The Minnesota Vikings had Randy Moss and Randall Cunningham in 1998-1999. This was the greatest incarnation of the franchise to date, but they failed to capitalize on their incredible roster. Sure, they made it through the regular season with their blistering offense but fell short in the playoffs against the Atlanta Falcons. They were literally a win away from a Super Bowl appearance, but they couldn’t make it.
Vikings’ fans had massive faith in Anderson. The kicker was perfect all season on field-goal attempts. However, faith is cruel and he tarnished his record at the worst possible time by missing a game-winning attempt. The 15-1 Vikings crashed out against a mediocre Atlanta team. The worst part was that the Broncos crushed the Falcons in the Super Bowl when the Vikings would have made the game much more interesting.
Stewart had two notorious postseason performances that defined him as a quarterback. The Pittsburgh Steeler had the talent but not the mentality to be a true franchise QB. The Steelers lost two AFC Championship games with Stewart as their starting play-caller. Firstly, in 1997 he threw away the game to the Denver Broncos in a cruel 24-21 defeat. But he was young there was sympathy for him.
But 2001 was a different story. The Steelers had the best defense in the league and a shiny new home stadium. All they needed was for Stewart, the team’s MVP and Pro Bowler, to perform to his level. New England lost Tom Brady to injury and brought on Drew Bledsoe. Meanwhile, the Patriots had a porous defense but it didn’t matter because Stewart missed passes and threw two pick-sixes in a miserable loss.
McCarthy led the Packers for 13 seasons and won a Super Bowl along the way. However, his legacy is diminished by the fact that he wasted the best years of Aaron Rodgers’ career. There’s little doubt that Rodgers should have appeared in far more Super Bowls and the head coach sullied his reputation in Green Bay by failing to achieve this. His dodgy decision-making was exemplified against the Seattle Seahawks in the 2015 NFC Championship game.
After the Packers built up a lead, McCarthy made the call to take the ball out of Rodgers’ hands. A strong offense was the best form of defense in this scenario, but McCarthy didn’t receive the memo and Green Bay imploded. His conservative playcalling was directly responsible for the Packers’ failure to cross the line. There’s no doubt that he was a solid coach, but it feels like he could have done more if he was braver.
Peyton Manning ensured Vanderjagt’s long-term infamy after he called him “an idiot kicker.” The former Colts’ star will never lose that moniker after missing a crucial field goal against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Manning did everything right on the day as the Colts closed the gap from 21-3 to just three points. Then, Vanderjagt stepped forward ready to become a hero. But he simply couldn’t take it.
Vanderjagt hadn’t missed a field goal at home all season. After a fumble recovery, his chance came from 46 yards. But then he made a mess of the most important kick of his life. Nobody remembers or cares about his golden regular-season record, but everybody points toward his key miss. It handed the victory to the Steelers and sullied ‘that idiot kicker’s’ name for the rest of football history.
The Carolina Panthers annihilated the Arizona Cardinals in the 2015 playoffs. A big part of this defeat was the fact that Palmer, the Cardinals’ quarterback, had an awful game that tarnished fans’ perceptions of him. After patchy performances for the Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders, Palmer reignited his career in Arizona. Cam Newton won the 2015 NFL MVP award but Palmer was a close contender after his best year as a pro.
But it was probably just as well that he didn’t win it because his performance in the NFC Championship game was atrocious. Palmer turned the ball over six times as the Panthers hammered the Cardinals and showed just why Newton won the MVP award instead. It was an embarrassing display for everybody involved. Meanwhile, Palmer never played in the postseason again after the game tarnished his rep.
The Jets were one step away from the Super Bowl when they met the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Championship game. They believed that they could make it past Miami and had great faith in their quarterback Todd to make a difference. However, Todd chose the worst possible moment to have one of the worst games of his career. He was directly responsible for the Jets losing the game and sullied his legacy.
It was 1982, the year before Miami drafted a young quarterback named Dan Marino. Meanwhile, the Jets established themselves as Super Bowl favorites but couldn’t get it together on the Orange Bowl field. Todd threw five interceptions including a game-defining pick-six that resulted in the Dolphins winning 14-0. It was an awful way for the game to end and Todd could only hold his face in his hands.
Miami’s greatest-ever quarterback never won a Super Bowl but he broke all kinds of football records. His final game arrived in 2000 but fans didn’t expect this to be the last one. The Dolphins played the Jacksonville Jaguars in the divisional playoff round and expected to defeat their Florida rivals. However, that didn’t go to plan at all. Instead, Marino left the NFL with a whimper after one of the most crushing defeats in postseason history.
The Jaguars annihilated the Dolphins in a 62-7 massacre. Marino achieved just 97 passing yards because the Jags refused to allow him into the game. Meanwhile, he had two interceptions and a fumble as he endured the roughest afternoon of his life. Jacksonville sacked him hard throughout the game and majorly sullied his final appearance. There was to be no Super Bowl send-off for one of the sport’s most legendary signal-callers.
Revisionism has seen more people understand why Carroll didn’t make the call to run the ball with star running back Marshawn Lynch. But few postseason incidents have sullied reputations more than his final call at Super Bowl XLIX. The Seahawks were a yard away from winning their second successive Super Bowl when Carroll ordered Russell Wilson to attempt a pass play instead of offloading to the marauder that was Marshawn Lynch.
After the game, Carroll explained that statistically, Lynch was very ineffective from similar positions all season. However, fans and millions of viewers around the world didn’t see it that way at the time. All they saw was Malcolm Butler plucking the ball out of the air. It was extremely controversial at the time and Carroll endured insane criticism. Credit has to go to the veteran coach for enduring it getting past it.
Wide right. Poor Norwood will never shake those infamous words, even though it wasn’t entirely his fault. Sure, he missed the fateful kick that sullied the rest of his life, nevermind his career. The Bills played the Giants at Super Bowl XXV in 1991 and gave Norwood the opportunity to be a hero. However, Norwood discovered that real life isn’t the movies and duly kicked his 47-yard effort wide of the post.
Millions of eyes seared into Norwood before he buckled under the pressure and gave the Giants the win. Of course, Marc Levy and Jim Kelly made mistakes during the game that didn’t help the Bills but they left Norwood exposed with a brute of a kick. Engrained in NFL folklore, the Bills failed to shake off the legacy of ‘Wide-Right’ for an entire generation. But that’s what the game is about.
Snyder’s Falcons suffered the unfortunate record of dropping the biggest lead in Super Bowl history. Their meltdown against the New England Patriots remains notorious because it was a horrible collapse. Fatigue overcame the Falcons who couldn’t do anything to stop the Patriots on their trudge to victory. Meanwhile, it sulled the career of head coach Dan Quinn, who failed to change the momentum of the game.
Arguably, Kyle Shanahan was just as responsible because of his aggressive plays during the game, but then he went and took the 49ers’ head coach job. This meant that Quinn was alone in the spotlight to pick up the pieces and shake off the shadow of the Falcons’ nightmare. Atlanta subsequently deteriorated over the next couple of seasons until they finally put Quinn out of his misery.
The Cleveland Browns destroyed the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2021 to win their first playoff game win in 25 years. The Browns were without their head coach Kevin Stefanski, their best offensive lineman, and also two starting cornerbacks. However, offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt had no problem building up the biggest first-quarter lead in postseason history (28-0). Meanwhile, the Steelers were atrocious and this game badly sullied their otherwise good season.
Their entire team should take the blame for this one, but there’s no denying that ‘Big Ben’ was terrible. The two-time Super Bowl winner wore an expression of frustration and confusion throughout the entire game as the Browns ran riot. Pittsburgh did bounce back but ultimately Cleveland was much too good for them on the day. The long-term result could be the end of Roethlisberger’s NFL career.