Here are the biggest disappointments of 2016 in no particular order.
After landing the prize of the off-season — ace righty Zack Greinke — the Diamondbacks set pretty lofty expectations for the 2016 season and then stumbled out of the gate. By the All-Star break, the D-Backs were 38-52. It didn’t help that outfielder A.J. Pollock broke his elbow in April, but this was a total team failure. Starter Shelby Miller completely lost himself and eventually manager Chip Hale and general manager Dave Stewart got the axe at the end of the 69-93 season.
On the matrix of hopes and expectations, the 26-year-old quarterback’s 2016 season falls about an inch below and to the left of the bottom left square. The former Bronco benefited from the Texans’ desperation for a quarterback to the tune of 4 years, $72 million ($37M guaranteed) and in his first year as a starter, he posted a league-worst 5.75 yards per attempt, looking completely overmatched and overwhelmed at times as he sailed passes over DeAndre Hopkins’ head and failed to develop chemistry with the receiving corps. Owner Bob McNair called it a “gutsy” move, but by Week 15 head coach Bill O’Brien had no choice but to bench Osweiler in favour of backup Tom Savage after back-to-back Osweiler interceptions.
The year 2016 started well for Carolina before the offence got swallowed by the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50. Come September, the Josh Norman-less squad couldn’t spring free from the Super Bowl hangover; it certainly didn’t help that Cam Newton got drilled helmet-to-helmet in the opener against Denver. The Panthers then fell to 1-5 before the bye, failing to recapture the dabbing mojo of its 15-1 run last year. A let-down was somewhat predictable but this season, which included a 40-7 shellacking at Seattle and saw the defence allow an average 40.5 points in a pair of meetings with the Falcons, has been worse than expected.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
The Golden State Warriors’ failure to capture a title will go down as the memorable disappointment of 2016. One of the subplots during the Warriors’ incredible regular season run was whether the accomplishment would matter if it did not end with a championship. “I don’t look at this entire season as a failure because there’s been too many great things that happened to this team and to this group of guys, to this coaching staff, to this organisation” Draymond Green said after the Warriors blew their 3-1 series lead to the Cavaliers.
The 20-year-old Northcutt looked primed for a big 2016 and was highly touted by the UFC but it wasn’t in the cards. Northcutt’s unanimous decision over Enrique Marin at UFC 200 was sandwiched by chokeouts in January and December. Bryan Barberena (filling in for Andrew Holbrook) handed Northcutt his first professional loss with an arm triangle choke, and then on December 17 Mickey Gall submitted him with a rear-naked choke in the second round.
UNITED STATES WOMEN’S NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM
Before the Rio Olympics even began, 35-year-old goalkeeper Hope Solo raised eyebrows with ill-conceived comments about the Zika virus. Once the tournament began, she allowed two goals on errors against Colombia during the group stage and had a very uneven tournament overall. Then, after a stunning quarterfinals loss to Sweden, she called the Swedes cowards, taking away the focus from the team and the tournament. U.S. Soccer then suspended Solo for the Sweden comments citing “conduct that is counter to the organisation’s principles” and terminated her contract. As for the USWNT, the team was a heavy favourite to win the gold and never before failed to win a medal at the Olympic Games.
The Washington Capitals have conditioned their fans (and perhaps themselves) for playoff failures. After winning the Presidents’ Trophy with 120 points in the regular season, the top-seeded Caps blew it again in the second round with a 4-2 series loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. “We’re here to win a championship; anything less than that is unsuccessful” Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said before the postseason began. Another early exit. Rinse, repeat.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
One season after a pleasantly surprising 44-win campaign and a playoff series win over the hobbled Los Angeles Clippers, the Blazers were poised to take another step forward. But as the new year approaches, Portland finds itself at 14-20, losers of six of their last seven. It’s largely the same roster as last year but their defence has gone from mediocre to dead last in the league in efficiency, allowing 112.2 points per game.