So it's now March and the NFL Draft is right around the corner.
And after that?
Well, we don't know yet. Common sense would tell us that there will be a season, but we'll just have to wait and see.
If there's not, then it could very well make this list. But for right now, these are the 25 biggest "fails" in AFC History. Everything from botched draft picks, bad trades, missed opportunities and just everything in general that would constitute a fail in every sense of the word.
Unfortunately for Jets fans, they're going to be on this list quite a bit. And I assure them that it is only a matter of circumstance and a coincidence at best and not a concerted effort to embarrass the organization. Besides, they seem to do that themselves.
But anyway, here's the 25 biggest fails in AFC History.
The Browns had a tough decision when they re-entered the league in 1999 and held the No. 1 pick in the draft, trying to choose which quarterback will be the face of the franchise for the next decade as an elated fan base welcomed back its team.
And in that draft there were so many to choose from. Couch and Akili Smith were the two that rose to the top and Cleveland decided to take Couch.
Twelve years and one playoff game later, Couch is out of the league and the Browns are still searching for a quarterback. And it can't help that eight of the first 11 picks in that draft went on to be Pro Bowlers, including the man taken after Couch, Donovan McNabb.
For two teams that have a relatively short history, the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars have built up quite a rivalry in the last decade or so. Texans fans will remember that one of the franchise's early highlights was David Carr's leaping touchdown with no time left to beat the Jaguars back in 2003.
But when the two teams met in Jacksonville last season, no one expected the finish that ensued. In a tie game, David Garrard heaved up a Hail Mary with no time remaining. Houston's Glover Quin did what he was taught to do and knocked the ball down.
Unfortunately for him, the ball went out instead of straight down and fell right into the hands of Mike Thomas, who stepped into the end zone for the game-winning score. It was a finish that has summed up the Texans' existence to date and it also introduced the world to the Law of Gus.
It was the quarterback battle that took over Western New York in the late 1990s.
Rob Johnson might be the only quarterback in NFL history to get traded for a first round pick and earn himself a starting job for all of one start in 1997. Yet that's what Wade Phillips and the Bills did in 1998, and Johnson repaid them with three seasons of inconsistent play while the charismatic Doug Flutie won the fans (and games) for parts of three seasons.
Still, eventually the Bills went with Johnson. And not surprisingly, it's a decision they've paid for ever since.
For most of their history, the New England Patriots had one of the more recognizable and stylish uniforms in the league. How can we forget Pat Patriot standing over a football in the three-point stance?
But unfortunately for Pat, the logo was also synonymous with losing. So in 1993, the Patriots did away with the Pat Patriot logo for a more modern look.
The result was "Flying Elvis." And while the logo has now become linked with winning, seeing as how the Patriots are one of the more dominant franchises in the NFL, it's still hard to get used to that logo, especially when you pair it with the early uniforms that looked like a failed NFL Europe prototype.
Bill Belichick is now one of the best coaches in the NFL, but only 10 years ago he was Bill Parcells' personal defensive coordinator. Belichick had been with Parcells with the Giants, the Patriots and the Jets and a large part of Parcells' success at those stops was because of Belichick.
So when Parcells resigned from the Jets before the 2000 season, Belichick was moved up to the head coaching role.
And he was a great head coach, for all of one day. From Pete McEntegart of SI.com:
"Just before taking the podium, Belichick scrawled out an impromptu resignation note from the position of 'HC of the NYJ' on a piece of loose-leaf," McEntegart wrote. "Belichick then befuddled the New York media with a rambling monologue that lasted more than a half-hour; his only coherent complaint was that the team's impending sale to a yet-undetermined owner made him nervous."
Not too long after, Belichick went to New England to be the head coach, and the Jets settled on Al Groh. I think we all know who came out on top of that battle.
There's no doubt that Dan Marino will go down as one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game, along with names like Elway and Montana.
But for all his accomplishments, Marino was never able to get back to the Super Bowl after his rookie season. And out of all the games he played in the NFL, one would think that he would probably want his last game back: a 62-7 beatdown by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 1999 AFC Divisional Round, where Marino was 11-of-25 for 95 yards with a touchdown and two picks.
If there was any karma about the Jaguars ending Dan Marino's career in that fashion, it came the next week in the AFC Championship.
Jacksonville entered the game as the heavy favorite, the No. 1 seed in the AFC with one of the best offenses and the best defenses in the league. They showed it early as well, jumping out to a 14-7 lead and holding the lead at halftime.
But that was all a distant memory after the Titans scored 23 unanswered points in the second half to cruise to a 33-14 upset win. The Titans continued their miracle run to Atlanta, while the Jaguars haven't played a home playoff game since and go down as one of the better teams in recent memory not to make a Super Bowl.
Mike Vanderjagt will forever be remembered in this generation as the guy Peyton Manning called "our idiot kicker." And to be honest, I don't know what makes it worse, the fact that Manning said it in an interview or the fact that Manning said it in an interview during the Pro Bowl? Either way, the latter was automatically more exciting and enthralling than the actual Pro Bowl.
Thanks to Manning's remark, Vanderjagt will be remembered by Colts fans for his badly shanked kick at the end of the 2005 AFC Divisional Playoff against Pittsburgh that would've won the game. Instead it propelled the Steelers to the improbable win in Super Bowl XL.
Peyton Manning finally got his ring a year later, with a new kicker.
Let's put it this way, whenever a play has a nickname, there's usually something memorable about it.
September 10, 1978, Raiders at Chargers. Late in the game, Oakland is driving for a score when an attempt by Ken Stabler to avoid a sack set off one of the most bizarre plays in NFL history, known simply as the "Holy Roller."
From the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Web site:
"Chargers defensive end Fred Dean broke through the line and hit Stabler. Realizing there was nothing else he could do as the seconds ticked away, 'The Snake' hurled the ball forward. As the ball rolled loose on the ground, Raiders running back Pete Banaszak swatted it toward the end zone. Tight end Dave Casper continued the ball’s forward motion with a kick at the five yard line and then fell on in it in the end zone for a touchdown as the clock ran out."
Stabler later admitted he fumbled the ball forward on purpose, according to the release, but the play still stood and Oakland won the game. It was a game that eventually changed the rules and also provided one of the more memorable calls in NFL history.
For some reason, the New York Jets and the NFL Draft just don't mesh.
Every year, the Jets faithful (including Fireman Ed) pack Radio City Music Hall (or the Theater at Madison Square Garden back in the day) and every year the pick seems to get booed with few exceptions.
And considering the Jets' draft history, it's an understandable reaction. Roger Vick, Kyle Brady, Vernon Gholston; there's a whole list of players the Jets have taken that haven't panned out. And in the case of Brady, when you're taken ahead of Warren Sapp, that might leave the fanbase a little concerned.
Craig Morton is a unique player in NFL history.
He and Kurt Warner are the only players to lead two different teams to a Super Bowl, but when it came to the big game, Morton hasn't exactly played the best. His first performance wasn't exactly outstanding with the Cowboys in Super Bowl V, although to be fair, no one looked very god in the game known as the "Blunder Bowl."
But when Morton led the Broncos to Super Bowl XII against his old team, he didn't fare much better. The result was a staggering 4-of-15 passing for 39 yards and four interceptions in the Cowboys' win. The performance (or lack thereof) solidified Morton's place in the history books as owning two of the worst performances in Super Bowl history for a quarterback.
From the quarterback who struggled as a quarterback to the kicker who tried to be a quarterback.
Almost 40 years later, Garo Yepremian's flubbed throw, known as "Garo's Gaffe," is still one of the most well-known follies in NFL history. The miscue came with the Dolphins trying to secure Super Bowl VII and the perfect season.
After the kick was blocked, Yepremian ran with the ball towards the sideline. But instead of just falling on the ball, Yepremian tried to throw a pass. The result was some sort of wild flailing and volleyball-type of throw that bounced out of his hands and right to Washington's Mike Bass, who returned it for a touchdown.
Yepremian fell victim to the gaffe, but the Dolphins still won the game and secured the perfect season.
For his entire career, Marino and the New York Jets were intertwined. Some of Marino's biggest accomplishments and best wins came at the Jets' expense.
One of the more memorable ones came late in 1994 when the Dolphins and Jets met in the Meadowlands with the AFC East lead on the line. Marino had brought the Dolphins back from an early 17-0 deficit and was driving Miami to the winning score, but the Dolphins had no timeouts and less than 30 seconds left.
With the last few seconds left, Marino took the snap, faked a spike and quickly popped the ball up and threw to the corner of the end zone where Mark Ingram was wide open behind a napping Aaron Glenn.
Marino won the game and the division, while the Jets fired Pete Carroll after the season and replaced him with Rich Kotite after missing the playoffs.
It's never a good sign when fans know who the referees are, save for the NFL's annual entry in the Mr. Universe contest, Ed Hochuli.
But controversy followed Phil Luckett around, especially in 1998 when his botched calls did in two AFC teams. The first was the famously botched overtime coin toss during the Thanksgiving Day game between the Steelers and Lions where he claimed Jerome Bettis called "heads-tails" when the coin flip came up tails. Detroit was awarded the ball and won the game on the first possession.
It only got worse later in the season when Vinny Testaverde was given a touchdown on a quarterback sneak in the last minute of a Jets-Seahawks game that turned out to be the game-winning score. Unfortunately for the Seahawks, the replays showed Testaverde was clearly down before the ball crossed the plain.
Either way, it was a tough few weeks for Luckett that eventually led to referees calling the coin toss before the coin is flipped and eventually getting the replay challenge system into the NFL in 1999.
When John Elway forced his way into Denver in 1983, he immediately became the heart and soul of the Broncos.
Elway led the Broncos to three Super Bowls in four seasons from 1986-1989 in the prime of his career. Unfortunately for him, the Broncos were beaten badly in all three Super Bowls and were outscored by a combined 136-40.
Of course, it wasn't all Elway's fault. He was done in each time by three of the better Super Bowl performances by quarterbacks (Phil Simms, Doug Williams, Joe Montana), and for what it was worth, the Broncos' defense was shredded each time.
It wasn't until 1997 when the Broncos went to the comma/Nike subliminal advertising jersey that Elway finally won his ring. Although, having Terrell Davis and a pretty good defense didn't hurt, either.
In 1998, two players rose above the rest in terms of NFL draft boards.
One was a quarterback from Tennessee who had trouble beating Florida, while the other was a big, athletic quarterback from Washington State who led the Cougars to the Rose Bowl. The Colts and Chargers held the top two picks in the NFL Draft, and Indianapolis had one of its biggest decisions to make in a long time.
Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf?
The Colts chose Manning, while the Chargers took Leaf. Manning blew up opposing defenses, Leaf just blew up at reporters. I think it's safe to say the Colts made the right decision.
The videos that are on the Internet are still some of the most surreal sports images you will ever see.
The Mayflower moving vans, slowly moving out of the Baltimore Colts compound in the middle of the night, taking the city's pride and joy with them. Robert Irsay left Baltimore for a new stadium in Indianapolis (despite publicly saying he wouldn't do that) and left behind an entire city of saddened and bitter fans.
It would take the city of Baltimore a decade to get an NFL franchise back.
Unfortunately, it took another owner ripping a storied and beloved franchise out of its home to do it. In this case, it was Art Modell taking the original Cleveland Browns out of Ohio and renaming them the Ravens. And while he left the Browns history and team name in Cleveland, it couldn't have sat well with the Browns faithful to watch the old Browns win a Super Bowl not too long after.
In 2009, the NFL decided to honor the 50th anniversary of the AFL by having the original AFL teams wear throwback uniforms from their past.
And while most of the uniforms were classic looks (including the Bills' throwbacks and the highly underrated Houston Oilers blue throwbacks), we also had whatever this was from the Broncos. This was the road version of the jersey, which isn't exactly appealing to begin with. But then there was the home version, which was a mustard jersey with brown numbers and yellow and brown striped socks.
Perhaps black and white televisions back in the day were a good thing with those jerseys.
By the end of the 2006 season, the Raiders had gone through a host of quarterbacks trying to replace former MVP Rich Gannon. And when the team decided it had seen enough of the Andrew Walter experiment, it instead decided to use the No. 1 overall pick in 2007 on Russell, the quarterback from LSU with a cannon arm.
What resulted was three years of poor performance, inconsistency and absolute chaos that perhaps resembled the offense. Now in 2011, Russell is looking for work, and the Raiders are hoping that Jason Campbell is finally the guy.
It was the game, and the rule, that changed the fate of two franchises.
We all know the story by now of the 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff between the Raiders and Patriots and how a Tom Brady fumble that would've sealed an Oakland victory was taken away because of the "tuck rule." We may not still understand the tuck rule, but it is what it is.
But it did more than eventually send New England to the AFC title game, it sent both franchises in a different direction. The Raiders were crushed by former coach Jon Gruden in the Super Bowl the next season and haven't reached the playoffs since.
And well, I think we all know the story of Tom Brady.
It was one of those stories that could only happen to the Buffalo Bills.
Scott Norwood's miss at the end of Super Bowl XXV was not only the closest the Bills ever came to winning a Super Bowl, it also seemed to signify all the bad karma that has surrounded the Bills for the past two decades. There are a lot of explanations for why he missed it, but it's still the closest Buffalo ever came to winning it all.
It only got worse next year when Thurman Thomas left his helmet on the sideline in Super Bowl XXVI.
Well after all the bad moments for the Bills during the last 20 years (and that's not even including the Music City Miracle), the Bills had to have at least some good moments.
And perhaps one of the brightest came during the 1992 AFC Wild Card. Unfortunately for the Houston Oilers, the biggest comeback in NFL history came at their expense. And it also came thanks to a backup quarterback in Frank Reich, a backup running back in Kenneth Davis and by allowing 38 points in the final two quarters of regulation and overtime.
But in Bills style, the game was blacked out in Buffalo because it wasn't a sellout.
This wasn't supposed to happen to the Patriots.
The team that had been caught cheating earlier in the season and used it as motivation to absolutely embarrass most of the NFL the entire fall were just supposed to show up at Super Bowl XLII and be crowned champions, the only team to go 19-0 and the best team in NFL history.
Only the Giants didn't get the memo.
And instead, New York capitalized on a defensive line that terrorized Tom Brady all day, a final drive that included a missed interception and one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history to help pull off the amazing upset.
The aura of Tom Brady was shattered that day, and New England hasn't won a playoff game since.
In his prime, Jack Tatum was one of the hardest-hitting players in the game during the 1970s.
And when he collided with Pittsburgh's Frenchy Fuqua late in the 1972 AFC Divisional Playoff, Tatum was just doing what he always did: Making a play on the ball and finishing with a devastating hit. Unfortunately for him, Tatum didn't calculate that the ball would bounce off him and float to Franco Harris, who took the ball into the end zone and finished off one of the most recognizable plays in NFL history.