5 Biggest Fails of NFL Playoff History
America loves their success stories.
Stories about big underdogs achieving success, like Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. Or teams coming back to win games from tremendous deficits in the final minute, also like Tebow and the Broncos.
But let's be honest: America also loves their failures.
For every heroic playoff performance, there is one just as tremendously abysmal, and as Dave Dameshek would put it, "it's time to shine the white hot light of shame on those who deserve it most."
So brace yourselves, there is nothing pretty about these playoff fails.
Honorable Mention: Thurman Thomas Can't Find His Helmet
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Why was this future Hall of Fame running back sitting on the bench for the first few plays of Super Bowl XXVI?
Was he injured?
He was sitting out because he couldn't find his helmet.
You're reading it right—Thurman Thomas, an essential part of the Buffalo Bills' offence who appeared in and lost four consecutive Super Bowls, missed part of the opening series because he lost his helmet in the pregame shuffle.
How does someone misplace their helmet before the biggest game of his life?
It's beyond me.
Maybe Thurman knew the Bills would lose Super Bowl XXVI and the two after that, so he decided to hide his helmet to avoid further embarrassment.
Either way, coming so close to a championship and losing four times in a row must hurt, helmet or not.
Honorable Mention: Trey Junkin's Groundball
It's not all that often that long snappers are put into the spotlight, but this 2002 Wild Card game between the Giants and the 49ers is an exception.
In the game, the Giants blew a 38-14 lead to a team with Jeff Garcia at quarterback, but still had a final field-goal attempt to win the game with under a minute remaining.
The rest is history.
Junkin, who was 41 years old and had been coaxed out of retirement just for this game to replace an injured Dan O'Leary, trotted on to the field to snap the ball.
Instead of perfectly launching the snap to his holder, Matt Allen, Junkin's snap hit the turf. Allen, who then recovered it, was forced to throw a desperation pass to no avail.
The one reason this isn't higher is that Junkin's snap wasn't the biggest fail of the play. On Allen's desperation pass there was clear pass interference by the 49ers. Instead, the official penalized Rich Seubert for ineligible man downfield, which when reviewed later shows he was an eligible receiver.
The officiating was so bad that the next day the league came out and acknowledged they blew the call.
How did 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci respond?
Honorable Mention: Lomas' Guarantee Becomes Lions' Misery
Poor, poor Lions fans.
In an attempt to motivate his team before their upcoming playoff game, All-Pro Tackle Lomas Brown thought it would be a good idea to guarantee a victory.
If successful, it would be the first playoff game the Lions had won since 1991 and would put them in position to challenge for their first championship since 1957.
Unfortunately for Brown, the Namath guarantee only works for Joe Namath, and the Lions were already trailing 38-7 by halftime on their way to a humiliating 58-37 defeat.
Brown's guarantee was not helped by the abysmal play of his quarterback, Scott Mitchel, who went 13-29 for 155 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions.
Sorry Lions fans. Enjoy watching the Barry Sanders highlights from this game, as that's about all that went right for the Lions in this one.
5. Eugene Robinson Gets in Trouble on the Field and with the Law
On the Saturday before Super Bowl XXXIII, Eugene Robinson was given the Bart Starr Award by the religious group Athletes in Action because of his "high moral character."
It would seem they jumped the gun on this one, as the very same night Robinson was arrested for allegedly offering an undercover cop $40 for oral sex.
Things didn't get much better from there, as during the next night in the Super Bowl, Robinson got burned on an 80-yard touchdown pass to Rod Smith from John Elway that put the Falcons behind 17-3.
Maybe Robinson should've been focusing on the biggest game of his career, not chasing prostitutes.
Definitely an example of playoff failure.
High moral character?
I don't think so.
4. Neil O'Donnell Passes to Larry Brown
During Super Bowl XXX, Neil O'Donnell threw two perfect passes to Larry Brown.
The problem is that Larry Brown is on the Cowboys–not the Steelers—and those two interceptions crippled any chance the Steelers had of winning the game.
Now is throwing two picks really that bad?
No, it's actually a lot better than the four Scott Mitchel threw or the five Jake Delhomme dished out in their respective playoff appearances.
3. Garo's Gaffe
(See 2:20 of the video for Garo's Gaffe)
Garo's Gaffe is the one blemish on the perfect season of the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
During Super Bowl VII, the Dolphins were leading the Redskins 14-0 and then Garo Yepremian took the field to try to kick a game-sealing field goal with around two minutes left in the game.
Garo's kick was blocked by Bill Brundige and after Garo recovered the ball, threw an abysmal pass and then helplessly batted the ball into the air, it was caught by Mike Bass who returned it for a touchdown.
Regardless, the Dolphins ended up winning the Super Bow 14-7 while completing their perfect season.
I give Yepremian credit for coming to America as an immigrant and achieving football success, but this abysmal play is one that football purists watch when they want to cry.
2. Leon Lets It Go
Oh, Leon Lett.
I know what you were thinking. A defensive tackle rarely—if ever—gets the ball in their hands, especially on a stage as grand as Super Bowl XXVII.
But instead of being grateful of the touchdown you were about to score, you held the ball out to celebrate...
And right before the goal line it was stripped away by a hustling Don Beebe.
In the grand scheme of things, the fumble didn't have a great impact on the game since at that point the Cowboys were already leading 52-17 and cruising to a victory.
But c'mon Leon, it would be different if you didn't do something like this against the Dolphins next Thanksgiving.
Some people never learn.
1. The Fumble
You really have to feel for Earnest Byner.
I'm sure whenever he walks into a Cleveland area bar and sits down, the person next to him doesn't say, "Oh you're Ernest Byner, the two-time Pro Bowl running back who had three 1,000-yard rushing seasons."
Unfortunately for Byner, it's probably more along the lines of, "You're that guy who fumbled on the goal line and cost us a shot at the Super Bowl!"
Overall, you have to feel bad for Byner, whose very solid career is overlooked by one miserable play.
It's too bad that one miserable play occurred during the AFC Championship game when his team was on the 8-yard line, trailing by seven points with just over a minute remaining.
Sorry Earnest, you'll never be the former Pro Bowl running back—you'll always be that guy who fumbled.
And sorry to Cleveland for making you relive this...
I know your sports history is sad enough.
Did I miss any? Feel free to add in your favourites in the comment section.