If given the option, who would you chose between Jerry Rice and Randy Moss? Arguably the two greatest receivers in NFL history, one proved to be the epitome of excellence while the other had a flair for the spectacular. While Moss had impressive career totals of 156 TDs and over 15,000 yards, he fell far short of Rice’s career totals of 197 TDs and almost 23,000 yards. Still, I’d like to ask Tom Brady which receiver he’d prefer to have in his huddle. For that matter, I’d like to ask Joe Montana or Steve Young the same question. I imagine the former 49ers would stick together. However, I’m sure both QBs would have relished throwing to Moss as well.
Since quarterbacks are the most important players on a football field, their successes and failures get magnified. In contrast, the performances of players at other positions can get muddled more easily. As the only running back in the countdown, Lawrence Phillips’ failures were too glaring to hide. Unlike most busts who excelled in college but lacked the talent to succeed for the NFL, Phillips had the talent. Unfortunately, his downfall was based completely on an inability to stay on the field because he had severe anger issues off the field. With Ray Rice as a comparison, Phillips was a more talented runner but a much worse person. Depending on what you already know, to the extent you believe that Phillips sabotaged his football career because of some legal problems, then you probably believe that O.J. Simpson sabotaged his broadcasting career because of a disagreement with his ex-wife. In other words, Phillips was one bad dude (and not in a good way). As a talented player who failed miserably in the NFL (and in life), he has been named the #6 NFL Draft Bust.
[Note: Since I first wrote this post in October 2014, Phillips has been charged with first-degree murder for strangling his cellmate while in state prison. So much for thinking he couldn’t sink any lower.]
Jack Thompson was a heralded quarterback from Washington State whose career will always be evaluated in the rear-view mirror of the greatest post-season quarterback in NFL history. As a foreshadowing, the previous sentence can be used to introduce a completely different Top 10 Bust simply by changing the highlighted word. If NFL draft busts were evaluated like NBA draft busts seem to be, Thompson (who was drafted ahead of Joe Montana) would be as well know as Sam Bowie (who was drafted ahead of Michael Jordan). Instead, Thompson hasn’t received his due credit as an all-time bust. With a Weighted Average Value (WAV) of 13 based on career totals of 5,300 passing yards and 33 touchdowns, he has the highest total of any Top 10 Bust. Then again, he had a record of 4-17 as a starter and a total of 45 interceptions so he gained a lot of bonus points. This post should convince you that Thompson, unlike Bowie, was completely unproductive as a professional so his bust status is well deserved.
As a junior at the University of Tennessee, Heath Shuler finished second in the 1993 Heisman voting. Considered the most NFL-ready quarterback, Shuler skipped his senior year and entered the 1994 Draft. Apparently, Washington agreed with that assessment and took him with the #3 overall pick. Despite any lofty projections, Shuler compiled an 8-14 record as an NFL QB. Since hanging up his cleats, he went into real estate before going into politics. Based on his professional choices, Shuler’s role in the Dish Network commercial may have been the least acting he’s done in the last 20 years.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, two quarterbacks from the University of Houston shattered numerous passing records. The first, Andre Ware, won the 1989 Heisman trophy after throwing for 4,700 yards and 46 touchdowns. The second, David Klingler, threw for 5,100 yards and 54 touchdowns the following season. Based on those numbers, Klingler made the cover of Sports Illustrated’s 1991 College Football issue. I’ve heard of the SI Jinx, but that cover proved to be ironically prophetic given the headline of “Bombs Away!” As a senior, Klingler’s passing yardage declined by over one-third and his touchdowns declined by almost one-half. Still considered a top QB prospect, Klingler went sixth overall to the Cincinnati Bengals. With an abysmal 4-20 record as a starter and career totals of only 4,000 yards and 16 touchdowns, he appropriately became my #9 NFL Draft Bust.
With 4,700 yards and 46 touchdowns as the quarterback for the Houston Cougars, Andre Ware deservedly won the 1989 Heisman Trophy. In contrast, he categorically failed in the NFL with career totals of 1,100 yards and five touchdowns. Following a string of successful Heisman winners from 1985-1988 (e.g. Bo Jackson, Barry Sanders), Andre Ware served as the winner who reversed the trend for the next five years (e.g. Ty Detmer, Gino Torretta, Rashaan Salaam). The following post shows that Ware’s falloff from college to the pros qualifies him as a bust. However, he only started six NFL games so he never really got a fair shot. As such, he earned a T10B Honorable Mention instead of making the actual countdown.
Just like Dr. Jekyll had Mr. Hyde, Brian Bosworth had “The Boz.” Specifically, Bosworth had a larger-than-life alter-ego that couldn’t be contained. Unlike Jekyll and Hyde, however, Bosworth (the athlete) and Boz (the media sensation) weren’t split personalities. Rather, they were one and the same. Bosworth understood the importance of building a brand, and “The Boz” was his brand. The following post goes through the epic rise and fall of one of the most hyped superstars in college football history. You may not like him more by the end, but you should respect him more.
After winning the 2004 Heisman Trophy, USC quarterback Matt Leinart seemed poised to become the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. Despite that prediction, he decided to delay his payday and return to college for his senior season. That decision arguably hurt his draft stock as he ended up going to the Arizona Cardinals with the 2006 #10 overall pick instead. In retrospect, he didn’t even deserve to go that high. The former Trojan threw for 4,000 yards with 15 touchdowns and 21 interceptions during his NFL career. While his on-field performance wasn’t as bad as you might remember, his well-documented off-field activities probably influenced your impression of him. Hey Johnny Football, are you listening?
I’ll readily admit that I only had a vague recollection of Kelly Stouffer before researching players for this site. In case you need a refresher as well, the 1987 #6 overall pick sat out for an entire season after being unable to come to terms with the St. Louis Cardinals. At an impasse for almost a year, the team ultimately traded his signing rights to the Seattle Seahawks. Given the quarterback’s starting record of 5-11 and career totals of 2,300 passing yards with seven touchdowns and 19 interceptions, the Cardinals made the right decision. Stouffer didn’t have a good NFL career, but should he be considered a bust? Perhaps, but not a Top 10 Bust.
Going into the 2008 NFL Draft, analysts recognized Ohio State DE Vernon Gholston for his tremendous athletic ability. At the same time, they acknowledged his raw talent. Regardless, the New York Jets took him with the 6th overall pick. Mostly a one-dimensional player in college, Gholston became a zero-dimensional player in the NFL. In particular, the Mark Gastineau-wannabe never got the chance to celebrate even one QB sack. Out of the league after only three seasons, Gholston certainly deserves to be called a bust. However, I just can’t call him a Top 10 Bust given that his on-field accomplishments didn’t justify being such a high draft pick in the first place.