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Five Biggest Disappointments of the 2021 NFL Season

Ryan Phillips
Urban Meyer, Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee Titans
Urban Meyer, Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee Titans / Wesley Hitt/GettyImages
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We're headed into the final week of the 2021 NFL season and have started to look back on what has transpired this year. While there have been a ton of surprise successes, there have also been some high-profile failures. Here is a look at the five biggest disappointments in the NFL this season.

Urban Meyer

Urban Meyer's 13 games as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars was easily the NFL's biggest disappointment this season. While many believed Meyer would struggle to acclimate to the pro game, no one thought it would be this bad. And no one thought his spread offense would be so ineffective, especially not with an uber-talented quarterback in Trevor Lawrence.

Unfortunately, the Jags were awful and so was Lawrence. They are 27th in total offense (304.6 yards per game), 23rd in rushing offense (103.4 ypg), 24th in passing offense (201.2 ypg) and dead last in scoring offense (14.2 points per game).

Additionally, Meyer may have ruined Lawrence. In 16 games, Lawrence has only completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 3,418 yards, with 10 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. His passer rating (69.6) and QBR (32.3) are both atrocious.

The entire experiment was an absolute mess, and that's before considering Meyer's litany of embarrassing incidents, both related to football and off the field.

Cleveland Browns and Baker Mayfield

The Cleveland Browns went 11-5 in 2020 and even won a playoff game. Led by Baker Mayfield, continued improvement was expected in 2021. Unfortunately, the most interesting thing about the Browns this season was a discovery about their logo.

Cleveland has limped to a 7-9 record and been surpassed by the Cincinnati Bengals as the hot young team in the AFC North. Mayfield has been terrible this season, completing 60.5 percent of his passes for 3,010 yards, with 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His pedestrian passer rating of 83.1 ranks 27th in the league, while his QBR entering Monday night (37.8) ranked 25th out of 31 quarterbacks who qualified.

The future of the Browns is uncertain. Mayfield will enter the final year of his contract in 2022 and doesn't have an extension in hand. Did this collection of players hit its peak in 2020? That's certainly possible. Whatever is wrong, something needs to change in Cleveland.

Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings have a ton of offensive talent and a defensive head coach, which should be a great combination. After 16 games, they're 7-9 and have dropped back-to-back key late-season games, including receiving a 37-10 drubbing from the division rival Green Bay Packers Sunday night.

After going 7-9 in 2020, the Vikings felt like a great bounce-back candidate in a division that's incredibly weak other than the Packers. The Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions should be four automatic wins -- the Vikings dropped one to the Lions this year.

It feels like head coach Mike Zimmer has to be on his way out. The Vikings are 31st in total defense (allowing 385.4 yards per game), 25th in scoring defense (25.6 ppg), 27th in rushing defense (133.3 ypg) and 26th in passing defense (252.1 ypg). If you're the head coach and defense is your speciality, those numbers are unacceptable. The team is took good to be this bad.

Zach Wilson

We've already discussed Trevor Lawrence, now let's focus on the guy picked right after him. The New York Jets were always going to struggle this season under a new head coach in Robert Saleh, but I don't think we knew how bad Wilson would look for most of the year. Yes, the Jets need to surround him with more talent, but The BYU product has looked lost for virtually all of the 12 games he's played in.

On the season, Wilson has only completed 56.7 percent of his passes, for 2,247 yards. He has eight touchdowns and 11 interceptions and boasts a horrible passer rating of 69.9 and ranks 30th in QBR at 29.6. His passer rating has been over 90 in only one game. Wilson looked better against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 17, but all-in-all it has felt like a lost season for the 22-year-old.

Given Wilson's arm talent he should have shown more glimpses of the future this season. Instead it has been a constant struggle. The Jets must find a way to protect him and surround him with talent, but Wilson also needs to start making the guys around him better the way great quarterbacks do.

Los Angeles Chargers Defense

The Los Angeles Chargers are 9-7, on the verge of a postseason berth and have an uber-talented young quarterback in Justin Herbert. That's the good news. The bad news is their defense is atrocious.

Head coach Brandon Staley was brought in to fix the team on that side of the ball. Some referred to him as the defensive Sean McVay, so a quick turnaround was expected. That hasn't happened. Instead, LA's defense has been Charmin soft all season.

The Chargers currently rank 22nd in total defense (361.0 yards per game), 30th in rushing defense (136.7 ypg), 12th in passing defense (224.3) and 26th in scoring defense (26.5). LA is awful against the run and its front seven has been beaten into submission several times this season.

Given that the defense is led by high-profile guys in Joey Bosa and Derwin James, it should be much better than it is. The Chargers spent first-round picks on Jerry Tillery and Kenneth Murray in 2019 and 2020 only to see them flop in the NFL. The defense simply isn't at a championship level and it has let Herbert and the offense down all season. Staley must fix it moving forward.

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