The NFL is the most difficult league for a young player to make it in. Everyone entering the league has talent and the athletic ability to do amazing things on the field. The grueling aspect of the game is what makes it so tough. You're asking a kid to enter a world where giant dudes that have been doing this for many years are going to maul him. It leads to quite a few busts. However, the more interesting stories revolve around the players that figure it out for a short time period before the rest of the league catches up to them.
A small list of NFL players have exploded with one or two impressive seasons to earn name value and appreciation from the fans. These specific guys we'll look at unfortunately witnessed it all end rather abruptly. Their one or two seasons of greatness were followed with a huge decline that saw their careers go downhill. Stories range from injuries to bad luck to a lack of talent to opposing teams just figuring them out. The following fifteen names are remembered as one hit wonders in NFL history, but we'll also take a look at what they're doing these days following the bitter ending to their playing careers.
15 Tim Tebow: Signed With New York Mets Affiliate
The polarizing reaction to Tim Tebow made him a popular name when entering the NFL. A successful college career is what brought him fame, but NFL scouts didn’t see it translating to the professional game. Tebow had a stellar rookie season, despite starting the season looking lost, though he managed to turn it around, leading the Denver Broncos to the playoffs. The quarterback had the game of his career in the playoffs, pulling off a miracle comeback to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the postseason.
NFL teams still didn’t believe in Tebow’s arm strength and he never received another starting opportunity. Following bench roles and attempts at playing other positions, Tebow left the NFL. His current career path sees him try to make it in the MLB. The New York Mets signed Tebow for their instructional league and he's currently working on his game in Spring Training.
14 Jonas Gray: Free Agent
As an undrafted young running back, Jonas Gray struggled to find a home in the NFL until he joined the New England Patriots. Gray shocked the NFL world with a record breaking day in his fourth career game. The Patriots saw Gray set the record for most rushing touchdowns with four and a total of 201 rushing yards against the Indianapolis Colts.
Many fans in New England believed they found their running back of the future. The dream ended the following week, as he was late to practice and fell down the depth chart. Gray was downgraded to another back in the committee before being released the following season in training camp. Today, Gray is still trying to find a job in the NFL as a journeyman unable to make a roster.
13 Mark Sanchez: Free Agent
The numbers of Mark Sanchez were never that great in the NFL, but he achieved a great deal of success early in his career. Sanchez was the quarterback of the New York Jets right when Rex Ryan took over the team. His new philosophy and roster saw the Jets reach the AFC Championship Game two years in a row, falling just short to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts.
Jets fans felt rare optimism, as they hoped Sanchez could improve and step up as a franchise quarterback. Instead, he proved to be among the worst starting quarterbacks in the league and delivered the infamous butt fumble. His career went downhill and he's currently a free agent. We'll likely never see him as a starting quarterback again.
12 Larry Brown: Dallas Cowboy Radio Broadcaster
Not to be confused with the NBA coach with the same name, Larry Brown struggled to follow his one dream season in the NFL. Brown’s career peak came in Super Bowl XXX when he won the MVP for the Dallas Cowboys. It was the first time a cornerback achieved such an honor at the Super Bowl.
Brown's genius agent landed him a huge contract with the Oakland Raiders in the following offseason, but it was still the worst move of his career. Brown lost the advantage of playing with Deion Sanders and the pressure that took off him. Oakland saw Brown wasn’t as great on his own and he was out of the league shortly after. Today, Brown remains a part of the Cowboys family, hosting pre-game and post-game shows on the team’s radio broadcasts.
11 Steve Beuerlein: CBS TV Analyst
The name Steve Beuerlein haunts Carolina Panthers fans that believed he was their quarterback of the future in 1999. That year, Beuerlein put up astonishing numbers of 4,436 yards and 36 touchdowns during the season. Carolina had high hopes for him but the following season saw the lackluster quarterback come back down to earth. Beuerlein moved to the Denver Broncos for two more seasons, but only started five games in that time before retiring.
CBS signed Beuerlein on as an analyst for the NFL following his retirement. Beuerlein is a color commentator for NFL and college football games today, continuing his second career. You can even hear him on the radio as a part of the MNFLQB show on various CBS stations all over the country. The one hit wonder may not have received these opportunities without that tremendous season in 1999.
10 Vince Young: Saskatchewan Roughriders
An outstanding college career at the University of Texas made Vince Young a highly valued prospect entering the NFL. The Tennessee Titans assumed they would be getting their quarterback of the future when they selected him with the third pick of the 2006 Draft. Young struggled, but showed enough ability during his rookie season to get Titans fans on his side. An impressive seven rushing touchdowns in his rookie season was unheard of at the time.
His inability to improve and figure out the NFL game stopped Young from succeeding with the Titans. Some issues off the field also haunted him as he was out of the NFL faster than anyone could have predicted. Young is currently signed to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the CFL, where he's hoping to turn his football career around.
9 Ickey Woods: Head Coach Of The Cincinnati Sizzle
Ickey Woods had a dream rookie season in 1988 as the running back for the Cincinnati Bengals. The charismatic running back rushed for 1,005 yards and 15 touchdowns during the season. Cincinnati went to the Super Bowl behind Woods’ outstanding season. Unfortunately, injuries would ruin his potential of adding consistency to follow his superb year.
Woods tore his ACL and was never the same. The running back only played another 19 games for the rest of his career with injuries keeping him out and others passing him by. Sadly, we never got to see the greatness Woods could have achieved. Woods currently owns and coaches the Cincinnati Sizzle in the Women’s Football Alliance. Woods also runs the Ickey Woods Youth Foundation to help provide funding and awareness of asthma research and organ donor education.
8 Kevin Jones: Design Firm, JoBa
The Detroit Lions saw running back Kevin Jones have a great rookie season to provide optimism for the future. Jones put up 1,133 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns to show the world that he had the talent to succeed in the NFL. Unfortunately, it was the only time Jones would achieve such skill before falling off.
A combination of injuries and mediocre play saw the rest of his career go downhill. Jones quickly became an afterthought in the NFL and was just another Lions bust. Upon realizing his football player days were over, Jones returned to college to study industrial design. At one point, he joined a sail racing team as a member of the 22 person crew. However, Jones found design work today with his own design firm named JoBa.
7 Derek Anderson: Backup NFL QB
The saddest thing about Derek Anderson’s one year of greatness for the Cleveland Browns is that it makes him the franchise’s best quarterback in recent memory. Anderson led the Browns to a 10-6 record and playoff appearance in 2007, throwing 29 touchdowns during the season. Cleveland fans finally believed they had a quarterback who could keep the momentum going.
Anderson completely fell apart the next year, playing just name games before he was benched. All of his numbers went down aside from his interceptions. Anderson was no longer a starting quarterback, but has remained a journeyman backup in the NFL. The Carolina Panthers currently have him on their roster as the backup to Superstar Cam Newton. Anderson has started a couple of games in place of Newton during injuries, but they usually remind you why he’s no longer a credible starter.
6 Peyton Hillis: Retired
Another player to fool Cleveland Browns fans with one big year is Peyton Hillis. The running back dominated the 2010 season, fooling both Browns fans and fantasy football players into believing in him. Hillis put up eye-opening numbers of 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns. Some believe the biggest honor of his career is what doomed him, as Madden chose him to be on the cover of the next video game.
Hillis held out of training camp to get more money from the Browns, but it just led to his demise. The running back never rushed for more than 600 yards in a season again and retired a few years later due to concussion related fears from his doctor. Hillis is currently living a quiet life out of the spotlight on his farm with his family in Tennessee.
5 Nick Foles: Backup NFL QB
Nick Foles's incredible season in 2013 had us all believing he was the next big Superstar quarterback. Foles delivered an incredible ratio of 27 passing touchdowns to two interceptions under the first year of Chip Kelly’s coaching staff in Philadelphia. The Eagles made the playoffs behind Foles’ dominant play as one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL that year.
It was clearly fool’s gold as Foles could not match it again. The following two seasons would see Foles have a ratio of 20 touchdown passes to 20 interceptions. Both the Eagles and the St. Louis Rams gave up on him in that time frame, proving he was no longer a starting quarterback in the NFL. Foles is currently back with the Eagles, where he'll look to back up Carson Wentz.
4 Michael Clayton: Back To School
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Michael Clayton in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft and were rewarded with an amazing rookie season. Clayton lived up to his potential as a stud rookie wide receiver with 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns. Sadly, he never had another good season in the NFL. Thosee numbers would never be matched, as Clayton’s next best season saw him haul in 484 yards for one touchdown.
Clayton played a few more seasons for Tampa Bay and later the New York Giants. Things never got better and he was out of the league quickly. Clayton has worked for Sky Sports as a NFL analyst but is now out of the spotlight, as he's back in college working on finishing his degree. Aside from attending classes at Florida College, he runs the Michael Clayton Generation Next Foundation to help provide aid to local causes in Tampa Bay.
3 Don Majkowski: Retired
Don Majkowski had an incredible season in 1989 as the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers. The MVP vote for that season saw Majkowski finishing second to Joe Montana. Majkowski threw for 27 touchdowns and led the Packers to the playoffs. A couple of injuries and disappointing seasons saw the magic run out and Green Bay realized they had to give up on Majkowski despite his potential.
The Packers made the move to trade for young quarterback Brett Favre as a replacement for Majkowski and the rest is history. Favre went on to become a legend and Majkowski spent the rest of his career as a backup on a couple of teams. Majkowski recently ran a real estate investment company in Atlanta, but sold it to live a happy life in retirement despite dealing with injuries from his playing days.
2 Steve Slaton: Chef For The Texans
The Houston Texans saw Steve Slaton have a tremendous rookie season in 2008. Slaton delivered 1,659 total yards and ten touchdowns to bring some excitement to the Texans franchise. However, head coach Gary Kubiak wanted some changes from Slaton that ended up damaging his career. Kubick requested Slaton put on weight to be a more durable back. It just decreased his speed and caused his career to go downhill after his outstanding rookie season.
Slaton never rushed for more than 437 yards in a season again and was quickly out of the NFL. The talented running back tried his luck in the CFL for a few years before realizing it was time to retire. Slaton attended culinary school and found a job working with a chef to prepare meals for the current Texans players.
1 Robert Griffin III: Backup NFL QB
The biggest one hit wonder in NFL history has to be Robert Griffin III. Everyone viewed him as a future Superstar after an amazing rookie season for the Washington Redskins. Griffin won the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year Award with 3,200 passing yards and 20 passing touchdowns along with 815 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns.
RG3 suffered an ACL tear in the playoff loss of his rookie year and was never the same. His running game was limited, forcing him to become a traditional passer. Griffin never had another good season and lost his place in the league as a starter. Today, RG3 is a free agent, hoping to find the formula to success again. One positive thing for Griffin is the fact that he signed many endorsement deals as a rookie that allow him to live comfortably now, despite the NFL doubt.