Who has fewest receiving yards for every NFL team? It's a weird list

Surfing the NFL channel on Reddit over the weekend, as one does on gorgeous 80-degree Saturdays in the offseason, I ran into a strange, amusing topic created by user Scorigami — the players with the fewest receiving yards in each NFL franchise’s history.

Yeah, that’s right: the lowest number of yards. As in, all of them are in the negative.

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Believe it or not, <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/24797/" data-ylk="slk:Blaine Gabbert">Blaine Gabbert</a> holds a 49ers franchise record: fewest receiving yards in team history. (AP)
Believe it or not, Blaine Gabbert holds a 49ers franchise record: fewest receiving yards in team history. (AP)

I am all about statistical oddities, and though football doesn’t have the pure weirdness in this way that, say, baseball does, there still are plenty of obscure numbers we can kick around and have fun with.

These are some of them. What’s notable is that there isn’t a single true wide receiver or tight end on this list. But that actually makes some sense, if you think about it. Most are quarterbacks and offensive linemen in what amounted to one (or maybe two) fluky plays, such as catching batted passes behind the line of scrimmage, leading to this odd ignominy. But that’s not true in all cases, as I found out.

What a strange distinction this must be to be. It’s not like these guys are telling their kids/grandkids about this, but … let’s nonetheless roll through this goofy list, alpha order:

Chicago/St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals
Linebacker-fullback Billy Svoboda, minus-9 yards

A lunchpail type (we assume), Svoboda touched the ball 11 times on offense for the 1951 Cardinals — a pretty bad team that at one point had a pair of “co-coaches” that season — and netted a total of 6 yards. We’re not sure which of the co-coach’s idea it was to get the ball in Svoboda’s hands, but it appears to have been quickly scrapped.

What’s incredible, though, is that Svoboda has the amazing distinction of netting negative yards in two separate games, including one in which is caught four (!) passes against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Without more detailed records available, it’s almost impossible to know exactly what happened. But we now have a new favorite player from the Korean War era, that’s for sure.

Atlanta Falcons
Offensive lineman Chris Hinton, minus-10 yards

Hinton — most famous for being involved in the John Elway trade before he ever played a down in the NFL — actually was doing well as a blocker, sure, but also as a receiver his first nine seasons in the NFL. He had a 1-yard reception in Year 6 in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts that kept in the black.

But then things went awry in 1992. Hinton caught a tipped pass for minus-3 yards on the play against the Chicago Bears and actually looks amazingly nimble in spite of the lost field position.

(There’s priceless footage of the event right here, and going down the rabbit hole of this game will show you how bizarre this game is, trust us. Deion Sanders, Andre Rison, William Perry and three future NFL head coaches — including Jim Harbaugh — play in the game. The actual head coaches were Mike Ditka and Jerry Glanville, and John Madden is breaking down some key tailgating footage during this drive. The field surface looks absolutely awful. Peak ’90s NFL right here. I could write 5,000 words on this game alone, a 41-31 bizarro shootout between two really bad teams, and you might be able to tell the story of the past 25 years of league history with this game serving as Ground Zero. I’ve very serious about this.)

That catch put Hinton in the red for his career, then standing at minus-2 yards. This was a former tight end at Northwestern, so you know it must have eaten at him. So the following season, almost a year to the day later in 1993, the Falcons amazingly were back in Soldier Field for another game against the Bears. And again, a pass ended up in the hands of Hinton. It was another tipped pass, and sadly this one went for minus-8 yards.

Even more disheartening, I couldn’t track down footage of this play, but I do know it knocked the Falcons out of field-goal range near the end of the first half of what ended up being a 6-0 Bears win. That game, we’re guessing, was a lot less fascinating than the contest the year prior. That would be the final reception of his career. Hinton’s lifetime receiving totals: three catches, minus-9 yards (but minus-10 as a member of the Falcons).

Baltimore Ravens
Defensive back Anthony Mitchell, minus-11 yards

In a strange Monday night thriller in 2001 between two teams that routinely knocked the snot out of each other back then, Mitchell — a journeyman DB with a relatively nondescript career — found himself the recipient of a botched punt play. We’ll defer to Bob Christs’ description of the event at the time, which resulted in another strange statistical quirk:

Does the passer-rating system need to be reworked? Ravens punter Kyle Richardson retrieved a wayward snap against the Titans on Monday night and flipped an off-balance throw to Anthony Mitchell that resulted in an 11-yard loss. The play gives Richardson a passer rating of 79.2, which ranks him ahead of 24 QBs who have started games this season.

That play was not one of his most memorable, though hardly through any fault of his own. But Mitchell actually had been on the end of a tremendous play in the AFC title game between the two teams nine months prior when he returned a blocked field-goal attempt 90 yards for a touchdown as a rookie to vault the Ravens into the Super Bowl, which they would go on to win.

In this game between the teams, Mitchell’s minus-8 grab turned into a mere footnote. It ended with the Ravens beating the Titans 16-10 when Steve McNair was ruled down short of the goal line following a QB sneak after a Titans touchdown was called back by officials as time expired.

Buffalo Bills
Quarterbacks Joe Ferguson and Jack Kemp, minus-9

A tie! A first on our list, but not our last. Kemp and Ferguson were the franchise’s two most beloved quarterbacks in the pre-Jim Kelly days.

Not much is documented about Kemp’s one career reception, for minus-9 against the San Diego Chargers in 1965. But that grab was not the only miserable thing for him and the Bills that day. After taking a 3-0 lead, the Chargers stomped them with 34 unanswered points in the game between the two AFL heavyweights. Kemp was benched after completing 7-of-23 passes with two picks. But the Bills got the last laugh, with Kemp playing well in the AFL title game shutout of the Chargers two months later, 23-zip.

Ferguson actually had two negative receptions, one in his NFL debut against the New England Patriots. He caught a pass from O.J. Simpson for minus-3 yards and did little else despite starting (1-of-2 passing, two rushes for 4 yards, and that catch), but Simpson — he of the 250 rush yards that day — picks up a wee bit of slack in the 31-13 win. Ferguson’s other negative-yard reception (minus-6) came five years later, also against the Patriots, but Simpson wasn’t around by that time to bail him out in what was a 14-10 New England win.

Carolina Panthers
Quarterback Kerry Collins, minus-11 yards

The end was near for Collins, the first draft pick in Carolina franchise history, when he caught his own deflected pass in the 1998 season opener against the Atlanta Falcons early in the third quarter of a 19-14 loss that would kick off seven straight defeats to open the Panthers’ miserable season. Four weeks later, Collins essentially quit on his teammates, telling them his heart wasn’t in it anymore, before being released the following week.

At least his heart was into catching that pass, as it’s now quite fitting to sum up his Panthers career. By the time Collins caught the second pass of his career (a minus-2er for the 2001 New York Giants, also in the season opener), he had been reborn, on roughly the fourth of his nine NFL lives.

Chicago Bears
Center Olin Kreutz, minus-8 yards

True story: I accidentally stepped on the foot of Kreutz in the postgame chaos of the Bears locker room minutes after the team won the 2006 NFC title game and advanced to Super Bowl XLI, and he shot me a look as if to say, “On any other day, dude …” If you were ever met with the steely glare of the ornery center, you know how this could take years of a man’s life.

But Kreutz’s one career reception didn’t happen that day, or even that season. This was two years earlier in a strange game against the Oakland Raiders that was a virtual block party. Not only did Sebastian Jankikowski have a field-goal attempt swatted, but a few minutes later three straight passes (by both QBs) were deflected. The final one was a Kordell Stewart rejection by Derrick Gibson that ended up in Kreutz’s mitts for minus-8 and a 3rd and 24 situation.

Former Bears center Olin Kreutz could be a pretty serious guy. (AP)
Former Bears center Olin Kreutz could be a pretty serious guy. (AP)

He’d play another 128 NFL games, mostly for the Bears, and never catch another pass. Let’s hope he also never got his foot stepped on by a writer, other than that one fateful time.

Cincinnati Bengals
Fullback Nathan Poole, minus-14 yards

Poole came on our radar near the end of the 2016 season when we were doing research about Reggie Bush’s historic season — for all the wrong reasons. Bush set records for rushing-yard futility last season and in our research for that story we discovered the dirty work of Poole, who as a rookie in 1979 had some pretty depressing fantasy production: one rush for minus-3 yards and one catch for minus-10. We hope if anyone had him back then it was at least in a PPR league for some silver lining.

On the play in question, Poole caught a pass from Ken Anderson and lost 10 yards in a scoreless game against the Denver Broncos. It was Week 1 and the first time Poole touched the ball in the NFL. He wouldn’t touch it again for six more games; that was the minus-3.

In his second season, Poole ran five times for 6 yards and caught another negative-yardage pass, that one for minus-3. This means that even as a “skill position” player, Poole incredibly had to play his first 40 NFL games, spanning nearly four years, with a career yards-from-scrimmage total before surpassing the zero mark. It came crashing down when he ripped off a 20-yard run — all that pent-up frustration? — as a member of the Broncos the day after Christmas in 1982.

Amazingly, Poole would actually touch the ball more than 100 times in John Elway’s rookie season the following year, which was also Dan Reeves’ first season as head coach. Reeves always did have a soft spot for the fullbacks, being a former one himself. Poole finished his career with a net 602 yards from scrimmage, but in 32 games with the Bengals he stood at minus-11.

Cleveland Browns
Halfback-fullback Jamie Caleb, minus-18 yards

The man who did a lot of lead blocking for Jim Brown scored his only touchdown in his third NFL game, which came against the expansion Dallas Cowboys in their inaugural season of 1960. Caleb plunged in for the score late in that 48-7 Browns blowout, but he also had the strangest receiving line that day that we think we’ve ever seen: five receptions for minus-18 yards. One of those catches apparently went for 2 yards, so the other four netted a minus-20. Lordy.

We might never find out what exactly happened there, as statistics (and more specifically, play by play accounts for games) from that era are a bit sketchy. But we’ll assume it was accurate and that it was some fluky play in a long-forgotten game that caused this strange line. The Browns have provided us with scores of negative plays in recent years to give us our fill.

Dallas Cowboys
Quarterback Troy Aikman, minus-19 yards

How miserable was Aikman’s rookie season? Consider that he started the team’s final 11 games, all of which were losses, and capped it with a Christmas Eve crapper that might have been one of the two or three worst games of his career. Aikman finished the 20-10 loss with four picks, zero touchdowns and only 125 yards on 28 attempts. Oh yeah, and a catch for minus-13. Just your standard batted-back-in-his face jobs on that miserable afternoon in Dallas.

But his worst game? Aikman himself might argue it was two years later in a 24-0 loss to the Eagles in which he was sacked 11 times, lost a fumble and threw three picks. And what else happened that game? A reception for minus-6 yards. And that’s how we get to minus-19 for his career.

Denver Broncos
Offensive guard Mike Schnitker, minus-11 yards

Trivia: Schnitker played high school, college and pro ball all in the state of Colorado. In his six-year career with the Broncos, he was a part-time starter, but in the middle of what would be his best NFL season in 1971 as the predominant starting right guard, the Broncos were playing in the Eagles — two bad teams facing off on Halloween day at Veteran Stadium. What could go wrong?

This is another case of not knowing a lot about the play in question, but we do have quite the photo from Getty Images. Quarterback Don Horn’s helmet has come off, and Schnitker — No. 64 on the right — has his back to the play in which Horn will lose the ball. It then will end up in the hands of Schnitker, who receives quite the trick (or treat?) in his gift bag for the 11-yard loss.

Denver Broncos offensive lineman Mike Schnitker, No. 64, would end up catching the pass on this wild play. (Getty Images)
Denver Broncos offensive lineman Mike Schnitker, No. 64, would end up catching the pass on this wild play. (Getty Images)

The Eagles almost blew a 10-point lead late but hung on to win, 17-16.

Detroit Lions
Offensive tackle Rocky Freitas, minus-8

Rockne Crowningburg Freitas was his birth name, one of the best we’ve come across, and he’s one of the most celebrated Polynesian players of his era. He had a solid career with the Lions, a fixture at right tackle from 1969 to 1976, starting every game in that period. But he’s one of those players you almost never hear about now.

Green Bay Packers
Halfback Fred Provo, minus-9 yards

Provo might have had a short NFL career, but his impact on society was big. He served as an Army paratrooper in World War II, getting wounded in the Battle of the Bulge and earning a noble two Purple Hearts. His war-addled health kept him from playing more than nine games for Curly Lambeau’s Pack in 1948, but Provo a pretty decent punt and kick returner that one year.

He also ran the ball 29 times for 90 yards and caught four passes for minus-9 yards. One of those catches went for 3 yards. We’re guessing the other three didn’t go so well. Again, incomplete stats and all that. Not too many rotogeeks back then.

Houston Texans
Quarterback Brock Osweiler, minus-14 yards

This was the Osweiler-in-Houston experience summed up in one play — a failed play-action pass that was intended to be caught by an offensive tackle (Duane Brown) and instead was caught by the roundly reviled QB:

“An incredible mistake right there,” ESPN’s Jon Gruden said of the Osweiler magic. He left his mark there, that’s for sure. You’re going to like this guy, Cleveland.

Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts
Colts: Jim Harbaugh, minus-9 yards

It had to be Harbaugh. In a 1995 game against the Jets, Harbaugh had a pass batted back by Marvin Washington and he caught it for a 9-yard loss. We wish there was more to the story, but there really doesn’t appear to be. The Colts kicked the field goal on the drive and went on to win, 17-10, in a season sweep of their then-division rivals.

Of course, that ’95 season was storybook one for the Colts, and it came up just a bit short as Harbaugh’s Hail Mary attempt was incomplete in the AFC title game.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Quarterback Byron Leftwich, minus-7 yards

Another story without much meat on the bone, it seems. Leftwich caught his own pass, deflected by Tommy Kelly, and though the 7-yard loss knocked the Jags out of field-goal range, they hung on to win, 13-6 at the Raiders in a crummy Week 17 game. One reason why: Leftwich was not good that day, but he still was better than Kerry Collins, who threw three picks and fumbled at the Jacksonville 2-yard line on fourth down and goal with 40 seconds left. Blech.

Kansas City Chiefs
Quarterback Tony Adams, minus-7 yards

What a strange career Adams had in pro football. He was drafted by the Chargers (in Round 14) but never played for the team and ended up as the World Football League tri-MVP that season (as in, he shared the award with two other dudes). Adams then played for the Chiefs for a few years, starting four games and not doing much in them. The wild part is that after a stint in the CFL that ended in 1980, Adams actually played during the strike season of 1987, starting three games despite not playing football for seven years. That should give you an idea the talent level that some teams were trotting out while the stars were on the picket line.

His entry into Chiefs all-time lore came when he mopped up at the end of a 28-3 Chiefs loss to the Steelers in 1975. Adams had played a few snaps before that game, but these were his first official pass attempts of his NFL career. He threw five passes that day and three were caught: one to Chiefs wideout Barry Pearson for 22 yards, one to himself for minus-7 and one to Steelers Hall of Fame cornerback Mel Blount for a pick.

San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers
Quarterback Tobin Rote, minus-11 yards

Rote finished off a really underappreciated NFL career with two years with the Chargers in 1963 and 1964, followed by a swan-song season with the Denver Broncos in 1966. In his final season with the Chargers, Rote struggled to regain his early-career magic and was benched as the starting QB.

Not only did he struggle to pass the ball effectively that season, he also struggled as a runner. He rushed nine times for a total of minus-11 yards in 1964 after being a rushing threat for much of his career. But that wasn’t his only negative yardage total that season, as he lost 11 yards on a failed trick pass from Lance Allworth in what would be the penultimate start of his NFL career — a 49-6 drubbing at the hands of the middling Chiefs two weeks before the playoffs. And the Chargers were actually in the postseason that year! But they lost their first game, as Rote struggled and was shipped away.

If there’s a bright side it’s that Rote’s career receiving yardage stands at a respectable plus-28 with a TD catch thanks to a few wily plays earlier in his Packers glory days.

Cleveland/St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams
Tailback-quarterback Parker Hall, minus-16 yards

Nicknamed “Bullet,” Hall truly was a Renaissance Man after the Rams used the third overall pick in 1939 on the former Ole Miss star. He punted. He ran the ball. He threw it. He returned punts and kicks. He even won the MVP award as a rookie that year, running the ball 120 times, throwing it 208 and punting it 58 — an unheard-of combination of numbers, even at the time when it was all hands on deck for some teams.

The one thing he didn’t do? Catch the ball. Oh, sure, this was an era where games averaged about 257 pass yards — that would be both teams combined, mind you. But the fact that Hall caught a mere one pass in his first four brilliant seasons (before being shipped off to World War II) appears downright goofy through today’s lenses.

Of course, that pass was for minus-16, and maybe the Rams thought … well, that didn’t work, so we might as well stick with what does. All’s well that ends well. Hall caught two passes for 25 after returning from war with the San Francisco 49ers in 1946 to lift his career receiving total to a gaudy plus-9. Oh, what might have been, had the Rams figured out how to unleash him in the passing game. They had other guys who could throw the ball, but it turned out that he was the best at it most of the time.

Miami Dolphins
Quarterback Dan Marino, minus-6 yards

Marino went his first 180 NFL games without catching a pass, which is no surprise considering he was the best pure passer of his generation and a pretty statuesque one at that. His longest career run traveled 15 yards, and he never caught a pass in his brilliant four-year college career at Pitt, either, so this all made perfect sense.

But Marino’s first career reception came at an odd crossroads in his career in 1995. That was considered to be perhaps his last great season in the NFL, and on the day it happened Marino threw for 333 yards against the Patriots and broke Fran Tarkenton’s NFL career record for passing yardage. However, it came in a surprising loss that day in a season that ended with the Dolphins finishing a game behind the Bills for the division title. Marino had a chance to tie the game early in the fourth quarter when, but the 6-yard loss came on fourth down after Chris Slade swatted it back to him.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino salutes the fans in this 1995 game against the Patriots, but not for his first career reception. (AP)
Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino salutes the fans in this 1995 game against the Patriots, but not for his first career reception. (AP)

The Dolphins would go on to lose their wild-card game at Buffalo, a team they had beaten by three scores earlier in the season, in Don Shula’s final game as coach.

Minnesota Vikings
Quarterback Christian Ponder, minus-15

Some of these are just downright poetic. Ponder is one of the more disliked recent Vikings quarterbacks, as many fans feel he was a symbol for some of the team’s shortcomings after Brett Favre left the team while Adrian Peterson remains in his prime. Basically, Ponder was an easy mark, as the Vikings had not landed anyone else who gave them a better chance to win at QB.

That doesn’t mean he played well, either. But the game in which he caught his own deflected pass for minus-15 yards, Ponder actually was decent. The loss didn’t knock the Vikes out of field-goal range even! And they won, 34-24. Fun for all.

Of course, that season Ponder threw for 2,935 yards — the fewest of any 16-game starting quarterback over the past decade, per Pro Football Reference, but he safely was 36 yards behind Joe Flacco’s 2008 passing total, so the backward pass didn’t affect that. Of course, that would have been even more poetic had that been the case.

New England Patriots
Offensive lineman Logan Mankins and quarterback Drew Bledsoe, minus-9 yards

Another tie, and another fun one. We previously enjoyed writing about Mankins’ only NFL touchdown, which came in the wild 2006 AFC title game between the Colts and Patriots — truly an all-time classic in that rivalry.

Mankins’ only career regular-season reception came the following fall, as he caught a pass from Tom Brady for nearly an anti-first down. Mankins was flagged for illegal touching on the play, so it was not a batted pass (the penalty was declined, to take the loss of yards and down). Mankins now — and likely forever — holds the distinction of recording the “shortest” pass play in Brady’s career, so that’s something.

As for the guy Brady replaced, Bledsoe had his minus-9er a few weeks after Marino’s own catch, and this one was similar. Ray Seals batted the ball back to Bledsoe, who caught it and got smeared by Kevin Greene and Greg Lloyd. Sounds like a fun day at the office. Seals — who is famous for having a successful NFL career despire never playing college football — was in Bledsoe’s grill all day, earlier forcing a fumble that was run back for a score.

And Seals also has a fascinating tie-in here, as the unofficial patron saint of passes batted back into the hands of quarterbacks. He’s also famous for being the guy to deflect Brett Favre’s first Packers completion in 1992 that, yes, ended up being caught by Favre himself.

New Orleans Saints
Quarterback Archie Manning, minus-7 yards

This also makes sense. The Saints were awful during Manning’s days as QB, through little fault of his own, and he made a name and endeared himself with the team’s fans for his anything-can-happen playmaking ability. Midway through his rookie season, Manning and Edd Hargett (yes, two Ds) were flip-flopping at QB and Manning had replaced an ineffective Hargett (1-of-12 passing, 10 yards) against the Browns in December 1971.

New York Giants
Fullback Merwin Hodel, minus-15 yards

Hodel is a long-forgotten player who lasted a mere two games with the Giants during their only losing season in a 15-year stretch from 1949 to 1963. In his first action, Hodel rushed five times for 11 yards and caught one pass for minus-5 in a blowout loss to the Eagles. His next game, a 14-10 loss to the Steelers, resulted in one touch: a catch for minus-10. The Giants had seen enough at that point. And that’s how you arrive at a career with minus-4 yards from scrimmage. Sorry, Merwin.

New York Titans/New York Jets
Offensive guard-linebacker-defensive end Bob O’Neil, minus-13 yards

O’Neil played at two colleges (Notre Dame and Duquesne) and played three positions for two NFL teams, the Steelers and Titans, who later became the Jets, and also played in the CFL for one season. He didn’t do much noteworthy during his pro football career and there’s not much written about his playing days. The most interesting thing we dug up:

His nickname was ‘Huck’ coming from his adventurous spirit and his dislike for shoes as a youngster like Huckleberry Finn.

That’s just wonderful. O’Neil also served in the Korean War with the Air Force, so hats off to him. But he also found his way into franchise history for his one offensive touch at the Polo Grounds (played on a Thursday, reported attendance: 12,023) in 1961, a 13-yard loss against the Bills, the details of which might be lost to history.

Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders
Offensive guard Gabe Jackson, minus-5 yards

Jackson had two catches as a rookie in 2014 — a 1-yard grab in his NFL debut and a catch for minus-6 later that season. The first one came when Derek Carr’s pass was almost picked, bouncing off the hands of the Jets’ Muhammad Wilkerson and into those of Jackson, the starting left guard.

The second came in Week 13 that year, and we’re not sure it was witnessed by any actual humans other than the men playing in the game. It came near the end of the first half, with the Raiders trailing 38-0 in what would become a 52-zip blowout by the Rams (!). Jeff Fisher and Tony Sparano, then the Raiders’ interim, were the head coaches that day. Whew boy, this one feels like it was 10 years ago, not less than three.

Jackson caught a deflected screen off the hands of fullback Marcel Reece, who got tattooed on the play. Not a fun day for Jackson or any of his teammates.

Philadelphia Eagles
Defensive lineman-offensive lineman Reggie Singletary, minus-11 yards

The Dolphins beat the Eagles by a score of 28-10 in Week 14 of the 1987 season, and the final pass Randall Cunningham completed that day was to Singletary, who had switched from defense to offense and was a reserve guard getting a few reps at the end of the game. The catch went for the entire minus-11, his only career touch, and Cunningham dropped from 200 passing yards to 189 in the game. For his career, Cunningham threw for 29,979, so he would have been tantalizingly close to 30K — a plateau only 44 QBs have surpassed — had ol’ Reg just let the ball hit the terrible turf of Veterans Stadium.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, minus-11 yards

Steelers fans know all too well: Watch Big Ben long enough and you’ll see greatness, with a little crazy mixed in. That’s why his minus-11 yards are so beautiful — they’re spread out over three different losses (and one gain) over four seasons.

The only official reception in Roethlisberger’s 13-year career came in 2008 against the Browns in Cleveland in Week 2. Although the batted pass back to himself went for negative yards, there actually was a net gain on the play when Browns defensive lineman Shaun Smith was called for a facemask against Ben. Adding insult, what was originally ruled as a sack for Smith was changed on the official stat sheet the following day when Elias Sports Bureau determined that the ball left Ben’s hand and hit off a teammate back to himself. Weird.

Roethlisberger actually gained 5 yards — without the benefit of a reception — on the final play of a six-point loss to the Miami Dolphins in 2013, catching a lateral on a Stanford band type of play that failed on the snowy field that day. The same thing happened the following season in a loss to the Buccaneers, except that Ben fumbled and the ball was recovered 6 yards backward, which (odd statistical quirk) resulted in minus-6 receiving yards for him.

Ben Roethlisberger gained 5 of his minus-11 career receiving yards in this 2013 game against the Dolphins. (AP)
Ben Roethlisberger gained 5 of his minus-11 career receiving yards in this 2013 game against the Dolphins. (AP)

And what do you know? On another game-ending Lateralpalooza in 2015, Roethlisberger again fumbled and when teammate DeAngelo Williams recovered it, that play was chalked up as minus-3 receiving yards without Ben actually catching a real pass. Clearly, the Steelers work on these plays in practice, although one certainly could argue the efficacy of them hasn’t been all that good. But add them all up, the three losses and the one gain, and Roethlisberger’s career receiving total stands at minus-11. That’s just the way these yards always have been recorded, strange as it might seem.

San Francisco 49ers
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert, minus-16 yards

This one might hold up for a century, or perhaps longer. In Gabbert’s first start with Chip Kelly as coach, the final result — a 28-0 win over the Los Angeles Rams — was good. But Gabbert was barely passable in the game, and had the 49ers lost that one we might have been all over him for catching his own rejected pass and then (the funniest part) thinking he could make something of it.

The funniest part is the official NFL Game Book, which credits Gabbert with minus-4 yards worth of YAC. Just delightful. He brings his talents to the Cardinals this season, to the joy of many.

Seattle Seahawks
Quarterback Trent Dilfer and right guard Bryan Millard, minus-5 yards

Another odd OL-QB duo you’d never expect to see on the same list. Millard was a good starter for much of the 80s for the Seahawks, a blue-collar performer who somehow went undrafted (back when the draft was 12 rounds) and spent two years in the USFL before making his mark in the NFL. In the 1987 opener, Seahawks QB Dave Krieg was solid in the first half and terrible in the second. He threw three picks, and Millard caught a 5-yard deflected pass to start a drive that ended in a red-zone fumble. But as far as we are concerned, the Millard catch was maybe the most insignificant catch in NFL history. Or certainly one of them.

The Dilfer play was equally as meaningless. He replaced an ineffective Matt Hasselbeck after halftime — the two later worked together at ESPN — and was beat up in his place. Kenard Lang batted a ball back to Dilfer for, you guessed it, a minus-5 that no normal human being should remember, save for Lang’s family. The tie between Dilfer and Lang? They were later teammates with the Cleveland Browns, both Walter Payton Man of the Year nominees for the club. So there you have it.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Quarterback Brian Griese, minus-4 yards

Congrats are in order for Griese, who carries the highest low-water mark for any team. So that’s worth something. The play in question came in a 31-24 loss to the Chargers in 2004, and it was a rough series for Griese: caught his own pass on first down for minus-4 on first down; incomplete pass on second; third down was a strip sack on his own 28-yard line that turned into a Chargers field goal.

What’s funny is that Griese had a minus-6 catch of his own pass as a member of the Broncos in a win over the eventual champion Patriots in a game in 2001. But given Mike Schnitker’s minus-11 Griese safely escaped leading two franchises for the fewest receiving yards.

Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans
Quarterback-kicker George Blanda, minus-23 yards

The king of all negative yards, ladies and gents. With a minus-16 against the Chargers in the first meeting in 1961 (the Oilers lost that one but got revenge in the first AFL title game at the end of that season) and 7 yards lost in 1964 in the Week 1 loss, again to the Chargers, he made franchise history. We’re assuming Marcus Mariota will try to avoid this mark as much as possible going forward (see what we did there?).

Washington Redskins
Quarterback Shane Mathews, minus-13 yards

I was watching a show about the first SEC title game on the SEC Network the other day, and Matthews mentioned to one of the Bama guys that he played 13 years in the NFL. I assumed he was totally kidding. Then I looked it up. Thirteen years! Dude wasn’t kidding.

How fitting then. On Oct. 27, 2002 as the Redskins’ starting QB, Matthews caught his own batted pass and lost that baker’s dozen — one negative yard for every season he was on an NFL roster.

(Hat tip: Steve Spurrier’s favorite quarterback, or one of them anyway, scrambled for 11 yards on 2nd-and-23 and salvaged a field goal out of that drive at the end of the half of what would end up a 26-21 win over the Colts.)

Matthews was the Chase Daniel of his day. He appeared in a mere 31 lifetime games, starting only 15, but likely has a sweet pension set up. Good for him. Mothers, breed your babies to be clipboard holders. And Matthews even has a fun little spot in Redskins lore with the fewest receiving yards in the franchise annals. Something he can boast about on talk radio maybe.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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