The Most Useless Player in the History of Every NFL Franchise
The nature of professional football is its ability to constantly be extremely competitive. It goes without saying, but that's why we love the game.
To that end, there will always be winners and losers among those that play the game. Unlike so many games when you're a kid, there is no prize for simply trying. Winning is everything (just ask Junior Seau).
When we look at our favorite NFL teams, our favorite players and favorite years spring to mind.
Yet what about the players at the other end of the spectrum? Those who we remember, but for a dubious reason.
Well, every team has a guy like that (or two or three).
So why not have a look at some of the best, or should I say, worst? Sit back and enjoy this exploration of futility.
Atlanta Falcons: Aundray Bruce, Linebacker
Dubbed the "next Lawrence Taylor," Bruce was one of the first to find out that it's difficult to live up to the moniker of being LT's heir apparent.
Bruce was taken first overall in the 1988 draft, but couldn't deliver on the hype.
He never had more than six sacks in a season and retired averaging just under three sacks a season. As Charles Barkley would say: turrible.
Arizona Cardinals: Matt Leinart, QB
I tried desperately to find someone other than Matt Leinart, but to no avail.
He was supposed to be a sure-fire franchise quarterback, but he lost his job to the man who was supposed to be retiring (Kurt Warner).
Leinart never had a single season where he had more touchdowns than interceptions. And if things weren't bad enough, he just lost his 2004 USC national championship per an NCAA decree.
Baltimore Ravens: Kyle Boller, QB
Less of a sample to choose from since the Ravens have technically only existed since the '90s.
Still, Boller's a pretty good choice for most useless. Just ask Ray Lewis, who had to watch Boller and an inept Ravens offense totally destroy any chance he had to build on his single Super Bowl legacy during the prime of his career.
It's not that he was amazingly bad (I suppose he wasn't).
He was just incapable of ever beating a meaningful opponent in clutch time. That's what we call useless.
Buffalo Bills: Dennis Shaw, QB (1970-1972)
Despite having one of the most prolific running backs of all time in O.J. Simpson, Shaw managed Buffalo to seasons where they went 3-10-1, 1-13 and 4-9-1.
That's horrible, by anyone's standards. And the blame certainly rested pretty squarely on his shoulders, especially when he was throwing at least double the interception total compared with his touchdown total in two of his three seasons with the Bills.
Carolina Panthers: Chris Weinke, QB
He was bizarrely old when he entered the league, having won a national championship and a Heisman at Florida State, but it didn't translate into maturity or poise in the NFL.
His only full season saw the Panthers go 1-15, and statistically he became one of the least successful quarterbacks ever.
Chicago Bears: Cade McNown, QB
Another quarterback (and yes there will be a few more on this list) and another high draft pick.
McNown came from UCLA, but he wasn't the next Troy Aikman. He never adjusted to the speed of the NFL and was hopelessly lost trying to catch up, going just 3-12 as a starter in two seasons.
Cincinnati Bengals: Akili Smith, QB
Taken even higher in the 1999 draft (and we might not be done with the '99 draft), Smith started 11 games in 2000, amassing just three touchdown passes.
Think about that for a second. Eleven games. Three touchdown passes. His career total? Five passes to the end zone. He would have nearly triple that total in interceptions.
Could you be much more useless as an NFL quarterback?
Cleveland Browns: Courtney Brown, Defensive End
After a long Tim Couch consideration, I decided to go with Brown because he was marginally worse.
He was not only hurt or missing (whatever that entailed) for large periods of time, he was just plain ineffective when on the field.
That the Browns misfired in consecutive years with the first overall pick (which Couch and Brown were in 1999 and 2000, respectively) has set back that franchise for over a decade.
Dallas Cowboys: Shante Carver, Defensive End
The Cowboys had set the standard for scouting excellence by 1994, having just notched their second Super Bowl win in as many years.
But the Carver pick was a serious whiff. He did not start a single game his rookie season and had zero sacks. That's not the production you want from a first-round pick.
His career in the NFL lasted just four years.
Detroit Lions: Joey Harrington, QB, and Charles Rogers, Wide Receiver
Even if you couldn't blame Harrington for his starting record all-time (26-50), his completion percentage and habitually high interception total still sink him.
His numbers look like he played for the Lions...in the 1940s.
And as for Rogers, he was just plain horrible. Unlike Harrington, who tried but just sucked, Rogers didn't try and he sucked. It's a rare combination of useless.
They tie because the Lions from that era (aka 10 years ago) were collectively useless. As the great Coop Cooper once said in Baseketball, "It took every player working together to lose this one."
(Look on the bright side, Detroit fans, you're headed in the right direction! SUH!)
Denver Broncos: Sammy Winder, Running Back
Ok ok, I realize there are probably some guys out there who were statistically more "useless" than Winder.
But he was the running back for John Friggin Elway. And he still somehow managed to average less than four yards a carry in every year of his career.
I mean, he had one of the most talented quarterbacks in NFL history. How many times did he face a defense who was trying to specifically stop him?
When you stop laughing, just know that that never happened. Yeah, all that and he was still pretty mediocre. Or, for the sake of this list, useless.
Green Bay Packers: Jim Grabowski, Fullback
He was highly touted coming out of Illinois in 1966 and was taken first in the AFL draft, ninth in the NFL draft.
He chose the NFL and the prospect of playing for Vince Lombardi's Packers, the NFL's premier team.
It never amounted to much though. Grabowski could never supplant the men above him in the depth chart and never gained a starting role.
Worse, even though he was drafted onto a great blocking team, he never averaged more than 3.9 yards per carry in a full season or had more than 518 yards rushing.
Houston Texans: David Carr, QB
It would be unfair to put all of the blame for Houston's early futility on Carr's shoulders. After all, it wasn't his fault that his offensive line sucked.
But he never showed the ability to make a play even when he did get time to pass.
And while it might not be completely fair, Texans fans would have to agree that Carr was given ample opportunity (more so than an average player) to turn it around.
Indianapolis Colts: Mike Pagel, QB
Pagel had tough timing as far as when he was the Colts QB.
His tenure straddled their move from Baltimore to Indy. Still, even if their situation had been more stable, few doubt the results would have been similar.
In an age when passing became much more reliable of an option in the NFL, Pagel was a rock of tradition, completing barely more than 50 percent of his throws.
He even went 0-8 during the strike-shortened 1982 season.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Bryce Paup, Defensive End
The Jags paid heavily for Paup to come on board as an instant improvement to their pass rush.
No such luck.
He had just 7.5 sacks in two seasons. Needless to say, he was cut.
Kansas City Chiefs: Lin Elliot, Kicker
Three misses. Three misses. Three misses.
Elliot shanked three field goals against the Colts in 1995, costing KC home-field advantage in the playoff (which cost them eventually).
It ruined one of the Chiefs' best chances of the last 40 years. Nuff said.
Miami Dolphins: Anyone Who Has Followed Dan Marino, QB
Basically, they say "You never want to be the guy who comes after the guy."
But that doesn't excuse every other "guy who has followed the guy who followed the guy."
The Dolphins haven't managed to come close to replacing Marino (except for one good Chad Pennington season). It's been a tough decade for Miami's football team.
Minnesota Vikings: Dimitrius Underwood
Underwood, a first-round pick by the Vikings in 1999, should have been spotted long before he was useless to the Vikes.
His college coach at Michigan State, Nick Saban, tried to warn NFL teams, but Denny Green wouldn't be deterred.
Underwood famously made it through one practice before basically quitting. Needless to say, in football terms, useless.
New England Patriots: Zeke Mowatt, Robert Perryman and a Few Others
You might wonder why I wasn't more specific in choosing which Pats.
That's because Mowatt, Perryman and the "others" represent the group of Patriots who were responsible for sexually harassing reporter Lisa Olson in the Patriots locker room in 1990.
The incident came at a time when the Patriots were also just flat-out bad. Not good times in New England. It was the darkest moment for the franchise and luckily has been slowly cleaned out with wins and improved character.
New Orleans Saints: Heath Shuler, QB
Shuler combined a rare career of horribleness in multiple places.
He was the third pick in a draft, taken by the Redskins. But under Mike Ditka in 1997, he had a particularly depressing year.
His two touchdowns were offset by an ungodly 14 picks!
New York Giants: Joe Pisarcik, QB
Yup, just watch this. Useless.
New York Jets: Alex Van Dyke, WR
There are any number of Jets to choose from, so I'll leave this open to interpretation.
But Van Dyke was pretty bad. As the saying goes, the Jets used two top selections in the draft on Van Dyke and Keyshawn Johnson. They combined for 840 career receptions. Of those, 814 were Keyshawn.
Oakland Raiders: JaMarcus Russell, QB
Again, so many options here!
As good as the Raiders once were, they've had some seriously WORTHLESS players.
We all know the story with JaMarcus. It's just tragic.
Philadelphia Eagles: Jerome McDougle, Defensive End
Yes, there's a theme here. A lot of quarterbacks and a lot of defensive ends.
The Eagles traded up to get McDougle (a highly touted defensive end). He paid them back with three sacks.
In five years...
Pittsburgh Steelers: The Guy Who Decided To Cut Johnny Unitas
Yep. That's right. Long before the Steel City was known for Super Bowls, they had one of the best quarterbacks of his era on their roster.
...Until they cut him.
Yeah. Real smart. Luckily, all would come good in two decades. But think if they had stuck with him?
San Diego Chargers: Ryan Leaf
Do I need to say more?
Probably not. But hey, it was either Ryan Leaf or some guy named Peyton Manning (and yes, I realize they had the second pick, but still they were sold on Leaf).
He was just, well...what's the word?
San Francisco 49ers: O.J. Simpson, Running Back
I know what you're thinking. And it's not for that reason that he was useless (that hadn't happened yet).
It was because he was at the end of his career, over the hill and what the Niners paid to trade for him (five draft picks over two years!).
They gave up a lot of picks which Bill Walsh, in his early NFL coaching career, couldn't use to rebuild the team. It surely set them back.
Not that it really mattered in the end, I guess.
Seattle Seahawks: Brian Bosworth, Linebacker
He was a college star.
He was supposed to be the next Dick Butkus.
Well...he was just pretty good at getting run over by Bo Jackson, it turned out.
St. Louis Rams: Lawrence Phillips, Running Back
Not that he wasn't great in college.
But for the Rams he was the perfect storm of useless. Problems off the field, problems on it. He never turned into a high-risk/high-reward player.
He was just high risk.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Louis Carter, Running Back
You want bad? Check out these numbers.
He was not only part of one of the worst teams ever, he was its embodiment.
Tennessee Titans: Adam "Pacman" Jones
He wasn't totally worthless on the field. In fact, he was really pretty good.
But off of it? He was about as useless as they come.
Washington Redskins: Daniel Snyder, Owner
I know, he's not a player.
But this man and his regime have done more to destroy and perpetually damage the Redskins than any 50 players could ever hope to do.
He's laid waste to one of the NFL's great teams. Truly worthless, no matter how much money he might be worth.