NFL Notes: Turnover ratios rotten

Somehow, you feel it’s a shame that the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t on either team’s schedules this season.

OK, maybe you don’t.

These two teams, the Jets at 3-9, the Jaguars at 2-10, are clearly the two worst teams in the league in one category.

Turnover ratio. The Jets are sitting at minus-15, the Jaguars ahead of them by three at a league-leading minus-18. Both teams enhanced their totals this past weekend, the Jaguars turning it over three times in a 20-10 loss to the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, the Jets turning it over three times in an embarrassing 41-10 defeat against the Indianapolis Colts Monday night, like the Jaguars, also at home.

With four games to go, it would have to take a lot for both franchises to reach the all-time record for worst turnover ratio in a season. The all-time record goes to the 1965 Pittsburgh Steelers, who finished at 2-12. They had a premonition of how bad things were going to go when their head coach, Buddy Parker, quit two weeks before the season started and 64-year-old Mike Nixon had to take over.

Their quarterback was Bill Nelson, who completed just 44.8 percent of his passes (121-for-270) in 12 games for 1,917 yards and eight touchdowns, while throwing 17 interceptions. Backup Tommy Wade was no better with two touchdowns thrown and 13 interceptions. Their leading rusher was Dick Hoak, who had just 426 yards rushing and five touchdowns. Pro Bowl flanker Gary Ballman caught 40 passes for 859 yards and five touchdowns.

But when it came to giving the ball away, these Steelers ruled. They coughed it up 57 times, while claiming 27 opponent miscues for a minus-30 turnover ratio. Needless to say, Nixon was let go.

There’s a silver lining to the story. The Steelers remained bad for three more seasons before changing coaches again in 1969. They brought in the Colts’ defensive coordinator. His name was Chuck Noll. The rest is history – four Super Bowls in his 23 seasons.

n With a turnover ratio of minus-18, the Jaguars are on track to have their first season leading the league in that category. And looking back at various teams over this century, the coaches for a majority of those teams were let go immediately or a year later.

The worst turnover ratio by a team in this century is minus-28 by the 2000 Chargers. That team was coached by current University of Nebraska coach Mike Riley and had a three-quarterback rotation of Moses Moreno, first-round draft bust Ryan Leaf and veteran Jim Harbaugh. That team went 1-15. Riley was allowed to coach in 2001, but after a 5-11 season, he was sent away.

Riley was lucky to stay. But most other coaches whose teams had the worst turnover ratio that season weren’t asked to stick around: In 2001, Minnesota was the worst team at minus-21 and Dennis Green was set free with one game left. In 2003, the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills both had a league-worst minus-16 turnover ratio and Giants coach Jim Fassel was fired, while Bills head guy Gregg Williams did not have his contract renewed. When the 2004 St. Louis Rams had a minus-24 turnover ratio, Mike Martz’s coaching position was on shaky ground. He would be fired in the middle of the 2005 season.

Speaking of 2005, when the Katrina-impacted New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers both had minus-24 ratios, Saints coach Jim Haslett and Packers mentor Mike Sherman were dismissed. The 2006 Oakland Raiders had a minus-23 ratio and that cost Hall of Famer Art Shell his coaching job for the second time under late owner Al Davis. The 2007 Baltimore Ravens had a minus-17 ratio and that cost Super Bowl-winning coach Brian Billick his job. The 2008 Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers both had minus-17 ratios to lead the NFL and two-time Super Bowl champion coach Mike Shanahan was let go by the Broncos, while 49ers coach Mike Nolan was fired in mid-season and replaced by Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary.

In 2011, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a turnover ratio of minus-16 and that cost Raheem Morris his coaching gig after three years. Then came 2012 when both the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs were really inept to the tune of minus-24. The Eagles fired longtime coach Andy Reid, who would soon return as head coach in 2013 ... of the Chiefs, who had fired Romeo Crennel. The 2013 Houston Texans finished with a league-worst minus-20. Before the season ended, they fired Gary Kubiak and brought in Wade Phillips to coach the remainder of the season. Two years later, Kubiak was the Super Bowl champion coach of the Denver Broncos with Phillips his defensive coordinator.

And in 2014, the Oakland Raiders had a minus-15 turnover ratio. They fired Dennis Allen midseason and interim coach Tony Sporano didn’t stick around after that year. Last year, former Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio came in and the Raiders had a plus-1 his first season. This year, the Raiders are 10-2 and have a plus-12 ratio.

In other words, it’s not looking good for current coach Gus Bradley – unless you think he’s Jason Garrett when the Cowboys had a minus-22 turnover ratio to lead the NFL last year. The Cowboys had a whole bunch of problems, but owner Jerry Jones stuck with Garrett. Now the Cowboys have the best record at 11-1 and they’ve gone from minus-22 to plus-2.

n NFL Power Rankings (Week 13): Who’d have thought the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would make the Top 10 this year? There they are at No. 8, winners of four in a row, including victories over a pair of Top 5 teams in back-to-back weeks, Kansas City (now at No. 4) and Seattle (back at No. 6).

The top three teams – Dallas, Oakland and New England – remain in their spots. Re-entering at No. 10 is suddenly hot Baltimore, winners of four of its last five games (the lone loss at No. 1 Dallas). Here’s the rankings:

1. (1 last week) Dallas (11-1); 2. (2) Oakland (10-2); 3. (3) New England (10-2); 4. (5) Kansas City (9-3); 5. (6) Detroit (8-4); 6. (7) Seattle (8-3-1); 7. (9) Denver (8-4); 8. (NEW) Tampa Bay (7-5); 9. (4) New York Giants (8-4); 10. (NEW) Baltimore (7-5).

Mark Blumenthal’s NFL Notes appear Thursdays during the season in the Palatka Daily News. You can reach him at mblumenthal@palatkdailynews.com or on Twitter @diabolicalmarky.

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