Drew Magary writes sports commentary for Deadspin, Maxim, GQ and is the author of "The Postmortal."
We’re currently living in the Golden Age of Super Bowls, with many of the greatest Super Bowls of all time having taken place within the past decade. It’s a glorious time for watching the Super Bowl. Free agency and the implementation of revenue sharing and a salary cap have made for a quality playoff product, filled with shocking upsets and competitive matchups.
It wasn’t so long ago, of course, that the Super Bowl was derided for being consistently one-sided. The game was always a rout, the second half was always a bore, and the NFL season would always end on a sour note. And even today, the danger of a terrible Super Bowl still lurks.
There’s never much rhyme or reason as to why you end up getting a crummy Super Bowl. Some teams prove unprepared. Some teams have clear and decisive matchup advantages. Some teams find out their starting safety got caught trolling for hookers the night before the game. All of those factors come into play, and all of them threaten to reduce America’s greatest sporting event into a four-hour death march.
Here now are the five worst Super Bowls of the past twenty-five years, along with the reason why each one was so putrid.
1. Super Bowl XXXVII (Bucs 48, Raiders 21)
Why It Sucked: Because the Raiders were too stupid to change any of their audibles when their former coach was standing on the opposite sideline. And because Oakland OL Barrett Robbins went AWOL right before the game. And you know what the shame of it all is? That Raiders team was GOOD! That didn’t have to be a terrible game! If Robbins had kept himself together and Bill Callahan had bothered to change colors from RED to GREEN, this wouldn’t have ended up being one of the most forgettable Super Bowls of all time. I’d also like to note that the more random your Super Bowl MVP is (Dexter Jackson), the more likely the game was bad.
2. Super Bowl XXVIII (Cowboys 30, Bills 13)
Why It Sucked: Because it was a rematch no one wanted, featuring a Cowboys team that had beaten the Bills by five touchdowns in the previous Super Bowl. This was a desultory, horribly played game, with Thurman Thomas’ lost helmet as its defining symbol. I chose this game as the representative of the Bills collection of three straight Super Bowl blowout losses (all of which followed another Super Bowl loss to the Giants that was far more dramatic).
3. Super Bowl XXXV (Ravens 34, Giants 7)
Why It Sucked: Because Kerry Collins picked the wrong day to start playing like Kerry Collins again. And because that wonderful Ravens D deserved a better final test than that.
4. Super Bowl XXIV (49ers 55, Broncos 10)
Why It Sucked: Because it was the most lopsided game in Super Bowl history, and because it served as the low point of the run of terrible Super Bowls during the 80’s and early 90’s. This is the one people used to point to when they were like, “The ads are better!” I don’t think you’ll ever see a margin of victory bigger than this.
5. Super Bowl XXIX (49ers 49, Chargers 26)
Why It Sucked: Because the Steelers would have been a better matchup for Steve Young, and because it took all of one minute and twenty-four seconds for the game to be effectively over.
So let us hope we never see the likes of these games again. Giants and Pats, don’t let us down.