We all know those clubs around the sporting world that are nothing more than glorified morgues. Promising young talent goes through the front door every off-season, only to come out zombies around the back and no one has an explanation about how or why this continues. But somehow history keeps repeating itself and these poor kids coming through the draft or transfer period keep making the same awful decision.
These graveyards never intend to be this haunting. Despite numerous turnovers of backroom staff and playing stocks, the performance levels are diabolical season in, season out. When the opportunity presents itself to turn over a new leaf to begin a period of rejuvenation, everyone drops the ball to develop a winning culture. Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger believes confidence in athletes is the hardest thing to foster and the easiest thing to lose. On the evidence of these clubs that looks a feasible theory.
Whether it’s the Browns, Lions or Jaguars in the NFL, Newcastle, Aston Villa or Sunderland in the EPL, or any other franchise with a history of screw-ups, the hall of horrors is a stain on their respective leagues. Particularly in America where the notion of equality underpins the very essence of an even playing field, these sides that drag the chain undermine the whole operation. If you’re only as strong as your weakest link then so help these sports organizations.
The good news is sports move in cycles. Some last longer than others, but even the Knicks and Villa had their glory years to look back on fondly. Those that are chasing the dream without ever getting a taste are the saddest of all and something that has to be rectified immediately. These are the top 20 places where careers go to die.
20 Detroit Lions
Fortune might finally be turning in Detroit’s favor; god knows the city needs it let alone the football team. The franchise’s last divisional title came back in 1993 with no Super Bowl victory lap to speak of, not even a single appearance in the big dance. In 2015 Jim Caldwell is actually building on some talent and promise, yet there have been so many mistakes in the past you hope this isn’t a false dawn. Mike Williams first round pick in 2005 has to be up there as one of the worst, illustrating an organization that struggled to transfer potential to performance time and time again.
19 Tampa Bay Rays
This is what we get for decades of pestering for an MLB franchise? The Tampa Bay Rays have players that are either perennially injured or incapable of putting in performances to give their fans a hope of glory. From Ben Zobrist to Ryan Hanigan, Matt Moore, Wil Myers and Alex Cobb, the Rays aren’t able to dip into the minor-league system because the development isn’t coming through. Bad set ups, ineffective pitching an away jersey that screams “we give up!” means the Rays are a pitiful excuse for a Major League Baseball team.
18 Chicago Bears
Stan Thomas in 1991, Bob Sapp in 1997, Curtis Enis in 1998, Cade McNown in 1999, Cedric Benson in 2005 – all picks that were supposed to change the Bears from a laughing stock to a contender. How did the maligned franchise stuff up this much and still have the temerity to turn up every season? Even the local Chicago Tribune has posed the question whether they’re team is the worst in the NFL, pointing out that a first season coach hasn’t had a winning record there since 1968. It’s not so much that careers go to die at the Bears, but that they’re holding on by a life support machine and wheeled out each week.
17 Aston Villa
The side propping up the rest of the English Premier League right now is a cemetery for footballers past. If they haven’t been sold onto clubs with some level of ambition, like Fabian Delph at Manchester City or Christian Benteke at Liverpool, then they hang around to become shadows of the player they were when they arrived. From Micah Richards to Jordan Ayew, Brad Guzan, Scott Sinclair, Joleon Lescott and well, the rest of the squad – their stock plummets as soon as they walk through the gates at Villa Park. Their impending relegation should be seen as an opportunity to clean house and start again.
16 Florida Panthers
Last time we checked, Panthers weren’t native to Florida and they certainly weren’t about to glide on ice. The franchise established in 1993 enjoyed a divisional championship in 2011-12, but that was a miracle given their 2005 draft under Mike Keenan. With a host of top guys coming through the ranks like Paul Stastny, Keith Yandle, Bobby Ryan, Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Quick to choose from, they took Kenndal McArdle. He only played 33 games with two assists and one goal to show for it.
15 Philadelphia 76ers
Judging by the pitiful underperforming “talent” that resides on the 76ers roster, it’s any wonder their losing streak broke all types of NBA records this year. The names speak for themselves: Jodie Meeks, TJ McConnell, Jason Smith, Jason Kapono, Nik Stauskas, Mac Koshwal, Keith Bogans, Vasilije Micic, it goes on and on. Any promising young talent looking to get drafted will see the 76ers as a minimum benchmark, not an ideal destination.
14 Newcastle United
1955 was the year Newcastle won their last piece of silverware. When Michael J Fox went back to that year in the 1989 film Back To The Future, it felt like an age to look back that far. It’s an indictment of a club of this size and stature in the North East to see the Toon Army staggering and stuttering for decades. Under the ownership of Mike Ashley, players are bought at a cheap price with the approach of selling them at a profit if they perform well, defying the idea that they could actually build for the future and win anything. Aside from the signing of Georginio Wijnaldum this season, none of the new acquisitions have enhanced their market value. That’s been the story for a long time and you would probably need Doc Brown’s DeLorean to find out when that wasn’t the case.
13 Memphis Grizzlies
If sports are about getting results, then the Memphis Grizzlies have nothing to show for 20 years in the NBA. Aside from Marc Gasol and a handful of other decent players in the league, the Southwest franchise hasn’t exactly been a boutique destination for upcoming basketballers. Kevin Love’s trade for O.J. Mayo in 2008 was one of a string of regretful decisions, topped off with C Hasheem Thabeet in the 2009 draft and Xavier Henry the following season.
12 Philadelphia Union
It’s been a short journey so far for the Union in the MLS and from what we’ve garnered to date, there’s been little to sing and dance about. Players coming through the franchise either stagnate at the club or come after they’ve played their best football elsewhere, including the likes of Tranquillo Barnetta and Maurice Edu. Striker Sebastien Le Toux has been the one shining light to hold all of the records, but he wasn’t even good enough to crack the French leagues.
11 Jacksonville Jaguars
Honestly where do Jacksonville go from here? Every time franchise relocation in the NFL comes up the Jaguars are the prime candidate as their 2 decades have demonstrated an ability to kill off footballers hopes of a better career. Forget worst players in club history, simply look at the cattle they’ve sent out in 2015. From Luke Joeckel to Roy Miller, Chris Clemons, Allen Hurns, Paul Posluszny and Marqise Lee, all poor to mediocre athletes at NFL level and while they might have arrived with lofty ambitions, no of them are being fulfilled in Jacksonville.
10 Queens Park Rangers
With debt growing into the hundreds of millions lurking around Loftus Road, it’s any wonder the relegated club isn’t pulling up any tress in English football these days. Aside from striker Charlie Austin, new manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has a patched up squad consisting of players who were at a higher level before they arrived to Queens Park Rangers. The second tier London outfit broke the bank over two separate stints in the EPL, signing overpaid and overinflated athletes more interested in making a quick buck than doing their job. That toxic culture still permeates to this day.
9 Milwaukee Brewers
Milwaukee are a proud bunch, just don’t get them started on the Brewers. Yes their Major League Baseball team battle to convert raw talents and transform them into quality league players like other modest-sized clubs do. Shocking draft picks like Gary Sheffield and Rickie Weeks set the Brewers back a bit, but an injury to pitcher Ben Sheets in 2004 put a close to what could have been a great partnership. Those are the breaks that happen to sides like the Brewers, always down on their luck.
8 Toronto FC
Sebastian Giovinco, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore might be blowing this theory out of the water in 2015, but this newfound competitiveness is a far cry from what we’ve seen of Toronto in the MLS to date. Random players have come in and popped out, like Jermaine Defoe and Julio Cesar without leaving a legacy on the league. The same could be said of Alen Stevanovic, Oliver Tebily, Bradley Orr, Matias Laba, Andy Iro, Julius James, Nicholas Lindsay and many more. Clubs like Toronto FC shouldn’t be a stop over or a weird lab experiment for overseas athletes, they should be ruthless. Hopefully the penny has dropped.
7 Leeds United
This club has been in free fall since their relegation from the EPL a decade ago, seeing a ton of talent leave the premises and replacing it with footballers who could have gone on to achieve great things. The former powerhouse is run by eccentric Italian Massimo Cellino and managed by Steve Evans, a man who looks and acts like a baked potato. The best talent that’s arrived at Leeds in the past 20 years have either gone before they were good, or got worse the longer they stayed. This includes Jonathan Woodgate, Paul Robinson, Lee Bowyer, James Milner, Rio Ferdinand, Harry Kewell and a host of others.
6 Cleveland Browns
Oh The Browns. The national punch line that gives the rest of the NFL pause when they consider if they’re team is having a season to forget. “Well Jimmy, it could be worse – we’re not the Browns. Am I right?” Last tasting championship success in 1964, Cleveland has blown a multitude of top picks and draft choices down the years to make you wonder whether there is a paranormal presence to the Cleveland Curse. Johnny Manziel is the latest in a lineup of chewed up and spat out talent, becoming so bad that Hollywood had to create a world where Kevin Costner saved the day on the big screen. Even Draft Day had to stop before the season started, because it might be fiction but it wasn’t fantasy.
5 Sunderland AFC
They don’t call them the Black Cats for nothing. North East outfit Sunderland have been something of a yo-yo side in England over the past couple of decades, hovering between excellence in the second tier and floundering terribly in the Premier League. Players like Jack Rodwell, Adam Johnson, Fabio Borini, Wes Brown and others arrived from successful teams to lift the club out of the doldrums, but rather than raising the standard they’ve been pulled down to their level. Sunderland continues to look like a rabble even under Sam Allardyce, a manager who has never been relegated before. There’s always a first for everything.
4 Charlotte Hornets
It’s remarkable why Michael Jordan is keeping this labor of love afloat for as long as he has. Basketball is in his veins, but even the Hornets appear to be a lost cause on a career front. Since their introduction in 1988 before trading on the Bobcats alias for a decade, the franchise has had to put up with a ton of mediocrity. From Tony Delk to Julian Wright, Hilton Armstrong, Cedric Simmons and the disaster that was Kirk Haston, the organization keeps shooting for the 3 and miss the backboard.
3 San Diego Padres
It doesn’t matter if we point out the Fred McGriff trade to Atlanta in the 1992 mass exodus, the Matt Bush pick or the 1969 team that finished 52-110. In the overall scheme of things they are simply small moments in a much bigger picture of rubbish. To sum up the Padres, that McGriff horror show of a call gave them Melvin Nieves, Donnie Elliot and Vince Moore. Need we say more? 2 national league pennants with only 14 winning seasons is pittance for 46 years of pain and suffering.
2 Getafe FC
Spanish football is one of the most exotic competitions in the world. From Leo Messi to Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo, the excitement and passion is electrifying to watch and makes it arguably superior to the EPL for quality. Then there’s the sad case of Getafe, a small La Liga outfit in Madrid that has to try and convince supporters to procreate because there aren’t enough in the first place. Any of their decent players have arrived because they couldn’t handle the pressure at bigger clubs, like Pedro Leon, Pablo Sarabia and goalkeeper Vincente Guaita. You’ll never see them involved in a big transfer either, despite being in the country most often credited with producing the best talent.
1 New York Knicks
The crème de la crème of sporting graveyards. The Knicks are box office for attraction, the city sells itself and with Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony on board they’re starting to build something. But we’ve been here before right? Since their iconic team of the 1970s, the team has had to put up with a lot of garbage for a boutique franchise expecting a lot better. Whether their careers died on the spot or went on to succeed elsewhere, the list is long and embarrassing. Luc Longley, , Clarence Weatherspoon, Renaldo Balkman, Steve Francis, Malik Rose, Eddy Curry, Shandon Anderson and Jerome James – Madison Square Garden was never for them.