NFL's greatest one-year wonders

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jul 26, 2012



By Scott Kacsmar
Cold, Hard Football Facts two-year wonder


Every once in a while a one-year wonder comes along and has a memorable NFL season. It could be the breakout year for a disappointing prospect, or a great story from a virtual unknown that came with no expectations.
 
No matter the path, the end result is the same: they never again live up to that season’s standard.
 
While anyone can have a great game, it takes more skill to put it all together for a full season. Normally you would expect such a player to put it together for a good career, but it does not always work that way.
 
Could it happen to any of 2011’s breakout players like Victor Cruz, Jordy Nelson, Cam Newton, or Alex Smith? Only time will tell.
 
Here is a recap of the greatest one-year wonders in NFL history, separated by position. We tried to exclude the players with careers derailed by serious health issues, so there is no Greg Cook, Robert Edwards, or Ricky Bell listed.
 
That also means no Bucky Pope, who averaged an incredible 31.4 yards per reception as a rookie for the Los Angeles Rams in 1964. Pope had 25 receptions for 786 yards and 10 touchdowns. Unfortunately, he injured his knee in a 1965 preseason game, in which he was only paid $6 for. Pope caught just nine more passes the rest of his career.
 
That’s the business sometimes for one-hit wonders. Milli Vanilli get caught lip-synching, and NFL players tear up their knees or shoulders.
 
Also tried to avoid active players that still have a chance to prove something. Sidney Rice (2009 Minnesota Vikings) looks like a prime candidate for being a one-year wonder, though he just has not been healthy the last two years.
 
And Peyton Hillis, we’re watching you. Do not blame the Madden Curse.

Finally, if you are wondering, then yes. That is a splice of Derek Anderson and Vanilla Ice. Yeah, we're too cold, too cold.

Quarterbacks

Tommy O’Connell (1957 Cleveland Browns)

Key Stats: 7-1-1 record, 11.17 YPA, 93.3 passer rating
 
Drafted in the 18th round by Chicago in 1952, O’Connell re-emerged with the Browns in 1956 following Otto Graham’s retirement. But it was in 1957 when he set a record that should never be broken: 11.17 YPA (1,229 yards on 110 attempts).
 
At the time a player only needed 100 attempts in a season to qualify, so O’Connell’s mark stands, and will likely always stand. He was also 7-1-1 as a starter, and made the Pro Bowl.
 
When he wasn’t picking up yards at a prolific rate in 1957, O’Connell only started 11 other games in his career, and was 4-6-1 as a starter. On his other 313 pass attempts in his career, O’Connell averaged just 6.49 YPA and had a 44.8 passer rating; a far cry from the record-setting 11.17 YPA and his 93.3 rating in 1957.
 
He started in Cleveland’s 1957 NFL Championship game loss to Detroit, and had to return from a sprained ankle and hairline fracture of the fibula to play. O’Connell retired after 1957, but did return with the Buffalo Bills at the start of the AFL in 1960.
 

Bill Kenney (1983 Kansas City Chiefs)

Key Stats: 4,348 passing yards, 603 pass attempts, 24 TD passes
 
This must be Bill Kenney’s lucky month as he gets a second mention at the Cold, Hard Football Facts.
 
In 1983 Kenney became the fourth quarterback to ever throw for 4,000 yards in a season, finishing with 4,348 yards. He had four straight games with over 300 yards, but the Chiefs lost each time. His total of seven games with 300+ yards passing tied Dan Fouts for the second most in NFL history at the time. Kenney made the Pro Bowl as an alternate, becoming the only Mr. Irrelevant to ever make a Pro Bowl.
 
Kenney had three games with four touchdown passes in 1983 Perhaps it is just some of his bad luck, but Kenney is the first quarterback to lose multiple games in a season despite throwing at least four touchdown passes. Jeff Garcia (2000), Billy Volek (2004), and Eli Manning (2007) have since joined him.
 
While Kenney made 77 starts for Kansas City in the 1980s, 1983 was the only season where he started every game. Four of his top five games in terms of passing yardage were all in 1983, and he never threw for more than 2,536 yards or 17 TD in any other season.

 
Don Majkowski (1989 Green Bay Packers)

Key Stats: Led league in pass attempts (599), completions (353), yards (4,310), fourth quarter comebacks (5), and game-winning drives (7)
 
Which Green Bay quarterback has the greatest season in regards to leading fourth quarter wins? We know it’s not Aaron Rodgers. It’s definitely not Brett Favre. It’s not even Bart Starr.
 
No, it is Don Majkowski, who somehow managed five comebacks and a then-record seven game-winning drives in his 1989 Pro Bowl season. He finished second in MVP voting, though that meant getting six votes to 62 for Joe Montana. The Packers won 10 games for the first time since 1972.
 
Just a 10th round pick in 1987, Majkowski’s third season was an exciting display of football. In addition to his league-leading passing numbers, Majkowski ran it 75 times for 358 yards and five touchdowns. He also had 15 fumbles, which was just part of the “Majik Man” display.
 
Things regressed in a hurry for Majkowski. He struggled in 1990 and tore his rotator cuff on his throwing shoulder. He was benched in 1991 after going 2-6 as a starter, 3 TD, 8 INT, and a 59.3 passer rating. Green Bay traded for Brett Favre in 1992, and another Majkowski injury (knee this time) on a fateful day in 1992 led to a new era in Green Bay.
 
Majkowski started just eight more games in his career as a member of the Colts and Lions. His next best season in terms of passing yards was 2,119 yards in 1988. That makes the 1989 total of 4,310 more than double the amount of his next best season.
After throwing 27 touchdowns in 1989, Majkowski had 10 in 1990, which would also be the second highest total of his career. 1989 was the only season in which Majkowski started at least 10 games.
 
At least for one season he did have some magic going.

1995 NFC Central Quarterbacks: Erik Kramer (Chicago Bears) and Scott Mitchell (Detroit Lions)

The 1995 season was a passing explosion with teams averaging 34.8 passes per game, which is still a record. The 1995 NFC Central featured a group of quarterbacks that put up huge numbers.
 
Some were to be expected, as Brett Favre won the first of his three MVP awards that year. Warren Moon was a great veteran with the Minnesota Vikings, and no stranger to big numbers with the Houston Oilers. We’ll forget about the dreadful Buccaneers.
 
But what no one could have seen coming were the seasons from Erik Kramer and Scott Mitchell:
 
  • Kramer passed for 3,838 yards and 29 TD with only 10 interceptions and a 93.5 passer rating. The yards and touchdowns are still Chicago franchise records.
  • Mitchell led the league’s No. 2 offense with 4,338 yards and 32 TD. He had a 92.3 passer rating and Detroit made the playoffs at 10-6.
 
Kramer was undrafted out of North Carolina State and got his first NFL action in the replacement games of 1987. He returned with Detroit in 1991 and even won a playoff game that season. After having a good quarter of a season in 1993, he signed with the Bears as a free agent.
 
Though Kramer would reach 3,011 yards in 1997 with the Bears, he never had the same success as he did in 1995. He threw just 14 TD in 1997, which was the second most prolific season of his career. Kramer finished up in San Diego in 1999.
 
Mitchell made a name for himself as a replacement to Dan Marino in the 1993 season for Miami. Detroit went after him, and his first season was a struggle to say the least. That made his huge performance even more remarkable in 1995.
 
He self destructed in the playoffs, but Detroit thought they finally found the successor to Bobby Layne. In 1996, Mitchell’s touchdowns dropped to 17, and he was just 4-10 as a starter with a 74.9 passer rating.
 
In 1997 the Lions did make the playoffs again, though Mitchell had 19 TD and 14 INT, which were far from the success he had in 1995. He also failed in the playoffs again, and was gone after the 1998 season. He spent a year in Baltimore and finally two more with Cincinnati.
 
After 1995, Mitchell was just 15-24 as a starter, threw 41 TD to 49 INT, and had a 69.0 passer rating.
 
The Bears and Lions have done so much to try and find a franchise quarterback after last having such players in the 1950s, and for just one year, Kramer and Mitchell gave them some hope that they had the right guy.
 

Steve Beuerlein (1999 Carolina Panthers)

Key Stats: Led the league with 343 completions and 4,436 yards. 36 TD passes.
 
With everyone expecting Steve Young and Chris Chandler as the best quarterbacks in the 1999 NFC West, it ended up being Kurt Warner and journeyman Steve Beuerlein leading the entire league in yards and touchdown passes.
 
Beuerlein’s 36 touchdowns trailed Warner’s 41, but they were still well ahead of third-place finisher Peyton Manning’s 26. Beuerlein threw at least three touchdowns in eight of the games, which is exclusive territory.
 
In George Seifert’s first year as Carolina coach, the Panthers came out of nowhere to field one of the league’s most productive offenses, and with a 34-year-old Beuerlein running the show. Carolina scored a franchise-record 421 points, and just missed out on the postseason at 8-8.
 
Beuerlein finished off his season with a career-high five touchdown passes against New Orleans, who actually started the unknown Jake Delhomme at quarterback.
 
Often injured and playing on less than stellar teams, Beuerlein showed promise throughout various points of his career, but things never came together the way they did in 1999 for him. He followed it up with 3,730 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2000 (second highest totals in career), but also threw 18 interceptions and was sacked 62 times. The eight wins as a starter in 1999 represent a career high.
 
Carolina released the 36-year-old quarterback after 2000, and he finished his career as a backup in Denver for three more seasons.
 
Beuerlein played for six teams, but his stint with Carolina (1996-2000) was by far the most successful, and 1999 was easily the highlight of his career.
 

Tommy Maddox (2002 Pittsburgh Steelers)

Key Stats: 7-3-1 and 246.7 passing yards per game as a starter, 20 TD, 85.2 passer rating.
 
Maddox has an interesting story most people are aware of. He was drafted in the first round by Dan Reeves and the Denver Broncos in 1992, despite a healthy and still relatively young John Elway on the roster. This was part of the feud between Reeves and Elway at the time.
 
Maddox flopped in Denver. He struggled with the Rams. Dan Reeves brought him to the Giants in 1995, and he managed to go 6/23 for 49 yards and 3 INT (0.0 passer rating). Reeves tried bringing him in one more time with Atlanta in 1997, but that didn’t work out either.
 
That appeared to be it for Maddox in the NFL. He started selling insurance, but returned to football with the Arena Football League. Then in 2001, Maddox joined wrestling’s Vince McMahon’s XFL and became the league’s most prolific quarterback, and won MVP honors in their championship game.
 
The league disbanded after one season, and Maddox joined the Pittsburgh Steelers as a backup. After Kordell Stewart struggled in a 2002 game against Cleveland, Maddox came off the bench and led a comeback for an overtime victory.
 
Maddox took over as starting quarterback and gave the Steelers a rare pass-happy offense that utilized his pocket passing. With an offense that could now put up points, the Steelers enjoyed a thrilling postseason run under Maddox.
 
After trailing 24-7 to the rival Browns in the AFC Wild Card game, Maddox led the team back for a 36-33 win. The next week the Steelers fell behind 14-0 in Tennessee, but again rallied back to a tie at the end of regulation. Tennessee won in overtime, 34-31, but it was a spirited postseason that highlighted Maddox’s unexpected season.
 
After accomplishing nothing in the NFL before 2002, Maddox finally had expectations for 2003. However, he struggled and saw all of his relevant rate statistics go down as the Steelers finished 6-10.
 
They drafted Ben Roethlisberger in the first round in 2004, and after an early-season injury, Maddox’s days as a starter were finished. He had some horrific performances as a backup starter in 2005, but still earned a Super Bowl ring with the team.
 
Maddox never played professional football again after 2005.
 

Derek Anderson (2007 Cleveland Browns)

Key Stats: 29 TD, 3,787 yards, 10-5 as a starter. Led league with 12.7 yards per completion.
 
We start and end with a Cleveland quarterback, set 50 years apart even.
 
After one brutal – and not even complete – half by starter Charlie Frye in the season opener against Pittsburgh, Anderson took over as Cleveland’s quarterback. A week later in his first start against Cincinnati, Anderson threw for 328 yards and 5 TD in a thrilling 51-45 win.
 
Through six starts Anderson had 16 TD, 7 INT and a 100.1 passer rating. The rest of the season would be all downhill, as Anderson finished with 12 TD, 11 INT and a 73.9 passer rating. It was a sign of things to come.
 
Still, it was the first time Cleveland won 10 games since 1994, and Anderson’s 29 touchdown passes are tied for the second most in Browns’ history behind Brian Sipe’s 30 in his MVP season of 1980.
 
Anderson took full advantage of strong years by high draft pick receivers like Kellen Winslow Jr. and Braylon Edwards, who caught 21 of those 29 touchdowns.
 
Since the Browns have returned in 1999, they have had very few moments of excitement, and with Anderson in 2007, the team pushed for the playoffs until the final game of the regular season.
 
That alone is a wonderful thing for Cleveland fans.
 
The 2007 season saw a lot of flashy quarterback numbers, and especially from quarterbacks that played the AFC North and AFC East (think Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger). Anderson took advantage of that, though he still had some bad numbers such as a 56.5 completion percentage, and only a 82.5 passer rating. His season was more about volume and some big point totals on the scoreboard.
 
In 2008-09 for Cleveland, Anderson was just 6-10 as a starter, and completed a miserable 48.0 percent of his passes. He had 12 TD, 18 INT, and a 56.9 passer rating.
 
In 2009 he had a real statistical gem in a 6-3 win against Buffalo: Anderson was 2/17 for 23 yards and an interception (15.1 passer rating). Anderson had a total of 17 completions in his three wins as a starter in 2009.
 
After such abysmal performances, Anderson was off to Arizona, where he again struggled to do anything valuable (65.9 passer rating). He backed up Cam Newton last season, but never really had to play.

Wide Receivers

The Bizarre Case of the 1999 Season

Many of the most productive receiving seasons in NFL history have been by players who were clearly not one-year wonders. But some fell under the category, and a handful of them were part of the 1999 season.
 
It was already a strange season with the aforementioned unknown Kurt Warner and  journeyman Steve Beuerlein dominating the passing game, but just look at some of these receiving seasons:
  • Marcus Robinson (Chicago Bears) had 84 receptions, 1,400 yards, and 9 touchdowns.
  • Germane Crowell (Detroit Lions) had 81 receptions, 1,338 yards, and 7 touchdowns.
  • Albert Connell (Washington Redskins) had 62 receptions, 1,132 yards, and 7 touchdowns.
  • Patrick Jeffers (Carolina Panthers) had 63 receptions, 1,082 yards, and 12 touchdowns.
  • Derrick Mayes (Seattle Seahawks) had 62 receptions, 829 yards, and 10 touchdowns.
All five players were drafted between 1996 and 1998. They had fairly unimpressive quarterbacks throwing to them in 1999, though Jeffers’ season was a direct factor in Beuerlein’s productive season. Connell had Brad Johnson in his big year with Washington.
 
The seasons were far and away outliers in these receivers’ careers.
  • Robinson had 55 receptions for 738 yards in 2000, but that would be the second best season of his career. (662-yard drop-off).
  • Crowell only played in 24 more games from 2000-02 because of injuries, and had a total of 78 receptions for 920 yards (both less than his 1999 season).
  • Connell followed up with a 762-yard season in 2000, but then went to New Orleans and had just 12 receptions for 191 yards. He never played in the NFL again after allegedly stealing money from teammate Deuce McAllister.
  • Jeffers had just three catches in Denver, 18 in Dallas, and then exploded for 12 touchdowns in 1999 with Beuerlein in Carolina. He missed 2000 with a torn ACL, and caught only 14 more passes in his career.
  • Mayes, a second-round pick by Green Bay, had only 730 yards and 5 TD with Brett Favre. Following Mike Holmgren to Seattle, Mayes surpassed all of his career numbers in one season with Jon Kitna in 1999. He’d play one more season, catching 29 passes in 2000. The events of 9/11 had a profound impact on Mayes.
While injuries definitely took their toll on some of these young receivers, it was in 1999 where they got to shine at least once.
 

Michael Lewis (2002 New Orleans Saints)

Key Stats: Led league in punt return yards, kick return yards, and all-purpose yards.
 
Michael Lewis was nicknamed the “Beer Man”, because he used to drive a Budweiser truck. Lewis never played college football, and joined the New Orleans Saints in 2001 as a 30-year-old return man.
 
In 2002 he would have an explosive season, leading the league with 625 yards on punt returns, 1,807 yards on kick returns, three return touchdowns, and 2,647 all-purpose yards, which is still third all time.
 
Lewis made the Pro Bowl and was a first-team All-Pro return specialist. Not bad at age 31 with no college experience.
 
But that would be as good as it ever got for Lewis. In five more seasons, he had one more career touchdown return, and never came close to the all-purpose yardage he had in 2002.
 
Some return specialists have short shelf lives, and Lewis quickly passed the torch to names like Dante Hall and Eddie Drummond. That was before Devin Hester and Josh Cribbs established more long-term success.
 
Still, the Beer Man sits right behind Darren Sproles (2011) and Derrick Mason (2000) on the all-time single-season leaders for all-purpose yards.
 

Drew Bennett (2004 Tennessee Titans)

Key Stats: 80 receptions for 1,247 yards, 11 TD
 
Like some of the other seasons we looked at, 2004 was an exceptional year statistically for the passing game. This was on the heels of the league reinforcing the illegal contact after five yards.
 
The Titans were not a good team in 2004, finishing just 5-11. But after Steve McNair was injured, backup Billy Volek took over for the second half and the Titans brought back a bit of the run-and-shoot from the days of the Houston Oilers.
 
Volek even had back-to-back games with over 400 yards passing and four touchdowns. Drew Bennett was a huge contributor at this point, and he had 25 receptions for 393 yards and five touchdowns in those two games alone.
 
Bennett followed up the season with consecutive efforts of over 730 yards, but he never came close to the totals in 2004. He went to St. Louis in 2007, but only caught 34 passes for the team, and last played in the NFL in 2008.
 
One could also mention Bennett’s AFC South rival in Brandon Stokley, who had 68 receptions for 1,077 yards and 10 TD as part of Peyton Manning’s MVP season in 2004.
 

Michael Clayton (2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Key Stats: 80 receptions for 1,193 yards, 7 TD as a rookie.
 
The 15th pick in the draft, Clayton immediately emerged as a receiving threat in his rookie season. He caught 80 passes on a team that started three different quarterbacks, and he finished just shy of 1,200 yards.
 
The future was very bright, but then 2005 came. A major sophomore slump took place, and Clayton finished with just 372 yards. That would be about the range he had the next four seasons, as Clayton failed to ever crack 500 yards or 40 receptions again.
 
The drop to 484 yards as his second best season is a 709-yard drop-off from 2004’s 1,193 receiving yards.
 
After seven touchdowns as a rookie, Clayton has three in the last seven seasons (79 games). He has only made two receptions on the Giants in the last two seasons.
 
Clayton didn’t suffer any significant injuries or have off-field problems. He’s the kind of one-year wonder that really makes you wonder where it all went wrong.
 

Running Backs

Steve Owens (1971 Detroit Lions)

Key Stats: 246 carries for 1,035 yards, 8 TD, Pro Bowl selection.
 
A Heisman Trophy winner and the19th overall pick in the 1970 draft, Owens had a Pro Bowl season as a fullback in 1971 when he finished second in yards from scrimmage with 1,385. He scored 10 touchdowns, and averaged a solid 4.2 YPC.
 
This came after a disappointing rookie campaign in which he only rushed for 122 yards. After 1971, he would only play three more seasons, and gained 1,294 yards on the ground.
 
Knee injuries slowed his career down, which is why he eventually retired in 1975.
 

Don Woods (1974 San Diego Chargers)

Key Stats: 96.8 rushing yards per game and 1,511 yards from scrimmage.
 
Drafted by Green Bay in the sixth round in 1974, Woods did not make the team and was signed by San Diego. He had a very good rookie season, rushing for 1,162 yards, 5.1 YPC, 7 touchdowns, 1,511 yards from scrimmage, and 10 total touchdowns.
 
All of his stats came in just 12 games, and Woods was named AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.  
 
Injuries would slow Woods down, as he averaged just 26.4 yards per game and scored 11 touchdowns the rest of his career. He played six full seasons in San Diego and spent the last part of 1980 in San Francisco.
 

Terdell Middleton (1978 Green Bay Packers)

Key Stats: 1,116 rushing yards, 11 rushing touchdowns, and 1,448 yards from scrimmage.
 
Middleton was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, but traded to Green Bay in the preseason.
 
After a bad rookie season (35 carries for 97 yards), Middleton made the Pro Bowl in 1978 as he ranked in the top six in the league in rushes, rushing yards, touchdowns and yards from scrimmage.
 
In the rest of his career he rushed for just 835 yards and four touchdowns in 50 games for the Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
 

Tony Reed (1978 Kansas City Chiefs)

Key Stats: 1,053 rushing yards, 5.1 YPC, 48 receptions for 483 yards, 1,536 yards from scrimmage.
 
Reed was the 37th overall pick in the 1977 draft. After rushing for 505 yards as a rookie, Reed took over as the primary ball carrier and rushed for 1,053 yards in 1978, averaging 5.1 YPC (third best in the league).
 
His 1,536 yards from scrimmage were also ranked third in the NFL, and he had he most productive receiving season of his career as well.
 
Reed played three more seasons, but never cracked 500 yards rushing, or 800 yards from scrimmage, or 4.0 YPC again. In his last two seasons (the last with Denver in 1981), Reed averaged just 2.5 YPC.
 

Lionel James (1985 San Diego Chargers)

Key Stats: 2,535 all-purpose yards, 86 receptions (led AFC) for 1,027 yards.
 
Long before Darren Sproles got his start there, Lionel James came along as a fifth-round pick in 1984 in the later stages of “Air Coryell” in San Diego.
 
The 5-6 back had a huge impact in his second season. He only rushed for 516 yards while averaging 4.9 yards per carry, but it was in the passing game where he exploded with 86 receptions for 1,027 yards and six touchdowns.
 
This was the same year Roger Craig became the first running back to have 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving, but James edged him out to set a NFL record in receiving yards by a running back. Marshall Faulk (1,048) broke the record in 1999.
 
The 2,535 all-purpose yards set the NFL record which stood until Derrick Mason (2,690) broke it in 2000. James still ranks fourth all time for single-season all-purpose yards.
 
James only played three more seasons, and gained just 1,476 more yards from scrimmage.
 

Charles White (1987 Los Angeles Rams)

Key Stats: 324 carries for 1,374 yards, 11 TD (led league in each category)
 
A Heisman Trophy winner and first-round pick for the Browns in 1980, White was a big disappointment in Cleveland. He never rushed for more than 342 yards in any of his four seasons, and averaged just 3.4 YPC. White admitted to a cocaine addiction at the time.
 
He spent two seasons as a backup in Los Angeles, only carrying the ball 92 times for 436 yards. But it was in 1987 when the Rams traded star running back Eric Dickerson that White finally broke out at age 29.
 
White led the league in carries, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns. He was voted first-team All-Pro and made the Pro Bowl. White won Comeback Player of the Year. It only took seven seasons, but White finally made an impact in the NFL.
 
However, it was very short lived. Included in the Dickerson trade was a younger running back in Greg Bell. In 1988, Bell took over as the primary back in Los Angeles and put up big numbers himself the next two seasons (try 31 rushing touchdowns).
 

White only had 88 carries for 323 yards in 1988, which would be his final season in the NFL.
 

Ickey Woods (1988 Cincinnati Bengals)

Key Stats: 203 carries for 1,066 yards, 15 touchdowns, 5.3 YPC
 
This fullback was a rookie sensation in 1988. He led the league in yards per carry, and scored 15 touchdowns on the league’s highest scoring offense.
 
He became known for his famous Ickey Shuffle touchdown celebration, though he would only score 12 more times the rest of his career (three seasons).
 
A torn ACL ended his 1989 season after two games, and Woods only played 19 more games in his career.

 
Reggie Brooks (1993 Washington Redskins)

Key Stats: 223 carries for 1,063 yards, 4.8 YPC (ranked 4th in 1993)
 
Brooks was the 45th overall pick in the 1993 draft. He had a promising rookie season with 1,063 rushing yards, but he only managed 663 rushing yards the rest of his career (three more seasons).
 
Ricky Ervins and Terry Allen would eventually take Brooks’ carries. These were the bad Washington offenses in the Norv Turner era.
 
Serious injury was not the problem either for Brooks, so chalk this one up to a flukey one-year wonder.
 

Olandis Gary (1999 Denver Broncos)

Key Stats: 1,159 rushing yards, 7 TD, 96.6 rushing yards per game.
 
“System back” is probably what people will say here when talking about the Denver Broncos’ very successful zone-blocking scheme. Terrell Davis was the best at it, but after his injury in 1999, the fourth-round rookie got his chance.
 
In just 12 games Gary rushed for 1,159 yards. He had back-to-back games with 183 and 185 yards late in the season. After that point, Gary never again rushed for 100 yards in 36 appearances.
 
One knee injury in 2000 and that was about it for Gary. From 2000-03, he had 839 yards and four touchdowns. His final season was with Detroit in 2003.
 

Michael Bennett (2002 Minnesota Vikings)

Key Stats: 1,296 rushing yards, 5.1 YPC, 1,647 yards from scrimmage.
 
A first-round pick in 2001, Bennett had a big year as a sophomore with nearly 1,300 rushing yards. He made the Pro Bowl. In an offense with Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss, Bennett was poised for big things, but of course injury set him back some.
 
Still, Bennett played 10 seasons in the NFL, and only twice did he even crack 500 yards rushing.
 

Steve Slaton (2008 Houston Texans)

Key Stats: 1,282 rushing yards, 9 TD, 4.8 YPC, 1,659 yards from scrimmage.
 
After a successful career at West Virginia, Slaton was drafted in the third round in 2008. He had a very impressive rookie season where he rushed for 1,282 yards and caught 50 passes.
 
His 2009 season was a huge disappointment with just 437 yards rushing in 11 games. Slaton fell out of favor with the Texans, and it was Arian Foster coming out of the ranks of the undrafted to take over as the workhorse. Throw in Ben Tate and there was just no more room for Slaton in Houston.
 
Running backs are a dime a dozen, and teams don’t even sweat about replacing them.
 

Defense

It was very difficult in finding one-year wonders on the defensive side of the ball.
 
For starters, we do not have the greatest of measures for defensive players, especially those that play inside. We have to focus on things like sacks, interceptions, fumbles, or the dreaded tackle stats. Sacks have only been kept since 1982, so that is also a problem.
 
Typically when a player has had a big season in sacks or interceptions, they have at least another good one in their career.
 
Here are two cornerbacks that have worn the big star at one point.

 
Larry Brown (1995 Dallas Cowboys)

Key Stats: 6 INT returned for 124 yards, 2 TD, Super Bowl MVP
 
Brown was in his fifth year as a starting cornerback on a team that won three Super Bowls. But it was in 1995 when he really made his mark.
 
First, he had a career-high six interceptions in the regular season, and returned a pair for touchdowns.
 
It was in the postseason where Brown entered his name into NFL lore. In the NFC Championship, nursing a 31-27 lead in the fourth quarter, Brown intercepted Brett Favre and the Cowboys added an insurance touchdown.
 
Then in Super Bowl XXX, Pittsburgh quarterback Neil O’Donnell tossed two interceptions so terrible you thought he was paid off to do it. Brown happened to be in position both times, and they had an enormous impact on the outcome of the game.
 
Brown was named Super Bowl MVP, which meant some big bucks were coming his way.
 
Al Davis and the Raiders were the team to bite, but Brown would only play 12 games for the team before finishing up one last season in Dallas again.
 
After intercepting O’Donnell twice in the Super Bowl, Brown made just one interception the rest of his career.

 
Adam “Pacman” Jones (2006 Tennessee Titans)

Key Stats: 3 punt return touchdowns, 12.9 yards per punt return, 4 interceptions (1 TD)
 
The 6th overall pick in the 2005 draft, Pacman has a longer rap sheet off the field than his list of accomplishments on it. The bad boy out of West Virginia had a forgettable rookie season, but in 2006 he looked like he might live up to the draft pick.
 
Jones had a dynamic season with a league-leading three punt return touchdowns, including a 90-yard return. He also made four interceptions and returned one of those for a touchdown as well.
 
His fourth quarter interception of Eli Manning led to the game-winning field goal to complete a 21-point comeback against the Giants.
 
While things were looking bright for Jones, he was in a party involved with a shooting in Las Vegas in 2007. Combined with all of his off-field incidents, the league suspended Jones for the entire 2007 season and part of 2008.
 
He tried to return with the Dallas Cowboys in 2008 after being traded by Tennessee, but had a marginal impact and was released after one season.
 
Jones tried to play in the CFL, but they withdrew interest after he had mistaken them for the UFL. He has been with the Bengals since 2010, playing a total of 13 games the last two years.
 
As we know with Pacman, one false move and it could be game over.
 
Scott Kacsmar is a football writer/researcher who has contributed large quantities of data to Pro-Football-Reference.com, including the only standardized database of fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. He hopes to be more than a one-season wonder writing about the NFL. You can visit his blog for a complete writing archive. Please send any questions or comments to Scott at smk_42@yahoo.com, or you can follow him on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.

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