Great Athletes Who Spent Their Careers on Terrible Teams

With Joe Thomas’s retirement a question popped into my head: Who are the other great athletes that spent their entire careers on bad teams? There are good players playing on bad teams, but I’d especially like to hear about really great players on really bad teams. For example, I wouldn’t count Charles Barkley, because he never really played on a bad team. Same with Bernard King.

One that comes to mind is Mitch Richmond, although he didn’t play his entire career on a bad team (but his good years were wasted in Sacramento). Archie Manning and maybe Bert Jones are others.

12 thoughts on “Great Athletes Who Spent Their Careers on Terrible Teams

  1. Archie Manning is always the first person I think of when this question comes up, but Lee Roy Selmon is always second. 6 times in the Pro Bowl, 3 times a first-team All Pro, 2 times a second-team All Pro. NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1979. The Buccaneers wasted him.

    I think you have to consider Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson as well, despite their teams playing a few playoff games.

  2. Oh, I forgot about Barry Sanders. He should be in there. Lee Roy Selmon is another good one, although I can barely remember him. I kinda feel like Walter Payton should be in there, at least prior to the ’85 season…Nah, I guess the team had good enough seasons not only ’85, but afterward.

  3. I kinda question your Mitch Richmond shout-out. I know you always liked him and yes, he’s in the Hall of Fame, but do you consider him great?

  4. I think Richmond is borderline, but I also think that the difference might be that many of his best years were “hidden” in Sacramento. That is, had he played in a bigger market or went to the playoffs, he might have built reputation/highlight reel that made more people conclude he was great. I’d put him a little below someone like Dwayne Wade.

  5. I don’t know why, but my first thought was O.J. I think he only had one playoff victory or maybe only one playoff game.

  6. Yeah, I would think OJ would count. What about Eric Dickerson? (I guess the Rams didn’t entirely suck when he was there.) I kinda want to give a shout out to Roy Green (and maybe Neil Lomax), but I probably wouldn’t put them in the great category. OJ Anderson might be another, although he’s not great, and he did play for the Giants, so nevermind.

  7. What about Reid’s favorite guy Philip Rivers? Did he ever win an important game? Maybe that speaks more to Rivers than the teams he was on.

  8. I don’t think I’d count Rivers–he played on good teams. I don’t think they ever got far in the playoffs, but I don’t think you could say that his teams were really terrible, not all of them. And some where quite good. I will say that in the 2000s, the impression I got was that the Chargers were consistently one of the biggest underachievers.

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