The NFL is a tricky business. Sometimes what seems like the right things to do blows up in a team or player’s face. A high draft can be a dream come true for the Cleveland Browns, but it can also be the mistake that sets back their success for multiple seasons. Luckily for Cleveland, they have one of the most loyal and patient fan bases in the league. Other teams are not so lucky and have made some near franchise ending mistakes. Heck, even the league itself has made some bone-headed calls. Here are our favorites!
You’ll never believe what happened to the Detroit Lions in 2008!
The Chicago Bears Trade Greg Olsen
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Drafted in the first round of the 2007 draft, few NFL fans remember Greg Olsen started his career with the Chicago Bears. During his three years there, the now elite tight end didn’t produce incredible results. Then again, it didn’t help that Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton, and Brian Griese were his quarterbacks. Having convinced themselves that Olsen was part of the problem, the Bears traded him away after the 2010 season to the Carolina Panthers. Finally playing football with a good quarterback (one Cameron Newton), Olsen became the first tight end in NFL history to record three straight 1,000 yard seasons. He even appeared in the Super Bowl in 2016, getting beat by the Broncos 24-10.
Next up, do you remember the time the league replaced their referees?
Replacement Refs To The Rescue? Not So Much
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In 2012 the NFL and the NFL Referees Association had trouble coming to a new labor agreement. In an attempt to leverage the situation, the league locked out their current referees from games and used replacement referees. The move backfired miserably on the NFL, as referees who only had high school level experience were thrust onto the national stage. The league lost all leverage after the “Fail Mary,” when the replacement referees called a hail mary pass incorrectly to end a Monday Night Football game between the Packers and Seahawks. The internet ate up the carnage left in the ref’s wake. The days that followed saw the NFL admit they made a huge mistake and work out an agreement with the NFLRA immediately.
Warren Moon Isn’t White Enough For The League
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Warren Moon almost didn’t get a shot at his Hall of Fame NFL career with the Oilers because he was black. When Moon left the University of Washington in 1978 to pursue an NFL career, the league wanted him to change his position from quarterback to something more “suitable for a black athlete,” like a wide receiver. Moon refused, choosing to join the Canadian Football League instead. From 1978 to 1984 he was the quarterback of the Edmonton Eskimos and won five Grey Cups. After the 1984 CFL season, the NFL finally took its shot on Moon. He was signed by the Houston Oilers and became one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game, finally being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006.
Mark Sanchez wasn’t so lucky with the New York Jets…
The Butt Fumble
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After making there straight appearances the AFC Championship Game, New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez ruined his career thanks to a fateful play on Thanksgiving in 2012. Trailing the Patriots 14-0 near halftime, Sanchez dropped back for a pass, then decided to run with the ball. The only problem was he ran straight into the rear end of one of his offensive lineman! The Patriots recovered the “butt fumble” and returned it for a touchdown. They also ended up beating the Jets 49-19 in a game that ruined a number of reputations, including head coach Rex Ryan’s, whose off-field antics weren’t seen as quirky anymore. Ryan became a career analyst for ESPN. Sanchez is currently a backup quarterback in Chicago, trying desperately to teach Mitchell Trubisky how not to play quarterback.
The San Diego Chargers Go To Hollywood
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Okay, not quite Hollywood, technically Carson City. After the 2016 season, the Chargers decided to move from San Diego to Los Angeles after failing to work out a deal with the city for a new stadium. Stuck playing in Carson City until the Rams new stadium opens in 2019, the Los Angeles Chargers tried to bill their home games in 2017 as a more intimate fan experience. What ended up happening was fans from the away team bought tickets and packed the stadium, often times making a home game feel like an away game. After one season at StubHub Center, the Chargers owner refuses to admit he made a huge mistake. Considering their less than enthusiastic welcome to Los Angeles, Sean Spanos needs a reality check, and fast!
Things could be worse for the Chargers, at least they’re not the 2008 Lions!
Dan Orlovsky Puts A Cherry On Top Of Detroit’s “Perfect” Season
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The Cleveland Browns may have just finished a disastrous 0-16 season, but shockingly enough, they are not the first team to accomplish this embarrassing feat. In 2008, the Detroit Lions claimed their stake as the first worst team in league history to go a “perfect” 0-16. The horror movie of a season was lowlighted by Dan Orlovsky, the team’s backup quarterback who was forced to start because of injuries. Here’s what happened; during a game against the Minnesota Vikings, Orlocksy took the ball from the goal line and ran straight out the back of his end zone. The play resulted in two points for the Vikings and an official end to any hope the Lions had that season.
Bobby Petrino Bails On The Falcons Midseason
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In 2007, deeply embroiled in the Michael Vick dogfighting scandal, the Atlanta Falcons decided it would be a good idea to hire Bobby Petrino as their head coach. At the time, Petrino liked the idea too. However, after three wins and ten losses, Petrino decided coaching in the NFL was not all it was cracked up to be and resigned. Even worse, he told his players by leaving a note, and convinced owner Arthur Blank he had no intention of resigning. Luckily for the Falcons, this extreme low didn’t last long; the team drafted Matt Ryan and signed Dan Quinn as their man in charge. The pair led Atlanta to their first Super Bowl appearance in 2017 and they hope to lead them to a few more!
In 2008 the Bengals didn’t quite get so lucky in the draft!
The Bengals Bungle the 2008 Draft
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The Cincinnati Bengals had a chance to make a huge defensive splash in the 2008 NFL Draft. They had a top 10 pick and were a hot betting choice to bounce back and make the playoffs. With their first pick, they selected middle linebacker Keith Rivers. Never heard of him? Not surprising, he barely lasted three seasons in the NFL and recorded a miserable 120 career tackles. One pick after them, the Patriots selected middle linebacker Jerod Mayo. All Mayo did was win defensive rookie of the year and make multiple Pro-Bowls. Oops…
At least they didn’t draft Johnny Manziel!
Cleveland Goes All In On Johnny Football
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Entering the 2014 draft, the Cleveland Browns were a franchise desperate to have an amazing draft and give their fans hope. The team had a real opportunity to make a splash too with multiple first round picks. With their first pick, number eight overall, the Browns selected cornerback Justin Gilbert. With the 22nd overall pick, the team went all in on Texas A&M wunderkind Johnny Manziel. Neither draft pick was a hit, but the miserable flop that was Manziel’s Cleveland career made sure no one remembers Gilbert only lasted two seasons in Ohio. Manziel recently admitted he is taking medication for bipolar disorder and still wants to have a chance at an NFL comeback. Unfortunately for Johnny Football, the only league showing interest in him right now is the Canadian Football League.
The Texans Take More Than A Flyer On Ahman Green
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In 2007 NFL teams still valued the running back position. The Houston Texans valued the position highly enough they signed Ahman Green to a four-year contract worth $23 million entering his age 30 season. From 2000 to 2004 Green paced the league in rushing with the Packers, racking up nearly 7,000 yards. Only Curtis Martin came close to touching that. The real problem was Green’s age. Rarely do running backs produce in their 30’s after years of abuse to their lower bodies. Green was not special, rushing for a paltry 554 rushing yards over the next two seasons with a 3.8 yards per carry average. Today, over 10 years later, the Texans are still looking for a franchise rusher!
The Rams Blow The Bank On Bennett
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In 2007 the then St. Louis Rams took a huge chance on wide receiver Drew Bennett after one magical season in the NFL. The Tennessee Titans signed Bennett as an undrafted free agent in 2001. He played for the Titans until 2006, having a career year in 2004, catching 11 touchdowns and receiving for over 1,200 yards. Like we said, one very magical season! Two years later the Ram signed Bennett to a six-year contract worth $30 million, with $10 million guaranteed. That might not sound like a lot of money right now, but the salary cap was a measly $109 million back then. By the time St Louis released Bennett in 2009 he only accounted for 379 total yards and just three touchdowns.
Then again, at least Bennett was able to score touchdowns…
The Oakland Raider Fall For A REALLY BIG ARM
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Al Davis always loved flashy players. In 2007 he spent the Oakland Raiders’ number one overall draft pick on one of the flashiest college players of all time. The massive armed quarterback out of Louisiana made headlines in college with a video online where he launches a football 70 yards down-field from his knees. We are of course talking about JaMarcus Russell, a player who became such a draft bust he barely lasted two years in the NFL and has not been heard from since. In his very short run as the starting quarterback, Russell completed just 52 percent of his passes and won so few games it’s not worth looking up the actual number.
Jim Harbaugh Gets Divorce Papers From The 49ers
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After years of mediocrity, the San Francisco 49ers won the offseason and convinced Jim Harbaugh to leave Stanford and become their head coach. The move paid off instantly as San Francisco went 13-3 in his first season in 2011 falling just short of making the Super Bowl. In Harbaugh’s second season the 49ers got over the hump and did make the Super Bowl, losing to the Baltimore Ravens. In his third season, the team again made the NFC Championship game but came up yards short to the Seahawks. Seattle went on to win the Super Bowl and begin their own massive run of success. In his 4th year, the 49ers went 8-8 and Harbaugh was unceremoniously “fired” as both sides claimed it was a “mutual parting of ways.” The 49ers haven’t been competitive since, although may finally have a franchise quarterback with Jimmy Garopollo.
The next team our list hasn’t had a good year in decades and doesn’t seem to understand what the term “franchise quarterback” means.
Washington Football Team Trades The Farm For Robert Griffin III
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The Washington Redskins (football team for many), have not had much competitive success since they won their last Super Bowl in the 1980’s. Entering the 2012 draft, the team knew they needed to make a big splash and traded multiple years of their first-round draft picks to trade up and select Robert Griffin III out of Baylor. The move looked brilliant after one season, as Griffin led the team to a 10-6 record and a playoff appearance. The optimism ended there, as Griffin spent the next few years making bad decisions and getting hurt. The team is still searching for relevancy in 2018, having completely bungled the Kirk Cousins situation, the better quarterback they drafted in 2012 without giving up draft picks to get. Yikes!
The NFL Plays On After JFK Is Assassinated
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Reaching back into the history books for this one, the NFL choosing to play games the Sunday after JFK was assassinated in 1963 is pretty shocking. Most major sports postpone games after a national tragedy. Usually, the restart of sports in America signifies the country coming back together, like the Mets playing baseball in New York again after 9/11. The Sunday insensitivity by the league after JFK was assassinated felt like more of a “life goes on” moment than anything else. The story goes then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle called United States Press Secretary Pierre Salinger, who advised Rozelle to play games that Sunday. Rozelle would say after witnessing eerily silent stadiums that playing football that day was one of the worst decisions he ever made.
While this may be the most insensitive decision the NFL ever made, it’s not the only time they should have canceled games.
The “Rhinestone Cowboys”
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In 1987 the NFL and its players were in a dispute that should have led to a labor stoppage and canceled a season. Instead, the league carried on with replacement scabs for three weeks while the labor issues remained unsettled. A few major developments happened during those weeks, like the “Rhinestone Cowboys” in Dallas and Sean Payton becoming the starting quarterback in Chicago. Payton, in case you forgot, brought the city of New Orleans its first Super Bowl title in 2009 with quarterback Drew Brees leading the charge against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. We don’t expect you to actually remember the “Rhinestone Cowboys” though. We honestly don’t!
Aaron Brooks Throws A Pass 25 Yards
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Before the New Orleans Saints were saved with the hiring of Sean Payton and signing of Drew Brees there was quarterback Aaron Brooks. Brooks showed potential in his brief NFL career but made one mistake that doomed him to a life of infamy. Holding a 3-4 mark seven games into the season, Brooks’ Saints were down seven points against the Chargers. On his first offensive possession, Brooks took the ball, turned around, and threw it 25 yards downfield. In the wrong direction. Unsurprisingly the Saints were blown out 43-17 that day and Brooks struggled to maintain an NFL career, retiring a few years later.
At least he didn’t throw away a Super Bowl Title like the next team on our list!
Russell Wilson Throws Away The Super Bowl
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Logic states that if you have Marshawn Lynch with the ball on the goal line and the game about to end, you run the ball. The Seattle Seahawks see the logic in that statement now, after electing to pass the ball straight to the New England Patriots to end the Super Bowl in 2015. With 30 seconds left in the game, Seattle needed a touchdown to win back-to-back Super Bowl titles. Everyone except Bill Belichick was expecting a run. Seattle did the “unexpected” and had Ricardo Lockette run a quick slant in the middle of the field. Malcolm Butler jumped the route and picked the ball off, leading to another Boston title celebration. The Seahawks have stayed competitive since, but the play call has lead to noted in-fighting amongst players and the coaching staff.
Joe Gibbs Loses The Game With Back-To-Back Timeouts
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It was an emotional game the Redskins played that Sunday. It was the first game following the death of Sean Taylor, the team’s 24-year-old franchise defensive back, Holding a 16-14 lead late in the game, the Buffalo Bills got into long field-goal range. Ryan Lindell lined up for the 51-yarder when Washington head coach Joe Gibbs “iced” him and called a timeout. One timeout wasn’t enough for Gibbs, though, who called the second one as Lindell lined up again. Had Gibbs known the rulebook better, he would have known back-to-back timeouts is an automatic unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The Bills gained 15 yards on the play and Lindell hit an easy 36-yard field goal to win the game 17-16…
Sometimes the distance of a field goal doesn’t even matter…
Tony Romo Blows The Hold
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Our final flub involves CBS super announcer Tony Romo. During the 2006 season, the Cowboys thought their season was lost when Drew Bledsoe went down with an injury. Tony Romo, an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Illinois took over the offense and shocked the football world by leading the team to the playoffs. In the Wildcard game, the Cowboys needed a late field goal to win. Despite being entrenched as the team’s starting quarterback, Romo was tasked with holding the ball for the kicker. He dropped the snap, picked up the ball, and ran around wildly until the play failed. The Cowboys lost, and Romo gained a reputation a choker. The reputation would follow him unfairly throughout his career, despite his surprising ability to lead comeback victories. After breaking his back in 2016, Romo officially retired and is finally getting the respect he deserves in the broadcast booth.
Marcus Williams Can’t Tackle
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“This game was over. But I don’t stop playing ’til the clock hits zero,” Stefon Diggs said. And that’s exactly why the Vikings pulled this victory off back in early 2018. All the defense had to do was cover the deep the ball. It was the last play of the game! More specifically, defensive rookie Marcus Williams botched the tackle.
Super Bowl winner Troy Aikman said: “Marcus Williams is going to have to live with this for the entire offseason, and, quite frankly, for the rest of his career.”
Eagles Signing Nnamdi Asomugha
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All this turned out to be was an amazing heist by Nnamdi Asomugha. The aging cornerback inked a deal for $60 million, with $25 million of it guaranteed. Before the Eagles signed him, Asomugha was pretty impressive on the Raiders. His allowed a passer rating in coverage of 66.0 the year before his deal.
When he arrived in Philadelphia, that rating shot up to 120.6. His age showed and Asomugha was out of there at the end of the season. He took the money with him on the way out.
Don’t Mock Greatness… Tulloch Knows
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Sometimes, players get a little too excited. We understand that making a big play is cause for celebration, but that doesn’t mean you get to forget about your limits. Stephen Tulloch forgot and he paid the price.
For one, it’s probably best you don’t mock someone’s celebration, especially if they’re better than you. Tulloch tried to pull off Aaron Rodgers “discount double-check” dance and ended up missing the season. The reason – tearing his ACL mid-gesture.
Marshall Goes The Wrong Way
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There are a lot of embarrassing things that can happen at a sports event. Running in the opposite direction is certainly near the top of that list. Jim Marshall was a defensive end for the Vikings at the time of the event.
He picked up the ball after a fumble and ran it 66-yards. The only thing was he ran it back to the wrong end zone. The only bright side to this is that the Vikings won the game. He still handed the opposition two points by doing it.
The Worst Opening Play Of NFL History
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If your name is Darius Reynaud then you performed the worst season-opening play in the history of NFL. Because he picked up the ball only inches outside of the end zone, he wasn’t able to knee it without penalty.
He must have forgotten that rule or thought the refs didn’t see his toes on the line. As a result, the other team was rewarded two points. What makes it worse is that it was the first play of the whole season, giving other fans ample ammunition to make fun of his team.
Ravens Big Pay Day To Flacco
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Joe Flacco led the Ravens to an unexpected Super Bowl victory back in 2013. If you had the Ravens picked to win it all heading into the season, then you should play the lottery more often. Impressively enough, he did manage to throw 11 touchdowns and 0 interceptions that playoff run.
That’s all it took to make Flacco the highest paid player in NFL history at the time. He never went to a Pro Bowl prior to this and his career passing rating was only 86.3. Years later, he still has nothing to show for it and doesn’t have Pro Bowl in his vocabulary.
Trading An Arm And A Leg For Sammy
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Because we have hindsight, you have to take this mistake with a grain of salt. Still, it’s hard to imagine that trading a valuable first and fourth-round pick to move up five spots in the draft is worth an unproven kid out of college. Especially if he’s still on the draft board at the fourth pick.
The Bills did this for Sammy Watkins. And what do you know, during the 2017 season, they ended up trading away the above average, oft-injured Watkins to the Rams.
The Bears Trading For Jay Cutler
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Jay Cutler had a record of 51-51 across eight seasons with the Chicago Bears. He was acquired in 2009 and haven’t made the playoffs since 2010. If you ask us, it sounds like the GM over there got it all wrong.
The Bears sent two first-round picks, Kyle Orton, and a third-round pick for Cutler. On top of that, he even received an instant two-year $30 million dollar contract. Cutler has nothing to show for during his time in Chicago except a mediocre highlight tape.
The Texans Believing In Osweiler
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After backing up one of the best quarterbacks ever in Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler was bound to have some ounce of potential in him. Which he did and still even might. It’s just not here right now. The Houston Texans thought it was his time and they were wrong.
The Texans haven’t had a true franchise quarterback, so they were desperate to make a move. Believing Osweiler could have been it, they inked him to a four-year $72 million dollar contract. He was gone the following off-season.
Drafting Gabbert Over Watt
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When deciding between offense and defense in the draft, it’s always a tough choice. Especially if a top quarterback is in the mix and that’s a position your team needs. We can’t knock the Jaguars that much, but then again, yes we can.
The Jaguars are notorious for drafting in the top ten, so that means that had many chances to select a serviceable quarterback. The career stats speak for themselves in this debate. J.J. Watt won Defensive Player of the Year three of his first five seasons.
Keeping Marvin Williams For This Long
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We get it, winning in the NFL post-season is a tall task. Since 2003, Marvin Lewis has been the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. During this span, the teams best record has been 12-4 which happened in 2015. They were bounced in the first round of the playoffs that year.
Not only did they not get past the first round their best year record-wise, they’ve never won a playoff game under Williams. Williams is 0-7 in the playoffs, yet he still remains. Other coaches across the league have been cut after one bad season. Maybe just making it to the playoffs is all the fanbase in Cincinnati wants, however, it seems like it might be time to cut ties with Williams.
The Hiring Of Chip Kelly
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The Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2018, but that doesn’t mean it took a lot of trial and error to get to that milestone. A blunder of theirs happens to be hiring Chip Kelly and thinking his college mentality would translate well with the roster they had. Granted, Kelly must have thought the same thing.
TIn the three years he was there, the Eagles went to the playoffs once but didn’t win a game. By the third year, Kelly was fired and the 49ers tried their hand with him. Both teams saw no benefit.
A Fumble Of A Lifetime
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This is when doing too much goes wrong. When the game is about to end and your team hs the lead, all the quarterback needs to do is kneel to run the clock out. In fact, other coaches become disgusted if the opposing team doesn’t do that. The Giants of 1978 didn’t care.
Joe Pisarcik chose not to do this. He instead, elected to hand it off and in the process fumbles it. Herm Edwards scooped up the ball and scored a touchdown giving the Eagles a 19-17 victory.
A Massive Headbutt
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If you want to discuss headbutts than Gus Frerotte is at the top of your list. The former Washington quarterback was a little too happy after scrambling in for a touchdown in 1997. He ran up to the padded wall just beyond the end zone and gave it a mean headbutt.
Not thinking about the consequences, or rather, not thinking at all, Frerotte sustained a sprained neck. He left his team out to dry because he had to be taken to the hospital. The game ended in a draw.
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It’s called the River City Relay and it was a miracle worth telling your grandchildren about. The Saints had rallied back against the Jaguars and as time expired, they tried one last thing. They used three laterals to get down the field and score the ball, bringing the game score to 20-19.
It was up to John Carney to tie the game and send it to overtime. A simple field goal was all that was needed. Carney botched it and ruined one of the most miraculous comebacks ever.
Was It A Catch Or Not?
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On a Hail Mary pass from the rookie at the time Russell Wilson to Golden Tate, defender M.D. Jennings and Tate had it at the same time. One ref called it a touchdown while the other said touchback.
After watching the replay, Tate was under Jennings and appeared to have gained positioning after the fact to make it look better. It was ruled a touchdown and Packers fan couldn’t believe it. After that game, the floodgates to ref mistakes opened.
Once again, someone celebrating the wrong way makes the list. Mimicking the “discount double check” dance is one thing, but when you just want to do your own thing and end up getting hurt, you should have known better from the start.
It was only the first quarter, 42 yards out, and a regular season game. The super excited Bill Gramatica jumped for joy and ended up tearing his ACL. ”My jump was excellent. It was my landing I needed to work on,” he said.
The Refs For Having Bad Aim
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Lineman Orlando Brown was struck in the eye in 1999 and didn’t play again until 2003. How was he struck you ask? The refs threw a wild penalty flag that hit Brown right in the eye. Brown was upset and confronted the ref but ended up getting ejected.
He was hospitalized for a week due to the incident. How hard was the ref throwing this flag? As a result, Brown missed years of football and sued the NFL for it. He settled for millions in the end.
Bad Draft Choice For The Titans
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To reiterate, when a team is in need of a quarterback, bad decisions are made. Once the Vince Young project didn’t work out so well, the Titans were in desperation mode. Enticed by Jake Locker’s cannon of an arm, they jumped the gun and drafted him eighth overall.
What they failed to pay attention to is that he wasn’t always accurate with that cannon. This happened in 2011 and as of 2018, Locker hasn’t thrown an NFL pass in over three years.
Miles Garret Is Still In Dallas
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This is much like the Marvin Lewis scenario. And quite frankly, the fans in Dallas should want more than seven years from a coach and only one playoff victory. With all the talent the team has had, something’s got to give, right?
Their lone playoff victory came in 2014. They would go on to lose to the Packers in the next round. The next year, they didn’t even hit the .500 mark in wins with a record of 4-12. Is this your coach, Dallas?