The year of “The Greatest Show On Turf” almost didn’t even happen. Head coach Dick Vermeil went into the 1999 season expecting veteran Trent Green to be his starting quarterback. When Green went down with a torn ACL in the preseason, unheralded backup Kurt Warner came in and history was made. Warner was billed as the former Arena League quarterback who had been stocking shelves at a local Hy-Vee supermarket to make ends meet.
He immediately started bagging unbelievable amounts of yards and touchdowns with the Rams in 1999. The team averaged 32.9 points to lead the NFL. Warner threw for 4,353 yards, with 1,165 of those going to leading receiver Isaac Bruce. Second wideout Torry Holt was also a force to be reckoned with, and they had one of the best all-around running backs in NFL history in Marshall Faulk. He ran for 1,381 yards that year. To top it all off, they beat the Tennessee Titans when the game down to the wire in what is still considered one of the best Super Bowls of all-time. This team will never be forgotten in the retelling of NFL history, and it shouldn’t be. Warner eventually made the NFL Hall of Fame, and this season launched his career.
This was the year that the Cowboys dynasty of the 1990s truly came into focus. Led by quarterback Troy Aikman, this version of the ‘Boys was second in the NFL in points per game with 25.6. Emmitt Smith racked up a massive 1,713 yards rushing, while Michael Irvin had 1,396 yards receiving. All told, the Cowboys went 13-3 that year.
This combination of offensive talent was perhaps the best three-headed monster the NFL has seen to this day. You could argue that San Francisco’s combo of Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and Roger Craig trumps the Cowboys’ trio. That’s a close – and tough – argument to make, however. This Cowboys offensive machine was simply dominant. Proving that, they steamrolled the Bills 52-17 in the Super Bowl, with Aikman taking home the MVP. And thus, a new Cowboys dynasty was born.
It’s almost tough to keep track of the Patriots’ many Super Bowl-winning teams of the Belichick-Brady era. But that’s what this list is for, and the 2004 Patriots are the best of that infamous, history-making duo. Like their Super Bowl-winning team, the Patriots went 14-2 this year, steamrolling the hapless AFC East yet again. It was a well-rounded team (of course it was) that was fourth in the NFL in points per game and second in the league in points allowed per game.
Perhaps the story of the offense was not Brady or his receivers, however. Brady threw for less than 4,000 yards with 3,692 that year. And his leading receiver David Givens only had 874 yards. But this Patriots team was able to control the clock and punish opponents thanks to the rushing prowess of Corey Dillon, who racked up an insane 1,635 yards on the ground that year. They ultimately topped the hyped Philadelphia Eagles 24-21 in the Super Bowl that year. It seemed like much of the press was on Philly and the drama that receiver Terrell Owens created in 2004. When the dust settled, New England was the true team to watch that season.
This Steelers team was dominant on their way to a Super Bowl victory, racking up a 12-2 record in the regular season. They were strong enough on offense, averaging 26.6 points per game to land fifth in the NFL. But it was once again their feared “Steel Curtain” defense that carried this team. The defense allowed only 11.6 points per game, second in the NFL.
Terry Bradshaw led the way with only 2,055 yards passing, but he did have blossoming young receiver Lynn Swann on his side by now. Swann eventually won the Super Bowl MVP award that season. And once again, Franco Harris was a staple of the offense, rushing for 1,246 yards. Chuck Noll’s team ultimately beat the Dallas Cowboys 17-13 in a tight, low-scoring Super Bowl that year. It may not have been the most exciting or pretty win, but this well-rounded Steelers team is among the great Super Bowl winners of all-time.
While the 1992 Super Bowl champion Cowboys were impressive in their own right, head coach Jimmy Johnson’s final Super Bowl with the Cowboys was his finest work overall. Many have talked about the Super Bowl hangover many teams experience after winning the big game the year before. Indeed, it is a real phenomenon often witnessed. And these Cowboys had it. They were at 7-4 through 11 games in the 1993 season before putting it together and winning their final five regular-season games.
There’s nothing new here. The team was led by Troy Aikman’s 3,900 passing yards, 1,330 of which went to Michael Irvin. Once again, Emmitt Smith compiled an eye-popping rushing total with 1,486 yards carrying the football. The Cowboys were again dominant throughout their postseason run this year. They once again beat the Bills, this time by a count of 30-13. This time around, Smith won the MVP award as the team furthered their legacy as the greatest squad of the 1990s.
There were obviously many great Steelers teams throughout their great dynasty of the 1970s. However, this is the one that rates as the best. The Steelers posted an impressive 14-2 record that year, and everything just seemed to come together for the team. The defense was the best in the NFL in terms of points allowed per game, as opposing teams averaged only 12.2 points against them.
On the other side of the ball, the Steelers were in their prime. Bradshaw manned the controls with a host of dangerous weapons at his disposal. Franco Harris was effective as always, grinding out 1,082 yards rushing. Lynn Swann led the team in receiving yards. There’s not much else to say other than this was an all-time great team that delivered on its potential to win the Super Bowl. They did so by defeating the Cowboys 35-31 in a shootout. Bradshaw took home the MVP award, and the ’78 Steelers were cemented in NFL history as one of the best Super Bowl teams ever.
The 1980s 49ers were similar to the 1970s Steelers dynasty in that they fielded teams who dominated both sides of the ball and played exceptionally well together. This team may be the second-best of the great 49ers squads of the ’80s, but it deserves its spot among the list of greats nonetheless. You know how the story goes.
Joe Montana quarterbacked an all-time great offense that led the league in per-scoring with 27.6 points per contest. Head coach George Seifert had seamlessly taken the reigns from the legendary Bill Walsh, and the results were spectacular. Jerry Rice was well, Jerry Rice, racking up 1,483 yards receiving. Roger Craig was once again stellar on the ground, rushing for 1,054 yards. His prowess as a receiver out of the backfield in the 49ers’ West Coast offense cannot be understated as well. When this team got to the postseason, it wasn’t even a question if they’d win the Super Bowl looking back. They smoked the Denver Broncos by a score of 55-10 and Joe Montana became the greatest playoff quarterback ever – at least until Tom Brady came along.
This is undoubtedly one of the most dominant Super Bowl teams in NFL history, and it’s also one of the most popular as well. While we have been a bit reluctant to rank one-sided teams high on the list of Super Bowl winners, the 1985 Bears somewhat unfairly have that moniker due to their historic defense, which certainly ranks up among the best ever in NFL history. It may even be the best. They were first in the NFL with an average of 12.4 points allowed that year. They also had a record of 15-1. But they were far from slouches on offense as well. True, they didn’t depend on the passing game as much as teams do today, with Jim McMahon their leading passer. He only threw for 2,392 yards that year. With a defense like that, you rarely have to air it out.
These Bears averaged 28.5 points per game – second in the NFL – on the strength of their rushing attack led by all-time legend Walter Payton. ‘Sweetness’ led the team with 1,551 rushing yards that year. The team became well-known for their cringe-worthy “rap” video, “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” and also for a massive lineman who moonlighted as a running back in William “Refrigerator” Perry. In truth, it didn’t need all of that hype because the on-field performance was by far enough. The Bears demolished the New England Patriots 46-10 in the Super Bowl and earned a spot high among the greatest Lombardi Trophy winners of all-time.
What’s this, you say? The only undefeated Super Bowl team ever is somehow ranked only No. 2 on the list of all-time great Super Bowl-winning teams? Well, yes, it’s true, as this team hasn’t exactly translated well over the years. That’s not to say it isn’t an all-time great team, because it is certainly in the running for the best of all-time. However, based on how the game is played has evolved, these Dolphins simply wouldn’t have been undefeated. For example, Bob Griese threw for 1,360 yards that year, a number that would almost certainly see him released from most teams had he been a full-time NFL starter today. Their leading receiver was Paul Warfield with 606 yards. True, it was just a different era of football back then, but it would be a wholly predictable gameplan in today’s NFL.
Either way, these Dolphins are still the only team to accomplish what they did. They were first in the NFL in both average points per game and points allowed per game. Larry Csonka was a stalwart rushing the ball with 1,117 yards. Yet the paper stats of this Dolphins team don’t tell the whole story. In truth, they were close to losing several games that season. Even their playoff run to the Super Bowl wasn’t exactly dominant. They won each game by single-digit points and even had to fight back to top the Steelers in the AFC title game. When they reached the Super Bowl, they again found the result a close one. True, they got up by two touchdowns on Washington, but only won by seven points. We won’t deny the 1972 Dolphins are one of the greatest Super Bowl teams of all-time. But to call them the outright best is a bit short-sighted. It’s safe to say they might struggle if they played the final team on our list…
Some, perhaps even many, believe that the 1972 Dolphins belong at the top of this list. But it’s this dominant San Francisco team that is actually the best Super Bowl winner of all-time. This was head coach Bill Walsh and his West Coast offense at the height of its powers, as the team went 15-1 that year. They, too, would have been undefeated if not for a narrow three-point loss to the Steelers in the regular season. These 49ers were second in the NFL in average points scored per game and first in average points allowed. Of course, Joe Montana led the way. This time he did so, once again, without having his future Hall of Famer Jerry Rice by his side.
Montana threw for 3,630 yards that season, good enough for that era, but his stats didn’t really matter. What defines this team is the manner in which they won the Super Bowl. In 1984, a young quarterback by the name of Dan Marino was absolutely tearing up the NFL.
He was light years ahead of the game that season, throwing for 5,084 yards and 48 touchdowns with only 17 interceptions. The yards and touchdowns were records that stood the test of time until the all-out offensive explosion in the NFL of the last 12 or so years. Marino and the Dolphins came in with real hype behind them. But this 49ers team immediately threw them off of their game.
Marino did throw for 318 yards in the Super Bowl, but he only threw for one touchdown as opposed to two interceptions. The 49ers had Miami on the ropes before the fourth quarter had even begun. Sadly enough, this ended up being Marino’s only Super Bowl appearance. While it was far from Montana’s only trip to the big game, it may have been his finest year overall. He took home the Super Bowl MVP and his 49ers put together the best Super Bowl-winning season in NFL history.