If there is one professional sports league that has no patience for a dip in production, it's the National Football League.
In the NBA, a coach might put a slumping star in a different role or scale back the player's minutes to give him some rest. Major League Baseball managers might give a star a day off or put him in to pinch-hit in a situation that could help him regain his form in confidence. Hockey coaches might give their dormant stars a swift kick in the rear and straight into the press box, to give the guy a chance to clear the cobwebs and wake up from his on-ice slumber.
In the NFL, you'll find a permanent spot on the bench - right before you're asked to turn in your playbook and clear your locker. Football is as cutthroat as it gets. In a much shorter regular season compared to the other major North American sports, the room for error is smaller than the window between two defenders double covering a receiver.
Because of this, we've seen time and time again that a good start to your NFL career - or a breakout year midway through it - does not guarantee tenure. It does not guarantee anything, really, other than another chance to prove your worth. Rarely is anyone immune to the NFL chopping block, and flash in the pan players are the best example of that. Players on this list made a sustained impact at some point in the careers, only to fade out of the league and eventually out of our football memories.
15 Tim Tebow
Not only did Tim Tebow fade in a hurry, he's made a habit of it. First he exploded on the scene one seemingly normal Sunday, taking down an albeit weak Miami Dolphins team to mark his entrance into pro football before leading the Denver Broncos to a playoff win. He quickly faded in Denver once Peyton Manning was brought in. He couldn't catch on in New York, on a Jets roster that may as well have had a scarecrow playing quarterback over the past couple of seasons.
14 Tommy Maddox
If you wanted to hear about a weird, unconventional, roller-coaster ride to the top (and back down to reality), you came to right place, because Tommy Maddox's story is as good as it gets.
13 Charles White
Remember when running backs were the kings of the NFL? For a time, Charles White was king, a draft bust turned superstar overnight, a redemption story for the ages - and one that lasted about as long as it took White to run the 40-yard dash.
12 Don Majkowski
11 Steve Slaton
The Houston Texans have had a reputation of hitting gold with their running backs over the past decade, and it all started with Steve Slaton back in 2008. He burst onto the scene as a rookie, running rampant for nearly 1,300 yards and catching 50 passes out of the backfield.
10 Timmy Smith
9 Michael Clayton
8 Olandis Gary
One of the hardest things for any athlete to do is to step into the shoes of a legend. That's exactly what Olandis Gary was forced to do in 1999 after Broncos back Terrell Davis went down with an injury, opening the door for Gary to thrive - and thrive he did. Gary went off for nearly 1,200 yards in just 12 games, a seemingly surefire sign of great things to come.
7 Derek Anderson
6 Robert Griffin III
You knew RG3 was going to land on this list somewhere. You just weren't quite sure where.
5 Vince Young
4 Ickey Woods
3 David Boston
2 Larry Brown
1 Peyton Hillis
Peyton Hillis just might be the most baffling player in NFL history. There's nothing about his game that stands out and there wasn't much there in terms of flashiness or marketability. Hillis managed to make his mark in 2010, when he rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and tacked on 61 catches for 477 yards, along with 13 total touchdowns. He inexplicably ended up on the cover of Madden - how does a Brown end up on the cover of Madden?! - but the Madden curse did its job and laid waste to the rest of Hillis' career, where he faded into a deep reserve role, and is now remembered only when exasperated Madden fans are reminded of the cursed 2012 version of the game.
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