Football is a team game, and while it does take a team effort to win the game, it only takes one guy to screw it all up. Every Super Bowl has a player who makes a great play, forever cementing them in football history. But there are also those players that completely blow it, those are goats. Goats are players we remember for all the wrong reasons.
Be it a crucial mistake or a terrible performance there are certain players we remember for screwing up so big it changed the course of the game. Games are often decided by one play. Even a blowout has a turning point that factors into it. It’s not a simple matter of one team scoring more, it’s who was on the field, who gave up the big play and how did the rest of the team respond?
One player can have a negative effect on his team throughout the entire game, it’s not just limited to one play. These players go down in history as the guys that cost their teams a Super Bowl. A successful career can help a select few cover up their Super Bowl woes, but for the average player trying to make a name for themselves, they’re stuck with the "goat" label.
15 Bill Callahan – Oakland Raiders – Super Bowl XXXVII
After succeeding Jon Gruden as head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Bill Callahan became one of three Raider head coaches to take their team to the Super Bowl in their rookie season. The Raiders were set to face off against Gruden’s red hot Tampa Bay Buccaneers and got thoroughly schooled. Callahan, who had served as Gruden’s OC during his tenure in Oakland had barely changed the old playbook, making it easy for the Buccaneers defense to stomp out the opposition. Almost a decade later Raider great Tim Brown accused Callahan of sabotaging the team by abruptly changing the gameplan from a run heavy one to a passing attack, just a couple nights before the big game. QB Rich Gannon was shut down and the Bucs defense put an ugly end to what would be the Raiders’ last winning season to date.
14 Eugene Robinson – Atlanta Falcons – Super Bowl XXXIII
On the eve of the Super Bowl, Falcons safety Eugene Robinson received the Athletes in Action/Bart Starr award which is given to NFL players who are recognized as having outstanding character and leadership in their communities and on the field. Shortly after, Robinson was arrested for soliciting a prostitute by an undercover cop. He went on to play in the Super Bowl the next night but the whole ordeal left him tired and fatigued, leading to him giving up an 80-yard score to Broncos receiver Rod Smith. Denver went up 17-3 and much later in the game Robinson made another costly error, missing a tackle allowing Terrell Davis to break a long run to the Atlanta 10-yard line. Atlanta ended up losing the game 34-19 and Robinson took a lot of heat for both his actions the night before the Super Bowl and his costly mistakes during the game.
13 Barret Robbins – Oakland Raiders – Super Bowl XXXVII
Barret Robbins was the anchor of the Raiders offensive line that helped lead the team to a Super Bowl birth in 2002. The Pro Bowl center inexplicably disappeared on the team the night before the game and the Raiders were forced to go with Adam Treu, and then got blown out by the Bucs in one of the most humiliating losses in franchise history. Robbins later revealed that he’d forgotten to take his depression medication and spent the Super Bowl partying in Tijuana thinking the Raiders had already won the game.
12 Fred Williamson – Kansas City Chiefs – Super Bowl I
Former Chiefs cornerback Fred Williamson talked a little smack about the Packers receivers heading into Super Bowl I. Williamson claimed it would only take a few tackles to knock Boyd Dowler and Carroll Dale out of the game. Well, Dowler left the game early after injuring his shoulder blocking and his replacement, an aging and supposedly hung-over Max McGee ran all over the AFL All-Star Williamson, posting seven catches for 138 yards and a couple of scores. If that wasn’t bad enough Williamson himself was knocked out of the game by Packers rookie Donnie Anderson after making a measly three tackles through four quarters of football.
11 John Kasay – Carolina Panthers – Super Bowl XXXVIII
Fans tend to forget that there’s a good deal of pressure placed on the shoulders of an NFL kicker. Sure they’ve only got to kick a ball, but that doesn’t mean they can’t screw that up. Sadly for John Kasay, he did just that in the biggest game of the year. It started off well enough, with Kasay making all of his extra points as well as a fifty-yard field goal. But towards the end of the game, just after Jake Delhomme had led the Panthers 63 yards down the field to tie the game at 29, Kasay botched the kickoff and gave the Patriots the ball at the 40 instead of the 20. Tom Brady drove the offense 37 yards and Adam Vinatieri won the game with nine seconds to go.
10 Earl Morrall – Baltimore Colts – Super Bowl III
9 Stanley Wilson – Cincinnati Bengals – Super Bowl XXIII
Stanley Wilson is the classic example of someone shooting themselves in the foot. Due to his excessive use of cocaine he’d been suspended by the NFL in both the 1985 and 1987 seasons. He relapsed a year later just before Super Bowl XXIII when a coach found him in the midst of a cocaine high and the team was forced to leave him off the roster. Wilson was thought to have factored into the Bengals' plans that night since he normally excelled in the muddy conditions in which the game was played. Instead he was banned from the league for life.
8 Craig Morton – Denver Broncos – Super Bowl VII
Denver’s offense just couldn’t match up with the Cowboys' “Doomsday” defense on the night of Super Bowl VII, and no one suffered more that night than former Cowboys signal caller Craig Morton. Morton had had a career year but when facing his former team he choked. He made just fifteen pass attempts before head coach Red Miller benched him in favour of Norris Weese. Weese didn’t fare any better, completing forty percent of his passes and barely managing to get over twenty yards passing. But Morton had himself one of the worst Super Bowl performances by an NFL quarterback. Through three quarters of football he only completed four passes and turned the ball over four times.
7 Neil O’Donnell – Pittsburgh Steelers – Super Bowl XXX
Though his numbers weren’t bad, Neil O’Donnell literally threw away the Steelers' hopes of winning the Super Bowl. His two picks to Dallas corner Larry Brown couldn’t have come at worse times. On top of that he basically threw right to Brown on both of those plays. His first turnover was nowhere near any of his receivers and Brown just so happened to be in the area. Dallas used this opportunity to go up 20-7. His second INT came shortly after on another bad throw in Brown’s area. The Cowboys scored once again off the turnover and Pittsburgh never recovered from O’Donnell’s mistakes.
6 Joe Theisman – Washington Redskins – Super Bowl XVIII
In a blowout loss to the LA Raiders, Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theisman played one of the worst games of his career. Despite passing for over 200 yards, Theisman was highly ineffective all game, completing fewer than fifty percent of his passes and throwing two interceptions, never once finding the end zone. The game got well out of reach after Raiders linebacker Jack Squirek jumped a Theisman screen pass returning it five yards for a score giving the Raiders a 21-3 halftime lead. Washington then went on to get outscored 17-6 in the second half where Theisman was just as unproductive.
5 Lewis Billups – Cincinnati Bengals – Super Bowl XXIII
A close game often comes to a close on a big defensive stop or a huge offensive play. Bengals cornerback Lewis Billups let the opportunity to stop Joe Montana slip through his fingers, literally. While the Bengals were leading 13-6 in the fourth quarter, Billups dropped what would’ve been a key Montana error in the end zone. The ball seemingly fell in and out of his hands and Montana then hit Jerry Rice for a 14-yard score on the next play. While the Bengals momentarily gained a small lead, the 49ers immediately answered back with a touchdown with 34 seconds left in the game.
4 Thurman Thomas – Buffalo Bills – Super Bowl XXVI, XXVIII
Thurman Thomas really screwed up in not one but two Super Bowl losses. When you think of those '90s Buffalo Bills teams you think of missed opportunities, and Thomas had his role to play in those. In Super Bowl XXVIII the Bills were up 13-6 over the Cowboys shortly after halftime. It looked like Buffalo would pull one off until Thomas fumbled, leading to a 46-yard return for a score and a total momentum shift. Thomas didn’t even start Super Bowl XXVI, instead he spent the first drive searching for his helmet while the Bills ran two running plays he was supposed to be part of. By the time he’d gotten into the game he was wildly ineffective.
3 Jackie Smith – Dallas Cowboys – Super Bowl XIII
Jackie Smith was one of the best tight ends of the 1960s, but the former Cowboy will forever be remembered for his one huge mistake that might have cost his team the Super Bowl. On third-and-three from the Steelers' 10-yard line with the Cowboys trailing 21-14, Roger Staubach found his veteran tight end wide open in the end zone. He lobed the pass to Smith – it hit him right in the chest – and he dropped it. It was a catch he’d made a million times over the course of his career – he’d made even harder ones easily – but he dropped it in the Super Bowl. Dallas went on to lose the game 35-31 and many were left asking themselves what the outcome would’ve been had the Cowboys tied the game at 21.
2 Darrell Bevell – Seattle Seahawks – Super Bowl XLIX
This one’s still fresh in everyone’s minds, and is sure to be a topic of discussion in the many months before the 2015 NFL Season begins. Shortly after a miraculous circus catch by Jermaine Kearse, the Seattle Seahawks were in control of the game with a four point deficit and less than ten yards between them and their second consecutive Super Bowl championship. With 26 seconds to go in the game, from the one yard line with one timeout left, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell chose not to hand the ball off to Marshawn Lynch, but instead opted for a pass in the middle of a crowded end zone leading to a turnover to seal the victory for the New England Patriots. Lynch – one of the NFL’s premier running backs – is known for his power and ferocity when running the ball. The decision not to hand off to him was met with a great deal of backlash immediately after the interception, and the decision is being called one of the worst play calls in Super Bowl history.
1 Scott Norwood – Buffalo Bills – Super Bowl XXV
You’ve got one job. Yes, it can be stressful and all, especially in the Super Bowl, but you’re on the field several times a game to kick the ball. Scott Norwood had an opportunity to win the game for the Buffalo Bills towards the end of Super Bowl XXV. With seconds left, his 47-yard field goal attempt went wide right, setting off the Bills’ streak of four consecutive Super Bowl losses. Norwood was cut by the team after the 1991 season and was out of football for good.