Super Bowl Wannabees
The Super Bowl Wannabees are the teams always on the outside. The ones who every year are wondering what it would be like to go to the big dance. Their fans have waited plenty of time for championship success. Even Conference Championship success.
Sure, there are 12 teams who have never won a Super Bowl. Including the Cinicnnati Bengals who have a chance to do something about that against the LA Rams in Super Bowl LVI. Oh, the Bengals fans have suffered. They’ve been the Bungles, they’ve had the long playoff drought. But, they’ve been to the show before.
In fact there are 8 teams that have been, but always come up empty. The Arizona Cardinals, LA Chargers, and Tennessee Titans are all 0-1. The Bengals, who are trying to break their duck, are 0-2 alongside the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons. Whilst the greatest Super Bowl suffering has come for the Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills. Both are 0-4 at the Big Dance, the latter even doing it in consecutive seasons (1990-1994).
Yet there are four teams who can only dream of this sort of suffering. Four teams who’s fans have never even experienced the idea of their team being at the show – the Super Bowl wannabees.
The Wannabees – how long have they waited?
Being a Super Bowl wannabee is one thing. But how long have the fans of each of these outsiders been waiting? How long as each franchise suffered?
Let’s take a look and delve a little deeper into the 4 teams still waiting to knock on the door of the room holding the Lombardi trophy.
First Year: 2002. Seasons without a Super Bowl appearance: 20
The Texans, who played out their first season in 2002 have an all-time record of 139-182. They have played in 10 playoff games going 4-6 in that time.
The furthest they have gone in the playoffs is to lose Divisional Round games in 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2018 & 2019.
Two decades after their expansion season they finished in 2020 4-12 and 2021 4-13, pretty much mirroring their 4-12 expansion year.
At least they can point to 8 winning seasons. Plus their fans have had the shortest wait of any of the Super Bowl wannabee teams.
First Year: 1995. Seasons without a Super Bowl appearance: 27
The Jags who played out their first season in 1995 have an all time record of 180-253. They are 7-7 in the playoffs.
The furthest they have gone in the playoffs is to lose in the AFC Championship Game in 1996, 1999 & 2017.
After a 4-12 expansion season the Jaguars went 45-19 over 4 seasons and made 2 AFC title game apperances.
Their last AFC title game in 2017 was a heartbreaking loss away at the Patriots. Since then they have been terrible going 15-50 over the last 4 seasons.
They seem as far away from a Super Bowl berth as ever. But they have been within touching distance in recent memory and that will give the fans of these wannabees hope.
First Year: 1946. Seasons without a Super Bowl appearance: 56. Seasons since a Championship: 58
The Browns who played their first season in the AAFC have an all-time record of 494-514-11 in the NFL regular season. As well as going 12-21 in the postseason.
Their opening years were incredibly successful. They finished their first season as AAFC champions following a 12-2 season. In fact they won every AAFC Championship (4), going 47-4-3 in the process and having a perfect season along the way.
Proving that was no fluke they would appear in 7 of 8 NFL title games between 1950 and 1957 picking up three NFL titles as they did so.
The Browns last NFL title – a 27-0 romp over the Baltimore Colts occurred just two years prior to the Super Bowl era.
During the Super Bowl era these wannabees have made the 1969 NFL title game (pre cursor to the NFCCG), and the 1986, 1987 & 1989 AFC Championship games). Their fans were heartily sick of the Denver Broncos in the 1980’s as they were the obstacle they could not pass every time they were one game away from the Super Bowl.
Following a run from 2003-2019 where they failed to make the playoffs, and recorded winless seasons, the Browns last made it as far as the Divisional Round following an 11-5 2020 season. Fans will hope for more success than their 8-9 record in 2021 offered.
First Year: 1930. Seasons without a Super Bowl appearance: 56. Seasons since a Championship: 65
The Lions played their first year as the Portsmouth Spartans in 1930 finishing 5-6-3. They have an all-time record of 570-694-34. As well as a playoff record of 7-13.
The Lions won NFL titles in 1935, 1952, 1953, and 1957. In the Super Bowl era however they have only really come close to the title game once.
In 1991 a 12-4 Lions team progressed to the NFC Championship Game. Where they were upended 41-10 in Washington. I’m not sure their fans ever felt there was a chance of them going to the Super Bowl in that one either!
The Lions have not recorded a postseson win since that game. They have had some down seasons (including going 0-16 in 2008) as well as notching 8 Wild Card defeats.
The Wannabees – where to now?
One of the things the NFL prides itself on is parity. On ‘any given Sunday’ any team could beat another. You should be able to draft your way out of a down spiral. The salary cap should make things an even playing field.
And yet. Here we are going into the 56th Super Bowl and four teams, – the Steelers, Patriots, 49ers and Cowboys have 22 wins between them. Whilst the four wannbees haven’t even crossed the threshold of the big game.
Who will be the first to scratch their name off this list? We don’t know, but it will be fun being there when they do – especially for their long-suffering fans.
Featured Image: The Lions got ‘closest’ to the Super Bowl in the 1991 NFC Championship Game. Image from ‘The Morning Call’.