Things have changed a lot within the past five years of the NFL. Teams have made moves that have helped develop the team they have today, but they have also made some questionable decisions. Every team makes a bad decision, and over the course of five years, you’re bound to find a pretty big mistake that each team made. Mistakes happen, they are a part of life, but they could have impacted a team tremendously.
Think about your favorite team and something you wish they never did. Pretend as if that move never happened, how would it affect your favorite team today? For some teams, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. For other teams, it could mean a lot.
Front offices come and go. General managers and other people that are a part of the decision-making process constantly are in and out of offices. And part of that is because some people have different agendas than others. Each team on this list will bring up a scary nightmare that is either ongoing or something that makes you shake your head from the past. Nobody likes hearing about these poor decisions, but sometimes you have to look back at them.
We've listed 32 mistakes, one that will affect each and every NFL franchise. Some that are fairly recent, others that go as far back as 2013. So, prepare for the nightmares that hang over your franchise, as we look back at the worst decisions made by each NFL franchise in the past five years.
32 Arizona Cardinals - Letting Calais Campbell Walk
Teams get worried when defenders get into their 30s, which is probably why the Arizona Cardinals were able to let Calais Campbell walk in free agency. Many defenders hit that point in their career and slow down, becoming less effective. Campbell only got better.
Campbell signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and in his first season with the team, recorded 14.5 sacks, a career high.
He’s looked at as a top-10 defensive end in the league, something the Cardinals would love to have.
31 Atlanta Falcons: Drafted Jake Matthews Over Star Players
Expectations are high for offensive linemen that are drafted high right out the gecko. Jake Matthews has not lived up to those expectations, considering some of the best players in the league were drafted after he was drafted sixth overall in the 2014 Draft.
Notable players drafted after him include Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Aaron Donald, and Anthony Barr. To see those list of guys available when the Falcons were on the clock, but selected a mediocre offensive tackle, is a disappointment.
30 Baltimore Ravens: Signed Joe Flacco To Extension
As of March 2016, Joe Flacco was the highest paid player in the NFL, as he signed a three-year extension with the Baltimore Ravens worth $66.4 million. Just two years later, the Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson, in hopes of replacing Flacco.
Flacco’s career is defined by inconsistency, even if he did lead his team to a Super Bowl. Flacco has struggled in big moments and has shown minimal leadership. Even Ray Lewis could admit to that. While Flacco is looking better to start the 2018 season, it still isn’t enough to be content with Flacco’s extension.
29 Buffalo Bills: Trading Up For Sammy Watkins
If you think the Falcons decision to select Jake Matthews in the 2014 Draft was bad, look no further than the Buffalo Bills. They traded up five spots to select Sammy Watkins. The Bills sent over their ninth overall pick, along with their 2015 first and fourth-round draft picks. You know who they missed out on, and you also know that Watkins is no longer with the Bills.
He looked to be a dominant receiver but began to struggle, so the Bills decided to trade him.
Watkins is now playing for the third team in his career, though he may finally be on his way to success playing alongside the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes.
28 Carolina Panthers: Drafting Kelvin Benjamin
One mistake becomes another team’s problem. It looks like the Bills didn’t catch their mistake with Sammy Watkins, as they decided to trade for Kelvin Benjamin. And again, we add another 2014 draft pick to the list.
Similar to Watkins, Benjamin looked like a stud his first two seasons, then began to struggle. Benjamin is now in Buffalo with a weak support system, which will probably lead to a downhill spiral of his career. Meanwhile, the Panthers missed on some big-name players in that draft, including Allen Robinson or Jarvis Landry.
27 Chicago Bears: Trading Up For Mitchell Trubisky
Unless the San Francisco 49ers come back and say they had all intentions of drafting Mitchell Trubisky, the Bears made a big mistake. The Bears traded their No. 3 pick, a 2017 third and fourth round pick, along with a 2018 third-round pick.
The decision makes absolutely no sense, considering Trubisky would have most likely been there at no.3.
Plus, Trubisky hasn’t starred above the other two quarterbacks from that first round. Both Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes have looked a lot better than Trubisky.
26 Cincinnati Bengals: Parting Ways With Marvin Jones
The Cincinnati Bengals can’t run an offense with just Andy Dalton, Joe Mixon, and A.J. Green. And it’s their mistake for moving on without Marvin Jones. Jones was a fifth-round pick in the 2012 draft and continued to improve as the years went on. But last season is where the NFL really saw Jones’ ability.
Jones was the Lions' best target, catching 61 passes for 1,101 yards, and catching nine touchdown passes. Just imagine that type of production with Green on the other side.
25 Cleveland Browns: Hiring Hue Jackson
We could sit here for hours talking about the mistakes the Cleveland Browns have made over the past five seasons. From Johnny Manziel to DeShone Kizer, to trading back in drafts and missing on star quarterbacks, it has been a long five years. But one problem that is still ongoing is the coaching situation, as Hue Jackson remains the team's head coach.
Despite leading the Browns to an 0-16 season, he still kept his job after 2017. The Browns have now fired him, but one has to wonder where they'd have been today, had they made the right hire a few years ago.
24 Dallas Cowboys: Signing Scott Linehan To Extension
After Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott were lights out their rookie seasons, Jerry Jones didn’t wait much longer to extend Scott Linehan. The running joke is that Linehan needs to be fired from Cowboys fans, but it’s only the truth.
Prescott and Elliott were able to continuously succeed with the same plays because the players were new to the league.
Now that teams have studied the Cowboys, they need to make adjustments, which Linehan has been unable to do.
Prescott will never be able to progress with Linehan as his offensive coordinator.
23 Denver Broncos: Started Trevor Siemian
Imagine the string of emotions Denver Broncos fans had to go through. They went from winning a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning to missing the playoffs the following two seasons under Trevor Siemian’s lead.
John Elway never took the initiative to really find another quarterback. He felt strongly about Siemian and rolled with him. While there were a few times where Siemian looked really good, he also played even more games where he didn’t look very good. A team that had the defense that could carry them to a Super Bowl should have at least found a halfway decent quarterback.
22 Detroit Lions: Letting Ndamukong Suh Walk
Talented defensive linemen are worth a lot, especially defensive tackles that can pass rush up the middle like defensive ends. Granted, Ndamukong Suh was going to cost a lot of money, but it would have been worth it. Suh is a special player who played well in Miami. For a team that has always struggled on defense, it would have been the smart decision to make. With a defensive mind in Matt Patricia now at the helm, it would only get better.
21 Green Bay Packers: Cutting Jordy Nelson
It's hard to pinpoint a single mistake the Packers have made over the last five years. Their shortcomings are more of a case of simply failing to build a Super Bowl caliber roster around Aaron Rodgers. However, one thing they could've done to at least keep Rodgers pleased with his receivers was to keep his longtime favorite target Jordy Nelson.
Nelson has been a bright spot on a bad Raiders team this year, while Rodgers has called out his receivers on multiple occasions.
On top of that the Packers cut Nelson to make cap space for Jimmy Graham, who's been a disappointment in Green Bay.
20 Houston Texans: Signing Brock Osweiler
One of the worst NFL contracts was signed in the spring of March 2016. Brock Osweiler signed a four-year deal worth $72 million with the Houston Texans. Some teams became interested after Osweiler was able to manage the Broncos offense when Peyton Manning was out, eventually leading them to the playoffs before they won the Super Bowl.
The Texans thought Osweiler would be elite, but they were wrong. Osweiler threw only 15 touchdown passes to 16 interceptions, making him one of the biggest free agent flops in history.
19 Indianapolis Colts: Moved On From Frank Gore
Your franchise quarterback comes back to play for the first time in over a year, and you have no running game. That is problematic. You never want to go into a season with a questionable run game, but especially when your quarterback comes off of a serious injury.
Frank Gore was a consistent running back. Not only is he one of the best in history, he comes at a good price tag too. Gore would help alleviate pressure off of Andrew Luck, but instead, they decided to roll with unproven running backs that are great in the passing game but struggle on the ground.
18 Jacksonville Jaguars: Extending Blake Bortles
At this point, the Jaguars seem content with mediocrity at the quarterback position. Blake Bortles showed signs of improvement last year and did enough for the Jags to win the AFC South.
Bortles signed a three-year extension worth $54 million following his trip to the AFC Championship Game.
Bortles deserved to come back, but an extension could have waited. The more mind-boggling decision was why the Jaguars didn’t go after Kirk Cousins, or at least sign a capable backup in case Bortles regressed this season. Looking at Bortles's play this season, the Jags have to be regretting their decision.
17 Kansas City Chiefs: Trading Marcus Peters
Lately, the Chiefs have done a lot of good things, so it’s really hard to pick a major bad thing they have done. One recent move that they shouldn’t have gone through with, was trading Marcus Peters. For a team that already struggles in the secondary, it doesn’t make sense to give up your best cornerback.
The thing that makes even less sense is how the Chiefs didn't get enough in return. If Peters was on this team, this secondary would match up against opposing teams a lot, better especially in a division with a lot of talent at the wide receiver position.
16 Los Angeles Chargers: Naming Mike McCoy As Head Coach
A lot of the stigma around the Los Angeles Chargers not being able to get over the hump comes from when Mike McCoy was the head coach. Through four seasons with the Chargers, McCoy finished with a 27-37 record, leading the Chargers to the playoffs once.
With the talent the team has had, the team should have been able to make it to the playoffs more often. The Chargers wasted some great years of Philip Rivers and a lot of it stems to the wrong hire.
15 Los Angeles Rams: Keeping Jeff Fisher For Too long
2017 proved that Jeff Fisher's coaching was an issue with the Rams. Sean McVay took over Fisher’s spot as the head coach for the Rams and took the team to another level last season. The Rams went on to win the division, without any major changes throughout the offseason.
Coaching means a lot when it comes to the success of a team, especially developing young players.
Jared Goff (and Todd Gurley for that matter) looked like a completely different guy once McVay got there. If only the Rams fired Fisher earlier, who knows the success these teams could’ve had?
14 Miami Dolphins: Trading Jarvis Landry
The Miami Dolphins really lost out on Jarvis Landry. He was one of the better receivers in the league and had grown into a leader in Cleveland. Looking back at it, the Dolphins barely received anything in this trade. The Browns gave up a 2018 fourth-round pick, and a 2019 seventh-round pick.
Wanting to save money is well and good, but this is a franchise receiver. The Dolphins already franchise tagged him, so they should have let it play out. Now, the Dolphins are without a no. 1 receiver.
13 Minnesota Vikings: Trading For Sam Bradford
Minnesota is another team that made it really difficult to choose a bad move the team made. The Vikings have been great the past four seasons, so it’s hard to narrow down anything that’s really that bad. But if we could pick one, it was trading for Sam Bradford.
Bradford has struggled with success throughout his career, yet the Vikings gave up a first and fourth-round pick to acquire him. Bradford only played two seasons, missing most of one due to an injury.
12 New England Patriots: Trading Jimmy Garoppolo
Life goes on after Tom Brady. Brady wants to play into his mid-40s, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he will. And Brady could get hurt at an old age playing quarterback; these things just happen.
Keeping Jimmy Garoppolo to be the next Patriots quarterback would've given the Patriots an insurance plan for once Brady retires, or his game starts to regress.
Instead, the Patriots decided that getting a second-round draft pick in return was more valuable. If you think the Patriots are good at everything, you’re wrong.
11 New Orleans Saints: Trading Up For Marcus Davenport
It’s still too early to doubt Marcus Davenport, but the trade the Saints made didn’t make sense – from No. 27 to No. 14, to switch first-rounders, and give away a 2018 fifth-rounder and a 2019 first-round pick. Unless Davenport ends up being a star, this trade will be criticized for years.
What’s concerning is that Davenport played in Conference USA, a lesser talented conference in the NCAA. The players Davenport was going against are a lot less talented than those players he’s going up against today.
10 New York Giants: Drafting Ereck Flowers
If the Giants could go back and draft someone else in the 2015 NFL Draft, they probably would. Ereck Flowers is as bad as it can get for an offensive tackle. Many different rankings have rated Flowers as one of the worst offensive tackles in the league.
It doesn’t even matter who the Giants could’ve drafted, but the fact that they made a huge mistake. They kept trying to find a spot for him to succeed to make use of the draft pick, but it just didn't work.
9 New York Jets: Drafting Geno Smith
Before Sam Darnold, the Jets struggled to find a quarterback. In the 2013 NFL Draft, they selected Geno Smith in the second round.
The success Smith had at West Virginia was never able to translate into the NFL. He didn’t look as good as he did in college.
Smith turned the ball over a lot, and his career as a Jet ended with a punch to the jaw, which cut his season short. The Jets would have loved to invest in a long-term solution with that pick.
8 Oakland Raiders: Trading Khalil Mack
After seeing how well Khalil Mack has played with the Bears so far, the Raiders have to look back in disappointment. Mack was a special type of player, someone whom almost no draft pick is worth. The Raiders received two first round picks, and a few other draft picks for Mack.
Yes, they have plenty of draft picks now, but what is worth giving up an elite playmaker? The chances that the Raiders draft a player with Mack’s caliber are slim to none.
7 Philadelphia Eagles: Hiring Chip Kelly
Rarely do fans really get excited over a new coach. But when Chip Kelly was announced to be the new head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, excitement grew throughout the whole NFL. Kelly was known as the coach who helped put together one of the best college football offenses in history at Oregon. But it wasn’t the same with the Eagles.
Some poor decisions were made, including Kelly basically dismantling the roster. Those moves eventually backfired on him and his Eagle tenure was over after three years.
6 Pittsburgh Steelers: Franchise Tagging Le'Veon Bell
When the Steelers placed the franchise tag on Le’Veon Bell, no one would have expected it to backfire on them. Last season it seemed fine, but it definitely ticked off Bell this offseason.
Bell wants a game-changing contract, which the Steelers don’t seem interested in giving.
Earlier this offseason, Bell was offered a five-year deal worth $70 million, but it was not enough.
If the Steelers wanted to tag Bell, fine. But they should have looked to trade him, especially if they’re not going to up their price to retain him long-term.
5 San Francisco 49ers: Forcing Jim Harbaugh Out
So much blame was put on Colin Kaepernick for the 49ers' eventual struggles. However, one must forget about all the drama the team went through a few years ago. This team lost a bunch of huge pieces, including Patrick Willis, Vernon Davis, Frank Gore, and most importantly, Jim Harbaugh.
It was nearly impossible for Kaepernick to lead this team to success. The decision to move on from Harbaugh made no sense. Through four seasons, Harbaugh led the 49ers to a 44-19-1 record. He helped them to eight playoff games and one Super Bowl appearance.
4 Seattle Seahawks: Released Richard Sherman
Releasing Richard Sherman was one move, but it led to a whole dismantling of an organization in an offseason. Sherman was first, and there were plenty of others after. The Seahawks decided to clear the house this offseason, literally. Some other players that did not return include Jimmy Graham, Paul Richardson, and Michael Bennett.
The Seahawks have been a playoff contender every season since 2012, but that has changed this season. With Sherman now gone, Earl Thomas seems next, especially after the way his season ended.
3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Drafting Roberto Aguayo
He started as one the most accurate kickers in the history of the ACC, then became one of the highest drafted kickers in history, and is now a free agent. Aguayo was expected to be a great kicker for the Buccaneers, but he only ended up lasting one season.
In that season, he finished with a 71% field goal percentage.
He was so bad that the Buccaneers didn’t even risk keeping him on the team, as they moved on as quickly as they could. He may go down as one of the biggest draft busts in recent history.
2 Tennessee Titans: Released DeMarco Murray
Trust began to grow in Tennessee for Derrick Henry. So much that the team decided to release DeMarco Murray. Murray and Henry together were one of the best running back duos in the NFL. Without Murray, this Titans offense has lost a lot of their mojo from the past couple of years.
Murray was hurt last year, which may have led the Titans to force Murray out. But they’re clearly missing one of the better running backs over the last five seasons. The Henry/Dion Lewis duo hasn't been nearly as effective as Murray/Henry.
1 Washington Redskins: Letting Kirk Cousins Walk
A franchise quarterback was already in the hands of the Washington Redskins, and they refused to pay him, letting him sign with the Vikings. Alex Smith has, in fact, looked good, but he’s at the back half of his career. Cousins is in his prime, and now that the Redskins improved their offense, he would get even better.
Smith will only last for so long, whereas with Cousins, you know you would have a lot of time to try to win a championship.