|02.09.10 at 4:38 pm ET|
Super Bowl heroes are remembered forever. Unfortunately, the same goes for the goats.
For every Joe Montana, there is a Scott Norwood. It’s an unfortunate and unavoidable element of pro sports — for every success story, there is an equally emotional story of complete and utter failure.
It was no different in Super Bowl XLIV, when Hank Baskett impeccably etched his name in Super Bowl goat history, as he failed to reel in a crucial onside kick to open up the second half. The Saints gained possession, as well as the momentum, and went on to trounce the favored Colts, 31-17.
But where does Baskett rank among the great Super Bowl Goats of the past? Surprisingly, not that high — though Kendra may disagree.
Turns out Mr. Baskett’s blunder wasn’t nearly the worst thing to happen on the big stage.
10. Rich Gannon, Raiders, Super Bowl XXXVII. We all knew Tampa Bay’s defense was tremendous. But Rich Gannon made the Buccaneers look like utterly unstoppable.
Gannon, the regular-season MVP, turned in a performance that was in every way possible the exact opposite — getting sacked five times, fumbling once and throwing a Super Bowl record five interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns.
Tampa Bay went on to route Oakland 48-21, a game the Raiders came into favored by four points.
Football has and always will be a sport that is the ultimate team-based game — 11 vs. 11 each and every play, depending on all individuals to make an equally substantial effort.
So that’s why there is no excuse for Hank Baskett’s effort on New Orleans’ half-opening onside kick. He’s there because he has good hands, and fumbling around an onside kick is an inexcusable blunder, especially on such a huge stage.
But it’s obvious the Saints knew what they were dealing with. They had been practicing it all week, and knew exactly whom they would be kicking it at. If it’s any consolation however, Baskett is married to Playboy model and former “Girl Next Door” Kendra Wilkinson.
You win some, you lose some.
8. Donovan McNabb, Eagles, Super Bowl XXXIX. We all remember John Elway’s drive. We all remember Joe Montana’s drive. And we all remember Tom Brady’s drive(s). But unfortunately for Donovan McNabb, we also all remember his drive.
Trailing New England 24-14 with just under six minutes left in the game, the Eagles had a chance to begin a comeback. But instead of putting the pedal to the metal, McNabb gingerly lead a four-minute scoring drive that ultimately resulted in the Eagles’ demise.
The reason for the unsightly speed of the crucial drive? McNabb was throwing up in the huddle — and it wasn’t the first time (see below). Not to mention he tossed three interceptions over the course of the loss, a game in which the Eagles finished just shy of the Patriots, 24-21.
7. John Kasay, Panthers, Super Bowl XXXVIII. A rare Super Bowl game in which both kickers will be remembered forever — Adam Vinatieri for his game-winner with seconds remaining and John Kasay for giving the Patriots possession on the 40-yard line six plays later.
Kasay committed the cardinal sin of kicking the ball out of bounds following Carolina’s game-tying drive, and with just over a minute left in the game, booted the kick straight out of bounds, resulting in a flag — and a New England possession on the 40-yard line.
Brady already had a reputation for having ice water in his veins in the final minutes. This time, he was given possession of the ball just 30 yards out of Vinatieri’s range; an opportunity Tom Brady wouldn’t let slip away. One minute after Kasay’s mis-kick, the Patriots took home their second Super Bowl in three years, downing Carolina 32-29.
6. Eugene Robinson, Falcons, Super Bowl XXXIII. It was not a good Super weekend for the Falcons strong safety. He had a reputation for being a man of faith as well as one who always valued the community over himself — but prior to the Super Bowl, Robinson was arrested on charges of soliciting an undercover police officer for oral sex.
Atlanta coach Dan Reeves played Robinson anyway, and he responded by blowing two crucial coverages during the game, including an 80-yard touchdown strike to Rod Smith. The touchdown put Denver ahead 17-3, as the Broncos went on to rout Atlanta, 34-19.
5. Neil O’Donnell, Steelers, Super Bowl XXX. You wouldn’t know it by looking at his final numbers — 28-for-49 and 239 yards — but O’Donnell’s Super Bowl effort made Rich Gannon’s look Montana-esque.
The Steelers quarterback threw quite possibly two of the worst interceptions in Super Bowl history, resulting in a Cowboys win and an eternity of goat-ness.
On a third-and-9 from his own 48, O’Donnell threw a pass that was mind-bogglingly awful, landing 10 yards away from his intended receiver and right in the arms of cornerback Larry Brown. Thirty-eight seconds later, Emmit Smith plunged in the end zone for six. Cowboys 20, Steelers 7.
Then, trailing only 20-17 with four minutes remaining, O’Donnell once again found a wide-open Brown, who ran it all the way back to Pittsburgh’s 6-yard line.
4. Lewis Billups/Asante Samuel, Bengals/Patriots, Super Bowl XXIII/XLII. And again, for every Larry Brown, there is a Lewis Billups and an Asante Samuel. Because thanks to those fine gentlemen, both Joe Montana and Eli Manning are forever ingrained in Super Bowl history, their late-game drives a part of the ever-growing Lombardi Trophy legacy.
For Billups, it came early in the final quarter, when Montana’s end zone attempt for John Taylor landed squarely in the Bengals cornerback’s hands. However, like a child trying to catch a butterfly, Billups let the chance of a lifetime clunk, slip and drop from his fingertips. Montana then hit Rice for six on the next play, tying the game at 13. San Francesco went on to win 20-16.
Samuel’s folly, however, was much more immediately damaging. Eli Manning was in the process of leading the Giants on an improbable game-winning drive against the 18-0 Patriots when Samuel let an easy interception slip through his fingertips like a fish, allowing the G-men to maintain possession. A few plays and a David Tyree miracle later, and the Giants defeated the undefeatable, 17-14.
But like the old adage says; if a defensive back had hands, he’d play wide receiver.
3. Thurman Thomas, Bills, Super Bowl XXVIII/XXVI. Oh, Thurman. To be honest, he could have his name twice separately on this list. But for Bills fans and their sanity, I’ll just lop them both into one.
The first, Super Bowl XXVI, came on the day after Thomas complained to the media about not getting enough attention despite being named the NFL MVP.
He responded to his own criticisms with a performance that would certainly net him plenty of attention — rushing for 13 yards on 10 carries, as well as missing the first two plays of the game thanks to a missing helmet.
The second, far worse, came in Super Bowl XXVIII, following three years of cursed Bills performances in the Super Bowl. Two of them had been decided thanks to Thomas’ uncharacteristically poor play. But this time, they had a 13-6 lead heading into halftime.
However, Thomas took center stage once again, opening the second half with a fumble that was returned 46-yards for a game-tying touchdown. It was his second fumble of the game.
And it would result in Buffalo’s fourth Super Bowl loss.
2. Jackie Smith, Cowboys, Super Bowl XIII. Smith will go down in NFL history as one of the greatest tight ends to ever play the game.
However, his Super Bowl XIII performance will also join him in the history books — for all the wrong reasons.
Used primarily as a blocking end throughout the 1978 season, the Cowboys tight end found himself wide open in the end zone with Dallas trailing Pittsburgh 21-14 in the third quarter. However, Smith would put on his best Billups impression and let the ball clunk off his paws and land on the ground.
Dallas had to settle for a field goal, cutting the lead 21-17, a crucial four-point swing; especially when you consider Dallas eventually lost the game by four points, 35-31.
1. Scott Norwood, Bills, Super Bowl XXV. And in a shocking turn of events, Scott Norwood finds himself atop a Super Bowl goat list. Who knew?
With a chance to win the game for the Bills, Norwood lined up for the most famous 47-yard field goal in NFL history. However, just like he had in warmups, Norwood shanked the kick, and it sailed to the right of the uprights — giving the Giants a 20-19 last-second win.
Eighteen years and an “Ace Ventura” movie later, Norwood still finds himself near the top of nearly every single sporting blunder list ever created, damming him with the likes of Bill Buckner, Steve Bartman and Jackie Smith. Not only that, but Norwood’s misfire was a key plot point in Buffalo ’66, proving that some goats can even make it big in Hollywood.
But it’s the necessary evil of sports. Because as cliché as it sounds, in order for someone to win, someone else has to lose.
Because if there were no Hank Baskett, there might not be a Drew Brees. If there were no Asante Samuel, there would be no David Tyree. No John Kasay, no Tom Brady.
It’s a vicious cycle, but it makes the sporting world go round. Plus, without Scott Norwood, there might not have been Ace Ventura. And what kind of world would we be living in then?
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