We’re right around the midpoint of the 2010 NFL season. It’s that point in the season when fans, the media and coaches alike all take stock of their team’s performance and start looking to make changes. It’s usually around this time of year when some big name player gets benched in some kind of grand fashion. Sometimes, it’s a promising young quarterback forced to ride the pine while a dude who was bagging groceries six weeks earlier lights up the field. Other times, it’s just a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils. Whatever the case, it’s never pretty.
Here are five of the harshest benchings from recent NFL history.
Brandon Jacobs Loses His Job and His Helmet
When Brandon Jacobs was benched mid-game early in the 2010 season, it’s very possible that it could have been a non-story. The Giants had just scored before Jacobs was yanked for running like a girl, so it’s not like the timing was obvious or anything. It could have been passed off as a minor injury and nobody would have questioned it.
And that’s when Brandon Jacobs squashed any hope of secrecy by chucking his goddamn helmet into the stands. After the commercial break, viewers at home were treated to a shot of an Indianapolis Colts fan in the stands clutching a New York Giants helmet and refusing to return it. As it turns out, Jacobs tried to toss his helmet under the Giants bench, but in a continued display of the ineptitude he had shown on the field that night, Jacobs botched the toss and his helmet went sailing into the stands.
Vernon Davis Hits the Showers
It didn’t take long for San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Singletary to make an impression on his team. In his debut as mid-season replacement head coach, Singletary pulled star tight end Vernon Davis after an unnecessary roughness call in the third quarter.
At first, Davis just received a garden variety tongue lashing (albeit from one of the most terrifying figures in football history) and was sent to the bench. But Singletary couldn’t let it go. He returned to Davis two more times to continue screaming and eventually ordered his tight end to hit the shower before the game had even ended.
Vernon Davis was caught on camera doing the equivalent of an NYPD perp walk out of the stadium and hasn’t acted up since. And in other news, the 49ers are still terrible.
Matt Leinart Is Not Who We Thought He Was
Matt Leinart came out of USC with lots of promise. But by the time the 2008 season rolled around, Leinart had lost his job to Kurt Warner, a quarterback who most assumed had seen his best days by that point. We’re not sure if it makes it more or less embarrassing for Leinart that Warner eventually carried the Cardinals to their first Super Bowl appearance in centuries.
The company line was that Leinart’s arm strength and consistency needed work, but Bleacher Report at the time brought up another possibility…Leinart was benched because he enjoyed partying more than football. Sure, we’d rather hang with super models and college chicks instead of working on our arm strength also, but we’re not paid to play football.
Did Matt Leinart party his way out of the league? As of this moment, no. He’s still hanging on by the skin of his teeth as a Houstan Texans backup. Time will tell if he’s ever able to turn it around and make a career for himself.
Kyle Orton Makes the Playoffs, Immediately Benched
Is it possible that Kyle Orton is the least respected quarterback in the NFL? All he does is win games and not throw interceptions, but for some reason, he can’t hold on to a starting job to save his soul.
Few outside of Chicago remember it, but there was a time when Rex Grossman actually was not known for throwing games away with turnovers at crucial moments. Instead, he was just known as that quarterback who was injured all the damn time. That’s how Kyle Orton found his way onto the field as the Bears starting quarterback in 2005. All he did with the opportunity was lead the Bears to a 10-5 record and a spot in the playoffs. To show their gratitude for his solid play, the Bears immediately benched Kyle in favor of Sexy Wreckxy at the start of the playoffs. They were immediately thrashed by the Carolina Panthers at Soldier Field.
Kyle Orton wouldn’t see the field again until the 2007 season when the faltering Bears had already turned to Brien Griese to replace the increasingly incompetent Grossman. Things immediately improved and, at the start of the 2008 season, Kyle Orton finally landed the starting job and played decent enough to lead the Bears to a 9-7 season. It was a promising showing that was recognized by Bears officials by way of trading Orton to Denver in favor of Jay Cutler.
So far, that’s worked out pretty well, right?
Donovan McNabb Gets Benched for Being Out of Shape
Donovan McNabb is probably the only quarterback in football who surpasses Kyle Orton on the disrespect scale. All he did was take the Philadelphia Eagles to four straight NFC championship games and a Super Bowl appearance. But for some reason, he was never really liked in Philly. Given the fact that he was traded to a division rival, it’s a pretty safe bet that even the team itself thought he was kind of a loser. You don’t trade a guy you worry about to a team you play twice a year, you know?
Unfortunately for McNabb, things aren’t looking much better in Washington so far either. At the end of a game against the lowly Detroit Lions, McNabb was pulled by Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan in favor of backup Rex Grossman (again!). Given Rex Grossman’s reputation the past few years, that had to be a blow to McNabb’s ego, but it gets even worse.
In the post game press conference, Shanahan explained that he pulled McNabb because Grossman gave them the best chance to win. Naturally, most observers called bullshit because, honestly, Rex Grossman doesn’t give you a better chance to win anything ever. Sensing that people were on to him, Shanahan changed course the next day and said the real reason for the benching was McNabb’s physical conditioning.
So it wasn’t his play, he’s just out of shape! That should be an easier pill to swallow. Immediately after that news broke, Terrell Owens stepped in to remind everyone that he said basically the exact same thing about McNabb following his lone Super Bowl appearance where Owens accused the quarterback of not being fit to run the two minute offense. All these years later, and now Mike Shanahan is saying the same thing. That’s harsh.