NFL

The NFL’s 30 Greatest Teams That Failed To Win The Super Bowl

Darren - February 17, 2022
NFL

The NFL’s 30 Greatest Teams That Failed To Win The Super Bowl

Darren - February 17, 2022

Winning a Super Bowl is the pinnacle of an NFL player’s career. However, it’s an incredibly difficult achievement even for some of the greatest players to ever play. Stars like Dan Marino, Warren Moon, and Barry Sanders all fell short of the NFL’s ultimate prize. In recent years, success eluded the likes of long-serving talents Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers.

Many great teams fall short of Super Bowl glory because they choked at the worst possible time. Sometimes, they’re unlucky because they rack up injuries and can’t replace key players. Then there are games where they meet a team that refuses to accept their underdog status. Check out the list below via Athlon Sports.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

30. Green Bay Packers (2021)

The Packers went through a strange year in 2021. First, they dealt with the drama of Aaron Rodgers wanting out. In the end, the quarterback agreed to stay for another season. This appeared to be a coup because the franchise had an exciting roster. They instantly became one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl and stormed through the NFC North with a 13-4 record.

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

Meanwhile, Rodgers had a phenomenal individual season despite his heel turn. His efforts won him the NFL MVP award for a second straight year. However, when they reached the playoffs it all went wrong. The 49ers stunned Green Bay 13-10 in the divisional round. It was a humiliating defeat because many people thought that this was their year, but they failed to win (via CNN).

Mandatory Credit: Bleacher Report

29. New England Patriots (1996)

Arguably, this Super Bowl loss was the most important game in Patriots history. They carried an 11-5 record into the playoffs before navigating their way to the final. Then, they played the Packers but suffered a 35-21 defeat. Bill Parcells had a brilliant offensive combination in Drew Bledsoe and Curtis Martin. They wreaked havoc throughout the AFC all year.

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

New England was underdogs in this game but they pushed the Packers close. It was also a defining moment for the franchise. That’s because several events occurred as a direct result. Parcells departed after this game after a disagreement with the front office. Eventually, his assistant Bill Belichick rejoined the Patriots from the Jets as head coach (via Sportscasting) and the rest is history.

Mandatory Credit: Sirius XM

28. Cleveland Browns (1986)

Many great teams rise and fall in the blink of an eye in the NFL. The ’86 Browns are an example of how short a franchise’s time in the spotlight can be. Cleveland amassed a 12-4 record as they won the AFC North. They faced the Broncos in the conference championship game. However, that was where their postseason journey came to an end. They failed to win despite their talent.

Mandatory Credit: AP

Marty Schottenheimer assembled a great team and Bernie Kosar was in the greatest form of his career. Meanwhile, they had a solid running game with Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack. But the Broncos narrowly defeated them 23-20. On paper, this roster contained a lot of talent and could have gone further. Marginal decisions can decide NFL games and that was the case here.

Mandatory Credit: Rolling Stone

27. Atlanta Falcons (2016)

The Falcons came into the 2016 postseason with an 11-5 record. They had the best offense in the league and scored a frightening amount of points. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Devonta Freeman were all at the top of their games. They overcame the Packers in the NFC Championship before playing the Patriots in the Super Bowl (via NESN).

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

Unfortunately, that’s where the fairytale came to an end. The Patriots were favorites in this game but fell behind. At one point the Falcons led 28-3 in the third quarter. But they allowed New England to make a spectacular comeback and lost the game in overtime. It remains one of the most ridiculous Super Bowls ever. Atlanta failed to win because they fell apart.

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

26. Jacksonville Jaguars (1999)

This may feel like something from a parallel universe but the Jaguars were great in 1999. Head Coach Tom Coughlin inspired his team to an excellent 14-2 regular-season record. This was only their fifth season in existence but they made a surprising impact. However, they failed to win the AFC Championship as the Titans overwhelmed them (via CBS Sports).

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

It was very disappointing because many people gave the Jags a great shot at beating the Rams. Jacksonville wreaked havoc against the other NFC teams they played. In the end, they stumbled at the final hurdle. This team’s most important attribute was its defense because it was the best in the NFL. Unfortunately, it all went downhill for Coughlin and co.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

25. Chicago Bears (1988)

The Bears built one of the NFL’s greatest-ever defenses in the late ’80s. This led to Super Bowl glory in 1985. However, many critics believe that they should have won more rings. Some analysts point the finger at head coach Mike Ditka. They think he was lucky because he inherited a great team. His later failures to win in Chicago and New Orleans lent credence to this argument.

Mandatory Credit: Sportscasting

Anyway, in 1988, the Bears’ defense was almost as good as when they won Super Bowl XX. They only allowed one more point per game than their glorious year. They overcame obstacles including Jim McMahon’s injury and the crucial retirement of Walter Peyton. But the 49ers had too much for them in the NFC Championship game (via Chicago Tribune).

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

24. Philadelphia Eagles (2004)

Donovan McNabb is arguably the greatest quarterback in the Eagles’ history yet he never won a ring. Super Bowl XXXIX was as close as he came. However, they failed to win and he found himself answering questions about vomit instead. Everybody knows that McNabb and wideout Terrell Owens had a turbulent relationship. However, this game effectively killed it.

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

Philly carried a 13-2 record into the postseason. The NFC title winners needed to be at their best against the 14-2 Patriots. The Eagles pushed New England close but they weren’t able to seal the win. Owens made headlines when he claimed that McNabb vomited because he partied hard the night before (via Yahoo!). It was a sensational claim but McNabb emphatically denied it.

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

23. Buffalo Bills (2021)

This was a rollercoaster of a season for the Bills. Confidence was high after their playoff run the previous year. They had a certain arrogance because they were the best team in the AFC East. However, they suffered a midseason slip and almost lost the divisional title to the Patriots. In Josh Allen, they had one of the league’s most exciting quarterbacks (via Sky Sports).

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

They smashed New England in the playoffs in one of the most electrifying blowouts of the year. Then they came up against the Chiefs in the divisional round. Allen was magnificent again but so was Patrick Mahomes. The Bills agonizingly lost in overtime. It was the second year running where they failed to win despite their apparent class. This was a heartbreaking defeat.

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

22. New Orleans Saints (2019)

The Saints have suffered rough luck in the postseason in recent years. They came up against the Vikings in the wildcard round and carried the favorites tag. Many analysts believed that they were one of the best teams in the playoffs. However, they failed to win in devastating circumstances. The 13-3 Saints believed that they had the team to win the Super Bowl.

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

Meanwhile, the Vikings snuck into the playoffs with a 10-6 record. Poor officiating calls went against New Orleans while Minnesota also defended brilliantly, forcing the reliable Drew Brees into a pair of crucial turnovers. Finally, the game went to overtime and Kirk Cousins came up clutch. He broke Saints’ hearts after he found Kyle Rudolph with an overtime touchdown pass (via The Guardian).

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

21. Tennessee Titans (1999)

The newly-relocated Titans were outstanding in 1999 and cruised through the AFC with a 13-3 record. Then they ended Peyton Manning’s postseason debut. Their reward was a clash with the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV. They came within inches of winning their first Vince Lombardi Trophy. But the former Oilers failed to win as they came up short (via N.Y. Post).

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

The franchise had future MVP Steve McNair leading the charge and was backed up by bruising runner Eddie George. In the end, linebacker Mike Jones made a crucial tackle at the one-yard line. He prevented Kevin Dyson from scoring a touchdown in one of the most famous plays ever. The Titans could have won this game but their receiver couldn’t finish.

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

20. Cincinnati Bengals (1981)

The Bengals charged to the Super Bowl in 1981. The ’80s were a good time for Cincinnati quarterbacks. Ken Anderson won the MVP award after helping his team to a 12-4 season. Finally, they made it to their first-ever final and came up against San Francisco. Unfortunately, the 49ers proved to be the Bengals’ nemesis on two occasions (via L.A. Times).

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

Unfortunately for Cincinnati, they failed to win their first Vince Lombardi Trophy. The Bengals came into this one after beating the Chargers in the coldest game in NFL history. However, they couldn’t summon up enough heat to beat San Francisco. In the end, they lost 26-21. The narrow margin made this defeat even crueler and sums up the franchise’s Super Bowl history.

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

19. Seattle Seahawks (2014)

Nobody knew who was going to win Super Bowl XLIX before the game. The Seahawks and the Patriots both had 12-4 regular-season records. Then they rampaged through the playoffs and faced each other in Glendale. This game was also incredibly close on the field. Finally, the Seahawks found themselves in second and goal from the one-yard line.

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

Then Russell Wilson tried to pass to Ricardo Lockette. But Malcolm Butler intercepted and killed Seattle’s dream. Wilson could have handed it to running back Marshawn Lynch. In the end, this became one of the most analyzed plays ever. But Seattle failed to win despite being on par with the best team in the league. Tiny margins win games (via Sports Illustrated).

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

18. Pittsburgh Steelers (2017)

The Steelers went 13-3 in 2017 as they captured the AFC North title. They had an electrifying offense with Le’Veon Bell at his very best. After an up-and-down start, they went on an eight-game winning streak before losing to the Patriots. This had severe consequences on their season but not for the reason some would think. Pittsburgh reset and made it to the divisional round against the Jaguars.

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

They knew that a victory over Jacksonville would see them meet the Patriots again for the AFC title. The Steelers wanted revenge and glory but overlooked the Jaguars. In the end, Big Ben and his team suffered a shocking loss. They failed to win as Jacksonville claimed a 45-42 victory. It was a wasted opportunity because this team fell apart shortly afterward (via Oregon Live).

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

17. Kansas City Chiefs (2021)

Kansas City came into 2021 with a chip on their shoulder because the Bucs inflicted a bruising Super Bowl defeat on the defending champions. But the Chiefs remained the favorites in the eyes of many fans and analysts. They had a deep roster with talent all over the field. Kansas didn’t have it all their way but made it to the playoffs with a 12-5 record.

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

They crushed the Steelers before a sublime game against the Bills. Patrick Mahomes was phenomenal in a quarterback duel as he inspired his team to an overtime victory. Their reward was an AFC title game against the Bengals. On paper, this was an easier match-up but Cincinnati shocked the world. Kansas City failed to win as Mahomes choked when it counted (via The Guardian).

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

16. L.A. Rams (1973)

This edition of the Rams had a superb roster. Harold Jackson lifted fans off their seats with his displays at wideout. The receiver had the most touchdown receptions in the league with 13. Meanwhile, Jon Hadl was the reigning NFC player of the year. His services brought the Rams to the next level. Many fans believed that they could go all the way to the Super Bowl.

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

Expectations were high after a 12-2 regular season. Many fans believed that they would go all the way to the Super Bowl. In the end, they fell far short. They faced the Cowboys in the Divisional Round but failed to win. It was very disappointing because they stacked their roster with talent. Dallas won 27-16 in a major upset after the Rams traveled to the Lone Star State (via N.Y. Times).

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

15. Cincinnati Bengals (1988)

The Bengals made their second Super Bowl appearance in ’88. This time they had Boomer Esiason at the helm. Unfortunately, this became a case of deja vu for Cincinnati. They met the 49ers for the second time in the showpiece event. They failed to beat Joe Montana and co. after a grueling game of football. Everything felt like it went wrong for the Bengals.

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

They had drug problems, broken legs, and a poorly-timed interception. These proved costly in a game of fine margins because the 49ers narrowly won. San Francisco failed to fire until the fourth quarter before they snatched victory. They won 20-16 and broke Cincinnati hearts for a second time. This was the franchise’s last shot at a Super Bowl for over three decades (via Sporting News).

Mandatory Credit: Bleacher Report

14. San Francisco 49ers (1992)

San Francisco and Dallas had one of the NFL’s great rivalries throughout the early ’90s. The previous decade was all about Joe Montana and the 49ers. But the Cowboys overtook them to build a new dynasty. In 1992, they faced an evolving Niners’ team with Steve Young in the NFC Championship game. Jerry Rice was an exciting talent while Ricky Watters also became a star.

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

They went 14-2 throughout the regular season but failed to win the Conference. Realistically, the Cowboys and the 49ers were the two best teams in the NFL. Whoever won this game instantly became the favorite for the Super Bowl. In the end, America’s Team got the victory. Then they played the Bills in the Super Bowl and obliterated them 52-17 (via L.A. Times).

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

13. Houston Oilers (1979)

An 11-5 record may not seem impressive but this Oilers team was one of the best of their era. They also had an exciting playoff run that ended in devastating circumstances. Firstly, they brushed the Broncos aside before facing the Chargers. They were up against the odds in this one because of an extensive injury list. But they managed to win without QB Dan Pastorini and MVP Earl Campbell.

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

Then they met the Steelers in the AFC title game. Unfortunately, this is where their run came to an end. It also saw one of the most controversial officiating calls in postseason history. Mike Renfro scored a legitimate touchdown but the referee disallowed it. It was a crushing blow for Houston as Pittsburgh ran away with the win. The Oilers deserved better (via Fansided).

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

12. Minnesota Vikings (2009)

The Vikings brought Brett Favre north because they believed he was their missing piece. A veteran quarterback can be the difference between winning a Super Bowl and losing in the Wild Card round. But it didn’t work out the way that the franchise hoped. They had an unbelievable offense even though Favre was past his prime. Adrian Peterson was a stellar running back who was in his prime.

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

However, they only made it as far as the NFC title game. They failed to win against New Orleans after Favre threw a costly interception. It was unfortunate because the quarterback had a decent season. But this is what fans talked about after the game. A team’s regular-season record means nothing when they’ve failed to win in the playoffs (via ESPN).

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

11. Baltimore Colts (1968)

The NFL Coastal champions should have won Super Bowl III. Johnny Unitas was the best quarterback in the league. Meanwhile, John Mackey was the greatest tight end of his generation. In Don Shula, the Colts had a head coach with vast experience. Yet somehow a loudmouth QB nicknamed “Broadway Joe” got in their heads. We’re talking, of course, about Joe Namath (via Stadium Talk).

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

Namath loudly professed to everybody before the game that the Jets would win the Super Bowl. Nobody believed him because the Colts were massive 18-point favorites. But Baltimore picked the worst possible day to have a meltdown. In the end, the Jets won 16-7 as they made a mockery of their underdog status. It was the greatest day in their history but one of the most humiliating for the Colts (via Bleacher Report).

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

10. Indianapolis Colts (2009)

Peyton Manning and the Colts were outstanding in 2009. They blitzed their way to the AFC South title with a 14-2 record. Then they rampaged their way to Super Bowl XLIV against the Saints. Indy was a five-point favorite against the debutants. However, Sean Peyton and New Orleans were determined to cause an upset. This should have been a second ring for Manning but they failed to win.

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

Instead, Drew Brees stole his thunder on his way to the game’s MVP award. Meanwhile, one of Manning’s most memorable moments was a costly interception. Tracy Porter famously caught the ball and returned it for a score to build up a 14-point lead. This effectively ended the game as a contest. New Orleans won their first Super Bowl title. But were they the NFL’s best team?

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

9. San Diego Chargers (2009)

Philip Rivers never received the same respect as many of his contemporaries. But the fact remains that the Chargers retained him for 16 seasons. Yes, he was very loud, but the cowboy hat-wearing QB showed amazing spirit (via Washington Post). In 2009, he inspired his team to a 13-3 record. However, the AFC West holders suffered a shock loss to the New York Jets.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Furthermore, they had LaDainian Tomlinson in their ranks during this run. He was one of the most dynamic and exciting players in the entire NFL. It was no surprise that they had top-five offense for four consecutive seasons. However, San Diego failed to maximize their potential. They only made a single AFC title game during this period but failed to win.

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

8. Buffalo Bills (1991)

Realistically, this could have been any of the Bills’ teams from 1990 to 1994. Somehow they contrived to play in four Super Bowls but failed to win them all. Remarkably, they didn’t achieve glory at least once because they were an excellent unit. Jim Kelly was the greatest quarterback in franchise history, at least before a certain Josh Allen came along (via Sportsnaut).

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

It was like one cruel joke on repeat for Bills fans. After they missed their fourth opportunity, the franchise spiraled out of control. They effectively became irrelevant for the majority of two decades. Finally, they had a resurgence in 2020. But this version of the Bills had talent all over the field. Thurman Thomas was an MVP talent while Bruce Smith was a Defensive Player of the Year.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

7. Miami Dolphins (1984)

Dan Marino was one of the greatest quarterbacks in history yet he failed to win a Super Bowl ring. Miami consistently had one of the best offenses in the league under Don Shula. However, defense wins championships and they never put it together. The closest they came was Super Bowl XIX when they faced San Francisco (via Washington Post).

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

This was a disappointing game in many ways because fans didn’t get the QB duel they expected. The 49ers smashed the NFC Champions 38-16. It was underwhelming because Miami amassed a dominant 14-2 record throughout the season. Joe Montana outshone Marino and a dynasty began. Meanwhile, Marino never played in a Super Bowl again.

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

6. Baltimore Ravens (2019)

Lamar Jackson was electric in his second year at the Ravens’ quarterback. The Ravens blitzed their division and finished the regular season with a 14-2 record. Furthermore, they built up an insane number of rushing yards. They were the first team since 1978 to accumulate over 3,000. Jackson’s personal ability to rush pushed this number up above expectations (via USA Today).

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

Jackson also had more rushing touchdowns in 2019 than the New York Jets or the Jaguars. However, this story doesn’t have a happy ending. They came up against the Titans in the divisional round but failed to win. It was disappointing because this was an awesome offense. Few teams were as exciting for fans to watch as Baltimore. Unfortunately, they fell short.

Mandatory Credit: Boston Globe

5. St. Louis Rams (2001)

This was the end of an era but the beginning of a new dynasty. The Rams had two-time MVP Kurt Warner in their ranks but another quarterback overshadowed him. Tom Brady took the reins from Drew Bledsoe after the latter’s injury. The fifth-round draft pick overcame the lack of expectation to lead his franchise to a fairytale. Meanwhile, it was the end of the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ (via Boston Globe).

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

The Rams had the best offense in the NF for three straight seasons. Everybody expected them to annihilate the unheralded Patriots, but Bill Belichick had a master plan and contained the Rams. The teams stayed within touching distance until Adam Vinatieri kicked the winning field goal as time expired. It was a dramatic way for the Patriots to win the Super Bowl.

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

4. San Francisco 49ers (1990)

The 49ers came incredibly close to making it three Super Bowl wins in a row. However, they failed to win in the dying moments of this game against the Giants. It also signaled the end of Joe Montana’s reign in Candlestick Park. They faced the New York franchise in the NFC Championship game. Everything was going their way before it all fell apart (via ESPN).

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

Leonard Marshall almost ended Montana’s career with a brutal hit that left the QB out cold. NFL fans didn’t see the Niners’ star for almost two years as he recuperated. Things became even worse when Roger Craig fumbled the ball and cost San Francisco the game. They lost by a margin of a single score on a traumatic day. Sometimes everything goes wrong.

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

3. Minnesota Vikings (1998)

The Vikings are one of the most popular franchises never to have won a Super Bowl. However, this edition should have succeeded where others failed. Randall Cunningham was a reliable quarterback but their receiving corps was insane. Cris Carter and Randy Moss struck fear into the hearts of every NFC defense. They went 15-1 in the regular season but they failed to even reach the most important game (via Pioneer Press).

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

They also had a great defense with John Randle sacking players with ruthless efficiency. Minnesota made it to the NFC Championship game. But the Falcons pushed them closer than everybody expected. Finally, Morten Andersen missed a clutch field goal attempt. Atlanta came back downfield and finished the Vikings off. It was a shame because their fans wanted to see the Vikings in the Super Bowl.

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

2. Carolina Panthers (2015)

This Panthers team lasted for a blink of an eye but they were mesmerizing. Cam Newton had the season of his career on his way to the MVP award. Meanwhile, Carolina enjoyed a stacked roster that blew the NFC apart with a 15-1 record. Super Bowl glory appeared inevitable but Peyton Manning’s Broncos stood in their way. It was their legendary quarterback’s last shot at winning a ring.

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

After making their way through the playoffs with ease, the Panthers came up short. Von Miller won the game’s MVP award as he helped to neutralize Newton. Denver had the best defense in the league while the Panthers led the NFL in offensive statistics. But as everyone knows, defense wins games. This proved to be the case yet again as Manning had his fairytale ending (via Denver Business Journal).

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

1. New England Patriots (2007)

This edition of the Patriots should have been the greatest team of all time. They shattered records left, right, and center. Bill Belichick’s men came through the regular season without a single defeat. They made it to the Super Bowl where they met the 10-6 Giants. Tom Coughlin’s team hadn’t even won their division and were lucky to scrape a place in the playoffs.

Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

Everybody expected the Patriots to swat them aside and finish with a perfect record. However, Eli Manning and his teammates forgot to read the script. They gave Tom Brady a nightmare of a game and pulled off one of the biggest shocks ever. The Patriots failed to win despite being 12-point favorites. This loss was devastating and infuriating in equal measure.

Advertisement