Being the highest producer in one of the main offensive or defensive categories during the preseason is kind of like being really good at a paper route. It’s nice, but you have much higher aspirations, and if you don’t reach those goals your career will be viewed as a complete and utter failure.
The preseason of course is a time when starters typically play one half of football at most, with backups and soon-to-be cuts given their yearly moment in the spotlight. As the preseason winds down, a meaningless glance at the meaningless preseason leaders can make for high comedy.
The current leaderboard for 2011 is a potpourri of rookies, established stars, and castaways clinging to life:
So let’s play our new favorite GLS game: Where are they now? (has-been preseason version)…
Accomplishment: Led the league in passing yards during the 2009 preseason while playing for Jacksonville (485 yards)
Current place of NFL employment: Nowhere
Bouman has made only seven regular season starts over an eight-year career, the latest coming in Week 7 of last season when he filled in for the injured David Garrard. But there was a time when Bouman was a star shining in the August sun, torching the Washington defensive reserves for 176 yards in the fourth game of the preseason, and we all know that’s the most important one.
The highlight of Bouman’s career came way back in 2001 when he was playing for the Vikings. He was summoned to duty after Daunte Culpepper went down, throwing for 384 yards and four touchdowns, and earning NFC player of the week honours. Always waiting by the phone during times of desperation, Bouman has been signed and released by the Jaguars on eight separate occasions.
He actually lives in the team parking lot, and on gamedays watches from a four-inch TV in his car while wearing a full uniform, ready to trot onto the field with a nano-second of notice. It’s depressing.
Accomplishment: Led the league in rushing yards during the 2008 preseason while playing with the Washington Redskins (317 yards)
Current place of NFL employment: Nowhere
Mason was an undrafted free agent in 2007. He blew up in the 2008 preseason, rushing for 178 yards in limited time over his first two games. Unfortunately he did that at a time when Clinton Portis was still relevant, leaving little room for Mason on Washington’s depth chart.
Now they’re both unemployed after Mason was released by the Chargers yesterday.
Accomplishment: Led the league in passing yards during the 2007 preseason while playing for the Cincinnati Bengals (675 yards)
Current place of NFL employment: Nowhere (I’m seeing a pattern here…)
Oh J.T., you’ve made Irish NFL eyes cry. Although he still enjoyed throwing balls to the opposition during the 2007 preseason, O’Sullivan was quite efficient at racking up yardage, logging 457 of his yards over just two of those triumphant meaningless starts.
O’Sullivan’s first career regular season appearance came when he was called upon to make a key play for the Packers during garbage time in a 2004 game, taking a knee twice. Currently his last career play is a sack for a seven-yard loss during the Jets’ 37-0 crushing of the Bengals to end the 2009 season.
Accomplishment(s): Led the league in rushing during the 2007 preseason while playing for the San Francisco 49ers (200 yards!). He then followed that up by edging Chris Johnson in the rushing standings during the 2008 preseason, finishing with 186 yards to Johnson’s 182. This could have derailed Johnson’s career.
Current place of NFL employment: Seattle Seahawks
Now here’s a man who follows up on preseason fame.
After out-running the likes of Pierre Thomas and Ahmad Bradshaw in 2007, Clayton was signed and released by the Patriots three times, and twice by the Browns. He’s now landed with the Seahawks, and is thus the only player on our esteemed list of preseason pros that’s currently employed.
In Seattle’s win over San Diego earlier this preseason Clayton had the game-winning 25-yard touchdown run. He’s also a very sculpted man, inspiring the nickname “Tommy Gun”. He often flexes in front of other men to impress teammates and coaches.