The panic button is typically pushed as a last resort, once time has virtually run out. Yet in the hyper-competitive, hyper-reactive world of the NFL, that often means a mere two weeks into the season.
Consider the New York Giants. In the throes of their third consecutive 0-2 start, they opted to bench two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning on Tuesday — those 63 points surrendered and zero takeaways generated were surely his fault — in hopes of finding a spark under first-round quarterback Daniel Jones.
"It’s very disappointing to start 0-2, but we still get to live another day," Pro Bowl running back Saquon Barkley said after New York's 28-14 home loss to the Bills on Sunday. "The season’s not over, our chances at the playoffs aren’t over, but you can’t keep having that mindset."
Barkley is right, there's a lot of season still to play. However since the playoff field expanded to 12 in 1990, only 12.6% of teams starting 0-2 have qualified, a figure that includes both Houston and Seattle last season.
With nine teams already saddled with two losses in 2019, history suggests just one will survive into January. Will it be Barkley, Jones and the Giants?
"I’m not a big believer in 'it’s still early,'" Bar kley said. "But you have to understand that is the case in the NFL because it’s a marathon. It’s 16 games.
"It’s a long season and it’s early, but if we figure it out right, then we can laugh back at these games when we’re competing for the playoffs."
Stifling chuckles of my own, let's assess those nine 0-2 clubs, ranking them from least to reasonably likely to overcome their sluggish starts and reach postseason.
9. Miami Dolphins
Outscored 102-10 — in two home games — while shuttling QBs Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen and busily exporting their most-talented players for future draft capital, the Fins are quickly shaping up as a squad that might be one of the worst the NFL has fielded in its 100 seasons.
8. Washington Redskins
They've actually been competitive with scrappy veteran Case Keenum under center. But it's only a matter of time before the 'Skins turn to their own first rounder, QB Dwayne Haskins, even though his, ahem, supporting cast on offense will be frightfully thin ... even if arguably better than what's surprisingly been one of the league's worst defenses.
7. New York Giants
Sorry, Saquon, but unless Jones can rush opposing passers, cover receivers or throw himself a deep ball — the Giants' most productive wideouts at present are Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler — it's highly doubtful this squad will get in gear even if the rookie does outplay Manning.