When a quarterback takes a knee it’s one of the most iconic images in football. Victory formations symbolize a job well done. However, in 1978, Bob Gibson demanded that his players continued to play because he hated this practice. New York Giants’ head coach John McVey entrusted his offensive coordinator to call plays. But this literally cost his team a win against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The bullying Gibson terrified his players. He ordered Joe Pisarcik to offload to Larry Csonka and his quarterback didn’t question. But Pisarcik fumbled the ball with devastating consequences. Philly star Herm Edwards picked up the ball and ran for the winning touchdown. Gibson’s moment of hubris resulted in his making one of the dumbest decisions ever seen on a football field.
Belichick arguably cost his team a Super Bowl against the Indianapolis Colts because he was too cautious. But that isn’t why he is on this list. After all, the Patriots’ coach is a record-breaking, six-time Super Bowl winner. It’s difficult to criticize him on the field when it comes to results. However, he stained his reputation with the ‘Spygate’ scandal. Furthermore, he threw Tom Brady under the bus with ‘Deflategate’.
Belichick arranged for one of his video assistants to tape the New York Jets’ defense signals before their game. When the Jets discovered this, it resulted in a major outcry. Meanwhile, in ‘DeflateGate,’ Belichick failed to defend or protect his legendary star quarterback from the media. Instead, he actively told the media that they should talk to Brady instead of bothering him. This was the strangest of decisions considering Brady’s importance to the team.
Mornhinweg lasted two seasons in charge of the hapless Detroit Lions. They went 2-14 in their first year under his leadership and 3-13 in the second. This should provide an indication of how terrible he was in the hot seat. Furthermore, he was directly responsible for some of their losses. One clear and notorious example occurred at the end of a game against the Chicago Bears.
Mornhinweg won the overtime coin toss and chose the direction to defend instead of the ball. Of course, everybody knows that taking the ball is almost always the right course of action. However, Mornhinweg pointed to the wind direction, placing more value on that than possession. It was almost poetic that the Bears won the game by way of a 40-yard field goal.
Eugene Robinson had the night of his life before the Super Bowl in 1999. After winning the Bart Starr Award for outstanding character, he celebrated by trying to find a prostitute. But he ended up soliciting an undercover police officer instead of an actual lady of the night. As a result, he enjoyed the hospitality of Miami P.D. for the night. There were probably better ways to prepare for the biggest game of his life.
Meanwhile, Coach Reeves knew all about this situation but started Robinson anyway. It was perplexing because he was clearly not in the condition – physically or mentally – to make a positive impact on the game. Indeed, that proved to be the case. The Broncos destroyed the Falcons in a 34-19 blowout. It was embarrassing for everybody involved. In the end, Reeves handed back his Bart Starr award.
One of the most idiotic and clumsy decisions on this list, this one was frankly ridiculous. The Dallas Cowboys played the Arizona Cardinals with just seven seconds left in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys had the opportunity to win the game from a field goal. Dan Bailey promptly kicked the ball between the posts. But the problem was that it didn’t count because Garrett took that exact moment to call a timeout.
What he was thinking, nobody knows. As well as canceling out Bailey’s score, Garrett also rattled his kicker. Bailey missed his second attempt at the field goal which sent the game into overtime. This proved costly because, of course, the Cardinals ended up winning. One lapse in concentration and poor judgment cost his team the win. Nobody forgets these kinds of cringe-inducing moments.
The 1999 NFC Championship game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Atlanta Falcons was a dramatic affair. With just 30 seconds left on the clock, the teams were level at 27-27. The Vikings were third-and-three on their own 30-yard line with two timeouts still available while the Falcons had none. But then Coach Green made the wrong call. He told his quarterback to take a knee and send the game to overtime.
Looking back, this was one of the most painful decisions in Vikings’ history. An exciting attacking unit with the likes of Randy Moss and Randall Cunningham, who knows how far they could have gone? They could have forced the ball closer and potentially found space for a winning field goal. However, the Falcons capitalized on Green’s error of judgment and scored first in overtime.
Phillips made Doug Flutie the Bills’ starting quarterback for the 1999 season. The unassuming signal-caller played well throughout the year, leading the team to an 11-5 record. Nobody even considered the possibility that he wouldn’t start Buffalo’s first postseason game against the Tenessee Titans. But Phillips put Rob Johnson in for Flutie in one of the most notorious decisions of all-time.
Later, Phillips claimed that owner Ralph Wilson forced him to start Johnson. However, it didn’t work. Johnson went 10-for-22 for 131 yards and no touchdowns while the Titans sacked him six times. The Bills didn’t even score until the third quarter. Then, the Titans pulled off the ‘Music City Miracle,’ by scoring a 75-yard touchdown with seconds left on the clock. It was a terrible day at the office for Phillips and co.
The Atlanta Falcons’ 2017 Super Bowl meltdown is the stuff of infamy. However, that’s not why Quinn makes this list because it was more a team meltdown. Instead, it relates to a 2015 regular-season game against the San Francisco 49ers. The Falcons trailed the Niners 17-13 and found themselves on the one-yard line on fourth down. Then Quinn made the fatal call to send out his kicking team.
This was plain stupidity because even by scoring the Falcons still trailed. But they basically gave the ball to the Niners to hold for a remaining couple of minutes on the clock. If they went for a touchdown they may not have gotten it, but the reaction to this would have been very different. In the end, many news sources called it one of the worst coaching decisions in NFL history.
Carroll probably wakes up in a cold sweat at night as a result of one of the worst decisions in Super Bowl history. The Seahawks played the New England Patriots in Super Bowl IX and were just a yard from victory. The coach had a choice to make. They could keep the ball grounded and unleash the juggernaut that was Marshawn Lynch or they could do something much riskier.
To the disbelief of millions of viewers, Carroll went with the latter option. Then came Malcolm Butler’s famous interception of Russell Wilson’s pass to Ricardo Lockette. The Patriots won the game 28-24 after Carroll’s infamous call. Later, he defended the attempted play by revealing statistics that showed Lynch’s relative ineffectiveness from similar positions throughout the regular season. But it was too late for that.
Peterson unleashed moral carnage in 2020 when he made one of the most controversial coaching decisions on this list. In sum, he blatantly tried to tank to improve his team’s draft prospects. First, he started rookie QB prospect Jalen Hurts before replacing him with third-stringer Nate Sudfield. Washington sacked Sudfield twice and the hapless signal-caller committed two turnovers in the final game of the regular season.
The New York Giants reacted furiously because they missed out on the postseason after the Eagles effectively threw the game. However, Peterson’s biggest risk was unsettling his roster with his dubious decision. If the Eagles won, they would have dropped from sixth to ninth pick. Technically, they didn’t do anything wrong, but the ramifications of this clear effort to lose will live on because the NFL could change rules for the future. Pederson was then fired after this decision was the last straw for him.