“Can I take a mulligan?” That’s the question that pretty much every NFL team has asked at one time or another. Some teams seemingly ask it every year when they see that their product on the field in September doesn’t match what they had on paper in June. Whether it be draft misses, failed free agent signings, disastrous coaching moves, or all of the above; every team would like to go back in time and right their wrongs. They say one should not dwell on the past, but where is the joy in that? It’s much more fun to look back at the ‘worst of the worst’ when it comes to NFL franchises.
But what is “the” single biggest mistake that these franchises have made? What is it that kept them from winning a Super Bowl or multiple Super Bowls? After reading this list, you will be surprised at how many of these mistakes weren’t just one-time things, but are still on-going. You’ll notice that the best-run franchises have made mistakes confined to just one season or one game while the worst-run franchises have made multi-season errors. But that’s just a microcosm of the NFL as a whole: winners reach quickly and swiftly to the hiccups while losers let their problems linger and continue to affect them down the road.
32 Arizona Cardinals – Neglected The Quarterback Position
The Cardinals have a good quarterback in Carson Palmer and had a great quarterback in Kurt Warner. But in between those two signal-callers; the Cardinals gave Larry Fitzgerald and company a bunch of castoffs, busts, and late round rookies. What will the likes of Derek Anderson, John Skelton, Max Hall, and Kevin Kolb get you? How about three straight non-winning seasons and no playoffs from 2010-2013. The Cardinals have had arguably as much talent as any team in the NFC over the last half-dozen years but they squandered half of those seasons by being cheap at the most important position in football!
I know they bombed on the Matt Leinart pick in 2006, but the team hasn’t used a high pick on a QB since then. Over the past 11 drafts, they haven’t taken a QB before the 4th round as they continue to rely on QBs in their late 30s. Sooner or later, these guys will look their age on the football field and it appears Palmer’s decline has already started.
31 Atlanta Falcons - Did Not Focus On Conditioning Prior To Super Bowl LI
Did it hurt to read that, Falcons fans? It should, and there is no one to blame outside of your own team. How do you give up a 25 point lead in the Super Bowl in just one-and-a-half quarters? Bad playcalling, a bit of bad luck, and poor conditioning, particularly from your defense. The Falcons defense wilted down the stretch and gave up a score on five straight Patriots’ possessions with four of those scores being touchdowns. Bill Belichick admitted after the game that even he noticed the Falcons were getting gassed which is a reason why his team increased its tempo.
I’m not going to name any names, but the Falcons’ head strength and conditioning coach was also an NFL rookie and had never served on a pro team’s staff before. After learning from the failures of last season, something tells me that the Falcons will be one of the best conditioned teams in the 2017 season.
30 Baltimore Ravens – Let Trent Dilfer Walk After Super Bowl Victory
The 2000 Ravens won the franchise’s first Super Bowl behind the strength of their defense. All they needed from the QB position was a game manager and that’s exactly what they had in Trent Dilfer who won 11 straight starts en route to the Super Bowl victory. Even though 10 of the 11 defensive starters returned for Baltimore the following season; the team felt it needed an upgrade at quarterback so they let Dilfer walk and signed Elvis Grbac to a $30 million contract. Grbac would fare worse in nearly every passing category than Dilfer did the year before and threw 3 INTs in the Ravens’ season-ending loss to Pittsburgh in the playoffs.
It would be another 7 years before the Ravens won another playoff game and that was with Joe Flacco under center. While Flacco would win the Ravens their second Super Bowl and prove to be elite; you can’t spell ‘Trent Dilfer’ without e-l-i-t-e.
29 Buffalo Bills – The 2000 Offseason
It’s one thing when a team decides to move on from a future Hall of Famer who poured his heart and soul into a franchise. It’s even more depressing when a team decides to move on from two future HOFers at the same time. But what the Bills did in the 2000 offseason may be unprecedented as they decided to release not one, not two, but three future HOFers in Bruce Smith, Andre Reed, and Thurman Thomas. The Bills were no longer making their annual Super Bowl appearances, but they were coming off back-to-back playoff berths and they cut those three while retaining Doug Flutie who was older than all of them! The black cloud that hung over the franchise when they released three legends still hangs over them today. The team has not made the playoffs since then and the 17 year drought is the longest active postseason drought in the NFL.
28 Carolina Panthers – Missed On 1st Round Picks From 1996-2000
The Panthers are one of the few franchises who had success right out the gate. They joined the NFL in 1995 and just a year later they were already in the NFC Conference Championship game. However, it would be another seven years before their next playoff appearance thanks to a string of poor selections in the 1st round. From 1996-2000 they had four first-round picks and none of the four would play a game past the age of 27. Among those first round picks were a fragile running back (Tim Biakabutuka), a D-lineman with 7.5 career sacks (Jason Peter), a player whose career ended due to substance abuse (Rashard Anderson)…oh, and a receiver guilty of conspiracy to commit first degree murder (Rae Carruth).
Obviously, one of those really sticks out among the others but the Panthers set their franchise back with these poor selections. They seemed to learn from their errors as following this rough stretch, the Panthers would then send nine of their next 11 first round picks to the Pro Bowl.
27 Chicago Bears – Failed To Protect Jim McMahon
Everyone knows that the 1985 Chicago Bears were Super Bowl champions and arguably the greatest defense in NFL history. But few people know that the 1986 Bears actually gave up both fewer points and fewer yards than the ’85 Bears! So why did the Bears win only one Super Bowl? Because they couldn’t keep their starting QB, Jim McMahon, on the field as he was constantly getting injured. There was a stretch of 3 full years from 1984 thru 1987 in which McMahon did not lose a single start as he won 25 straight games. But, unfortunately, he also missed 27 games during that 3 year stretch including the 1986 playoffs. Chicago was forced to use rookie Doug Flutie at QB when they were trying to repeat as champs and they lost their first playoff game. The Bears didn’t allocate enough resources to their O-line as from 1982-1988 they drafted only one offensive lineman within the first 2 rounds and undercut a potential dynasty.
26 Cincinnati Bengals – Acquired Too Many Players With Character Concerns
Before there were the hapless Browns, the NFL’s laughingstock was the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals were so cheap at one point that players would celebrate at just the sight of new towels in the locker room! Well, owner Mike Brown has evolved and opened his wallet, but now the Bengals’ problem is bringing in too many guys with red flags off the field. From Tank Johnson and Odell Thurman to Pacman Jones and Vontaze Burfict to the late Chris Henry and now, Joe Mixon; the Bengals clearly prioritize talent over character. That doesn’t always sit well in the locker room and guys are less inclined to bust their butts for the guy next to them when they don’t respect or like the guy next to them.
Marvin Lewis is doing all he can to control these guys but he’s a coach, not a psychiatrist. The Bengals have only been one-and-done in the playoffs with these types of players so why not see what happens without them?
25 Cleveland Browns – Forced Jim Brown Into Early Retirement
In the summer of 1966, Jim Brown, the greatest football player of all-time, was in England filming a movie. Browns’ owner Art Modell told Brown he expected him to be at the team’s upcoming training camp and threatened to fine Brown if he didn’t report. Brown wasn’t a fan of this ultimatum and decided to retire at the peak of his career and at the age of 30. Brown had led the Browns to the NFL Championship just two years earlier and had just won his 3rd MVP award the previous season.
As it turns out, the 1966 season would be the year the NFL debuted the “Super Bowl” but, of course, the Browns weren’t in the Big Game that year and haven’t been in a Super Bowl since. The Browns went from playing in the NFL Championship in Brown’s final season to not even making the playoffs the following year. Art Modell learned a very important lesson: don’t threaten Jim Brown.
24 Dallas Cowboys – Jerry Jones ‘Parting Ways’ With Jimmy Johnson
Think about this: Barry Switzer won a Super Bowl as the Cowboys’ coach and his tenure is still considered a disappointment. That’s because of the embarrassment of riches those '90s Cowboys teams had thanks to the wheeling and dealing of Jimmy Johnson. How did Jerry Jones get rid of a coach who had just won back-to-back Super Bowls? Ego – that’s how. Jones wanted more input in the team’s personnel decisions but Johnson didn’t want to give up his power. This power struggle culminated in the Cowboys ‘parting ways’ with Johnson three months after his second Super Bowl victory. Switzer would lead the Cowboys to another title two years later but he did it with Jimmy Johnson’s players as 70% of the team’s starting lineup was brought in by Johnson.
To quote LeBron James when he joined Miami; if the Cowboys kept Jimmy Johnson then their number of rings could have been “Not two, not three, not four…”
23 Denver Broncos – Replaced John Elway With Brian Griese
After John Elway retired following back-to-back Super Bowls wins; the Broncos entered the 1999 season looking to become the first team in NFL history to three-peat in the Super Bowl era. To replace Elway, the Broncos surprised many by inserting second-year player Brian Griese into the starting QB position instead of 13-year veteran Bubby Brister. Brister had gone 4-0 the year before when Elway was injured and was the preferred QB for many of the Broncos’ veterans, but coach Mike Shanahan went with the youngster who would predictably flop to a 4-9 record.
Griese wasn’t ready for the big stage and it showed as Trevor Siemian even did a better job of replacing Peyton Manning than Griese did in replacing Elway. To make matters even worse, Griese played a part in ending the career of Terrell Davis. In Week 4 Griese threw an interception and Davis ended up making the tackle on the INT return. During the tackle, Davis would tear his ACL and that would be the last play of his season. That would start a string of leg injuries for Davis who would then play his last game just two years later.
22 Detroit Lions – Hired Matt Millen As General Manager
With no player development experience, no football operations experience, and no executive experience; Lions owner William Clay Ford Sr. thought it would be a great idea to hire Matt Millen as the team’s CEO and GM. What could possibly go wrong? Here’s what could go wrong: drafting guys like Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers and Mike Williams. Here’s also what could go wrong: trading away players like Dre Bly, Shaun Rogers, and James Hall. Millen compiled the worst winning percentage EVER for a seven-year stretch, even though he was the league’s second highest paid general manager! Ford also deserves some of the blame as he did, after all, higher the guy but Millen never made any effort to hire experienced front office staff around him a la John Lynch in San Francisco. It took 7 years after his firing for Millen to admit what everyone already knew: he should have never been put in charge of an NFL team.
21 Green Bay Packers – Wasted Aaron Rodgers’ Prime By Disregarding Free Agency
The Packers are known as perhaps the only organization that is completely indifferent to free agency. They’ll do whatever it takes to retain their own players, but they rarely venture outside of Green Bay to look at other teams’ free agents. GM Ted Thompson has a little too much confidence in his staff and believes they can develop their own players to become stars, and that has hurt the Packers recently. Last season the Packers had only 5 players on their team who had played with another team before joining Green Bay and that was an NFL-low. Even Aaron Rodgers admitted that needs to change after last year’s playoff loss as he said the organization needs to “go all in” if it wants to get back to the Super Bowl. The team seems to have listened to its franchise player as they signed two former Pro Bowlers this offseason, Martellus Bennett and Jahri Evans.
20 Houston Texans – Signed Brock Osweiler To A $72 Million Contract
While the Texans making David Carr the #1 overall pick in 2002 and the face of their franchise didn’t work out, I can’t knock them for that as the other contender for that spot, Joey Harrington, was an even bigger bust. However, I can fault the Texans for shelling out a $72 million contract to Brock Osweiler who was benched for the shell of Peyton Manning in 2015 with Denver. Osweiler was arguably the worst starting QB in the league last season, and after being shipped to Cleveland, he isn’t even a favorite to start for the lowly Browns.
In that deal with Cleveland, Houston was forced to give up a 2nd round pick just for the Browns to take Osweiler off the Texans’ hands. Then , Houston traded two 1st round picks to move up in the draft to select Osweiler’s replacement, Deshaun Watson. Thus, Osweiler ended up costing the Texans $21 million for one dreadful season of play, as well as two first-round picks and a second-round pick to get rid of him and replace him.
19 Indianapolis Colts – Traded Away Marshall Faulk For Next To Nothing
Get this: in 1987 the Colts and Rams pulled off trade that sent future HOF running back, Eric Dickerson, to Indianapolis for 3 first round picks and 3 second round picks. 12 years later the Colts and Rams pulled off another trade that sent another future HOF running back, Marshall Faulk, to the St. Louis for a 2nd and a 5th round pick…Huh?! Faulk was even a year younger than Dickerson was when he was traded but the Colts netted 10 cents on the dollar. Indy would find a suitable replacement at running back in Edgerrin James but you think the team could have used some extra early round picks? A young Peyton Manning would surely have liked some extra talent on the defensive side of the ball and then-coach Jim Mora might have been able to get his first career postseason victory. Things ended up working out pretty good for the Colts over the next decade, but they could have been even better.
18 Jacksonville Jaguars – Misfired On 10 Straight First Round Picks
In 2007 Reggie Nelson was drafted in the 1st round by the Jags and he would go on to make two Pro Bowls (albeit neither were in Jacksonville). The next year would start a string of 1st round busts for the Jags that they are still trying to break out of. From 2008-2017, the Jags have had 10 first round picks and none of them have made a single Pro Bowl with any team! Granted some of the more recent ones like Leonard Fournette, Jalen Ramsey, and Dante Fowler could eventually get there, but the others show a lack of acumen within the team’s scouting department.
The most successful pick was Eugene Monroe but he’s already out of the league as is Justin Blackmon who barely even got into the league. They’ve also managed to bomb on not one, but two, first round rookies in Blaine Gabbert (2011) and Blake Bortles (2014).
17 Kansas City Chiefs – Too Loyal To “Marty Ball”
From 1990-1999 the Chiefs won 102 regular season games which was the third most in the NFL. But during that same stretch, the Chiefs won just three playoff games which was tied for just 12th most. The man behind that regular season success and the lack of playoff success was coach Marty Schottenheimer. Schottenheimer’s offensive philosophy, dubbed Marty Ball, was very conservative and relied on running the ball more so than other philosophies. On 1st down you run the ball, on 2nd down you run the ball, on 3rd down you only pass if need be, and on 4th down you punt. That may have worked during the regular season, but when it came to playoff time; it was too predictable and easy to stop.
The Chiefs went just 3-7 in the postseason under Schottenheimer and never advanced to a Super Bowl. A healthy running attack may win you lots of games, but a proficient passing game wins you championships.
16 Los Angeles Chargers - Trading Up To Draft Ryan Leaf
Overall, the Chargers have done pretty well for themselves when it comes to trades and the draft. In 2001 they traded down and were able to select both Drew Brees and LaDainian Tomlinson. In 2004, they traded Eli Manning for both Philip Rivers and Shawne Merriman. However, their trade in 1998 to move up to select Ryan Leaf was a disaster on many different levels.
Everyone knows that Leaf was a monumental bust and had problems both on the field and off it. But many don’t realize what the Chargers gave up to move up 1 spot in the draft to select Leaf (similar to the Bears moving up 1 spot to select Mitchell Trubisky). The Chargers had to give up two first round picks, one second round pick, and two additional players. Out of those five picks/players they acquired, three of them were Pro Bowlers while Leaf clearly was not. Time will tell if the Bears doing the same with Trubisky will have that move on this list one day.
15 Los Angeles Rams - Drafted Eddie Kennison in 1996
The 1996 NFL draft is arguably the greatest wide receiver draft in history. The draft produced seven Pro Bowl receivers, a combined 27 Pro Bowls, a Hall of Famer (Marvin Harrison) and a future Hall of Famer (Terrell Owens). But the third receiver taken in that draft, Eddie Kennison, is none of the aforementioned. The Rams took Kennison 18th overall in that draft and one pick before Harrison was drafted. Kennison would struggle in his three years in St. Louis, and so much so, that the team would be forced to use their 1999 first round pick to draft another receiver (Torry Holt).
With all due respect to Holt who was a hell of a player in his prime, the combination of Marvin Harrison and Isaac Bruce would have been one of the greatest tandems in NFL history. Kennison would bounce from team-to-team and may best be remembered for retiring in the middle of a season with the Broncos, only to sign with the rival Chiefs a month later.
14 Miami Dolphins – Never Gave Dan Marino A Good Running Back
The Dan Marino Experience ran its course in South Florida from 1983 to 1999 and the Dolphins went to the playoffs 10 times during that stretch. While Marino may have been the most gifted quarterback in NFL history; the Dolphins did little to surround him with talent, specifically in the team’s backfield. During Marino’s 17 seasons at the helm, only once did the Dolphins have a 1000 yard rusher. In other words, the 16-0 Dolphins in their perfect 1972 season had more 1000 yard rushers (2) than Dan Marino had in his entire career (1). What makes that even more puzzling is the fact that the Dolphins would devote many draft picks to running backs during Marino’s tenure. Over those 17 years, they used three 1st round picks, one 2nd round pick, and three more 3rd round picks on RBs but only one (Karim Abdul-Jabbar) was able to eclipse 1000 yards. Poor Marino was a bit too young to play with Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris and a bit too old to play with Ricky Williams.
13 Minnesota Vikings - Traded The House For Herschel Walker
The Herschel Walker trade is better known as the trade that built the Cowboys’ dynasty of the 1990s. Jimmy Johnson was in his first season as head coach in 1989 and knew that his Cowboys’ team needed a roster overhaul to become competitive. The lone star on his team was Walker and Johnson reached out to various teams to see what he could get in return in a trade. Vikings general manager Mike Lynn felt that Walker was the missing piece that the team needed to reach the Super Bowl so he was willing to go all in on the trade, and boy, did he ever! Johnson would fleece the Vikings for five players and eight draft picks including three first rounders and three second rounders.
The players the Cowboys received were really of no importance to Johnson as he would cut four of the five immediately; but he made use of those draft selections. Emmitt Smith, Darren Woodson, Alvin Harper, and others were selected with those picks while Walker would last only 2-and-a-half years in Minnesota.
12 New England Patriots – Drafted Former Florida Gators
Bill Belichick’s infatuation with Urban Meyer-coached players is almost as fascinating as his love for Rutgers players. He has drafted seven former Gators that were coached by Meyer and all seven have either been busts on the field or headcases off it. The most obvious is the deceased Aaron Hernandez, but he’s not the only one with off-field problems as Brandon Spikes also had issues. He was suspended for PEDs and was later cut by the team after a hit-and-run. 2014 first-round pick Dominique Easley lasted just two seasons with the team as did 2006 second-round pick, Chad Jackson.
Another second-round pick, Jermaine Cunningham, was arrested for revenge porn after notching just 3.5 sacks in three seasons. The only former Gators who didn’t embarrass the program after being drafted by the Patriots are ones who never played with New England: Jeremy Mincey and Jon Halapio were cut by the team before playing a game.
11 New Orleans Saints - The Ricky Williams Trade
Saints coach, Mike Ditka, apparently didn’t learn from the Vikings’ disastrous trade for Herschel Walker as he also went all in for Heisman winner, Ricky Williams. Ditka had one of the biggest man crushes allowable for Williams and compared him to Walter Payton. At the NFL owners’ meetings prior to the 1999 draft, Ditka said he would be willing to trade his entire draft in order to move up to select Williams...and he wasn’t kidding. The Redskins took the bait and in order to move up from the #12 overall pick to the #5 pick to draft Williams; the Saints gave up every single pick they had in the 1999 draft, as well as a 1st and 3rd round pick in the 2000 draft. In all, New Orleans parted with eight draft picks for Williams while also parting ways with Ditka after the 1999 season.
10 New York Giants – Drafting Ron Dayne Over Shaun Alexander In 2000
The 2000 NFL draft is known as one of the greatest running back drafts in NFL history. It produced a 2,000 yard rusher (Jamal Lewis), an NFL MVP (Shaun Alexander), and a 10,000 yard rusher (Thomas Jones). The Giants walked away with neither of the three. Instead of predicting future NFL success, they only looked at past college accomplishments and selected the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher, Ron Dayne, with the 11th overall pick. Lewis and Jones were already off the board but Alexander was there for the taking and would have made for a perfect complement to Tiki Barber as the ‘thunder’ part of their “Thunder and Lightning” backfield. The Giants would go on to advance to the Super Bowl in that 2000 season where they would fall to Lewis’ Ravens; but would there have been a different result with Alexander in the backfield?
9 New York Jets – Allowing Bill Belichick To Join The Patriots
Remember that bizarre scene in 1999 when Bill Belichick resigned as coach of the Jets just one day after being hired? Well, Belichick would then join the Patriots shortly later and all the Jets received in compensation, despite Belichick still being under contract with NYJ, was a single 1st round pick. Two years before, Bill Parcells had been ‘traded’ from the Patriots to the Jets for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round picks. In 2002 Jon Gruden was ‘traded’ from the Raiders to the Bucs for two 1st rounders and two 2nd rounders.
Yet, somehow the Jets settled for just one 1st round pick for releasing Belichick from his contract AND allowing him to go to a divisional opponent? To pour salt on the wounds, Belichick and the Patriots would then spend the next 17 years (and counting) beating up on the Jets along the way to winning five Super Bowls.
8 Oakland Raiders – Trading Jon Gruden To The Bucs
After going six straight years without making the playoffs, the Raiders won playoff games in 2000 and 2001 under Jon Gruden. They may have won even more in 2001 if it wasn’t for a little thing called the Tuck Rule. But after that season, there was a philosophical difference between Gruden and Raiders’ owner Al Davis. Davis wanted a vertical passing game which is what the Raiders ran in the 70s and 80s while Gruden preferred a horizontal passing game which was coming into vogue in the NFL. As a result, the two sides decided to part ways after the 2001 season and Gruden was traded to the Buccaneers.
Oakland would advance to the Super Bowl in the following season, but they would fall to Gruden’s Bucs who knew every play that Oakland was going to run. Al Davis did many great things for the NFL and for the Raiders, but this move was likely something he regretted…even though he surely would never have admit it.
7 Philadelphia Eagles – Let Reggie White Walk In Free Agency
Arguably the greatest defensive lineman in NFL history didn’t even receive a contract offer from the team he was a 6-time All-Pro for. Before the 1993 season, Reggie White was just 31 and coming off a 14 sack season; but for some reason, Eagles owner Norman Braman made no offer to the impending free agent. White would eventually sign with the Packers, help lead them to a Super Bowl, and make 6 more Pro Bowls. After leaving for Green Bay, White admitted that if current Eagles’ owner Jeffrey Lurie was in charge when he was a free agent, White would have never left Philadelphia. White said that Lurie is someone who truly cares about the team and players would want to play for someone like him. After making the playoffs in 4 out of White’s last 5 seasons in Philly; the Eagles would only make the playoffs twice over the following 7 years after White left town.
6 Pittsburgh Steelers – 1989 Draft Misses
As the only six-time Super Bowl winning franchise, the Steelers haven’t made many mistakes but the year of 1989 does stand out. Over the past 50 seasons the Steelers have had 51 first-round draft picks – one and only one every single year except in 1989. The team acquired an extra first round pick after trading away three-time Pro Bowler, Mike Meriweather, after he held out all of 1988. With their two 1st rounders, the team drafted RB Tim Worley and OG Tom Ricketts. In 33 games in Pittsburgh, Worley would have three times as many fumbles (16) as touchdowns (5) and would be suspended the entire 1992 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
Ricketts didn’t have the same off-field problems, but was just as bad on it. He started just 13 games for the Steelers and was out of the league at 27. The Steelers salvaged the entire draft by taking 5-time Pro Bowler, Carnell Lake, in the second round but their first round misses set the team back a couple of years.
5 San Francisco 49ers – Drafted Jim Druckenmiller In 1997
For nearly 20 years the 49ers had the one thing that every team strives for and that is stability at the quarterback position. Hall of famers Joe Montana and Steve Young led the team to 5 Super Bowls and 16 playoff appearances over an 18 year stretch. In 1997 the team was looking for the successor to the then-36-year-old Young and thought they had that when they drafted Jim Druckenmiller in the first round. If ‘Druckenmiller’ doesn’t sound like the name of a bust, then I don’t know what does. Miller’s career lasted all of 2 seasons and he would throw for fewer yards than any other QB drafted in the 1st round in the past 40 seasons. Things would go from bad to worse for Druckenmiller as in 1999 he was charged with rape. Even though he was acquitted, the 49ers grew tired of him and traded their former 1st round QB for a measly 7th round pick. The failed Druckenmiller experiment would set back the 49ers who would only make the playoffs twice in the 12 seasons following Young’s retirement.
4 Seattle Seahawks – Throwing On The 1 Yard Line
This had to be the most obvious mistake on this entire list, right? Why not give it to Beast Mode and watch him coast into the endzone? Why not throw a fade which has an extremely low chance of getting picked off? Why not call a timeout and discuss the play with Russell Wilson? The Seahawks had many different options with their final offensive play in Super Bowl XLIX, but they chose the worst possible option.
With one single play, the Patriots win probability went from 36% to 99% thanks to a great play from Malcolm Butler and a boneheaded play call by OC Darrell Bevell. Wilson and Pete Carroll are also at fault, but the onus falls on the person who thought this play was a good idea and that’s Bevell. Do you remember when Brett Favre threw that INT vs. the Saints in the 2009 NFC Championship game? I’ll give you one guess as to who the Vikings’ OC was that called that play.
3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Pissed Off Bo Jackson
The year was 1986 and the Bucs had just drafted Jackson 1st overall after a stellar college football career. The only problem was that Jackson still had his college baseball career going on at Auburn. Tampa sent their owner’s jet to Jackson so he could visit the football team while he was still playing baseball. The Bucs also told Jackson that the trip was NCAA-approved…but it turned out not to be! Jackson’s trip to Tampa was considered an NCAA violation and it caused Jackson to be suspended the rest of his senior baseball season.
This, obviously, infuriated Jackson and he refused to sign with the Bucs who were forced to forfeit his rights and Jackson re-entered the 1987 draft. The Raiders would then pick Jackson in the 7th round and thus, not only did the Bucs lose out on possibly the greatest athlete ever, but they also essentially forfeited the 1st overall pick in the 1986 draft. It’s no surprise that the Bucs would finish that season with the league’s worst record and would be picking 1st overall again in 1987.
2 Tennessee Titans – Traded Away Warren Moon
It takes a lot for ‘Hiring Jeff Fisher’ to not be the Oilers/Titans biggest mistake but trading away a Hall of Fame QB for next-to-nothing fits the bill. In 1994 the then-Oilers were coming off their seventh straight postseason appearance and had just posted the league’s best record. But the team felt the then-37-year-old Moon was at the end of the line so they traded him for a 3rd and 4th round pick. Moon proved to be far from finished as he would go on to make three more Pro Bowls after being traded while the QB who replaced Moon in Houston, Cody Carlson, would win just one more start in his entire career after the trade. The Oilers would never make the playoffs again and things got so bad in Houston that the team was forced to vacate its lease early and move to Nashville to become the Tennessee Titans.
1 Washington Redskins - 2000 Free Agent Signings
Before the 2000 season, the Redskins would splurge in free agency and sign three future Hall of Famers: Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, and Andre Reed. While on paper that looks like a brilliant thing to do; in reality all three players were way past their primes and their play on the field wasn’t Hall of Fame caliber by the time they landed in DC. The three had combined to make 26 Pro Bowls before joining the Redskins and, unsurprisingly; none of the three made a single Pro Bowl in Washington.
It wasn’t like the Redskins were in dire need of ‘veteran leadership’ as they already had 38-year-old Irving Fryar, 40-year-old Darrell Green, and the NFL’s oldest player in 44-year-old Eddie Murray. This was Dan Snyder’s first full season as the team’s owner and would be a foreshadowing of the many mistakes he would eventually make with the team.