When it comes to sports, you can make yourself one of the richest athletes in your respective game with just one incredible season. This is especially true if a player is in the final year of their contract, leading to a massive extension. Sometimes it works out and the athlete becomes a franchise player, and sometimes it handcuffs the team to a guy that played out of his mind for a short span, setting the franchise back for years.
The NFL has had a lot of these one-year wonders that lit up the league and then either saw their stats drop off, or their careers fall of the face of the world. But who are the guys that made the biggest impact and then just lost that magic touch?
Here are the top 15 one-year wonders in the NFL and what happened to their careers afterwards. Some of them are familiar names that are still in the league, but just not what they were for that one tremendous year.
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15 Nick Foles
There is still a chance for Nick Foles to be a star quarterback as he will only be 27 in 2016 and should still have the starting job with the Rams. However, he hasn’t shown anything that makes people think that he will return to his 2013 form. Foles finished the season with an 8-2 starting record, 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions as he threw for 2,891 yards. Since then, he has thrown just 20 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.
14 Peyton Hillis
After two years in the league with Denver where he had just 397 rushing yards, Hillis signed with the Browns in 2010. Hillis had a tremendous season that year, rushing for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns while adding another two through the air. Hillis was even featured on the cover of “Madden 12”, but never had another good season. Hillis rushed for just 1,258 yards over the subsequent four seasons, ending it in 2014 with the Giants.
13 Sidney Rice
In 2007, Sidney Rice was a second round pick with a lot of promise for the Minnesota Vikings. Rice struggled in his first two seasons, but blew up in his third year with Brett Favre leading the team. After seasons where he had 396 and 141 yards, Rice’s third year saw him total 1,312 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. After that season, Rice struggled to play a full schedule and never even reached 750 yards again.
12 Greg Cook
Greg Cook was drafted fifth overall in the 1969 NFL Draft out of Cincinnati to play for the hometown Bengals. Cook would have a solid rookie season (by 1969 standards), throwing for 1,854 yards with 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Cook discovered that he played with a torn rotator cuff and a detached biceps. Cook was forced into early retirement afterward, and tried to come back in 1973. However, Cook played just one game and had three passing attempts after his rookie season.
11 Marcus Robinson
Drafted in the fourth round in 1998 by the Bears, Marcus Robinson played just three games in his rookie season with 44 yards. It was his second year that Robinson turned heads, exploding for an impressive 1,400 yards and nine touchdowns. Expectations were high, but Robinson never came close to matching that production. The season after was his best for the remainder of his career, but that was just for 738 yards and five touchdowns.
10 Tommy Maddox
Tommy Maddox had spent four years in the NFL with the Broncos, Rams and Giants before leaving in 1995. Maddox, however, started just four games in that span. After six years away from the league and an XFL MVP Award to go with it, Maddox returned with the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2002, Maddox became the starter by week five and had a record of 7-3-1 with 20 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, leading the Steelers to the AFC North title. Maddox had one more poor season as a starter before being replaced by Ben Roethlisberger.
9 Scott Mitchell
In 1994, the Detroit Lions were in need of a quarterback and scooped up Dolphins backup Scott Mitchell. Mitchell’s second year proved to be his best as he got the Lions to a 10-6 record in a season where he threw for 4,338 yards with 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Mitchell then floundered in the next season, followed by an average season. By 1998, Mitchell was no longer a full-time starter and ended his career after 2001 in Cincinnati.
8 Derek Anderson
Before the 2007 season, the Browns thought they needed a franchise quarterback, so they picked Brady Quinn in the first round of the NFL Draft. The plan was to have Quinn sit back and learn the offense for a year while Derek Anderson led the way in 2007. What followed was an incredible season where Anderson went 10-5 and threw for 3,787 yards, 29 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. Anderson then signed an extension to keep Quinn on the bench, but Anderson never had more than three wins in a season or more than 2,065 yards since then.
7 Steve Slaton
A standout running back at West Virginia, Steve Slaton was surprised that his name wasn’t called until the third round in 2008 by the Houston Texans. Slaton got the chance to start right away, and had a fantastic rookie season. He rushed for 1,282 yards and nine touchdowns while adding 377 receiving yards and a touchdown. Slaton rushed for just 614 yards over his remaining three seasons after losing his starting job to Arian Foster.
6 Bill Kenney
In the 1980’s, the Chiefs had given Bill Kenney plenty of chances to start, but he didn’t put up big numbers in his first three seasons. In 1983, though, Kenney had a fantastic year where he threw for 4,348 yards with 24 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. The Chiefs thought they had found their guy, but Kenney could never duplicate that production as he never eclipsed 2,536 yards afterward and had a touchdown to interception ratio of just 1.36 in his remaining five seasons.
5 Olandis Gary
While Mike Shanahan was the coach of the Denver Broncos, the team was known for churning out running backs left and right. The one that faded the fastest was Olandis Gary, who played in just 12 games in his rookie season, but rushed for 1,159 yards and seven touchdowns. Gary also had 159 receiving yards, but lost the starting job the next year (2000). Gary rushed for just 839 yards over the final four years of his career, which ended with one season in Detroit in 2003.
4 Don Majkowski
Known as the Magic Man, Don Majkowski was the last quarterback to get extended playing time for the Packers that wasn’t named Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers. Majkowski had two poor seasons in the league before 1989, when he broke out in a big way. Majkowski led the team to a 10-6 record where he threw for 4,318 yards with 27 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. Majkowski never played more than half of a season after that, and never even reached 2,000 yards in a season again before eventually being replaced by Favre in 1992.
3 Steve Beuerlein
After being a part of some very good Notre Dame teams in the 1980’s, Steve Beuerlein was picked up in the fourth round of the 1987 NFL Draft. Beuerlein played his first two seasons with the Raiders, then two with the Cowboys, one with the Cardinals, one with Jacksonville and then landed with the Panthers. In his 11th season, Beuerlein finally looked like a starter as he threw for 4,436 yards with an incredible 36 touchdowns, twice as much as his previous career high of 18. Beuerlein had a mediocre season the next year, and started just five games after that.
2 Ickey Woods
Younger fans know Ickey Woods as the guy getting some cold cuts from the Geico commercials, but those that watched the NFL in 1988 know Woods as the one-year sensation that swept Cincinnati. Woods rushed just 203 times, but had 1,066 yards and 15 touchdowns, adding another 199 yards through the air. Woods only played through the 1991 season, and had just 459 rushing yards in his final three seasons.
1 Robert Griffin III
RGIII mania was running wild through the nation’s capital as the 2012 Redskins came out of nowhere to win the NFC East. After trading multiple first round picks to draft Robert Griffin III out of Baylor, the Skins thought their days of not having a franchise quarterback were over. RGIII won the Rookie of the Year Award after throwing for 3,200 yards to go along with 20 touchdowns and five interceptions while rushing for 815 yards and seven touchdowns. Injuries started to mount and Griffin was never the same as he has gone 5-15 with 20 touchdowns and 18 interceptions since then. Griffin did not play in 2015 as Kirk Cousins emerged for Washington, and the former Heisman winner is about to hit the free agent market.
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