Can you say Bust?

A look at the biggest busts in NFL history and what causes a bust


JaMarcus Russell. Todd Marinovich. Just hearing these names make Oakland Raiders fans cringe and their rivals laugh. Add in Ryan Leaf, Tony Mandarich, Heath Shuler, Lawrence Phillips, David Carr, Courtney Brown, Ki-Jana Carter, Akili Smith, and Tim Couch and you have a list of eleven of the biggest busts in NFL history.

The Raiders just can’t seem to draft a successful quarterback. By drafting two of the biggest busts in NFL history the Raiders have solidified themselves as possibly the worst place for a quarterback to be drafted to. Both JaMarcus Russell and Todd Marinovich came into the NFL with high expectations and both failed miserably.

The Browns and Bengals are the other two franchises with more than one player appearing on the list. The Bengals have Ki-Jana Carter and Akili Smith appearing on the list while the Browns have Courtney Brown and Tim Couch.

“Akili Smith could throw a football through a table if he needed to, but he couldn’t hit an open receiver to save his life,” said Pat Conners, a lifelong Bengal fan. “Ki-Jana Carter could have been good, but he just couldn’t stay healthy.”

Quarterbacks are by far the most likely position to be a bust with seven of the eleven mentioned players. But why are they the most likely to wind up being unsuccessful after they are believed to have so much potential and talent? Is there any rhyme or reason to why quarterbacks tend to not live up to expectations?

Many believe that it has got to be the amount of pressure that is associated with playing quarterback. Fans are not sympathetic, especially NFL fans. They want to win and they want to win now. Any loss instantly has fans pointing fingers of blame at the quarterback.

Ryan Leaf is almost universally considered to be the biggest bust in NFL history. The quarterback from Washington State was drafted by the San Diego Chargers with the second overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, only behind Peyton Manning. Leaf and Manning were considered the top two players in the draft and many believed they were interchangeable in the top two spots. Leaf was a Heisman trophy finalist while at Washington State before entering the draft after his junior season. Leaf averaged 300.6 yards per game and threw for 33 touchdowns in his final season of college.

In the NFL, Leaf only lasted a mere four seasons from 1998-2001. Leaf, who was projected to have a long and successful career in the NFL, not unlike Peyton Manning, wound up being the single biggest disappointment in NFL history.

Although the NFL draft is still not a perfect science, NFL teams are working much harder and doing more work in efforts of not drafting a bust. But as long as the draft is still in existence there is still going to be busts. And as long as there are still busts there will still be unhappy fans.