2015 NFL Draft: Five Biggest Busts in Raiders Draft History
2. Todd Marinovich
Selected: No. 24 overall, 1991
Seasons played for the Raiders: 2
Games started for the Raiders: 9 (including playoffs)
Todd Marinovich was the son of former Raider offensive lineman and athletic trainer Marv Marinovich, which is one of the major reasons why he made this list.
The elder Marinovich, whose pro football career had flamed out after only three years due to over-training issues, had become obsessed with Eastern Bloc athletic training methods and philosophies, and began training his son Todd to be a super-athlete from birth — literally.
Nicknamed “Robo-QB,” Todd Marinovich had a very well-documented strict training and diet regimen throughout his entire childhood, pushed by his father to become an elite athlete.
He was a high school standout, of course, and went on to have a very good career at USC, entering the 1990 season as a Heisman Trophy candidate.
But Marinovich began to struggle off the field in 1990, clashing with head coach Larry Smith and skipping classes, which caused Smith to suspend him for a game.
After the season, Marinovich was arrested for cocaine possession, and chose to enter the NFL draft that year despite having two more years of college eligibility.
Al Davis, whose Los Angeles Raiders shared a stadium with USC and who had employed Marv Marinovich as both a player and an athletic trainer, was very familiar with and enamored of the Trojan standout, who he saw as the heir to Jay Schroeder as the Raider quarterback.
While Marinovich was seen by scouts and media observers as a highly polished college passer and standout QB, the NFL’s massive issues with cocaine problems at that time caused many teams to pass on him, and Marinovich fell to the Raiders at the 24th overall pick, where Davis took the chance.
Marinovich did not see the field at all until Week 17 of the season, a matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. Marinovich played very well, completing 23 of 40 passes for 243 yards and 3 touchdowns, though the Raiders ultimately lost the game.
Six days later, the Chiefs and Raiders met again in the Wild Card round of the AFC playoffs, and it was a completely different game: Marinovich threw 4 interceptions and completed 12 of 23 passes and the Raiders lost again, ending their season.
Marinovich smashed a locker-room mirror with his helmet in frustration after the game.
After the season, Marinovich — who had been passing mandatory NFL urinalysis tests using other people’s urine — ended up with a sample of a teammate’s urine that had excessive amounts of alcohol in it and ended up being sent to a treatment facility for 45 days by the Raiders anyway.
In 1992, Marinovich became the starter in Week 3 after an injury to Jay Schroeder. In a season in which it was later revealed he was using LSD on a regular basis (LSD could not be tested for at the time), Marinovich started seven games.
He was 81-of-165 passing for 1,102 yards, 5 TDs and 8 INTs and the team went 3-4 in that stretch. He struggled to grasp Tom Walsh’s offense and spent more time partying and dropping acid than reading his playbook.
The team finished 7-9 and Marinovich failed another drug test, whereupon he headed back to rehab.
Prior to the 1993 season, Marinovich failed another drug test, this time for marijuana, and was suspended for the year and released by the Raiders. He tried to catch on in Canada in 1996, but blew out his knee and then became addicted to heroin.
Marinovich has struggled with drugs ever since, including arrests in 2004 and 2007 that involved heroin syringes and methamphetamine.
He has been in and out of jail. ESPN did a 30 for 30 profiling the career of Marinovich and he appears to be clean now in 2015, but fans will always wonder what could have happened with a prospect who at one point had the perfect combination of work ethic and arm strength at the quarterback position.
Marinovich is a cautionary tale for both parents and the NFL. His father pushed him too hard for too long from too young of an age, and he ruined his son.
Al Davis tried to ignore the clear warning signs and focus on the talented young football player, and ended up using a 1st-round draft pick on a player who ended up with as many failed drug tests as he had career wins.
Marinovich, along with other high profile cocaine addicted players of the ’80s and early ’90s, changed the way the NFL handles substance abuse, a problem that plagued the league dramatically worse in those days than it does today.
He is widely regarded as one of the greatest draft busts in sports history.