‘Root For’ Rankings

Trey Whitaker
6 min readJan 8, 2023


Johnny Unitas

I grew up as a fan of Baltimore sports teams. In the 1962, during a family day at the beach, my grandfather plopped an Orioles hat on my head and my fandom began.

I went to my first Orioles game in 1966 when they played the now-defunct Washington Senators. The Orioles won the World Series later that year and my fanatic status was solidified and remains to this day.

My basketball team, the Baltimore Bullets moved to Washington, D.C. and later became the Washington Wizards. With this, my fandom dissapted.

My football team, the Baltimore Colts, were led by one of the NFL’s most legendary quarterbacks, Johnny Unitas. In 1969, the Colt broke my heart when they lost to the New York Jets and Joe Namath in the Super Bowl III, but they soon healed my heart by beating the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V.

After this success, the Colts’ ownership changed and the team experienced more bad years than good. Then, in the middle of the night on March 29, 1984, the team packed up and moved to Indianapolis. While they retained the Colts name and the sight of the uniform tugs at my heart, I was, overnight, no longer a fan.

In the ensuing 39 years, I’ve continued to watch and love football, but I never again fully adopted a new team. Not even the Baltimore Ravens when they were established in 1996. They couldn’t replace the void that was created a dozen years before when my beloved Colts broke my heart.

I know that I’m not alone in losing my favorite team. The list of franchises that left their devoted fans for ‘trophy wive’ cities is a long and inglorious one.

The Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques, San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Oilers, Montreal Expos, Seattle Pilots, Seattle Supersonics, Vancouver Grizzlies, New Orleans Jazz, Winnipeg Jets, and Brooklyn Dodgers are just a few examples.

Since the Colts betrayal, my fandom has changed and it shifts a bit from year-to-year. I’m not a fair weather or bandwagon fan. Instead, I watch all games with a hoped for result that is based on a complex internal algorithm using an ever changing set of personal factors.

Root For Rankings (Week of January 1, 2023)

  1. Philadelphia: My late father’s dearest friend is a 96-year old, World War II veteran and lifelong Eagles fan. This alone earns them the #1 ranking. Add in the fact that Jalen Hurts had been disparaged by pundits as a subpar quarterback. Seeing someone of his character, leadership qualities and perseverance lifting the Super Bowl trophy would be awesome.
  2. Buffalo: Damar Hamlin’s story is undeniable. Like Hurts, a fine person with a truckload of character. Add to this the fact that the Bills bear the legacy of losing four consecutive Super Bowls. They are deserving of a break.
  3. Miami: As a former Colts fan, I don’t have a lot of love for the Dolphins franchise. Their undefeated team from 1972 was annoying then and they persist to this day. That said, their quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, is another player that has been derided by critics. I’m really rooting for Tua and his coach Mike McDaniel. McDaniel has been a breath of fresh air at the press podium.
  4. NY Giants: My sister’s favorite team and a crew that I pulled for during the Lawrence Taylor, Phil Simms and Mark Bravaro-era. Another team with a recently beleaguered quarterback who is defying pundits.
  5. Minnesota: I’ve always had a soft spot for the Vikings. From the Purple People Eaters of Page and Eller to Fran Tarkenton, Joe Kapp, Chuck Foreman and Randy Moss, the Vikings are always entertaining. They also have a belittled quarterback of their own in Kirk Cousins. In all-time rankings, Cousins is currently 28th career passing yards, 23rd in touchdowns, 25th in completions, 7th in completion percentage, 8th in quarterback rating. Also, the Vikings have never won a Super Bowl despite four appearances.
  6. Cincinnati: Another team with a winless Super Bowl records at 0–2. The QB/WR combo of Joe Burrows to Ja’Marr Chase gives off Joe Montana to Jerry Rice vibes.
  7. San Francisco: This team is a great story waiting to happen. The Trey Lance to Jimmy Garoppolo to Brock Purdy quarterback saga. The reemergence of Christian McCaffrey and other studs like Nick Bosa, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle make this team very entertaining.
  8. New England: I spent most of my life in Connecticut and have gone to a number of Patriots games. I don’t own a single piece of Patriot gear, but I did live in Patriots country for six Super Bowl championships.
  9. LA Rams: I’m just here for Baker Mayfield. Baker has been disparaged by ‘experts’, but I love his competitive spirit.
  10. LA Chargers: Their uniforms bring back memories of Lance Alworth and John Hadl. They did leave San Diego behind, but I’d like to see Justin Herbert have the success his talent warrants.
  11. Detroit: A franchise with a long history of failure has been reborn behind a firebrand coach and a derided quarterback exceeding all expectations.
  12. Dallas: This team is typically near the bottom of my list because of the owner and the too numerous ex-Cowboys who pollute studio and announcing teams. That said, they’re my brother-in-law’s favorite team.
  13. Las Vegas: Just hoping that Coach McDaniels get another season.
  14. Kansas City: Rooting for greatness here. Mahomes should be enjoyed for how magical he is.
  15. Tampa Bay: The greatest of all-time, Tom Brady, has been more erratic than ever, but I still wish him success on most days.
  16. NY Jets: I struggle with the fact that Joe Namath’s Jets upset my then-beloved Colts in Super Bowl III, but I have a few friends who are beleaguered Jets fans. I hope things get better for them.
  17. Tennessee: Derrick Henry and Mike Vrabel are NFL throwbacks and I hope they get the success they deserve.
  18. Chicago: Justin Fields has won me over. Such a talent and a fierce competitor. I hope they build a competent team around him.
  19. Seattle: He might be 71, but Pete Carroll still has great energy.
  20. Pittsburgh: During the Ben Roethlisberger-era, they were always at the bottom of my rankings. That said, they have one of the best and most respected coaches in Mike Tomlin.
  21. Indianapolis: They broke my heart, but seeing their uniforms still pulls me in. That said, they’re a sad sack of an organization.
  22. Washington: Given their sketchy ownership, they should probably be lower, but the Coach Rivera is a decent man.
  23. Baltimore: When I see the uniforms, I still think of Ray Lewis.
  24. Atlanta: I guess Matt Ryan wasn’t problem.
  25. Carolina: This team has gone from sort of exciting to pretty much a mess.
  26. Jacksonville: Trevor Lawrence is turning into a great quarterback under Doug Pederson’s leadership, but, for me, he still has the stink of Clemson on him.
  27. Houston: Just a sad situation.
  28. New Orleans: Without Brees and Payton, they’ve lost the personality they had forever.
  29. Phoenix: From time-to-time, I still call them the St. Louis Cardinals.
  30. Denver: John Elway’s refusal to join the Colts led to the franchise relocating. F’ John Elway.
  31. Green Bay: Aaron Rodgers
  32. Cleveland: Deshaun Watson

Applied for Week 18

These are not who I expect to win, but who I hope wins. In a perfect season, the Eagles would edge the Bills in the Super Bowl and both the Packers and Browns would be 0–17.

  • #14 Chiefs at #13 Raiders
  • #17 Titans at #26 Jaguars
  • #4 Giants at #1 Eagles
  • #27 Texans at #21 Colts
  • #5 Vikings at #18 Bears
  • #23 Ravens at #6 Bengals
  • #16 Jets at #3 Dolphins
  • #25 Panthers at #28 Saints
  • #8 Patriots at #2 Bills
  • #15 Buccaneers at #24 Falcons
  • #32 Browns at #20 Steelers
  • #9 Rams at #19 Seahawks
  • #10 Chargers at #30 Broncos
  • #19 Cardinals at #7 49ers
  • #12 Cowboys at #22 Commanders
  • #11 Lions at #31 Packers



Trey Whitaker

Former CrossFit gym owner, corporate manager, paratrooper, youth sports coach and jujitsu black belt. Now a trail steward at Haleakala National Park on Maui.