There are many vices that have threatened to ruin the careers of highly touted NFL players. Whether it’s an addiction to alcohol, drugs or gambling within the sport, these can be thought of as self-inflicting wounds. However, there are times when players are misused by the organization that drafted them and most often, coaches are the ones to blame. Careers have gone into a downward spiral due to mismanagement, as college football stars are not nurtured and groomed for a particular role. When players are immediately thrust into the limelight, the reality of stepping foot onto the biggest stage and upper echelon of professional sports may be too much to handle.
With the current NFL playbook providing endless opportunities to select plays and schemes, there is also an increased risk of mismanagement by coaches. The pressure to win and succeed in the NFL is immense and there is virtually no room for error. One mistake, one injury or one infraction both on and off the field will end a career in this day and age. The value of an NFL player to each individual coach is very subjective in nature and the cutthroat approach deployed by coaches provides football players with a small window of opportunity. In essence, coaches are hired to eventually be fired and management across the NFL is not patient with coaching staffs across the league. In acts of desperation, coaches sometimes don’t allow for players to grow and develop in good stead. In turn, this is the beginning of the end for many great football players who transition from college to the NFL.
College players who have gone on to win the Heisman trophy for their exceptional qualities on the field do not always garner success on the professional stage of the NFL. Oftentimes, this is due to vices which hamper their mental and physical abilities on the gridiron. On the flip side, careers are also mired in turmoil due to extraneous sources such as managerial liability and negligent use of an individual’s talent. Could it be the scheme packages and play calls that are not adapted to the player’s skillset that cause their demise? What about the inept aptitude of coaches in their ability to manage player personnel? Whatever the case may be, NFL coaches have readily been the main culprits in the tailspin of careers that once looked promising. The list of players who have had their professional careers tarnished by management is endless, but here are 15 of the highest profile cases.
15 Lawrence Phillips
While Phillips deserves a lot of blame for where his life has gone, better management could have changed his trajectory. One of the best running backs to step onto the field for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Lawrence Phillips had a career that began to take a turn for the worse from his early college days. In 1995, Phillips rushed all over Michigan State in the Spartans home opener and looked to be on a path to stardom. However, that same evening, Phillips assaulted his girlfriend and was never reprimanded by coach Tom Osbourne.
14 Robert Gallery
An all-American offensive tackle, Robert Gallery had an eight year NFL career that was hampered by inconsistent management. A no.2 overall pick by the Oakland Raiders, Gallery was drafted to be the dominant left tackle that he was at Iowa. However, under Raiders coach Tom Cable, Gallery was converted into a guard. Gallery had some decent years in front of the black hole faithful, but he never tapped into his full potential.
13 Ken MacAfee
One of the best tight ends to ever grace college football, Ken MacAfee was in contention for the Heisman. Drafted by the 49ers, MacAfee played the tight end position for two years and did not show any glimpses of brilliance. In his third year, the 49ers coaching staff and management decided that it was time for MacAfee to change position. Thus, the 49ers asked the former Notre Dame standout to become a guard and relinquish the tight end spot.
12 Brady Quinn
Dubbed as the savior for the Cleveland Browns franchise, Brady Quinn underwhelmed in the biggest of stages. After breaking 36 college records at Notre Dame, Quinn had an unremarkable professional career in Cleveland. In 2009, Quinn won the role of starting quarterback for the Browns, but after three uninspiring performances to start the season, head coach Eric Mangini benched Quinn in favor of Derek Anderson despite the offensive unit struggling as a whole.
11 Huey Richardson
Huey Richardson could simply be the most confounding draft day pick in the history of the NFL. Imagine being selected by default by a team devoid of ideas and backup plans. This was the case for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1991 draft as they had the 15th selection and the top three players they had on their queue had been selected with picks 11 through 13. Enter Huey Richardson as a last second contingency plan.
10 Gary Beban
A Heisman trophy winner back in 1967 with the UCLA Bruins, Gary Beban’s NFL career as a QB was over before it even started. Although, Heisman winners are usually high profile draft picks, Beban was taken in the second round by the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams management and Beban were at odds in contract talks and nothing concrete ever materialized.
9 E.J. Manuel
As a rookie, E.J. Manuel had the fourth highest passer rating in NFL history for a rookie QB through the first three games. His reward? Coach Doug Marrone stripped the young play caller of the ability to pass on early downs after three weeks. With Manuel on the field, the Buffalo Bills had the most handoffs on early downs than any other team in the league. The training wheels were never taken off the E.J. Manuel experiment in Buffalo and his development was hindered by a coaching staff that was reluctant to trust the 16th overall pick of the 2013 draft.
8 Terry Baker
Another case of a player with subliminal abilities that wasn’t given the opportunity to truly showcase his talent. The Los Angeles Rams drafted Baker in 1963 as a long term solution at quarterback. Baker was a standout at Oregon State, winning the Heisman and earning accolades from Sports Illustrated as “Sportsman of the Year.” The Rams only used him sparingly in his three seasons as Baker completed 12 of 21 passes as a QB.
7 Johnny Manziel
Despite his struggles and celebrity lifestyle off the field, Johnny Manziel has shown some flashes of brilliance for the Cleveland Browns at the QB position. However, for a number of years, the Cleveland front office has laid the foundation for a QB of Manziel’s reputation to fail. Johnny Football has the talent to turn the Browns franchise into a respectable team.
6 Rashaan Salaam
A former first round draft pick of the Chicago Bears, Rashaan Salaam was cut at the tender age of 23. Rashaan had an innate athletic ability as a running back, but his work ethic and lifestyle choices were the detriments of his career. As a rookie, Salaam rushed for over 1,000 yards and his subsequent demise, where he amassed only 610 yards on the ground for the rest of his career is quite frustrating.
5 Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick has had his career shred to pieces by the 49ers management as several coaches were lost and significant pieces of the offense dismantled either through trades or managerial negligence. Kaepernick has won four playoff games and posted QB ratings over 90 in the 2012 and 2013 seasons before regressing significantly in 2014 and 2015.
4 Eric Crouch
In college, Eric Crouch was an outstanding quarterback for the Nebraska Cornhuskers establishing himself as dual threat as a player who could run or throw to wreak havoc on opposing defenses. The St. Louis Rams and coach Mike Martz drafted the talented Crouch as a wide receiver, deeming him too small to play QB at the professional level. Although Crouch was under the tutelage of some great wide receivers in St. Louis like Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, Crouch voiced his displeasure of changing positions.
3 David Carr
Selected 1st overall by the Houston Texans in the 2002 NFL draft, quarterback David Carr was thrown to the wolves in his rookie season. There was very little room for development in his rookie season, as Texans management put together one of the worst offensive lines in recent history. Carr was sacked 76 times, which resulted in the rookie QB fumbling the ball on 21 occasions. In addition, Carr did not have quality running backs or wide receivers and this was a detriment to his play.
2 Tim Tebow
Tim Tebow has been heavily scrutinized by former teammates, coaches and members of the media for his lack of talent and ineptitude as a QB in the NFL. As a member of the Denver Broncos, Tebow led an improbable playoff run in 2011, but since then, his playing career went into a downward spiral.
1 Robert Griffin III
RGIII is a lock for the no.1 spot on this list. His career was ruined by the Washington Redskins like no other. RGIII was drafted in 2012 and led the Redskins to the playoffs while earning a spot in the Pro Bowl in his rookie season. The Redskins started off on the wrong foot by drafting Kirk Cousins in the same draft as RGIII, thus signaling their lack of faith in his ability to succeed. In addition, the Redskins rushed RGIII back into a starting role after an initial LCL sprain in the knee which led to further damage as Griffin tore his ACL, LCL and meniscus a few weeks after the initial injury in a playoff game.
So what do the Redskins and coach Mike Shanahan do in the following season? They rush Griffin back into starting without the QB taking any reps in preseason. The number of reasons as to how the Redskins ruined the career of Robert Griffin III is abundant and for this purpose, he is the unanimous choice as the one player who has single handedly had his career ruined by management.
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