The Bengals know a thing or two about failed draft picks and free agent busts. Just off the top of my head I think of Kijana Carter, David Pollack, Jason Allen, Archie Griffin, Chris Perry, Laveranues Coles, Sam Adams, David Klingler, Niel O'Donnell and Antonio Bryant. That is a who's who of terrible decisions by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Why do I bring this up? Sports Illustrated recently listed their worst players by franchise in the Super Bowl Era. For the Bengals, they have none other than Akili Smith. Sure, they mention Sam Adams, but Smith is their pick. Is this the correct choice? Did Smith out Bungle any other Bungle in the Super Bowl era? Let's examine.
A guy who is a two time Heisman winner from the college up the road has to be a can't miss draft prospect right? Archie Griffin left college as arguably the most decorated athlete of all time. A two time Heisman winner, two time Big 10 MVP, a college football Hall of Fame member and now, he his number has been retired by the Ohio State University. The Bengals had two first round draft picks and used the second on the running back who would solidify their backfield.
Griffin probably wishes he could play at the college level forever. In the pros he had nothing short of a forgettable career. In his seven year career with the Bengals, Archie scored seven touchdowns. His yards per carry were never more than four and his best rushing total was a measly 688 yards. Had the Bengals reached higher for this caliber player, he would have an argument as the biggest bust.
In the 2010 season the Bengals needed wide receiver help. They looked to make the sought after splash in free agency by grabbing a great receiver (with some attitude). Bryant had shown brilliance at points in his career with the Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After an injury plagued his 2009 season, the Bengals took a gamble on the receiver in free agency to the tune of a four-year, $28 million deal.
Bryant struggled in practice and missed the pre-season games due to injury. He showed the Bengals nothing that got them excited and they cut him five months after his signing.
How can you not get excited about a quarterback in college who throws for 716 yards in a single game? In another game he casually tossed 11 touchdown passes. This is a guy who was going to turn a franchise around in the NFL and the Bengals were first in line for that opportunity.
With the sixth overall pick in the draft, the Bengals selected David Klingler, the gun-slinger out of Houston. He rewarded them with four seasons and 24 starts. Along with that came the astounding 4-20 record and a 54.3 completion percentage.
Like it mentions in the Sports Illustrated piece, it all comes back to Akili Smith. Smith entered the NFL with high expectations based on what the Bengals gave up to draft him. The Bengals had the third pick in the NFL draft in 1999 and there was another player the New Orleans Saints and head coach Mike Ditka wanted to draft in running back Ricky Williams. So Ditka offered the Bengals nine draft picks for the 1999 and 2000 NFL Drafts. The Bengals passed.
To make up for the loss of a handful of potentially fate altering picks, Smith rewarded the franchise with a contract hold out and missed the pre-season of his rookie year. During the next three seasons Smith started 17 games with a 3-14 record. He only completed 46 percent of his passes with 5 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
A case really can't be made for another player who was worse for the Bengals. A list like this only calls out an individual in these situations and it is important to understand that the Bengals were a factory of underperformance and disappointment. (Not to be confused with the factory of sadness a short 3.5 hour drive up 71 north).
Take a look at the S.I. link and revel in the fact that Cincinnati is not the only franchise with poor decisions in the back of their lockers. Some of the players for the other AFC teams bring back memories of pain and anguish for those fan bases. That part always makes me smile.