No-show Bell, 3-11 Gruden lead list of NFL letdowns in 2018

By DAVE CAMPBELL

FILE – These are 2018 file photos showing Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette, left, Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, center, and Running back Le’Veon Bell. Jon Gruden’s return to Oakland was one of the biggest headlines of the offseason, but the Raiders have been a dud in year one of the makeover. Fournette hasn’t been healthy, and neither has his performance. And Le’Veon Bell never set foot on the field with the Pittsburgh Steelers. (AP Photo/File)

The hype trains touting NFL offseason activity typically start leaving their stations each January, when new head coaches are hired and fan bases are fired up about the fresh start that sends hope soaring high like the football in the air on the opening kickoff of a game.

There’s another round of departures in March, when the biggest-buck free agent contracts are signed to put some of the highest-profile players in the league on new teams snatching up missing pieces to their Super Bowl puzzles. Then, the first-round draft picks clamber aboard at the end of April.

By December, well, the derailments are inevitable.

From Le’Veon Bell to Jon Gruden to Leonard Fournette, here’s a pick-six of the biggest disappointments in the NFL this year:

NO-SHOW

The millions of fantasy football players who snagged Bell for a seeming bargain in their auctions and drafts would wholeheartedly agree, though the Pittsburgh Steelers survived the absence of the two-time All-Pro running back due to the emergence of James Conner and, most recently, Jaylen Samuels.

Bell bet on himself, steadfastly refusing to sign his franchise tender without the promise of a contract extension one of the sport’s most dangerous positions and ultimately accepting his ineligibility for the season . The Steelers didn’t blink, either, and Bell will assumedly restart his career with another team in 2019.

CHALLENGE FOR CHUCKY

The Oakland Raiders, eyeing an eventual move to Las Vegas, gave Jon Gruden a 10-year contract worth about $100 million to return to the franchise he got his start with as a head coach.

The Raiders are in this for the long haul, after burning through nine head coaches in the 16 seasons that passed after Gruden shed his silver and black. Their 3-11 record two years after a 12-4 finish, however, is a shaker of salt in the wound for the Bay Area loyalists on the verge of losing their team. Watching traded stars Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper thrive elsewhere has only made this season hurt worse. No team has been easier to score on this year than the Raiders, with an average of nearly 30 points allowed per game.

SOPHOMORE SLUMP

The fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft has averaged only 3.4 yards per attempt (46th in the NFL) and 56.6 rushing yards per game (24th in the NFL). Last week in a three-point loss to Washington, Fournette spent most of the second half on the sideline while undrafted rookie Dave Williams ate into his playing time.

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