With the recent retirement of LaDainian Tomlinson I’ve come to reflect on Tomlinsons career and ask myself, “Is he a hall of famer?” Before checking my stats I didn’t believe he belonged in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But when you look at the numbers and realize he is the 5th leading rusher of all time, then watch crappy youtube videos of his rushing highlights mixed with unfitting music, you should come to the conclusion he is a shoe in.
I started to wonder though, why there would be any hesitation in my mind? Then I realized it’s because he spent most of his career with a team that never really did much. A perennial PRE-season contender, the Chargers have become much like the San Jose Sharks of the NHL. I almost wouldn’t be scared if they went 16-0 this year, because for a Bronco fan, the Chargers never disappoint in January. But I digress. The point is, I started to wonder what other players had great careers with crappy teams. So here it is for your reading pleasure, and open to your suggestions, “The top 7 NFL players who had great careers with crappy teams.”
Keep in mind while you’re reading this that the writer is 26 years old. Despite my love of football, I realize my ignorance to the so called glory days you call the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Drumroll please….
Number 7- Donovan McNabb
Drafted 2nd overall in 1999 behind Tim Couch (good work Cleveland), McNabb came fresh off of a very promising college career at Syracuse. In his first full season as an NFL starter, he finished 2nd in MVP voting behind Marshall Faulk. McNabb lead the Eagles to success in the regular season consistently, but much like the Chargers, could never quite seal the deal. That theme will be repeated on this list. His best year came in the ’04-‘05 season, when he lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl, only to throw 3 pics and lose to the Patriots 24-21. The next season, he was featured on the cover of Madden ’06, so we know what happens next; a stretch of injuries and incomplete seasons from ’05-’07. He had 8 seasons over 3,000 yards and finished with an impressive 85.8 Passer Rating.
Number 6- Dan Fouts
Despite finishing his career with a passer rating of 80.2 (lower than McNabb), not many should argue that Dan Fouts is better recognized for his ability at the position. The Chargers team he played for from ’73-’87 was hardly a competitor at the level of the 2000’s Eagles. That being said, Fouts was forced to do more with less. Despite a weaker supporting cast, Fouts had a career that saw 6 pro bowls, 2 league MVP awards, a pro bowl MVP, and made the 1980’s All Decade Team. For 3 years, he held the single season passing yardage record (broken by Dan Marino’s recently topped 5,084). He was pacing to break his own record in 1982, but the season was shortened to 9 games due to a player’s strike. For career accolades and awards purposes, (plus McNabb’s confusing attempt to play in Minnesota) Dan Fouts tops Donovan and moves to 6 on the list.
Number 5- Eddie George
Running back is a very difficult position to play being surrounded by a bad team. Eddie George experienced this first hand. He isn’t incredibly high on the all-time rushing list, coming in at number 24. But George was the workhorse for the Houston Oilers/ Tennessee Titans for years. Despite being forced into carrying the ball over 330 times in 5 of his 8 seasons with the Oilers/Titans, Eddie never missed a start due to injury. He was a tough back who definitely earned his 4 consecutive pro bowls. His career ended after a half-hearted one year contract with the Cowboys. (Bud Adams cut George when he wouldn’t agree to a pay cut, forcing him to leave the team. ) He played in one super bowl (when the Titans lost by a yard), and won Rookie of the Year honors in 1996. Many wonder what he might have accomplished with a more effective offensive line.
Number 4- Chris Carter
NFL Network’s number 1 “Hands of all time” winner Chris Carter almost had a quick stop in the NFL. After 3 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Buddy Ryan cut Carter due to a substance abuse habit he couldn’t kick. Thank God for Midwest teams that help keep players out of the lime light. I’m not sure that had Carter ended up in New York or LA he would have been able to maintain the focus to kick the drugs and start taking his career more seriously. 8 pro bowls, the 1990’s All Decade Team, NFL Man of the Year 3 times, and a retired jersey number in Minnesota are just a few of the reason’s he is on this list. He has a career marked with records, and unfortunately played for a team with a knack for losing in the first round of the playoffs.
Number 3- LaDainian Tomlinson
Tomlinson has had an absolutely incredible career. He burst onto the scene in 2001 after a great college career that some would say put TCU on the map. As a rookie, he rushed for over 1200 yards, but had a bit of a fumbling problem. He ended up with 8 seasons over 1000 rushing yards, and 3 over 1500 yards. His productivity, unfortunately, hit a wall in 2009. A mix of an ankle injury, and a Norv Turner offense slowed him down severely in 2009, eventually leading to Tomlinson getting cut in 2010 (after the Chargers went 13-3 only to lose to the wild-card Jets). For a list of NFL records LaDainian holds, please hop online to your preferred and trusted site and look yourself. There’s way too much to list. Being a Bronco fan, it pains me to say that LT is one of the greatest running backs of all time. It’s unfortunate he didn’t get himself a ring in his brilliant career.
Number 2- Dan Marino
This one, just like number 1, goes without saying. I almost get mad at the Dolphins for just never getting it together for Dan. In his first full season as a starter, the Dolphins went 14-2 while Dan put up numbers you only see in Madden in Rookie mode. Once again, the list of records is way too long to spout off in a “short” blog, but I’ll list a few. 6 4000 yard seasons, 1 5000 yard season, 420 passing touchdowns, 61,361 passing yards, and a career passer rating of 86.4. While the Dolphins wouldn’t have been considered “crappy” during his run from 1983-99, nobody would consider building this list and not putting Dan on it. 4 words Broncos fans can all thank the lord for, “This one’s for John”. Thanks to Elway’s courageous play in the 1997 playoffs, we can avoid having a Bronco at this spot. Too bad “Ace Ventura” wasn’t filmed live. It is a true crying shame Dan never got a ring. The entire football world would have said, “You know, I’m glad he got one.”
Number 1- Barry Sanders
Duh. In just 10 NFL seasons, Barry never finished under 1000 yards. In 5 of those seasons, Barry finished over 1500 yards rushing, breaking the 2000 yard mark once. When he retired after the 1998 season, almost the entire world threw their arms up in confusion. He finished 3rd on the all-time rushing list, 8th in rushing touchdowns, and 4th in rushing attempts (speaking of workhorse). He finished with a career average of 5.0 yards per carry. His career was completely unprecedented. He made the pro bowl every single season of his career, and was a member of the 1990’s All Decade Team. Please do yourself a favor and compare his numbers to any other football player, ever. Congratulations, Barry. This is one more article you will never read about yourself, and you earned it!
So there is the list, folks. I’m sure there are many disagreements, so let me hear them. There are a few players headed for this list now; Larry Fitzgerald, Steven Jackson, Chris Johnson (maybe), and Calvin Johnson (hope not) just to name a few. Thanks for stopping by, Denver Fans!!
Denver Sports Chat by Manderson