Honorable Mention Selection Criteria

Rich Campbell Exemption (Not Given a Fair Chance)

Synopsis: Any way you cut it, Rich Campbell failed miserably as an NFL quarterback. To start, the 1981 #6 overall pick served exclusively as a back-up during his entire four-year career. Furthermore, he only threw for 386 yards with 3 touchdowns and 9 interceptions after coming off the bench in a total of 7 games. While certainly a bust, the former Cal Weenie fails to qualify as a Top 10 Bust. Instead, I established the Rich Campbell Exemption for presumed all-time busts who didn’t receive a fair chance to compete on the field.


When determining potential Top 10 Busts, I developed the following criteria as a way to discriminate against less deserving candidates. To be clear, the players highlighted below certainly qualify as busts. However, they just don’t make the grade as all-time busts.

  1. The player needs to be a top 10 overall draft pick (a.k.a. The Brady Quinn Exemption).
  2. The player needs to be a bona fide superstar coming out of college (a.k.a. the Troy Williamson Exemption).
  3. The player’s on-field performance needs to be historically bad (a.k.a. The Tony Mandarich Exemption).
  4. The player’s unproductive career cannot be the result of an injury (a.k.a. The Steve Emtman Exemption).
  5. The player needs to receive a fair chance to compete on the field (a.k.a. The Rich Campbell Exemption)

Despite being the 1981 #6 overall pick, Rich Campbell never started even one game during his four-year NFL career. In 7 games of relief duty for the Green Bay Packers, he put up pathetic totals of 386 passing yards with 3 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Fortunately for him, he played in a pre-Twitter world.

For as bad as Campbell was, it’s fair to argue that he never got the opportunity to prove himself as a starter. In his honor, I established the Rich Campbell Exemption for presumed all-time busts who didn’t receive a fair chance to compete on the field. Specifically, I only want to include busts who had sufficient opportunity to prove their lack of worth. Otherwise, they conveniently could provide one of the following excuses.

Excuse #1: Any quarterback could claim he failed because of inferior coaching
Steve Young
Steve Young - Greatness in Waiting
Wow! What a collection of all-time greats!

As a starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1985 and 1986, Steve Young had a 3-16 record with 11 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. Fortunately, Young had to opportunity to become Joe Montana’s apprentice while learning Bill Walsh’s West Coast Offense. While playing for the 49ers from 1987-1999, Young won a Super Bowl and had a 91-33 record with 221 touchdowns and 86 interceptions. Based on his time in the (other) Bay Area, Young earned a spot in the NFL Hall of Fame.

I don’t want to imply that Young would have been a bust if he stayed in Tampa Bay. However, I don’t think he would be in the Hall of Fame either. Instead, he probably would be considered similar to Archie Manning (i.e. a talented quarterback who couldn’t win games because of the team around him).

Example #2: Matt Cassel
Where’s the other Bill?

Now an NFL journeyman, Matt Cassel has been able to stay in the league simply because of two strong seasons. Filling in as New England’s starter after a season-ending injury to Tom Brady, Cassel threw for almost 3,700 yards with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2008. After being traded to the Kansas City Chiefs, Cassel’s numbers dropped substantially. Specifically, he threw for less than 3,000 passing yards with 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 2009. At the same time, his record as a starter went from 10-5 with the Patriots to 4-11 with the Chiefs.

In his second season in Kansas City, Cassel seemed to regain his form and had his best statistical season with 27 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Interesting, Charlie Weis (a Belichick protégé) took over as Kansas City’s offensive coordinator that year. Excluding seasons played under the Belichick coaching tree, Cassel’s career record of 33-38 becomes 13-28. Furthermore, his career Weighted Average Value of 44 (an average 1st round pick) becomes 17 (an average 4th round pick).

Both Young and Cassel had more success under better coaches. Young probably would have been very good elsewhere, but he became great in San Francisco. On the other hand, Cassel went from being mediocre to making a Pro Bowl when playing under a better system. Regardless of how good a system might be, I can’t imagine any coach being able to convert a Top 10 Bust into even a mediocre player.

Excuse #2: Any running back could claim he failed because of the offensive line

In the late 1990s to early 2000s, the Denver Broncos seamlessly went from Terrell Davis to Orlandis Gary to Mike Anderson to Clinton Portis to Reuben Droughns without breaking stride. Whether because of strong blocking or effective schemes, Broncos’ running backs put up impressive numbers.

1998 – Terrell Davis

  • 6th round pick in the 1995 Draft – out of Georgia.
  • Rushed for over 2,000 yards and scored 21 touchdowns.
  • Won MVP award based on his productiton

1999 – Oladis Gary

  • 4th round pick in the 1999 Draft – also out of Georgia.
  • Ran for almost 1,200 yards and scored seven touchdowns as a rookie.
  • Became starter for final 12 games after Davis suffered a season-ending knee injury.

2000 – Mike Anderson

  • 6th round pick in the 2000 Draft – from Utah.
  • Ran for almost 1,500 yards and scored 15 touchdowns as a rookie.

2001 – Terrell Davis and Mike Anderson

  • Splitting time in the backfield, each rushed for approximately 700 yards.
  • Davis accumulated his total despite missing eight games while recovering from knee surgery.

2002 & 2003 – Clinton Portis

  • 2nd round pick in 2002 – from “The U.”
  • As a rookie in 2002, Portis ran for over 1,500 yards with 15 touchdowns.
  • In only 13 games during 2003 season, he had almost 1,600 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns.
  • Impressively, he accomplished these totals in only 13 games.
  • Despite his production, Denver traded him to Washington for defensive back Champ Bailey after the season.

2004 – Reuben Droughns

  • In his first year as a starter, Reuben Droughns rushed for 1,240 yards.

Despite the noticeable drop-off at running back, the Broncos improved as a team given Bailey’s contributions on defense. At the same time, Portis accumulated impressive statistics with his new team. However, his yards per carry average dropped by 30% (from 5.5 to 4.1) after leaving Denver.

Perhaps more noteworthy, Bailey became one of the most dominant DBs in the NFL for the next eight years. Given their ability to reload at running back, the Broncos got the better end of the trade.

2005 – Mike Anderson / Tatum Bell / Ron Dayne

  • Returning as the Broncos’ primary back, Anderson rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored 12 touchdowns during the 2005 season.
  • At the same time, he split duties with rookie Tatum Bell.
    • As a 2nd round pick out of Oklahoma State, Bell rushed for over 900 yards with eight TDs.
  • With an average of 5.1 yards per carry, 1999 Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne averaged in excess of one yard per carry more than he did for any other team during his career.

Clearly, the Broncos had an offensive system with a superior rushing attack. Based on numerous examples, running backs could expect to get an extra yard per carry in Denver. While that difference might not seem significant, it can add up to a meaningful amount at the end of a season, or a career.

Excuse #3: Any receiver could claim he failed because of the quarterback

Immediately prior to Peyton Manning’s arrival in Indianapolis, Marvin Harrison had 73 receptions for 866 yards and six touchdowns. In their first full season together, the receiver’s production increased to 115 receptions for 1,663 yards and 12 touchdowns. With an all-time great quarterback throwing him passes, Harrison became an All-Pro receiver. In fact, he made eight consecutive Pro Bowls while playing with Manning.

Apparently, the “Manning Effect” worked in reverse as well. For instance, Reggie Wayne had 111 receptions for 1,355 yards from Manning in 2010, but only 75 receptions for 960 yards from a combination of Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky, and Kerry Collins in 2011. As further support for the impact of a star quarterback, Wayne’s numbers rebounded in 2012 (106 receptions for 1,355 yards) after Andrew Luck was drafted and became the starter.

As highly touted first round draft picks, both Harrison and Wayne took advantage of playing with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time.

Manning vs. Brady
Who wouldn’t want to be a receiver for either of these two?

In contrast, Wes Welker and Julian Edelman came out of college as uncelebrated receivers. Yet, they took advantage of playing with perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time.

Undrafted out of Texas Tech, Welker went from being a decent receiver with the Dolphins to an All-Pro receiver catching passes from Tom Brady. In six seasons with the Patriots, Welker made five Pro Bowls while averaging 112 receptions for over 1,200 yards. As Welker’s replacement last season, Edelman had 105 receptions for 1,056 yards. Nothing against Edelman, but I can’t imagine the former 7th round pick out of Kent State starting for any other NFL team.

Given the impact that quarterbacks like Manning and Brady can have on the careers of their receivers, any Top 10 Bust receiver must have been really, really bad. As you’ll discover, one exists.

Excuse #4: Any defensive player could claim he failed because of the system

Even after the Steel Curtain fell in the early 1980s, the Steelers consistently have developed its players into Pro Bowl defenders.

  • Troy Polamalu made eight Pro Bowls as a 1st round pick in 2003.
  • Joey Porter made three Pro Bowls as a 3rd round pick in 1999.
  • Greg Lloyd made five Pro Bowls as a 6th round pick in 1987.
  • James Harrison made five Pro Bowls as an undrafted rookie in 2002.

As Seattle’s victory over Denver in last year’s Super Bowl confirmed for the umpteenth time, defense wins championships. On a similar note, Pittsburgh has won so many championships with consistently strong defenses. Can a strong defense cover up the deficiencies of any one player? I say, “Yes.”


Based on all of these examples, certain situations clearly are better than others. Of note, mediocre players can turn into very good players while very good players can turn into great players under the right circumstances. Regardless of the situation, it’s hard to imagine that a bust can be converted into anything more than a marginal player. At a minimum, however, a player needs to be able to play enough to establish a basis for any comparison.

As previously mentioned, Rich Campbell is an example of a high draft pick who didn’t get an opportunity to prove his worth on the field. Regardless, he must have been good enough to warrant a top 10 overall pick, right? Well . . .  maybe. While starting for Cal-Berkeley from 1978-1980, Campbell showed glimpses of being a good NFL prospect. However, he didn’t perform well enough to to answer the previous question definitively.

Year Comp Att Comp Pct Yards TD INT Efficiency Rating
1977 1 3 33.3% 2 0 0 38.9
1978 164 293 56.0% 2,287 14 19 124.3
1979 241 360 66.9% 2,859 15 12 140.7
1980 193 273 70.7% 2,026 6 11 132.2
Total 599 929 64.5% 7,174 35 42 132.7

At first glance, these numbers seem like they came from two different players. In particular, Rich Campbell had an impressive career completion percentage of 64.5%. However, his career TD/INT ratio of 0.8 left more to be desired from a top NFL prospect. One stat reflects great accuracy while the other reflects the opposite.

Upon further reflection, these seemingly schizophrenic results make more sense given that Cal ran a West Coast style offense. Under the system made popular by Bill Walsh while at Stanford, a quarterback could be accurate dumping the ball close to the line of scrimmage but have difficulty throwing into traffic down the field. Perhaps Green Bay should have been more worried about Campbell’s inability to avoid turnovers.


Despite being interception prone, Campbell still proved to be one of the most prolific passers during his last three seasons in college. As a junior in 1979, he ranked as an NCAA leader in completions (2nd), passing yards (3rd), and passing efficiency (7th). With those rankings today, he likely would have skipped his last year of school and entered the NFL Draft. However, times were different so he stuck around.

As a senior, Campbell regressed in almost every statistical category. Still, he led the country by completing over 70% of his passes and ranked in the top 15 in passing efficiency.

Whereas Campbell’s familiarity with the West Coast offense might be more desirable today, it probably wasn’t best suited on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. Regardless, the Packers needed a starting quarterback and he had the best pedigree.

At the time of the 1981 Draft, Green Bay’s starting quarterback was 31-year-old Lynn Dickey. Given Dickey’s age and career record of 14-32-1, it wasn’t too surprising that the team took a quarterback early in the draft. Taken with an early first round pick by a team without a dominant starter, Campbell had to be licking his chops.

Rich Campbell photo
Guess not.

As a rookie in 1981, Campbell was the 3rd string quarterback and only saw meaningful time in one game. In a 37-3 blowout loss to Tampa Bay, he went 15-30 for 168 yards and four interceptions (including a pick six). Granted, Campbell played horrendously that day. However, he never got a chance to throw another pass in a game during Bart Starr’s remaining three years as the Packers’ head coach.

As a 2-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, Starr is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. However, that magic didn’t extend to the sidelines. Somehow, Starr survived as the Packer’s head coach for nine years despite having a record of 52-76-3.

Then again, much of his success on the field arguably can be attributed to someone else. In three seasons before the arrival of Vince Lombardi as Green Bay’s head coach, Starr had a record of 3-15-1 as the starting quarterback. After the legendary coach retired, Starr had a record of 14-19-1 over his next four seasons. During the nine season in between, he had a 77-23-4 record with five NFL titles, including both Super Bowls. I guess Lombardi could be added to the earlier examples of great coaches who helped drive the legacies of their quarterbacks.


Overall, Rich Campbell lasted four seasons in Green Bay. In his one year playing for head coach Forrest Gregg, Campbell had his one shining moment as an NFL quarterback. In particular, he threw a 43-yard touchdown with 46 seconds remaining to give the Packers a 20-14 victory against the Bears in the penultimate game of the year. Unfortunately, he followed up that performance with one touchdown and three interceptions (including a pick six) as a second-half replacement in the season finale. Of note, it also signified his career finale.

During Campbell’s time with the Packers, Dickey fended off any and all challenges from the early first round draft pick. As the starter for 53 games, Dickey had a 26-26-1 record and threw for over 12,000 yards with 86 touchdowns and 77 interceptions. While those numbers aren’t bad, they don’t appear to be good enough to keep a #6 overall pick on the bench for four years. As previously mentioned, Green Bay hoped to find a suitable quarterback in the 1981 Draft. Campbell clearly wasn’t the answer, but there weren’t any others who would have been much better than Dickey.

Player Draft Pick WAV Record Yards TD INT Passer Rating
Rich Campbell #6 2 0-0 386 3 9 38.8
Neil Lomax #33 70 47-52-2 22,771 136 90 82.7
Wade Wilson #210 51 36-33 17,283 99 102 75.6

Rushing stats:  Campbell (2 yards, 0 touchdowns); Lomax (969 yards, 10 touchdowns); and Wilson (1,025 yards, 9 touchdowns). 

Given Campbell’s horrendous career, he has been named the biggest bust in Packers history on at least one site. In an interesting twist, the quarterback responded with his own post by admitting that it hurt to outrank fellow Honorable Mention Tony Mandarich. Campbell wasn’t arguing that he was good, just that he wasn’t as bad as Mandarich. Sorry Rich, but you were.

Just like Mandarich, Campbell has been granted an exemption from being a Top 10 Bust. Based on his schizophrenic college career, Campbell could have earned the Troy Williamson Exemption; however, he earned a more appropriate exemption related to not being given a fair shot. During his career with the Packers, he never started a game and only had five games with at least one passing attempt. His numbers in those games were bad, but no worse than those posted by two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning during numerous mini slumps in an illustrious career. Since Campbell may have benefited from a different setting (i.e. different team or different coaches), he is responsible for the Rich Campbell Exemption. While exempt from being a Top 10 Bust, he couldn’t escape receiving an Honorable Mention because his numbers were really, really bad.

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