15 Stupidest Sports Decisions Ever

Adam LazarusSenior Analyst IFebruary 8, 2011

15 Stupidest Sports Decisions Ever

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    FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10:  Fans of the New England Patriots hold up a sign which reads 'Don't Be Stupid, Stupid!' against the Baltimore Ravens during the 2010 AFC wild-card playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The 15 Stupidest Sports Decisions Come from Legends and Goats Alike

    Sports has a rich tradition of horrible, in-the-heat-of-the-moment decisions.

    Chris Webber’s time out in the NCAA Finals.

    Grady Little leaving Pedro Martinez in during Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

    Phil Mickelson’s decision to go with a driver on the 72nd tee of the 2006 US Open at Winged Foot.

    But players and coaches get a pass from us for having to make those calls in a split-second. What about those decisions that people have taken a long time to mull over, consider and re-consider? 

    We’ll show less sympathy to those who made premeditated choices that turned out to be colossal failures.

    Here are the 15 worst of such offenses.   

No. 15: Brett Favre's Final (?) Un-Retirement

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    When: August 2010

    They say third time's the charm, but for the Ol' Gunslinger, the third time was...whatever the opposite of a charm is. 

    Favre came back once with the Jets with mixed results: he had some great games, some horrible ones and the Jets finished 8-8. 

    He came back a second time, had the greatest single season of his career and took the Vikings to the doorstep of the Super Bowl.

    But the third retirement was an unmitigated disaster. The Vikings were horrible, Brad Childress was canned, Favre endured several injuries, his consecutive games streak was snapped and he had the single worst season of his career. That doesn't even count the discovery of his sexting Jenn Sterger.

    And if all that wasn't enough, his replacement in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers, led the Packers to a world title and won the Super Bowl MVP, something that even Favre never earned. 

No. 14: Tom Hicks Gives Alex Rodriguez $252 Million

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    12 Dec 2000:  Newly signed Texas Ranger Alex Rodriguez is introduced to the media by club owner Tom Hicks during a press conference at The Ballpark in Arlington, Texas. Mandatory Credit: Gary Barber/ALLSPORT
    Gary Barber/Getty Images

    When: December 2000

    A-Rod was worthy of the game's highest salary in 2000. He was a 25-year-old superstar with a batting title, three straight 40-homer seasons and a pristine reputation.

    But to sign a player to a $25 million a year, 10-year deal during a recession was going to be a terrible public relations move. 

    Owner Tom Hicks and GM Doug Melvin really painted themselves into a corner with that type of deal. Just the phrase "a quarter of a billion dollars" is so large and so offensive to some that anything short of five world series or five MVPs during that span was going to make the deal seem a failure.  

No. 13: Major League Baseball Naming Bud Selig Commissioner

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    ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 29:  MLB commisioner Bud Selig talks with the media at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on September 29, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    When: September 1992

    Naming an owner the league's commissioner is a horribly obvious conflict of interest. Selig was the Milwaukee Brewers owner for years before taking over on a temporary basis for the (essentially) fired Fay Vincent—although, that "temporary" status lasted six years. 

    It should have been no surprise that there would be labor problems between the owners and players with Selig at the helm. Or that the steroids concern would be mismanaged: why would owners want to "clean up the game" when they were making tons off of the juiced-up home run era? 

    Selig deserves credit for a few innovations, like the Wild Card. But between the All Star Game tie, the Capitol Hill hearings, decades of no resolution in the Pete Rose standoff, the World Baseball Classic and choosing not to act on the Armando Galarraga perfect game, his tenure has been terribly rocky.

No. 12: The XFL

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    3 Feb 2001:  A rear view of Rod Smart #30 of the Las Vegas Outlaws walking on the field during the game against the New York/New Jersey Hitmen at the Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada.  The Outlaws defeated the Hitmen 19-0.Mandatory Credit: Todd Warsh
    Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

    When: Winter, Spring 2001

    Making professional football more open and more gimmicky was not the problem with the XFL. The different rules, unique jerseys and the opening scramble were all smart.

    But the larger idea, trying to compete with the NFL, was the mistake. The USFL and WFL, which had far better players than the XFL ever had, both failed. And neither was launched at a time when the NFL was king like it has been the past decade or so.

    We all need a break from the NFL after five months of nonstop play, followed by free agency, followed by mock drafts, followed by OTAs, followed by training camp, followed by the preseason.

    An inferior alternative is always doomed to fail, no matter how kitschy it is.  

No. 11: Pedro Martinez for Delino DeShields

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    When: November 1993

    There have been plenty of horrible trades in baseball history, and a few more will find their way on this list. 

    But we've chosen this one over most others.

    Trading Pedro Martinez was bad enough: he was only 22, was fresh off a 10-5 season in which his ERA was 2.61 and would quickly become one of the game's greatest pitchers.

    But to move him in exchange for a lead off hitter who averaged 100 strikeouts per season, that just doesn't make sense.  

No. 10: Michael Jordan Leaves the NBA for Minor League Baseball

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    When: Spring 1994

    Retiring from your profession to pursue a childhood dream is not stupid. Unless you're retiring at age 31 and are the best in the world at what you do. 

    Leaving the Bulls for the AA Birmingham Barons was obviously a downgrade for him. But he should have known how the media would crucify him for that move. 

    No matter how ridiculous it was, people complained that he was taking a spot from some poor young minor leaguer, they complained how it was beneath Jordan to drive to games in a rickety bus and the conspiracy theorists started up rumors that his gambling forced him to retire.

    It was a bad decision because it came a decade too early. If he had played for the Barons instead of the Wizards in 2001 and 2002, that would have killed two stupid-decision-birds with one stone.    

No. 9: Dan Gilbert's Open Letter to Cavs Fans

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    When: Summer 2010

    Coming out in support of his team and publicly criticizing LeBron James for leaving town was not stupid. In fact, Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert looked like a strong, proactive and confident leader by predicting a bright future for Cavs after the franchise's most important player left town via free agency.

    But to use the word "cowardly" in reference to James was a mistake.

    This statement was much worse:

    "I personally guarantee that the Cleveland Cavaliers will win an NBA Championship before the self-titled former 'king' wins one."

    And since he had no backup plan to replace James (unless you count greats like Antwan Jamison and Mo Williams), Gilbert's "decision" to write this letter was even stupider than LeBron's. 

No. 8: Joe Dumars Takes Darko Milicic

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    CHICAGO - FEBRUARY 25:  Darko Milicic #31 of the Detroit Pistons shoots a free throw during the game against the Chicago Bulls on February 25, 2004 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The Pistons won 107-88. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledge
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    When: June 2003

    There have been bigger busts in NBA Draft history: Kwame Brown, Sam Bowie, Len Bias, etc. 

    But the selection of Darko was just stupid, not necessarily because of his resume (although that was a big part of it), but because of who was on the board still. 

    Hindsight is always 20/20, and that's one of the reasons why taking Bowie over Michael Jordan was so infamous. 

    But at least Bowie played at a great program like Kentucky. Darko was an 18-year-old from Yugoslavia.  

    Joe Dumars passed on Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade.

    The Pistons would go on to win the NBA title that year and return to the Finals a year later. But they cost themselves dearly afterwards: they've missed the playoffs the last two years and are 13 games under .500 right now. 

No. 7: Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings

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    SAN FRANCISCO - JANUARY 6:  Running back Herschel Walker #34 of the Minnesota Vikings rushes for yards during the 1989 NFC Divisional Playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on January 6, 1990 in San Francisco, California.  The 49
    George Rose/Getty Images

    When: October 1989

    Twenty years ago, the Cowboys drew all the blame for trading Herschel Walker to Minnesota. He had rushed for 1,500 yards the previous season and was the only good player on a team that would finish an awful 1-15.

    But we know now that Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones completely fleeced the Vikings on this deal: in the end, they landed Emmitt Smith, Alvin Harper, Darren Woodson and Dixon Edwards, among others.

    Sure, Walker had a great season in 1988, but he was already 27, with a lot of miles on him. Dealing away a handful of picks and a handful of players for one running back is never a safe move.   

No. 6: Dan Duquette Lets Roger Clemens Leave

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    6 Jul 1996:  Pitcher Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox delivers the ball home during the Red Sox 4-3 win  over the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. Mandatory Credit: Doug Pensinger/ALLSPORT
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    When: December 1996

    No one could have predicted that Clemens would go on to win 162 more games and four more Cy Young Awards. 

    But letting him go altogether (and to a divisional opponent) was a mistake. Clemens was still a Boston icon at the time and only 34. 

    Clemens rarely missed a start due to injury in 13 seasons with Boston. If there was ever a player who would be able to pitch into their late 30s and early 40s (other than Nolan Ryan), it would be Clemens.

    Still, the decision could have been excused and chalked up to bad luck. Except when he spoke of the next few years being "the twilight of [Clemens] his career."  He won 20 games and the Cy Young each of the next two seasons. 

No. 5: Mike Ditka Trades the Saints Entire Draft

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    14 Sep 1997:  Head coach Mike Ditka of the the New Orleans Saints looks on during a game against the San Francisco 49ers at 3Com Park in San Francisco, California.  The 49ers won the game 33-7. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule  /Allsport
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    When: April 1999

    Yes, Ricky Williams was an incredible talent at Texas. And the Heisman Trophy winner would go on to have a pretty good career: it just happened in Miami, not New Orleans. 

    So for Mike Ditka to try desperately to move up and get Williams before anyone else could made sense. But not if it meant trading away an entire draft (six picks) for one player.

    That being said, Ditka made things a whole lot worse by agreeing to pose for that stupid "wedding" photo. The Saints' "Ricky Williams Era" was doomed from the start. 

No. 4: Paul Brown Chooses Tiger Johnson Over Bill Walsh

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    When: Spring 1976

    Paul Brown may have been the greatest mind in the history of Pro Football. He invented the pocket, the facemask, the modern offense and won a handful of titles.

    But towards the end of his career in Cincinnati, he really dropped the ball when naming a successor.

    Instead of promoting a 45-year-old forward thinking assistant named Bill Walsh, he tabbed his offensive line coach, Paul "Tiger" Johnson.

    Walsh immediately resigned, spent the next three years in California with the Chargers and Stanford, then took over the San Francisco 49ers. You know the rest.

    Tiger Johnson went 18-15 as the team's head coach, never reached the playoffs and resigned after an 0-5 start to his third season. 

    Fittingly, Walsh bested Brown's Bengals in his first Super Bowl in 1982 and in his last game as an NFL head coach, Super Bowl XXIII. 

No. 3: The Bowl Championship Series and It's Tweaks

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    SCOTTSDALE, AZ - JANUARY 11:  Detail of the  Football Writers of America trophy before being presented to head coach Gene Chizik (not pictured) of the Auburn Tigers during a press conference for the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game at the JW Marrio
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    When: 1998-present

    They can make all the minor changes they want (adding a plus-one, changing up the emphasis of the polls versus the computers, etc), but there is a "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" feel to those moves by the higher-ups of the NCAA.

    Maybe a playoff system isn't any better. Maybe it is. But until we do away with the current format, there will always be teams who, rightfully so, feel snubbed.

    This year, TCU feels snubbed that they went undefeated, won the Rose Bowl and didn't get a shot at the National Championship. 

    The same is true about the 2004 Auburn Tigers, the 2009 Boise State Broncos, the 2003 USC Trojans, the 2001 Oregon Ducks and Colorado Buffaloes.

    The BCS was/is a terribly stupid decision for one reason: it's a solution that offers no solutions. At least under the old system there wasn't a system in place that was SUPPOSED to avoid problems. 

No. 2: The Boston Red Sox Sell Babe Ruth to the Yankees

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    When: January 1920

    The long lasting impact of the Red Sox selling Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees far exceeds any other stupid decision on this list: over 80 "cursed" years awaited the franchise.  

    But even without the life of it's own that the curse took on, the Red Sox still should not have made the deal.

    Owner Harry Frazee had already handed away top notch players like Tris Speaker, Dutch Leonard, Ernie Shore, Carl Mays, Duffy Lewis and Smokey Joe Wood. 

    Selling the only player in history who was a world class pitcher and hitter (in addition to setting a major league record with 29 home runs, he won nine of his 15 starts in 1919) for no players in return was exponentially more stupid. 

No. 1: Tonya Harding and Thugs Plan To Attack Nancy Kerrigan

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    When: February 1994

    Do we really need to explain this one?

    Rather than defeat your opponent in the sporting venue that you have been training, you, your ex-husband and your body guard conspire to injure them outside of a practice session?

    When it comes to decisions, in the truest sense of the word, that has to be the stupidest ever to come through sports history. 


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