Last week, ESPN Insider ran its annual NFL Future Power Rankings (FPR), our estimation of how well each team is set for the future based on five factors, including the current roster and the front office's track record. Some fans could look at those power rankings with pride, knowing their team is set up for some very good years. Other fans were faced with nothing but pessimism.
The good news is that our FPR are a forecast, not a statement of fact. There's plenty of time between now and 2016, and plenty of opportunity for franchises that look like a mess right now to build around young talent and emerge as contenders. After all, how good did the Seattle Seahawks look four years ago, coming off a 4-12 season?
The bottom five teams from this year's Future Power Rankings have a few things in common. All five teams either need to make a decision on a young quarterback or they just drafted a young quarterback. Four of the five teams changed their front-office structure within the past year. Three of them changed the head coach. And interestingly, all five teams are in the AFC, suggesting that the NFC's recent rise to dominance is not a short-term trend.
Here's a look at what each one of these teams needs to do in order to build its way back into Super Bowl contention by the 2016 season.
The first thing the Jets have to do in order to improve the outlook for 2016 is figure out if the holdover coach and the new general manager are on the same page. Rex Ryan is the only head coach among these five teams not hired by the current GM. John Idzik has to figure out if he's going to be rebuilding this roster with players who play the style Ryan wants or the style some other coach wants.
When you look at the Ringling Brothers Jets circus and team implosion of 2012, what stands out is the offense. The skill players are generally question marks, and the quarterback was horrible. That being said, it was a bit extreme for the FPR to rank the Jets 30th at quarterback, below everyone except Cleveland and Jacksonville. Forget about Mark Sanchez. The quarterback of the 2016 Jets is much more likely to be Geno Smith, and Geno Smith's potential is a lot better than 30th.