The Nine Biggest Super Bowl Fails of All Time

February 3, 2011

Everybody has had at least one bad day at work. It’s just not usually in front of 90 million people who will force their grandchildren to laugh at your incompetence 75 years later.

Photo: Rob Brown/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images


9. Leon Lett Drops the Ball While Running Towards Fat Dude Immortality

According to inside sources, defensive tackles rarely score Super Bowl touchdowns. That’s why when Leon Lett had the opportunity to do so in Super Bowl XXVII, he probably should've taken it a bit more seriously.

With a narrow five touchdown lead against the Buffalo Bills (they come up a lot on these sorts of lists), Lett recovered a fumble on the 45 yard line and had a clear path to the end zone. Naturally, the 300-pound lineman decided to get fancy with things and run with the ball fully extended across his body. Bills receiver Don Beebe appreciated this careless approach, so much so that he decided to relieve Lett of his touchdown responsibilities and stripped the ball from him shortly before the goal line.

8. Eugene Robinson Forgets That You’re Supposed to Wait till After the Game Before Searching for Prostitutes

Photo: Jeff Haynes/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Everyone has their own little rituals before the big game. Whether it’s injecting performance enhancing drugs, reviewing child support payment plans, or preparing an apology for the fans you’re about to let down (looking your way, entire Cubs roster) – professional athletes know what it takes to psych themselves up. And in 1999, Atlanta Falcons star defensive player Eugene Robinson was no exception.

In what has become a very popular pre-game tradition in both the Super Bowl and Burbank Youth Soccer League, Robinson prepared for the biggest game of his life by offering a local whore (or, as they prefer to be called, “Barkley Bait”) $40 for some oral sex while his wife and children waited back at the hotel thinking about how lucky they were to have a Dad willing to forgo his marriage vows in order to get a competitive edge to put food on the table.

The plan, however, backfired and the working girl turned out to be an undercover cop. Robinson was subsequently detained for a brief period, and was given time to think about the humanitarian award he won earlier in the day and just how awful he was going to play in the upcoming hours.

For those of you who don’t remember (or put money on the Dirty Birds) Denver crushed Atlanta by two touchdowns the next day.

(Note: This is one of those stories that can be used in millions of editorials archetypes. It’s like the WD-40 of Top 10 list pieces.)


7. Justin Timberlake Got Janet Jackson Naked by the End of That Song

Photo: Tom Hauck/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

In 2004, Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson had a bit of a wardrobe malfunction at the end of a previously tame dance number.

Rather than document the event or convince our legal department to allow the use of pirated video to re-live the accident, here are some quotes about it from CNN:

An estimated 140 million people were watching the show when at the end, pop star Justin Timberlake popped off part of Jackson's corset, exposing her breast. Congress quickly reacted at the time to the visual shocker by increasing the limit on indecency fines tenfold, up to $550,000 per violation per network.

What CNN didn’t note was that following the incident, Super Bowl organizers enacted an unofficial 50-year age minimum (with a Black Eyed Peas exception) for all future acts.


6. This Overtly Racist Insurance Commercial


Coming up with an entertaining Super Bowl commercial can be difficult for even the most seasoned ad executives. Making sure that your finished product doesn’t offend minorities is a little easier. Sadly, the folks at Sales Genie were unable to accomplish either.


 5. The Super Bowl Shuffle


Photo: Paul Natkin/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

In today’s fast-paced interweb world, viral videos remain relevant for three, maybe four days tops (looking at you, "Chocolate Rain"). The Super Bowl Shuffle, however, has stayed atop the multimedia sports podium for over 20 years thanks to a combination of terrible lyrics and extensive jump cut editing. It’s like a Tommy Wiseau music video, but with slightly more football players.


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4. Barret Robbins Skips Practice to Go Exercise Some Demons

Photo: Tom Hauck/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Two days before the Oakland Raiders were set to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII, the team’s All-Pro center, Barret Robbins, decided to take a quick vacation. The only problem was, he didn’t make it back in time for the game.

Due to some mental health issues that were later diagnosed as bipolar disorder, Robbins disappeared hours before the big game started and was unreachable by the coaches. He ultimately missed the Super Bowl and his team lost badly (48-21).

Years later in an interview with ESPN, Robbins admitted that his erratic departure may have hurt the team’s chances. “I felt that if I had played that game, we had a lot better chance to win. I felt we would have been able to win that game. It was an extremely exhausting event and put me down as far as I probably ever had to go at that point in my life."


3. Jackie Smith Can’t Catch a Break, or Even a Short Touchdown Pass

Photo: Focus on Sport/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Dallas Cowboys Tight End Jackie Smith is a Hall of Fame football human with some of the most impressive accomplishments ever seen in the sport. It just so happens that the only one people remember is a less-than-triumphant end zone drop in Super Bowl XXIII.

Trailing 21-14 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the biggest game of the year, Roger Staubach found Smith wide open in the middle of the end zone for what would have been the tying score. Sadly, it didn’t quite work out. The pass deflected off Smith’s chest, dropped to the ground and forced America’s Team to kick a field goal. ‘Dem Cowboys ultimately lost the game by four points and would have to wait 14 years until they brought the hardware back to Texas.



2. Scott Norwood Makes Buffalo a Slightly More Unbearable Place to Live

Photo: Frank Boulliet/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Every little boy who wasn’t athletic enough to play a regular position dreams of the day he can strap on a custom-built nerd helmet and kick a game-winning field goal in front of 90 million people. While most scrawny (and often foreign) children never get to realize this dream, Buffalo Bills kicker Scott Norwood had the opportunity to do just that in Super Bowl XXV against the New York Giants.

With time expiring in the fourth quarter, Jim Kelly drove the Bills deep into Giants territory, setting up a 47-yard field goal attempt. Although critics are quick to point out that Norwood was 1-5 in similar attempts that year, most Bills fans contend that the kick should've been a sure-fire score.

Here’s Bills radio announcer Van Miller with the retro-call:

Here we go, the Super Bowl will ride on the right foot of Norwood. Waiting for the snap, Reich arms extended, puts it down, on the way, it's long enough and it is no good. He missed it to the right with four seconds to play.

The missed kick would subsequently become the subject of football lore and inspiration for a transsexual villain in a popular pet detective movie years later. Since the fabled day Norwood has since been ex-communicated from the football world and still refuses to talk about the kick.



1. The Buffalo Bills…. You Know, in General

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

It’s not about whether you win or lose… it’s about how many times you lose in a row before you give up and just stop trying.

For the Buffalo Bills, the magic number was four.

From 1991-94, the Bills lost four straight Super Bowls to three different NFC opponents. To be fair, they did make things interesting by putting a unique twist on each soul-crushing loss (blowouts, last second field goals… it was a real nice variety) and kept things interesting for their hometown fans.

Yes, it’s an impressive accomplishment to win the AFC four straight times. But this is a list about Super Bowl failures, and nobody failed in Super Bowls quite like the Buffalo Bills.


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