A truly terrible performance can be just as compelling as a stellar one.
It’s fun at this time of the year to look back on the best of the past 12 months, but it can be more fun to look at the worst. This week, SI.com will be laughing, cringing and shaking its head at some of the worst things in sports from 2018. Previously: The 10 Worst Coaching Decisions of 2018, The 10 Worst Officiating Decisions of 2018, The 10 Worst Blown Leads of 2018, The 10 Worst Brain Farts of 2018, The 10 Worst P.R. Blunders of 2018.
The thing that attracts people to sports is seeing ordinary people do extraordinary things. A pitcher mowing down a lineup, a quarterback dissecting a defense, a point guard cooking his man on possession after possession. But not every athlete is fortunate enough to have one of those excellent performances every time out. Sometimes players just flat-out stink, and that can be just as fascinating. With that in mind, let’s take a look at 10 of 2018’s worst individual performances.
10. Aaron Judge strikes out eight times in one day
It’s no secret that strikeouts are on the rise in baseball. In fact, strikeouts in MLB rose for the 11th consecutive year season this season, pushing the record mark to 41,207. Many of the game’s top players also happen to strike out a lot, because that’s just the way the game works. Yankees slugger Aaron Judge actually led the majors in whiffs (208) last year when he won Rookie of the Year and finished second in MVP voting.
But no one has ever done what Judge did on June 4, when he struck out a combined eight times in a doubleheader. The Yankees actually won the first of those games and Judge went on to have another stellar offensive season. But it just goes to show you everyone has an off day.
9. Mason Crosby misses five kicks in a single game
NFL kickers have been on a short leash this season. The Browns cut Zane Gonzalez after missing an attempted game-winner against the Steelers and a game-tying try against the Saints. Fifth-round draft pick Daniel Carlson was cast aside by the Vikings for missing three kicks in a tie game against the Packers, including two in overtime. Matt McCrane lost his job with the Raiders after making only two kicks longer than 29 yards.
Packers veteran Mason Crosby was much more fortunate, though. Crosby missed an astonishing five kicks in a loss to the Lions in Week 5: an extra point and field goal attempts of 38, 41, 42 and 56 yards. It’s tricky to play “what if” but there’s no doubt that if Crosby had made just two or three of those attempts the game would have changed entirely. He did make one field goal, though: a largely meaningless 41-yarder that cut the Green Bay deficit to eight points with two seconds to play.
8. Dylan Bundy surrenders four homers without recording an out
The Orioles were the only team worse than the Royals this season, and never was that more evident than on May 8. Baltimore starter Dylan Bundy allowed four home runs without recording a single out, to the tune of seven runs.
Here’s how Bundy’s night went:
• John Jay single
• Jorge Soler two-run homer
• Mike Moustakas solo homer
• Salvador Perez solo homer
• Lucas Duda walk
• Whit Merrifield walk
• Alex Gordon three-run homer
The disastrous outing caused Bundy’s ERA to jump from 3.76 to 5.31.
Mike Wright allowed three more runs in relief of Bundy before the inning mercifully ended and the Orioles went on to lose 15–7.
7. Rockets miss 27 straight threes in Game 7 vs. Warriors
I guess for the sake of the theme... this is a collection of bad individual performances. James Harden, Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker, Gerald Green and Joe Johnson combined to shoot 7-of-44 from long range in an elimination game that Houston still only ended up losing by nine points. That included a stupefying streak of 27 missed threes in a row.
What makes this so unbelievable and so frustrating is that the Rockets rode the three–ball to the NBA’s best regular–season record, becoming the first team in league history to attempt more three-point baskets than twos.
But the long ball (and Chris Paul’s hamstring) betrayed them at the worst possible time. If Houston had made its threes in Game 7 at the same rate it did in the regular season, that would have resulted nine more made baskets—27 points.
6. Elizabeth Swaney, the freestyle skiier who didn’t do any tricks
Elizabeth Swaney finished dead last in the ski halfpipe at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, but that was by design.
Swaney always wanted to be an Olympian. She tried to qualify in skeleton and skiing for the 2014 Olympics, representing her mother’s native Venezuela, but was unsuccessful. She then switched allegiances to Hungary and began entering ski halfpipe competitions with the goal of sneaking into the Olympics through a backdoor. By earning just enough points at enough World Cup events and benefiting from the IOC’s quota limits, Swaney qualified for the Pyeongchang games. Her three runs in Korea earned her scores of 30.00, 31.40 and 31.40 points out of a possible 100, because she eschewed the high-flying tricks of her competitors for a leisurely trip up and down the pipe’s walls.
In a way, it was an inspiring story about a woman willing to make incredible sacrifices and work outrageously hard to achieve a lifelong dream. Others saw it more like Hungarian blogger Janos Kele, who told Yahoo’s Jeff Passan: “She has not even tried any tricks at an event which is literally about tricks. That’s not sport. That’s tourism.”
5. Rutgers QB Artur Sitkowski vs. Maryland
It’s tough to pick a lowlight from Rutgers’ worst season in 16 years, but the 34–7 loss to Maryland in October might be it.
True freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski was 2-of-16 passing for eight yards with four interceptions. That’s a completion percentage of 12.5%. Sitkowski actually completed twice as many passes to the other team as he did to guys wearing his jersey. It was, by many measures, an historically awful performance. It was the first time a team completed only two passes on at least 17 attempts since... Rutgers in a 78–0 loss to Michigan in 2016, when two Rutgers QBs combined to go 2-for-18 for five yards.
Rutgers has been the worst program the Power Five for some time now, but Sitkowski is supposed to change that. He was a four-star recruit and the No. 9 pro-style QB recruit in ESPN’s rankings. The Scarlet Knights’ renaissance will have to wait until at least next year, though.
4. UConn defensive coordinator Billy Crocker
A hearty congratulations to UConn’s 2018 defense for being literally the worst in the history of major college football. Here is just a sampling of records broken by the Huskies:
• 605 points allowed (33 more than East Carolina in 2010)
• 617.4 yards allowed per game (56.57 more than Kansas in 2015)
• 50.42 points allowed per game (.15 more than Louisiana-Lafayette in 1997)
UConn allowed a staggering 8.8 yards per play, allowed opponents to score on 62 of 67 red zone opportunities, surrendered 325 first downs while only forcing 130 third-down situations and gave up 81 touchdowns. Opposing teams averaged 7.7 yards per carry and 335 rushing yards per game. I could go on, but you get the picture.
Not surprisingly, the Huskies went 1–11, with their only victory coming against Rhode Island, an extremely average FCS team, 56–49.
In fairness, UConn was relying very heavily on freshmen on the defensive side of the ball this season. But 11 able-bodied young men with at least a passing familiarity with the rules of football should probably be able to hold Tulsa under 600 yards of total offense.
It might be a little unfair to pin this all on Crocker, but the worst defensive season in the history of football absolutely belongs somewhere on this list.
Crocker was fired after the season, of course.
3. Neymar flopping in the World Cup
The most common criticism that closed-minded Americans have of soccer (or maybe second-most, behind 0–0 draws) is that the players fake injuries and look like they’ve been struck sniper fire any time a defender comes close to making contact with them.
It’s usually a lazy argument, but there’s no excusing what Brazilian superstar Neymar did on soccer’s biggest stage at the World Cup.
Neymar and his countrymen flopped out in the quarterfinals with a loss to Belgium, but not before the skilled forward’s embellishment caused fans’ eyes to roll out of their heads. The New York Times even asked acting coaches to critique Neymar’s performance. The consensus was that he was overdoing it a bit.
2. Mark Sanchez vs. Giants
How bad do you have to be as a quarterback to get replaced by a guy who hadn’t thrown an NFL pass since 2011? Just ask Mark Sanchez.
The Redskins have had awful quarterback luck in 2018, beginning with Alex Smith’s serious leg injury. Mark Sanchez was signed after that to be Colt McCoy’s backup but the former Jets, Eagles and Bears QB was pressed into action when McCoy suffered his own fractured leg. That meant that in Week 14 Sanchez would make his first start under center since 2015, against the lowly but surging Giants.
Washington’s 10 drives with Sanchez at the helm went like this: punt, punt, punt, pick–six, punt, punt, interception, punt, punt, punt. He finished the day having completed 6-of-14 pass attempts for 38 yards with two picks and five sacks. By adjusted yards per attempt, which factors in interceptions and sacks, Sanchez’s game was the worst of this season thus far.
Washington trailed 34–0 when Jay Gruden pulled him in favor of Josh Johnson, who led two touchdown drives and was impressive enough to be named the starter moving forward.
1. Nathan Peterman vs. Ravens
By at least one measure, Nathan Peterman’s Week 1 game against the Ravens was not only the worst of the year but one of the worst in NFL history.
His stat line looked like this: 5 of 18 passing, 24 yards, two interceptions, three sacks.
That’s a paltry 1.33 yards per attempt, the lowest of the 2018 season thus far and the 11th-lowest in NFL history.
Peterman was so bad that he forced the Bills to alter their quarterback plans for the entire season. Rookie Josh Allen was supposed to spend several weeks as the backup, acclimating to the NFL. After Peterman’s second pick, though, Allen entered the game and Peterman was holding a clipboard. Injuries to Allen and Derek Anderson forced Peterman to make one more start, in Week 9. That game (31 for 49, 188 yards, three picks and four sacks) probably should have made this list as well, but let’s not pile on Peterman.
Peterman’s lousy season wasn’t enough to keep the Raiders from signing him to the practice squad, though.