In 1996, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were 6-10, their 14th straight losing season; in 1997, the Bucs went 10-6 for their first playoff berth since 1982. In 1998, the Indianapolis Colts were 3-13 for the second consecutive season; in 1999, the Colts improved to 13-3.
The ’97 Buccaneers and the ’99 Colts both were NFL Teams of Destiny, back when the Team of Destiny was a newborn sensation. They elevated the Team of Destiny program to the preeminent long-shot prognostication algorithm in the nation.
In those days, Couch Slouch was The Man; these days, Couch Slouch is a broken man living under a bridge in Santa Monica, hoping some punk on a passing motor scooter will hand out an NFL winner or two.
Anyway, in an attempt to return to those glory days – and in conjunction with the almost 20th anniversary of those brilliant forecasts of a bygone era – here are your 2018 NFL Teams of Destiny:
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Indianapolis Colts.
Believe me, it’s not easy to take a team off the scrapheap and target it to make the Super Bowl.
I actually got reasonably close the past three seasons with the Chiefs in 2015, the Saints in ’16 and the Chargers in ’17. In each case, it was like realizing the greatness of Bach, Van Gogh and Kafka before anyone else, with that greatness not acknowledged until years after their passing.
Meanwhile, many readers, aware of my recent Team of Destiny struggles, have emailed me to strongly suggest I take the Cleveland Browns.
How stupid do I look?
(Don’t answer that.)
I took the Browns in 2014 – my last truly awful pick – when I was tragically taken in by Johnny Manziel. The Browns went 7-9, which is more victories than they’ve managed the subsequent three seasons combined.
Still, as woebegone as the Browns have been, Las Vegas sports books report they’re getting lots of action on the Browns to win the division, the conference and even the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl? The Super Bowl??? Maybe the Browns are the Donald Trump of 2018.
Uh, I don’t think so.
I know things change and I understand the whole Team of Destiny concept is predicated on identifying a franchise that is going to go from terrible to terrific, but last time I looked, these Browns have lost 31 of 32 games. That’s 1-31 over two seasons.
Sometimes, past performance is a guarantee of future results.
Heck, if you watched “Hard Knocks” this summer, you wouldn’t trust the Browns staff to organize a lemonade stand, let alone run a professional football organization.
Now, I’ve got nothing against their coach, Hue Jackson, but he has lost 35 of his last 37 games, including his one-year stint in 2011 with the Oakland Raiders. Curiously enough, Jackson’s last two victories came on Christmas Eve – Dec. 24, 2011 and Dec. 24, 2016 – and since the Browns aren’t scheduled to play on that date this season, I don’t like his chances.
Which brings us to the Buccaneers and the Colts as your 2018 Teams of Destiny.
Both were last-place teams in their divisions last year – the Buccaneers were 5-11, the Colts 4-12. So there’s some symmetry here, plus worst-to-first is an American tradition:
– Richard Nixon
– Old Spice
– Newark, N.J. (in progress)
It will be a Bucs-Colts Super Bowl because their quarterbacks will have their best years ever.
The Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston, who will start the season on three-game suspension, throws what we in the analytics world call “a true ball.” It’s a perfect spiral, with a sublime launch angle, delivered on time to his receiver with the laces down. No one has been this accurate since Jimmy Doppler.
And let me tell you about the Colts’ Andrew Luck, sidelined all of 2017. I don’t care if he has no offensive line, no running backs, no wide receivers and no defense, HE WILL FIND A WAY. If Luck were part of Space Force, I would be on board.
As for the Browns, they’re so dysfunctional, I figure Manziel is back and starting by Week 9.
Ask The Slouch
Q. Is it true Maryland once offered you considerably more than $1.25 to list a different school as your alma mater? (Graham Vink; Washington, D.C.)
A. I’m still waiting for a partial refund on my $440-a-semester tuition – back then, College Park felt like the Dollar Store of higher education. (But, man oh man, we had a good football team!)
Q. If each of your wives (including the current one) were to sit around a table and grade you, what would your report card look like? (Gene Hara; Buffalo Grove, Il.)
A. Let’s just say my GPA would be hovering near 0.0.
Q. Who was worse on “Monday Night Football,” Dennis Miller or Tony Kornheiser? (Jim Houlihan; Des Moines, Iowa)
A. I’m going to take the Fifth, though I am not sure how I would incriminate myself by answering.
Q. Should the New England Patriots collaborate with Volkswagen to come up with new software to cheat? (Jack O’Brien; Fairfax, Va.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email email@example.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.