In sports the ultimate individuals collaborate to win the ultimate team prize. In the NFL that prize is the Super Bowl. Careers are made in the contests leading up to the big game, however careers are defined be how players perform in that game.
The tragedy of this judgment is some of the game’s greats never reach that platform. This list is dedicated to today’s greats who have not had that opportunity.
The NFL is littered with all-time greats who have never played in the greatest of games. Some players such as Warren Moon and Barry Sanders rest in Canton, while others like Randall Cunningham, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Cris Carter are certainly headed there. All share the common bond of not only not having a Super Bowl ring but never have even played in the game. That is the true tragedy.
To have never been afforded the opportunity to shine brightly for all the world to see is the ultimate irony for these stars. This current list is a mixture of explosive yet seasoned players, who have quietly built impeccable individual resumes.
Some have tasted brief playoff success only to leave the table before partaking in the main dish. Others have never even won a playoff game or been to the playoffs.
In a world where the victorious receive the spoils, it is truly the agony for those who endure defeat.
The list of the game’s most unfulfilled;
11. Maurice Jones-Drew, Running Back, Jacksonville Jaguars
If MJD was a Patriot he would be a god whose name would ring from coast to coast. Instead one of the game’s premier offensive threats is regulated to NFL purgatory, also known as Jacksonville. Making matters worse the Jaguars have decided to accompany asinine decision making with incompetent player development and not pay Jones-Drew the money he so richly deserves.
Jones-Drew personifies what a football player, better yet a warrior embodies. The running back is durable, reliable, and relentless. Bigger running backs have failed mightily at displaying the toughness of Jones-Drew, who has managed to play a complete season in four of his six years in the league. The Jaguars’ have decided to ignore his three seasons of ten or more touchdowns and have chosen to scoff at “everyday Im hustling” approach on every single play.
Jones-Drew has survived poor offensive line play, a lack of any consistent threat on the outside, and most of all horrendous coaching, only to have his career unfulfilled. It is one thing to lose, but it is another game entirely to accept losing. It appears the Jaguars have accepted and embrace being a losing organization, while MJD refuses to accept defeat. Few players display such a championship heart only to have first round results.
Here’s hoping the Jags allow MJD to pursue happiness in another uniform. A trade to a team preferable focused on playing championship ball and not cheap hard ball with its players.
10. Nnamdi Asomugha, Cornerback, Philadelphia Eagles
For the last four years Asomugha has been one of the best football players in the National Football League. The cornerback excelled amid constant turmoil in Oakland and was able to cash out and head to greener pastures.
Yet, Nnamdi’s team success has yet to run parallel with his individual success. The cornerback has NEVER played in the playoffs. The defensive back for all his glory has yet to register a postseason pass defense or tackle.
Asomugha choose the Philadelphia Eagles in part because the franchise had a recent history of playoff appearances. Unfortunately the cornerback’s streak of eight straight seasons without making the postseason would hit nine.
The Eagles unexpected year of failure was made possible by an unexpected decline in Asomugha’s play. A new year will hopefully bring new results for the former Golden Bear. Now resting on the wrong side of 30 the defensive back will not have too many more cracks at snapping his unheralded streak. His team’s failures have become a staple in what would otherwise appear to be an established career.
Right or wrong Asomugha, more than most players, needs a Super Bowl ring. Simply put a Super Bowl title could place Asomugha in Hall-of-Fame company. However, another season of unfulfilled promise and the cornerback would undoubtedly be just another player who took the money and never delivered on the promise.
9. Jason Witten, Tight End, Dallas Cowboys
To some this is an odd choice unless you are a Giants, Redskins, or Eagles fan. To love Jason Witten you must first have to hate the Dallas Cowboys. Its tough to find a more complete football and impossible to find a more complete tight end. Witten has earned the right to play in the big game.
Unlike some on this list the tight end has gotten the most of his talent and has never cheated the game. Witten is a warrior’s warrior and he again unlike most on this list has been let down by his teammates, time and time again. Accept when the playoffs come around then Witten conforms to the company he keeps and vastly under performs.
Five playoff games with no touchdowns or one game over a hundred yards is explainable. Witten is good enough to control a game by himself and is equipped to dominate in the playoffs. The tight end most find a way to produce in the biggest moments the Cowboy will never see the biggest of moments.
8. London Fletcher, Linebacker, Washington Redskins
Imagine working for a company and never missing a day. Imagine receiving rave reviews for the work you have done, but too little consequence. An exercise in futility would best describe the career of London Fletcher.
For 14 years Fletcher has played every game like it was his last. In fact, for 12 of those years the linebacker literally played in every game. Fletcher has played in one, yes a single, playoff game in his entire career. To put that in perspective the linebacker has played in 224 games and only one of those has been for a championship.
The other games while relevant allowed him to play for another day.
At the end of the day Fletcher gave everything he had to the game of football and exceeded perceived limitations that others had bestowed upon him. The community to which he serves will always hold him in the highest of regards, even if the history of the league will not.
7. Ed Reed, Safety, Baltimore Ravens
To some Ed Reed is one of the best safeties to ever play the game, while too others he is nothing more than a riverboat gambler. Either way for a decade now Reed has excelled. The Baltimore Ravens have been a perennial playoff contender for the last four seasons and most recently reached the AFC title game, where the lost by three points to the New England Patriots.
One more play and Reed is not on this list, but he is and essentially because of that one play. The Ravens have needed Reed to make that one magical play he has become accustomed to making. The safety has played in two AFC title games and has not registered one interception, or even a tackle for that matter.
Reed’s penchant for interceptions seems to wane the deeper the Ravens get into the playoffs. In fact, of the safeties eight postseason interceptions seven came in the wildcard games. Its tough to imagine such a prolific player not being able to shine in their biggest moments, and deliver his team a victory.
6. Adrian Peterson, Running Back, Minnesota Vikings
Three playoff games is unacceptable for such a talent, insert excuses here. Peterson has been one of the game’s most productive and explosive players, and his talent alone should be good enough for at least one playoff win. Yet, here he sits on the brink of being a “whats his name” player on a forgotten franchise.
Although Peterson has not quite underachieved in his limited playoff appearances it is hard to forget his 72 fumbles in the 2010 NFC Championship game. It is hard to fathom a player that good could possibly never get a chance to play for the ultimate prize.
A torn ACL and MCL will definitely rob Peterson of his some of the explosiveness that we have come accustomed to seeing.
In addition, the Minnesota Vikings are a mess this year and it doesn’t look like anyone is coming to clean. So another season and thus another year will be taken away from Peterson without an opportunity to shine on the NFL’s biggest stage.
Part Two to be released Next Week