Free-agent wide receiver Allen Robinson is an outstanding player who has had a cursed NFL career. Robinson was this close from escaping the Chicago Bears after somehow hauling in 255 catches from Mitch Trubisky, Nick Foles, and other unimpressive quarterbacks in a mostly-dysfunctional offense.
But, at the last moment, the Bears slapped the franchise tag on him, dooming him to at least one more year of catching passes from Quarterback to Be Named Later, the guy the Bears choose after Russell Wilson admits he was just flirting with them to make the Seattle Seahawks jealous.
Before his Bears tenure, Robinson spent four years with Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars. He missed most of the one season they were good in 2017 with a torn ACL. He played his college football at Penn State at the end of the Joe Paterno era and the start of the Bill O’Brien era (a troubled time, to understate matters). There he caught passes from the legendary Christian Hackenberg.
Robinson’s luck is so rotten that had he tried to sign elsewhere, some Black Mirror stuff might have gone down, with the ink on his Miami Dolphins contract smearing and reshaping itself in the words “Houston Texans.” Then Houston would trade Deshaun Watson and sign Trubisky, Bortles, and Hackenberg. MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. .
Allen Robinson has indeed been cursed with some bad quarterbacks and moribund offenses. But is he the most cursed wide receiver in NFL history?
I combed through Pro Football Reference and other sources to search for other excellent wide receivers who spent long careers coping with bumbling quarterbacks, outdated or uncoordinated offenses, and inept organizations. It turns out that Allen Robinson is in some pretty good company. Here’s a list of the Most Cursed Wide Receivers in NFL History.
Allen Robinson and the most cursed wide receivers in NFL history | 6-10
10. Lee Evans, Buffalo Bills, 2000s
Evans was the 13th overall pick of the Buffalo Bills in 2004. That was the last year of the brief Drew Bledsoe era. It was also the last time the Bills would finish over .500 for nine seasons. He was the Bills’ No. 1 receiver through the years when J.P. Losman, Kelly Holcomb, and Trent Edwards were their quarterbacks.
Even still, he put up some remarkable numbers (82 catches for 1,292 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2006) on forgettable teams. Late in his career, he played second fiddle to Terrell Owens and Steve Johnson when the Bills convinced themselves that Ryan Fitzpatrick was their quarterback of the future, not the NFL’s Harvard Hipster for Hire.
Evans finally moved on to the Baltimore Ravens in 2011, but missed much of the season with injuries. He had a would-be touchdown pass knocked out of his hands by a New England Patriots defender on the failed final drive of the AFC Championship Game. It would be one of the last plays of a career that would be remembered much differently if Evans hadn’t gotten stuck on an organization at the start of a two-decade cycle of irrelevance.
9. Alfred Jenkins, Atlanta Falcons, 1970s
Jenkins’ professional football career began with the World Football League of the mid-1970s. The WFL was like a cross between the XFL and a strip mall vape shop that’s really just an Ozark-style money-laundering front. Jenkins’ Birmingham Americans won the World Bowl in 1974; he once told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that players were promised $25,000 each for winning the championship, but he only received $2,500.
Jenkins signed with the Falcons and would become Steve Bartkowski’s top receiver on some memorable teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s. But it took a long time to get there. Bartkowski battled knee injuries and inconsistency in his early seasons. That forced Jenkins to catch passes from Scott Hunter, Kim McQuilken, and June Jones.
The 1980 Falcons were a great team, but they were also the Falcons. They led the Cowboys 27-17 in the fourth quarter of a playoff game, only to give up two late touchdowns in a 30-27 loss. Jenkins went 70-1358-13 and was named first-team All-Pro in 1981, but the Falcons’ defense stank and the team slid from contention. Yes, Falcons’ history is a flat circle.
Jenkins is one of many overlooked wide receivers from an era when passing rates were low. He also got stiffed out of a championship paycheck. Even Allen Robinson is unlikely to become that unlucky.
8. Kevin Johnson, Cleveland Browns, 2000s
Johnson was the go-to receiver for the Cleveland Browns when the franchise returned from its Thanos blip in 1999. He was also the team’s emergency quarterback. Injuries forced the Browns to switch from Tim Couch to Kelly Holcomb to Spergon Wynn to Doug Pederson at quarterback in 2000.
By the time they got to Pederson, head coach Chris Palmer had decided to try some proto-Wildcat shenanigans. Johnson and fellow wide receiver Dennis Northcutt shared snaps with Pederson in a late-season game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Browns lost 35-24.
Johnson managed a 1,000-yard season and several other productive years, but the Browns took forever to realize that neither Couch nor Holcomb was the answer. Johnson was then cut midway through the 2003 season in the first of what would become many painful, melodramatic Browns regime changes over the next 20 years. He spent half a season with the Jacksonville Jaguars before bouncing to the Baltimore Ravens in the Kyle Boller era. Then he landed with the Detroit Lions during the Joey Harrington epoch.
Johnson did manage to catch one of the most famous Hail Mary’s in history during his time with the Browns. If he played today, he’d be a dangerous slot receiver and trick-play specialist. That’s what he was in the early 2000s, too. But the NFL — and more accurately the Browns — didn’t know what to do with him just yet.
7. Kenny Britt, Jeff Fisher’s teams, 2010s
There’s bad luck, and then there’s “stuck with Jeff Fisher as your head coach on two different organizations” bad luck.
Britt, the first first-round pick from Rutgers in NFL history, started his career on Fisher’s Tennessee Titans in 2009. That was well past their heyday as perennial AFC contenders. He played through the Vince Young/Kerry Collins controversy. Then he suffered a significant knee injury at the start of what appeared to be a breakout 2011 season.
Fisher later imported Britt over to his Rams for the tail end of the 7-and-9 bulls–t. Britt caught passes from Austin Davis, Shaun Hill, Nick Foles, and Case Keenum. Somehow he mustered a 1,000-yard season as the Rams devolved into a meme.
Then, it was off to the Cleveland Browns for the 0-16 season! The New England Patriots rescued him for the final few games of 2017 in one of their “we’re smarter than you” moves but did not bother activating him for the playoffs.
Britt would rank higher on this list of cursed wide receivers if he did not make some of his own bad luck with a few off-the-field incidents. He finished his career with many 40-something-catch seasons that would have been 60-70-catch, 1,000-plus-yard seasons if he played in better circumstances.
6. Marty Booker, Chicago Bears/Miami Dolphins, 2000s
Booker had one of the most Allen Robinson-like careers on our list. He started his career with the Bears, where he caught passes from Jim Miller, Cade McNown, Shane Matthews, Chris Chandler, someone named Henry Burris (who completed 35.3% of his career NFL passes), and Kordell Stewart. Yes, Stewart was the Bears’ starter for half of the 2003 season. I had to triple-check to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.
When the Bears were putting together their Brian Urlacher/Devin Hester/Winning Despite Rex Grossman teams, Chicago traded Booker to the Miami Dolphins. There, he caught passes from Joey Harrington, A.J. Feeley, Sage Rosenfels, Gus Frerotte, Cleo Lemon, John Beck, and Trent Green. That was his end-of-career crash test dummy stage.
The Dolphins released Booker just before the Wildcat made them briefly relevant in 2008. He returned to the Bears for a year with Grossman and Kyle Orton before wrapping things up with a typically mediocre Atlanta Falcons team.
Booker managed a pair of 1,000-yard seasons and always found a way to catch 50 passes or so from that long parade of trivia-question quarterbacks. Not bad for a guy with a knack for landing in the worst possible situations.