Some NFL teams are like some people, they make poor decisions over and over again and they just never seem to get anywhere in life, or the playoffs. But in truth, everyone makes mistakes from time to time, even the Patriots. Over the past ten years there have been some big time mistakes as well as some minor mistakes made by every team in the league. From lopsided trades, to grossly overpaid free agents who drastically under-perform, to dumping great coaches, to hiring terrible coaches, to the endless variety of poor choices made on draft night such as taking the wrong guy or not taking the right guy or taking the wrong guy instead of the right guy. We will take a look at which of these moves coaches, GMs, and owners would love to have a chance to reverse or do differently. Here are each NFL team’s biggest mistakes.
32 Arizona Cardinals: Trading Rodgers-Cromartie For Kolb
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was selected by the Arizona Cardinals with the 16th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. He ended up being an important piece on defense as the Cardinals made their first Super Bowl that year, losing narrowly to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Cromartie spent three seasons with the Cardinals before they made their mistake, which was trading him to the Philadelphia Eagles for quarterback Kevin Kolb who they thought could be their franchise quarterback. Kolb had been viewed as the future of the Eagles until a concussion knocked him out of the lineup enabling Michael Vick to take over and making Kolb expendable. Kolb played great in his first game with Arizona throwing for over 300 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. As the season progressed however, his performance declined and injuries became an issue. He lasted one more mediocre season before being released. Cromartie meanwhile had two uneventful seasons in Philadelphia but then became an important piece of the Denver Broncos team that made it to Super Bowl XLIII where they lost to the Seahawks. He has been with the Giants for the past three seasons, and was a key part of this year’s highly rated Giants defense.
31 Atlanta Falcons: Drafting Jamaal Anderson
As we will see throughout our look at each team’s biggest mistakes, the 2007 NFL Draft was loaded with talent. With five potential Hall of Famers in addition to 12 other Pro-Bowlers selected in the first round, if a team had a top 10 draft choice that year and failed to end up with a star, they made a big mistake. The Falcons of course had the eighth overall pick that year. They did not have an opportunity to pass on Adrian Peterson, Calvin Johnson or Joe Thomas because they all went before their selection. But they still did manage to blow their pick on Jamaal Anderson, thereby missing out on Patrick Willis, Marshawn Lynch, and Darelle Revis, who were chosen later. Actually, the choice of Anderson himself might have been a big enough mistake to qualify for this list. Although he did last five years with the Falcons he recorded less than five total sacks despite being selected as a pass rusher.
30 Baltimore Ravens: Signing Domonique Foxworth
The Ravens have done very well with their decisions over the years. With Ozzie Newsome in charge as General Manager they have drafted well and avoided foolishly overpaying for over the hill free agents. They have also held onto a solid coach in John Harbaugh and the owner has trusted Newsome to make good decisions. Nobody is perfect however and he has missed on a draft pick here and there. His worst mistake was probably a free agent signing. One of the most onerous contracts for the Ravens was Domonique Foxworth who signed a four year contract with Baltimore for $28 million in 2009. He played 18 games over three years with one of the years spent on injured reserve with a knee problem that ultimately forced his retirement.
29 Buffalo Bills: Poor Drafting In 2009 And 2011
One mistake many teams make is picking a player at one position when they could have had another similar player later in the draft. The mistake feels bigger when the better player is chosen very soon after their own pick. The Buffalo Bills of course have a few instances of that. One mistake was in the 2011 NFL Draft. With their third round pick, the Bills selected linebacker Kelvin Sheppard from LSU who lasted two years with the Bills. Two picks later another linebacker was chosen. That linebacker, who they could have had, was Justin Houston who is currently wrecking worlds for the Kansas City Chiefs. One could argue that a bigger mistake came a few years earlier however when they drafted Aaron Maybin with their first round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Maybin was not terrible and bounced around for a few years but in the next few picks Brian Orakpo, Brian Cushing, and Clay Matthews were all chosen. You can decide which of these mistakes was bigger.
28 Carolina Panthers: Rescinding Josh Norman’s Franchise Tag
After making it to the Super Bowl 50 behind a great defense and Cam Newton’s MVP campaign, the Carolina Panthers had a very good chance to return in 2017. One issue they needed to address however was how to hold onto their star cornerback, Josh Norman. The Panthers initially put the franchise tag on Norman, which would have allowed them to keep him on a one-year contract if all else failed and they were unable to come to a long term agreement. Despite negotiations, the two sides could not figure out an agreement. But instead of retaining him with the franchise tag and figuring out a new deal in 2017 the Panthers made their biggest mistake of the past decade when they decided to rescind the franchise tag, making Norman a free agent. He was quickly snapped up by the Washington Redskins. Although the Panthers did not view Norman to be worth what he wanted to be paid, or what Washington ended up paying him, they did not have any players of his caliber in the fold to replace him. As a result the Panthers secondary was one of the reasons the Panthers 15-1 Super Bowl season was followed up by 6-10 season where they missed the playoffs and finished last in their division.
27 Chicago Bears: Hiring Phil Emery As GM
There are number mistakes made in the past few years that could be considered the Bears’ biggest mistake of the last decade. But most of those mistakes, and more, were made by former General Manager Phil Emery. Among the moves Emery made was firing Lovie Smith, after a 10-6 season, even though Smith had taken the Bears to the playoffs three times, won a Coach of the Year award, and taken the Bears to Super Bowl XLI. Emery then hired Marc Trestman, from the Canadian Football League, as head coach who proceeded to go 13-19 over his two seasons in charge. Another move that was widely panned was Emery’s decision to extend the contract for Jay Cutler for seven years and $126.7 million. Needless to say the biggest mistake looks like it was hiring Phil Emery as General Manager in the first place.
26 Cincinnati Bengals: Picking The Wrong Tight End
The Bengals have not had many big mistakes in the past decade. Even their awkward handling of Carson Palmer in 2010 when he vowed to retire rather than play another game for the Bengals turned out well when the Raiders decided they needed him and sent the Bengals multiple picks including a first rounder for him. One mistake you could make a case for is a simple instance of choosing one player at a position when they could have had a better one. In 2010 they used their first round pick to choose highly touted tight end Jermaine Gresham out of the University of Oklahoma. There was another tight end that was chosen 21 picks later however, who may end up being one of the best tight ends ever. It was not a huge mistake, but if they could, the Bengals would probably go back and choose Rob Gronkowski instead.
25 Cleveland Browns: The 2014 Draft
The mistakes made by the Cleveland Browns in the past decade could fill their very own article. Their biggest mistake could probably just be the entire 2014 NFL Draft. Despite having two first round picks, plus seven additional picks they did not manage to come away with anything special. Their original first round pick was number four with which they could have selected Khalil Mack or Mike Evans. Instead they swapped it with Buffalo while picking up an extra first rounder in 2015. Good move, except they then picked Justin Gilbert who was not bad but who also was not Aaron Donald, Odell Beckham Jr, or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who were also available. With their second first rounder they of course selected Johnny Manziel. Besides turning out to be a disastrous pick they also missed out on selecting Teddy Bridgewater or Derek Carr who both were available. For good measure they also sent two late round picks to the San Francisco 49ers in return for their 94th overall pick which netted them Terrance West who had one halfway okay season before moving on. They could have grabbed Devonte Freeman there instead. Overall the entire draft was basically one big mistake.
24 Dallas Cowboys: Trading For Roy Williams
A star for the Texas Longhorns in college, Roy Williams was drafted by the Detroit Lions with the seventh overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. As a Texas kid though, the Dallas Cowboys were always interested in him. So after trying to get their hands on him for two years, they finally put together a trade offer in 2008 that convinced the Lions to send him back home to Texas. In the deal the Cowboys received Roy Williams and a seventh round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. In return, the Cowboys sent the Lions their first round pick, their third round pick, and their sixth round pick. Then just for good measure, the Cowboys gave Williams a new five year contract for $26 million guaranteed. The vision was for him to be another weapon across from Terrell Owens but as we all know Williams never did much for the Cowboys even with Owens drawing most of the defenses attention in his first year. After Owens left, Williams was almost immediately overshadowed by Miles Austin and in 2010 the Cowboys drafted Dez Bryant, who quickly became the number one receiver they originally envisioned Williams as.
23 Denver Broncos: Coaching Change In 2009
Sometimes the biggest mistake is two smaller mistakes put together. In 2008, the Denver Broncos finished their third consecutive season without a playoff appearance. Their record in those three seasons was 9-7, 8-8, and 7-9, or perfectly average. The problem was in seven of the previous 10 seasons the Broncos had gone to the playoffs and won Super Bowl twice, so the team felt it was a time to shake things up and make a change. The change was getting rid of Mike Shanahan as head coach. The problem with firing a head coach is that there are not a lot of truly good head coaches out there, so if you get rid of one, the chances of finding another are slim. After their first mistake of getting rid of the best coach the team had ever had, they hired the unproven Josh McDaniels to replace him. McDaniels' main qualification was being the New England Patriots offensive coordinator. Now he did do an excellent job with the Patriots helping them put one of the best offenses ever on the field. But he also had the distinct advantage of one of the best QBs ever running that offense, and one of the best coaches ever running the team. Needless to say McDaniels was unable to bring Tom Brady or Bill Belichick with him to Denver and had to work his magic with Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow. After an 8-8 record in his first season the Broncos started the next season 3-9 which led to McDaniels firing. Perhaps it was not a mistake at all however as the team ended up finishing 4-12 which allowed them to draft Von Miller who helped them win Super Bowl 50.
22 Detroit Lions: Drafting Titus Young
The Lions were looking for a solid number two receiver to play across from their all-world number one receiver, Calvin Johnson. In the second round they selected Titus Young from Boise State. The choice was not as bad for what they could have had, although there were two choices which would have worked out better in Torrey Smith who had a few good years with the Ravens and Randall Cobb who went to the Packers where he became Aaron Rodgers second favorite target. Young started okay with 600 yards receiving and 6 touchdowns his rookie year but it was not really his play or injuries that doomed him as a Lions mistake. Unfortunately mental health issues became a problem for him and he was soon out of the league, unable to deal with them properly.
21 Green Bay Packers: Not Going For Two
The Packers have been a pretty solidly run team for the past decade. With Brett Favre getting old, they chose to move on from him and it turned out to be a great move when his replacement, Aaron Rodgers, ended up being one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. One mistake some people might consider is retaining Mike McCarthy as coach. I would not go that far, but I would pin one of the team’s biggest mistakes on him. In the 2016 Divisional Playoffs against the Arizona Cardinals, down by seven, with under a minute to go, facing a fourth down and 20(!) inside their own five yard line, Aaron Rodgers somehow hit a 60 yard pass for a first down. A few plays later he threw his second Hail Mary of the season to pull within one pending the extra point. McCarthy’s mistake was choosing to settle for the tie and overtime at that moment. His future Hall of Fame quarterback had somehow just thrown two passes for a total of 101 yards to score a touchdown as time expired in the fourth quarter. No matter what conventional wisdom, or logic, or common sense says, the Packers should have put the ball right back into Rodgers’ hands to win the game then and there. As everyone knows however, the teams went to overtime and the Hail Mary was the last time Aaron Rodgers touched the football that season. Would he have gotten the two-point conversion for the win? What do you think?
20 Houston Texans: Choosing Poorly In 2007 Draft
Recency bias might convince people that signing Brock Osweiler in free agency to a four year $72 million deal might be the biggest mistake the Texans have made. But the guy did just win a playoff game for the Texans so maybe we table this one for the moment. Looking back further, there were a lot of amazing players chosen in the 2007 NFL Draft including 17 Pro Bowlers and possibly five Hall of Famers just in the first round. As a result, anyone who came out of the first round without finding anyone good had obviously made a very big mistake. The Houston Texans were one of those teams who could have improved their chances of success by simply pulling a name out of a hat to make their selection. Instead they put their minds together and decided to select Amobi Okoye with their first round pick. Now it was not the worst pick in the world and he did last four years with the team, but his production did not amount to much and the other problem was he was not Marshawn Lynch, Patrick Willis, or Darelle Revis who were all drafted within the next four picks. If choosing Okoye was not the mistake, then not choosing one of those other players certainly was.
19 Indianapolis Colts: Trading First Round Pick For Trent Richardson
If I was from the future I would probably be writing about the Colts’ biggest mistake, which was not firing Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano after the 2016 season. But since I am not, you will have to wait a couple of years for that article. Nevertheless, the biggest mistake is still related to Ryan Grigson. Grigson made pretty much one solid draft pick since he has been the GM of the Colts and it was the easiest draft decision any team had to make since the Colts chose Peyton Manning in the 1998 NFL Draft. That of course was selecting Andrew Luck with the number one pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. He followed that up by selecting Bjorn Werner with the Colts first round pick in 2013, and then trading away their 2014 first round pick to the Browns for Trent Richardson. Now Trent Richardson had a fantastic career at the University of Alabama but even with the Browns he had not exactly lit things up. When he arrived in Indianapolis, Richardson continued to not light things up. He split carries over the two seasons he was with the Colts, eventually being waived in 2015.
18 Jacksonville Jaguars: Drafting Quarterbacks
The Jacksonville Jaguars biggest mistake has always been drafting a quarterback, except for the times when it was NOT drafting a quarterback. It has not mattered who, and it has not mattered when, each time they have to make a decision about a quarterback it is the wrong decision. In 2014 the Jaguars had the number three overall pick and grabbed Blake Bortles. They could have had Khalil Mack instead. In 2011 the Jaguars used their number 10 overall pick to select Blaine Gabbert. The very next player selected was J.J. Watt. Not choosing a quarterback has also been a mistake as they could have had Joe Flacco in 2008 or in 2012 they could have selected Russell Wilson with their third round pick but they chose a PUNTER and Wilson was grabbed five picks later. Basically if the decision involves whether to pick a quarterback or not, that will always be the Jaguars biggest mistake.
17 Kansas City Chiefs: Making Romeo Crennel Head Coach
With four Super Bowl wins in various coaching capacities, including three under Bill Belichick for the New England Patriots, Romeo Crennel appeared to be a strong choice for a head coaching position. After over twenty years in the pros he did finally get his first head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns in 2005. He lasted three years eventually being fired after a 4-12 season. From there he moved to Kansas City for another defensive coordinator job. When the head coach for the Chiefs was fired, Crennel was named interim coach and then hired after the 2011 season. It soon became apparent that his 24-40 record with the Browns was not just because it was the Browns. As a head coach, Crennel did not seem to have the effectiveness he had as a DC, and he went 4-15 in Kansas City. Needless to say hiring Crennel as head coach is a big mistake. Hiring Crennel as a defensive coordinator on the other hand is a very good idea. Just don’t put him in charge of the entire team.
16 Los Angeles Rams: Moving Back To Los Angeles
There is a cold hard fact that the NFL has refused to learn even after being taught a lesson about it twice in the past twenty years or so. The fact is that Los Angeles is not an NFL town. They like their USC Trojans, and some like the UCLA Bruins. They like their Dodgers, and even their LA Galaxy. But what they really like is their Lakers. They like Showtime, they like Magic, they like Kobe, and they like what Luke Walton is putting together. Heck they even like the Clippers now that they have Blake and DJ and the Point God. But they sure do not care about NFL football. Two major teams used to be in Los Angeles, the Raiders and the original LA Rams. Both teams eventually left and the local populace collectively yawned and went back to sitting in traffic and forgot about it. One of the reasons the NFL is not a big deal is because so many people are from somewhere else and if they did have a team they liked where they were from, they could not follow them once they moved to LA, so most people stopped watching the NFL at all. For locals, they have not had a team for decades anyway so they never had a reason to follow it in the first place. Based on the first year of the Rams, not much has changed.
15 Miami Dolphins: Not Hiring Jim Harbaugh
After a disappointing 2010 season the Miami Dolphins were considering making some changes with their coach, Tony Sparano. He had been with the Dolphins for three seasons and after a solid 11-5 record in his first year, had settled into two straight 7-9 campaigns. One of the hot names that NFL teams were considering was Jim Harbaugh who was coaching at Stanford at the time. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was interested and even went to meet with Harbaugh in California. Despite the pursuit, Ross decided to stand pat and give Sparano a three year extension. It was obviously a bad decision as they ended up firing Sparano the very next season. Meanwhile Harbaugh was hired by the 49ers, who he proceeded to take to the NFC Championship game three straight times as well as taking them to Super Bowl XLVII.
14 Minnesota Vikings: Signing Josh Freeman
In the middle of 2013 season, the Minnesota Vikings were unhappy with both of their quarterbacks. They had drafted Christian Ponder in 2011 and he was not developing as they hoped. They had also signed Matt Cassel who was supposed to just be the backup. In an effort to find a solid starting QB, the Vikings picked up Josh Freeman five games into the season after he was unceremoniously cut from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for poor performance and a deteriorating attitude. The gleam of his previous 4000 yard and 27 touchdown season in 2012 apparently still held enough attraction that the Vikings believed they could extract a comparable performance from him again. The thing that added to the problem and made this a bigger mistake however, was the decision to toss Freeman right into the starting role days after signing him. With minimal time to learn the playbook, build any chemistry with his receivers, or heck, even learn their names, Freeman was thrown behind center on Monday Night Football against the New York Giants. The ensuing debacle pretty much ended Freeman’s career as he bounced around a few teams with one more NFL start while the Vikings proceeded to finish the season 5-10-1.
13 New England Patriots: Aaron Hernandez
Apparently the biggest mistake the Patriots made involved whoever was in charge of looking into the background of Aaron Hernandez. Hernandez had slipped down the draft because of those dreaded “character concerns” that NFL teams always whisper about but oftentimes do not amount to much more than smoking weed, skipping classes, or being too loud and obnoxious. As everyone eventually found out, Hernandez’ character concerns were more along the lines of weapons possession, gang affiliations, drive by shootings, and murder. It did take a while to all fall apart and Belichick was able to extract a few good seasons from the guy, but eventually it came out how much of a scumbag he was when he was caught and convicted for murder. Just for good measure the Patriots made another mistake by waiting to cut him until just hours before he was actually charged with the crime.
12 New Orleans Saints: Bountygate
The biggest mistake by the New Orleans Saints was a pretty easy one to figure out as it’s the one that led them to losing head coach Sean Payton for an entire season. The Bountygate scandal involved players on the Saints defense engaging in a bounty program that encouraged players to knock opponents out of games by injuring them and earning monetary prizes for various players and injuries. It is believed that a less serious version of this exists with all teams for big hits or big plays, but with the Saints the practice operated on a much higher level with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams helping to organize and run the bounty system. The program initially came under scrutiny after the 2010 NFC Championship game between the Saints and the Vikings. After a number of questionable, seemingly gratuitous hits on Brett Favre the Vikings players and coaches believed that the Saints were intentionally trying to injure the star quarterback. During the 2010 offseason the league received an anonymous tip about the program and began investigating. Ultimately the investigation discovered the full extent of the program led by Williams, and the team was punished along with Williams, Payton, and the GM Mickie Loomis.
11 New York Giants: Signing Chris Canty
The 2016 offseason during which the New York Giants opened their checkbook over and over again signing multiple big money free agents, looked like a sign of desperation for the team. Everyone has seen teams go on spending sprees, only to have their big additions sputter and stall. This year however, the Giants free agent class of Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, and Janoris Jenkins all lived up to their billing, leading the team to one of the best defenses in the league. That is the way GMs hope it turns out when they draw up their offseason plans. It usually does not happen that way however. The Giants were on the other side of this calculus a few times with one of their biggest mistakes being the signing of Chris Canty in 2009. The Giants grabbed Canty away from the division rival Cowboys with a six year $42 million deal. The mistake was in the size and length of the deal but also in how they ended up using him. Instead of putting him on the outside to rush the passer, where he had success in Dallas, the Giants put him inside where he performed admirably but did not live up to the value of his deal and was cut after a few years.
10 New York Jets: Trading Up For Mark Sanchez
Another common mistake teams make is trading a bunch of valuable assets in order to move up in the draft to pick a player they covet. Sometimes it works out like with the Falcons and Julio Jones. Other times, not so much. The New York Jets were one of the not so much teams. Coming out of USC, Mark Sanchez was thought to be one of the top quarterbacks available in the draft. The Jets were eager to acquire him so they traded their first and second round selections as well as two starters and a backup QB for the Browns number five pick. Now it is true that Mark Sanchez helped the Jets make it to two AFC Championship games but despite that, what he is remembered for as a Jet is something quite different. Ultimately when the Butt Fumble is the career highlight that everyone knows your draft pick for, you probably made a mistake.
9 Oakland Raiders: Not Choosing Literally Anyone Else In 2007 NFL Draft
One of the biggest busts of the past few years is JaMarcus Russell who was taken by the Oakland Raiders in the 2007 NFL Draft with the first overall pick. The biggest mistake about the choice was not necessarily TAKING Russell, as he was the QB who everybody viewed as the best quarterback available. He obviously did not work out, lasting just over three seasons, throwing 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions while the Raiders went 7-18 in the 25 games he started. But the biggest mistake in the Raiders choice was more in the fact of the player... or rather players who were chosen after him. Over the next 13 picks there were five players chosen who will probably end up in the Hall of Fame including Calvin Johnson, Joe Thomas, Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch and Darelle Revis. There were 12 other eventual Pro-Bowl players chosen in addition to those. Basically, the Raiders could have thrown a dart at a bunch of names to make their selection, and they would have still ended up with a much better choice than JaMarcus Russell.
8 Philadelphia Eagles: Firing Andy Reid
Andy Reid suffered just his third losing season in 14 years with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012. His only previous ones had been his very first year and a 6-10 campaign the year after taking the Eagles to Super Bowl XXXIX. He led the Eagles to nine playoff appearances and five NFC Championship games over the years. But following the 4-12 year in 2012, Philadelphia decided that Reid had taken the Eagles as far as he could and chose to move on from him, hoping some new blood might return the Eagles to the heights Reid had brought them to earlier in his career. The Eagles chose Chip Kelly to replace him and they did end up returning to the playoffs. Meanwhile Reid took over as coach for the Kansas City Chiefs where he has not had a losing season and has made the playoffs three out of four years. Another mistake for the Eagles was probably giving Kelly control over personnel moves in 2012. In a way, that mistake lead to the Eagles acknowledging their mistake of firing Reid by hiring his very first quarterback for the Eagles and his offensive coordinator with the Chiefs, Doug Peterson.
7 Pittsburgh Steelers: Attending The Draft In 2008
The entire Steelers draft of 2008 was all a huge mistake and they may as well have just stayed home. Not only did they choose the wrong guy with one of their picks, or miss out on a better guy with one of their picks, but they chose wrong AND missed out on someone better with MOST of their picks. In the first round they took Rashard Mendenhall at running back when they could have had Chris Johnson who was selected with the very next pick. In the second round they chose wide receiver Limas Sweed, but they could have gone with a tight end and gotten Martellus Bennett. Their third round pick was pass rusher Bruce Davis but it could have been Cliff Avril who was drafted four picks later. In the fourth round they decided to go for an offensive tackle. Although future Pro-Bowler Josh Sitton was selected five picks later, they took Tony Hills. You don’t expect much from the later round draft picks, and the Steelers did not get much there either. Any draft where you make four selections where a Pro-Bowler who plays the same position as your pick could have been chosen instead, you know your draft was a mistake.
6 San Diego Chargers: Ditching San Diego
We already established that the Rams biggest mistake was moving to Los Angeles. Well, the Chargers just decided to do the same thing and all the reasons it was a mistake for the Rams remain, in addition to some extra reasons it is worse for the Chargers themselves. First of all they will be the second team in the city, which barely supported one team this year. Secondly, the Chargers have no official home stadium and when one is built they will simply be tenants in it because that stadium will belong to the Rams. Third of all, if there were any football fans in LA, there is a good chance they either like the Raiders or the Chargers already. By moving to LA they are not going to convert any Raiders fans, and they will not collect many more Chargers fans either. But they will lose a lot of fans from San Diego. Ultimately we will find out before long if LA can support an NFL team, or if like two decades ago, both of them will relocate again when the NFL realizes nobody there cares about pro football.
5 San Francisco 49ers: Getting Rid Of Jim Harbaugh
The biggest mistake the San Francisco 49ers made in the past few years was one of the biggest mistakes any team made. But it did make folks in Michigan and in the rest of the NFC West extremely happy. The mistake of course was getting rid of the only good coach the San Francisco 49ers had since their Super Bowl teams of the '80s and '90s. After spending almost a decade mired in mediocrity, the 49ers signed Jim Harbaugh as coach in 2011 and he immediately took the 49ers to the NFC Championship game. The following season he led the team to the Super Bowl where he lost to the Baltimore Ravens coached by his brother. After taking the 49ers to a third straight NFC Championship game in 2013, things fell apart the following year. Amidst a conflict with the general manager, Harbaugh and the team decided to part ways after the season. San Francisco immediately returned to the NFL cellar. After spending the first three seasons with Harbaugh in the NFC Championship game, they have spent the first three years without Harbaugh looking for a new coach. Somebody made a huge mistake.
4 Seattle Seahawks: Signing Matt Flynn
The biggest mistake made by the Seattle Seahawks did not end up really hurting them because they also happened to make a great decision during that same offseason. The mistake was signing Packers backup QB Matt Flynn to a hefty $20 million deal in 2012. After four seasons in Green Bay behind Aaron Rodgers, and after a setting a team record with a 480 yard and six touchdown performance against the Detroit Lions in the last game of the 2011 season, Flynn looked like a promising prospect. The Seahawks’ quarterback who they were hoping Flynn would replace was Tavaris Jackson. They had also drafted Russell Wilson in the fifth round that year who would have a chance to compete for the starting job as well. As everyone knows now, Wilson quickly established himself with the Seahawks and was made starter, leaving Flynn back on the bench. He was traded the following season and the Seahawks were able to salvage a late round draft pick from the Raiders.
3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Trading Up For A Kicker
It may not have been that damaging and what they got out of it will probably come in handy down the line but as a deal it was beyond foolish. The biggest mistake for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was using a second round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft to select Roberto Aguayo, a kicker from Florida State. Now the reason it was the biggest mistake is because it was a bunch of smaller mistakes all piled up on top of each other. The first mistake was taking Aguyo in the second round to begin with. The fact is, you simply do not take a kicker at that point no matter how good he is. But the Buccaneers did not just use their own second round pick. They actually traded so they could move up in the draft to get him. This was another mistake because there was no way anyone else was actually going to select a kicker in the second round. They did not need to do it. The final part is that the trade cost them their fourth round pick as well as their third round pick. Again there was no need to do this as they could have waited and drafted Aguayo with the fourth round pick anyway. When it gets down to it, Aguayo, despite starting off poorly will probably be a solid kicker for many years to come. But the opportunity cost of what Tampa Bay paid to get him was simply way too high considering they could have gotten him anyway with just a little patience.
2 Tennessee Titans: Signing Michael Oher
As the subject of the film “The Blind Side,” which won Sandra Bullock her Oscar, Michael Oher’s inspiring story made him more famous than his actual football talents ever did. Oher was originally drafted by the Baltimore Ravens with the 23rd pick of the 2009 NFL Draft. He lasted five seasons with the Ravens, bouncing between right and left tackle but never really establishing himself as the anchor protecting the quarterback’s blind side that the Ravens (and movie fans) envisioned. The Ravens were open to bringing him back on a one year deal in 2014 but the Titans offer of a four year $20 million dollar deal and a return to his home state of Tennessee easily convinced him to move on. Oher started in 11 games for Tennessee before injuries knocked him out of the lineup near the end of the season. The Titans decided to move on from him after just one year, releasing him in 2015.
1 Washington Redskins: Recklessness With Robert Griffin III
Some may say the biggest mistake the Redskins made was giving up so many picks in order to trade up with the Rams in the 2012 NFL Draft to select Robert Griffin III with the number two pick. If you look at RGIII’s first year though it was a great move, as he was in the running for Rookie of the Year, he threw for 3200 yards with 27 touchdowns and only five interceptions, while also running for over 800 yards and five touchdowns as well, and most importantly, he led Washington to the playoffs for the first time in years. The biggest mistake was being so careless with their star rookie and potential franchise quarterback. After a great season, Griffin tweaked his knee in Washington’s week 14 game. Coach Shanahan sent him back into the game despite the fact he had not been cleared to return. He was held out for the next game but returned for the final game of the season and for the Wild Card game against the Seahawks. In the Wild Card game Griffin re-injured his knee again. In an effort to make the playoffs and win the Wild Card game Washington sacrificed their potential franchise QB. If they would have allowed him to heal, and missed the playoffs or lost in the first round with a backup, they would have at least had a much healthier star QB going forward.