Washington Redskins: 10 Greatest One-Season Wonders
Music isn’t the only genre where one-hit wonders are plentiful. Sports teams have their fair share as well. Sometimes the genres even cross paths such as in 1985 with the Chicago Bears and the Super Bowl Shuffle.
I chose the 10 greatest one-season-wonders from the Redskins organization. I didn’t dive too deep into history as not only has the game changed drastically, but many of the statistics just weren’t available during the early days of the Redskins franchise. My research reached back about 35 years or so.
Remember; just because a player appears on this list does not make him a bust, but merely shows that he only delivered one season of note for the Skins. That said, these one hit wonders make artists such as Sir Mix-A-Lot and Vanilla Ice look like, well, plain vanilla.
If the Redskins were to put out an album of their greatest one hit wonders, these would be the players that would be featured. Each player had one season with the Redskins that shone far above all their other seasons with the Skins. There were plenty of names to choose from, so I incorporated all those who I left off in an honorable-mention section.
So here are your one-hit wonders (and I’m not talking about Mike Tyson vs. Michael Spinks for the heavyweight title in the ‘80s) with a brief write up about them, their career, and how it compares to their lone memorable season; their rose in the concrete.
Please share any additions you can think of in the comments section. Thanks for reading.
Here are the beloved Redskins who were not good not long enough to be considered one-season wonders (if that makes sense).
Herb Mul-Key, 1973
John McDaniel, 1978
Wilbur Jackson 1980
Dave Butz, 1983
Desmond Howard, 1994
Skip Hicks, 1998
Leslie Shepherd, 1998
Marco Coleman, 2000
Rod Gardner, 2002
Mark Brunell, 2005
10. Doug Williams
QB, first-round pick, Grambling State
Nine years in the NFL, four with the Redskins
Williams is not even a one-season wonder with the Skins, but a one post-season wonder. He cannot be considered a one-hit wonder overall as he lead Tampa Bay through some of the leanest years that a football team can go through. If the rest of the league was meat and potatoes, Tampa bay was cold minestrone soup and crackers.
Thankfully, the Redskins recognized Williams’ ability and strong character and picked him up after five seasons in Tampa and a stint in the USFL. His regular season was nothing worth taking him out to dinner for, but the man with the 1-3 playoff record somehow guided the Skins, despite dreadful stats in the first two games, to three straight wins in that magical ’87 season. His only threw two picks the whole post season which probably saved him. Here are his playoff numbers that year:
Game 1: 14-29, 207 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Game 2: 9-26, 119 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Super Bowl:18-29, 340 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT
After his Super Bowl performance in the ’87 season, Williams was handed the keys in ’88 where he put up his best regular season numbers. But, as was the case in the previous year, Williams simply couldn’t lead the Skins to more points than the opposing team. He started the most games in his D.C. career that year, but was eventually replaced by Mark Rypien. His numbers were better in Tampa Bay, but his memories in D.C. were easily No. 1. Luckily, this career long loser will be remembered for that one shining postseason where not only he, but the whole D.C. area became a winner.
This next entry proves that not everything is bigger in Texas.
9. Albert Connell
WR, fourth-round pick, Texas A&M
Five seasons in the NFL, four with the Redskins
There are at least a few fond memories of an Albert in DC once you move away from Big Albert Haynesworth to Little Albert Connell. He had the slight build of a minor league baseball second baseman, but did manage to come up big in one season. Was Albert also known as Prince Albert? If not, the artist Prince still would have been proud of him because he gave fans a reason to party like it’s…
15 games (14 starts)
18.3 yards per catch
75 yards per game
In his five-year career, Connell never achieved more than 3 TD’s, 39 catches and 762 yards in any other season. His receiving yards the rest of his career were: 138, 451, 762, and 191.
It was a shame that Connell didn’t get tapped for the Pro Bowl that year as too many other big name receivers slightly outperformed him. While not Richter and O’Brien, in the end Connell and QB Brad Johnson will be remembered for the productive duo they formed during the 1999 season. This led to one of the few brief playoff tastes that the Redskins have given their fans over the past 20 seasons as another duo (Snyder and Cerratto) went about destroying this storied franchise.
Who is No. 8? Well just know that most opposing receivers are safe from this safety these days, any guesses?
8. Chris Horton
DB seventh-round pick UCLA
Three NFL seasons, all with Redskins
Now this is how you start a career. Horton sent waves through the Redskins organization with a huge Rookie season, but we haven’t heard a who out of him since then.
14 games (10 starts)
1 fumble recovery
Horton has had absolutely nothing cooking since he first arrived in D.C. His 2008 season wasn’t historically the most amazing year, but it was exceptionally solid for a rookie Strong Safety picked in the seventhround. The depressing fact is; it didn’t take long for Horton to go from possible Pro-Bowler to lists like these.
In the two seasons since, Horton hasn’t played more than eight games and hasn’t started since 2009 when he started five games. No INTs since rookie season, only 25 tackles his second year and two his third year, when he was injured. Will he regain his promising rookie form? Maybe the Skins need to bring back Jim Zorn because Horton worked so well with him running the show. Then again, maybe not.
Our next entry reminds us that you can’t teach speed, but can you teach it not to leave for a division rival?
7. James Thrash
WR Undrafted Missouri Southern
12 seasons in the NFL, 9 with the Redskins
Thrash had a great name, and a great year, but a rather average career overall. Outlived all expectations seeing as not one team had any for him when he went undrafted out of college. After making the team his rookie season, James Thrash (or "James Trash" as he was not so affectionately referred to as sometimes) had three forgettable years as a wide-out and part-time kick returner. That is until 2000 when he became a legitimate third receiver option, and fielded the bulk of the kickoffs. Thrash recorded the following numbers:
13.1 yards per catch
1,000 kick return yards
Thrash used his blazing speed to run out of town to the team that cut him (before training camp had even started) immediately after his career year with the Skins. Apparently he was just entering his prime, and had three solid years with the Eagles, averaging about 700 yards receiving and 5 TD’s per year. When he came back to Washington, there wasn’t much left. Thrash never had above 200 yards receiving and 17 catches in any other year with the Skins. Washington essentially played the shell on Thrash’s career while Philadelphia got to experience the nut.
Coming up; who had the greatest single season statistically as a cornerback? The answer may surprise you.
6. Barry Wilburn
DB, eighth-round pick, Mississippi, 6-2, 196.
Eight seasons in the NFL, five with the Redskins
Ahh playing opposite Darrell Green. Wilburn caught more passes from the other team than any other DB in the league that year. His nine interceptions in one season are likely more than Carlos Rogers (the Rod Gardner of the defense) will grab in his career. What makes his season all the more impressive is that he did it all in only 12 games.
Wilburn even had two picks in the Super Bowl to cement his name in one of the greatest single seasons for a Redskins DB. Even Green never had nine picks in a season (never more than five) but that was probably because opposing teams refused to throw in his direction.
Wilburn’s nine interceptions were almost more than he had in the rest of this career combined (11 for a total of 20). He had 58 tackles the season before, but never more than 44 in any other year. His big performances helped the team claim the ultimate prize that year, even if Wilburn never achieved the same glory he enjoyed in ’87, fans will still look upon his name fondly.
And here is the guy who had the guts, and the games, but never the glory…He started the car and drove it in the race, but was pushed out before it came time for the winning laps.
5. Jay Schroeder
QB, third-round pick, UCLA
10 years in the NFL, three with the Redskins
Schroeder can pretty accurately be described as a one hit wonder for his career, not just with the Skins. ’86 was his year, and although it lead to a decent performance in 1987, Coach Gibbs tapped Doug Williams for the postseason, which in the end turned out to be a good move. If things had turned out differently, Gibbs never would have won his second Super Bowl and might not have been around for a third.
4,109 yards (Redskins record)
22 TD’s, 22 INT’s
Compiled a 12-4 record that year but that didn’t translate to the playoffs as the Skins went down to the division rival New York Giants in the conference championship game. Schroeder never had more than 2,849 yards in a year again, never had another 20 TD year, and never threw over 200 completions again. He departed for the L.A. Raiders which has been a graveyard for Quarterbacks of late. Schroeder had a few mediocre years there before retiring after ten seasons.
Every now and again, a patient reserve needs a timely injury to a starter to get his shot. This is the tale of our next entry.
4. Ladell Betts
RB, second-round pick, Iowa
Nine years in the NFL, eight with the Redskins.
In a word, Betts was serviceable. Able to step in and spell Portis for a few yards each game, he never really developed into “the man” as a Running Back.; that is unless you consider the end of the ’06 season. Portis went down with an injury midseason and Betts exploded. Take away the six fumbles and you had Pro-Bowl numbers in only nine starts. Impressive.
1,154 yards rushing
4.7 yards per carry
Who was this guy? Many called for Betts to be the feature back the next year with the Skins, but instead he chose to revert back to his good ol' sub-four yards per carry form. By the time 2009 came around, Betts was gone. Betts never again started more than two games and never rushed more than 93 times in a season. While with the Skins, he never gained more than 370 yards in a season on the ground and averaged over four yards per carry only two other times in his nine year career.
Here is one that the Skins will regret letting go of…
3. Trent Green
QB eighth-round pick Indiana
11 years in the NFL, two with the Redskins
His career was a story riddled with one disappointment after another until he finally succeeded; it is quite a story and probably deserves a book or at least a made for TV movie.
Signed in 1993 but never played a down with the San Diego Chargers. Green then left for Canada but was cut by his CFL team in 1994. After a few years out of football, Green finally caught up with the Skins in 1997 and made the team as a backup where he only threw one pass. Did he go to a few football summer camps to work on skills in those off years? When ’98 came around, it was finally his time to show the NFL what he could do, and he did.
23 TDs and 11 INTs
A year later, the genius that is Redskins management didn’t offer him enough money to stay so he signed with the Rams, only to be injured in preseason and miss the whole year just in time to watch Kurt Warner lead the Rams all the way to the Super Bowl.
Warner partially returned the favor by being injured in the middle of next year so Green came in and earned enough respect to warrant being signed by Kansas City where he went on to shine as a two time Pro-Bowler with even better numbers than he posted in D.C.
While in D.C. Green compiled a respectable 6-8 record as a starter while being sacked an incredible 49 times (led league) never sacked more than 39 times any other season (and even that was abnormal).
I don’t want to get into all the what if’s with keeping Green because the last 20 years have all been ‘what if’ with the Redskins. I would have placed Green’s replacement Brad Johnson on this list with his one 4000 yard skins season, but he played decently his next year and was 7-4 (did throw more INT’s than TD’s) before succumbing to injury.
Environmental activists would be happy, because we’re going green for the next entry as well.
2. Tony Green
2. Tony Green
KR/PR, sixth-round pick, Florida
Two years in the NFL, one with the Redskins
In the history of the league, there haven’t been many sixth-round pick Pro-Bowlers, but Green managed to pull off this feat in his first season. There may be a No. 2 next to Brian Mitchell’s name in the Redskins record books if this guy had stuck around. Here is his inaugural and only season of note; not much seasonal comparison as there were only two total.
Kickoffs: 34 returns for 870 yards and a 25.6 yard average
Punts: 42 returns for 443 yards and a 10.5 yard average
1 kickoff return touchdown
1 Punt return touchdown
Fourth in kick return average in NFL
Third in Punt return average in NFL
Mitchell only average more than 25.6 yards per kickoff return once in his entire career while Green posted that number in year one.
Green left the team after only one year and was quickly out of football. Why? Was it injuries? psychedelic drugs? Intense PETA involvement? I can’t seem to find out what happened to him. If anyone has any info please let me know.
None of these last two Green’s worked out, but thankfully the organization was not completely colorblind with that name due to a certain Hall of Fame cornerback.
And now the moment you’ve been waiting for; the No.1 one-season-wonder. This running back broke the hearts of countless fans after his break-out performance.
1. Reggie Brooks
RB, second-round pick, Notre Dame
Four years in the NFL, three with the Redskins
Expecting Timmy Smith? He was more of a one-game wonder, plus he left for Dallas which makes him unfit for this list.
Like Green before him, Brooks’ biggest year was his first as he burst onto the scene with a debilitating combination of moves and power:
Played all 16 games
1063 yards rushing,
4.8 yards per carry
85 yard run (longest in league)
So what went wrong?
Brooks only appeared in four seasons, never played entire season again, never scored more than 3 TDs, and never gained more than 368 yards and a 3.3 avg.
He earns the No. 1 position on this list due to the promise that he displayed in his rookie year and the immense disappointment that ensued. One can’t blame injuries, but one can definitely point to lackluster work ethic and a poor relationship with coaches. One could also say that Brooks just simply proved to be not good enough or in good enough shape to consistently break through NFL offensive lines.
Good riddance in my opinion. My family and I waited for hours one night at a Hechts department store in Virginia for him to show up for an autograph session. Me and hundreds of others left empty handed when Brooks didn’t show up. These days, people wouldn’t even take a Reggie Brooks autograph if you paid them. Brooks was too lazy to put in the work to become great, so looking back it is no surprise that he chose to blow off this appearance. Bust.