Mon. Dec 17th, 2018
Richard Deitsch, sports news headline

Deitsch Asks Writers About Worst Team They Covered

Richard Deutsch has an interesting and fun piece series going up at The Athletic today. He has asked 39 different sports writers to recap tales from the very worst team they covered. The answers span all four major US leagues plus the WNBA and college sports. They also vary in reasons about what made each team the worst.

The series begins with NFL beat reporters talking about their season(s) in hell. The NHL will be in the spotlight on Tuesday. It’s Major League Baseball on Wednesday. The NBA and WNBA stories come Thursday. College teams are highlighted on Friday. Here is the full schedule:

NFL (Monday)

  • 1990 Denver Broncos (Adam Schefter)
  • 1994 Dallas Cowboys (Dale Hansen)
  • 2000 & 2001 San Diego Chargers (Jim Trotter)
  • 2003 New York Giants (Tara Sullivan)
  • 2008 Detroit Lions (Nick Cotsonika)
  • 2010 Denver Broncos (Lindsay Jones)
  • 2012 New York Jets (Kimberley A. Martin)
  • 2012 Philadelphia Eagles (Les Bowen)
  • 2016 Jacksonville Jaguars (Ryan O’Halloran)
  • 2017 Indianapolis Colts (Stephen Holder)

NHL (Tuesday)

  • 2003-04 Pittsburgh Penguins (Trenni Kusnierek)
  • 2005-06 St. Louis Blues (Jeremy Rutherford)
  • 2007-08 Atlanta Thrashers (Craig Custance)
  • 2009-10 Toronto Maple Leafs (James Mirtle)
  • 2010-11 New York Islanders (Katie Strang)
  • 2011-12 Columbus Blue Jackets (Aaron Portzline)
  • 2013-14 Vancouver Canucks (Jason Botchford)
  • 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres (John Vogl)

MLB (Wednesday)

  • 1983 California Angels (Gene Wojciechowski)
  • 1988 Baltimore Orioles (Richard Justice)
  • 1993 New York Mets (Frank Isola)
  • 1995 Oakland A’s (Pedro Gomez)
  • 1998 Florida Marlins (Dave O’Brien)
  • 2002 Chicago Cubs (Teddy Greenstein)
  • 2011-16 New York Yankees (Marly Rivera)

NBA/WNBA (Thursday)

  • 1998-99 Cleveland Cavaliers (Jason Lloyd)
  • 2005-06 Portland Trail Blazers (John Canzano)
  • 2005-06 New York Knicks (Howard Beck)
  • 2008-09 Los Angeles Clippers (Lisa Dillman)
  • 2011 Tulsa Shock (Kelly Hines)
  • 2013-14 Los Angeles Lakers (Dave McMenamin)
  • 2014-15 Brooklyn Nets (Tim Bontemps)
  • 2015-16 Philadelphia 76ers (Derek Bodner)

Colleges (Friday)

  • 1994 Kentucky Football (Pat Forde)
  • 1997 Maryland Football (Seth Emerson)
  • 2002 Stanford Football (Jon Wilner)
  • 2002-03 Villanova Basketball (Dana O’Neil)
  • 2014 Michigan Football (Angelique Chengelis)
  • 2015 Idaho Football (Michael Shawn-Dugar)

As for the first piece, the highlights include Dale Hanson of WFAA-TV in Dallas talking about the 1994 Dallas Cowboys, who were a good team according to their record. Hanson says that the hiring of Barry Switzer to replace Jimmy Johnson changed everything about the team’s culture. “But with Switzer’s ‘leadership,’ players were out of control. And there was no one to rein ‘em in. As one player said to me late at night near closing time in an Austin bar, ‘we have a curfew but Switzer’s coaching so who really cares.'”

Jim Trotter of NFL Media said one player ruined his experience with the 2001 San Diego Chargers. “That was the first time I saw up close how a team could splinter if one of its purported leaders was more concerned about himself than the club. That player was quarterback Doug Flutie, North America’s beloved underdog.”

The real gem though is from Nick Cotsonika, who now writes for NHL.com, but in 2008 was a beat reporter covering the Detroit Lions. He writes about the first NFL team to ever go 0-16 with some real fondness for just how terrible they were. “As the losses piled up, each game became more important, not less. It was like covering a team chasing history, only this team was trying to run from it and tripping over its own feet. No NFL team had gone 0-16 before. Kicker Jason Hanson said the Lions were so bad they had something to play for now. It says something the kicker was the one with the cred and the guts to tell it like it was.”

You can read the full piece here if you are a subscriber to The Athletic.