From flying to freefall: Where does it stop for plummeting Crows?

Football has seen few if any more dramatic falls from grace than Fremantle's plummet from a top-of-the-ladder finish in 2015 to a miserable last with a 0-10 record midway through the following season.

In bald statistical terms, the Dockers have never really recovered, finishing 16th, 14th, 14th and 13th and winning just 29 of 91 games since losing the 2015 preliminary final to Hawthorn.

Adelaide's record since losing the 2017 grand final against Richmond doesn't look nearly that abject. The Crows since then have won at least 22 of 47 games, and headed into the 2020 season were still batting at exactly 50 percent since the afternoon they went in against the Tigers favourites to claim their third premiership.

And yet somehow, Adelaide's current predicament and standing actually appears worse than any depths the Dockers plumbed after that 2015 near-miss under Ross Lyon.

Fremantle was at least able to withstand internal fracturing and bickering until it finally parted ways with Lyon, as well as chief executive Steve Rosich, just before the end of last season. It hung on to its team leaders, who continue to drive the attempts at an on-field rebirth under new coach Justin Longmuir.

Importantly, while, like Adelaide, it remains winless after three rounds of the season, Fremantle has been no less than competitive and harmonious. And they are two words no-one would dare apply to the Crows right now.

On field, it's a disaster, a humiliating 75-point belting in a Showdown with Port Adelaide followed by last Sunday's 53-point capitulation to hardly a giant of the competition in Gold Coast.

Off field, it's arguably a bigger disaster still. The ramifications of the now-infamous Gold Coast preseason training camp in late January and early February of 2018 continue to spill into the Crows' performance nearly two-and-a-half years later.

Not just in the time taken for the club to fully accept the damage done, nor just the dithering over the replacement of key staff responsible for signing off on the ill-fated psychological experiment.

Nor even just the departures of a slew of senior players whose talent and leadership has left a gaping hole not only on the playing list, but in the psyche of the entire club. Nor a series of anything-but-helpful public comments on the club and team performance in recent times by club football director and former champion Mark Ricciuto.

But the cumulative impact of an air of disruption and a club which, famous for steering the steadiest of ships, has in the last couple of years looked almost to have taken its hands from the wheel, has come home to roost in the number of times Adelaide has palpably folded on field, not even able to muster a whiff of resistance when opponents got on top.

You have to feel sorry for new coach Matthew Nicks, whose job was already going to be difficult enough effectively leading the Crows into a rebuild without now pondering the damage potentially caused by the failure of many senior players remaining to fire even a token shot.

As sizeable as has been the core of senior players who have departed Adelaide since the 2017 grand final loss, it's not as though the 2020 list has been completely stripped of experience or potential team leaders.

The team which looked so lacking in desire against the Suns contained 11 players who lined up in that grand final, plus All-Australian Brodie Smith, who would have been part of that side had he not been injured. Grand final players Kyle Hartigan and Riley Knight are still on the books. So is a high-priced experienced recruit in Bryce Gibbs.

Adelaide's list is now considerably younger and less experienced than it was. But there are still five other clubs with younger and greener lists than the Crows are carrying, including the same Gold Coast outfit which smashed Adelaide last Sunday, and last year's boom team Brisbane. And the Crows do have no fewer than 13 players with at least 100 senior games to their name.

So where are they? Former captain Taylor Walker's form woes have been the most obvious. But his replacement as sole skipper, Rory Sloane, is hardly flying. Rory Laird and Tom Lynch had noticeably poor games in the Suns' debacle, and Smith also had little influence. And while the Crouch brothers Matt and Brad still rack up the numbers, the impact of those disposals has been questionable for a while.

It's been the manner of this season's defeats which have disturbed as much as the margins. In Round 1 against Sydney, the Crows slammed on six goals. They've managed just 14 more goals in 11 quarters of football since. In the Showdown, they scored the first two goals of the game, then conceded 13 of the next 14.

Key statistical indicators also read even more alarmingly than the losing margins. A list of a dozen important statistical areas at the end of 2017 had Adelaide ranked No.1 or No. 2 in eight of them. Those same categories now have the Crows ranked last or second-last in eight.

The similarities between the Adelaide which played off in 2017 and that which trudged off Metricon Stadium on Sunday evening thoroughly humiliated are in name only.

This is a thoroughly dispirited group which even a change of coach and fresh ideas appear not to have rejuvenated even slightly. And in searching for the answers, perhaps Adelaide should be avoiding the 2016 demise of Fremantle.

Five seasons on, the Dockers are still only inching towards another assault on the top of the ladder, and that's been in a relatively harmonious environment. With Adelaide's executive offices seemingly as all-over-the-shop as has been its actual football performance, how long might it take the Crows to earn another tilt?

You can read more of Rohan Connolly's work at footyology.com.au