The New England Patriots are the epitome of success in the NFL. For nearly two decades the team has consistently won championships, drafted smart and become the gold standard of success in professional football. They’ve gone from being the perennial underdog to the villainous giant they are today. While most fans will remember the Belichick/Brady teams and the talent that came from those squads, New England has a long history filled with great players before their current dynasty. However, they’ve also got a good deal of busts too.
Be it through the draft or free agency, the Patriots are known for being willing to take chances on certain players. Sometimes those gambles work and sometimes they don’t. Even certain players dubbed as “safe picks” sometimes don’t pan out. There are so many variables that go into it. Coaching, adaptability, chemistry and injuries all play a role in determining whether a player can succeed with his current team. With a team as historically successful like the Patriots, we tend to forget about those who found themselves on the opposite side of the spectrum during their time with the team. Be they failed free agents, bad trades or draft busts, Pats fans know them all for one thing; blowing it. Here are the 15 worst players in New England Patriots history.
17 Laurence Maroney
There’s not much to say about Laurence Maroney except he was a huge disappointment who had flashed some great talent but ultimately didn’t show. Maroney was selected 21st overall in the 2006 draft and was given every possible opportunity to succeed from day one. However he never developed into the bruising bell-cow New England hoped he’d become. Just looking at the numbers you might argue that he wasn’t half bad, and you’d be right. They aren’t terrible, but a running back who can’t cross the 1,000 threshold won’t have a long shelf life in the NFL. Maroney was inconsistent running the ball and was a less than average pass blocker. No matter how subpar a runner is you always want them to at least be able to help protect your quarterback. Maroney couldn’t do much of either and soon ran out of chances in New England.
15 Deltha O'Neal
Here’s another Bengal that flamed out in his one year with the Pats. Throughout his time with the Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals, Deltha O’Neal established himself as a solid starting corner in the NFL. But by the time he was signed by the Patriots, O’Neal was seemingly on the decline. His last two years as a Bengal were some of his least impressive – at least statistically – but he’d managed to snag a starting role in New England’s defensive backfield nonetheless. While his interception numbers went up, O’Neal only started 10 games that year. He couldn’t cement himself as an avid contributor in Bill Belichick’s defense, and while his numbers aren’t terrible they’re not what you’d expect from your starting cornerback. He was ultimately a disappointment and wasn’t resigned at the end of the year. His stop in New England would be one of his last as he was let go by the Houston Texans the following year just prior to the start of the 2009 NFL Season.
14 Albert Haynesworth
Oh boy, where to start with this guy. There are probably a ton of fans who’d like to give big ol’ Albert Haynesworth a piece of their minds. Haynesworth’s stint with the Washington Redskins is the embodiment of “taking the money and running.” After initially dominating with the Titans, Haynesworth was given a colossal contract by the Skins only to seemingly lose all interest in playing football once he got his check. After two miserable years, the Pats decided to take a gamble on the free agent bust and sent Washington a fifth round pick to rid them of their burden. Haynesworth’s time in New England only lasted a few months. He didn’t start a game and pretty much made zero impact while on the team. The Patriots finally decided to cut the cord after Haynesworth and D-Line coach Pepper Johnson got into it on the sidelines. Obviously New England realized he was way more trouble than he was worth sooner rather than later.
13 Adalius Thomas
Why is a Pro Bowl player on this list? Well there are a couple of reasons. Adalius Thomas signed with the New England Patriots during the 2007 season and was a part of the team that nearly made history that season. Prior to that he was a Pro Bowler with the Baltimore Ravens. All good so far, yeah? Well it’s the next two seasons that really solidify his place on this list. Although he was a promising acquisition, Thomas never lived up to the hype or expectations that followed him into New England. His 2007 campaign – while decent – was nothing short of average, with the one exception being a strong performance in Super Bowl XLII against the Giants. The next two seasons – his last in the NFL – were woeful. Thomas could barely stay on the field and would put up pedestrian numbers when he did manage to crack the starting lineup. It’s no surprise that he was never given another shot after leaving New England.
12 Shawn Springs
Maybe this is just picking on a veteran player at the end of his career, but Shawn Springs’ time as a New England Patriot was just plain awful – even if it was just a one year stint. After finding success with both the Seahawks and the Redskins, Spings made his way to the Patriots. But the venture was fundamentally doomed from the start. Springs had suffered a knee injury sometime during training camp that cost him four games during the 2009 season and hindered him throughout the year. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the cornerback never really saw eye-to-eye with Bill Belichick. Springs believed he was better suited as a man to man coverage guy, while the Patriots defense required him to take part in a good deal of zone coverage. That along with his poor stat line could explain why he was out of New England just one year into his three year contract.
11 Eugene Chung
Here we go, the first player on this list that was an actual Patriots draft choice. While he’s now found a nice position as a coach in the NFL, Eugene Chung was one of New England’s most disappointing lineman prospects when he was a player back in the 90s. Selected 13th overall in 1992, Chung only lasted three years with the Pats. Unlike skill players, O-linemen don’t really register a ton of stats, so it’s difficult to pin point why those that fail do so just by peeking at their stat line. With Chung it seemed to be an issue of style as he didn’t fit in with what Bill Parcells was looking for in an offensive lineman. In his last season as a Patriot, Chung played in just three games. He wasn’t hurt, but looked to be phased out completely. The writing was pretty much on the wall as he was later selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the expansion draft
10 Mike Ruth
There’s not much to say here. Mike Ruth was a second round pick for the Patriots back in 1986 that lasted about two years with the team. With all the hype and success of the Belichick era teams, most tend to forget the Patriots of the 80s and 90s. Not that there’s much to remember aside from a couple of Super Bowl appearances and defeats. Ruth – much like those Super Bowl losing teams of the 80s and 90s – is another blemish in the Patriots history book. A relatively high pick that accomplished much of nothing in his incredibly brief stint in the pros, Ruth just wasn’t an NFL caliber athlete. In his two years with the Pats, Ruth played in just eight games recording a single sack. He was out of the league as fast as he came into it. Perhaps what best describes his time in New England is the lack of impact he had on the team itself, despite being such a huge bust.
9 Adrian Klemm
Back to the Belichick era with this one. In fact this is a bit of a monumental selection. Adrian Klemm was actually Bill Belichick's first selection as the head coach of the New England Patriots. The offensive lineman was taken 46th overall in the 2000 NFL draft and flip-flopped between the tackle and guard spots. It’s kind of ironic that the pick that kickstarted the career of the league’s most successful coach was a flop. At least he can say he had some longevity, as he did manage to stick on for five years. That’s better than most. Despite having three Super Bowl rings, Klemm never played in a playoff game. That’s because he was all too often injured. When he did manage to get on the field his play was little more than average when he was at his best. Similar to Eugene Chung, Klemm is now coaching long after his terrible run as a Patriot came to an end.
8 Chris Singleton
Here’s another draft pick that didn’t quite live up to the hype. On draft day in 1990, the Patriots decided to double up on draft picks by trading the third overall pick to the Seahawks for picks eight and ten. A good strategy for any team who wants to get some value out of their draft picks, sure. But more draft picks doesn’t necessarily equal to better players. The Pats drafted Chris Singleton and Ray Agnew at eighth and tenth overall respectively. While Agnew himself didn’t quite pan out, he wasn’t as bad as Singleton ended up being. You’d expect a top ten pick to have some sort of impact on your team, but Singleton came into the league with a soft thud and continued on that way for the entirety of his career. He was cut midway through the 1993 season and failed to revive his career with the rival Miami Dolphins. Who did Seattle take with that third overall pick you ask? Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy.
7 Chad Johnson
While he had a nice stint with the Cincinnati Bengals, Chad Johnson’s Patriots career was nothing short of disappointing. After establishing himself as one of the league’s most dominating receivers for the better part of a decade, Johnson failed to crack the starting lineup with the Pats. In short, Johnson just didn’t have what it took to be successful in the Patriots offense. Perhaps it was a lack of football intelligence or just his age at that point in his career. Whatever it was, Johnson was rendered ineffective throughout the 2011 campaign. There were no highlight reel catches and no showboating, just a whole lot of time spent on the bench. His numbers – 15 receptions for 276 yards and a touchdown – aren’t bad for what he was that year; a rotational player, and nothing more. He quickly faded out in New England and moved onto a short-lived gig with the Dolphins before completely drying out in the CFL.
5 Chris Canty
No, not the defensive lineman. This Chris Canty had a much less significant career in the NFL that all started with a stop in New England. The defensive back had a brief stint with the Pats but much like most of the players on this list, failed to make his mark on the team. His time with the Patriots only lasted about two years. That’s pretty awful considering he was a first round pick (29th overall). What’s worse is the lack of playing time he got. In two seasons he only started 10 games while moonlighting as a kick returner to gain some play time. He failed in both regards. As a defender he was often outclassed and it showed by his lack of playing time while as a specialist he couldn’t manage to hold on to the roster spot. His career only lasted another couple of years before he was out of the league.
4 Tony Eason
Life hasn’t been very fair to Tony Eason. He was part of the 1983 draft class that brought John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino into the league. Yet he himself will always be remembered as one of the more disappointing signal callers from that class, even more so by Patriots fans. What’s more, he’s overshadowed by both Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady in terms of Patriots quarterbacks. Not that Eason was anywhere near as talented as Bledsoe and Brady anyways. In one of his worst statistical seasons, Eason managed to lead the Patriots to the Super Bowl, only to be out done by the greatest defense of all-time in the 85 Bears. Aside from two decent seasons where he threw for over 3,000 yards, Eason was a major disappointment and fluctuated greatly between decent and outright terrible play, with the latter pretty much being his norm.
3 Chad Jackson
Chad Jackson’s time in New England was pretty terrible. Yet at the same time you’d be hard-pressed to find those other than Patriots fans who remember him well. That’s how little impact he had during his time in the league. The second round pick was supposed to be a steal for the organization but ended up as nothing more than a bust in just two short years. While he only started one game during his rookie year, Jackson showed some promise and looked like he was heading towards the right direction going into his sophomore year. However, he was eclipsed by Wes Welker, Randy Moss and Donte Stallworth on the depth chart and failed to snag a single catch during Tom Brady’s record setting 2007 campaign. That would be it for Jackson in New England as he moved onto the Denver Broncos the next season, but once again just couldn’t show the skill set coaches needed to see to entrust him with a starting role.
2 Hart Lee Dykes
Here’s another receiver that actually managed to screw up worse than Jackson did. Dykes might’ve put up better numbers than Jackson did, but that’s not saying much. He was a first round selection though, which makes his failures infinitely more disappointing considering what was expected of him going into his Patriot career. In his only healthy seasons, Dykes put up nearly 1,400 yards on 83 catches. In today’s NFL, receivers are usually given until their third years to develop, but Dykes lost out on that year due to a knee injury and a separate eye injury that he received during a bar fight. T\Having initially produced modest numbers, the Patriots saw the lack of production and sudden injury history as good enough reason to give Dykes his walking papers and he never played another down in the NFL.
1 Ras-I Dowling
Well if you’re looking for a player who rarely contributed to his team, look no further than Ras-I Dowling. The former second round pick is arguably the most disappointing to ever be brought in during the Bill Belichick era, and possibly the most disappointing player to put on a Patriots uniform. After being selected 33rd overall in 2011, Dowling became a ghost on the Patriots roster. He started two games his rookie year, but aside from a handful of tackles, he hardly did anything with the playing time he got. While the optimists out there would’ve just chalked out to him needing to develop a little more before he could actually contribute, Dowling actually regressed further in his second season if you can believe it. After just two years, the Patriots were ready to give up on their failed experiment. What followed were two seasons out of the league and a failed comeback attempt with the Raiders in 2014, giving us the absolute worst player in New England Patriots history.