After the Carolina Panthers reeled off a 15-1 regular season record last year, only to lose to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, there are a few questions that arise: (1) Why did Cam Newton pull a Roger Dorn? (2) Was the 2015 Denver Broncos’ defense the best of all-time? (3) Were the Panthers the greatest team to not win the Super Bowl?
Bad news, Panthers fans (or maybe it’s good, I’m not sure), they were not the best team to fail on the biggest stage; they aren’t even in the top-five of the conversation.
Yes, Cam Newton had a remarkable season, and the Panther defense was very strong, but they don’t measure up to these five teams that I have gathered and subsequently honored.
Although comparing teams and players from different years is incredibly difficult, I have generated a fool-proof, scientific method to rank the top-five teams who failed to hoist the Lombardi trophy.
How did I do this? It certainly doesn’t just involve my opinion, that’s for sure. How is it scientific? Well, there are some numbers in there. Good enough, right?
Joking aside, I generated this list by weighing each team’s regular season performance, the strength of their schedule, how their season ended (why the 2013 Broncos also miss out), and how good the team was that ended their season.
Although I like to believe my football knowledge extends far beyond the year I was born, I have a feeling this list may tip you off to my age. All differing opinions and scrutiny are welcome, just please keep the name-calling to a minimum; that stuff’s hurtful.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, here are the top-five teams who failed to win the Super Bowl …
2007 New England Patriots
Eli Manning and David Tyree teamed up to create one of the most legendary plays in Super Bowl history, leading to the go-ahead touchdown in a 17-14 Giants victory.
Why they were great:
For starters, they joined the 1972 Dolphins as being the only two teams to finish the regular season with a perfect record. Due to the difference in games played though, the Dolphins completed the season by going 17-0 after winning the Super Bowl. The Patriots, on the other hand, ran their record to 18-0, before being stunned by the Giants in the Super Bowl.
Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and the rest of the offense not only led the league in points scored, but set a new single-season record in the category. (Broken in 2013 by the Broncos.) They also led the league in total yards, while Brady and Moss broke the single-season passing and receiving touchdown records. (Brady’s was broken by Peyton Manning in 2013.) To top it off, they also committed the fewest turnovers in the league. The offense was virtually unstoppable.
However, the defense definitely did its part too, finishing fourth in both points and yards allowed. Mike Vrabel and Asante Samuel were named first-team all-pros, and Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, and Junior Seau are a couple more names you may recognize.
This was a complete squad, and it took a miraculous play to prevent them from becoming the greatest team of all-time.
1990 Buffalo Bills
Why they were great:
We can start with the Hall-of-Famers that were on this team: Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith, and Andre Reed. (Finally!) The defense also possessed Pro Bowlers Darryl Talley, Cornelius Bennett, and Shane Conlan. Quite simply, this was a very talented roster.
Unlike some, the Bills were able to get the most out of their stacked roster, as they went 13-3 in the regular season, and 12-2 with Kelly under centre. What makes that record even more impressive is the strength of their schedule. Buffalo had to play six games against teams that ended up winning ten games or more, going 4-2 in those contests.
Buffalo lead the league in points scored, while giving up the sixth-fewest defensively. They also ranked in the top-eight for total yards and yards allowed, while posting a +14 turnover margin.
What may be the most impressive part of the Bills’ season was the beatings they gave the Miami Dolphins and the Los Angeles Raiders in the playoffs. The conference championship game was a snoozer, as Buffalo beat LA 51-3 to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl.
This was the first of four-consecutive Super Bowls that the Bills reached, and this was one they definitely should have won. Poor Scott Norwood …
1998 Minnesota Vikings
Gary Anderson chose the worst time to miss his first kick of the year.
Why they were great:
This team was way too good to not even make it to the Super Bowl. The trio of Randall Cunningham, Randy Moss, and Cris Carter were the greatest show on turf before “the greatest show on turf” arrived a couple years later. (More on them to come.)
Not only did the Vikings become just the third team to go 15-1 in the regular season, but they broke the record for most points scored with 556. This was one of the most explosive offenses the NFL has ever seen, largely thanks to Randy Moss’ unbelievable rookie season.
The defense was lead by first-team All-Pro John Randle and anchored in the middle by Pro Bowler Ed McDaniel. These two would play major roles in the defense allowing the sixth-fewest points in the league as well.
What stood out to me about this team,, though, was their dominance during the regular season. The Vikings won 12 games by double-digits, and their per-game point differential was an incredible +16.2. Their lone hiccup came in Week 9 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, when a late-game Mike Alstott touchdown gave the Bucs a three point victory.
As the playoffs began, everyone was salivating at the idea of a Minnesota-Denver Super Bowl; but that was squashed when Atlanta capitalised on Gary Anderson’s missed a 38-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship game. Had he converted the field goal, as he had his 35 other attempts that season, Minnesota would have been up two scores, and everyone would have gotten their wish.
But hey, on the plus-side, there’s no way the franchise can come up with a more disappointing missed field goal, right?
2001 St. Louis Rams
Adam Vinatieri put the exclamation mark on his incredibly clutch playoff run.
Why they were great:
Kurt Warner was the league’s MVP, and Marshall Faulk won the Offensive Player of the Year award. A couple guys by the names of Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce also pitched in to help out with the whole “greatest show on turf” thing. (I also have to give a shout-out to the guys that don’t get enough credit: the offensive line. Without the superb pass-protection from Orlando Pace and Adam Timmerman – among others – none of those seven-step drops would have been possible.)
The Rams put up the most points and gained the most yards in the league, and their defense was dramatically improved from the previous season. Trading for Hall-of-Fame corner Aeneas Williams proved to be the most valuable offseason addition to their defense, as he was not only their lone defensive player to be named to the Pro Bowl, but was also a first-team All-Pro.
St. Louis would finish the regular season 14-2, where the two losses came by a combined total of ten points. The first was by a touchdown at the hands of the Bucs, on the back of a two touchdown performance by Mike Alstott, the apparent giant-killer. The second was against the Saints on a last-second field goal.
Putting the focus back on their winning, the Rams were so good that they were able to overcome turning the ball over more than any other team in the league. How often do you see a team with a -10 turnover differential win 14 games? You also can’t suggest that they didn’t have to play quality teams: seven of their 16 games were against playoff teams, and they won six of those.
The Rams entered the Super Bowl as the heavy favorites against the Patriots, who were starting their backup quarterback. I’m sure we all remember how the rest of the story goes. But I have to admit, it just seemed like New England was always one step ahead. (You’re not alone, Kurt.)
The possibility that they were cheated out of their second Super Bowl in three years definitely plays a factor in them being here, especially considering it was still a field-goal game.
Marcus Allen and the Raiders ran all over them in the Super Bowl.
Why they were great:
Washington was two one-point losses away from being 16-0. Joe Theismann was named the league’s most valuable player, John Riggins was running through everyone, Art Monk wasn’t even their leading receiver, and Darrell Green and Mark Murphy headlined a very strong secondary.
Their offense put up a league-leading 541 points, and they finished the season with an astounding +43 turnover differential. Yes, you read that correctly, +43!
It is widely believed that Washington’s ’83 team was actually better than the one who won the Super Bowl the year prior, but only one could come through in the big game.
In ironic fashion, the stingiest run-defense in the league allowed Marcus Allen to rush for 191 yards in the Super Bowl, and they also lost the turnover battle.
Their performance in the Super Bowl was an incredibly uncharacteristic game for Washington, at the most costly time. Don’t feel too bad for them though, they did win a lot of Super Bowls, and did just get rid of RGIII.