Best Players to Never Play in a Super Bowl (or NFL Championship)
Even though Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos couldn’t pull off a Super Bowl XLVIII win, at least they made it to the big game. As they say it’s better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all…or something like that. What we have below is the greatest All-Time team with one little stipulation, they have a collective total of zero rings between them and that includes NFL Championships (aka the Super Bowl before the name Super Bowl). Not only have these guys never won the ultimate game, they haven’t even gotten to the big game. That’s right, not even a taste of the promised land.
Only 4 teams in NFL history have not won a Super Bowl: the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Texans (2002) and Jags (1995) are expansion teams, so they have the excuse that they haven’t been in the league all that long. The Browns have actually won a few NFL Championships but alas none in the Super Bowl era. And then there’s the Lions, those poor guys from Motortown haven’t been that good in a long time. They won the NFL championship in 1957 over the Browns and have only won one playoff game since, in 1991. With the history lesson out of the way, let’s take a position by position look at the starters for this all-time team.
The quarterback competition is a pretty fierce battle between San Diego great Dan Fouts and the ageless Warren Moon. Both have busts that reside in the national football hall of fame in Canton, Ohio. Because the group is limited to players with no Super Bowl appearances, the Dolphins Dan Marino does not make the list. Fouts and Moons’ careers overlapped for four seasons from ’84-’87, in which they While Moon has around 1,200 more pass attempts in his career, he actually threw fewer interceptions than Fouts. And with over 1,700 career rushing yards to Fouts less than 500, Moon’s the starter.
Starter: Warren Moon
The running backs group has quite the talent and in reality anyone of them would make for a great starter. The list contains the likes of Barry Sanders, Gale Sayers, OJ Simpson, LaDainian Tomlinson, Earl Campbell, and Eric Dickerson. In the end though, it’s Barry Sanders without much of an argument. Sanders, third on the list of all time rushing yards, played for some horrible Lions teams and still produced even when defenses stacked the box with 8 (and 9!) defenders. What really put him over the top was his character, his respect for the game, and the fact that he retired just after his 31st birthday, after a season in which he had rushed for nearly 1,500 yards. It’s a no-brainer, Sanders is the starter.
Starter: Barry Sanders
There is a heavy correlation between great teams and their receivers. This is in big part because a team typically has to have a good quarterback throwing to that premier pass catcher. Alas, there are a number of high profile wide outs that never made it to the big game. Guys like Cris Carter, Don Maynard, Steve Largent, Sterling Sharpe, Henry Ellard, and even current players Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson. Statistically speaking Cris Carter and Steve Largent are shoe-ins. The third wideout is a toss up but I think once it’s all said and done, it goes to Megatron.
Starters: Cris Carter, Steve Largent, and Calvin Johnson
There are a number great tight ends available for the picking. Ozzie Newsome, Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, and Kellen Winslow round out the top of the list. For our purposes Tony Gonzalez, a future hall of famer, will be the starter. With 1,300+ receptions, 15,000+ receiving yards, and 110+ touchdowns, it’d be hard to deny him the starting spot.
Starter: Tony Gonzalez
Dan Dierdorf was born and raised in Canton, so it only seems fitting that he made it to the pro football hall of fame. He also went two years without giving up a sack. On the other side of the line, it’d be a battle between Bob Brown and Willie Roaf. I think Roaf would do quite nicely. An 11-time pro bowler, who even after a knee injury (and a trade) rebounded to his dominant form.
Starters: Dan Dierdorf & Willie Roaf
Out of the gate I would take Randall McDaniel. There’s a nice set of players who could play the other side including: Mike Munchak, Will Shields, and Gene Hickerson. Will Shields will be the starter here, he and McDaniel are tied for most pro bowls ever with 12. He never missed a game or a pro bowl, if that’s not consistency I don’t know what is. He doesn’t hurt he played with Roaf for a few years either.
Starters: Randall McDaniel & Will Shields
At center I like Kevin Mawae, a 16 year NFL veteran. Mawae went to eight pro bowls and even led the players association for a couple years.
Starter: Kevin Mawae
There’s another solid group at defensive end with the likes of: Mark Gastineau, Chris Doleman, Joe Klecko, and Elvin Bethea. While any of those guys would be a fine pick, Deacon Jones and Jason Taylor are the starters. Deacon was a part of the Rams’ famed “Fearsome Foursome” and spoiler alert he isn’t the only member of that squad on the team. Jason Taylor had a remarkable career, primarily with the Dolphins, and finished his career sixth all-time on the career sacks list.
Starters: Deacon Jones & Jason Taylor
That second member of the Fearsome Foursome is Merlin Olsen lining up at d-tackle. John Randle seemed like a clear cut choice at the other tackle spot, but Cortez Kennedy wouldn’t be a bad pick either. Half of a vaunted Rams d-line, a Vikings hall of famer, and a future hall of famer isn’t a bad way to line up against the offense.
Starters: Merlin Olsen & John Randle
First man to stick out when looking at the list of potentials was Derrick Thomas. Thomas set the NFL record for sacks in a game with 7. That’s a truly remarable feat and one that might never be broken. He recorded Over 125 sacks in a 10 year career, that included nine pro bowl trips. At the other outside linebacker spot it was between Sam Mills, Tommy “Mr. Falcon” Nobis, and Dave “The Intimdator” Wilcox. Nobis isn’t well-known outside Atlanta because media wasn’t as big as it is today and the Falcons were atrocious during his playing time, having only one year above .500. Nobis was a five time pro-bowler and set the record for tackles in a season his rookie year with 294, which is even more impressive when you realize that was during 14 game seasons.
Starters: Derrick Thomas & Tommy Nobis
It doesn’t even matter who else played middle linebacker, because Dick Butkus did. Butkus is the epitome of football: aggressive, hard-nosed, and downright mean. Zach Thomas was a great player in his own right but there’s no debate here at all. Butkus is the guy.
Starter: Dick Butkus
Two former Lions corners Lem Barney and Dick Lane are serious competitors for one starting spot. In the end Dick “Night Train” Lane wins out with a career 68 interceptions and one of the sweetest nicknames in NFL history. The other spot is scooped up by Eric Allen. Allen returned an astounding eight of his 54 career interceptions for touchdowns, including a game winning 94 yarder against the Jets and Boomer Esiason.
Starters: Eric Allen & Dick Lane
Ken Houston might be the greatest safety of all-time and he immediately grabs a starting spot with a career that included 12 pro bowls. Larry Wilson, an eight time pro-bowler, was relatively short for a NFL safety but he could do it all. He once played in a game with casts on both hands, because of broken wrists, and still picked off a pass. Kenny Easley was another consideration at safety and if his career wasn’t cut short because of kidney issues, he’d probably have a starting spot.
Starters: Ken Houston & Larry Wilson
Little debate here as Jason Hanson is one of the all-time best kickers to play in the NFL and one of the few, who never say a Super Bowl.
Starter: Jason Hanson
Punter was one most likely the most researched position on this entire team. Not that it will matter whatsoever, as this team will never punt. I ended up going with the Aussie Darren Bennett. He made the 90s all decade team and only played for half that time. He brought about the “drop punt” which makes him an innovator, which is pretty sweet, oh and he was a two-time pro bowler so he’s legit as they come.
Starter: Darren Bennett
There have been some great return men in the history of the national football league, most of whom played other positions. Mel Gray and Eric Metcalf would both do a great job, but the starting spot goes to the Kansas Comet, Gale Sayers. He holds the record for highest career kickoff return average and if it wasn’t for a couple knee injuries, he’d probably be at the top of list for return yards and touchdowns. He always seemed to find a way into the endzone.
Starter: Gale Sayers
At the reins of this star studded team is probably the best coach to never make it to the big game, Marty Schottenheimer. Critics think it was because of his tendency to play it safe when it came to play calling in the playoffs. This won’t be an issue with this team whatsoever.
Was your favorite Super Bowl-less player left off the list? Would you have a different starter at any position? Shout it out in the comments below!
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