Earlier this postseason, my esteemed colleague Michael Oliver wrote about his top five Super Bowls of all time. The instant classics. The ones you’ll tell your kids you watched live.
I’m taking the reverse approach.
These are the games so bad that by the time it ends, seven months without football doesn’t sound so bad. The ones that make everybody at work Monday grumble because they wasted their Sunday nights.
And let’s be honest- Super Bowl LII has every chance to make that list. The Patriots are undoubtedly heavy favourites going into it.
If a backup quarterback beats the greatest quarterback in NFL history to win his franchise their first Lombardi Trophy in franchise history, it would instantly challenge Michael’s list as one of the all time great Super Bowls.
But in case Goliath ends up squashing David and the Pats win it all again, you should familiarize yourself with five other instances where the NFL’s grand finale flopped.
5. Super Bowl XXIX: San Francisco 49ers 49, San Diego Chargers 26
This one was bad, but it stays low on the list because it was expected. The 49ers blasted the Chargers by 23 points when they met in the regular season, and did the same to win their fifth championship in 14 seasons.
Everybody expected the 49ers to blow out the Chargers. They entered the game as a staggering 18-point favorite to back that up. They led 14-0 under five minutes into the game, 28-10 at halftime, and 49-18 before the Chargers added a consolation touchdown with a two-point conversion.
There was only ever going to be one winner here.
4. Super Bowl IV: Kansas City Chiefs 23, Minnesota Vikings 7
The final Super Bowl before the AFL-NFL merger was a forgettable one to say the least. The Chiefs won their first and only Super Bowl one agonizing play at a time. Kansas City kicker Jan Stenerud scored the first nine points off of three field goals before the Chiefs broke the touchdown dam late in the second quarter.
The Vikings cut the lead to 16-7 late in the third quarter, but Otis Taylor extinguished any chance the Vikings had of a comeback with a 46-yard touchdown reception just over three minutes later.
No points were scored in the fourth quarter, a fitting send off for a Super Bowl in which neither team reached 300 yards of total offense.
3. Super Bowl XXVI: Washington Redskins 37, Buffalo Bills 24
Super Bowl LII will be the second Super Bowl ever played in Minneapolis. We should all hope it’s better than the first one. Don’t let the score fool you. The Redskins dominated this game, and the Bills scored two touchdowns in the final six minutes to make it look a lot closer than it was.
Washington stormed out to a 24-0 lead and put the Bills into obvious passing mode for the rest of the game. Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly attempted 58 passes, a Super Bowl record at the time. The Redskins dropped back into coverage and intercepted him four times.
If you need any further proof about how bad this Super Bowl was, I’ll use one decision as a clincher.
Trailing 24-0 early in the third quarter, Buffalo had a 4th and two at the Washington three. Instead of going for a touchdown to try to get back in the game, the Bills opted for the football equivalent of trying to put out a fire with a cup of water. The field goal “cut” the lead to 24-3, and the rest is history.
2. Super Bowl XXIV: San Francisco 49ers 55, Denver Broncos 10
There’s an argument to be made here that although this game was an absolute romp, spectators got to witness greatness. Joe Montana and Jerry Rice cemented themselves as the greatest combination in NFL history, the former going 22/29 passing for 297 yards and five touchdowns, the latter catching three of them with 148 yards.
I’m not buying into it.
San Francisco scored two touchdowns in every quarter as part of a wire-to-wire domination. Denver’s lone touchdown was perhaps the most irrelevant in Super Bowl history, a scamper by John Elway from three yards out with his team already down 41-3. This was not really a spectacle. It was one of the greatest teams in NFL history mercilessly stomping a hapless opponent.
1. Super Bowl VI: Dallas Cowboys 24, Miami Dolphins 3
We’ve arrived at the lowest of the low. The NFL could play another 600 Super Bowls, and I highly doubt they’ll get one worse than their sixth.
To this day, of the 102 teams that have contested the 51 Super Bowls, these Dolphins are the only ones who didn’t score a touchdown.
The Cowboys ran the clock all game and let their defense do the work. They came a handful of ticks shy of having 40 minutes with the ball. There was not a single play on either side that went for longer than 30 yards, and four combined turnovers added to the awful cocktail this game was. There were just 24 completed passes in this game, a measly 12 for each quarterback.
The Cowboys won 24-3 for their first of five Super Bowl titles. The Dolphins rebounded from the loss to put together the only perfect season in NFL history the following season. But even despite the greatness both clubs would achieve in the coming years, nothing can erase Super Bowl VI, the worst Super Bowl of all time.