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Best NFL One-Hit Wonders of All Time: Jonas Gray, David Tyree Headline Top 7

Who are the best NFL one-hit wonders of all time? We offer our top seven, which include performances from Jonas Gray and David Tyree.

Every football player wants to have a long, decorated NFL career, but it doesn’t always work that way. Some players accomplish their dreams, others make zero impact, and some fall somewhere in between.

However, an even smaller group of players fall into the one-hit wonder category: Extremely brief, notable success followed by relative nothingness.

But who are the best NFL one-hit wonders of all time? We ranked the top seven, along with five honorable mentions.

7 Best NFL One-Hit Wonders of All Time

(Note: We thought long and hard about putting Nick Foles (27-2 TD-INT ratio in 2013) on this list, but his Super Bowl heroics five years later changed the math. He still gets a spot in the honorable mentions, though.)

Honorable mentions: Nick Foles (2013 season) Tommy Maddox (2002 season), Jerome Harrison (Dec. 20, 2009, vs. Chiefs), LaMont Jordan (2005 season), Mac Jones (2021 season)

7) Clint Longley (Nov. 28, 1974, vs. Washington)

When legendary Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach was injured early in a Thanksgiving game against Washington, Dallas turned to youngster Clint Longley. The rookie QB delivered, throwing for 203 yards and two TDs, including a game-winning, 50-yard Hail Mary TD that completed a fourth-quarter comeback.

Longley attempted just 48 passes over the rest of his career, which was cut short after he sucker-punched Staubach at the end of training camp in 1976. He’ll always have that one game, though.

6) David Tyree (Super Bowl 42)

Sorry, New England Patriots fans.

During his first five seasons, David Tyree was a no-name receiver for the New York Giants. Then, in Super Bowl 42, he delivered one of the most memorable plays in NFL history: an improbable, helmet-aided catch that helped the Giants end New England’s bid for a perfect season.

Tyree never made another catch and retired in 2010.

5) Ickey Woods (1988 season)

There are myriad examples of impressive one-off seasons by NFL running backs. Few, if any, top what Ickey Woods did as a rookie for the Cincinnati Bengals in 1988.

A second-round pick, Woods rushed for 1,066 yards and 15 TDs to go along with 21 catches for 199 yards. He also played well in the playoffs as the Bengals earned a spot in Super Bowl 23. If fantasy football were a thing in 1989, Woods would’ve been one of the trendiest draft picks.

But he tore his ACL during Week 2 of his sophomore campaign and never was the same, retiring in 1991.

4) Matt Flynn (Jan. 1, 2012, vs. Lions)

Matt Flynn really is a two-hit wonder, with his story starting two seasons before his famous start against the Detroit Lions.

Filling in for Aaron Rodgers, Flynn nearly led the Green Bay Packers to a road win over the Patriots. Flynn completed 24 of 37 passes for 251 yards and three scores in the 31-27 defeat. It was an impressive first start for the young QB, who was selected in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL Draft.

Flynn didn’t start again until the 2011 regular-season finale. He excelled again, throwing for 480 yards and six TDs in a 45-41 home win over the Detroit Lions. The performance translated to significant free agency interest during the offseason, with the Seattle Seahawks eventually giving Flynn a three-year, $20 million deal.

Flynn was initially named the Seahawks’ starter but lost a training camp QB competition to then-rookie Russell Wilson. He eventually flamed out in Seattle and spent the rest of his career as a backup.

3) Jonas Gray (Nov. 16, 2014, vs. Colts)

Patriots fans probably would tell you that Jonas Gray should be No. 1 on this list.

An undrafted free agent in 2012, Gray was a non-contributor during his first two seasons. But everything changed on Nov. 16, 2014, when he was thrust into a starting role after the Patriots ruled out Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount due to injuries.

Gray shredded the Indianapolis Colts for 201 yards and four rushing TDs in a 42-20 Patriots victory. A few days later, he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

That same week, Gray was late for practice because he supposedly failed to set his alarm clock. Belichick benched Gray for his highly anticipated sequel, and he had a minimal role for the rest of the season. The Patriots cut Gray before the 2015 campaign, and he was out of the NFL the following year.

These days, he’s emceeing in-game promos at Gillette Stadium — for some reason.

2) Derek Anderson (2007 season)

In 2007, Cleveland Browns fans believed they had a star in Derek Anderson.

A sixth-round pick in 2005, Anderson made zero starts as a rookie and failed to impress in three starts as a sophomore, but everything changed in 2007 when the Browns traded QB Charlie Frye (who was starting ahead of rookie Brady Quinn) following a disastrous Week 1 performance.

Anderson took over from there and threw for 3,787 yards and 29 touchdowns to go along with 19 interceptions. He went 10-5 as the starter, made the Pro Bowl, and was awarded with a lucrative contract in the offseason. Things went downhill from there.

Anderson was a part-time starter the following two seasons, struggling in both. He filled the same role for the Arizona Cardinals in 2010 but struggled again. Anderson spent the next seven seasons as a backup for the Carolina Panthers before finishing his career as Josh Allen’s backup in Buffalo.

1) Timmy Smith (Super Bowl 22)

Running back Timmy Smith ran for just 126 yards in seven games as a rookie in 2007. He was an afterthought in Washington’s offense.

But Smith erupted in Super Bowl 22, rushing 22 times for 204 yards and 2 TDs in Washington’s win over the Denver Broncos. A star was born — or so many thought.

Smith tried to turn the incredible performance into a major payday, but Washington wasn’t interested. Unhappy with his situation, Smith wasn’t in good shape to start the season, and he wound up posting just 470 yards in 14 games. He later signed with the Dallas Cowboys in free agency but appeared in just one game in 1990. Smith was out of the league soon afterward.