I was tempted by Derik Anderson to come up with the 50 worst players in Saints history yesterday on twitter after delivering my 50 best. This was just too fun to pass up. Apologies to the players I included, as well as their families, but history involves both good and bad right? You actually have to make a roster and play a little bit to be eligible, by the way, so guys like Al Woods, Cie Grant and Khairi Fortt are not eligible. Admittedly, expectations play a factor here in the evaluation.
1. Heath Shuler, QB, 1997
Many of you remember how much of a disaster Shuler was as a high ticket acquisition, and I also maintain he’s the worst open market pick up in team history. His statistical line of 2 touchdowns and 14 interceptions just one season into his 7 year $19.5 million contract was horrible, no question about it. He would then retire with turf toe.
2. Jonathan Sullivan, DT, 2003-2005
Not only was he picked 6th overall, but the Saints traded two lower 1st round picks to secure him. 3 years later they traded him for Bethel Johnson, who provided laughable value. Sullivan was always more committed to a high caloric intake than anything else. In three seasons he totaled 1.5 sacks and received an $8 million signing bonus for his efforts. He also got busted for marijuana possession and could easily be in jail right now.
3. Brandon Browner, CB, 2015
This might seem high but he really was that bad in his one season. Historically bad. He got the most penalties in NFL history and gave up the majority of the touchdowns on a defense that gave up the most touchdown passes in a season in NFL history. This secondary also yielded the highest opponent QB rating in the history of the league… that’s DESPITE all the penalties, because penalties don’t count against rating. You could argue he deserves to be #1 on this list. He’s definitely in the top 3.
4. Russell Erxleben, K/P, 1979-1983
Widely debated as the worst draft pick in team history, the Saints drafted him 11th overall and made him the highest taken kicker ever after he hit a 67 yard field goal in college. He ended up being an awful punter for about 4 seasons and could never cut it as a kicker. He attempted 8 field goals in his career, only making half.
5. Shawn Knight, DT, 1987
Knight was an 11th overall 1st round pick out of BYU in 1987 and came into New Orleans with immense expectations of performing. Knight was one of the most storied failures in the Saints’ draft history. He played just one season with the Saints and was so bad and incapable of playing his position that the Saints got rid of him after his rookie year. The times he was plugged into the lineup he was eaten alive. He’d last just 3 years in the league.
6. Ted Gregory, DT, 1988
On Deadspin’s top 100 worst NFL players of all time, Gregory came in at #8. He is famous in NFL history for being drafted on bad information in the 1st round by the Denver Broncos. They were expecting a 6’1″ nose tackle, but he was 5’9″. So they traded him to the Saints for another bust, Shawn Knight, before the end of his very first training camp. Amazingly the Saints got a player out of Knight that was even worse… only the Saints could pull that off. He would be done after that season with his NFL career.
7. Happy Fellar, K, 1972-1973
What a name, right? He often goes unmentioned in historical lore. Weird, because as many horrendous kickers as the Saints have had, he was the absolute worst. For his career, he went 16-43 (37%), which made him 27th worst all time on the Deadspin list of worst players ever. With the Saints he was much better though, going 10-23 (he was 6-20 in one year with the Eagles!) at a 43.5% conversion rate. That rate was still good enough for worst in the NFL in 1973, though, and he has the worst conversion % in team history of guys that have attempted at least 6 kicks or more.
8. Jason David, CB, 2007-2008
I know you remember him. He had 8 interceptions in two seasons with the Saints. Based on stats you’d look at it and think “he’s not that bad”. But he gambled so much what you don’t see in the stats is the countless play action fakes he’d bite on that would result in touchdowns. He’s one of the more hated players in Saints history. He came in at #55 on Deadspin’s list of worst ever
9. Albert Connell, WR, 2001
Another player the Redskins hooked us up with. Connell played for the Saints in 2001 only but was supposed to be a big time addition. The Saints gave him a 5 year, $13 million deal that included a $2.5 million signing bonus to catch 12 passes that season. Apparently that wasn’t enough loot for him, because he elected to steal $4,000 in cash from Deuce McAllister’s locker. I blame him for Deuce’s current bankruptcy issues.
10. Karl Sweetan, QB, 1968
Sweetan is probably too low on this list. Sweetan completed 34.9% of his passes with 1 touchdown and 9 interceptions. The sample size was small as Sweetan only played three games, no wins obviously, but his interception percentage of 11.5% is higher than anyone in team history with at least 20 pass attempts. Shuler at least completed 52.2% of his passes, and his INT % at 6.9 (second in team history with at least 20 attempts) was almost half of Sweetan’s. Sweetan’s short stint was much worse than Shuler’s season at the helm
11. Jim Taylor, RB, 1967
In the Saints’ inaugural season they picked up one of the all time greats in the history of the game, Jim Taylor. At that point he was completely washed up, though. They gave up a lot to get him and put their hopes he’d dip into the fountain of youth. The future hall of famer saw the football a lot as fullbacks got tons of carries in those days. He would turn in a dreadful season of 130 carries for 390 yards and 2 touchdowns (3.0 yards per carry). His average per carry is tied for worst in team history for a back with at least 100 carries.
12. Royce Smith, G, 1972
Smith was drafted 7th overall and he was supposed to give the Saints some stability on the offensive line. Back then Archie Manning was the quarterback and continually running for his life and Smith was drafted to help protect him. Instead, Smith lasted 2 disaster seasons with the Saints before ditching town to the hated rival Falcons and not faring much better. Smith died in 2004 at the young age of 54.
13. Gary Cuozzo, QB, 1967
The Saints’ first QB. They gave up the first overall pick to get him. The reward? A 3-7 record in just one season as a starter with 7 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
14. Olin Kreutz, C, 2011
The 4 game Kreutz experiment in 2011 sent back bad center playing 100 years. He was brought in as a massive name in NFL history to replace Jonathan Goodwin and he proved to be a complete disaster. By far one of the worst free agent signings in team history. Not only was he terrible, but he quit on the team after being benched. The roster still could have benefited from his teaching and experience, but he decided to jump ship and call it a career during a playoff race. This all despite being elected captain by his peers, great example to set to the youngsters.
15. Bobby Scott, QB, 1973-1981
There’s going to be a lot of quarterbacks and cornerbacks on this list. Saints history is rich with bad players at those two positions. 4-10 as a starter, he almost doubled up his INT to TD ratio with 15 touchdowns and 28 interceptions.
16. Keno Hills, T, 1996-1998
How Hills remained with the team as long as he did (3 seasons) despite constantly getting beat like a drum was beyond me. Hills was famous in the late 90’s for inviting any player he was blocking to positively pummel his quarterback. He was later arrested for heroin possession with intent to distribute while also carrying a fire arm. As overweight as he was I can’t imagine he used that much heroin.
17. Alvin Toles, LB, 1985-1988
Despite being a 1st round pick in 1985, Toles was a complete bust for the Saints. He lasted four seasons but only played one as a starter. His career ended when the Saints gave up on him.
18. Les Kelley, LB, 1967-1969
Kelley was the first first round pick in team history. He lasted just three seasons and played in 30 games, compiling a whooping 2 recovered fumbles and one interception before the Saints kicked him to the curb and no one else had even the slightest interest in him.
19. Sam Holden, T, 1971
The investment of a 2nd round pick in this player yielded 9 horrific games of performance. As bad as almost any draft pick the Saints have ever made. He would never play in the league again.
20. Lindsay Scott, WR, 1982-1985
The Saints had huge expectations for the UGA star picking him 13th overall in 1982. The guy rewarded them by being completely incapable of catching a cold, or getting open. He scored just one touchdown in four seasons and never had more than 24 catches in a year.
21. Rick Middleton, LB, 1974-1975
Drafted 13th overall in 1974, Rick Middleton was supposed to transform the Saints’ tackling ability. That’s a problem when the guy can’t tackle. He lasted just two years with the Saints and two more in the league, only starting 16 games in his career.
22. Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, 2014
Recent winner of the Worst Payton Pick bracket. As a 2nd rounder, he was cut a year later. He played in 4 games and never recorded a tackle.
23. Larry Burton, WR, 1975-1977
Burton was drafted 7th overall in the 1st round and only played 3 seasons for the Saints and gave them a whopping 35 receptions and 4 touchdowns.
24. Joe Campbell, DE, 1977-1980
Campbell was picked 7th overall only to play 5 exceedingly mediocre seasons in the NFL, including 4 with the Saints. He was also a member of the Saints’ memorably woeful 1980 squad but couldn’t even crack the starting lineup on that team, as he was cut five games into the season for being one of the worst players on one of the worst teams ever. He was a reserve for all of ’79 after the Saints gave up trying to make him a starter.
25. Vaughn Dunbar, RB, 1992-1994
I remember being very excited about this pick as most said he was going to be a superstar in the league. 3 years later, he was out of the NFL altogether. Dunbar would average just 3.5 yards per carry in his short career and he had trouble hanging on to the football. The Saints had a nice run of backs around this time with Reuben Mayes, Dalton Hilliard and Craig Heyward but Dunbar didn’t come close to following suit. After a poor rookie season in 1992, he had a serious injury that cost him the 93 season entirely and he never recovered from that. Honorable mention to Troy Davis who , but had less expectations coming in.
26. Billie Joe Tolliver, QB, 1998-1999
By far the worst of the “Billie Joes”. An impressive 2-9 record as a starter.
27. Stanford Jennings, KR, 1991
Jennings was added by the Saints in 1991 only to play one entirely miserable season, filled with poor stats, fumbles and overall uselessness. I remember being so excited when the Saints picked him up because he was a superstar return man for the Bengals, and he even ran a kickoff back for a touchdown in the Super Bowl. By the time he got to the Saints he was finished. He averaged 17.8 yards per return on kickoffs, a career low.
28. Chip Lohmiller, K, 1995
It was weird that he was so bad because the guy actually had a pretty decent career with the Redskins, including a Super Bowl win, but in 1995 with the Saints every kick made my heart palpitate and he was especially shaky on extra points. He was just 8 of 14 that season (57.1%) and missed two PATs.
29. Dale Carter, CB, 2002
Dale Carter was the crowning jewel of Jim Haslett’s free agent signings and the staff constantly talked about him being a “shut down corner” that cut the field in half and completely changed the game for the Saints in a good way. Carter has a huge question mark, though, because of his life history with subtance abuse that had landed him in rehab and even jail countless times. There is no doubt that in his prime when he was right, though, he was elite. In two years with the Saints he had just 1 interception and 15 games played, some missed due to injury and others due to testing positive for alcohol (the NFL had a zero tolerance policy due to his number of failed drug tests). He had originally signed a 7 year, $28 million deal with the Saints. What a joke that was. He was suspended indefinitely at one point for having traces of alcohol in his system.
30. Bill Butler, FB, 1972-1974
Butler was notorious for being an awful blocker at fullback for the Saints in the early 70’s and was known for getting holding penalties called on him on almost every possession. He was supposed to be a playmaker but he only found the end zone rushing once in three seasons.
31. Bobby Douglass, QB, 1976-1977
He was 3-5 as a starter with 5 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
32. Daryl Terrell, T, 1999-2001
How he started 11 games for the Saints is beyond me, like they didn’t see enough after one.
33. Tebucky Jones, S, 2003-2004
When the Saints landed “TeSucky” from the Patriots, then coach Jim Haslett lauded that this what the missing ingredient to completely transform the defense. The Saints gave up three picks for Jones, a 3rd, 4th and 7th rounder. In two seasons with the Saints, he returned 2 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles. His missed tackles, however, were innumerable. He always went for the biggest hit possible, wrapping up be damned.
34. Josh Bullocks, S, 2005-2008
Boy, Jim Haslett sure knew how to pick his safeties. I went with Bullocks because he played four years for the Saints, so I had to stomach his performances for twice the amount of time I had to deal with “TeSucky”. Only the Saints could replace the worst safety in team history with the second worst. Both players actually shared similar traits. Bricks for hands, the complete inability to wrap up on tackles electing to always go for the big hit and whiffing more times than not as the last line of defense (which meant touchdown), horrendous ball skills, no instincts whatsoever, and a penchant for always taking bad angles. Sounds like a great free safety right? But hey, at least they were “big and fast”.
35. Doug Nussmeier, QB, 1996-1997
He was a 3rd string quarterback that somehow saw playing time. I remember watching him play in the Superdome and being horrified. He’s turned out to be a pretty good coach but in the pros he was 0-2 with two very bad starts, 1 touchdown and 4 interceptions.
36. Troy Davis, RB, 1997-1999
Averaged a lowly 3.0 yards per carry on 150 carries despite being a superstar college football player. His yards per carried are tied with Jim Taylor for worst by a running back in team history with at least 100 carries.
37. Fred Weary, CB, 1998-2001
He wasn’t the original “toast” but he carried the torch admirably.
38. Charles Brown, T, 2010-2013
As a 2nd round pick he was supposed to be the future at left tackle. Instead, he was a disaster. Sean Payton’s famous quote after benching Brown for good was “I had seen enough”.
39. Dave Wilson, QB, 1981-1988
He somehow saw 31 starts. I have no idea why the Saints kept trotting him out there. Had 36 touchdowns and 55 interceptions.
40. Danny Wuerffel, QB, 1997-1999
Career 2-4 record as a starter with 9 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He was often injured, held on to the ball way too long resulting in numerous sacks and big hits. This all despite coming in as the Heisman Trophy winner at Florida.
41. Ricky Ray, CB, 1979-1981
Started 14 of 23 games in 3 seasons and was beaten badly. Only had one career interception.
42. Sean Lumpkin, S, 1992-1996
Lumpkin started 4 years for the Saints are was largely bad, constantly going for big hits that didn’t happen, not too different from Tebucky Jones. He also had bricks for hands and was hit in the numbers without coming up with the pick numerous times.
43. Ed Hargett, QB, 1969-1971
Mediocre player who was 1-5-1 as a starter.
44. Corey White, CB, 2012-2014
You’ve all seen him, he was not very good.
45. Rufus Porter, LB, 1995-1996
Porter was a superstar for seven seasons with the Seahawks, including two Pro Bowls. He played two years with the Saints and was a complete disaster on the fied. He contributed 3 sacks in 2 years, his supposed best asset.
46. Grady Jackson, DT, 2002-2003
He was a mammoth at 350 pounds and after a solid stint with the Raiders people felt he’d make a serious impact against the run. He could never control his weight and only last two years with the Saints, though. He learned the nickname “Gravy” for his commitment to eating
47. Irv Smith, TE, 1993-1997
The 1993 draft wasn’t all bad as it brought the Saints William Roaf, but Smith was a 1st round pick in that draft as well. The Notre Dame product was a mediocre blocker, he was slow, and he dropped more crucial passes than I could ever care to remember. He never scored more than 3 times in one season and he averaged less than 27 receptions per year in his 5 seasons with the Saints. Irv was also the king of false start penalties and was good for at least two a game.
48. Alex Molden, CB, 1996-2000
One of the bigger bust picks in Saints history. Played 5 seasons and finished with 8 interceptions but his coverage just wasn’t good enough. What hurt most was he was taken 11th overall ahead of running back Eddie George, who most Saints fans wanted.
49. John Shinners, G, 1969-1970
Shinners was a 1st round pick in 1969, and just the third player drafted by the Saints in the 1st round in team history. He ended up having a fairly lengthy and decent career, but only played two mediocre seasons with the Saints to start before they got rid of him. Should have hung on to this one.
50. Toi Cook, CB, 1987-1993
When you earn yourself the nickname “toast”, you’re a shoe in. His nickname was based on the fact that he was routinely burned, at will, by opposing quarterbacks and receivers. We have Toast to thank for that game in 1989 when Flipper Anderson torched him for 336 yards receiving in an overtime loss by the Saints, the singlemost horrendous single game performance I have ever witnessed. I will say that Cook had his moments, though.