Every NFL Team's Biggest Mistake of the Past Decade
Looking back on 10 years in the NFL is a good way to make yourself feel very old, very fast. Remember that time when Jim Mora was the Seahawks' head coach for like 10 minutes? And that other time when Pat White being a top-45 draft pick was a real thing?
Those are just two sources of misery around the league over the past decade.
Every team has its blunders and awful decisions. Most of them come from the draft, as that's when a roster foundation is either built, or it crumbles. But plenty more bad decisions lead to wasted money in free agency and misguided coaching moves.
This exercise looking back on the worst decisions over the last 10 years didn't just generate lots of painful nostalgia (though yes, there was plenty of that). It also showed which teams were able to bounce back quickly from their mistakes, and which were derailed for far too long.
So let's walk down the worst sort of memory lane then. Here is every team's worst decision over the past 10 years.
Arizona Cardinals: Drafting Beanie Wells
This one was a tight race between the Arizona Cardinals drafting running back Beanie Wells and signing quarterback Derek Anderson in 2010 with the intention of calling him the starter. That lasted four games before he was benched and replaced by undrafted rookie Max Hall.
But Wells is the winner. Or rather, the loser, because any time a running back selected with the 31st overall pick gives his team just 2,471 rushing yards over four seasons before washing out of the league, he's a wasted investment.
Wells never found his NFL footing after starring for Ohio State in college. He averaged only 3.4 yards per carry in his second season with the Cardinals. Then there was a flicker of hope a year later when Wells recorded 1,047 rushing yards in 2011, though he did it at a still-pedestrian pace of 4.3 yards per carry.
The Cardinals moved on, cutting both Wells and their losses after the 2012 season. The next fall he tore his Achilles during a workout with the Baltimore Ravens, and the NFL hasn't seen Wells since.
If you want some useless trivia that won't impress your friends, tell them Wells is now saying football words on the radio and patrolling the Buckeyes tailgate scene on game days.
Atlanta Falcons: The Bobby Petrino Disaster
The lasting image I have of the Atlanta Falcons' short but fiery Bobby Petrino era is the coach doing the 2007 equivalent of breaking up with your boyfriend/girlfriend through a text message.
In December of his first and only season with the franchise, Petrino had grown weary of the dark clouds following the Falcons that started with Michael Vick's arrest. That was understandable to some extent, but there's a right way to handle bailing on a bad situation.
And typing out a four-sentence note to players before ghosting isn't it.
In the middle of a 3-10 season, Petrino heard the siren song of a top-tier college football program and hit the eject button. He didn't even speak to his players directly, instead leaving only a brief note in the locker room.
But it gets worse, because everything did with Petrino circa December 2007. He also lied directly to owner Arthur Blank's face. Blank had an hour-long meeting with Petrino, and the coach convinced the man signing his paycheck that he wasn't going anywhere.
“At the end of that meeting I reminded Bobby that I had two commitments that night on national TV and the question might be posed by the media whether he would be interested in going back to the college ranks and I asked him what would you like my response to be,” Blank said at the time, via Ray Glier of the New York Times. “His answer was he shook my hand and said ‘You have a coach.’ ”
The Falcons were in shambles at that point, and for years Petrino was used as Exhibit A for why you don't chase the rockstar college coach.
But the bottoming-out period didn't last long for Atlanta. A resilient franchise clawed back quickly after hiring Mike Smith as Petrino's successor, and it made the playoffs in four of the next five seasons.
Baltimore Ravens: Drafting Matt Elam
Matt Elam was supposed to be a solution to what ailed the Baltimore Ravens secondary, a unit that ranked 17th in passing yards allowed in 2012. The Ravens still won Super Bowl XLVII despite their average pass defense. So defending their throne meant immediately infusing the secondary with promising talent.
Instead, Elam quickly spiraled to become general manager Ozzie Newsome's worst first-round pick.
He was an instant liability in coverage, giving up a passer rating of 117.5 while getting targeted 34 times in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus. He tumbled even further to draft-bust status in 2014 while allowing a rating of 120.0.
Then in 2015, Elam went from ineffective to injured, missing the entire season with a torn bicep. And to complete his exit from the league, Elam was arrested on drug charges in February, and then again for domestic battery and grand theft in late May.
Buffalo Bills: Drafting Aaron Maybin
Every April there's a fresh new volume of internet listicles counting down the top draft busts of all time. And defensive end Aaron Maybin still hasn't been knocked off from his perch as one of the worst draft embarrassments ever, even though it's been eight years.
The Buffalo Bills held the 11th overall pick in a 2009 draft that wasn't exactly overflowing with long-term talent. Remember, that's the year when quarterback Mark Sanchez entered into our lives (fifth overall), along with Darrius Heyward-Bey (seventh overall).
But with their slot just outside the top 10, the Bills still could have taken pass-rusher Brian Orakpo. He's now a four-time Pro Bowler, and at the age of 30 still finished 2016 with 10.5 sacks for the Tennessee Titans.
Orakpo came off the board just two picks after Buffalo called Maybin's name. Maybin then gave them zero (zero!) sacks over two seasons before he was released. As the football careers of other defensive stars taken around him continue—including linebacker Brian Cushing at No. 15—Maybin is now an artist, and a very good one.
Carolina Panthers: Drafting Dwayne Jarrett
There's a long list of supremely athletic wide receivers who tear apart college fields and then disappoint in the NFL.
But there are different levels of disappointment, and former USC stud Dwayne Jarrett went with the one where he pretty much didn't exist in the NFL at all after being a top-50 pick.
The Carolina Panthers selected him with their 45th overall pick in 2007. That was one spot before the Pittsburgh Steelers took linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who went on to have a solid nine-year career while recording three double-digit-sack seasons.
Jarrett was billed as a large, looming target at 6'4" who could excel in the red zone. The evidence of that was his 41 touchdown receptions over only three seasons for USC.
But by taking him so early, the Panthers chose to ignore a glacially slow 40-yard dash time. Jarrett posted times of 4.62 and 4.67 at his pro-day workout, and for most that raised concerns about his ability to separate consistently.
The Panthers pushed aside those fears and were rewarded with a receiver who caught only 35 balls for 428 yards over four years.
Chicago Bears: Trading Away Greg Olsen
The Chicago Bears' wasted first-round pick on tackle Gabe Carimi was almost the headliner here. But in fairness, Carimi's career was partly derailed by a severe knee injury in his rookie season.
Greg Olsen's career, meanwhile, was instead delayed in a sense by the Bears. He wasn't properly utilized on a defense- and run-oriented team, and therefore he didn't get the chance to blossom into the dominant tight end at the top of his position we know he is now.
But Olsen still produced even with a lid on his usage, and even with the likes of Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton and Brian Griese as his quarterbacks in 2007 and 2008. He averaged a solid 495.3 receiving yards per season over four years with the Bears, and he scored 20 times.
Yet despite his steady development, the Bears still decided to send away a player who was worth their first-round pick in 2007, and get a third-rounder from the Carolina Panthers in return. Olsen has since logged five 800-plus-yard seasons and been named to the Pro Bowl in each of the past three years.
Cincinnati Bengals: Drafting Keith Rivers
The Cincinnati Bengals wanted and needed a middle linebacker to anchor their defensive in the 2008 draft.
To check that box on their draft wish list they could have selected Jerod Mayo with their ninth overall pick. He came off the board one spot later after being selected by the New England Patriots, and he went on to be the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2008 and a two-time Pro Bowler.
Instead they choose Keith Rivers, who lasted only three seasons in Cincinnati and recorded just 120 tackles.
Cleveland Browns: Drafting Johnny Manziel
For the Cleveland Browns fan, going through the past decade of drafts must feel like your mom spending hours showing off childhood pictures to your new boyfriend/girlfriend. It's fun to laugh at those old memories at first. Then it gets old so, so fast.
At first it felt tough to pick just one Browns draft misstep here. Defensive end Barkevious Mingo had a cool name and little more, and running back Trent Richardson was on the roster for a little more than one whole year after the Browns made him the third overall pick.
But let's be real: There's only one draft dunce cap wearer in Cleveland, and it's Johnny Manziel.
Manziel's taste for the Vegas spotlight that sometimes ended in inflatable swan rides was well known long before the draft in 2014. And at the time you could easily convince yourself his off-field lifestyle wouldn't take away from his on-field play.
He wasn't the first or last 21-year-old kid to be the king of campus and have the adoring masses always ready to spray champagne. Google will quickly remind you of other successful NFL quarterbacks who consumed a few adult beverages during their college days.
The difference is that, just like most people, those other quarterbacks matured after their college days once they were given a real job, with real consequences. As an NFL player, Johnny Manziel couldn't still be Johnny Football in his spare time.
But he flamed out fast as his personal issues piled up. As a result, the Browns wasted another first-round pick, and Manziel wasted a once-promising career.
Dallas Cowboys: Trading for Roy Williams
The Dallas Cowboys wanted to trade for the 2006 version of Roy Williams. That's the wide receiver who finished fourth in the league with 1,310 receiving yards and did it at a pace of 16 yards per reception.
In his third NFL season, Williams had finally started to justify his status as the seventh overall pick in 2004. Then he fell off again in his fourth year, finishing with only 838 yards.
That didn't matter to the Cowboys, though, as they went all in and treated Williams like a rare diamond, instead of the cereal-box jewelry he would become. The Cowboys gave the Detroit Lions their first-, third- and sixth-round picks in 2009 for Williams and a seventh-rounder pick.
Williams then repaid them by turning back into a soul-crushing disappointment. He averaged just 33.1 receiving yards per game in Dallas.
Denver Broncos: Drafting Tim Tebow
The 2011 NFL season was a maddening time when we were all told quarterback wins not only matter, but matter deeply.
That's because Tim Tebow made #TebowTime a viral sensation when the Denver Broncos were winning games even as he attempted just eight passes, and even as he completed a brutal 46.5 percent of his throws. The Broncos won games that season because of their defense, and because their coaching staff smartly created an offense where a wonky-armed quarterback with poor vision and worse accuracy could succeed.
Which still means that Tebow was somewhat effective in his own way for a brief time in the NFL. It just would have been much easier to stomach him succeeding then quickly getting the boot from John Elway if Tebow was, say, a fourth-round pick, which is about in line with his passing talent.
Instead he was the 25th overall pick in 2010 because of Josh McDaniels' draft wisdom. Then three years later, Tebow took his last NFL snap.
Detroit Lions: Taking Until 2008 to Fire Matt Millen
But the misery didn't have to get to the point where a generation of fans who just asked for competence were instead scarred forever by the historically awful 0-16 season in 2008.
The Millen experience mercifully ended in late September 2008, but his bumbling fingers were all over that doomed roster. The ax should have fallen long before that, and Millen's final draft in 2008 was one last reminder that he had been in over his head for quite some time.
Millen took tackle Gosder Cherilus in the first round, and he's put together a fine though less than spectacular career. Then in the second round he went with linebacker Jordan Dizon, who lasted two seasons. A few picks later wide receiver DeSean Jackson and defensive end Calais Campbell heard their names. They went on to combine for five Pro Bowl appearances.
Green Bay Packers: Drafting Derek Sherrod
The Green Bay Packers mostly stay away from major free-agency splashes and also don't have too many recent swing-and-misses early in the draft. That's how a team earns a playoff berth in eight straight years.
But tackle Derek Sherrod is one significant whiff by general manager Ted Thompson over the past decade.
After a championship season in 2010, the Packers were looking to reinforce the protection in front of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Which led to Sherrod eventually becoming a failed first-round pick.
Thompson made Sherrod the 32nd overall pick in a 2011 drafted that was loaded overall, but not so much at tackle. Your first-round pick is always a failure when he's not in the league six seasons later.
Sherrod's career took an unfortunate detour when he broke his leg near the end of his rookie year and then missed all of the 2012 season recovering. Still, he was a liability even when healthy and allowed three sacks over only 142 snaps in 2014, per PFF.
Houston Texans: Signing Ahman Green
Believe it or not, there was a time when free-agent running backs weren't treated like discarded scrap. The wasted money tied to Ahman Green planted the seeds for the dry market running backs are often greeted with today.
Green was one of the best running backs in his era. Between 2000 and 2004 he led the league in rushing with 6,848 yards. Only Curtis Martin was close at 6,816 rushing yards during that period, while Corey Dillon finished a distant third with his 6,237 yards.
Green was a uniquely dominant force. But the former third-round pick was also 30 years old when he became a free agent, and he wasn't far removed from a shortened season in 2005 due to a torn thigh tendon.
So giving him a four-year contract worth $23 million—$8 million of which came in the first season, a sizable sum in 2007—ended badly for the Texans. Green produced only 554 rushing yards for Houston over two seasons, averaging 3.8 yards per carry.
Indianapolis Colts: Drafting Bjoern Werner
There was a potpourri of failed thinking scattered throughout Ryan Grigson's time as the Indianapolis Colts general manager. That's what led to fizzled high draft picks and the Colts advancing past the divisional round only once over his five seasons, all with Andrew Luck at quarterback.
But the leading failure was defensive end Bjoern Werner, Grigson's 24th overall pick in 2013. He was brought in with a clear and obvious purpose: to give the Colts' staggering pass rush a swift kick in the rear. The Colts recorded only 32 sacks in 2012 (23rd), the same year when Werner finished with 13 sacks during a standout season for Florida State.
But that was his only shining year at the college level. Prior to that Werner was fine, though less than spectacular with 10.5 sacks over two seasons. Then, in the NFL, he was promptly exposed. Werner didn't have the speed or power to turn the corner, and he couldn't generate anything resembling consistent pressure.
Nagging knee issues didn't help matters. Werner was zapped of his strength that led to his success with Florida State, which accounted for much of the reason that impressive college player never showed up on the field for the Colts.
His NFL career ended after only three seasons with 6.5 sacks.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Drafting Blaine Gabbert
In fairness to the Jacksonville Jaguars, they picked the wrong time to desperately need a quarterback.
Lots of franchise-resetting failures laid like landmines in the opening round beyond the Jaguars' failed pick of Blaine Gabbert at 10th overall. That included the Tennessee Titans' selection of Jake Locker (No. 8) and the Minnesota Vikings' selection of Christian Ponder (No. 12).
But that brings us back to a common scolding from your mother. Just because everyone else is doing an awful thing doesn't mean you need to follow.
The job of every front office is to evaluate talent. Had the Jaguars done that job well, they would have determined 2011 wasn't the right time to aggressively go after a quarterback early. They then should have addressed other pressing needs, and either snatch up a quarterback on Day 2—when Andy Dalton was available, and Colin Kaepernick would have been a fine short-term solution too—instead of hotly pursuing Gabbert and trading up six spots.
Or they could have gone with a veteran bridge option. A combination of those two routes is being followed right now by the San Francisco 49ers.
They'll never say it publicly because no general manager or coach has been injected with that strain of truth serum. But the 49ers are thirsting for a quarterback to build around, and yet in the 2017 draft they focused elsewhere. New GM John Lynch collected core defensive pieces in the draft after he had signed veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer, and then he waited until late in the third round to pick developmental project C.J. Beathard.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars were saddled with Gabbert in 2011, who completed only 53.3 percent of his pass attempts over three seasons in Jacksonville.
Kansas City Chiefs: Drafting Jonathan Baldwin
The 2011 draft will forever be looked back on as one of the best ever aside from those quarterback landmines.
Take a moment to reflect on the talent oozing from just the top six picks: quarterback Cam Newton, outside linebacker Von Miller, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, wide receiver A.J. Green, cornerback Patrick Peterson and wide receiver Julio Jones. The hits kept coming later in the first round too, with defensive end J.J. Watt selected 11th overall, and defensive end Cameron Jordan off the board far later on at 24th overall.
Then just two slots after the New Orleans Saints handed in their card with Cameron's name, the Kansas City Chiefs decided that Jonathan Baldwin was the solution for their lack of wide receiver depth.
At the time they needed support for Dwayne Bowe, who finished the 2010 season with 1,162 receiving yards and a league-leading 15 touchdowns through the air. But the Chiefs' second-best receiver was on a production rung that extended into the local sewer system. It was Chris Chambers with only 213 receiving yards.
So the Chiefs were in dire need of some downfield burst and also better passing support for running back Jamaal Charles, who was still in his prime. Instead, they received only 579 yards on 41 catches over two years from Baldwin, who's been out of the league since 2013.
Los Angeles Chargers: Moving to Los Angeles
This one is very recent. But it's still a franchise's worst move over the past decade in the NFL. It'll probably be the worst mistake over the next decade, too.
It's important to remind ourselves of a fact about team movement. Any time a team rips up its roots in one city and then moves to another, the NFL has failed.
For the NFL, football is a business, and like any company it wants as many people as possible satisfied with the product. In that sense, alienating a loyal fanbase and a section of the country inevitably leaves a mark that doesn't scrub off easily. That's true in St. Louis now, it's true in San Diego, and it'll be true in Oakland.
The specific problem with the Chargers and their move to Los Angeles, however, is rooted in fan apathy.
The NFL is immensely popular, but it still has a tipping point in terms of fan attention, even in a large market. There will surely be enthusiasm surrounding the Chargers initially because they're the fresh flavor in town. But that will fade fast without success, and the Chargers haven't played into January much over the last seven years.
During that stretch they've earned a playoff berth just once. They've hovered around the .500 mark, finishing at 9-7 three times, 7-9 once and 8-8 once. That's yawn-inducing in any city, and especially in Los Angeles with another NFL team already there dominating attention, as well as other professional teams in general to monopolize television viewership and ticket sales.
In theory, Los Angeles has the population and sweet, sweet cash to support two NFL teams. But is the interest there during tough times? The Chargers are about get the answer to that question, and they may not like it.
Los Angeles Rams: Signing Drew Bennett
Remember Drew Bennett? Of course you don't, but if you do, then an image of his time with the Tennessee Titans surely just came to mind. And probably from his 2004 season when the then-26-year-old shined with 1,247 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.
He has the unique distinction of tying the record for touchdowns in a three-game stretch after scoring eight times that year between Weeks 12 and 14, a span when Bennett also incredibly accounted for 517 receiving yards.
Bennett then logged two solid though far less than stunning seasons for the Titans in 2005 and 2006, totaling 700-plus yards in each. But it must have been that magical three-game run that made the Rams, then hailing from St. Louis, give Bennett a six-year contract worth $30 million with $10 million guaranteed. Which was a hefty payout in 2007 when the league's salary cap was $109 million (for perspective, it sits at $167 million for 2017).
Bennett stayed with the Rams only until his guaranteed money ran out. And for their $10 million, the Rams received only 34 catches for 379 yards and three touchdowns.
Miami Dolphins: Drafting Pat White
A lot of draft mistakes kept the Dolphins from having success until recently, highlighted by the disaster that was trading up for defensive end Dion Jordan in 2013. And not hiring Jim Harbaugh was a massive miss too.
But for me the worst odor is coming from Pat White.
White was the classic case of a quarterback who looked the part and made wild images of long runs and longer passes dance in your head. But when it came to actually taking that to the field and being an athletically gifted NFL passer, he failed spectacularly.
White recorded 900-plus rushing yards over each of his four seasons at West Virginia, topping out at 1,335 yards in 2007. But he never developed into an effective downfield passer, and averaged only 6.7 yards per pass attempt during his senior season.
There's a little more room for error when selecting a quarterback in the second round. But successful NFL franchises generally aren't in the business of wasting a top-50 pick. Which is what the Dolphins did when they made White the 44th overall pick in 2009.
To the surprise of no one outside of Miami, White's fundamental throwing mechanics and accuracy issues didn't go anywhere at the professional level. The Dolphins trusted White to attempt just five regular-season passes (five!), and the plug was pulled on their experiment after one year.
Minnesota Vikings: Drafting Christian Ponder
And the 2011 quarterback class takes another victim. We're not done yet either, as the Tennessee Titans and Jake Locker are still teed up for a little later on.
The Minnesota Vikings didn't draft Christian Ponder quite as high as Locker or Gabbert. But that doesn't make the wound to both their pride and the team's win column any easier to take.
The Vikings selected Ponder with the 12th overall pick. He was the shocker of the three eventual quarterback busts taken in the top 15 in 2011. But his mobility stood out after the 6'2" and 230-pound passer ran for 833 yards during his collegiate career at Florida State. But he also threw 30 interceptions with the Seminoles and averaged a pedestrian 6.8 yards per attempt during his final season in 2010.
That lack of deep accuracy and arm strength unsurprisingly followed Ponder into the NFL. Over four seasons and 36 starts for the Vikings, he averaged only 6.3 yards per throw. He wasn't the solution the Vikings were looking for after Brett Favre's flame finally burned out.
They're still looking for that answer even now, as Sam Bradford is likely a short-term fix, and Teddy Bridgewater's future remains uncertain after a severe knee injury.
New England Patriots: Drafting Aaron Hernandez
Criticizing the New England Patriots for their part in giving a platform to someone who would soon become a violent criminal isn't about hindsight. No, that would be too easy.
This is about foresight, and a lack of it.
Aaron Hernandez was a tremendously talented tight end, and that was clear to anyone who watched his rise with the Florida Gators. His collegiate career was highlighted by 850 receiving yards and five touchdowns during his junior season in 2009.
That doesn't sound like a tight end who should slip to Day 3 in the draft and the middle of the fourth round. But that's where Hernandez found himself, largely because of giant character red flags. The Patriots chose to take a risk and ignore them.
In 2007, a punch from Hernandez ruptured a waiter's eardrum at a Gainesville bar, according to Rolling Stone's Ron Borges and Paul Solotaroff. During that same year, Hernandez may have also been involved with a shooting. When police tried to question him, Hernandez invoked his right to counsel, according to ESPN.com's Kelly Naqi.
The Patriots knew of all that, just as every team did. Yet Bill Belichick hoped that a young man who made mistakes would mature. That didn't happen, and in a press conference shortly after Hernandez was arrested, Belichick expressed his regret.
"We look at every player's history from the moment we start discussing him, going back to his family, where he grew up, what his life was like, and high school and college experiences," he said.
"Obviously this process isn't perfect. But it's one we've used from 2000 until today, and unfortunately this most recent situation and the charges that are involved is not a good one on that record."
New Orleans Saints: Passing on Jerod Mayo
In general, defense has been a problem for the New Orleans Saints throughout the Drew Brees era.
The Saints have been led by a future Hall of Fame quarterback who's passed for 5,000-plus yards in a season five times since 2006. And he's not slowing down either, as a 38-year-old Brees still finished with 5,208 passing yards and 37 touchdowns in 2016.
But it's fair to wonder how much more playoff success the Saints would have had if they were able to support Brees with an even adequate defense more often. The Saints won Super Bowl XLIV, but aside from that have only three playoff wins during Brees' time under center. Worse, they've also missed the postseason six times.
So it's also fair to wonder what the future would have looked like with linebacker Jerod Mayo on their defense instead of first-round bust defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis.
That's what the trade between the Saints and Patriots became when New Orleans moved up to the No. 7 spot in 2008 to take Ellis, and the Patriots selected Mayo at No. 10. Mayo went on to become a solid run-stuffing linebacker until his career was cut short because of injuries.
Ellis, meanwhile, faded out of the league after only five seasons and 12.5 sacks.
New York Giants: Signing Geoff Schwartz
This signing was mostly horrible luck for both the New York Giants and guard Geoff Schwartz. Still, Schwartz stands out as an example of why investing in a journeyman offensive lineman who's not exactly young comes with risk.
Schwartz was signed during free agency in March 2014 after a season when Giants quarterback Eli Manning had been sacked 39 times, the most in a single season in his career. Manning made plenty of mistakes in 2013 that led to his 27 interceptions. But that constant pressure didn't help.
So Schwartz was signed as part of the solution after he gave up only two sacks on 989 pressures in 2013, per PFF. Then the injury demon from the deep rose up, just as it had in 2011. The difference is this time Schwartz's body started to break down.
In 2011, Schwartz spent the season on injured reserve because of a hip issue. That was already one serious body ding on his medical record, and the Giants still signed him to a four-year deal worth $16.8 million. He then broke a toe in 2014 and his ankle in 2015.
In total Schwartz played just 13 of a possible 32 games for the Giants.
New York Jets: Drafting Vernon Gholston
The New York Jets have made some nightmare early draft decisions in recent years, and the real challenge here was picking only one from the past decade.
Dee Milliner is currently a free agent after the cornerback was selected ninth overall in 2013. Quinton Coples and Stephen Hill, the Jets' first two picks in 2012, are also out of the league. They all would have been fine choices.
But Vernon Gholston is still the unquestioned draft-bust champion.
Gholston is now a memory that makes Jets fans shake involuntarily. He was selected with the team's sixth overall pick in 2008 after boosting his draft stock with one stellar college season. Gholston recorded 14 sacks for Ohio State in 2007.
But that menacing and powerful pass-rusher didn't show up in the NFL. Gholston's professional career was engulfed in a pit of skyscraper-sized flames when he didn't tally a single sack over three seasons.
He wasn't just laughably bad. No, Gholston was historically bad, and he will always be one of the worst draft busts ever.
Oakland Raiders: Drafting JaMarcus Russell
Did you hear that? I'm pretty sure I heard someone's throat clearing.
Oh yes, hey there JaMarcus Russell. He always seems to show up whenever the words "worst draft bust ever" are typed.
Gholston was indeed an awful draft bust because he did almost nothing. But a bust along the defensive line doesn't register quite the same on the Richter scale as a bust at quarterback. And especially not a bust who was the first overall pick.
The Raiders have made so, so many draft blunders over the years, largely because of owner Al Davis' obsession with freak athletes who couldn't convert their physical ability into football skill. Russell fell into that category too.
He was a human tank while standing 6'6" and weighing 260 pounds. That meant he could throw a ball to another continent. It also meant that once he arrived at the NFL level, Russell could be beaten by a hedgehog in a foot race.
And I don't mean Sonic the Hedgehog. I mean an actual hedgehog.
Russell posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.8 seconds during his LSU pro day. Which sounds serviceable for a massive quarterback. But it didn't translate onto an NFL field, as Russell was sacked 70 times over only 25 starts (31 games).
That was the start of his downfall, and of course the inaccuracy didn't help either. Russell completed just 52.1 percent of his pass attempts. The NFL hasn't seen him since 2009, just three seasons after Russell was the top pick in 2007.
Philadelphia Eagles: Signing Nnamdi Asomugha
This was a tough decision between the Philadelphia Eagles drafting guard Danny Watkins in 2011 and the free-agent money pit that was cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
There's no wrong answer, as both were horrible decisions. But at least Watkins didn't cost nearly as much, so I leaned toward the latter.
The Eagles signed Asomugha during that zany mid-summer free-agency period following the 2011 lockout. In late July that year, he signed a five-year contract worth $60 million, and $25 million was guaranteed. That was a pile of guaranteed cash in 2011, and it still is now. For perspective, six years later only 10 cornerbacks will enter the 2017 season playing under contracts guaranteeing them $25 million or more, per Spotrac.
The Eagles seemed to be either forgetting or choosing to ignore Asomugha's age. While Asomugha was still a young, spry man at 30 years old by normal human standards at the time, he was aging for a cornerback. And it showed immediately.
Asomugha was a two-time All-Pro with the Oakland Raiders. During his final season in Oakland he allowed a passer rating in coverage of only 66.0, per PFF, showing he could shut down half the field. By the end of 2012 with the Eagles, that rating had soared to 120.6.
His time in Philadelphia was done after 2012, but he kept the $25 million.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Drafting Dri Archer
Sure, it's not nearly as painful when a team strikes out on a late third-round pick.
But if a general manager makes the judgment a wide receiver is worthy of being drafted in the first two days (and in the first 100 picks), the team he's making that call for needs to get a lot more than 23 receiving over two years.
That was the Pittsburgh Steelers' fate with Dri Archer, the track athlete who didn't become a football athlete. Archer shined as a multi-purpose speed threat at Kent State and exploded in 2012 with 1,990 yards from scrimmage. Then at his scouting combine appearance, he lit up the track with a 40-yard dash time of 4.26 seconds.
That time creates an instant-drool reflex for general managers, and it's one Steelers GM Kevin Colbert couldn't resist. He selected the undersized (5'8" and 173 lbs) receiver with the 97th pick. If it was a small, slippery and versatile offensive weapon he craved, then Devonta Freeman would have been the much better choice. He came off the board just six picks after Archer, whose career could already be over now after only accounting for 63 total yards.
San Francisco 49ers: Finding a Reason to Get Rid of Jim Harbaugh
The end of Jim Harbaugh's time as the San Francisco 49ers head coach is still baffling. It's a prime example of how a thirst for power and an owner's need to have his hand in everything can leave a franchise rudderless.
Harbaugh has had success everywhere he's been as a head coach. That included his stint with the 49ers, where he spent four seasons from 2011 to 2014. He finished with a regular-season record of 44-19-1, and three of his seasons in San Francisco resulted in playoff runs at least to the NFC Championship Game.
The 49ers didn't have a winning season in the eight years prior to Harbaugh's arrival, and they haven't had one since he left. So why did he leave? That's a question only Jed York can answer.
York recently appeared on a podcast hosted by The MMQB's Peter King and said he regrets the relationship was frayed between him and Harbaugh, via David Fucillo of Niners Nation. The 49ers initially tried to put a happy public face on the decision by saying the organization and Harbaugh "mutually parted ways."
That was a standard lie from a person in authority grasping for an easy out. Harbaugh later told Tim Kawakami that he didn't have any input into his departure from the 49ers.
The decision wasn't mutual at all. Instead, it was inexplicable.
Seattle Seahawks: Replacing Mike Holmgren with Jim Mora
Ideally, there would have been a smooth transition after Mike Holmgren hung up his head coaching headset in 2008. Holmgren may have gone out with a whimper, as the Seattle Seahawks finished at 4-12 during his final season. But prior to that his team won the NFC West four straight years, and one of those seasons ended in a Super Bowl appearance.
So in theory, there should have been continuity when Holmgren handed the reins to defensive backs coach Jim Mora. But promoting Mora didn't show much creativity. He was a retread who had brief success in 2004, winning 11 games with the Atlanta Falcons. Mora then followed that up with an 8-8 record in 2005 and a 7-9 season in 2006 before the Falcons showed him the door.
He lasted only one year as the sideline boss in Seattle, and it ended with five wins. Mora was fired after 2009, which was the right call for everyone involved.
Mora went on to become the head coach at UCLA, where he's posted a 41-24 record over five seasons. And the Seahawks have appeared in two Super Bowls under Pete Carroll, winning the franchise's first championship to conclude the 2013 season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Hiring Raheem Morris
Let's stick with the coach hiring-firing mishaps and consider the cautionary tale of hiring a head coach who's under the age of 35. Don't worry, Sean McVay, I'm sure you'll be fine at 31.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did a lot of winning under Jon Gruden, and a lot of losing. By 2008 it was time to get a fresh face on the sideline, and preferably one that was a little less, um, contorted. So they promoted defensive backs coach Raheem Morris, who now shines as an example of what can go wrong when a coach is younger than some of his veteran players.
Morris was only 33 years old when he took over. He was a teenager in coaching years, and there were far too many weeks when his team simply didn't respond to him or put in the required effort. The result? A woeful 17-31 record over three seasons.
Then the Bucs reset with...Greg Schiano.
Three coaches later after Morris' time, they seem to be finding success under Dirk Koetter.
Tennessee Titans: Drafting Jake Locker
And we return again to the eternal face-palming that is the 2011 quarterback draft class beyond Cam Newton.
The Tennessee Titans had the maddening misfortune of going from one spirit-destroying first-round quarterback to another. All of their wildest hopes and dreams had been invested in Vince Young, who was great for stretches but overall couldn't mature into a well-rounded NFL quarterback. The Titans were preparing to move on, which happened with Young's release in July 2011.
His replacement was a quarterback who'd battled through troubling problems with inaccuracy in college. And it surprised few when Jake Locker's NFL accuracy was also spotty at best.
The Titans selected Locker with the eighth overall pick in 2011. They made that crippling decision even after Locker completed only 54.0 percent of his pass attempts over four years for the Washington Huskies. He then connected on just 57.5 percent of his attempts with the Titans over 30 appearances and 23 starts.
He retired in 2015, saying the "burning desire necessary to play the game for a living" had run out, per Kevin Patra of NFL.com. He would have been a highly sought-after quarterback in free agency at the time because the open market is annually barren at his position. But that desire was surely drained by having to recover from repeated injuries.
Washington Redskins: Trading Up for Robert Griffin III
The Washington Redskins were desperate to get out of a quarterback death spiral in 2012. Over the previous two years their starters were Rex Grossman, the late-career version of Donovan McNabb and John Beck.
No good ever comes from having to trot out that trio. So even in hindsight, it's easy to understand why they aggressively pursued Robert Griffin III in the 2012 draft. But there's a line between aggressive and ill-advised.
They swapped first-round picks with the Rams, and then gave up two additional first-round picks over the next two years. But the Redskins weren't done there, as they also tossed away a second-round pick in 2012.
It was a price that's nearly impossible to justify. But as a rookie, Griffin was busy making the impossible seem easy as he threw for 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns with only five interceptions. He also ran for 815 yards. For his efforts, Griffin was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012.
But his scrambling ways left him exposed too often, and that led to an ACL tear during the Redskins' playoff loss. After that he struggled to stay healthy, and we're still waiting on his first 16-game season.
We might be waiting a long time, too. Griffin has already been a free agent twice after bringing such a significant trade price. He was released by the Redskins, and then again by the Browns following the 2017 season.
His problems are the fatal kind: He doesn't know how to avoid contact and punishment, and worse, Griffin lacks the core vision to be successful from the pocket.