft, where prospects like Mitch Trubisky, DeShone Kizer and Deshaun Watson are all intriguing options. Bears general manager Ryan Pace will have to decide which one—if any—fits the bill.
With Cutler out the door, the Bears can finally tend to their needs. It starts with building from under center.
Team: Phoenix Suns
No. 1 Issue: Avoiding the interference of ownership.
Before we blame all of the Phoenix Suns' problems on owner Robert Sarver, let's get a better feeling for where the franchise currently is. With Earl Watson transitioning from interim head coach to permanent head coach over the last two seasons, the Suns are clearly in the middle of finding their identity.
Foundational pieces like Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker have upside, but there's no set direction for where the Suns are headed. That's where ownership comes in.
The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor wrote that Sarver has made "unwise, erratic personnel moves" over the years. Those decisions have hindered the franchise's ability to compete.
If ownership can settle in and allow the process of rebuilding to unfold, the Suns could distinguish themselves as Western Conference contenders. Sarver needs to stay the course and not make any hasty decisions in the name of quick cash, as O'Connor noted he's done in the past.
Team: Atlanta Braves
No. 1 Issue: Staying patient and believing in the roster.
The good news for the Atlanta Braves is they're in the midst of building a quality program after gutting the roster last season. Jon Tayler of Sports Illustrated reported on the team's offseason moves, reiterating that patience is a virtue.
Atlanta has compiled enough young arms to shine a positive light on its situation. The issue is—as Tayler points out—a lot of prospects aren't ready to join the ranks of Julio Teheran. Instead of putting additional pressure on their core, the Braves signed Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey to fill the gap.
Getting better over time isn't always a bad problem to have. Often, a little patience is all it takes to turn the tides.
San Francisco 49ers
Team: San Francisco 49ers
No. 1 Issue: Giving leadership a chance to manifest.
How did the San Francisco 49ers go from being a consistent Super Bowl contender year to dismantling two coaches in two years? Simply put, it was a lack of consistent leadership.
It starts at the top with 49ers CEO Jed York. Dieter Kurtenbach of Fox Sports eviscerated York's latest stint in charge. York first hired Jim Tomsula from within the organization after Jim Harbaugh was let go. Tomsula lasted one year. Then he made a splashy hire, bringing Chip Kelly into the fold. Kelly only coached 16 games.
We now have the third coach in as many years, with York and the Niners hiring Kyle Shanahan, per the 49ers organization. Can he possibly fill the void and remain in place for the foreseeable future? Time will weave that tale.
Until then, we have to start looking at the top for a solution for the 49ers. Once York settles into a direction, the team can realistically begin to rebuild.
Team: Sacramento Kings
No. 1 Issue: Surrounding DeMarcus Cousins with talent.
The Sacramento Kings are a finicky bunch, and truth be told, they're not even out of playoff contention in the NBA's Western Conference. But in order for this team to improve beyond mediocrity, it needs to find a way to build around center DeMarcus Cousins.
Cousins is a superstar by every feasible definition. He's one of the premier big men in basketball. A smooth touch around the rim, great rebounding and a deceptive jumper have turned his 2016-17 season into must-watch pro hoops.
Averaging 27.9 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists per contest, Cousins has created the perception that he is close to unstoppable when he's feeling it offensively.
The time to build around him is now. Go after assets in free agency, and use the draft to secure prominent role players. Anything less is a waste of time and Cousins' remarkable talent.
All stats, box scores and information via Sports-Reference.com unless noted otherwise.