10 NFL Players That Would Definitely Be Hall Of Famers If It Weren’t For One Mistake (2024)

10 NFL Players That Would Definitely Be Hall Of Famers If It Weren’t For One Mistake (1)

For football fans, few things are harder to watch than seeing a superstar player destroy their career with a self-inflicted mistake.

Whether it was an off-the-field issue, a trade demand or the decision to get greedy and chase money in free agency, these 10 NFL stars ruined their chances at becoming Hall of Famers by committing one fateful mistake.

Michael Vick

10 NFL Players That Would Definitely Be Hall Of Famers If It Weren’t For One Mistake (2)

The first overall pick of 2001 was a human highlight machine with his dynamic dual-threat game as the franchise face of the Atlanta Falcons: Three Pro Bowl nods 11,505 passing yards, 71 touchdowns, 3,859 rushing yards and 21 rushing scores.

Vick led Atlanta to a pair of playoff appearances, including a trip to the 2004 NFC Championship Game. After rushing for 1,039 yards in his age-26 2006 season, Vick was playing like a First Ballot Hall of Famer.

Sadly, that all came crashing down when federal authorities discovered that Vick was running an illegal dogfighting ring in Virginia. He spent 21 months in prison and missed the entire 2007 and ‘08 seasons, prompting Atlanta to draft his successor in Matt Ryan.


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Vick signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009 and enjoyed a career renaissance in 2010 en route to Comeback Player of the Year honors. Vick led the Eagles to the NFC East division crown and earned his fourth Pro Bowl selection.

Sadly, injuries derailed the final years of Vick’s career, and he spent his final three years as a backup QB. Having lost those two prime years in Atlanta because of the prison sentence, Vick all but ruined any realistic hope he had of making it into the Hall of Fame.

Antonio Brown

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Brown committed a tragic and disturbing amount of problems both on and off the field. He did a lot of things wrong and has no one to blame but himself. But if you want to trace the point that marked the beginning of the end, look no further than December 2018.

Brown’s attitude with Steelers coaches and players — namely Ben Roethlisberger — had soured aplenty throughout the 2018 season. It finally reached its breaking point ahead of Pittsburgh’s must-win Week 17 home game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

AB got into a heated argument with Roethlisberger and stormed out of practice. He no-showed their Week 17 finale, which Pittsburgh won anyway, before requesting a trade.

Brown was traded to the Oakland Raiders for two draft picks. However, his selfish antics and off-the-field issues rapidly worsened, so he was cut by Jon Gruden just before the start of the 2019 season.

The New England Patriots picked up Brown on a one-year deal…only to release him after disturbing misconduct allegations against him became public. The NFL subsequently handed him an eight-game suspension to start the 2020 season.

Brown joined Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers midway through the 2020 season and helped them to a Super Bowl 55 championship — even catching a touchdown in the blowout win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Believing AB was a changed man, the Bucs re-signed Brown to a one-year deal. Proving he was in fact NOT A CHANGED MAN, Brown took off his jersey and ran out of the stadium in the Bucs’ Week 17 game against the New York Jets following a disagreement with Bruce Arians.

Brown was released and, unsurprisingly, never picked up by an NFL team again.

If Brown didn’t become a self-destructive me-first guy on and off the field, and if he stayed with the Steelers, he’d probably still be playing. And he’d be a lock for the Hall of Fame by now.

But nope. All of the legal problems and the four embarrassing exits from four different teams over a three-year span? Bid your Canton hopes goodbye, AB.

Le’Veon Bell

10 NFL Players That Would Definitely Be Hall Of Famers If It Weren’t For One Mistake (7)

The workhorse running back formed the “Killer B’s” trio with Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger. It’s only fitting that Bell, like Brown, made one dumb business decision that ruined his playing career.

Pittsburgh’s 2013 second-round pick was arguably the NFL’s best running back during his five years with the Steelers. Bell rushed for over 1,200 yards three times and posted over 1,800 yards of offense three times.

But in the 2018 offseason, Bell and the Steelers engaged in an ugly contract dispute. He was offered a $70 million extension over five years but rejected it and decided to sit out the 2018 season, hoping to preserve his body to secure a bigger payday in 2019.

The New York Jets handed Bell a four-year deal worth $52.5 million in free agency. Bell averaged a pathetic 3.2 yards per carry and had a career-low three rushing scores. After clashing with head coach Adam Gase, Bell was released in the midst of the 2020 season.

Brief stops with the Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Baltimore Ravens did nothing to revive Bell’s career. The three-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro was thus out of the NFL before his 30th birthday.

From Hall of Fame trajectory to annual contention for a Super Bowl and the chance to secure $70 million. And Bell completely blew it entirely.

At least he’s enjoying boxing these days.

Gary Anderson

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Anderson should be celebrated as a proud Hall of Famer and as one of the greatest kickers in NFL history. Sadly, we all only remember him as the guy who blew the biggest kick of his life — look away Vikings fans!!!

Anderson’s resume as a kicker speaks for itself: 1980s and 1990s All-Decade Team selections. Four Pro Bowl nods and two first-team all-pro selections. Only Adam Vinatieri and Morten Andersen have more career field goals made than Anderson, who made 538 in his legendary career.

Anderson spent the majority of his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, which spanned from 1982 to 1994. But as everyone knows…his legacy is what happened in the Vikings-Falcons 1998 NFC Championship Game.

Anderson hadn’t missed a single kick or extra point all year. Now he just had to kick a 38-yarder before the two-minute warning to put Minnesota up by 10 — which would have put the game away.

Anderson missed it. The Falcons drove down the field and tied the game late. They went on to win in overtime, and the 15-win Vikings saw their season end in absolutely gut-wrenching fashion.

His career was never the same after that tragic miss. He finished with a career 80.1 field goal percentage, but Anderson finished below that mark in three of his final six seasons.

If he makes that kick, he accomplishes the perfect season. And the Vikings probably win the Super Bowl. And his legacy is different. And he sustains his all-world career field goal percentage. And he’s in the Hall of Fame.

Oh, how different history could have been.

Ricky Williams

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With 10,009 career receiving yards and 66 touchdowns, there’s a small case to be made that the ex-Miami Dolphins running back deserves Canton consideration.

Well, he’d be a virtual lock by now if not for one costly suspension that came during the prime of his career.

Williams was suspended four times for marijuana usage during his roller-coaster of a playing career. The fourth violation, however, prompted the league to suspend him for the entire 2006 season.

As a result, the 2002 rushing champion had to head north to spend the 2006 season with the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts. Williams was reinstated late in the 2007 season, only to suffer a season-ending pectoral muscle tear in his return.

Williams had one more 1,000-yard season in 2009, but he was still well past his best-before-date upon returning from suspension. If he didn’t commit that fourth offense, he would have had who-knows-how-many-more prime years, and he’d be enshrined in the Hall by now.

Aldon Smith

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Like Antonio Brown, Smith had plenty of off-the-field issues that ruined what could have been something special. But it was the final straw in San Francisco that ruined Smith’s chance to be one of the all-time greats.

The No. 7 pick of 2011 emerged as a star on the 49ers’ defense led by fellow stars Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Justin Smith. He led San Fran to three straight NFC Championship games to begin his career — including a trip to Super Bowl 47.

Despite being limited to 50 games over his four seasons with San Fran, Smith racked up a ridiculous 44 sacks and six forced fumbles. This included an insane 19.5-sack season in 2012 that garnered Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro nods.

The 49ers were mostly putting up with Smith’s off-the-field troubles because of his dominance on the field. But when he was arrested for a DUI in the 2015 offseason, the 49ers finally had enough.

This was Smith’s fifth arrest and his third for DUI, so the 49ers released him. After spending the 2015 season with Oakland, Smith’s legal troubles barred him from reinstatement for the 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons.

If only Smith could have kept it clean with the 49ers. But the third DUI arrest marked the beginning of the end for what was once such a promising career.

Andre Rison

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Rison was among the NFL’s elite wide receivers during his tenure with the Falcons, which spanned from 1990 to ‘94. He earned four Pro Bowl selections and put up four seasons of 1K receiving. The ultimate TD machine had 56 scores in 78 regular season games as a Falcon.

But in 1995, Rison made the mistake by chasing the money and signing with the Cleveland Browns for $17 million — the richest wide receiver deal ever at the time. Rison openly called out Browns fans and expressed excitement that the team was relocating to Baltimore, finishing the forgettable year with only 47 catches for 701 yards and three TDs.

Rison was released by the team after the relocation to Baltimore. He did win a Super Bowl 31 ring with Brett Favre’s Packers in 1996, and he did tack on one more 1,000-yard campaign for KC in 1997.

But Rison’s bid for Canton essentially ended once he left Atlanta and prioritized money in Cleveland.

Greg Jennings

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Jennings is a member of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame. He’s also one non-costly decision away from being in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Jennings and Donald Driver were one of football’s best-receiving duos in Brett Favre’s final years…and of course in the beginning of Aaron Rodgers’ prime. The two-time Pro Bowler helped the Packers to a Super Bowl 45 championship, putting him one step closer to Canton.

In seven years with the Pack, Jennings racked up 425 receptions for 6,537 yards and 53 touchdowns. Ahead of 2013 free agency, he rejected an offer worth around $10 million annually and signed with the arch-rival Vikings on a five-year deal worth $45 million.

As expected, Jennings’ production regressed once he went from Aaron Rodgers to…Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder. Jennings was never the same, while Rodgers made legends out of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams.

You just had to throw away a ticket to Canton for a little extra cash, huh Greg?

Nnamdi Asomugha

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With the No. 31 pick in the 2003 draft, the Oakland Raiders struck gold by selecting California cornerback Ndamdi Asomugha — who spent the next seven years as the face of the franchise.

There was a time when Asomugha was in the same conversation as Darrelle Revis and Champ Bailey for the best corner in the game. Asomugha’s awfully low career INT totals can be explained by the simple fact that he single-handedly shut down half the field — and opposing QBs almost never threw in his direction.

Over his eight years with the Raiders, Asomugha earned three Pro Bowl nods, two First-team All-pro and as many Second-team All-Pro nods. Indeed, Asomugha was playing his way to a gold jacket.

That all changed in the 2011 offseason, however, when Asomugha chased the money and signed a five-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles worth $60 million.

Asomugha’s tenure in Philly was a disaster from day one. He battled injuries and was completely lost in Juan Castillo’s defensive scheme. Asomugha completely lost his all-world play and was let go after two forgettable years in Philly.

Looking to revive his career, Asomugha joined the star-studded and reigning NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers in 2013. He lasted just three games before being waived midseason, putting a sour end to a career that once looked completely Hall-of-Fame-caliber.

If only Asomugha stayed with the Raiders…or went to a team that actually knew how to utilize his skillset?

Albert Haynesworth

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The hulking 6-foot-6, 350-pound DT was among the NFL’s elite defensive players during his run with the Tennessee Titans.

Haynesworth was a beast in Tennessee, earning two Pro Bowl nods and a pair of first-team all-pro selections. His efforts helped the Titans reach the postseason four times, too.

After the 2008 season, Haynesworth entered free agency and joined Washington on a seven-year deal worth $100 million. It was the worst possible landing spot for Haynesworth, given the longtime dysfunction of that franchise under owner Dan Snyder.

Haynesworth clashed with his coaches right away, openly complaining about the defensive scheme. He was out of shape and displayed complete laziness on the field, prompting Washington to give up after two years.

Haynesworth was traded to the Patriots in the 2011 offseason, but even Bill Belichick couldn’t save him. Haynesworth was let go mid-season after arguing with a Patriots assistant during a game, and he was out of football for good in 2012.

Going to Washington simply derailed a once-blossoming career. If Haynesworth didn’t like the defensive scheme and fit in the first place, why did he go there?

Signing with a total laughingstock of a franchise is what ultimately ended Haynesworth’s career — one that seemed destined to carve a path to Canton.

10 NFL Players That Would Definitely Be Hall Of Famers If It Weren’t For One Mistake (2024)


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