The NFL has undoubtedly produced many legends throughout the years. The superstar athletes have produced moments of joy and inspiration throughout glittering careers. However, everybody is capable of having a bad day, even legends of the game. It doesn’t matter how good you are, one day you will get old. Time is the enemy of all professional athletes.
Of course, it’s more noticeable when a quarterback plays badly because they orchestrate their team’s offense. When they’re out of sync, everything can and does go wrong, so this list is QB-heavy. However, other players also do appear because they failed to deliver in Super Bowls and other big games. So let’s take a look at 20 NFL games where these legends played incredibly badly and their opponents destroyed them. Check it out via BroBible below.
20. Jim Kelly – 1992
Kelly and his teammate Thurman Thomas (more on him later) were not up to their normal lofty standard in Super Bowl XXVI. Fans thought Kelly was the ace up their sleeves against the Washington Redskins. After all, he had produced the season of his life up until that point. But then he ran out of gas when it mattered most. The Washington Redskins shut down one of the Bills’ biggest legends.
Buffalo’s star quarterback completed just 28 of 58 passes as he chose a terrible time to lose his usually sniper-like accuracy. Furthermore, the Redskins sacked him five times and he threw four interceptions. This was costly because Washington returned two for touchdowns. He also fumbled the ball three times in one of the worst days of his otherwise successful career.
The score doesn’t always reflect when a running back plays badly. It’s much more clear when a quarterback plays poorly because it affects the dynamic of the team. Tomlinson was one of the best running backs of the 2000s, as his five Pro Bowl appearances attest. However, he was awful in one key playoff game against the New York Jets. The legend showed why running backs typically have the shortest shelf life in the NFL.
It was his final game with the team and he left with a whimper. It’s always disappointing when legends depart after a bad performance. Tomlinson ran for just 24 yards on 12 carries. The Jets overpowered the Chargers and shut down Tomlinson’s game. Ironically, he went on to spend his final two seasons with the Jets after they ended his time in San Diego.
The Indianapolis Colts signed Rivers as a free agent on a one-year contract. After 16 seasons with the Chargers, Rivers had finally moved on. He had a very poor 2019 and the big question was whether or not the 38-year-old was over the hill. Rivers definitely had some major ups-and-downs with the franchise. One game against the Cleveland Browns was particularly awful as he couldn’t do anything right.
Rivers committed a safety, gave away two interceptions, and fumbled at a key moment in the fourth quarter. He was a one-man wrecking crew for the Colts’ hope that day. A member of the veteran quarterback legends crew, Rivers didn’t play like one. In fact, he looked like a rookie, out of depth and overwhelmed.
Without a doubt, this was the worst performance of McNabb’s career. The Philadelphia Eagles played the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Stadium on a cold November day. However, the Eagles offense was horrendous and McNabb was no exception. In fact, he was so bad that Andy Reid pulled him at halftime for the first (and only) time in the quarterback’s career.
His performance saw him go 8-for-18 in passing with two interceptions. He had a miserable 13.2 passer rating. Then Kevin Kolb replaced him and played almost equally poorly as he went 10-for-23 with two interceptions. The Ravens overwhelmed the Eagles and won the game 36-7. You can bet the notorious Philadelphia fans were not happy at all.
College football Hall of Famer Collins played in a Super Bowl with the New York Giants. However, he posted the worst quarterback rating in the history of the showpiece event with a miserable 7.1. So, in short, he wasn’t very good. The two-time Pro Bowler was totally out of his depth against the Baltimore Ravens. There are few words to describe how awful he was.
He completed just 15 of 39 passes for just 112 yards and threw four interceptions while fumbling once. While Collins enjoyed a strong NFL career, he was bad in this game. The Giants did score but it came off a kickoff return and not anything Collins achieved. In the end, the Ravens emerged as the winners with a 37-7 score.
Manning faced his old team, the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs. At the age of 38, it was clear that the future Hall of Famer was no longer the same force that he once was. Manning looked like a diminished version of himself at Mile High Stadium. It was all the more bittersweet to watch because of his history as an Indianapolis Colts legend. However, the NFL is cruel to legends.
The Colts won 24-13 and Manning barely contributed. He consistently overthrew his receivers and finished the game having gone 26 of 46 passing for 211 yards. Manning is one of the sport’s legends but had a mixed record in the playoffs. On this occasion, it looked like his brain was out of sync with his body. As tends to happen in the NFL, he suddenly got old. That was the sad truth of it.
Gronkowski came out of retirement to join Tom Brady in Florida, but the veteran tight end is not quite the player he once was. His quarterback partner was horrendous in the Buccaneers’ 38-3 defeat at the hands of the New Orleans Saints. However, Gronkowski, arguably the greatest player in the history of his position, was also remarkable for being anonymous throughout the ‘contest.’
Gronk’s lack of efficiency was evident from the very start. He had two strong opportunities. The legendary tight end dropped a touchdown while Brady overthrew him in the final quarter. All in all it was sad to watch. Unless you’re a Patriots’ fan because you might experience some schadenfreude. The sad reality is that even legends get old. No Tampa Bay player came out of this game looking good.
The Carolina Panthers literally destroyed Tony Romo by breaking his collarbone and inflicting a brutal defeat on the Dallas Cowboys. After returning from injury, Romo wanted to make up for the lost time. But after Thomas Davis sacked him just two games into his return, Romo broke his collarbone again. However, it wasn’t like the Cowboys missed him because he was dreadful up until that point.
He threw three interceptions, resulting in two touchdowns. Matt Cassel replaced him as the Panthers ran out 33-14 winners to compound a miserable day at the office for America’s Team. Collarbone injuries are some of the worst in football because they take quite a while to heal. They also remain vulnerable for the rest of the athlete’s career, as Romo discovered.
Yes, we’re talking about ‘Gruden Bowl.’ The Oakland Raiders faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Super Bowl XXXVII. Jon Gruden led the Bucs against his old team. He basically knew exactly what Raiders’ quarterback Rich Gannon would do. In the end, Gruden pulled off a masterclass against his former franchise and almost totally nullified Gannon.
Gannon broke a Super Bowl record on the day but it wasn’t a good one. He threw five interceptions and went 24-for-44 passing. Meanwhile, Tampa returned three of the five interceptions for touchdowns. Gannon and Gruden lost their chances to become Oakland legends as one nullified the other. Possibly the worst Super Bowl quarterback performance ever.
Roethlisberger endured one of the worst games of his career in an October match-up against the Jacksonville Jaguars. ‘Big Ben’ was terrible as the Pittsburgh Steelers lost 30-9. Overall, this was one of the worst home defeats of his career. He threw for 312 yards but on a lofty 55 attempts, which shows how poor his accuracy was in this stunning performance.
‘Big Ben’ threw five interceptions, the most of his career, and no touchdowns. It’s rare that Roethlisberger plays so badly at Heinz Stadium but this was definitely up there with his worst. The Jaguars totally shut down one of the game’s legends on the way to victory. Luckily this wasn’t the norm, but it was terrible by anybody’s standards. Fans expected more from the Steelers’ hero, yet this Jaguars defense was on the brink of an amazing year.
Tom Brady received a lot of attention in 2020 but he wasn’t the only iconic quarterback under the radar. With Jordan Love breathing down his neck and tension behind the scenes, there was a lot of focus on Rodgers. While he had some outstanding games, he was uncharacteristically dreadful against Brady’s Buccaneers on what was just one of those days. But the fact it came against Brady made it even worse.
The Packers scored 10 points in the first quarter but the Bucs shut them out for the rest of the game. Rodgers absorbed four sacks and threw a pick six in the first quarter. He also only completed 45% of his passes on a day where nothing seemed to work for him. Before this week five showdown, Rodgers had only played Brady twice. Rodgers obviously wanted to be much better in this battle of the legends.
It’s controversial to put Vick on a list of legends, but the former Atlanta Falcons’ star redefined the quarterback role before he went to jail. He managed to revitalize his career with the Philadelphia Eagles after his time in jail ended. However, every player can have a bad day at the office. One of Vick’s worst came against the Kansas City Chiefs. It was Andy Reid’s first game in charge at Arrowhead Stadium.
Vick was so bad against the Chiefs that it wasn’t even funny. First, he completed just over 40 percent of his passes and turned the ball over four times. One of those included a pick-six so his poor game was costly. While the scoreline is by no means the worst on this list, Vick definitely cost his team a chance at glory. The opposition definitely shut him down.
One of the best players never to win a Super Bowl, Marino had an otherwise glorious career. However, it ended with a whimper in a dismal defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars crushed the Miami Dolphins 62-7 in one of the most shocking playoff games ever. Meanwhile, Marino was atrocious in his final game for the franchise. Nobody could have expected this kind of display from the veteran.
His two interceptions, one fumble, and multiple sacks were reasons behind the Dolphins’ defeat. Of course, it’s not fair to totally blame it on one of their biggest legends ever, but he was bad. The Jaguars totally shut him down with some hard hits that put him off his game. After a tough year, Marino was happy to finally hang up his cleats and walk away from the sport.
Robinson was truly a special case. Fans expected the safety to be one of Atlanta’s key players against the Denver Broncos at Super Bowl XXXIII. In the end, he did play a defining role but not for a good reason. The night before the showpiece event, Robinson decided to find a hooker to spend the evening with. Of course, he propositioned an undercover policewoman.
Somehow, Robinson still managed to play in the big game despite his arrest. However, his escapades the night before definitely impacted his form. He was ineffective and one of the worst moments came when John Elway passed over his head for a touchdown. In the end, the Broncos won 34-19. Robinson destroyed his own chances of being the star by being unprofessional.
The Buffalo Bills lost four Super Bowls in a row in the 1990s. While their third game had the worst score, we’re going to focus on Thomas’s ridiculous display at Super Bowl XXVI. He was the reigning NFL MVP award winner but it was like he forgot how to play football for the entirety of this game against the Washington Redskins. In truth, it was embarrassing.
First of all, he somehow lost his helmet. Obviously this meant that he couldn’t enter the playing field and he missed the first series of the game. He then ran for just 13 yards on 10 carries. In sum, Thomas was ineffective as the Redskins shut him down. Thomas and his teammates lost the chance to become legends. Instead, they set in motion one of the notorious runs in Super Bowl history.
The Denver Broncos faced the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV. However, franchise quarterback Elway had one of the worst games of his career. The 49ers ran out overwhelming winners in a 55-10 annihilation. They successfully humiliated one of Denver’s legends by almost totally shutting him down. He did score the Bronco’s only touchdown, but that was as good as it got for Elway.
Overall, he played very poorly. He failed to throw any touchdowns and the 49ers intercepted him twice. Furthermore, he posted two fumbles and went 10-for-26 passing. When your quarterback doesn’t play well it affects the team as a unit. Unfortunately, Elway chose the biggest stage of them all to put in a truly terrible display. Not exactly one to look back on.
Easily the worst performance of his career, Manning was horrendously bad in a miserable game for the New York Giants. The Seattle Seahawks got their first shutout of the season in a dominant 23-0 victory as they humiliated the East Coast franchise. Nobody really played well for the Giants, but we can’t downplay how bad Manning was either because this was brutal.
Seattle’s defense overwhelmed Manning and reduced his weapons to nothing. Manning threw a total of five interceptions, two of which led directly to touchdowns. When you play for as long as legends like Manning and his older brother did, then it stands to reason that you’re going to have an occasional bad day. However, this effort will definitely make him shudder if he looks back on it.
First of all, let’s caveat this by saying that Brady isn’t terrible in 2020. He has had some great games for the Buccaneers, even at the ripe old age of 43. But the New Orleans Saints just had his number as they crushed his new team twice. He threw a Pick-six in an opening day loss against Andy Reid’s side, but his most horrifying display came in Week Nine as the Saints crushed Tampa 38-3.
Brady was dreadful. This wasn’t a case of the opposition just shutting him down. He threw three interceptions with no touchdowns in one of the worst displays of his career. The most lopsided defeat he ever played in, Brady was absolutely dire. Meanwhile, Drew Brees’ near-perfect performance stood in stark contrast to Brady’s misery. They destroyed one of football’s legends.
Manning and the Denver Broncos played the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. However, the Seahawks absolutely destroyed Denver in a crushing 43-8 victory. It was one of the most one-sided Super Bowl games ever. Meanwhile, Manning was very poor on the biggest stage of them all. He may be one of the sport’s legends but there are no excuses for how ineffective he was against the younger, hungrier team.
This was a game where statistics can warp your interpretation of what really happened. For example, the stats line reads that Manning had a Super Bowl-record 34 completions. But this meant nothing because he failed when it mattered. The elder Manning threw two interceptions and fumbled once. Furthermore, the snap sailed over his head at the start of the game, setting the tone for the rest of the match.
The Minnesota Vikings welcomed the Chicago Bears to Minneapolis in Week 15. One of the biggest surprises of the day was the fact that veteran QB Favre started but he didn’t stay on the field for long. He was a late inclusion after missing the week’s practice sessions because of a sprained shoulder. Furthermore, he even played well in the first quarter with one touchdown pass. But then Corey Wooton slammed him on the ground.
Favre smacked his head off the frozen solid ground and lay motionless for a few seconds. In sum, the Bears ended his career then and there. Then, to rub salt into his wounds, Chicago built on their lead, crushing the Vikings 40-14. You couldn’t have scripted a worse ending for one of the game’s legends. The concussed great’s team lost and he suffered a knockout blow on a miserable December day.