[Editor's note: This was originally posted back in January, but it got lost in the Super Bowl shuffle. Keith did a great job on it though, so we're cycling it back to the front of the site for those of you who missed it.]
You know how sometimes when you hear a one-hit wonder song on the radio or on the jukebox at a bar, it makes you think of a certain time in your life and all of the memories of that time come flooding back?
For some reason, those songs resonate. They are the songs that everyone knows the words to, even if they are embarrassed to admit it. The best one-hit wonders activate that mental and emotional time machine in a person.
Sports do the same thing for me. I tie events in my life to notable sports players and seasons.
I distinctly remember my first two years of middle school being “Fab Five” years. I wore a Jalen Rose #5 maize jersey, matching shorts, black socks and black Nikes to school at least once a week. By 8th grade, I had orange and turquoise hair, but not because of Greenday or the Offspring, but because of Dennis Rodman. I also wished that I could grow a mustache at 13 years old to be more like L.A. Raiders quarterback Jeff Hostetler, whose jersey I also proudly donned.
Ill-conceived fashion choices aside, the feelings and memories generated by sports and music endure as much as any. Years from now, when I look back at this NFL season, I will remember plenty, but among the most amusing things to reminisce about will be the guys who came out of nowhere to have a great year and then disappeared. Guys like Victor Cruz or (gasp!) Tim Tebow could qualify if they are unable to replicate their 2011 successes.
In that spirit, here are some of the greatest single-season performances by players who were never able to reach that level of success again in NFL history and a one-hit wonder tune to go along with each. Nonsensical? Probably. Fun? Absolutely.
Steve Beuerlein – 1999 / Chumbawamba – “Tubthumping”
Stats: 60.1 Comp %, 4,436 Yards, 36 TD, 15 INT, 94.6 rating, 50 sacks
Beuerlein was primarily a backup quarterback until 1998, when he took over for Carolina Panthers quarterback Kerry Collins, who was battling personal problems and ineffectiveness on the field.
Beuerlein finished the 1998 season strong and staked his claim to the starting job in 1999. That season, he demolished all expectations, helping the Panthers double their win total from the previous season and setting franchise records for passing yards, touchdowns and rating that still stand today.
He was reasonably successful the following year (3730 yards, 19 TD, 18 INT, 79.7 rating), but nowhere near the same as in 1999.
Why “Tubthumping” for Beuerlein? Well, he was sacked 50 times in 1999. So he literally got knocked down and got up again, and no team was able to keep him down, at least that season.
In fact, in the 44 games he started from 1998-2000, he was sacked 156 times. That’s an average of over 3.5 times per game. Hey Jay Cutler, if you need a shoulder to cry on, I would call Steve Beuerlein. He feels your pain.
DeAngelo Williams – 2008 / Aldo Nova – “Fantasy”
Stats: 273 carries, 1,515 rushing yards, 20 total TD
I understand that DeAngelo might have a couple of good years ahead of him. Carolina certainly hopes so, as they signed him to a 5-year, $43 million contract this past year. But given the new direction of the offense with Cam Newton at the helm and the time share between Williams and Jonathan Stewart in the backfield, I just don’t see Williams ever having the kind of impact he did in 2008.
I chose Canadian rocker Aldo Nova and his 1981 hit “Fantasy” because in that magical 2008 season Williams was the #1 ranked fantasy player in the NFL. And also because I think “Fantasy” and it’s wicked synth/guitar riff is quite awesome.
Before Rob Dyrdek used a cover of it for his Fantasy Factory show, the song was relegated only to occasional airplay on classic rock stations and my iPod. Now, we can all sing “life is just a fantasyyy” every time Williams comes off the board in a draft and laugh at the guy who thinks he will sniff his 2008 numbers again (note: I was that guy in 2009 and 2010).
Derek Anderson & Braylon Edwards – 2007 / Rob Base & D.J. E-Z Rock – “It Takes Two”
- Anderson – 3,787 yards, 29 passing TDs, 3 rushing TD, 19 INT, 82.5 rating
- Edwards – 80 receptions, 1,289 yards, 16 TD
This is it for Carolina Panthers players, I promise, even though Anderson was in Cleveland during his lone great season. Both of these guys have bounced around after their fantastic (especially by Cleveland Browns standards) 2007 season. Edwards was recently cut by the 49ers thanks to nagging injuries and inconsistency, and Anderson is toiling away as a backup in Carolina.
That 2007 Browns team overachieved its way to 10 wins, and this QB-WR duo is a big reason why.
Rob Base and D.J. E-Z Rock scored a hit in 1988 with “It Takes Two,” and I attached this to the Anderson-Edwards tandem because I have to believe that without one another they wouldn’t have been able to chalk up numbers like they did in 2007.
I still find it hard to believe that, with all his gifts, Edwards has disappointed so spectacularly in the NFL. I find it similarly strange that Rob Base and D.J. E-Z Rock never put together another infectious hip-hop club anthem, as “It Takes Two” was undeniably catchy, and in the right venue can still incite a late-80’s dance party.
Otis Armstrong – 1974 / Carl Douglas – “Kung Fu Fighting”
Stats: 263 carries, 1,407 yards, 9 TD, 405 receiving yards, 3 TD in a 14-game season
Long before the Denver Broncos could just plug and play guys in the backfield and expect 1,000-yard seasons, Armstrong had an amazing season. In 1974 the season was only 14 games long, meaning Armstrong averaged over 100 yards rushing per game. Applying his averages to today’s 16 game schedule, Armstrong could have totaled over 2,000 total yards and 14 or 15 TD.
Unfortunately, he had only one other decent year (1976) and it didn’t compare to his 1974 first team all-pro campaign.
I’m going to be honest here; I chose “Kung Fu Fighting” because it is hilarious, and the only tie it has to Otis Armstrong is that both were wreaking havoc on the United States in 1974. Douglas’ goofy song is one of the top 25 selling singles of all time, which is patently ludicrous, yet funny.
Apologies to Broncos fans and Armstrong aficionados. I just had to include this somewhere.
David Boston – 2001 / Inner Circle – “Bad Boys”
Stats: 98 receptions, 1,598 yards, 8 TD
David Boston’s career never really took off the way it seemed it would, due to PED use and knee problems. He was a record-setter at Ohio State, and he seemed to be a rising star at receiver for the Cardinals by the 2001 season.
Of course, looking at his physique it wasn’t surprising when he was suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s steroids policy.
One could argue that his 2000 season was good enough to exclude him from being a one season wonder, but the list of receivers with 1,100-1,200 yard seasons is a very, very long one, while only 14 other receiving seasons have ranked higher than the 1,598 yards Boston posted in 2001.
Inner Circle’s “Bad Boys” has become synonymous with the show Cops, and Boston has had a few run-ins with the bad boys himself. In addition to the steroid suspension (which was merely an NFL suspension – no charges were filed), Boston has had legal trouble in 2007 with a DUI arrest and in 2011 was accused of beating a woman to the point that she needed stitches.
Meanwhile, his 1997 sparring partner Charles Woodson has been busy being the veteran leader of the 15-1 Green Bay Packers’ defense.
Ickey Woods – 1988 / Toni Basil – “Hey
Stats: 1,265 total yards, 15 touchdowns, 5.3 yards per carry
Ickey Woods was about as famous in southwest Ohio in 1988 as Bo Jackson, Michael Jordan, and Wayne Gretzky (ProStars!) combined. The man created what might be the worst on-field celebration (although Merton Hanks is close) in history – the “Ickey Shuffle” – and it was celebrated as groundbreaking for the time.
The 6-2, 231 lb. Woods was a force running the ball that year, rolling through defenders and helping lead the Bengals to the Super Bowl as a rookie. Sadly, the shuffles mostly ended after that, as injuries claimed Ickey’s career after only four seasons (26 total games, including 1988).
For this post, we’re changing Toni Basil’s song to “Hey Ickey,” for obvious reasons. Plus, the video is a bunch of cheerleaders, which is perfectly fitting an NFL post.
There’s probably not a lot I can say about the video for the song that hasn’t already been said on a VH-1 special or three, but I will say that Toni Basil’s eyes are downright frightening.
Scott Mitchell – 1995 / Timbuk 3 – “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”
Stats: 4,338 passing yards, 32 TD, 12 INT, 92.3 rating, 4 rushing TD
when you’ve got Barry Sanders on your team, you wouldn’t think putting up big passing numbers would be a likely occurrence, but in 1995 Scott Mitchell put up some massive stats while leading the Detroit Lions to a playoff berth.
Mitchell’s 1995 season set franchise records in touchdown passes and yards (both broken by Matthew Stafford this year), and he was able to get both Herman Moore and Brett Perriman over 100 catches apiece. The lanky lefty seemed to have the Lions headed to the top of the NFC.
With Mitchell, Sanders, and Moore all 27 or younger, one would have thought the Lions would have the makings of a contender for at least a few years to come. Unfortunately for them, the stars never aligned, as Mitchell regressed badly and Sanders retired at age 30.
Timbuk 3’s hit is fitting here, because almost everyone thought the Lions were a few defensive pieces away from a Lombardi trophy. And like the Lions, Timbuk 3 wasn’t able to strike another hit on par with “The Future’s So Bright…”
Mark Carrier – 1989 / OMC – “How Bizarre”
Stats: 86 receptions, 1,422 yards, 9 TD
Mark Carrier was the only real offensive bright spot for the 1989 Bucs, as Vinny Testaverde threw more INTs (22) than TDs (20) and their leading rusher, Lars Tate, had just 589 yards. Carrier never had more than 66 catches in a season after that, and he only gained 1,000 yards once more (1,002 in 1995).
I certainly didn’t watch many Bucs games in 1989 (I was a kid and they were 5-11 – not exactly priority viewing in Ohio), but I can’t find any answers as to why Carrier was able to put together such a strong season on such a bad offense.
“Bizarre” is exactly the word I would use to describe Carrier’s huge 1989 season. OMC are from New Zealand, and the tropical setting of their video meshes well with the tropical setting of Tampa, where Carrier rescued Testaverde from what could have been an even worse season.
Sadly, OMC frontman Pauly Fuemana died two years ago, but OMC’s lone hit will live on, reminding me that sports too can be bizarre.
Barry Foster – 1992 / The Verve – “Bittersweet Symphony”
Stats: 390 carries (!), 1,690 rushing yards, 11 TD, 344 receiving yards
Even with Big Ben throwing more, when we think of the Pittsburgh Steelers today most of us still think of smash-mouth football with a nasty streak on the defensive side. In the early ’90’s, it was much the same, but there was more balance on the offense than most people remember.
Except for 1992, that is.
Barry Foster became a one man wrecking crew that year, running the ball almost 10 times as much as the next back on the roster (Merril Hoge) and accounting for about 43% of the total offensive touches for the team.
It comes as no surprise then that Foster struggled to stay healthy for the rest of his short career and was never able to reach those heights again. Injuries forced him out of football in 1994, in what was truly a “bittersweet” parting for Steelers fans. His 1,690 yards still rank first all time in Steelers history.
Christian Okoye – 1989 / EMF – “Unbelievable”
Stats: 370 carries, 1,480 yards, 12 TD
The “Nigerian Nightmare” was a legendary figure amongst kids my age in 1989.
If you had asked me then how many good seasons he had completed I would have guessed somewhere around 19. I was that enamored by the 253-lb. bruiser. Of course, as a young Raiders fan, I would have fought to the death over any argument about who was more badass between Okoye and Bo Jackson.
One question I have about Okoye’s 1989 season is how in the hell did he only catch 2 passes all year while carrying 370 times? That has to be among the strangest football statistics ever.
Okoye fell victim to the same ailment that afflicted Foster – a relentless workload. He couldn’t really keep his knee healthy and was out of the league just three uneventful seasons after his transcendent 1989 year.
“Unbelievable” is about as iconic a song as Okoye was a football player. I chose it primarily because of Okoye’s exploits on Nintendo’s Tecmo Super Bowl. The guy was nearly unstoppable on that game, and I sometimes had to forgo my silver and black allegiances to experience the awesomeness firsthand.
And now, in honor of the Super Bowl coming up, I will list a couple of the most noteworthy Super Bowl performances from guys who have otherwise failed to live up to their big stage moments.
Timmy Smith – Super Bowl XXII / Afro Man – “Because I Got High”
Super Bowl Stats: 22 carries, 204 yards, 2 TD
Rookie Timmy Smith was an unknown back who stepped in for injured starter George Rogers and started the Super Bowl. He had the good fortune of running behind the “Hogs,” Washington’s dominant offensive line, and as a result he was able to set a Super Bowl record with 204 yards rushing. For his entire regular season career he only totaled 602 yards, 3 TD and a 3.2 yards per carry average.
Rumors of cocaine abuse surrounded Smith the following year, and after he took an entire season off in 1989, he failed to make an impact in the NFL again, rushing just six times in a single game for Dallas in 1990 before being released. Smith denied the drug abuse rumors but has certainly had ties to drugs since, as he was convicted on charges of selling cocaine in 2005. He served two and a half years in prison and was released in 2008.
Afro Man’s hilarious rap “Because I Got High” is probably a little light-hearted for a man who has undergone such personal strife, but it just goes to show what the effects of drugs can be on someone with a promising future.
David Tyree – Super Bowl XLII – Eiffel 65 – “Blue (Da Ba Dee)”
Super Bowl Stats: 3 receptions, 43 yards, 1 TD, 1 miraculous helmet catch
In honor of this year’s Super Bowl rematch, I can’t leave out one of the most notorious Super Bowl plays of all time.
Tyree caught a 5-yard touchdown early in the 4th quarter, but it was his miracle “helmet catch” on 3rd-and-11 that kept the Giants’ game winning drive alive. The win broke New England’s 18-game winning streak and brought the Giants their first Super Bowl win since 1990.
Tyree had only made four catches for 35 yards all season, but he turned in a performance for the ages in the decisive quarter of Super Bowl XLII.
Eiffel 65’s “Blue” is the choice here because the Giants are known for, among other things, their blue uniforms. Plus, I would imagine most people in the New England area really hated that song, and I know they hated the helmet catch, so why not throw the two together?
That’s it for my list. What single season wonders did I miss? And what songs would you put with them? Share your thoughts in the comments.