The NFL Playoffs are the time when legends are truly made. Guys simply known as Pro Bowlers become legends or they become the goat. They could get a quick rap of a guy that "can't win the big one". Peyton Manning is dealing with that reputation to this day, even though he hasn't had many bad performances, but a lot of them just don't match up to the numbers he has put up just about every regular season of his career.
Sometimes the culprit for a bad outing by a quarterback in a playoff game will simply be the product of a stout defense. Many of the league's best defenses are in the playoffs every year, with the best one usually in the Super Bowl. That tends to lead to QBs having poor numbers, with multiple turnovers and a low completion percentage making them look like lower tier pivots.
We saw Tom Brady look very average in this year's AFC Championship game, but it wasn't an awful performance by Brady, considering he was hit 23 times. No QB could perform effectively if they don't feel comfortable. While it wasn't Brady's finest hour, it doesn't belong on this list. No, this list will be reserved for the most futile of quarterbacking performances in the NFL playoffs. Several are from this year's playoffs. Here are the 15 worst postseason performances by a quarterback in NFL history.
15 Jim Everett - 1989-90 NFC Championship
This makes the list, simply because of how shellshocked it left Jim Everett and he was never the same player after this game. Everett had enjoyed a tremendous season, throwing for 4,310 yards and 29 touchdowns. That was a lot of yards in 1989. Everett would be under duress all day in this 30-3 loss to the 49ers in the 1989-90 NFC Championship, throwing 16-of-36 for 141 yards and was intercepted three times. The lasting image of the day was the infamous "phantom sack" in which Everett hit the ground by himself in anticipation of San Fran's pass rush, even though no one was around him.
Everett would never recover from this game, as he said his confidence was never fully restored.
14 Tony Eason - Super Bowl XX
Nobody gave the Patriots a prayer in Super Bowl XX. They had posted three playoff wins as a wildcard team, but were going up against the one-loss Bears. The game was even uglier than many could have predicted, as Eason became the only starting quarterback in NFL history not to complete a pass, going 0-for-6. He was eventually replaced by Steve Grogan, who didn't fare much better in the 46-10 blowout by the 18-1 Chicago Bears.
13 Daunte Culpepper - 2000-01 NFC Championship
In fairness to Daunte Culpepper, he was given a tall task to start the game, finding his team down 14-0 before he and the offense had even taken the field thanks to poor defense and a special teams turnover. Culpepper was unable to generate any offense from there, as the Vikings eventually fell 41-0 in the Meadowlands, with Culpepper going 13-of-28 for just 76 yards and three interceptions. Culpepper would go on to have some other good years in Minnesota, but never came this close to the Super Bowl again.
12 Donovan McNabb 2003-04 NFC Championship
This was either a terrible performance by McNabb or a dominant performance by the Carolina Panthers defense. This made it four straight NFC Championship losses for the Eagles. While McNabb gave a stinker in the farewell game at Veterans Stadium the year before against Tampa, he was even worse here, finishing with a 19.3 passer rating. McNabb completed less than half of his passes, going 10-of-22 for 100 yards with three picks. What made it worse was the Eagles defense kept the team in the game, only losing by a score of 14-3.
11 Peyton Manning - 2003-04 AFC Championship
The critics were getting louder than ever on Peyton Manning here, as he had yet to win a Super Bowl, or even make it to one, despite constantly tearing the league up from September to December. In Brady and Manning's first AFC Championship meeting, Manning threw four interceptions, three of them to Ty Law, as the Colts fell to the Patriots, who would go on to win their second Super Bowl. Manning completed just 48% of his passes that day, as the Patriots would prove to be his kryptonite for years.
10 Rich Gannon - Super Bowl XXXVII
It's hard to say if any quarterback could have beaten the Buccaneers defense in Super Bowl XXXVII, but Rich Gannon was a turnover machine in the Raiders' last trip to the big game. Coming in as the league MVP, Gannon would throw a Super Bowl record five interceptions, with three being returned for touchdowns, including two in the dying moments of the game. You can't pin the loss all on Gannon, as Jon Gruden was intimately familiar with the Raiders' playbook and signals, but the numbers are just too big to ignore.
9 Kerry Collins - Super Bowl XXXV
Much like Rich Gannon, no quarterback was able to solve the Baltimore Ravens defense in the 2000 season. Their trip to the Super Bowl came after dismantling Gus Frerotte, Steve McNair and Gannon before taking on Kerry Collins and the New York Giants. The Giants offense accounted for zero points in the 34-7 loss to Baltimore. Collins went 15-of-39 for 112 yards and four interceptions. The Giants didn't recover from this beatdown, as Collins faded, leading New York to sign Kurt Warner in 2004 and eventually draft Eli Manning.
8 Fran Tarkenton - Super Bowl IX
The Minnesota Vikings were able to make it to four Super Bowls thanks to the dynamic playmaking abilities of Fran Tarkenton, but it always seemed the AFC opponent always had a ferocious defense with the answer to Tarkenton. In this outing, it was the Steel Curtain of the Steelers who were able to shut down Tarkenton, limiting him to 112 yards, while completing 42.3% of his passes. His three interceptions gave him a rating of 14.1. Tarkenton and the Vikings would never find a way to win the last game of the season.
7 Brett Favre - 2001-02 NFC Divisional Round
Brett Favre holds the NFL record for interceptions, so it only makes sense that one of his performances would make it here. The Rams of the early 2000s weren't known for their defense, as the Greatest Show on Turf constantly outshined them, but on this day, the Rams picked off Brett Favre six times. The final stats of 26-0f-44 for 281 yards don't look too bad but a lot of that was in garbage time in a 45-17 final.
6 Carson Palmer - 2015-16 NFC Championship
This year's NFC Championship saw two Heisman trophy winning QBs facing each other in a playoff game for the first time ever. They were also arguably the two best quarterbacks in 2015, both of whom were MVP caliber. One showed exactly why, while one completely imploded. Carson Palmer went 23-of-40 for 235 yards, but his four intercpetions, to go with two lost fumbles. What seemed like a even matchup turned out to be no contest, as the Panthers ran away to Super Bowl 50.
5 Craig Morton - Super Bowl XII
The Broncos did in fact have some success before John Elway, but for a long time they looked like the franchise that would never win the big game. Craig Morton was the first Broncos QB to lead the team to a Super Bowl appearance. Once again it was a case of a quarterback running into a superior team. It was a chance for revenge for Morton, playing his old team, but instead he was annihilated, as he went 4-of-15 for 39 yards and four interceptions. Dallas's "Doomsday Defense" would dominate to a 27-10 win.
4 Billy Kilmer - Super Bowl VII
The Washington Redskins should have been the first team to be shut out in a Super Bowl. Facing the perfect Miami Dolphins, the Redskins offense was shut out, as Billy Kilmer was intercepted three times, while completing just half of his throws for 100 yards. Kilmer was an All-Pro that year, but his dismal performance prevented the Redskins from snapping the streak. They had a chance, as they lost only 14-7 despite Kilmer's bad day, thanks to Garto's Gaffe.
3 Tim Tebow - 2011-12 AFC Divisional Round
Tim Tebow had a fairytale ride in the 2011 season, as he constantly found himself in a position to win games after playing a terrible opening 55 minutes, which he kept taking advantage of. In his first playoff game, he had the game of his life, defeating the Steelers 29-23 in overtime. The following week, it all came to a crashing halt, as Tebow had virtually no chance of outdueling Tom Brady in a playoff game. The Patriots got out to an early lead, forcing the Broncos to throw the ball more. What resulted was Tebow going 9-of-26 for 136 yards. While Denver's defense was abysmal, the game showed Tebow was not a legitimate starting quarterback. As a result, the Broncos went and got Peyton Manning that offseason.
2 Brian Hoyer - 2015-16 AFC Wildcard Round
Brian Hoyer outright wet the bed in the Texans loss earlier this postseason to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs forced the Texans into a passing game, thanks to Knile Davis' opening kickoff return for a touchdown. Forcing Brian Hoyer to throw early resulted in 34 passes, 15 of which were completions, while four were interceptions, with a lost fumble as well. The Texans were shellacked 30-0 and Hoyer was so bad, the crowd was chanting for Brandon Weeden to come into the game.
1 Jake Delhomme - 2008-09 NFC Divisional
The perception of Jake Delhomme forever changed thanks to this game, as his career went into a tailspin immediately following this game. Delhomme had enjoyed a successful 2008 season, helping the Panthers to a 12-4 record and no.2 seed. The Panthers hosted the 9-7 Cardinals in the divisional round and were expected to make a run to the Super Bowl. The Panthers running game would get them up to an early 7-0 lead, before Jake Delhomme's career imploded before our eyes.
Delhomme would finish 17-of-34 for 205 yards, but with five interceptions at home, with a lost fumble, losing 33-13. Delhomme was never elite, but he was a very good starter in the 2000s. The Panthers would still sign Delhomme to a five-year extension. His subsequent season was so bad though, that the team cut him following the 2009 season. From there, he would dwindle in Cleveland and Houston before retiring.
No single game has ever destroyed a quarterback's stock and career like this one did for Delhomme. The bright side? The Panthers would have never been so bad in the following years and wouldn't have been in a position to draft Cam Newton. You owe him a thank you, Carolina fans.