To put it in musical terms, virtually every NFL team has their version of the Beatles or Aerosmith or Snoop Dogg: legendary performers who withstand the test of time, and continue to put up the hits throughout the course of their career.
But on the flip side, every NFL team has their version of Right Said Fred or Vanilla Ice: the guys who put up that one performance everyone is talking about, only to never be heard from ever again, and fade into professional oblivion. In this list, we celebrate the latter group: every single team’s biggest one-hit wonder of some sort.
32. Buffalo Bills: JP Losman
In his first season as the team’s starting quarterback (in 2005), the Buffalo Bills were 1-7 under J.P. Losman. But one year later, he threw for 3,000 yards — easily a career high for him — while helping the rebuilding Bills to a palatable 7-9 record.
But two seasons later, the Bills eventually replaced him with then-rookie quarterback Trent Edwards. Losman didn’t take too well to the benching, and after his contract expired in 2008, Buffalo made virtually no effort to bring him back. After leaving the Bills in 2008, Losman threw a grand total of 11 passes over the remainder of his NFL career.
31. Miami Dolphins: Jay Ajayi
A highly-productive running back at Boise State University, running back Jay Ajayi missed much of his rookie season with the Miami Dolphins after suffering an injury to his ribs in the preseason. But in his second season with the Dolphins, he ran for 1,272 yards and eight touchdowns, earning a spot in the Pro Bowl that year.
But between a falling out with new Dolphins’ head coach Adam Gase, followed by more injuries after being traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, Ajayi never fulfilled the promise that so many people saw in 2016. By the start of the 2019 NFL season, he was out of the league.
30. New England Patriots: Jonas Gray
Calling Jonas Gray a “one-year wonder” would be an extremely generous statement, because in reality, Gray was nothing more than a “one-game wonder.” Little more than an afterthought in the MASH unit that was the running back group for the New England Patriots during the 2014 season, Gray led the team in rushing by year’s end… with a paltry 412 yards. To make matters worse, he accumulated almost half of those yards (201) in one Sunday night game against the Indianapolis Colts.
From that game on, Gray had a total of just 260 rushing yards — including the postseason — for the remainder of his NFL career. New England thought so little of Gray that they let him go after the 2014 season, and after brief stints with the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars, Gray was out of football by the end of 2015.
29. New York Jets: LaDainian Tomlinson
LaDainian Tomlinson represents another one of those legendary players who ended his career playing for a different team than where he enjoyed the majority of his success. After the San Diego Chargers moved on from the three-time All-Pro running back, the New York Jets signed Tomlinson in 2010 as a free agent.
And, in Tomlinson’s first year in Gotham, he would run for 914 yards and six touchdowns, seemingly proving he had something left in the tank. But the following season, Tomlinson only carried the ball 75 times, averaging less than 3.7 yards per carry. Tomlinson would retire the following off-season.
28. Baltimore Ravens: Trent Dilfer
How could this list be complete without Trent Dilfer, whom most people consider to be the worst starting quarterback to ever win the Super Bowl? After throwing 80 interceptions over the course of his first six seasons in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dilfer came to Baltimore and was made the backup quarterback to Tony Banks.
During the 200 NFL season, Dilfer replaced Tony Banks, after the latter couldn’t get the offense to do anything, and the Ravens won their last seven games of the year — and their next three playoff games, including the Super Bowl — with Dilfer as their quarterback. The Ravens thought so highly of Dilfer that they went out and signed another quarterback (Elvis Grbac).
27. Cincinnati Bengals: Ickey Woods
Younger fans will know of Elbert L. “Ickey” Woods for his hilarious cameo in the GEICO commercial in 2014, singing about how he was going to “get some cold cuts” while performing his famous “Ickey Shuffle.” But longtime football fans will remember Woods as the first round draft pick by the Cincinnati Bengals, who set the Bengals franchise rookie records for rushing with 1,066 yards, was selected for the Pro Bowl, and named First-team All-Pro after his first year in the NFL.
Sadly, Woods suffered a torn ACL in his second game of his sophomore year in the NFL, which altered the course of his promising NFL career. After just two more years, Woods was out of football at age 26.
26. Cleveland Browns: Peyton Hillis
When Peyton Hillis arrived in Cleveland prior to the 2010 season, after playing two seasons at fullback for the Denver Broncos, he found himself buried deep on the depth chart behind a hodgepodge of running backs the Browns had collected on their roster. But after a string of injuries to the guys ahead of him, Hills got to start early in the season, and finished the year with 1,177 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns (tied for 6th in the NFL).
But Hills then fell victim to the “Madden Curse,” after he was featured on the cover of the 2012 edition of the popular video game, amidst a string of injuries and squabbles over his contract in 2011. He left Cleveland after the 2011 season, and by the end of the 2014 season, he was out of football.
25. San Francisco 49ers: Chris Borland
One of the truly rare “one and done” NFL players who left the game on his own accord entirely, Chris Borland went from All-American linebacker in college and a promising piece of the future of the San Francisco 49ers future to a sudden and shocking retiree.
Being concerned with the growing evidence of head trauma associated with playing football, Borland left pro football after his lone season in the NFL, in which he started eight games as a rookie, recording 107 total tackles and intercepting two passes.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Barry Foster
There was a time that Pittsburgh Steelers’ running back Barry Foster began being referred to as the NFL’s “other Barry,” alongside Barry Sanders. After all, in 1992, Foster ran for 1,690 yards and 11 touchdowns, carrying the ball 390 times.
Unfortunately, that number of carries took their toll on Foster, as he battled injuries over the next two seasons. While he still remained somewhat productive those following two years, he missed at least five games in both years, and by the end of the 1994 NFL season, the Steelers parted way with Foster.
23. Houston Texans: Steve Slaton
A third round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, rookie running back Steve Slaton burst onto the NFL scene by finishing with 1,282 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, good for sixth in the NFL and tops among all other rookies (in a draft that saw five running backs taken in the first round).
But one year later, Slaton had the mother of all “sophomore slumps,” fumbling the ball seven times that year, which led to him getting benched late in the year. By the end of the 2011 season, Slaton was already out of the NFL, and headed north to play in the Canadian Football League.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Dominic Rhodes
Very few people outside of Texas or the upper midwest had heard of running back Dominic Rhodes when he signed as an undrafted free agent with the Indianapolis Colts in 2001. That same year, it just so happened that the Colts’ star running back — Edgerrin James — would go down with a season-ending knee injury. That opened the door for Rhodes, who would finish the year with the most single season rushing yards in NFL history by an undrafted free agent (1,104).
Yet, after that record-setting rookie year, Rhodes never really came close to replicating that success, thanks in large part to never caring the ball more than 190 times at any time over the next seven years he played in the NFL.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Blackmon
If not for off-field problems, Blackmon could have been something great. He had 64 catches for 865 yards as a rookie with the Jaguars in 2012, performing far better than the average rookie wide receiver. Based on that and his incredible accomplishments at Oklahoma State, it was a safe assumption that Blackmon was going to be the next elite NFL receiver.
Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. He played only four games in his second season because of two different suspensions. For what it’s worth, he was real good in those four games. After the suspensions, he had to apply for reinstatement to the NFL and was ultimately denied. Blackmon has had multiple arrests since then, making reinstatement unlikely. As recently as 2018, he was still on Jacksonville’s roster on the reserve list. Technically, he remains suspended from the NFL, as well as the CFL.
20. Tennessee Titans: Drew Bennett
In his first three seasons in the NFL, between 2001 and 2003, wide receiver Drew Bennett of the Tennessee Titans never had more than 504 yards receiving or four touchdowns. And then, in 2004, he had a monstrous breakout season, catching 80 passes for 1,247 yards (good for 8th in the NFL) and 11 touchdowns (tied for 8th in the NFL also).
And then, after that, everything went “back to normal” for him, as he failed to reach more than 738 yards receiving or four touchdown catches during his final four years in the NFL.
19. Denver Broncos: Tim Tebow
Admittedly, it’s weird to think about Tebow as a one-season wonder because he’s an unforgettable part of football history. But in terms of his NFL career, that’s exactly what he was. The only time he shined was during that magical stretch during the 2011 season when he somehow willed the Broncos to six straight wins, which turned out to be just enough to get them to the playoffs. He capped it all off with that memorable 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime to beat the Steelers. But that was the end of the line for Tebow in the NFL.
The Broncos traded him the following off-season when they landed Peyton Manning. Tebow never did much with the Jets and eventually left football altogether in order to chase a baseball career. Of course, he seems to be doing well as a college football commentator, so Tebow is still very much a part of the sports world.
18. Kansas City Chiefs: Steve Bono
The one-time third-string quarterback behind Joe Montana and Steve Young on the San Francisco 49ers, Steve Bono intrigued NFL teams after going 5-1 during a portion of the 49ers’ injury-ravaged 1991 seasons. In 1994, the Kansas City Chiefs brought in Bono to back up Montana, and after Montana retired, Bono led the Chiefs to a 13-3 record in 1995.
However, Bono was never quite the same quarterback after that season, and by the end of the 1999 NFL season, he was out of the NFL.
17. Oakland Raiders: LaMont Jordan
A burly, bruising running back from the University of Maryland, the New York Jets spent a second round pick on Lamont Jordan in the 2001 NFL Draft, and spent the next four years not really giving him a chance to carry the ball. After the 2004 season, Jordan signed as a free agent with the Oakland Raiders, who finally utilized him and watched him run for 1,025 yards and nine touchdowns.
But Jordan would be plagued with knee and back injuries over the next two seasons, which led the Raiders to release him after the 2007 season. By 2010, he was out of the NFL.
16. Los Angeles Chargers: Gary Anderson
Originally a first round pick by the San Diego Chargers in the 1983 NFL Draft, Gary Anderson headed to the USFL after he couldn’t agree to contract terms with the Chargers. But after the USFL folded in 1985, Anderson returned to the Chargers, running for less than 450 yards in each of his first three years there. However, in 1988, Anderson would have a breakout year, running for 1,119 yards and earning a spot on the AFC Pro Bowl team.
Ironically, Anderson once again sat out the next year because he couldn’t agree on a contract extension with the Chargers, who eventually let him walk away from San Diego.
15. Dallas Cowboys: Larry Brown
You could try to argue that Brown is more than a one-season wonder. Of course, you could also say he was a one-game wonder. Brown actually made the NFL’s All-Rookie Team in 1991. But he’s best known for his two interceptions in Super Bowl XXX while playing for the Cowboys. Dallas turned those two interceptions into two touchdowns in their 27-17 win over the Steelers. Naturally, the Super Bowl MVP was in-demand when he hit the free-agent market the following year, landing a five-year, $12.5 million deal from the Raiders.
One year into that contract, he was relegated to a backup role. Later, he was suspended for “conduct detrimental to the team” and eventually waived by the Raiders. From there on out, his only jobs were providing depth to teams with a bad secondary.
14. New York Giants: David Tyree
David Tyree is a name that will forever live in Boston sports infamy. The backup wide receiver and Special Teams ace became immortalized in NFL history after the famous “helmet catch” in Super Bowl XLII, which put the New York Giants in position for what was eventually the game-clinching touchdown.
That catch was easily the one shining moment of Tyree’s otherwise highly unspectacular NFL career; he never caught more than 20 passes in a single season, and finished his six-year NFL career with a total of four touchdown catches.
13. Philadelphia Eagles: Earnest Jackson
After leading the AFC in rushing with a franchise-record 1,179 yards and going to the Pro Bowl, Earnest Jackson was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for a couple of draft picks, a move the Chargers made so they could sign Gary Anderson from the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits.
Jackson ran for 1,028 yards and five TDs for the Eagles, but when Buddy Ryan replaced Marion Campbell, he, in turn, shipped Jackson to the Steelers to make room for Ohio State rookie Keith Byars, the Eagles’ 1986 first-round draft pick. Jackson made a Pro Bowl in 1986 but was out of the league two years later.
12. Washington Redskins: Timmy Smith
If we’re being honest, Timmy Smith wasn’t even a one-season wonder; he was a one-game wonder. As a rookie in 1987, Smith got his first career start in Super Bowl XXII. He ended up setting the Super Bowl rushing record with 204 yards and two touchdowns in Washington’s win.
After his Super Bowl heroics, Smith held out for a better contract. He ultimately came to training camp overweight and quickly lost his starting job. In 1989, he failed a physical and was caught interacting with some rather unsavory individuals that same season. By the end of the 1990 season, he was out of the NFL.
11. Chicago Bears: Rashaan Salaam
As a junior in 1994, Rashaan Salaam become just the fourth college running back to run for more than 2,000 yards in a season. With his 24 combined touchdowns, he helped lead his University of Colorado Buffaloes to an 11–1 record and won the 1994 Heisman Trophy (ahead of Steve McNair and Kerry Collins.
The Chicago Bears took Salaam with a first round pick in the 1995 NFL Draft, but never really got the record-setting running back from Boulder. After running for 1,074 yards his rookie season, Salaam’s career was derailed by injuries, fumbling issues, and substance issues. By 1999, the Bears had discarded him.
10. Detroit Lions: Germane Crowell
After watching wide receiver Herman Moore set numerous franchise records, the Detroit Lions decided to draft another big-bodied wide receiver in Germane Crowell, selected in the second round of the 1998 NFL Draft. After a ho-hum rookie season, Crowell broke out in a big way in 1999, catching 81 passes for 1,338 yards and seven touchdowns.
But a menagerie of injuries would plague Crowell after his promising sophomore season; during his next three years in Detroit, he never broke 430 yards receiving or caught more than three touchdown passes in a give year. By 2003, Crowell was out of the NFL.
9. Green Bay Packers: Don Majkowski
Before the legend of Brett Favre even began in Green Bay, there was another star quarterback in northeast Wisconsin; that would Don Majkowski, “the Majik Man” himself. In 1989, Majkowski threw for 4,318 yards, leading the NFL en route to a Pro Bowl selection and being named Second-team All-Pro. But just 10 games into the ensuing season, the “Majik” was gone.
He suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in 1991, and eventually replaced as the starter. And when he did make an appearance in the 1992 season, he suffered another season-ending injury that made way for Favre to take over the job, and not give it back for quite some time after that.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Case Keenum
Prior to arriving in Minnesota, the former record-breaking college quarterback named Case Keenum seemed destined to be little more than a journeyman backup quarterback who’d bounce around a half dozen NFL teams before retiring. But what happened to Keenum in Minnesota in 2017 is nothing short of a blip in the Matrix.
Despite never throwing for more than nine touchdowns at any point in his career, Keenum threw for 22 touchdowns (and 3,547 yards), leading the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game. And yet, the Vikings still parted ways with him after the season was over, and Keenum returned to the guy we were previously accustomed to.
7. Atlanta Falcons: Eric Metcalf
The 13th overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft, Eric Metcalf was one of those freak athletes who never really found a niche in the NFL to maximize all of that talent. He was an outstanding return specialist, but never really found a home outside of special teams.
But in 1995, under the run-and-shoot offense of the Atlanta Falcons, Metcalf finally seemed to have found his groove as a wide receiver, catching 104 passes for 1,189 yards. However, that turned out to be little more than a tease, as Metcalf never caught more than 54 passes in any season since that, and by 1997 he had already left Atlanta.
6. Carolina Panthers: Raghib Ismail
Raghib Ramadian “Rocket” Ismail famously won the Heisman Trophy in 1990, and headed north after the Canadian Football League threw big money to lure him there. Ismail headed back to the states in 1993, and was traded to the Carolina Panthers in 1996 after disappointing with the Oakland Raiders.
The disappointment followed him to Carolina until 1998, when he caught 69 passes for 1024 yards with the Panthers. Unfortunately, Ismail would end up leaving Carolina, signing with the Dallas Cowboys.
5. New Orleans Saints: Wade Wilson
After a 10-year career with the Minnesota Vikings, quarterback Wade Wilson made a pit stop with the New Orleans Saints as his career came to a close. In 1993, Wilson had a five-game winning streak as the quarterback of the Saints, though New Orleans would end up finishing the year with an 8-8 record.
As for Wilson, that would realistically be the last consistent playing time for Wilson. He only threw 28 passes in 1994, and followed up that year by spending four years as a backup with the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders before retiring.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Michael Clayton
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected wide receiver Michael Clayton out of LSU with the 15th selection in the 2004 NFL Draft. Even with the revolving door of quarterbacks throwing him the ball, Clayton finished with 80 receptions for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie. But after that promising first year in the NFL, he was never the same player afterwards, thanks to a string of injuries and further inconsistencies from Tampa Bay’s quarterbacks.
By 2010, Clayton found himself joining the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football league. His pro football career ended after the 2011 season, after his final comeback attempt with the New York Giants ended just a few games into the season.
3. Arizona Cardinals: Garrison Hearst
After spending the third overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals thought it would be a good idea to ensure running back Garrison Hearst never touched the ball more than 85 times over a 16-game span. Yet in his third NFL season, after the Cardinals started handing the ball to Hearst, he ran for 1,070 yards. And how did the Cardinals return the favor? By placing him on waivers.
Hearst would go on to run for 847 yards during his brief stint in Cincinnati, and follow that up with back-to-back years with more than 1,000 yards rushing in San Francisco.
2. Los Angeles Rams: Charles White
After winning the Heisman Trophy in 1979, the Cleveland Browns selected running back Charles White from USC in the first round of the 1980 NFL Draft. But in his first four years with the Browns, White never ran for more than 350 yards in a given season. Cleveland released White, who reunited with his former college coach (John Robinson) when he joined the Los Angeles Rams.
White still struggled his first two years in Los Angeles, but in 1987, he seemingly had a out-of-nowhere effort with 1,374 yards rushing and 1 touchdowns. And yet, by 1989, White was out of the NFL (after a lackluster 1988 season).
1. Seattle Seahawks: Koren Robinson
A captivating combination of size and speed at the wide receiver position, wide receiver Koren Robinson was selected with the 9th overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. Though most people acknowledged he’d need time to refine his style of play in the NFL, he caught 78 passes for 1,240 yards and five touchdowns in 2002, in his second year in the NFL.
But Robinson failed to break 900 yards receiving in each of his next two years, leading to the Seahawks saying goodbye to him via free agency. Within four years of leaving Seattle, Robinson was out of pro football.