Late Monday night, 49ers linebacker and tackling machine Chris Borland announced that he was retiring due to concerns over the toll a longer career would have on his mind and body. Anyone can give a #hottake on this situation, but not everyone can come up with a list of the top players who played for exactly one season in the NFL.
My initial inclination was that the two best one-season careers came from Dieter Brock and Art Weiner, with former Vikings head coach Bud Grant getting an honorary nomination (you can read why, here). Brock was a great quarterback in Canada for 11 seasons who finally joined the NFL as a 34-year-old rookie in 1985. How did that happen?
The ’84 Rams were quarterbacked by Vince Ferragamo and Jeff Kemp, but they were essentially quarterbacked by Eric Dickerson.1 The team signed Brock in the off-season, and then traded an aging Ferragamo and a third round pick to Buffalo for tight end Tony Hunter.2 Kemp would lose the job in camp to Brock, who produced perfectly average numbers3 while playing with an insanely talented lineup (in addition to Dickerson, those Rams had Henry Ellard and sent four offensive linemen to the Pro Bowl: Kent Hill, Doug Smith, Dennis Harrah, and Jackie Slater. The fifth starter, Irv Pankey, was in the middle of a successful ten year run as the Rams left tackle.) In the playoffs, though, Brock struggled mightily, going 16/53 for 116 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs, which culminated in a shutout loss to the Bears in the NFC Championship Game. That would be enough for anyone to call it a career.
Art Weiner was a standout wide receiver at North Carolina, before joining the New York Yanks in 1950, a short-lived franchise with a complicated history.4 The ’50 Yanks were quarterbacked by George Ratterman, finished the year 7-5, and ranked 2nd in points and passing yards. That was in part due to Weiner and fellow wideout Dan Edwards, who were two of just six players in the NFL that year to top 700 receiving yards. Weiner was the resident deep threat, and ranked 2nd in the NFL in yards per reception that year to Hugh Taylor (regular readers surely remember him) in yards per reception. Unfortunately for Weiner, a knee injury in a softball game in the offseason ended his pro career.
The table below shows every player from 1960 to 2013 who played exactly one NFL season and accumulated at least 5 points of AV.5 It’s fully sortable and searchable, but you may want to sort by year (instead of AV) to bring up the players you’re more likely to recall. If you’ve got fond memories of any of the below players, I’m sure we’d all love to read about it in the comments.
- Los Angeles ranked last in pass attempts and second in rushing yards, as Dickerson set the single-season rushing record. [↩]
- Who would finish second on the ’85 Rams in both receptions and receiving yards. [↩]
- His ANY/A average of 4.9 matched the league average. [↩]
- The team most notably allowed 554 passing yards to Norm Van Brocklin in 1951 [↩]
- Because AV only goes back to ’60, Weiner and everyone else from that era is excluded. [↩]