Though it's exceedingly difficult for a man of action and authority to admit error, such admissions are even harder for a legendary sports executive.
Maybe that's why it took Al Davis two years to dump Javon Walker. Though the troubled wideout needed to go, he is but the latest NFL free agent to show up here only to leave his bosses bathing in regret.
Named by NFL Network as the worst free agent signing of all time, Walker may not be the worst to hit the Bay Area. Having been provided a deep field of contenders by the Raiders and 49ers, we submit these as the 10 most regrettable NFL free agents in local history.
10: Strong safety Gibril Wilson, who received from Oakland a six-year contract worth $39 million, with $16 mil guaranteed, in 2008.
Wilson parlayed his status as a solid starter with the Super Bowl champion New York Giants into a deal that made him the game's third-highest paid safety. He provided good run support but was dreadful against the pass. Paid to be great, he was merely fair.
9: Wideout/kick returner Desmond Howard, who received from Oakland a four-year deal worth $6 million in 1997.
Introduced to the Bay Area at a news conference as the reigning Super Bowl MVP, Howard came from Green Bay to provide dimension to the Raiders passing game and return kicks. He occasionally succeeded in the latter, failed spectacularly in the former.
8: Running back Lawrence Phillips, who received from San Francisco a two-year contract worth $1.75 million plus incentives, with $425,000 guaranteed in 1999.
"This is a great opportunity," Phillips said. "I don't intend to screw it up."
Signed in July by GM Bill Walsh, he was suspended in November — two months after earning a spot in the team's Hall of Dishonor by missing a block on blitzing Arizona safety Aeneas Williams, who delivered the hit that ended Steve Young's career.
7: Offensive tackle Kwame Harris, given by Oakland a three-year deal worth $16 million, with $3 mil guaranteed, in 2008.
This makes the list mostly because of the arrogance the Raiders displayed by implying the 49ers — Harris' previous employer — had failed the player. Davis overpaid to discover what everybody else knew, that Kwame is a nice guy and a mediocre lineman.
6: Linebacker Winfred Tubbs, signed by San Francisco in 1998 to a five-year deal worth $14.25 million, including a $4 million signing bonus.
Even though he had broken a Saints record for tackles the previous season, this move still rocked the NFL. Hired to replace popular Gary Plummer, Tubbs got his money and was swallowed whole by the expectations that came with it.
5: Cornerback Antonio Langham, signed by San Francisco in '98 to a five-year deal worth $17 million, $3.5 mil guaranteed.
The 49ers wanted Langham to replace Rod Woodson, who struggled in the wake of a serious knee injury. Langham arrived from Baltimore and quickly became the Toast of the Bay, burned by wideouts around the league. Even now, he's lagging in coverage.
4: Defensive lineman Gabe Wilkins, signed by San Francisco in '98 to a five-year deal worth $20 million, including a $4.5 million signing bonus.
The crown jewel of the year the 49ers spent like a drunken lottery winner. A one-year starter in Green Bay after three years as a backup, Wilkins made one spectacular play as a Packer — hurdling a would-be tackler while returning a recovered fumble for a touchdown — and rode it to wealth. Two years and one sack later, he limped out of town.
3: Left tackle Jonas Jennings, signed by San Francisco in 2005 to a seven-year deal worth $36 million, $12 mil guaranteed.
The first big splash of the Mike Nolan era, the free agent from Buffalo was hired to protect Niners quarterbacks for the better part of a decade. He didn't. He couldn't avoid injury. If he had played to his contract, we might think differently of Nolan.
2: Cornerback Larry Brown, signed by Oakland in 1996 to a five-year deal worth $12.5 million, $3.5 mil guaranteed.
Brown seized upon Al's affinity for Super Bowl stars, never mind that his MVP trophy was handed to him by Steelers quarterback Neil O'Donnell. Brown got one start in two years because he couldn't cover a bar of soap and was a toxic locker room presence.
No. 1: OK, it's our man Javon, whose six-year, $55 million deal ($16 mil guaranteed) in 2008 is one for the ages.
The signing seemed desperate from the start and never made sense. Even Walker, who tried to ask for his release, knew he was stealing money from the boss.
The release of Walker this week suggests the boss finally came to grips with the fact he had victimized himself.
Contact Monte Poole at email@example.com.