If you’re plugged into the 21st century and at least remotely follow the NFL, then you probably know something about Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and his infamous postgame rant. To recap, after knocking away a pass intended for San Francisco 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree at the end of the recent NFC Championship game, Sherman lashed out during a televised interview:
“When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get.”
Like it or not, Sherman’s trash talk is par for the course for an NFL player. And at least his words backed up his impressive play on the field; other players get themselves in trouble by saying too much before they accomplish anything.
With the Super Bowl set to kick off shortly in frigid New Jersey, here are five of the most memorable trash-talking episodes in the history of football’s big game:
Super Bowl XL (2006)
Jerramy Stevens vs. Joey Porter
The last time the Seahawks were playing for all the marbles, one of the storylines centered on veteran Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome “the Bus” Bettis and how uplifting it would be for him to win the Super Bowl in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan. Seattle tight end Jerramy Stevens quickly tired of this narrative, telling the media, “The story of Jerome Bettis returning to his hometown is heartwarming, but it’s going to be a sad day when he doesn’t walk away with that trophy.” That, in turn, riled up Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter, who said Stevens “knows he’s soft. He’s a tight end. I’ve never, ever been afraid of a tight end. They’d better not let him block me.” As always, the game settled the war of words, and it didn’t end well for Stevens. Although he caught a touchdown, he also dropped several passes, and the Bus rode off with his Super Bowl trophy following a 21-10 Steelers win.
Super Bowl XXXIX (2005)
Freddy Mitchell vs. Rodney Harrison
With Terrell Owens slowed by injury, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Freddy Mitchell aimed to fill the shoes (mouth?) normally occupied by his trash-talking teammate heading into a Super Bowl matchup with the New England Patriots. During an interview, Mitchell pretended to not remember any of the New England defenders, then suddenly recalled the name of safety Rodney Harrison, saying he had “something for him.” Harrison’s response to the media was low-key, but he went out and delivered a huge performance with two interceptions and a sack to help New England eke out a 24-21 victory. Mitchell, meanwhile, was virtually invisible in the game, catching just one pass for 11 yards. Afterward, Patriots coach Bill Belichick delivered the most stinging words of the entire Super Bowl fortnight, saying of Mitchell, “He’s terrible, and you can print that. I was happy when he was in the game.”
Super Bowl XXXIII (1999)
Shannon Sharpe vs. Ray Buchanan
One of the more amusing back-and-forths in Super Bowl history took place between Denver Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe and Atlanta Falcons cornerback Ray Buchanan. Despite wearing a dog collar to media day, Buchanan chose to attack Sharpe’s appearance, saying “I’ll tell you, that’s an ugly dude. You can’t tell me he doesn’t look like Mr. Ed.” The always talkative Sharpe was more than up for the challenge, saying “I know he ain’t talkin’ with them big teeth in his mouth.” He proceeded to unleash a stream of colorful quotes, calling Buchanan a cross-dresser and adding “If I see him in a snowstorm, his truck is broke down, mine is going perfectly, would I pick him up? No.” Both players wound up making more noise with their comments than they did with their performance in the big game, but Sharpe secured final bragging rights with Denver’s 34-19 victory.
Super Bowl XIII (1979)
Hollywood Henderson vs. Terry Bradshaw
Despite being in the midst of a Hall of Fame career, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw didn’t draw the respect he deserved due in part to something of a country-bumpkin persona. Dallas Cowboys linebacker Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson seized on this heading into the Super Bowl, telling reporters that Bradshaw “is so dumb, he couldn’t spell ‘cat’ if you spotted him a ‘c’ and an ‘a.’” Henderson went on to have a good game, recording a sack that led to a Cowboys score, but the inspired Bradshaw was otherwise unstoppable, throwing four touchdown passes to earn MVP honors. In the aftermath of the Steelers’ 35-31 win, Henderson clarified his earlier comments: “I didn’t say he couldn’t play, just that he couldn’t spell.”
Super Bowl III (1969)
Joe Namath vs. Baltimore Colts
America’s watershed moment of athletic bluster came before Super Bowl III between the New York Jets and the Baltimore Colts. While attending a dinner, Jets quarterback Joe Namath responded to a heckler who ridiculed his team’s chances with “Hey, I got news for you. We’re going to win Sunday, I’ll guarantee you.” Lounging by a pool the following day, Namath derided opposing quarterback Earl Morrall and defended his earlier comments by telling reporters “We’re a better team than Baltimore.” At the time, his quotes were laughable; the powerful Colts had lost just one game all year, and it was universally agreed that they played in a superior league. Of course, Broadway Joe made good on his prediction, delivering a carefully managed performance to pull out a 16-7 upset and set the tone for confident athletes of successive generations.