Pass Disasters – that’s what we are looking at here. When a QB has led the team to the promised land. The verge of the Vince Lombardi trophy, only to have a nightmare game.
The dream is to go to the biggest game and make a historical mark. To play to a level that elevates you and your status.
Because if you can manage that then you can pretty much start posing for your bust in Canton.
The flip side to the dream is the nightmare. Imagine going to the big game and playing your worst game!
Look back to Super Bowl 50 for example. Cam Newton went into that game as the man. He had led the Panthers to a 15-1 record and was the NFL MVP. In the Super Bowl however he went 18 of 41 for 265 yards with 1 pick and no touchdowns. Neither QB played well in that game. But this is Newton’s one appearance so far and if it is the only one he plays he’ll be looking back at one poor performance on the biggest stage.
Which leaves a question. Which is worse – a one game terrible performance, or consistently under performing in the Super Bowl?
Personally I think it’s the latter – repeated ineptitude in the face of multiple chances leaves you with no excuse. A single game defeat always leaves you with the thought it might have gone differently on a different day or against a different team if you had another chance.
The 5 worst single game pass disasters
So who got their team there once and then had a terrible day?
Billy Kilmer, Washington, Super Bowl 7. 14 of 28 104 yards, three interceptions. Could Washington upset the 16-0 dolphins and Kilmer & the ‘Over the Hill gang’ take home the trophy? No. Mostly because Kilmer offered and the O offered slim to no signs of life against the ‘Fins ‘No Name’ Defense.
David Woodley, Dolphins, Super Bowl 17. 4 for 14, 97 yards, one touchdown, one pick and one fumble. That was his finishing stat line. You can get some sense of how much the wheels fell off from the fact that he started out by completing 4 for 5 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown!
Tony Eason, Patriots, Super Bowl 20. Eason was the starter who had the dubious pleasure of going up against the 46 Defense firing on all cylinders. Eason is the only starting quarterback in Super Bowl history to fail to register a completion. He went 0 of 6 and was sacked three times for a loss of 28 yards and a fumble. He was only on the field for six offensive possessions (15 plays total), which resulted in four three-and-outs and two turnovers.
Rich Gannon, Raiders, Super Bowl 37. 24 for 44, 272 yards, two touchdowns & Five interceptions. Throwing five picks is one thing, but when three of them are pick sixes it isn’t going to help your team stay in any game. Let alone a Super Bowl!
Kerry Collins, Giants, Super Bowl 35. 15 for 39, 112 yards, 4 interceptions. One thing you can say about these quarterbacks is that they were up against some top defensive talent and Collins is no different. Facing one of the great D’s from the Ravens here. Collins joined the likes of Billy Kilmer and Fran Tarkenton on the unenviable list of quarterbacks who failed to lead their team to an offensive score in the Super Bowl. He completed just 38 percent of his passes and averaged under three yards per pass attempt.
The Multiple game pass disasters
For some the Super Bowl is a recurring nightmare. For this 4 names stand out. Fran Tarkenton, Craig Morton, John Elway, and Jim Kelly.
Fran Tarkenton had one of the terrible single game performances in Super Bowl IX going 11 of 26 for 102 yards and 3 interceptions. He managed to bomb out in two other Super Bowls too. He led the Vikings to Super Bowl VIII & Super Bowl XI losing both.
Across all three games Tarkenton went 46 of 89 for 489 yards 1 touchdown and 6 picks.
Craig Morton also had one of the terrible single game performances in Super Bowl XII. Against Dallas’ Doomsday Defense he went 4 of 15 for 39 yards with 4 interceptions. He threw four first-half interceptions and failed to complete a pass in the second half, going 0 for 5.
Ironically Morton had previously been the Cowboys’ QB leading them to Super Bowl V. A game they lost 16-13. They couldn’t get separation in large part due to Morton’s 12 of 26 performance.
Morton’s 2 game Super Bowl Stats read 16 of 41 for 166 yards 1 TD and 7 interceptions.
John Elway may seem an odd choice to put on this list. He won back to back Super Bowls and won a Super Bowl MVP in 1999.
However the 1980’s were a different story. During that decade Elway was 0-3 in the Super Bowl and never really performed at his best on the big stage. The Broncos went to 3 Super Bowls in 4 seasons and when there Elway went 46 of 101 for 669 yards 2 TD’s and 6 interceptions. The true nadir came in a 56-10 thumping in Super Bowl XXIV.
Of Course Elway got to re-write his legacy and have a fairy-tale career finish.
Over that span Kelly went 81 of 145 for 829 yards, 2 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
Kelly, Tarkenton and Elway can all console themselves with Hall of Fame recognition for their individual careers. Meanwhile Morton can say he had a long NFL career, is on the Broncos’ Ring of Fame, and is in the college football hall of fame. Good to know he won’t be losing too much sleep over those Super Bowl moments!
Super Bowl 54
Few can want to see a pass disaster at the Super Bowl. Certainly not the neutrals watching at least.
Fingers crossed then that Mahomes and Garoppolo both find some form on Sunday. That’s what we want most of all. Great players at their peak competing head to head. Let’s hope for a thriller and no pass disaster in sight.
Banner image: Morton drops back to pass in Super Bowl XII. Don’t expect success! Image from SI.com