The NFL postseason is where the contenders are separated from the pretenders and good players become bonafide superstars. Of course, there are strong favorites in every postseason, but sometimes form goes out the window. The onus is on each teams’ star players to perform and they have chances to be heroes, but many have failed to deliver. This even includes Super Bowl winners.
It’s remarkable how many meltdowns have occurred down through the years. Some of the best athletes in the NFL have had horrendous games and hurt their teams. Others have consistently failed to deliver in the playoffs. Check out 30 NFL stars who failed to deliver in the postseason via Bleacher Report.
30. Michael Thomas
Thomas is one of the Saints’ better players. New Orleans has had a horrible time in the postseason and failed to deliver for their fans recently. But they usually rely on Thomas to be an incredibly productive receiver. Unfortunately, the NFL Offensive Player of the Year was nonexistent against the Buccaneers in 2021. Yes, the Bucs went on to become the Super Bowl champions but there was still no excuse for his display.
The Bucs held Thomas from producing with his stats next to nil. He failed to even catch the ball never mind a touchdown pass. It was one of the most ineffectual performances of his career (via Clutchpoints). Indeed, Drew Brees didn’t play well either but Thomas could have done better. Social media had a field day after the game.
Palmer was one of the unluckiest players of his era. He came back from brutal injuries to play again but many critics believed that he failed to deliver for his teams in the playoffs. In 2016, it appeared as though he were about to right that wrong as he helped the Cardinals to the NFC Championship game against Carolina.
But it didn’t go well. Palmer had the worst game of his season, completing 23-of-40 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown (via New York Post) with four interceptions and a pair of costly fumbles. Cam Newton didn’t help the optics because he had a great game. It was a missed opportunity for Palmer and the Cardinals.
New England stunned the NFL when they made it to Super Bowl XX and Eason was a big part of their run. The quarterback ousted veteran Steve Grogan and played well through the early rounds of the playoffs. Many fans forget this and think Grogan won them the AFC Championship game. But it was Eason who led them to victory over Dan Marino’s Dolphins.
Then it fell apart. There were whispers Grogan would start the Super Bowl but these were unfounded rumors. Eason played but failed to deliver in one of the worst displays ever. He failed to complete a single pass before they pulled him from the field. Eason went zero-for-six and the Bears sacked him three times (via L.A. Times). They immediately shipped him off to the Jets.
The Ravens made Trent Dilfer one of the most average quarterbacks ever to win a Super Bowl. This came at Super Bowl XXV. They faced the New York Giants who had Collins as their starter. However, there were big questions over Collins’ ability to take on the vaunted Ravens’ defense. They were magnificent throughout the year but this was a stern test
In the end, they passed it with flying colors. Collins failed to deliver for the Giants because Baltimore held form. There was no excuse for his four picks though as they proved costly. Linebacker Ray Lewis won the showpiece game’s MVP award. This says a lot about the display because usually quarterbacks win. Collins only passed for just 112 yards (via Baltimore Sun).
The Lions have one of the worst postseason records of the Super Bowl era despite some outstanding players over the decades. Perhaps the best of these was Sanders. The running back is one of the greatest in league history but even he failed to deliver when it came to the playoffs. The Lions’ curse is real because he was outstanding.
It didn’t matter though because Detroit couldn’t get a break. They faced the Packers in 1994 and lost. The most eye-catching statistic was the fact that Green Bay held Sanders to -1 rushing yards. He was so ineffectual that they pushed him back into negative figures. This was one of the most Detroit moments ever (via USA Today Sports).
The Cowboys’ 2021 campaign came to an inglorious end against the 49ers. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot received a lot of criticism because they’re two of the franchise’s biggest stars. Head Coach Mike McCarthy also justifiably took a lot of heat. However, another player faced the wrath of analysts and fans, and that was receiver Lamb.
Dallas enjoyed a strong regular season with Lamb a regular outlet. However, he was also culpable for multiple drops. Anyway, when it came to the postseason he didn’t perform. Troy Aikman criticized McCarthy because they didn’t use him enough (via Yahoo). But Lamb didn’t excite even when he had the ball. It was a miserable game all around for the Cowboys.
Anderson didn’t miss a single kick in 1998, the first perfect season in modern NFL history. However, this statistic went up in flames during the playoffs. Anderson’s Vikings came up against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game. The Vikings were still ahead and embarked on a potential late scoring drive.
Suddenly, Anderson had the opportunity to seal the win. But he failed to deliver the goods. He lined up the 38-yard field goal but inexplicably kicked wide left (via NY Daily News). It was a perfectly achievable kick but the pressure got to him. Then, to rub salt in his wounds, Falcons kicker Morten Andersen got the winning score.
Bill Belichick handed Cassel the starting position after Tom Brady’s ACL injury in 2008. To his credit, Cassel played well. But this conned the rest of the NFL into thinking he was a reliable long-term starter. After a few seasons in New England, he was signed by the Chiefs. However, they discovered the hard way that he wasn’t the man they needed (via Bleacher Report).
Cassel and the Chiefs failed to deliver against the Ravens in the Wild Card Round. The quarterback completed just nine of 18 pass attempts and threw three costly interceptions. It didn’t help that the Kansas City defense was nonexistent on the day. He lost his place as a starter after this game because he wasn’t up to the job. Some lessons are harsh.
‘Tebow Time’ was one of the most tumultuous periods in Denver’s history. They drafted the Heisman-winning quarterback after a great career in Florida but he was inconsistent for the Broncos. Tebow was their starter as they made the playoffs in 2011. Unfortunately, this didn’t go well for either side of the discussion (via USA Today).
Denver scraped past the Steelers before the Patriots defeated them. Tebow didn’t play well in this game and it ended his career as a starter. New England sacked him multiple times as he endured a hellacious game and threw several interceptions. This was an entertaining time for the rest of the NFL. However, the Broncos were glad it was over.
Delhomme’s Panthers met the Cardinals in the 2008 playoffs. Carolina was confident of beating Arizona because they already beat them in the regular season. Delhomme played a crucial role in that victory as he dissected the Cards. They were unable to stop him because his passing was on point. However, they produced an upset in the playoffs (via NBC Sports).
Meanwhile, Delhomme picked the worst possible time to be brutal as he threw pick after pick. Furthermore, he only produced a single touchdown pass in the game. This crushing defeat affected him for the rest of his career because he failed to deliver. Delhomme was their best quarterback but this hurt him.
On paper, Jackson is one of the most talented quarterbacks of this generation. But he hasn’t had a standout playoff performance like Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen. The Ravens star received a lot of heat after his team lost to the Bills in 2021. This indeed came after the first postseason victory of his career. However, fans quickly forgot that after Buffalo shut him down.
Jackson only exceeded 60 passing yards once in his playoff career (via Fansided) and his critics believed that he failed to deliver. Furthermore, he threw a pick in each of those appearances. Most playoff games are tense and tight affairs. When a quarterback throws touchdowns to the opposition, it’s going to cost their team. Jackson still has time to turn it around.
Morton was a starter for the Dallas Cowboys for many seasons. He also won a Super Bowl with the franchise. But just because a player wins one doesn’t mean they’ve played well in the playoffs. That’s true in Morton’s case because he singlehandedly cost his team another win. This time he played for Denver against his old team in Super Bowl XII.
The quarterback picked the wrong day to have one of the worst games of his career. He failed to deliver and finished with a QB rating of zero. Morton completed just four of 15 pass attempts for 39 yards and his four picks were costly (via Sporting News). If this happened during the regular season it would be bad enough, but he picked the biggest stage of all to have a meltdown.
As of 2022, Rodgers only has a single Super Bowl ring to his name. That’s a shame because he is one of the top quarterbacks of the century. He won the NFL MVP award in 2020 after a great season with the Packers. While he doesn’t have the success of Tom Brady, he has the statistics. But his postseason record isn’t great and a case can be made that it’s rapidly getting worse.
Rodgers has a history of stinking in the NFC Championship game. He’s 1-3 in his four appearances in the conference final. According to The Big Lead, his QB rating from those four games is 78.0. This is far below his career average of 103.9. Ironically, his worst performance came in a game they won. If it wasn’t for Jay Cutler’s injury, the Packers may have lost.
Christian Ponder damaged his elbow before the NFC Wild Card Round in 2013. This was a massive blow to the Vikings’ hopes of a deep postseason run. However, it was the opportunity of a lifetime for Webb. The former UAB college star made his first appearance of the season against the Packers. Unfortunately, it signaled the end of their season.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t take advantage of his big chance. Webb was terrible as Green Bay soared to victory. He completed 11 of 30 pass attempts with a single touchdown and interception. Meanwhile, the Packers sacked him three times and he committed a costly fumble (via CBS Sports). After this display, Minnesota converted him into a wide receiver because they had no faith in his passing.
Kickers don’t often receive a lot of attention. Usually, it’s because they’ve won their team a game or missed a crucial field goal attempt. Unfortunately, the latter can stain a player’s entire legacy. Just ask Kaeding because he knows this better than everyone. He joined the likes of Gary Anderson in this tragic group after a terrible display against the Jets in 2010.
Kaeding was reliable in the regular season but failed to deliver in the postseason. He choked on two occasions against the Jets. The second defeat was the worst because he missed a staggering three kick attempts. The placekicker had a miserable record of four straight postseason games with missed kicks. Sadly, this is what fans remember (via New York Times).
Romo enjoyed a long career with the Dallas Cowboys. The quarterback was a consistent performer and has great statistics. However, the numbers don’t always tell the full story. That’s certainly the case for Romo because he failed to deliver in the playoffs. His postseason record was atrocious considering his stature and the number of opportunities he had.
The Cowboys only won two of six playoff games with Romo as their starter. Meanwhile, Romo developed a reputation for being one of the biggest chokers in the NFL. There was the infamous botched snap against Seattle. He also helped Dallas to become the first team in NFC history to lose the divisional round despite home advantage (via Bleacher Report). Meanwhile, the list of interceptions goes on and on.
It feels unfair to put Lindley on this list because he was in a no-win situation. Arizona cut their fourth-string quarterback before an injury crisis struck. Carson Palmer was out of action for the season. Then, Drew Stanton suffered an injury. Suddenly, the Cardinals faced a choice and opted to bring Lindley back. He had the chance to become a hero.
But he couldn’t take it. Instead, he became synonymous with failure. The Cardinals played the Panthers in the first round and lost the game. Meanwhile, Lindley was atrocious. The franchise set an NFL record for the least amount of passing yards in a playoff game (via SB Nation). Remarkably, the Colts still gave him an opportunity as a backup after this display.
Everybody mentions Marino’s final playoff appearance. It’s unfair to base his legacy off of that game because he was past his prime anyway. Furthermore, the Dolphins were awful as an entity against the Bengals in that crushing loss. However, there’s a strong argument that Marino failed to deliver in his 10 postseason campaigns. He never won a Super Bowl in 16 seasons.
Many great players fail to win rings yet quarterbacks have a unique influence on the outcome of games. He threw 15 touchdowns with 19 interceptions. It’s important to remember that he enjoyed a good receivers corp. Miami’s problem wasn’t their offense but their lack of defense. Sadly, there’s no denying that Marino wasn’t the most clutch player in the playoffs (via Sportskeeda).
McNabb is arguably the Eagles’ greatest quarterback. He’s definitely their best of the modern era. But he never won a Super Bowl with the franchise despite a single appearance and four straight NFC title games. The signal-caller threw three interceptions in the game. It was his best opportunity to win a ring but he failed to deliver. Instead, the Patriots added another Lombardi to their trophy case.
The six-time Pro Bowler enjoyed 11 seasons with the Eagles. However, he’s arguably in that category of very good quarterback who never reached the top tier alongside the likes of Philip Rivers and Derek Carr. Nobody doubts their regular-season consistency (via The Inquirer). Unfortunately, fans remember those near misses in the postseason.
The former Chargers running back had a brilliant Hall of Fame career. He won the NFL MVP award in 2006 along with the Offensive Player of the Year award. In 2017, he received his inevitable induction into the Hall of Fame. Tomlinson was one of the best players in his position of the 2000s. But if there was one flaw to his resume it was his playoff record (via NESN).
Arguably, Tomlinson failed to deliver in the postseason. He only scored six touchdowns in 10 playoff games. and ran for only 468 yards. Ironically, his best playoff performances came when he moved to the Jets. He played three games with Gang Green in 2010. However, he wasn’t amazing in the playoffs for San Diego.
Vick was a generational talent with a penchant for animal cruelty. However, if we look at his career as an objective whole, there’s one problem. The former Falcons quarterback failed to deliver in the playoffs. He had unbelievable skills and great stats but stumbled when it counted.
Vick played in six postseason games yet won just two. He also completed 54.2 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and two interceptions (via USA Today), highly average stats. Nobody will say that Vick wasn’t great as a football player. But his postseason record speaks for itself. The numbers don’t lie.
‘Big Ben’ is a controversial figure off of the field. However, the future Hall of Famer had a spectacular career. He’s a two-time Super Bowl winner so his place on this list may seem insane. But his two wins came in the first four seasons of his career. After that, six of his 12 playoff runs ended after a single game. Roethlisberger was nowhere near Tom Brady in terms of postseason consistency.
Things became even worse as he aged. Some quarterback like Brady are like fine wines. Roethlisberger was more of an uncorked bottle in the fridge. His display against the Browns in 2020 was shambolic (via New York Times). It saw many critics condemn him as they believed he was past his peak. The following season, the Steelers made the postseason again but ‘Big Ben’ failed to deliver.
Gannon had a difficult start to his NFL career. The quarterback failed to fully convince in Minnesota or Kansas City before joining the Raiders. Indeed, his Chiefs coach benched him in the postseason because he didn’t trust him. But Gannon became a bonafide starter in Oakland and even won the 2002 MVP award.
The Raiders made it to the Super Bowl that season. Their fans have one memory of that season and it’s not a good one. Gannon threw multiple interceptions against the Bucs (via Missoulian). Meanwhile, Tampa sacked him five times as he suffered a nightmare. He indeed lacked protection on the day but it was still a terrible performance. This event stained his entire legacy.
Favre’s inclusion on this list is controversial because he is a Super Bowl winner. However, his playoff meltdowns are the stuff of legend. He left the Packers after a late interception lost his team the game. The Giants scored from the resulting field goal. But this wasn’t the exception to the rule. Favre failed to deliver in the postseason on multiple occasions (via Bleacher Report).
Everybody loves a quarterback duel but Favre couldn’t handle the pressure against Kurt Warner. He threw a scandalous six interceptions in the NFC playoffs against the Rams in 2002. As one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, this was ridiculous. Meanwhile, the Vikings also embarrassed him in 2005 as he threw four interceptions. The list goes on and on.
Peterson is a future Hall of Famer. His list of personal accolades includes an NFL MVP award and six Pro Bowl appearances. Furthermore, his longevity is ridiculous for a running back. Peterson spent the bulk of his career with the Minnesota Vikings before a tour of the NFL. However, it’s arguable that he failed to deliver in the postseason.
Indeed, it’s not entirely his fault but his playoff experience is miserable. In 16 seasons, with 6 franchises, he’s only been to the postseason on four occasions (via Star Tribune). Peterson made the championship game once and scored three touchdowns but his team lost the game. He wasn’t able to make a difference in other playoff games as the Vikings’ hopes ended early.
Elliot was supposed to be one of the best running backs in the NFL. The Cowboys star had a great partnership with teammate Dak Prescott. The pair are also great friends off the field. However, his form deteriorated drastically in 2020. Dallas failed to make the postseason in a waste of a year. The following year they made the playoffs but crashed out in the Wild Card Round.
Meanwhile, the news emerged that Elliot played through the second half of the season with a torn PCL in his knee. Many questions arose about this because it was a bizarre story. First, why did coach Mike McCarthy start a compromised player? Elliot failed to deliver in the postseason but it wasn’t entirely his fault (via The Spun). Still, it didn’t help his shrinking reputation as a player who never reached his full potential.
To be fair, it was remarkable that the Raiders made the playoffs in 2021 after a tumultuous year. Firstly, they lost head coach Jon Gruden after his email scandal. Then, star receiver Henry Ruggs III killed a woman in a horrible crash. They also cut former first-round pick Damon Arnette after he made death threats online. However, QB Derek Carr showed strong leadership and helped the team sneak into the postseason.
It appears as though Carr has a great personality. But he’s in the Philip Rivers’ mold of quarterbacks. To sum up, he’s good but not great. The Bengals defeated Las Vegas for their first playoff win in 31 years. Meanwhile, Carr played poorly as he went 29-of-54 for 310 yards (via Sky Sports). He also threw a costly pick-six. In the end, Carr failed to deliver in the postseason.
Rivers is another example of a decent quarterback who fell short of being elite. The former Chargers star spent 17 seasons with the franchise before a year in Indiana. The eight-time Pro Bowler never played in a Super Bowl and had a 5-7 postseason record. In short, he was perfectly serviceable for a regular season. However, he wasn’t the man for the playoffs.
He had three solid displays but usually failed to deliver in the postseason. Rivers famously played an AFC title game against the Patriots with a torn ACL. This was very brave so there’s no questioning his heart. On the other hand, they lost the game so it was arguably the wrong call. Many believe that Rivers is one of the best QBs without a ring but maybe they overrate him (via NBC Sports).
‘America’s Team’ had a diabolical season in 2020. However, they rebounded in 2021 with an impressive 12-5 regular-season record. This came after the return of QB Dak Prescott from injury. His form was crucial because the previous year fell apart without him. After years of underachieving, the Cowboys finally had hopes of a deep playoff run (via Clutchpoints).
But they fell apart in the NFC Wild Card Round. The Niners led by six points with mere seconds left on the clock. Prescott charged forward with the ball to spike it down but crashed into the official. Time ran out before he could spike the ball. It was a controversial moment but the Cowboys as an entity failed to deliver in the playoffs. Their fans faced yet another year of disappointment.
Dalton spent nine seasons with the Bengals before he joined the Cowboys in 2020. He was the franchise’s starting quarterback throughout his time in Cincinnati and the Bengals made the playoffs for four straight years from 2011 through 2014. However, that comes with a twist. That’s because Dalton has one of the worst postseason records in history (via Sporting News).
The red-haired quarterback went 0-4 in playoff games. Houston defeated his Bengals for two years in a row. Then the Chargers and the Colts inflicted pain on him. Meanwhile, he threw multiple interceptions in each game. Dalton failed to deliver in the postseason but was normally consistent. After he left the Bengals he became a backup for Dallas and the Bears.