Of all the professional sports leagues, the NFL tops the list as one of the most difficult for athletes aiming for a long and successful career. Consistency, as well as staying healthy, and injury free, are only a few stress factors for professional football players. They constantly look over their shoulder to make sure a younger, aspiring star doesn’t come up and swoop their spot. But it happens, and many football players are done before they even got started. We’ve compiled a list of NFL players who left the game before you even got to know them. Some of these names should ring a bell.
Larry Brown The Super Bowl MVP
Larry Brown is a name that some have forgotten in football. Brown played for the Dallas Cowboys from 1991-1995. The defensive back had an amazing performance in Super Bowl XXX and wrapped up the year with MVP honors.
Brown also had a pretty good season that year in 1995: making six interceptions, two touchdowns, and 124 return yards. The following season, the Raiders took him from Dallas and he only started one game for Oakland in a span of three years. They cut him from his contract after just 12 games.
The Butt Fumbler – Mark Sanchez
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Mark Sanchez never had standout numbers. He couldn’t compare to Tom Brady or even Eli Manning. However, early in his football career, Sanchez found some success. When Rex Ryan took over for the New York Jets, he became the quarterback. All of sudden, the Jets were in the AFC Championship game for two straight years. They would lose both times to the Steelers and Colts.
The air was full of optimism for Jets fans, something they haven’t felt in a while. Everyone was ready for him to become the franchise quarterback they had wished for. Interestingly enough, he became one of the worst and gave us the infamous “butt fumble” on Thanksgiving Day 2012 when he ran into his teammate’s rear end, and led to another touchdown for the Patriots.
Up next is a running back who ran his way to a Madden cover but vanished soon after.
The Ickey Shuffle
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Do the Ickey Shuffle! As a rookie, Ickey Woods had a sensational season. A season that some veterans can’t even duplicate. He rushed for 1,005 yards and added 15 touchdowns on the year. The Bengals ended up going to the Super Bowl behind his stellar play. Sadly, injuries would not allow for Woods to reach the same heights.
After he tore his ACL, things were never the same. A season consists of 16 games minus the playoffs. He only played 19 more games total the rest of his career. Woods currently coaches the Cincinnati Sizzle in the Women’s Football Alliance.
The Titan That Never Was
Vince Young led his Texas Longhorns to a National Championship over the highly favored USC Trojans. It seemed that he would be poised to be a great NFL quarterback as well when he was drafted by the Tennessee Titans. He struggled his rookie season but showed flashes of greatness so fans were still on his side.
Once he got to the NFL, he essentially became nothing more than a scrambling quarterback. He had an unheard of seven rushing touchdowns in his rookie year. Young just couldn’t figure out the NFL game as well as he did in college and as a result, he was out.
Still to come, more Cleveland Browns and a quarterback who had all the promise in the world.
The Best Cleveland Quarterback In Recent Memory
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One thing that is really sad about the Cleveland Brown organization is the constant dish of mediocracy they keep serving their fans. Year after year the fans have to endure a terrible season. Then one year, Derek Anderson showed up and things started to look up.
Anderson led the Browns to a 10-6 record. He threw for 29 touchdowns and people thought the Browns were going to turn the corner. The very next year, Anderson fell apart. He only played nine games and ended up being benched. He is now nothing more than a backup.
The Magic Man
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Imagine finishing second in MVP voting and leading your team to the playoffs. And the only reason you finished second was thanks to Joe Montana. For Don Majkowski, this is a reality. In 1989, he threw for 27 touchdowns during the regular season. Then a couple injury-riddled seasons sucked the magic right out of the ‘Magic Man’.
This made Green Bay realize they had to move forward. So they substituted Majkowski with Brett Farve. Farve would go on to become a legend and Majkowski spent the rest of his career as a backup.
Washington’s Future Down The Drain
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What can we say about Robert Griffin III? Someone that had so much potential had it all snatched away, thanks to a knee issue. In college, Griffin was also an Olympic caliber track and field athlete in the hurdles. During his rookie season, he won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award after passing for 3,200 yards and running 815 yards.
There was some skepticism surrounding his first playoff game because his knee wasn’t fully healed. Many thought he should have sat the game out but Griffin still played. As a result, he tore his ACL. After that, his running prowess was limited and he was reduced to just a pocket passer. He was never the same again.
Michael Clayton Falls Right Off
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When Michael Clayton was drafted in 2004 by the Buccaneers, Tampa Bay had no clue what they were about to witness. As a rookie, he turned in 1,193 yards paired with seven touchdowns. But it looks like that season was fool’s gold. He would never have another successful year.
Clayton’s next best season had him at 484 yards and only one touchdown. From stud to bust, Clayton is the definition of a one-hit wonder. He would go on to play for the Giants as well but nothing came of it. He was out of the league quick.
Up next, another “quarterback of the future”. Boy, were they wrong.
Don’t Say Beuerlein In Carolina
The people of Carolina are still haunted by the name of Steve Beuerlein. They thought he was the quarterback of the future, but he let them down. Maybe fans should wait and see what happens before jumping to grandiose predictions. However in 1999, he did give them a reason to believe he would perform. Beuerlein put up monstrous numbers: 4,436 passing yards and 36 touchdowns.
Like many of the other players on this list, the following season was not the same. He left Carolina for the Denver Broncos for two seasons but only started five games during that time. Beuerlein ended up retiring and becoming an NFL analyst.
From Covers To Retired: Peyton Hillis
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Maybe this fall from grace is the result of the notorious “Madden cover curse”. The curse states that any player that is on the cover of the EA Sports Game will have a terrible year the following season. For Peyton Hillis, he had to retire. In 2010, Hillis pulled a fast one on the Browns’ fan base and fantasy football owners.
He gathered 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns. These stats are what led to his Madden cover and him holding out from training camp so he could get more money. He ended up never running for more than 600 yards in a season following that great year. He also had to retire several years later due to concussion fears.
Josh “Stay Off The Drugs” Gordon
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Josh Gordon is a freak of nature. His talents speak loudly but we bet he wishes his off-the-field activities weren’t out in the open. While at Baylor, he said that he made as much as $10,000 a month selling marijuana. He also didn’t plan on living past the age of 18. That might explain his constant troubles while in the NFL.
As a 22-year old, he led the NFL in receiving and was selected to his first all-pro team. However, Gordon has played fewer than nine games since then and was suspended for both the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
No Salsa For Cruz
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Victor Cruz was once the pride and joy of the G-Men in New York. Before Odell Beckham burst onto the scene there was the salsa dancing receiver. Cruz had three amazing seasons consecutively from 2011-2013. Then the 2014 season came around and an injury limited Cruz to six games.
He would also go on to miss the entire 2015 season (enter Beckham) and seemingly fell right off the map. In 2016, he played all but one game but only caught for half of the yards he caught during his time as the leading receiver on the Giants.
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Much like Vince Young and Reggie Bush before him, Tim Tebow had a fantastic college career. That is how he attained so much fame but scouts didn’t see his game translating to the professional level. His rookie season started out slow, but he turned that around quickly as he led the Denver Broncos to the playoffs.
In a remarkable turn of events, he mounted a comeback against the Steelers and won in the first round. That would be Tebow’s greatest moment as a professional athlete. He ended up becoming a backup for many teams before giving up the NFL. As of January 2018, he is trying to make it in the MLB.
The Little Train
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There are only a few players in NFL history who have been able to sustain being an all-purpose player. Lionel “Little Train” James was an all-purpose beast in 1985. He returned the ball, he rushed for over 500 yards and caught for over 1,000 yards. James would lead the NFL in all-purpose yards with over 2,500.
Eight of his 14 career touchdowns came from scrimmage that season. He also had as many yards that season as he would for the next three years combined. ‘One-hit wonder’ should have been his nickname.
The Other Steve Smith
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We’re sure you’ve heard of the great receiver Steve Smith who spent the majority of his career with the Carolina Panthers before going to the Baltimore Ravens. That Smith had a Hall of Fame-caliber career. This Steve Smith would have had a career as such if he kept up what he did when he was 24.
Smith caught for 1,200 yards and had over 100 receptions. Those are amazing numbers. But as the theme goes, he would never duplicate that again and now, people only remember one Smith.
Click next to see a real disappearing act.
Just Where Did Barnidge Go?
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The year that Gary Barnidge had a great season, fantasy football owners thought they hit the lotto. There aren’t that many tight ends in the NFL that consistently perform at a high leve, with the exception of Gronk. The Cleveland Browns also thought they had a great player and threw a lot of money Barnidge’s way.
In 2015, out of the blue, he caught for 1,000 yards. He would end that season with 79 catches and nine touchdowns. The following season Barnidge caught 55 passes and only scored twice. He is now a free agent.
The Great Mystery
Nick Foles had one of the best seasons a quarterback could have in 2013. Everyone was tricked into thinking he was the next big thing- not just the fans in Philadelphia. His first year under Chip Kelly, Foles threw for 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
They would go on to the playoffs behind his play but the following seasons were not the same. His touchdown-to-interception stat was 20 to 20. A huge difference from what we saw during his accurate season. The Eagles gave up on him and so did the Rams during that time frame. But it looks like he turned his fortune around with his Super Bowl victory. Will history repeat itself?
Joe Senser’s Career Fizzled Out
For a rookie tight end, Joe Senser had an okay season. He brought in a total of 447 yards back in 1980. The next season is why he is on this list. The Minnesota Viking erupted in 1981. Senser caught for over 1,000 yards. That is a vast improvement for any position. Then the player strike came. And to make things worse, he had a knee injury the next year. He would then go on to only get 361 total yards through the span of his entire career.
Timmy Smith Shows Up Then Goes Away
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Here we have another player who showed up when it mattered most. Timmy Smith of the Redskins had himself a game in Super Bowl XXII. The Redskins starting running back was often injured during the ’87 season so Smith got the start. How did he thank them? He set a Super Bowl record with 204 yards and two touchdowns.
The Redskins won 42-10. Naturally, Smith held out on offseason duties in hopes of securing a bigger contract after his huge game. When he finally showed up, he was overweight. By week nine of that season, he had lost the starting job.
The Iconic Catch
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This player pulled off a play that ruined the Patriots chances of completing a perfect season. And just like a few others on this list, his wonder came while he was in the Super Bowl. David Tyree had 35 yards and no touchdowns but that’s not what matters. The Giants were down by 4 with 1:15 left on the clock.
Eli Manning threw the ball almost blindly about 30 yards to Tyree. When he jumped up for it, he pinned it against his helmet as he came down to the ground. This catch is what led to the Giants game-winning drive. The “helmet catch” will go down as one of the greatest plays in NFL history. But it also happened to be the last catch for Tyree.
Gets Paid For Nothing
It wasn’t that that Shane Olivea had one great season that led him here to this list. No, Olivea was a consistent player for the San Diego Chargers playing the right tackle position. He only missed one game his first two seasons. For being such a pivotal player, the Chargers gave him a six-year, $20 million contract extension.
He went on to play two more seasons for the Chargers but got benched the year after his contract. He then got cut for missing a drug test after failing for painkillers. That contract was for not.
Injured And Depressed
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Shawn Andrews was drafted by the Eagles and was immediately put into the starting guard role. Unfortunately, he broke his leg in the first game. He came back the next season ready to play and became the anchor for the offensive line. He got Pro Bowl honors in 2006 and 2007.
Sadly, before the start of 2008, he didn’t show up to the start of training camp. He came out and said he was dealing with depression and that he was seeking professional help. When he came back he suffered a back injury that knocked him out for the year. That ended up being his last game.
Stay Off The Drugs
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The second-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals from 2005 played better than a second-round pick. Odell Thurman would end the season with 10 forced turnovers and that propelled him to be a finalist for the Defensive Rookie of the Year. This set up high expectations for his following season.
One thing after another would happen next. Thurman ended up failing various drug tests and being suspended by the NFL. Once he came back from his first suspension he was cut and ended up failing another test. The NFL never would see him play again.
The Injury Bug Got Him
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BobSanders was great at defense. He was a Pro Bowler, All-Pro athlete and a Defensive Player of the Year. In only his third season he was winning Super Bowls and making interceptions in the Super Bowl. But he only got better after that. In the 2007 season, he won the Defensive Player of the Year.
He ended up signing a $37.5 million contract that year making him the highest paid safety in NFL history at the time. but injuries would hit him because of his aggressive style of play that made him the player he is. He ended up only playing 11 more games in the next four years.
An Infection To End It All
LeCharles Bentley found success right from the start once he was drafted by the Saints. He came in playing the right guard and would make NFL All-Rookie honors. His second season he would make the Pro Bowl. After 2005, he would leave the Saints and head to the Browns (probably his biggest mistake).
He ended up tearing his patellar tendon and he was forced to miss the whole season. He also suffered from a staph infection in the knee. Two years in Cleveland and he didn’t see the field once. He ended up retiring in 2009 but not without suing the Browns.
Only Four Years Of Playing
Cleveland Elam was a great defensive tackle. He came in and helped the San Francisco 49ers a big amount. Elam was drafted in the fourth round of the ’75 draft and had two breakout seasons. The defense in San Fransico had the nickname of “Gold Rush” and they don’t just hand out a nickname for defenses all the time.
He earned the right to play in the Pro Bowl in ’76 and ’77 and also first-team All-Pro honors in ’77. But that’s the thing about football. More than any other sport, you can see your career go down the drain just like that. Injuries forced him to retire early in 1979.
Back To Regular for Hatcher
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For his first five years as a Dallas Cowboy, Jason Hatcher was just a backup defensive lineman. The third-round pick of the ’06 draft would see a new day after the Cowboys hired Rob Ryan as their defensive coordinator. Hatcher would shift into the starting role and have a breakout season in 2013.
He was named to the Pro Bowl and got a huge contract of $27.5 million with the Redskins. He had to battle through knee injuries for the following two seasons and that brought him back to mediocre. He ended up retiring in 2016.
No More Johnny Manziel
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Say hello to Johnny Manziel. The Texas A&M product was a sensational college athlete. At his size, it was amazing to see the 6′ 0″209-pound quarterback turn the field into his canvas. He broke countless records while in college and was primed to excel in the NFL after winning the Heisman.
The Browns traded up to pick Manziel hoping to have their quarterback of the future. That was not the case. Manziel got to the pros and didn’t start. Whispers of him complaining were circulating around the league. Then one day, the starting quarterback got hurt and it was Manziel’s time to shine. He blew it. He had some good plays but nothing worthwhile like everyone envisioned. He is now out of the league.
A Career High Followed By An Immediate Low
Jim O’Brien was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in the third round of the ‘70s draft and started his rookie season on a pretty lackluster note. As the Colts kicker, he was far below average and hit just 56 percent of his kicks. That season, however, the Colts won the AFC and made it to the Super Bowl against the Cowboys. O’Brien showed up with his game face on at the right time because he hit a 32-yard field goal during a 13-13 game with just five seconds left. Talk about a huge win. Unfortunately, this would prove to be a career highlight for O’Brien who went on to kick for three more seasons kicking only a 55.6%.
What Could Have Been?
Greg Cook’s former coach, Bill Walsh, said he “could have very well been remembered or noted as the greatest quarterback of all time.” During his rookie season, Cook showcased arm strength, athletism, and accuracy: Things every NFL team wants. He also set the all-time record for yards-per-attempt in one season.
However, only three games in, Cook tore his rotator cuff on his throwing shoulder. He powered through and would get surgery in the offseason. Cook wasn’t the same when he came back, and ended up playing only one more game as a pro.
Sidelined By An Injury
Bob Grupp was picked by the New York Jets in the seventh round of the ‘77 draft but wouldn’t make it onto the roster until 1979 for the Kansas City Chiefs. In his first NFL season, Grupp lead the NF with a gross punting average of 43.6 and the longest punt at 74 yards. These stats earned him a rightful spot on the Pro Bowl and NFL All-Rookie team lineup. Things were on the up and up for newcomer Grupp, that is, until the following season. His performance saw a significant drop, mainly due to an injury that wasn’t diagnosed early on in the season. He went on to perform one more partial season until he was cut in 1981.
Things Were Going So Well
NFL players aren’t the only one-hit wonders on the field — there are coaches who fall into this category too. Take Bill Callahan for example, which was a great offensive line coach. Callahan spent 1998 through 2001 as Offensive Coordinator for the Oakland Raiders. In 2002 he took the Head Coach position after the Raiders sent then-head coach John Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for four draft picks as well as a cool $8 million.
Callahan proved to be a valuable asset and took the team to the Super Bowl in his first year with them. The Raiders ended up against who else than Gruden and the Bucs in the big game where Tampa dominated on the field.
Things only got more interesting from there.
Did Bill Callahan Lose On Purpose?
Despite a great first season as Head Coach, things fell apart next year for both Callahan and the Raiders. But what was even worse is that rumors began to swirl that Callahan had purposefully bombed the season because he thought the players were too old. The Raiders ended the seasons 4-12, which prompted owner Al Davis to fire Callahan when the season was over. Since then, Callahan hasn’t seen another head coaching position although he is currently the offensive line coach for the Washington Redskins
The Reverse One-Hit Wonder
Michael Lewis has one of the more interesting NFL stories on our list and his story is sort of a reverse one-hit wonder. Lewis graduated from high school in 1990 but wouldn’t see his first time on the field in an NFL game for nearly 11 years. Although he didn’t play college football, he did play for semi-professional and arena football teams through the ‘90s. It was in 2000 that he got his first chance to play in the NFL with the Eagles, but he was cut before the season even began. But Lewis proved he wasn’t done…
From Beer Man to Team Ambassador
Michael Lewis was cut from the Eagles before he even had a chance to show his skills on the field. So, he returned home and continued to work his day job as a beer delivery man. Then by chance, Lewis was offered a chance to play with his hometown team, the Saints. He was sent overseas to play for the Rhein Fire in NFL Europe but eventually returned to the U.S. where he became the primary return specialist for the Saints. He was 30 by now and took the league by storm. Although he had a stellar first season on the field, he never had quite the same oomph after that.
Wayne Haddix Was Briefly The Interception King
Wayne Haddix had an incredible season in 1990. After spending his first three seasons fighting against a slew of injuries while playing for the New York Giants, he finally got his time to shine. His talents on the field took him all the way to the Super Bowl, playing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. During this shining season, he had some impressive stats including seven passes (three of which he returned for touchdowns). He even made the Pro Bowl. Unfortunately for Haddix, those would be the last interceptions of his career.
The Interception King Loses His Crown
The following season, Haddix was cut from the Bucs. Unfortunately for the athlete, even his stellar stats from the previous season just couldn’t cover up the fact that he was not a good cover corner. He wound up playing with the Cincinnati Bengals, but was soon cut from the team too in 1991. Although he ended on a pretty sour note, at least Haddix will be remembered for the time he totally killed it on the field during the Tecmo Super Bowl.
Mike Jones Made History At The Super Bowl
Mike Jones was an undrafted free agent with the Raiders and spent his early career as a special team and role player. He eventually signed with the St. Louis Rams in ‘97 and started the majority of games at linebacker. He played for the Rams for three seasons and had a good, but not an incredible career. That is until he became the stuff of NFL legends during the 2000 Super Bowl after one memorable play…
Mike Jones And “The Tackle”
During the 2000 Super Bowl with just 2:12 left in the game, the Tennessee Titans had just finished a 16-point comeback. This tied up the two teams leading the impending victory uncertain. The next drive daw Kurt Warner hit Isaac Bruce with a 73-yard touchdown pass. As the Titans moved down the field, they got the ball within the 10-yard line and only six seconds to go. While Steve McNair hit Kevin Dyson, Mike Jones made a play that is now known as “The Tackle.” Jones took down Dyson with just one yard to go as he tried to stretch the ball over the line. He was unsuccessful, and Jones had his one-hit wonder moment.
Chicago Just Can’t Get A Quarterback
In recent years, the Bears have had bad luck with quarterbacks. We are not going to get started on Jay Cutler because this is about Rex Grossman. Grossman was selected in the first round of the 2003 draft by the Chicago Bears. His first three years were spent on the bench practically, thanks to injuries.
When he played his first full season in 2006, the Bears ended up in the Super Bowl! They lost to Peyton Manning and Colts. During that season Grossman had seven games with a passer rating over 100. The next season, he was benched after three poor games and spent the rest of his career as a backup.
Bad Boy McMahon
Another Chicago Bears quarterback for you. Jim McMahon was a bad boy. He had the job of making sure the offense didn’t screw up things for the best defense in NFL history. Sounds easy but one wrong move and that messes up all the momentum that the defense created for the team.
The bears went to Super Bowl XX and McMahon became the first quarterback to rush for two touchdowns in the Super Bowl. The Bears never did return to Super Bowl form after that season and McMahon ended his career as a journeyman playing backup for different teams.
Run Reggie, Run
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Reggie Bush was once ‘the man’ in college. While at USC, he performed highlight plays consecutively and just seemed unstoppable. The Heisman winner was the focus of the draft in 2006 with the Saints selected him. However, when he got to the pros, that same spark wasn’t there.
In 2009, the Saints would win the Super Bowl and Bush’s postseason performance was solid. In one game, he ran back an 83-yard punt (very reminiscent of his USC days) and a 46-yard touchdown run. He would go on to be named an All-Pro. But sadly, that was Bush’s brightest moment. The journeyman has been on several teams since and hasn’t done much in the league.
Lofty Expectations For Bennett
If you owned Drew Bennett during the 2004 season on your fantasy team then chances are your team more than likely made the playoffs. Bennett tied an NFL record when he scored eight touchdowns in only three games that season! When the season was finished, he had 1,247 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.
Naturally, people expected similar production the following season. Sadly, he never reached 1,000 yards again and would never get more than four touchdowns in any season after. 2009 was his final year thanks to a knee injury. You can’t expect someone to repeat that kind of performance unless they’re ready for greatness.
The Chargers Thought
David Boston was fools gold. He had just come off a 1,598 receiving yard season with the Arizona Cardinals so the San Diego Chargers thought they found their man at the receiving position. Sure enough, they signed him to a seven-year deal worth $47 million dollars. They had a lot of faith riding on this man.
That contract was signed in 2002 and just two years later he ended up missing an entire season. The Chargers then released him and the Miami Dolphins ended up picking him up. It didn’t work out in Miami and the Tampa Bay Bucs gave him a shot but released him shortly after because he was arrested.
Charles Was On The White
Isn’t it ironic? Charles White was a former Heisman winner out of USC. He was selected in the first round of the 1980 draft by the Cleveland Browns. he is considered a draft-day bust. The Browns ended up cutting White after four bad seasons with the team.
White would later come out to admit he was using cocaine during that time.The Rams then gave him a chance and he didn’t let them down. He ended up rushing for 1,387 yards and 11 touchdowns. That led the NFL that year but he ended up retiring right after that season.
Top Rookie Of 2008
The Houston Texans are relatively new franchise having been established in 2002. Throughout the years, they have made some improvements and they seem to be on the right track with their draft picks. In 2008, they selected Steve Slaton in the third round.
The running back stormed onto the NFL scene with a whopping 1,282 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. Those numbers were good enough for sixth in the NFL and the best for rookie running backs. But he would end up having a huge sophomore slump that led to him getting benched. By 2011, he was out of the league.
Freak Incident For Edwards
If you ever wondered why the NFL holds the Pro Bowl after the season instead of mid-season like many other professional sports then wonder no more. Robert Edwards was selected by the New England Patriots in 1998. He ran for 1,1000 yards his rookie year.
Before the Pro Bowl took place, there was a rookie flag football game held on the beaches on Hawaii. Edwards ended up suffering a terrible knee injury in the game. It was so bad that he almost had to get his leg amputated below the knee. He would return three years later but was not the same.
Trying To Prove A Point
So there was this theory that Coach Mike Shanahan could get 1,000 yards out of any running back. Olandis Gary just happens to be one of the players that this theory was applied to. Once Terrell Davis got injured in 1999, Gary took over and he helped prove the theory to be true.
He rushed for 1,159 yards and brought in seven touchdowns during the process. Then the following season came and Gary ended up hurting his knee and he never returned to his previous form. When the 2004 season started, he was out of the league.
Grayed Out Of New England
Here we have another New England back. And recently, it seems like the Patriots treat running backs like soldiers. They come in and do their job and if they can’t they will not play. There is always a new back behind Tom Brady and Jonas Gray was one of them.
Gray led the team in rushing yards in 2014 with 412 yards. That just goes to show that the rotation there is in heavy effect. But what makes this even worse is that he gained most of those yards from one game (201 yards against the Colts). The rest of his career he only had 260 yards.
Before Ben There Was Tommy
We know Big Ben is a force to be reckoned with but who was in the pocket before him? His name was Tommy Maddox. It took him ten years before he made an impact. He was selected 25th overall in the 1992 draft by the Denver Broncos. His career was a pitfall and he even was out of the league at one point before returning in 2002.
He took over as starting quarterback for the Steelers in 2002. He led them to an AFC Wild Card victory. They would then fail to the Tennessee Titans. Nothing more notable happened to him after that and then Big Ben came.
Who Is Dalton Hilliard?
If you were to bring up the name Dalton Hilliard, chances are most fans today won’t recognize that name. Some Saints fans might remember him but barely. He was coming off a great college career. Hilliard gathered the fifth most touchdowns in SEC history while playing for LSU. The Saints picked him 31st in the 1986 draft.
He had a decent start to his NFL career but nothing much came of it. His best season was in 1989. He ran for 1,262 yards and 13 touchdowns. Not much else to brag about other than that.
Steve The Lion
We have here another Steve. Steve Owens was a great collegiate player. Only one person can win the Heisman every year and he won it back in 1969. He played with the Oklahoma Sooners and had 4,069 yards throughout his college career. Then the Detroit Lions drafted him in 1970.
It took Owens until his second season to make an impact on the Lions. He rushed for 1,035 yards that season and scored eight touchdowns as well. He was the first Lions player to ever reach 1,000 rushing yards in one season.
Scott Mitchell Didn’t Live Up to The Hope
After he had successfully backed up Hall of Famer Dan Marino in Miami, the Detroit Lions figured he would be the perfect quarterback for them in 1994. The Lions thought they were going to have an unstoppable passing offense. Once his career with the Lions started, that didn’t exactly pan out.
His first year ended with injury as he looked stressed on the field. He was throwing highly inaccurate passes. The next season he ended up giving the Lions his best. He broke the Lions passing record and touchdown record. But he would never return to that form again. The Lions fanbase ran him out of town quick.
Super Bowl Champ Rypien
An ultimate one-hit wonder would be a player, specifically a quarterback, winning a Super Bowl with amazing statistics and then not returning to that level ever again. For Mark Rypien, that is the story. After riding the bench for years on end, he finally got his chance in 1991. The lead quarterbacks both were either traded or injured so it was his time to shine.
Rypien shined in the best way a bench player can when he led the Redskins to the Super Bowl victory. The next season, he suffered a season-ending injury and was never the same.
Hailing from Notre Dame, Rick Mirer was supposed to be the next Joe Montana. He was also set to be the one who would make things all better over in Seattle. Thanks to a terrible season, Seattle was able to snag Mirer with the second overall pick in the 1993 draft.
His first season showed signs of life and gave a new hope to the fans of Seattle. He broke records and made it look easy. Too bad after that, all the hope would vanish. He would only throw double-digit touchdowns once more in his career. The Seahawks traded him to the Bears in 97 and there was not much more to show for afterward.
The Ultimate Comeback
How many quarterbacks can say they pulled off the greatest comeback in NFL playoff history? Frank Reich can say it. Reich was the backup when the playoffs started but when the starter got injured, he got the start in the Wild Card round against the Oilers. By the third quarter, his team was down 35-3. By the time the clock had expired in regulation, the game was tied and they went on to win in overtime.
He led the Bills to another playoff victory but by the AFC Championship game, the real starter had returned and Reich went back to the bench. He would never become a starter and just played backup for the rest of his career.
Jay Shows Flashes
Like most others on this list, Jay Fiedler had shown glimpses of greatness when he had to come in a make a start. While he was in Jacksonville, his play had other teams convinced that he could lead their team. The Dolphins bit on on the fools gold and signed him to take over for Dan Marino in 2000.
When he arrived in Miami, he actually strung together some pretty good seasons. They made the playoffs a few times and he had 20 touchdown season. But the real reason that team was so good was thanks to the dominant defense. He would never put up stats like that again.
Injuries Robbed Rob
Jacksonville had Rob Johnson patiently waiting on the bench. He played behind Mark Brunell and Steve Beuerlein. One game in 1997, he finally got a start and put his talents to use. He racked up nearly 300 passing yards and three touchdowns with one of them being a rushing touchdown. That following season, Jacksonville used him as trade bait and teams wanted him.
Sadly, his career ended up being filled with injuries and letdowns. Other teams just fell in love with other players. But he will always have that game where he impressed everyone.
Not The Elvis You Thought
The 49ers chose Elvis Grbac in the eighth round of the 1993 draft. He waited on the bench behind Steve Young for three years before the Chiefs to sign him as a free agent. He was supposed to replace the retiring Joe Montana. It’s always tough when you have to replace a legend.
He stunk it up in Kansas up until the 200 season when he threw for over 4,100 yards and 28 touchdowns. He would be selected to the pro bowl that year. The Ravens ended up picking him up after that year in hopes that he would produce the same and they were out of luck.
The Super Percy
If you want to know something crazy then brace yourself. Imagine your first and only catch as a professional football player came in the form of a touchdown in the Super Bowl for the Dallas Cowboys.
“When he looked for the pass, it was there,” Steve Wulf wrote for Sports Illustrated. “Howard caught the ball, cradled it as if it were an egg and fell backward on pay dirt, with his legs sticking up like a pair of scissors. In fact, that’s about all you can see in the replays of the catch, just a pair of legs pointing in the air.”