50 Biggest Fails in NFL History
At one moment, the NFL is totally incredible. The next second it can be a trainwreck.
The NFL is definitely America's sport, but it's not without its share of disasters. To borrow the popular term, it's one huge "fail" after another.
Some are so dreadful you laugh nervously at what you're witnessing. Kind of like Eddie Murphy attempting a music career, Lady Gaga trying to make meat fashionable, or Magic Johnson taking a shot at doing a late-night talk show.
It begs the question: What are the worst NFL fails?
When you consider every angle possible, it's a daunting task to make a list of the 50 biggest fails in NFL history. I mean, would you rate Ryan Leaf a bigger fail than Emmitt Smith's attempt as an ESPN analyst? You've got to put Christina Aguilera's performance of the National Anthem in the mix, right (I think so)?
What about uncomfortable Super Bowl commercials (I've got some in mind)? It's a huge list, but one that leaves room for lots of laughs and uncomfortableness.
One thing I discovered during this process is that the Dallas Cowboys kept making their way into this list. It wasn't intentional, and I certainly didn't have an agenda, but the more I kept brainstorming and researching, the more I thought, "Got to include it."
So here it is. The 50 Biggest Fails in NFL history. Everything is fair game:
50. Rush Limbaugh as an Analyst
ESPN made waves when it hired the popular conservative radio show host as a studio analyst for NFL games, but that experiment didn't last long after Limbaugh was fired following remarks about Donovan McNabb.
You could tell Limbaugh was an NFL fan, but I remember watching that night and hearing the car brakes slam in my mind. I knew right then that this wouldn't have a pretty ending for Rush.
49. Body Paint
I loved arts and crafts too as a child, but that doesn't mean I meet up with my buddies and get lathered up in paint and then show off in front of thousands of strangers.
Part of me wonders, too, whether this creates a bonding experience for married couples, or if wives find it just a step above taking out the trash or picking up dirty laundry.
48. The Dockers Super Bowl Commercial
I'm all for shock humor, but all this made me do is grab another beer and wish I could erase these images from my mind. Super Bowl commercials are meant to be funny, not to give you a sudden urge for counseling.
47. Howie Long's Acting Career
I've loved Howie ever since I grew up watching him with the Raiders. I also think he remains one of the classiest people around, but let's hope there's no more attempts at starring roles like Firestorm.
46. Flag Tossing
Back in 1999, referee Jeff Triplette called a false start penalty against Cleveland Browns center Jim Bundren. Triplette was tossing a flag towards where the penalty occurred, but it sailed instead between the bars of Orlando Brown's face mask, hitting him in the right eye.
Brown snapped, pushed Triplette to the ground and was quickly ejected from the game. The flag, which was weighted with BBs, blinded him and ended his career. Brown later regained vision and had a brief comeback attempt with the Ravens.
45. Suzy's Interview With Broadway Joe
I loved Joe then and still do now. But this may be the greatest sideline interview fail in history. I felt for him and ESPN's Suzy Kolber.
Here's something I'd always overlooked with this: Pay close attention to the end and the announcers. You'll hear the following brilliant exchange:
"Joe's just a happy guy."
"Oh boy is he happy."
44. Christina Singing the National Anthem
It was pretty awkward to see Christina Aguilera forget the words to the National Anthem before Super Bowl XLV. I know it's not the easiest song, but what's crazier is that I saw footage from her practicing in Cowboys Stadium and she did incredible.
She was so pleased, in fact, she didn't even finish the song.
43. Dallas Cowboys' Discipline Under Barry Switzer
Sure the Cowboys won another Super Bowl under Barry Switzer, but the dynasty began to crumble under his watch, too. Years later, many players said that the discipline they had under former coach Jimmy Johnson disappeared when Barry took over.
42. Soldier References
Could we stop with the soldier references?
New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle was the latest player to use a soldier metaphor earlier this season when talking about Giants fans who boo the team.
"They want to make it that guys paid this much money for a ticket," he told the New York Daily News. "Yeah, I understand that, I understand completely. We risk ourselves out there on the field each and every day also. When soldiers come home from Iraq you don't boo them. I look at it the same way. I take my job seriously."
Thankfully Rolle apologized. But he isn't the first one to cross that line, either.
41. T.O. Showing Humility
You remember it: Reporters are gathered in Terrell Owens' driveway as he's doing crunches. One of his finer moments, huh?
It's not too shocking. This is the same player who told us, "I love me some me."
40. Keyshawn's Attempt at Writing
Talk about making a great first impression: As a rookie, New York Jets receiver Keyshawn Johnson penned this classic titled, Just Give Me the Damn Ball!
What's more disturbing than that piece of literary narcissism: Amazon is selling it for $23.
39. Dennis Miller on Monday Night Football
I've loved Miller's humor ever since he was on Saturday Night Live, but I knew this would be an epic disaster from the get-go. Some NFL fans can appreciate his pop culture references, but I've got a feeling your blue-collar factory worker was left annoyed and hitting the mute button on his TV controller.
38. The New York Jets Acting Normal
They eventually became newsworthy for their success on the field, but for most of the year the New York Jets made headlines for all the wrong reasons: You had the ongoing controversy between Jenn Sterger and Brett Favre, the alleged harrassment of Inez Sainz (pictured), Rex Ryan's wife and her foot videos, then Sal Alosi tripping a Miami Dolphins player during a game.
37. The 2008 Detroit Lions
It's the ultimate team fail: 0-16.
Detroit became just the second team to hit that record low, joining the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who finished 0-14. The Lions had four games they could have won that year: at Minnesota (12-10), Washington (25-17), Houston (28-21), Minnesota (20-16).
Quarterback Dan Orlovsky (pictured) finished the season throwing for a team-high 1,616 yards and running back Kevin Smith scored eight touchdowns.
36. Matt Millen as the Lions GM
If you want a textbook on how to drive a team into the ground, go back and look at the moves made by Millen during his tenure with the Detroit Lions.
35. Job Security
Did you really think Sal Alosi would remain employed for long with the Jets after tripping Nolan Carroll this year?
You'd have about as much job security as you would if you poured Starbucks on your boss's lap, or told his wife she needed to cut down on her intake of Whoppers.
34. Leon Lett's Intelligence
It was Super Bowl XXVII, and Dallas was leading Buffalo 52-17.
Jim Jeffcoat sacked Frank Reich, who fumbled the ball. Lett made the recovery and looked to be rumbling in for a touchdown. Then along came Don Beebe.
You can let some things slide, but keep in mind this wasn't the only boneheaded move by Lett.
33. Tampa Bay's Old Uniforms
Nothing says intimidating like the peach sherbet-colored uniforms that Tampa Bay used to sport. Pastels just scream manliness, don't they?
32. Modell Moves the Browns
Art Modell would have needed an infantry if he ever went back into Cleveland.
The former Browns owner created a firestorm when he uprooted the team and moved them to Baltimore, where they became the Ravens. Thankfully the team's records weren't moved, too, but it was stunning to see a franchise with such a rich tradition taken away so quickly.
31. Doritos Super Bowl Commercial
If another guy ever grabbed my hand and licked my finger like that he would end up on the ground.
All this commercial created was lots of awkward silence for me.
30. Jim Rome's Interview With Jim Everett
"Chris" flipped out and couldn't take it any longer. Everett should've known what to expect, but Rome brought that on himself, too.
The ironic thing is that interview all but launched Rome to the top. His radio show is now nationally syndicated and he's the host of Rome Is Burning on ESPN.
29. Akili Smith
You could make just one long list of NFL busts, but for this piece, we'll stick with five.
The former Oregon quarterback was taken by Cincinnati with their first pick, and third pick overall, in the 1999 NFL Draft. Smith played in 22 games during his career, completing just over 46 percent of his passes for 2,212 yards, five touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
28. JaMarcus Russell
Confession: Being an LSU alum, I was beyond hyped when the Raiders took the former Tigers quarterback with the first overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft. I even bought a jersey.
But I quickly saw this was going to be a huge fail.
Russell played in 31 games, completing 52 percent of his passes for 4,083 yards, 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. He had a quarterback rating of 65.2.
27. Old People Being Sweet and Nice
Nothing says leadership excellence like an NFL owner flipping off opposing fans.
That's what Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams did in 2009 after the Titans defeated the Buffalo Bills 41-17. He was fined $250,000 by the NFL for the gesture.
26. Emmitt Smith as an ESPN Analyst
I guess ESPN was trying to make it work and give the former Cowboys running back a chance to develop into a great analyst. It got worse and went from embarrassing to unbearable.
25. Denver Broncos Throwback Uniforms
There's a reason why these uniforms were a thing of the past. These look more like Halloween outfits than football uniforms.
I'm just wondering how the decision-making process went on this one and if team execs got all hyped and high-fived each other on this move. Did someone just forget the orange and blue?
24. Coughlin Freezes Over
The whole time I watched the 2007 NFC Championship Game, I was wincing.
The Giants were playing in Green Bay, temperatures were below freezing and there was Tom Coughlin, his face turning different shades of red as the game progressed.
23. Tony Mandarich
That supposed legendary offensive lineman didn't live up to the hype, did he?
If anything, Mandarich reminds me a lot of Steve Lattimer from the movie The Program.
22. Heisman Winners
It's a prestigious award, but that doesn't mean the winners go on to stellar careers. Some notable past winners who've bombed include:
Matt Leinart (2004): In four seasons, he's thrown for 3,893 yards, 14 TDs and 20 INTs.
Chris Weinke (2000): Didn't make a huge impact in Carolina; he had a quarterback rating of 62.2 in his career.
Eric Crouch (2001): The former Nebraska quarterback didn't even have an NFL career.
Gino Torretta (1992): All you need to know: He was drafted in the seventh round, and 192nd overall, by Minnesota.
21. Saints Drafting Ricky Williams
The choice of player wasn't the problem. The guy was a Heisman Trophy winner and had dominated the college level.
But the Saints practically mortgaged their future and heaped a ton of pressure on a mild-mannered, reserved player who had social anxiety disorder and who couldn't carry the burden placed on him. If they had more talent surrounding him, and had a better approach to handling the media blitz that followed, this may have worked out.
New Orleans seemed to toss him out there on his own and tell him "good luck."
20. Oilers' 2nd-Half Defense
The Houston Oilers had a 28-3 halftime lead. They came out and scored again when Bubba McDowell returned an interception 58 yards.
All they had to do was play defense. Simple, right?
Not really. Buffalo backup quarterback Frank Reich led the greatest comeback in NFL history, which included three touchdown passes to Andre Reed. Then in overtime Steve Christie kicked a 32-yard field goal to give Buffalo a 41-38 victory in the 1993 AFC Wild Card game.
19. Jerry Jones' Quarterback Decisions
Cowboys fans like to say that Jerry Jones is a brilliant owner, but an atrocious general manager. For examples of his decision-making, look no further than the quarterback position.
In the post-Aikman era, the Dallas Cowboys suffered through a list of awful quarterbacks including Quincy Carter, Chad Hutchinson, Drew Henson and Ryan Leaf.
Carter had the most success of the bunch but drug problems cut his career short.
18. Ryan Leaf
The former No.2 pick from Washington State lasted just three years, completing 48 percent of his passes for 3,666 yards and 14 touchdowns, with 36 interceptions. He had a quarterback rating of 50.0.
Maybe even more impressive than those numbers is this impressive moment.
17. Roger Goodell's Logic
OK, I understand that the commissioner wants to crack down on illegal hits, but too often players have been fined for making great football plays. There's still too many gray areas, and it comes across as just another example of the continued emasculation of the NFL, where teams can get 15-yard penalties for just grazing a quarterback.
16. Norwood's Field Goal Kicking
The Giants took a 20-19 lead on Matt Bahr's 21-yard field goal, but the Buffalo Bills still had a chance to win Super Bowl XXV only to have Scott Norwood's 47-yard field goal sail wide right.
New York won, 20-19
15. Bill Belichick's Coaching Tree
The Patriots coach will go down as one of the greatest coaches ever, but his coaching tree has been an abysmal failure. Former defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel was fired from the Browns, Charlie Weis wasn't the genius he thought he was at Notre Dame, Josh McDaniels was canned in Denver, and now Eric Mangini has been let go from the Jets and Browns.
14. Reggie White's Speech to the Wisconsin Legislature
There's no doubt White is an NFL legend, and one of the most beloved Green Bay Packers ever.
But his speech to the Wisconsin legislature in 1998 was both awkward and arguably racist. In the speech, White launched off about homosexuals and numerous races. Whites, he said, are "good at organization."
"You guys do a good job of building businesses and things of that nature, and you know how to tap into money," he said in a CBS Sportsline article.
That's the tame stuff. The rest of it, let's just say, goes way overboard.
13. Postgame Press Conference Meltdowns
Most postgame press conferences are straightforward, low-key and matter-of-fact, but then you get those moments like this when coaches or players lose their cool and erupt.
As a longtime sportswriter, I can say it leaves you stressed, because you usually want plenty of comments from the coach. The bright side is that it makes for good laughs later on and good column material.
12. Take Your Pick With Marty
You could make up quite an extensive list of fails involving Marty Schottenheimer.
As a kid, I was a Kansas City Chiefs fan and was often left bummed out with some of Marty's decisions and teams he had. When it comes to his ultimate fail, though, I think you've got to put "The Drive" at the top, when John Elway rallied the Broncos from behind to beat Schottenheimer's Browns.
11. Great Expectations
The 2008 Dallas Cowboys had everything you could want in a Super Bowl contender.
Coming off a 13-3 season, there were huge expectations placed on Dallas, but the Cowboys underachieved in spectacular fashion and finished 9-7, missing out on the playoffs following a 44-6 loss at Philadelphia.
Tony Romo certainly didn't win over fans after the game when he basically said there are a lot more important things in life to worry about than not making the playoffs. Not the kind of thing you say when you're quarterback for America's Team.
10. Janet's Super Bowl Halftime Performance
Always enjoyed Miss Janet, but her Super Bowl halftime performance with Justin Timberlake certainly didn't go over well with the FCC or parents who had to have talks with their preteen children.
The raciness has left halftime shows since then and even steered towards older fans in 2010, when the legendary classic rock band The Who performed.
9. Philadelphia Eagles Fans
All you need to know here: These are the fans who cheered when Michael Irvin went down with a serious neck injury, and booed Donovan McNabb when he was selected in the 1999 NFL Draft.
8. Past Coaches
There are decent coaches, and then just awful ones. You can't find too many positives here:
Rod Marinelli, Detroit (2006-2008): 10-38 (.208)
Dave McGinnis, Arizona (2000-2003): 17-40 (.298)
Dave Campo, Dallas (2000-2002): 15-33 (.313)
Mike Nolan, San Francisco (pictured, 2005-2008): 18-37 (.327)
Steve Spurrier, Washington (2002-2003): 12-20 (.375)
7. Jerry Jones Passing On Randy Moss in the Draft
Jones played the character card and Moss went on to exact revenge in ruthless, dominating fashion. The slight fueled him late into his career, and while Moss said he'd forgiven Jones, it was something he never forgot.
Wonder if Jerry ever wanted a do-over?
6. Super Bowl Blowouts
I tune in to see lots of drama and be entertained, not to watch some team get beaten senseless. The Super Bowl has had plenty of blowouts over the years.
My least favorites: Super Bowl XXXVII (Tampa defeats Oakland, 48-21), XXVII (Dallas beats Buffalo, 52-17) and XXIV (San Francisco tops Denver, 55-10).
5. Todd Marinovich
He had all the skills and the perfect frame you'd want in an NFL quarterback, but all that potential never amounted to anything and Marinovich's career was derailed by drug use.
Drugs were just the end result of a life growing up under a fanatical, sports-driven father who was hellbent on engineering a perfect athlete.
4. Brett Favre's Final Year
It was sad and uncomfortable, whether it was hearing about the Jenn Sterger mess, or seeing his body fall apart as he did more harm than good for the Vikings.
3. Treatment of Retired Players
If it weren't for people like Mike Ditka taking a stand, retired players would be completely ignored and forgotten. It's a complete joke how the NFL helps retired players who are still suffering from lingering health issues and ailments from their careers.
The NFL is a multi-billion industry and both players and owners should set aside revenue to go towards those who made the game what it is today.
2. Patriots' Bid for History
All they needed was just one more win. You tuned into Super Bowl XLII to see history made.
But you got perhaps one of the greatest upsets ever, as the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots 17-14 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
Everything about the Patriots was incredible that year, but it went up in smoke in one game.
1. How Jerry Jones Fired Tom Landry
History was made Feb 26, 1989, when Jerry Jones took over as owner and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys.
His first move: firing longtime coach Tom Landry. He immediately replaced him with former Miami Hurricanes coach Jimmy Johnson.
The whole process drew the wrath of fans then and remains a sensitive subject even today. The Dallas Morning News told about the trip to Landry's vacation home near Austin that Jones took with Tex Schramm to break the news.
Jones told Landry, "I'm here and so is Jimmy,'' describing the meeting as "very awkward, and I was basically just trying to say something you just can’t say."
I have no problem with Landry being fired, and the hiring of Johnson proved to be brilliant. But the way in which the Landry decision was handled was absolutely wrong. A legend and man of Landry's stature deserved a far better sendoff than what he got.