1. Tim Tebow
From Jet backup and New York Post staple to prospective Patriot to ex-football guy in a year, Tebow is pretty much doing nothing these days. He’s still looking only for a job as a quarterback and only a quarterback, in the NFL and only the NFL, an insistence that means his playing days are probably over.
2. David Beckham
Mr. Posh Spice retired from international competition in May after an underwhelming season with top-tier French club Paris Saint-Germain, in which he appeared in 10 matches and scored no goals. But worry not, fans — though his relevance as a sportsman has expired, you’ll still be able to catch him on red carpets and in magazine spreads for the next Eternity Years.
3. Lance Armstrong
Armstrong’s Oprah-hyped confession in January feels like years ago. He’s since retreated full-time to his Austin residence, where he’s probably standing in the backyard right now berating a cactus.
4. Nerlens Noel
Noel’s much-hyped tenure at Kentucky came to an end with a knee injury in February. That didn’t stop the New Orleans Pelicans from drafting him sixth overall and trading his rights to the Philadelphia 76ers. He still hasn’t played a single NBA game this season and likely will not. (He could obviously get back on the map soon if he recovers.)
5. Mark Sanchez
Season-ending shoulder surgery in October all but brings his buttfumbley New York Jets career to an end. Who plays another game as an NFL quarterback first, Tebow or him? (Do we have to pick?)
6. Phil Jackson
Jackson dropped a quasi-memoir in the spring and joined Twitter, but the most successful coach in the history of American sports is still unemployed and that seems wrong, even though it’s by his own choosing. All the Knicks fans who have survived the first month of the season without blinding themselves with battery acid hope he emerges from semi-seclusion to save the Knicks in 2014. (Nope. You’re gonna need some more battery acid.)
7. The Phillies
The Phillies, perennial World Series contenders for much of the last decade, finished 23 games out of first place. Roy Halladay has now retired. They still owe Ryan Howard $85 million. At least they’re not the Marlins.
8. Kerry Rhodes and Jason Collins
Collins made history with his coming-out story in Sports Illustrated in April, while Rhodes has apparently been deemed persona non grata by NFL GMs in the wake of rumors that he is gay, which he says he is not. Whether or not Collins or Rhoades are being blacklisted — and it certainly appears that they are — the fact is that both were employed as professional athletes a year ago and aren’t anymore.
9. The Lakers
After barely qualifying for the playoffs last season, this 2013-14 campaign has been disastrous — at least by the Lakers’ lofty standards. And now Kobe Bryant is out for another six weeks with a bone fracture in his left leg. They’re 2.5 games out of a playoff spot now, and that gap only figures to widen into next year. On the plus side…[throws smoke bomb, slips out back door.]
10. Andrew Bynum
Bynum, once a promising center for the Lakers, was paid almost $17 million last season and did not play a game for the Sixers. (The trade that brought him to town also decimated Philly’s roster.) He’s playing in Cleveland now, though his numbers are nowhere near what they used to be. At least his hair is always on point.
11. Albert Pujols
Pujols’ rank among the all-time great players is pretty much solidified already, but his advanced stats at this point in his career are an unholy mess. Every graph that should point up is down, and vice versa. His 2013 season — home runs, on-base percentage, OPS+, and so on — produced career-low numbers across the board.
Oh, and the Angels still owe him $212 million over the next eight years. Welp.
12. Matt Schaub
After starting the season 2-0, the Texans — expected to compete for a title — have lost 12 straight games, fired their head coach (but after he recovered from a heart attack), and benched the quarterback that had been one of the faces of the franchise. Injuries have turned the Texans’ season into a nightmare, and Schaub has felt the brunt of that failure. Just look at those eyes. He’s signed through 2016, but Houston may look to buy him out and go in a new direction under center next season.
13. Jadeveon Clowney
Remember when Clowney, South Carolina’s defensive monster in cleats, was going to shake up the SEC and all of college football this season and maybe win the second-ever defensive Heisman? It didn’t quite turn out that way. The Gamecocks finished a respectable 10-2, but Clowney only registered three sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss — not even leading his own defense in either.
Much of this dropoff is due to Clowney playing with bone spurs in his foot, an injury that will require surgery after the team’s New Year’s Day bowl game, and there’s doubt he’ll be ready for the NFL Combine in the spring. Here’s hoping he returns to being the Clowney of old when he makes his NFL debut next fall.