With an average margin of victory of a whopping 14.3 points per game in its previous 46 installments, the Super Bowl has rarely been much of a nail-biter. Many of the games have been over even before the high priced musical talent displays their outstanding lip synching skills during the halftime show.
The first 37 Super Bowls were even more lopsided with an average victory margin of 16.2 points per game, with the last 9 games having a more respectable average margin of 6.7 points. Of course, this does not mean the games have become any more enjoyable to watch. In fact, many of the Super Bowl games over the past decade appear to have been just as choreographed as the halftime shows.
How could it be that the two of the best teams in the league can continuously play some of their worst football of the season (preseason games included)? Even when the games have been close on the scoreboard, such as the New England Patriots 24-21 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, the game was not that close on the field.
Or how about the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-10 referee assisted victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL? One would be hard pressed to find a more ridiculous display of football on any level than that abomination.
It appears as if the Super Bowl seems to not only bring out the worst in officiating, it brings out the worst in some quality players. Hall of Fame Quarterbacks Fran Tarkenton and Jim Kelly repeatedly saved their most uninspired performances for the big game. Even strong armed John Elway was looking like a total amateur in the big game until running back Terrell Davis came around late in Elway’s career and saved him from Super Bowl purgatory.
Before Elway came on the scene in the Mile High City, Denver Broncos quarterback Craig Morton set the bar as low as it can possibly be set for Super Bowl performances with his 4-15-39yds-4int performance against the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XII. Morton should be commended, since an interception rate of 26.7% is even difficult to achieve intentionally.
Morton’s pitiful performance had stood the test of time until Steelers quarterback Neil O’Donnell decided to make Cowboys defensive back Larry Brown his favorite receiver during the most inopportune times in Super Bowl XXX. His awful picks are even more baffling, considering O’Donnell had a stingy interception percentage of 1.7 during the season. Rather fittingly, O’Donnell was banished to the New York Jets the following season and for some odd reason never regained his starting form.
Even iconic modern day performers such as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have experienced Super Bowl meltdowns, both playing like third string benchwarmers than all-pros in a couple of appearances. It is not often you see a 18-0 high-powered offense throw the rock around like Fred Flintstone working at the quarry. At least Brady avoided the humiliation of pulling a Neil O’Donnell, like Manning did against the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV.
Super Bowl breakdowns are not only limited to prolific passers; entire units have been know to bite the dust. How can the Broncos defense justify giving up 35 points in one quarter to a Washington Redskins offense which only scored more than 35 points once in a game during the entire season? The Orange Mush also has the dubious distinction of giving up the most points in the big game: 55 to the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV.
As much as one tries to sugarcoat it, inadequate player and coaching performances have plagued the Super Bowl game just as much as poor officiating. Although the reasons for the lousy officiating are not much of a secret, it remains a bit of a mystery why so many capable performers have not even come close to performing like their usual selves.
If only Baltimore Colts QB Earl Morrall knew the tone he was setting for future Super Bowls to come when he decided to ignore a wide open arm waving Jimmy Orr in the end zone during Super Bowl III, choosing instead to pull a Neil O’Donnell. Or was it O’Donnell who was pulling a Morrall?
Regardless, these underperformers have certainly not been alone in displaying two left feet while on stage at the big dance.