In a piece for ESPN Insider subscribers, Football Outsiders senior writer Mike Tanier assembled his list of the 10 most disappointing playoff performances of the past 25 years.
Tanier's criteria for inclusion were a great regular season or a roster loaded with studs followed by a one-and-done playoff run.
As I scrolled downward through Tanier's column, I expected to see the 2010 New England Patriots appear. They went 14-2 and were the conference's top seed behind reigning MVP Tom Brady before the New York Jets, whom the Patriots had annihilated five games earlier, scrubbed them from the tournament.
The 2010 Patriots didn't materialize on Tanier's list. The 2006 San Diego Chargers, who went 14-2 and were ousted at home by the Patriots, came in at No. 10.
I asked him why, and he was gracious enough to email a detailed response. Tanier noted the 2010 Patriots deserved honorable mention, but he had three reasons to omit them:
"I didn't want two teams from last year on the list. The Falcons struck me as more of a disappointment than the Patriots because they totally fell apart in the third quarter of that game. It's disappointing to lose, but it is far worse to start looking like you don't belong, which is why I tried to put several blowouts on the list."
"Losses to division rivals are never quite as shocking as losses to some other team in the conference. I tried to steer clear of divisional foes, because fans always go into those games with an "uh oh" attitude. Cowboys-Giants made the list, but that was the Cabo Cowboys, a team that got criticized for taking the playoffs off for two years afterward. As great as I thought the Patriots were last year, I viewed that playoff game as a "rivalry," not as a game the Patriots should win hands down."
"Finally, I couldn't decide on the 2009 or 2010 Patriots. In 2009, they lost in the first round to the Ravens, who only had to complete four passes in the win. I could have made a "montage" like I did with the Eagles and Chiefs but didn't want to keep doing that."
Tanier summed up his thoughts thusly: "I tried to find games that the favorite shouldn't lose. You shouldn't lose to a second-year expansion team or Rodney Peete or Jim Everett or the Chargers with Philip Rivers and LaDainian Tomlinson hurt. The Jets-Patriots aren't quite like that, or at least I don't think of it that way."