NFL's worst players by franchise in the Super Bowl era: NFC

Tuesday July 21st, 2015

Today kicks off our 'NFL Worst Week', which will highlight some of the worst players, plays and decisions made over the history of the NFL. Here, we pick out the worst player of each NFC franchise in the Super Bowl era (Here's the worst of the AFC). These are the players who were drafted high by the teams involved, signed to huge free-agent contracts or acquired for far too much trade capital, but completely failed to perform. It's not quite as interesting when an undrafted free agent washes out and gets cut before he ever gets a shot at the big time, but there's always a story behind a player who was once great at some level, and just got kicked in the butt by the NFL—or by life in general—at some point.

A few qualifications: The player had to play in the Super Bowl era. The player started 16 games for the franchise. The player is no longer active in the NFL. (Though, we made a few exceptions for the absolute worst.)

Worst non-active player by franchise: NFC
    Shante Carver
    DE, Dallas Cowboys
    When Jerry Jones's efforts to trade up for USC's Willie McGinest were unsuccessful in the 1993 draft (his first after parting with Jimmy Johnson), the Cowboys took Carver from Arizona State with the No. 23 pick. Carver had amassed 10 sacks in his final collegiate season and set the school career record for quarterback takedowns—that was eventually broken by Terrell Suggs—so Jones can be forgiven for assuming he'd get something out of his first-rounder.
    That didn't happen. In his rookie year, Carver was plagued by injuries and involved in an car accident. His third season was marked by a six-game suspension for repeated violations of the league's drug policy. Carver logged a career-high six sacks in 1997, but the Cowboys made no attempt to re-sign him, and he didn't catch on anywhere else. He finished his NFL career with 11.5 sacks and 20 solo tackles, marking a very bad start to Jones's personnel experience. After stints in the CFL, XFL and AFL, Carver finally hung up his cleats in 2004.

    William Joseph
    DT, New York Giants
    Ernie Accorsi made a lot of great moves during his tenure as the Giants' GM, but picking Joseph in the first round is one he'd no doubt like to have back. Accorsi wanted a defensive lineman in the 2003 draft, but couldn't move up from the No. 25 pick. In this draft, eight of the first 15 picks were defensive linemen (including Kevin Williams and Terrell Suggs), and Accorsi was left with the low-hanging fruit. He took a shot on Joseph, and Accorsi's first quote about his new tackle wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement. "This player is untapped, he has an upside, and hopefully we can get it out of him," Accorsi said. Excited yet?
    In four years with the Giants, he managed just four sacks and 20 solo tackles; he followed that up with two unremarkable seasons with the Raiders. The last most people heard from Joseph, he was pleading guilty to charges that he fraudulently cashed tax refund checks. Unhappy Giants fans might insist that it wasn't the first larceny Joseph had performed in his life.

    Michael Haddix
    RB, Philadelphia Eagles
    Haddix was a star in Mississippi State's Wishbone offense, averaging six yards per carry on 425 carries from 1979 through '82. In 1981, he led the SEC in yards per carry with 5.7, beating out big names such as Lionel "Little Train" James and Herschel Walker. The Eagles responded by selecting Haddix with the No. 8 pick in the 1983 draft, with guys like Bruce Matthews, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino and Darrell Green still on the board.
    In return for their faith in his potential, Haddix rushed 401 times for 1,189 yards, three touchdowns and a paltry 3.0 yards per carry average. Haddix was a decent receiver, and became a good blocker as the Eagles realized he couldn't get past his own limitations at the NFL level, but when he tacked on another 142 rushing attempts for the Packers in 1989 and '90, he was able to claim the record for the lowest career yards per carry average (3.0) for any back in NFL history with more than 500 carries. Not a bad pick in the sixth round, but eighth overall? What were the Eagles thinking?

    Albert Haynesworth
    DT, Washington Redskins
    Drafted in the first round of the 2002 draft by the Titans, Haynesworth was a star in Jeff Fisher's 4–3 defense, where he used his tremendous strength as a one-gap tackle to terrorize quarterbacks and confuse blockers in stunts with end Kyle Vanden Bosch. When the Redskins signed him to a seven-year, $100 million contract with a then-record $41 million guaranteed in February 2009, they unexplainably made him a two-gap tackle in more of a hybrid defense. Basically, they paid Haynesworth handsomely to soak up blockers for other pass-rushers. It was perhaps the most ridiculous decision of Vinny Cerrato's ill-fated time as Washington's GM, but Haynesworth didn't help his case with a poor attitude and inconsistent conditioning.
    When Mike Shanahan became the Redskins's coach in 2010, there was a standoff between player and coach regarding Haynesworth's physical condition, and he was eventually suspended for failing to follow team rules. The Redskins traded him to New England in 2011 for a fifth-round pick in the '13 draft, and Haynesworth was released from the Patriots' employ after a confrontation with assistant coach Pepper Johnson. The Buccaneers gave Haynesworth a chance, but that didn't work out. For all their money, the Redskins got two years from Haynesworth, in which he put up 6.5 sacks and 42 total tackles. In 2012, the Redskins were handed severe salary cap penalties for their attempts to spread out the damage of Haynesworth's contract during the uncapped year of 2010. Haynesworth was indeed the gift that kept on giving.

    Cade McNown
    QB, Chicago Bears
    The Bears are known for a great many things throughout their storied history, but developing quarterbacks isn't one of them. Outside of Sid Luckman, a few years of Jim McMahon and Jay Cutler on his good days, it's almost incomprehensible how many seasons Chicago has gone without even replacement-level quarterbacking. There's a lot of epically bad personnel decisions in that equation, and the decision to take McNown with the No. 12 pick in the 1999 draft is one of the worst ones.
    McNown was a holdout through most of his rookie preseason, but eventually signed a seven-year, $15 million deal with a $6 million signing bonus. There were incentives in that deal worth another $7 million—safe to say McNown at least saved the Bears money there. McNown played sparingly in his first five games, throwing his first touchdown pass (and his first two picks) against the Eagles in Week 6. Eventually, ineffectiveness and injuries forced the Bears to go in a different direction at the quarterback position. By the time he was traded to the Dolphins in 2001, McNown was reduced to fighting for Chicago's third-string job with Danny Wuerffel.

    Charles Rogers
    WR, Detroit Lions
    You knew Detroit's entry into this competition would be a member of a Matt Millen draft class, and few did less with more than Rogers, who Millen took with the No. 2 pick in the 2003 draft. And what did the Lions get for the man they took with Andre Johnson still on the board? (Note: The Texans selected Johnson with the No. 3 pick). They got a star from Michigan State who was completely unprepared for the realities of the NFL. Rogers did catch 22 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns in his rookie season before a broken clavicle ended his 2003 campaign, and then suffered the same injury early in the '04 season. Rogers was so distraught over the recurrence that he asked to rehab at home. Millen allowed this, which he later admitted was a mistake.
    Rogers had a history of failed drug tests while in college, and this caught up to him in 2005, when he was suspended four games for multiple violations of the NFL's drug policy. This put Rogers in default of the contract he signed, and the Lions asked Rogers to pay back $10 million of the $14.2 in bonuses he received. In 2008 (the same day owner William Clay Ford finally fired Millen), an arbitrator ruled that Rogers had to repay the team about $8.5 million, and he was in no condition to do so, after he couldn't find work with another NFL team. He found himself in repeated trouble with the law, and has struggled with drugs and alcohol. A sad story all around. Rogers finished his NFL career with 36 catches for 440 yards and four touchdowns.

    Tony Mandarich
    OT, Green Bay Packers
    ''Mandarich was all a facade,'' former Bears defensive lineman Dan Hampton said in 1992. ''The Packers got the prize, unwrapped it and saw that he wasn't the same—physically and emotionally—as what they had seen in college. He's pathetic.''
    That was three years after Mandarich welcomed a level of hype seen by no other offensive line draft prospect before or since. While his Michigan State coaches were saying Mandarich was perhaps the best blocker the game had yet seen, opposing players and coaches were sniping about his alleged steroid use. The All-American could have proven the detractors wrong when the Packers took him with the No. 2 pick in the 1989 draft, but in the end Mandarich was a story more than he was a player—a jacked-up muscle freak who loved to pump iron to Guns 'N' Roses, but tended to wilt when facing the NFL's best pass-rushers. He didn't have the strength and footwork for the next level, and he was indeed juiced up, which he admitted in 2008. After the Packers cut him in 1992, he spent time in rehab and finished his NFL career in a credible fashion with the Colts from 1996–98. A journeyman at best, Mandarich is perhaps the league's most prominent cautionary tale when it comes to pre-draft hype.

    Troy Williamson
    WR, Minnesota Vikings
    After trading Randy Moss to the Raiders, the Vikings had a need for speed in their receiver corps in 2005. They tried to solve this problem by taking former South Carolina star Troy Williamson with the No. 7 pick. At 6'1" and 203 pounds, and running a 4.28 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, Williamson seemed to have all the base attributes for NFL success. Except for one thing: he couldn't catch the ball. He dropped 11 passes in his rookie season to the 24 he actually caught, and his career catch rate with the Vikings was an absurdly low 47.3%. Williamson famously blamed this on depth perception issues, and then even more famously challenged then-Vikings head coach Brad Childress to a fight after he was traded to Jacksonville. Childress's response was beyond classic. "Do you need my reach? I'm not like a woman; I'll give you my weight. It's 190 pounds of twisted steel and rompin', stompin' dynamite. Is that enough humor for you?" Sure is, coach. Williamson couldn't turn it around in Jacksonville, either, and left the game with 87 catches for 1,131 yards and four touchdowns in his NFL career.

    DE, Atlanta Falcons
    The 2007 season is renowned as the worst in Falcons history, mostly for the embarrassment that Bobby Petrino and Michael Vick brought to the organization. But the franchise was in trouble in the draft as well, because it selected Anderson out of Georgia Tech with the No. 8 pick. At 6'5" and 288 pounds, Anderson didn't have the pure speed to beat NFL tackles—he had no sacks in his rookie campaign, and he racked up just 5.5 over four years with the Falcons. The Colts, Bengals and Bears gave Anderson a shot after Atlanta gave up on him, but Anderson's NFL career effectively ended in August 2013, when the Bears terminated his contract. He was a decent run defender, but you don't take strong-side ends in the high first round.

    Rae Carruth
    WR, Carolina Panthers
    The Panthers took Carruth in the first round of the 1997 draft out of Colorado, and for a while, it looked like things might work out. He caught 44 passes for 545 yards and four touchdowns in his rookie campaign, but played in a total of just seven games over the next two years. Why is Carruth the worst player in Panthers history? Because in 2001 he was found guilty of conspiring to murder Cherica Adams, the woman who was carrying his child. Adams died in the shooting, and the child, Chancellor Lee Adams, suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the crime. I've been told by one former Panthers executive that nobody on the team saw this coming—Carruth had no criminal history to speak of, or at least any history they were able to uncover. He was sentenced to 18 to 24 years in prison, with a projected release date of Oct. 22, 2018.
    The horrible story had a long-lasting impact on the franchise. It put a pall over the tenure of first-year head coach George Seifert, it changed the philosophy of owner Jerry Richardson, who became much more hard-line about off-field character when vetting draft prospects, and a lot of people had to answer for the actions of a player who surprised just about everyone in the organization with what he did that day.

    Johnathan Sullivan
    DT, New Orleans Saints
    The Saints looked to be poised for success in the 2003 draft. They had the No. 17 and No. 18 picks after trading Ricky Williams to the Dolphins. What they did with those two picks still boggles the mind—they traded them both to the Cardinals to move up to the No. 6 pick, where they selected Georgia defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan. The rookie looked okay in 2003, racking up a sack and 25 total tackles, earning kudos for his "nasty disposition." But he reported out of shape in 2004 and never really found his way back to the good graces of head coach Jim Haslett. Sullivan was demoted to the second team in the 2004 preseason, effectively ending his tenure as a Saints starter—not to mention his NFL career. New Orleans traded Sullivan to the Patriots for receiver Bethel Johnson in June 2006, and New England released him shortly thereafter.

    Kenyatta Walker
    OT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    It's not that the Bucs should have been faulted for taking Walker with the No. 14 pick in the 2001 draft out of Florida—no less a football expert than SI's own Paul "Dr. Z" Zimmerman called him a "smooth pass-blocker, who will immediately be plugged in at left tackle." Well, Z was right about the second part. The Bucs plugged Walker in on the left side in his first season, though he played right tackle in college. We don't have charting stats for Walker's 75 games played and 73 games started from 2001 through '06, but we do know that Julius Peppers bedeviled Walker like few others in the NFL. In one 2005 game against the Panthers, Walker was so flipped out about trying to block Carolina's ginormous defensive end, he committed three false starts in a five-play span and allowed two sacks. This was par for the course.
    The Bucs released Walker in March 2007. The Panthers gave him a shot after that (perhaps to make Peppers feel even better about himself in practice), but he didn't make final cuts. His football career ended ignominiously in 2008, as a member of the Toronto Argonauts' practice squad.

    OT, Arizona Cardinals
    Brown was selected with the No. 5 pick in the 2007 draft, and though he started every possible game (45 total) during his collegiate career for a major program, there were major questions about his worth at that pick altitude. Brown was known to be a powerful road-grading blocker, but not a smooth pass-protector. This proved to be very true when Brown hit the field for the Cardinals—he was a turnstile from the word go, and things didn't get much better. He allowed eight sacks in his rookie season, 11 in his second, nine in his third, 10 in his fourth... you get the picture. And this was when the Cardinals had Kurt Warner as their quarterback, with a quick-step, quick-release passing game. The mind reels when one considers how many takedowns Brown would have allowed in a seven-step system.
    Brown did eventually play some quality football in the second half of the season, and the Cardinals re-signed him after first releasing him to save salary cap space. But he suffered a torn triceps that year, and allowed three sacks to Robert Quinn of the Rams in the first week of the 2013 season. He was traded to the Steelers in October 2013, released by Pittsburgh before the '14 season and that was that.

    Lawrence Phillips
    RB, St. Louis Rams
    Phillips was a star at Nebraska, rushing for over 3,000 total yards in his three seasons there, but he was a walking disaster area in the NFL. The Rams took him with the No. 6 pick in the 1996 draft, despite a litany of character issues that had some teams taking him off their boards altogether. But the Rams believed in Phillips so much that they traded Jerome Bettis to the Steelers to make way for their new supposed star. Phillips was OK on the field in St. Louis, but was arrested three times and spent 23 days in jail during his 19 months with the team. In the end, he was released after storming out of Dick Vermeil's office when the coach told him that he was being demoted.
    The Dolphins gave him a shot, but released him after he pleaded no contest to assaulting a woman in a nightclub. The 49ers then gave it a try after Phillips had one great season in NFL Europe. Phillips managed to stay clean off the field, but his blocking was so bad that he helped to end Steve Young's career. Phillips began missing practices, and the 49ers released him as soon as the decision was cap-friendly. After further disciplinary issues in the Arena League and CFL, Phillips was done with football (or, perhaps it was the other way around).

    Jim Druckenmiller
    QB, San Francisco 49ers
    The 49ers have a pretty decent history of great quarterbacks, but Druckenmiller was their biggest blunder. Selected with the No. 27 pick in the 1997 draft, the former Virginia Tech star was taken against the wishes of then Vice President and general manager Bill Walsh, who wanted Arizona State's Jake Plummer instead. The idea, of course, was that Druckenmiller would be the next man in line after Joe Montana and Steve Young. In the end, nobody in the organization would take the blame for Druckenmiller's selection, which is what happens when a franchise takes a quarterback in the first round and he completes just 21 passes in 52 attempts for 239 yards, one touchdown and four picks before he's traded to the Dolphins. Druckenmiller clearly wasn't the heir apparent to Young or anybody else. He played for a time in the Arena League and XFL, and though Druckenmiller wanted another shot at the NFL, it didn't happen.

    Dan McGwire
    QB, Seattle Seahawks
    In 1991, Seahawks coach Chuck Knox was on the path out of the Emerald City, as he and owner Ken Behring didn't see eye-to-eye on much of anything. Still, Knox tried to do his job, and in the 1991 draft, he had his eye on one quarterback in particular: a young man by the name of Brett Favre. Knox wondered aloud if Favre might be available with a lower pick than Seattle's No. 16 selection, but Behring overruled him and went with San Diego State QB Dan McGwire, the brother of Mark McGwire. Knox was so unimpressed by the pick that he refused to give a quote about it after it happened. Over five years in Seattle and Miami, McGwire completed 74 of 148 passes for 475 yards, two touchdowns and six interceptions. As you may already know, Favre, selected with the No. 33 pick that year, did a bit better than that over time. Knox left Seattle after the 1991 season and was replaced by Tom Flores. The 1992 Seahawks went 2–14 and had perhaps the least impressive quarterback battery (McGwire, Stan Gelbaugh, Kelly Stouffer) in modern NFL history.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.