NFL: 5 careers cut excessively short

With the recent news that Cliff Avril’s neck injury might cut his career short, I am going to compile a list of my top five excessively short NFL careers. This is going to be a little math fun too, as I compare them with the career leaders in their position and see where they land, should they have had a career they deserved.

5. Johnny Knox

Knox was one of the first people drafted in the mold of Wes Welker. He was small for a receiver, but was very productive for the Bears in the three years he was able to play. Amassing 2,214 yards in only 133 receptions, Johnny averaged more than 16.5 yards per catch. Out of all the receivers in the Hall of Fame, only Shannon Sharpe and James Lofton have larger average yards per catch. Given the same number of years as a player like Terrell Owens, Johnny would have had just under 15,000 yards. That would put him in the sixth all-time in career receiving yards. Unfortunately, Knox’s career ended prematurely due to a horrific back injury.


4. Priest Holmes:

Priest’s career did not start that great. In fact, he was completely a middling running back, with just over 2000 yards in his first three seasons in Baltimore. Then he exploded when he signed with the Chiefs before the 2001 season and tallied 5482 yards 54 games with 70 touchdowns, setting the NFL’s single season rushing touchdown record in 2003 with 27.

Taking the pace he was on before the 2004 season ending knee injury and stretching it out over an average all-star running back career of 7 years (10 years minus the length of time with the Ravens) he would have totaled 11,312 yards and 101 touchdowns. He returned to form briefly in 2005 before a helmet-to-helmet hit forced his second straight season to end early. Holmes continued to play, or try to play, but injuries and a certain player named Jamaal Charles kept him off the field and only had 46 more touches until his retirement after 2007.

3. Sean Taylor:

Taylor played for four seasons for Washington in the mid 2000’s. Statistics don’t really do any justice for him. As with most strong safeties it really wasn’t about interceptions, or coverage rating, or really anything but discouragement. Taylor was there to discourage wide receivers from coming through his zone. His reputation as a ‘Meast’, what his teammates called him for being a hybrid of a man and beast, preceded him and overshadowed the area of the field he guarded.

He did have 12 interceptions and 8 forced fumbles, but his highlight hits are what earned his paycheck. Tragically, Sean’s life was cut short when he tried to defend his girlfriend and his newborn daughter during a home invasion. If he were to have played a full career, Taylor would have ranked somewhere between Asante Samuel and Champ Bailey at 51 interceptions. However, Sean’s legacy is a little different. He inspired players like Kam Chancellor and Keanu Neal that now try to emulate Sean’s game as discouragers, and punishers.



2. Sterling Sharpe:

Does anyone remember how good Sterling Sharpe really was for Green Bay? I did not. I had forgotten all about him until someone mentioned his name as we were talking about this blog. Shall we dive in?

Sharpe played for the Packers. That is all I could remember. He played from 1988 to 1994, and for a receiver, that is relatively a short career, and he was pre-Brett Farve era, for the first 4 seasons, which was a dark time for most Packer fans. But Sharpe might have been one of the greatest receivers ever had his career not been cut short by a neck injury that came from a relatively safe looking play against the Vikings. In his time in Green Bay, Sharpe amassed 8,134 yards in 7 full seasons, he never missed a game.

The staggering part was he averaged 13.4 yards per catch for 112 regular season games and 2 playoff appearances. Jerry Rice took 303 games to reach his 22,895 yards. If Sterling had the same amount of games as Rice, he would have amassed 22.005 yards. Not the highest amount, but still way up to the top of the list surrounded by Hall of Fame players.


1. Bo Jackson:

Many people barely remember how good Bo was at football. Let’s think about it for a second, shall we? Bo was in the league for only 4 seasons, amassing 2,782 yards on 515 carries.

However, I think this needs an asterisk… He only played in 38 games. So he averaged over 5.4 yards per carry for his entire career. If we were to put that on the same number of carries Walter Payton had, he would have amassed an insurmountable 20,725 yards. If it were not for the Kevin Walker tackle in the 1990 playoff game against Cincinnati, Emmitt Smith would have had to have at least 30 more games, at his career average of 81 yards per game, to pass him.

Did I miss someone that you think their career was cut drastically short? Comment  their name below and I will respond with their rightful place in the record books should they have had a normal career.

Facebook Comments:


    • Avatar
      Terry Coe 11 October, 2017 at 16:15

      Chris Spielman played in the NFL for 9 years between 1988 and 1997, 7 for the Detroit Lions and 2 for the Buffalo Bills. In 148 career games, he accumulated 1181 tackles and 182 assists, averaging almost 8 tackles and 1.25 assists per game. Chris’ Career was shorter than your normal NFL All-star Linebacker, but not but not due to injury or age, but to his dedication to his wife, Stephanie who was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in early 1998, while 3 month pregnant with their first child. He retired to support her and their soon to be born child.
      The first player I thought to compare him to was Lawrence Taylor, but they didnt keep the tackles stat back then. so I went with a more modern comparison, a player whose play is the current standard for greatness among NFL linebackers, Ray Lewis.
      Ray played in 228 career games for the Baltimore Ravens starting in 1996, all the way to 2012. he was credited with 1562 tackles and 493 assists, averaging just under 7 solo tackles and just over 2 assists per game.

      Had Chris played the same number of games Ray Lewis had, he would have accumulated 1824 solo tackles and 285 assists. He wwould have been the mold that people like Bobby Wagner and Ray Lewis tried to emulate.

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