But Cleveland running back Jerome “The Ghost” Harrison darn near singlehandedly turned this into a season for Coug fans to remember.
Underused or simply shelved by Browns coach Eric Mangini for most of the season—despite rushing for 121 yards against Cincinnati in week four—Harrison exploded fantasy football leagues by gaining 286 yards in week 15, breaking the legendary Jim Brown’s franchise record and posting the third highest ground game in NFL history.
Harrison wasn't a one game wonder, either. He capped off that big day by rushing for 148 and 127 yards in week 16 and 17, respectively. His three game total: a jaw-dropping 561 yards rushing and five touchdowns.
It’s still a mystery why Mangini didn’t load this silver bullet until the season was a wash. Was it questions of his durability? Harrison averaged 35 carries a game the final three weeks of the season—all Cleveland victories, we might add. Doesn’t protect the ball? The Ghost lost the handle just twice all year.
You can catch Harrison’s record-setting performance here.
MEANWHILE, IN THE Bay area, 49ers’ receiver Jason Hill suffered through much the same early inattention as Harrison was experiencing in Cleveland. Despite a break-out 2008 campaign, Hill was inactivated for San Francisco’s first three games, apparently due to coach Mike Singletary’s frustration over his preseason ailments.
Hill did eventually ascend to the number three receiver spot—thanks in part to his two touchdown week nine performance—but his numbers (nine catches) for the season can only be described as disappointing.
While the season also started slowly for another Cougar grab-master, Philadelphia rookie Brandon Gibson, he found a new home—and a starting job—in St. Louis, when the Eagles traded him in October. His 34 catches was fourth best among Ram receivers, a remarkable total considering he appeared in just nine games for the club.
Gibson's lone TD reception ranks among the most spectacular of the NFL season. See for yourself in this highlight video.
THE SEASON continues for five Cougar alums: Husain Abdullah, Karl Paymah, and Eric Frampton (Vikings); Hamza Abdullah (Cardinals), and Ropati Pitoitua (NY Jets) are all on the rosters of playoff squads.
Pitoitua has been declared inactive for this weekend’s first round of playoff games, however.
Here’s how all of the NFL Cougars performed this season :
Hamza Abdullah, S, Arizona, 6th season: Signed by the Cardinals late in the season, he appeared in just one game, but made the most of it by posting nine tackles (8 solo).
Husain Abdullah, S, Minnesota, 2nd season: A star special teams performer for the Vikings, recording 16 special teams stops (13 solo). He also made two solos tackles from the safety position—including a sack—and defensed one pass. Appeared in 14 games, starting none.
Tyron Brackenridge, CB, Jacksonville, 3rd season: Appeared in all 16 Jag games, starting in five of those. Posted 33 tackles (30 solo), two forced fumbles, and defensed four passes.
Erik Coleman, S, Atlanta, 6th season: The Spokane native posted 116 tackles (82 solo), which ranks as the second highest among NFL defensive backs. The 16 game starter also forced two fumbles.
Jed Collins, FB, Cleveland, 2nd season:Signed to the Browns’ practice squad in early November, never elevated to the active roster. Signed by the club to a reserve/future contract on January 5.
Devard Darling, WR, Kansas City, 6th season: Missed the entire season with a knee injury.
Jason David, CB, Detroit, 6th season:
Signed by the Lions the first week of November, but was released just six days later. On the roster for just one game, but was declared inactive.
Eric Frampton, S, Minnesota, 3rd season: Declared by Viking head coach Brad Childress to be worthy of pro bowl consideration for his special teams play this season, Frampton tallied 18 ST tackles (13 solo) and forced a fumble. Appeared in all 16 games, starting none.
Devin Frischknecht, TE, Green Bay, rookie: Missed the entire season with a knee injury.
Brandon Gibson, WR, St. Louis, rookie: Appeared in just one game for Philadelphia before being traded by the receiver-rich Eagles to the Rams in October. Suited up in nine games for St. Louis—starting four of those—catching 34 passes for 348 yards and one touchdown.
Jason Hanson, K, Detroit, 18th season: It was a down year for the Spokane native, at least by his standards. While perfect on 25 extra point attempts, he was true on just 75 percent of his field goal tries (21 of 28), with a long of 50 yards. It should be noted, however, that six of his miscues were kicked from 45 yards and above (and three were from 54 yards and beyond). He also recorded one special teams tackle. Hanson has now appeared in 287 games for the Lions, the most in franchise history and third highest in NFL history by one player with one team.
Jerome Harrison, RB, Cleveland, 4th season: The “Ghost” was a ghost for much of the season, but he shone bright in the waning weeks of the season. Week 15 saw Harrison rush for 286 yards—third highest total in NFL history and a franchise record. Also set a club record with 39 carries in week 16. For the season, he had 194 carries for 862 yards (20th best in NFL, 11th best in the AFC) and five touchdowns. He also added 34 receptions for 220 yards and two touchdowns and returned three kick-offs for another 55 yards. The Ghost suited up for 14 games, starting just seven. He became the first Browns player to lead the team in rushing and receiving since Earnest Bynar accomplished that feat in 1988.
Jason Hill, WR, San Francisco, 3rd season: Training camp and preseason injuries slowed his start after a strong 30-catch 2008 season, but he was elevated to the number three receiver spot midway through the year. Appearing in 11 games, the San Fran native caught nine passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns. He also contributed four special teams tackles from his gunner spot on the punting unit.
Rian Lindell, K, Buffalo, 10th season: Another solid season for the Vancouver native, as he connected on 85 percent of his field goal tries (28 of 33) with a long of 56 yards. His 108 points scored was the eighth highest in the AFC. He was also perfect on 24 point-after attempts and recorded two special teams tackles. Lindell passed the 1,000 career points marker in the Bills’ final game.
RIAN LINDELL'S 56-YARDER
Rob Meier, DE/DT, Jacksonville, 10th season: Missed the entire season with a shoulder injury.
Karl Paymah, CB, Minnesota, 5th season: Slowed by a bum knee and ankle near the end of the season, Paymah appeared in 12 games, starting two, while recording 27 tackles (24 solo), defensing two passes, and forcing a fumble.
Ropati Pitoitua, DE, New York Jets, 1st year: Appeared in eight games for the Jets, posting three tackles (2 solo).
Marcus Trufant, DB, Seattle, 7th season: Out for the first six games with a back injury, he appeared in 10 games, starting nine. The Tacoma native posted 49 tackles (43 solo), picked off two passes, and defensed six for the beleaguered Seahawks.
Harrison on his way to 286 yards