The NFL is a cruel world. In a span of a few short years, a player can ascend the highest high, soon to be found barely hanging on for their professional life a short while after. In a sport where 250 pound human beings barrel into each other at sprinter's speed, one can only assume the glory won't last long.
The average career span for an NFL player is 3.5 years. This is the shortest of all major sports. Adversely, the longest career span is enjoyed by the boys in the MLB. It makes sense. One activity features a collection of gentleman participating in organized bat and ball while the other showcases whistle controlled war.
In any case, the guys on this list, at one time or another, have experienced some to massive success in their NFL careers. And for whatever reason, mostly age and injury, they find their careers nearing the end. Some on this list might regain that former glory, while others will certainly meet their NFL demise. Let's speculate shall we.
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15 Jason Witten
There is nothing like a soft warm blankie to make someone feel comfortable. Jason Witten has been that soft warm blankie to Dallas Cowboy quarterbacks for 13 years. Anytime Tony Romo needed to feel safe and comfortable he just looked to his blankie, Jason Witten. Now, just because he is a blankie doesn't mean he is soft. Witten is as tough as they come. As a matter of fact, Witten hasn't missed a game since his first year in the NFL in 2003. That's a Dallas Cowboy record. That's absurd for someone who doubles as an offensive lineman half the time. Witten has made a routine of running eight or so yards down the field and just turning around to find the ball being thrown to him for a first down and often more. But, Witten's best days might be coming to a close. With the often injured Tony Romo out, Witten has not formed the same kind of blanket chemistry with the new kid on the block, Dak Prescott. Witten is 34 years old. He has enjoyed over 10 more years than the average NFL player. However, Witten might not be done yet. He is still having a semi-productive year. He's caught 28 passes for 274 yards with zero touchdowns. I'm sure plenty of teams would gladly line Witten up in place of the random big dude they line up next to the tackle. Witten could definitely dry off those soggy bottoms and resurge to greatness. We shall see.
14 Ryan Tannehill
Ryan Tannehill is in his fifth year as the starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins. Tannehill is on his third head coach and fourth offensive coordinator. Tannehill is in his fifth year of leading a mediocre, or worse, team. Tannehill is in his first year of the soggy bottom blues. He has officially began circling the drain. His NFL career is nowhere near the end, but he is nearing the end of being seen as a franchise quarterback. He's in year five. There are no more excuses like, "his offensive line isn't healthy," or "if only he had a good running game," or "the receivers aren't getting open." You should read those quotes out loud with a whiny voice. It's time for Tannehill to rise up, literally as well as metaphorically, the guy never steps up in the pocket to save his life. Tannehill has all the makings of an elite quarterback. He has a huge arm to go with plenty of athleticism. Tannehill needs to start playing some school yard improvised football. He needs to dry of those soggy britches or he's gonna find himself flowing down the drain quickly.
13 Vince Wilfork
Vince Wilfork is still having fun playing football. This was evident as he strolled around in overalls, cowboy hat, and boots to practice on HBO Hard Knocks. Vince is still 325 pounds and nearly impossible to relocate if you are an offensive lineman. He will go down as one of the best nose tackles to ever play the game. With the New England Patriots, Vince was selected to five Pro Bowls. He was the leader of a defense that won two Super Bowls during his tenure. Since his relocation to the Houston Texans, Vince's production has dropped off dramatically. Vince is currently rated as the third worst defensive tackle by Pro Football Focus. Multiple factors could explain his drop off in production, like a different defensive scheme, but mostly it must be because of age. Lets be honest. How many players are let go by Bill Belichick and still have great success? Vince is without a doubt in his twilight years. But the dude can still plug a hole and maybe plug the drain that he is currently circling.
12 Cleveland Browns
Yes, you read that right. I'm talking about the entire Cleveland Browns organization. The Cleveland Browns are plagued. Or at least it seems that way. Since 2008 the Browns have won more than five games in a season once. Since 1995 they have two seasons with winning records. In the current 2016 season the Cleveland Browns are 0-6. They almost beat the lowly Dolphins, but their kicker missed a whopping three, very make-able field goals, including one for the win as time expired. In that game, the Browns decided to kick the ball to start the overtime period after they won the coin toss. Let's be clear. You do not want to kick the ball to the other team in a quasi-sudden death over time. Unless you are the Cleveland Browns apparently. The Browns drafted Johnny Manziel in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Manziel was a train wreck! Even when they have an awesome player like Josh Gordon, he ends up with a substance abuse problem. The Cleveland Browns might actually be plagued. Maybe the owners need to sell the team and prevent the entire organization from disappearing down the soggy soggy drain. Their fans are great though.
11 Mario Williams
Have you ever seen Mario Williams in a closeup on game day? He wears special contact lenses. While a Buffalo Bill, Mario wore red colored lenses. As a Dolphin, he wears aqua. He looks demon-esque and quite scary. He'd be a lot more scary if he were having anywhere near the kind of production he had a few years ago. Mario is the former first overall pick by the Houston Texans in 2006. He is a six foot six inch 300 pound defensive end. Someone needs to tell Mario his height to weight ratio is scary enough. He doesn't need the contacts. Mario has 97 career sacks. As a Bill, he averaged 10 sacks a season during his four year span. Now, after being dumped by Rex Ryan and the Bills, Mario has found a new home in Miami. Maybe he liked playing in the frigid Buffalo cold better, because Mario is having an invisible year. By invisible I mean you could watch the Dolphins play and not even know he was on the team. Through six games he has one sack. Against the Steelers, Mario was pulled from the starting lineup and saw less than 20 snaps. However, he is still a mountain of a man. And he's only 31. He's probably still got some tread on the tires, and we know he still has his super duper scary aqua contact lenses if all else fails. South Florida might get real soggy without them.
10 Jason Pierre-Paul
Last week I wrote an article that listed Jason Pierre-Paul as a potential candidate for Comeback Player of the Year. This week I shall entertain the opposite. Since Pierre-Paul's 4th of July fireworks extravaganza, he has struggled in his journey to return to his Pro Bowl form. After six games this season, Pierre-Paul has one sack to go along with 20 tackles. Pierre-Paul is only 27 years old. His best days should be ahead of him. One can only wonder if part of his confidence was blown away along with part of his hand on that fateful evening. At his best, Jason took down opposing quarterbacks 16.5 times during the 2011 season. And again, in 2014, Jason lit up the league's fancy boys 12.5 times. The Giants are 3-3 this year. The previous years success of this team has been, in large part, due to the stellar play of the defensive line. Perhaps Pierre-Paul will find a way to crawl out of the drain and help his team succeed. Or perhaps he will continue his descent to soggy irrelevance.
9 Reggie Bush
Mr. Pizza Hut cover boy himself, Reggie Bush, has seen better days. 'Member the "Bush push?" Oh Yeah, I 'member! Reggie pushed his fellow USC star quarterback Matt Leinart into the end zone for a much needed score. Wasn't it glorious? Reggie has enjoyed moderate success with the Saints, Dolphins and Lions. He has eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark twice in his career, once with Miami and once with Detroit. He has played in all 16 regular season games only twice in his career. Running backs probably get battered and bruised more than any other position. The position actually has the shortest career span for any position. And Reggie, barely topping 200 pounds, is certainly a causality to this unfortunate truth. Reggie's best days are surely behind him. He's currently on the Buffalo Bill's roster. Rex has trusted him with the rock six times in the four games he's been active. Reggie has five yards on those six attempts. Reggie has a terrific smile though. Once he accepts his fate as an NFL analyst, he will surely dry of those soggy bottoms and grace our screens during halftimes across the country.
8 Chris Johnson
At the NFL Combine, Chris Johnson boasted a 40 yard dash time of 4.24 seconds. That happens to be the fastest official recording ever at the combine. Johnson has put together six masterful seasons of rushing over 1000 yards. This includes his 2009 season with the Tennessee Titans where he eclipsed the 2000 yard mark. Only six other guys have ever accomplished that feat. As a matter of fact, while a member of the Titans Johnson never had a season where he rushed for under 1000 yards. Then he left Tennessee. That wasn't a good idea apparently. Since leaving the Titans, Johnson has failed to rush for 1000 yards once. Johnson was once the most sought after fantasy football player available. Now he's lucky to be drafted in the 10th round. I don't think he was even drafted in my league! Chris is currently on the same roster as arguably the best running back in football, David Johnson. Chris's productivity will most likely not see an increase anytime soon. Chris is circling the drain. He's had quite the NFL career, but when you are a running back going against 260 pound linebackers every Sunday it takes a pounding. It's about time to hang up them britches and let 'em dry.
7 C.J. Spiller
Clifford "C.J." Spiller Jr. started the 2016 season with the Saints. He was promptly moved to Seattle. You know what it does a ton of in Seattle? It rains. What does rain do? It makes your britches real soggy. That is if you are C.J. Spiller. It was evident in Spiller's early years that he was a special player. He was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 2010. While toting the rock in Buffalo, Spiller could hit the edge of the defense with blistering speed. Linebackers and defensive ends didn't stand a chance. Spiller returned kicks sometimes too. He took one to the house against Miami for over 100 yards in a regular season game. Spiller however is a running back. What usually happens to running backs? They get hurt. Spiller is no exception to this fact. He rarely plays in the full slate of games during an NFL season. In his eight years he's done it twice. Spiller will go down as one of those really talented guys that never really achieved greatness. He definitely had the potential, but the nagging injuries coupled with playing in too many different offenses hampered Spiller's chances at unlocking all of the achievements. Have fun in Seattle C.J., and don't forget to bring a towel.
6 Arian Foster
Arian Foster is one of the best football players ever to not be drafted. How did he go un-drafted? And do NFL General Managers actually know what they are doing? Tom Brady was taken with like the millionth pick or whatever. I guess that's an article for another time. In his seven seasons with the Houston Texans, in the years he played in all the games, Foster never ran for fewer than 1,224 yards. In 2010, Foster topped 1,600 yards on the ground. He added over 2000 yards receiving during his tenure as a Texan as well. Unfortunately, Foster has been bitten hard and often by the injury bug. Going into to his eigth NFL season, Foster will have played in all 16 games twice. This offseason the Texans and the Dolphins swapped running backs when Lamar Miller signed with Texans and Arian Foster with the Dolphins. Arian, as was suspected, has been struggling with injuries since training camp. He's currently behind Jay Ajayi on the depth chart. Foster might have some juice left in the legs, but will he get a shot? Or will he just continue to wade in the rehabilitating waters of South Beach and the hot tub at the Dolphin's practice facility? Watch out for those soggy bottoms Arian.
5 Colin Kaepernick
I remember a time when Kaepernick would regularly be kneeling as the 49ers drained the final few seconds off the clock on the route to victory. Now, the only time Kapernick kneels is before the game. Ohhhhhh! Yeah, I went there. With the departure of Coach Jim Harbaugh to Michigan so he can hide in the ranks of a college program, went the promise of Colin Kaepernick as a mainstay in the NFL. Let us remember, it was not long ago that Kaepernick was probably the best player on a team that barely lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl and then again to the Seahawks in the NFC Championship game. Colin was fun to watch. He could make all the throws and run all the runs. I even think he posed naked on the cover of the ESPN magazine. I wonder if he will be doing any nude poses this year. Or maybe the guy that beat him out for the starting job, Blaine Gabbert, will have to get naked in front of the camera. Right now the only time Kaepernick gets nude is when he needs to change out of his soggy britches. For the time being, Kaepernick has been named the starter of the 49ers after Gabbert's porous performance. Time will tell if Kaepernick can return to glory or continue circling the drain.
4 Jay Cutler
At one point in his career Jay Cutler was trending up. Jay was often coined a modern day gun slinger. Jay led his team to an appearance in the NFC Championship. Jay was tossing the pig skin flanked by Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey. I would ague that nary a quarterback in the league wouldn't love to be flanked by those two ball hawking fellows. I bet the receiver starved 49ers would love to have Colin Kapernick flanked by them. But enough with the flanking. Jay is another one of those players with plenty of talent, but he never quite got over that average hump. Jay's been sitting on Humpty Dumpty's wall for most of his career. Jay's best statistical career came in 2014 when he threw for 3,812 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions. Webster would call that an average performance. As Jay nears his mid-30s, one can only wonder what the future holds for Humpty Dumpty. 2016 is off to a soggy start as Jay is struggling with a boo boo on his thumb. Perhaps the NFL Gods will shine on Jay and grant him one last chance at greatness. Or perhaps Jay will be blown through the windy city of Chicago into a cushy retirement.
3 Darrelle Revis
Where once there was Revis Island now lies only a heap of soggy sand. There was a time when quarterbacks absolutely could not throw to Darrelle Revis' side of the field. It was forbidden less thee suffer the consequences of embarrassment and shame. Revis was the best of the best. Even the massive ego-ridden corners on opposing teams would call him the best. The most interceptions Revis ever snagged was six in a single season. It may not sound like much, but quarterbacks quickly learned not to throw against him giving him less opportunities for picks. Revis' ability to diagnose plays and receiver routes was second to none. He will undoubtedly go down as one of the best to ever play the game. However, father time may have caught up with dear Revis. Revis has been abused this season my opposing receivers. He is regularly getting burned down the field. Just ask Cincinnati's A.J. Green. The Jets are a lowly 1-5 so far this season. Revis isn't their only problem (see #2). Maybe Darrell can rally back to relevance or maybe he and the Jets will be singing the Soggy Bottom Blues.
2 Ryan Fitzpatrick
Remember when Ryan Fitzpatrick held out of the Jet's training camp so he could sign a bigger contract worth gobbles of monies? Well the Jet's caved and signed Fitzpatrick to a one year deal with $12 million and the potential to earn $3 million more. Fast forward to Week 7 and the Jet's are 1-5. This is due, in very large part, to the abysmal play of number 14. Fitz has five touchdowns to go along with 11 interceptions. Last year, he crushed the NFL with 31 touchdowns and just a shade under 4,000 yards. The Jets went 10-6 and barely missed the playoffs because the NFL is a cruel cruel league. So, it is understandable the Jets would give Fitz gobbles of cash. What is not understandable is Ryan's trashy performance. The team even added running back Matt Forte to the roster to cushion the load. This week Coach Todd Bowles has decided to bench the $12 million dollar man in favor of Geno "the jawbreaker" Smith. Maybe the benching will help Fitz dry his drawers.
1 Tony Romo
I remember watching the sky camera float above Tony Romo while he lied on the ground after suffering a back injury against the Redskins in 2014. It was as if angels were hovering above his motionless body. Perhaps they were whispering to him, "Tony, its time to come home." Tony wasn't having any of that though. The dude is tough as nails and breakable as glass. Those comparisons don't go well for an NFL quarterback. Lets revisit Tony's injury history shall we. In 2011 he broke his collarbone. In 2013 he ruptured a disk in his back. In 2014 he had two transverse process fractures. That's another back injury. In 2015 he broke his collarbone again. And then later in 2015 he broke his collarbone again. During the preseason of the 2016 season, Cliff Avril squashed Tony Romo in half causing a compression fracture to his L1 vertebra. Maybe Tony should have listened to those angels after all. But I'm sure he won't if Tony continues to be Tony. The dude is resilient. Now, if he returns this season, he will be battling the darling of the NFL, Dak Prescott, for the starting spot. I wouldn't count Tony out, but he's got a steep hill to climb if he wants to avoid singing that number one hit song, "The Soggy Bottom Blues."
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