These players were supposed to make their team competitive for 2009; however, they did nothing more than bring embarrassment to themselves and the franchise as a whole.
Terrell Owens, WR, Buffalo
The mercurial wide receiver was given one last chance to make good on his perpetual claim that he was simply the carrier pigeon with a bad message, but this blue collar town wasn’t buying T.O’s snake oil. The now 37-year-old diva is as divisive as they come, and his “can’t we all just get along” mantra carried less weight with each subsequent dropped pass. Owens was paid a king’s ransom — $6.5 million guaranteed--and he rewarded the city of Buffalo with fools’ gold. In 10 of his contests Owens caught three passes or less, only registered one 100-yard game, and scored only five TD’s. Not exactly the type of production you’d expect from a future Hall-of-Fame candidate. What’s worse, he didn’t get an opportunity to launch his signature move of publicly berating and chastising his starting quarterback, as Trent Edwards was knocked senseless in week 6 and never regained his starting spot. Owens is now homeless by NFL standards, and it’s doubtful that any franchise will want to sign an old, sluggish, loudmouth, faultless wide receiver with suspect hands. Thanks for the retched memories T.O. — and good riddance.
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago
The Bears had just come off a winning season in 2008 and finished second in the NFC North Division. A little tweaking on offense and the return of a healthy defense would certainly get Chicago over the top. So why the overhaul? Convinced a cannon arm equates to victories, Chicago brass shipped quarterback Kyle Orton — now 29 — 18 lifetime as a starter — to Denver for an immature, pubescent, rocket launcher named Jay Cutler. And just for good measure, the Bears tossed in a couple first-round draft choices; ya know, to help even things out. While it’s true Denver didn’t make the post season, Orton posted yet another winning record, while Cutler was busy ostracizing teammates, polarizing fans, and leading the league in interceptions. And he was solely responsible for the Bears’ backslide into third place, giving Chicago management pause to weigh other alternatives for 2010 and beyond. But not to worry, Bears fans — this team did what most franchises d reward incompetence. Five games into the season, Chicago gave Cutler a $30 million extension, locking him up through 2013. It’s comforting to know Cutler’s petulant temperament and turnover ratio will be enjoyed well into the foreseeable future.
Larry Johnson, RB, Kansas City
Johnson is the true fat cat who swallowed the canary. Flash back to training camp 2007, when a frustrated Johnson threatened to sit out the entire season unless his contract was “enhanced.” Kansas City management buckled, and gave him a $45 million extension, with $19 million of it guaranteed - at the time, the largest contract in Chiefs’ history. Since filling his pockets, Johnson has amassed only2,014 rushing yards, with 8 TD’s over the course of three seasons. By comparison, he rushed for 3,539 yards and 37 TD’s in two seasons prior to his holdout. To further amplify his incompetence, Johnson called out first-year coach Todd Haley via his Twitter account, stating that Haley had no credentials to be coaching in the NFL. Johnson also drew the ire of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation when he allegedly used gay slurs while addressing the media. Get the picture of this momentum-building runaway freight train? Kansas City subsequently suspended Johnson indefinitely for “conduct detrimental” and he was given his unconditional release on November 9. He cleared waivers, and was later signed by the franchise who annually leads the league in character flaws: the Cincinnati Bengals. Since Johnson had been arrested four times since entering the league in 2003 he easily met that threshold. Now at age 30 and with more baggage than a Times Square hotel porter, its doubtful Johnson will regain any sense of accomplishment — or respect — in the NFL.
Brady Quinn, QB, Cleveland
Remember his 2007 draft day free fall, when beads of sweat formed ceaselessly above Quinn’s brow as he watched his stock plummet? The analysts were shocked when Quinn dropped out of the top 10, and pundits chastised the Miami Dolphins for passing on Quinn, instead selecting WR Ted Ginn, Jr. ninth overall. Maybe just this once the rest of the league got it right. The former Notre Dame standout was finally selected by the Browns 22nd overall, and Quinn promptly showed his gratitude by staging a 10-day holdout, thus securing his spot on the bench for his inaugural season. “Backup” Derek Anderson suddenly morphed into a Pro Bowl quarterback, creating a true controversy inside the Browns locker room. Now Cleveland was forced to both pay Anderson starter’s money and continue to coddle Quinn, an Ohio native whom fans were clamoring for. Quinn finally regained the starter’s role in 2008, but not so much on his own merit as Anderson’s bumbling performance. Once again, he failed to impress, and he found himself fighting for his professional life as the 2009 season began. Then a riff with management unfolded: Quinn was due to receive over $5 million in incentives if he played 70 percent of the Browns’ offensive snaps. Quinn felt his inevitable benching was strictly a ploy by Cleveland management to avoid payment but in truth he hasn’t been able to consistently move the offense. At 25 Quinn still has a shot to resurrect his career but first-round busts have a tendency to flame out quickly for nonperformance. Just ask Ryan Leaf.
Randy Setterberg is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and West Coast correspondent to the Gridiron Goose’s NFL Update. He may be reached at NFLupdate@hotmail.com.