how long was the shortest nfl career

how long was the shortest nfl career

How Long Was The Shortest NFL Career?

There have been many legendary NFL careers that have spanned multiple decades and Hall of Fame careers, but there have also been a few blips of incredibly short NFL careers. So, how long was the shortest NFL career?

The Shortest NFL Career

The shortest NFL career belongs to Heisman Trophy winner Johnny “The Jet” Rodgers. Rodgers was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the first round of the 1973 NFL draft. Unfortunately, he only lasted a few months in the NFL as he was released by the team in August 1973, not long after the start of pre-season. His brief stint in professional football saw no game action, meaning his official career lasted a mere three months – the shortest ever NFL career.

Reasons For A Short Career

There are a few reasons surrounding the short-lived career of Johnny Rodgers. Firstly, the Chargers’ head coach at the time, Harland Svare, was said to clash with Rodgers due to his flashy playing style and brash off-the-field behavior. Furthermore, the Chargers decided draft another running back in the same round, Louisiana Tech’s Pete Banaszak, who turned out to be a steadier player and quickly took Rodgers’ place on the depth chart.

Notable Short-Term Careers

Although Johnny Rodgers has held the record for the shortest NFL career for almost five decades, there have been more than a few players in recent years who also had short and eventful careers in the NFL.

  • Ricky Williams – After being drafted in the first round of the 1999 NFL draft, Ricky Williams’ career was riddled with drugs and personal issues. He had several comebacks and holds the record for most NFL comebacks (4). Williams retired in 2015 after a successful 11-year career.
  • Darren McFadden – McFadden was the fourth overall pick in 2008 NFL draft but after injuries and poor performances, his career only lasted until 2017, shortly after signing with the Dallas Cowboys. This is an example of a player not living up to his potential.
  • Daunte Culpepper – The 11th pick of the 1999 NFL draft, Culpepper was a dominant quarterback until injuries ended his career in 2009. Although he is widely respected his career was over in less than ten years.


The shortest NFL career belongs to Johnny Rodgers and lasted just three months. Poor relationships between Rodgers and the team’s head coach and being replaced by another running back lead to his abrupt end. Since then there have been several other short careers, but Rodgers still stands as the player with the shortest NFL career in history.

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