It is fun for killing time at work, at dinner, or in the dorm rooms.
Who exactly can claim to be the best franchise in the modern era? Is it the Cowboys? The Steelers? Or the 49ers? And who is really better if a Bengals fan and Falcons fan square off? How about a Jets fan and a Browns fan? And who should be more outraged at their franchises incompetence over the last 48 years, the Cardinals or the Lions?
How did this project ever begin?
To recap, now thirteen years ago, a good listener of the radio show asked me to rank the franchises from #32 to #1 based on their accomplishments during the Super Bowl era.
So I did. I wanted it to be objective at all costs, not subjective. I wanted it to be a formula and you would just enter the numbers and it would spit out the rankings with no favoritism or prejudice. So, I have been doing this since every year since 2001, on the Tuesday of the week following the Super Bowl. Since then, it has been imitated a time or two , but I don’t mind. It is pretty obvious idea for any sports nerd with time on hand to come up with.
Here is how it works. Each Franchise gets 1 point for each season it makes the playoffs. Then, if it reaches the Conference Championship Game it gets a total of 3 points. If it makes the Super Bowl it gets 5, and if it wins the Super Bowl it wins the maximum total of points in a given year of 11. It used to be 10 for the Super Bowl, but I have adjusted it because I didn’t like the idea that 2 Super Bowl losses equaled a Super Bowl win. So, Now 11 points for a win and 5 for a loss in the Super Bowl.
I have been asked why no points are given for wins in the Wildcard round, but I decided that would not make sense with the idea that the playoffs have expanded over the years and there is no way to equalize a smaller field to a larger one. Also, a Wildcard win is not that big a deal anymore with 6 teams in the playoffs, so unless you reach the Conference Title game, no additional points beyond the 1 for making the post-season.
I also have been asked how come I don’t rank by average points per season (since many teams have joined the league since Super Bowl 1. My answer is simple: I don’t want to penalize teams who have been in the league all of the years. If you go by average points per year rather than total points, it is possible that the Baltimore Ravens would be #1 soon if they win another Super Bowl next year. And it is fair to note how great Baltimore has done compared to teams around them in the rankings. No chance I would believe that premise, given that they didn’t exist prior to 1996. But, if a team has been established since the season of Super Bowl 1 (1966), it is notated.
Just add up the points for all the years, and that is the entire formula. (By the way, if you disagree with the point totals for each accomplishment, you will find that just about any reasonable formula spits out about the same results. Try me, pick your own point values.)
Otherwise, I break ties based on the team with more Super Bowl wins, then Super Bowl losses, then Championship Game wins, then playoff berths, and finally average points per year.
There are no ties. I will settle it somehow.
We have added "average pts per year" in the last 3 versions - so that we may determine results based on years in the league. 24 of the 32 teams have been here the entire span of the 47 years of Super Bowl football, but this metric will help put the other 8 teams: Saints '67, Bengals '68, Seahawks '76, Buccaneers '76, Jaguars '95, Panthers '95, Ravens '96, and Texans '02. Also, the Browns missed 96-98, so they only have 45 seasons to work with.
Here are the Final Rankings through Super Bowl 48:
#1 - Pittsburgh Steelers (Last year, #1) - 108 pts
In 2011, it finally happened. When Super Bowl 30 was completed, the Cowboys were at 101 and the Steelers were at 68 points. Well, since then, the Steelers have been the model of excellence for anyone not in New England, and the Cowboys have been, well, the Cowboys. Therefore, based on the tie breaking system, the Steelers took over as the current heavyweight leader in the Super Bowl era. The first time in years that the Cowboys have not held this post. Nothing has changed since, because both teams missed the playoffs in 2012 and 2013. So, 108 continues to be the high water mark to date.
Total Points: 108
Total Playoff Years: 72C, 73, 74S, 75S, 76C, 77, 78S, 79S, 82, 83, 84C, 89, 92, 93, 94C, 95SL, 96, 97C, 01C, 02, 04C, 05S, 07, 08S, 10SL, 11
Average: 2.25 points per season
Pittsburgh holds the tiebreaker over Dallas because of Lombardi Trophies, 6-5.
#2 - Dallas Cowboys (Last Year, #2) - 108 pts
Dallas has the most playoff appearances, the most Final 4s, and are tied with Pittsburgh for the most Super Bowl appearances. However, since 1996, they have a performance level that actually trails the Jacksonville Jaguars and is certainly a team that is getting by on reputation and history. They are far removed from where they once stood, and yet, they still can claim to have as many or more points than any other franchise. They were a dominant, dominant franchise for 30 years. So much so, that according to these numbers, the Cowboys had 101 points through the first 30 Super Bowls and just 7 points in the last 18. That equates to 3.3 points per season for the first 30 years and 0.38 per year in the 18 years since. Yikes. These are indeed disappointing times round here.
Total Points: 108
Total Playoff Years: 66C, 67C, 68, 69, 70SL, 71S, 72C, 73C, 75SL, 76, 77S, 78SL, 79, 80C, 81C, 82C, 83, 85, 91, 92S, 93S, 94C, 95S, 96, 98, 99, 03, 06, 07, 09
Average: 2.25 points per season
#3 - San Francisco 49ers (#3) - 95 pts
The 49ers are back in form as a power in the NFL and have now run off 3 consecutive championship games and a Super Bowl loss since Jim Harbaugh took over. They lost to Seattle this year and Baltimore last year who both won the Lombardi Trophy, so you can see how San Fran is a heavyweight yet again. They still have not closed the deal on a Super Bowl with this group, and even if they did it would not have caught Dallas and Pittsburgh for the top pairing, but it would have put them a season away. Nevertheless, they certainly solidify their spot further in the top 3 and look prepared to continue to do more winning moving forward.
Total Points: 95
Total Playoff Years: 70C, 71C, 72, 81S, 83C, 84S, 85, 86, 87, 88S, 89S, 90C, 92C, 93C, 94S, 95, 96, 97C, 98, 01, 02, 11C, 12SL, 13C
Average: 1.98 points per season
#4 - Oakland Raiders (#4) - 77 pts
Perhaps doubling as the long lost AFC brother of the Cowboys, they now, have missed the playoffs every season since their last Super Bowl in SB 37, 12 long years ago. They still reside easily in the Top 5, but have been a dormant franchise themselves for a while now. However, to be fair, looking at the rest of their history, they remain one of the strongest franchises of the Super Bowl era.
Total Points: 77
Total Playoff Years: 67SL, 68C, 69C, 70C, 72, 73C, 74C, 75C, 76S, 77C, 80S, 82, 83S, 84, 85, 90C, 91, 93, 00C, 01, 02SL
Average: 1.60 points per season
#5 - New England Patriots (#5) - 72 pts
The gold standard of this millennium, the Patriots show what a dominant decade can do to the overall view of your franchise. Think about what an after thought this team was in the first year of this exercise with a measly 17 points. Well, now they are secured in the Top 5 franchises of the Super Bowl era thanks to the fine work of turning out results on a regular basis in the Brady/Belichick era. The Super Bowl victories have dried up since 2004, but not the deep January runs.
Total Points: 72
Total Playoff Years: 76, 78, 82, 85SL, 86, 94, 96SL, 97, 98, 01S, 03S, 04S, 05, 06C, 07SL, 09, 10, 11SL, 12C, 13C
Average: 1.5 points per season
#6 - Green Bay Packers (#5) - 68 pts
Last year, they were passed by as New England shot past them. Since winning their Super Bowl, they have stalled against the Giants and the 49ers now twice. Of course, their older fans will remind the crowd that their 13 Championships overall might dispute football history starting in 1966. Nevertheless, in the Super Bowl era, they had a substantial break between Bart Starr and Brett Favre where nothing got accomplished.
Total Points: 68
Total Playoff Years: 66S, 67S, 72, 82, 93, 94, 95C, 96S, 97SL, 98, 01, 02, 03, 04, 07C, 09, 10S, 11, 12, 13
Average: 1.42 points per season
Peyton Manning had them dreaming of a higher finish in 2012 and in 2013, but despite the #1 seed in the AFC in both of his years they came up short in the end. However, with the loss in Super Bowl 48, they have passed the New York Giants into 7th place all-time. This all despite waiting 12 years without a playoff berth when the Super Bowl era began.
Total Points: 64
Total Playoff Years: 77SL, 78, 79, 83, 84, 86SL, 87SL, 89SL, 91C, 93, 96, 97S, 98S, 00, 03, 04, 05C, 11, 12, 13SL
Average: 1.33 points per season
#8 - New York Giants (#7) - 59 pts
The Giants, despite their rich history, are a team with a shocking few number of playoff years. Yet, when they do actually get in, they seem to do some pretty special things. 5 Super Bowls in just 14 playoffs years is outstanding. However, since their Super Bowl win in 2011, they have sat out the last 2 years of the playoffs and have actually only attended the playoffs 1 time in the last 5 seasons. And yet, in Giants fashion, won the whole thing that year. Pretty neat trick.
Total Points: 59
Total Playoff Years: 81, 84, 85, 86S, 89, 90S, 93, 97, 00SL, 02, 05, 06, 07S, 08, 11S
Average: 1.23 points per season
#9 - Miami Dolphins (#9) - 58 pts
Nothing new to report in Miami. Another proud franchise with a strong history, but they have certainly allowed that to be about all they have to fall back on this last decade. No consistent QB play and a carousel of coaches have put the Dolphins on the outside looking in since Dan Marino's prime. The drought continues for the Dolphins who have 1 playoff entry of any kind since we started doing this study in 2001.
Total Points: 58
Total Playoff Years: 70, 71SL, 72S, 73S, 74, 78, 79, 81, 82SL, 83, 84SL, 85C, 90, 92C, 94, 95, 97, 98, 99, 00, 01, 08
Average: 1.21 points per season
#10 - Washington Redskins (#10) - 57 pts
Last year at this time, we were wondering how many playoff seasons in a row they would attend with Robert Griffin's career starting to gain momentum. Well, after a coach-firing disaster in 2013, they start anew with a fresh coaching staff for 2014. They still reside in the Top 10, barely, but its been 20 years since the Redskins were a Super Bowl possibility.
Total Points: 57
Total Playoff Years: 71, 72SL, 73, 74, 76, 82S, 83SL, 84, 86C, 87S, 90, 91S, 92, 99, 05, 07, 12
Average: 1.18 points per season
#11 - Indianapolis/Baltimore Colts (#11) - 56 pts
Unlike the Dolphins after Dan Marino left town, it appears that the Colts simply started another era of excellence as they put themselves in a position to draft Andrew Luck #1 overall and then, Luck has helped them attend the playoffs in each of his first 2 years and has most people considering him the top QB in all of football under the age of 30 years old. A playoff win this year
Total Points: 56
Total Playoff Years: 68SL, 70S, 71C, 75, 76, 77, 87, 95C, 96, 99, 00, 02, 03C, 04, 05, 06S, 07, 08, 09SL, 10, 12, 13
Average: 1.17 points per season
#12 - Minnesota Vikings (#12) - 53 pts
Every team above the Vikings on this list has not only won a Super Bowl, but they have won at least two Super Bowls. So, for the Vikings to be so close to those teams despite never winning one, surely speaks to their excellence for so many years. 27 playoff entries is more than anyone in the league aside from the Steelers or Cowboys. They just have never won a gold medal. Nor, as it turns out, have they ever had the lead in any of their 4 Super Bowls. There is something impressive about the Vikings era of excellence and would certainly have a place at the table if they could ever close the deal even once. That would put them in a totally different light.
Total Points: 53
Total Playoff Years: 68, 69SL, 70, 71, 73SL, 74SL, 75, 76SL, 77C, 78, 80, 82, 87C, 88, 89, 92, 93, 94, 96, 97, 98C, 99, 00C, 04, 08, 09C, 12
Average: 1.10 points per season
#13 - St Louis/Los Angeles Rams (#13) - 51 pts
The Rams, out of the playoffs now for almost a decade, are another team that has been pretty quiet during the last several seasons since the days of Kurt Warner and the greatest show on turf. But, in the 1970s, they had a run of 4 years out of 5 where their seasons ended in the NFC Championship game, usually, at the hands of the Cowboys. But, now with a playoff drought since 2004, are reloading (thanks, Redskins) for another run with all of the draft picks they have gathered. The Rams also close the distinction of teams who have at least 1 point a year for all 48 years. The Top 13 can say this, and then there is a significant drop-off to the rest of the field that starts with Philadelphia.
Total Points: 51
Total Playoff Years: 67, 69, 73, 74C, 75C, 76C, 77, 78C, 79SL, 80, 83, 84, 85C, 86, 88, 89C, 99S, 00, 01SL, 03, 04
Average: 1.06 points per season
#14 - Philadelphia Eagles (#14) - 36 pts
The Eagles start the next tier of teams who have certainly not been close to averaging a point per season, but have been quite impressive over the course of this study. The difference, of course, between them and the Patriots is several Lombardi Trophies and that is why most Eagles fans walk the earth with a fair amount of bitterness towards most football topics. However, Chip Kelly is here and he put the team right into the playoffs in year #1. One can imagine what his future will be when he gathers "his guys".
Total Points: 36
Total Playoff Years: 78, 79, 80SL, 81, 88, 89, 90, 92, 95, 96, 00, 01C, 02C, 03C, 04SL, 06, 08C, 09, 10, 13
Average: 0.75 points per season
#15 - Chicago Bears (#15) - 34 pts
Like Green Bay, the Bears would like to use championships that preceded the Super Bowl era, but in the 48 years of the modern era, the Bears have not been able to string together any prolonged success. In fact, with the exception of those great teams in the 1980's, it has often been a series of good seasons that are not followed with any manner of success in the next year. Like 2010's NFC Championship Game followed by 2011-13 in which they missed the playoffs altogether. However, they are hopeful with Marc Trestman that there is hope for the future.
Total Points: 34
Total Playoff Years: 77, 79, 84C, 85S, 86, 87, 88C, 90, 91, 94, 01, 05, 06SL, 10C
Average: 0.72 points per season
Chicago holds the tiebreaker over Buffalo because of Lombardi Trophies, 1-0.
#16 - Buffalo Bills (#16) - 34 pts
Perhaps demonstrating the value of a single Super Bowl victory, we find the Buffalo Bills tied with the Chicago Bears. The Bears closed the deal once and are always considered superior to Buffalo, but as you see in our points system, they have both accumulated the same total. The Bills obviously had their crack at NFL immortality during their 4 year stretch of the 1990s when they ran into NFC East buzz-saws. Since then, they have not sniffed much of anything, with their last moments in the playoffs still being the "Music City Miracle" in Nashville. That was a long, long time ago. It has now been 14 years since they made the playoffs - the longest drought in the NFL by a very healthy margin.
Total Points: 34
Total Playoff Years: 66C, 74, 80, 81, 88C, 89, 90SL, 91SL, 92SL, 93SL, 95, 96, 98, 99
Average: 0.72 points per season
#17 – Baltimore Ravens (#22)
Established 1996 - (The NFL ruled that all old records stay in Cleveland with the Browns.)
The big mover over the last 5 years has been Baltimore. They have absolutely been dominant in the last 6 years with 3 seasons in the Final 4 and a Lombardi Trophy to boot. They jumped from #22 to #17 in 2012 and in 18 years have beaten teams who have been around from Super Bowl 1. 2 Super Bowl titles has them puffing out their chests, but they missed the playoffs in 2013 and remain at #17 in a bit of a repositioning season. On a points-per-season basis, only Pittsburgh, Dallas, and San Francisco can boast better results.
Total Points: 33
Total Playoff Years: 00S, 01, 03, 06, 08C, 09, 10, 11C, 12S
Average: 1.83 in 18 years of existence
#18 - Kansas City Chiefs (#19) - 32 pts
The Chiefs played in 2 of the first 4 Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl 4. However, since 1970, the Chiefs have only been to one AFC Championship Game in 1993. Other than that, it has been a series of one-and-outs and plenty of years with no playoffs whatsoever. But, in 2013, the Chiefs had a great season in year #1 of Andy Reid, and have passed the New York Jets in the process. I am sure that pleases all involved.
Total Points: 32
Total Playoff Years: 66SL, 68, 69S, 71, 86, 90, 91, 92, 93C, 94, 95, 97, 03, 06, 10, 13
Average: 0.66 points per season
The Chiefs win the tie-breaker with the Jets by virtue of having been to more Super Bowls, 2-1.
#19 - New York Jets (#18) - 32 pts
The Jets are certainly a Sportscenter darling most of the time, despite never really being a NFL power. There is just something enjoyable about covering their stories, evidently. However, the sum total of their accomplishments still traces back 45 years to that one day in Miami. After two AFC Championship Games in a row, the Jets have been unable to join the postseason in the last 3. Despite that, Rex Ryan has been able to accomplish more in his 5 seasons than the 40 years prior to that going back to Namath's Super Bowl 3.
Total Points: 32
Total Playoff Years: 68S, 69, 81, 82C, 85, 86, 91, 98C, 01, 02, 04, 06, 09C, 10C
Average: 0.66 points per season
#20 - Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers (#20) - 30 pts
The Titans have held steady since the days of Vince Young back in the drama of 2007-2008. However, with some reasonable years of success in Houston and one Super Bowl loss in Nashville, the Oilers remain in the Top 20 for now. Barely. Not much of interest to report here these days, but they continue to tinker and have changed out coaches again, so stay tuned.
Total Points: 30
Total Playoff Years: 67C, 69, 78C, 79C, 80, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 99SL, 00, 02C, 03, 07, 08
Average: 0.64 points per season
#21 - Seattle Seahawks (#27) - 29 points
Make room for the big mover and shaker in 2013! After a fantastic 2012, the Seahawks backed it up with the Super Bowl championship in 2013. Seattle has worked its way to the playoffs 8 times in the last 11. The Seahawks have built a young, physical squad and look ready to keep building and accumulating points, and now sit poised to brag about being one of the top teams of the expansion era and beyond. They leaped up 6 spots with that win on Sunday and passed their other 1976 expansion team (Tampa Bay) in the process.
Total Points: 29
Total Playoff Years: 83C, 84, 87, 88, 99, 03, 04, 05SL, 06, 07, 10, 12, 13S
Average: 0.76 points in 38 seasons of existence.
#22 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (#21) - 24 pts
Surely, at this point, the Buccaneers realize that being in a hurry to chase Jon Gruden out of there was mistaken, right? Regardless, a team that hit its prime in the late 90s and rode it to a Super Bowl Championship in 2002, has returned to its place among the also-rans in the NFC. They now have a 6 year streak going with no playoffs and will attempt to get that turned around with a new coaching staff yet again.
Total Points: 24
Total Playoff Years: 79C, 81, 82, 97, 99C, 00, 01, 02S, 05, 07
Average: 0.63 - 38 seasons
Tampa Bay holds the tiebreaker over Cleveland because of Lombardi Trophies, 1-0.
#23 - Cleveland Browns (#22) - 24 pts
No season 1996-1998
The post-relocation Cleveland Browns has been absolutely pathetic. One playoff appearance in the 14 seasons since being a new expansion team and really no real signs of having turned the direction of the franchise around. But, let's not act like they were winning a ton before they lost the Browns to Baltimore. They severely need a revival amongst their franchise to give those loyal fans something to smile about in Cleveland. Mike Pettine, anyone?
Total Points: 24
Total Playoff Years: 67, 68C, 69C, 71, 72, 80, 82, 85, 86C, 87C, 88, 89C, 94, 02
Average: 0.53 in 45 seasons
#24 - San Diego Chargers (#23)
The Chargers returned to the playoffs in 2013 and even scored a win at Cincinnati. Certainly, more was expected from this franchise given their level of QB play they have had for almost 3 decades. But, to this point, they have flirted with some real good teams and even made one Super Bowl, but San Diego still chases its one dream season that may or may not await them down the road.
Total Points: 23
Total Playoff Years: 79, 80C, 81C, 82, 92, 94SL, 95, 04, 06, 07C, 08, 09, 13
#25 – New Orleans Saints (#24) - 22 pts
A shocking omission to the playoffs in 2012, thanks to Bounty Gate, but they returned in 2013 and beat the Eagles on the road before being devoured in Seattle. The Saints are living their glory days right now in the Drew Brees/Sean Payton era, and have won a Super Bowl and flirted with others in the last several years. This once pathetic franchise has raised its accomplishment level several notches and has worked its way out of the basement of franchises in the NFL in quick fashion.
Total Points: 22
Total Playoff Years: 87, 90, 91, 92, 00, 06C, 09S, 10, 11, 13
Average: 0.47 in 47 seasons
#26 - Cincinnati Bengals (#27) - 20 pts
The Bengals have 2 different Super Bowl losses to great San Francisco teams in the 1980s. Beyond that, they have never been able to put together consecutive seasons of playoff football until they just did it in 2011-13 with a young group of players including Andy Dalton. Time will tell as Mike Brown running the franchise still has many thinking that long-term success will not happen with him at the helm, but they have actually built a nice foundation.
Total Points: 20
Total Playoff Years: 70, 73, 75, 81SL, 82, 88SL, 90, 05, 09, 11, 12, 13
Average: 0.43 - 46 seasons
The Bengals hold the tie-breaker for 26th place over the Falcons by virtue of Super Bowl appearances, 2-1.
#27 – Atlanta Falcons (#26) - 20 pts
We assume that 2013 was a simple blip on the radar of the Mike Smith/Matt Ryan year where everything went wrong and everyone got hurt. However, after making the playoffs 3 years in a row and cracking the final 4 for the first time in a while in 2012, the Falcons were humbled and play in a very good division moving forward. They remain at 20 points and actually were passed by the Bengals on a tie breaker down to 27th place.
Total Points: 20
Total Playoff Years: 78, 80, 82, 91, 95, 98SL, 02, 04C, 08, 10, 11, 12C
#28 - Carolina Panthers (#28) - 13 pts
Was 2013 the first year of many playoff runs with Cam Newton and Ron Rivera? The Panthers play the brand of football that has rewarded the 49ers and Seahawks, so I am not betting too hard against them. They were so close to winning Super Bowl 38, yet the Panthers have only made the playoffs 5 times, but the Final 4 in 3 of those 5 runs. They don't get there often, but when they do, they make it count.
Total Points: 13
Total Playoff Years: 96C, 03SL, 05C, 08, 13
Average: 0.68 - 19 seasons
#29 - Detroit Lions (#29) - 12 pts
As we approach the bottom of our list, we always shake our heads at the Detroit Lions as a team that has seemed to always find the worst possible scenario on their seasons. If you believe that winning is cyclical, you might argue that the Detroit Lions are on a 60 year cycle. They appeared to be ready to win for years when they made the playoffs in 2011, but went back to their underachieving ways in 2012 and 2013.
Total Points: 12
Total Playoff Years: 70, 82, 83, 91C, 93, 94, 95, 97, 99, 11
#30 – Arizona/St Louis Cardinals (#30) - 10 pts
The Cardinals, formerly of St Louis, have not had a very good run of things either (although they do look up at Detroit, amazingly). They have also built a team that many are bullish on moving forward, but forgive the overall cynicism on anything Cardinals football. To be ranked 30th and only above two expansion franchises speaks to the futility of this team that has had many horrid seasons in its long history.
Total Points: 10
Total Playoff Years: 74, 75, 82, 98, 08SL, 09
Arizona holds tie-breaker over Jacksonville due to Super Bowl appearances, 1-0.
#31 – Jacksonville Jaguars (#31) - 10 pts
Jacksonville certainly showed their fans how easy football was when they took off from expansion and went to the playoffs in 4 of their first 5 years with Tom Coughlin and Mark Brunell getting the Jaguars to two AFC Championship Games. Since then, not much of anything has happened for them and the stadium has a real difficult time finding capacity crowds.
Total Points: 10
Total Playoff Years: 96C, 97, 98, 99C, 05, 07
Average: 0.53 per season - 19 seasons
#32 – Houston Texans (32) - 2 pts
The Texans seemed to be on a run of power in the 2011 and 2012 playoffs, but now with the #1 pick in the draft certainly returned to its customary ways with a horrendous 2013. That said, they are a team with many talented parts in place and most would be wise to expect a competitive 2014 after being humbled again. It will take a Super Bowl to get them out of 32nd next year, but they at least have something to work with. We shall see.
Total Points: 2
Total Playoff Years: 11, 12
Average: 0.16 - 12 seasons
Explanation of Years:
Just the year means they made the playoffs (1 point). Year followed by “C” means they lost in the Conference Championship Game (3 points), Year followed by “SL” means they lost the Super Bowl (5 points), and Year followed by “S” means they won the Super Bowl (11 points).
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