Welcome to my attempt to rank the NFL franchises in the Super Bowl era.
Here's how it works: Started in 2001, I wanted a way to objectively quantify accomplishments for each of the 32 franchises. We give 1 point for each season a franchise makes the playoffs, 2 additional points when they make the league semi-finals (NFC/AFC Championship Games), 2 additional points for making a Super Bowl, and a massive 6 points for winning a Super Bowl. That means, the maximum points a team can gain from one great season is 11 points. It isn't a perfect system, but after 14 tries, it is as perfect as I can get.
Tiebreakers: There are no ties. Even if point totals are tied, I will figure out a tiebreaker and we start with Lombardi Trophies. If still tied, then Super Bowl appearances. If still tied, then Championship Games, and if still tied, then Playoff berths. We want it ranked 1-32 with no ties.
One final note: We have added "average pts per year" in the last 5 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 50 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 47 seasons to work with. So after Super Bowl 50, here are the Sturm NFL Franchise Rankings, Version 15:
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last year: #1
Total: 110 pts
In 2011, it finally happened. The Steelers are the number one franchise in the era. 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. Both teams missed the playoffs in 2012 and 2013. Then, in 2014, they both made the playoffs to earn a point. But, in 2015, the Steelers made the playoffs as a Wildcard and broke the tie at the top. Now at 110, they don't need to rely on a Super Bowl champion tiebreaker to stake their claim at the top.
Playoff Years: 28 | Final 4s: 7 | Super Bowl Losses: 2 | Super Bowl Wins:6
Average: 2.20 points per season
2. Dallas Cowboys
Last year: #2
Total: 109 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 8 points in the last 20. That equates to 3.3 points per season for the first 30 years and 0.40 per year in the 20 years since. 2014 may or may not have been a big tease with the massive revival, because 2015 was anything but. We shall see where the road leads next year.
Playoff Years: 31 | Final 4s: 8 | Super Bowl Losses: 3 | Super Bowl Wins: 5
Average: 2.18 points per season
3. San Francisco 49ers
Last year: #3
Total: 96 pts
The 49ers remain in fine standing amongst the heavyweights but in this post Harbaugh era look like they are going to tear down and start over under new coach Chip Kelly with most of their decorated veterans no longer on the roster. Where they go with the new administration is anyone's guess, but their nice run of form in the last five years has put them safely in the Top 3 again, high above the field.
Playoff Years: 24 | Final 4s: 9 | Super Bowl Losses: 1 | Super Bowl Wins: 5
Average: 1.90 points per season
4. New England Patriots
Last year: #4
Total: 86 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. Now, based almost entirely on the last 15 years, with another Super Bowl title last year and even another AFC Championship game in 2015, they have risen from the basement into the Top 4 (and closing fast on the Top 3) in a little more than a decade. Beyond phenomenal.
Playoff Years: 20 | Final 4s: 4 | Super Bowl Losses: 4 | Super Bowl Wins: 4
Average: 1.72 points per season
5. Oakland Raiders
Last year: #5
Total: 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, 14 long years ago. They still reside in the Top 5 - but barely. The Raiders 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. Perhaps they are building something that can at least make the playoffs again.
Playoff Years: 21 | Final 4s: 9 | Super Bowl Losses: 2 | Super Bowl Wins: 3
Average: 1.54 points per season
6. Denver Broncos
Last year: #7
Total: 76 pts
Our new #6 team is the Denver Broncos who shot past the Green Bay Packers by grabbing the maximum 11 points from their 2015 season and validating any doubts about the Peyton Manning era. That puts them at 76 points overall and 18 in the 4 seasons with Manning. Now, they sit just 1 point behind their rivals in Oakland after trailing by miles and miles 2 decades ago. Where their franchise goes now is a great conversation, but they certainly have earned enormous credibility in the John Elway management era.
Playoff Years: 22 | Final 4s: 3 | Super Bowl Losses: 5 | Super Bowl Wins: 3
Average: 1.52 points per season
7. Green Bay Packers
Last year: #6
Total: 72 pts
Two years ago, they were passed by as New England shot past them. This year, Denver shoots past as well as Green Bay is no longer secured in the Top 5. Nevertheless, it has been a mighty strong 20+ years after 25 years in the wilderness after Super Bowl 2. 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. Now, they put a point up every season, but the big point years (Super Bowls) are hard to come by.
Playoff Years: 21 | Final 4s: 3 | Super Bowl Losses: 1 | Super Bowl Wins: 4
Average: 1.44 points per season
8. New York Giants
Last year: #8
Total: 59 pts
The gap between the top 7 and the peloton behind is stark. 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 4 years of the playoffs and have actually only attended the playoffs 1 time in the last 7 seasons. And yet, in Giants fashion, they won the whole thing that year. Pretty neat trick.
Playoff Years: 14 | Final 4s: 0 | Super Bowl Losses: 1 | Super Bowl Wins:4
Average: 1.20 points per season
New York holds the tiebreaker over the Colts because of Lombardi Trophies, 4-2.
9. Indianapolis/Baltimore Colts
Last year: #9
Total: 59 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 helped them attend the playoffs in each of his first 3 years, but 2015 was at least a brief step backwards. Still, the future seems pretty bright. They sit in 9th place for now, but seem the most likely to charge forward soon with amongst a tight bunch of the Giants, Redskins, Dolphins, and Colts.
Playoff Years: 23 | Final 4s: 4 | Super Bowl Losses: 2 | Super Bowl Wins: 2
Average: 1.20 points per season
10. Washington Redskins
Last year: #11
Total: 58 pts
Out of nowhere, Washington won the NFC East and gained a single point in making the playoffs this season. Last year, they fell out of the Top 10 for the first time since we have done this study as a team that has only accumulated 6 points in over 20 years and have also had things dry up considerably since their last title in Super Bowl 26. Since then it has been a series of random good years and then a quick return to futility. We will see if 2016 is any different.
Playoff Years: 18 | Final 4s: 1 | Super Bowl Losses: 2 | Super Bowl Wins: 3
Average: 1.16 points per season
Washington holds the tiebreaker over the Dolphins because of Lombardi Trophies, 3-2.
11. Miami Dolphins
Last year: #10
Total: 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. They drop one spot on a Lombardi Trophy tiebreaker with the Redskins.
Playoff Years: 22 | Final 4s: 2 | Super Bowl Losses: 3 | Super Bowl Wins: 2
Average: 1.16 points per season
12. Minnesota Vikings
Last year: #12
Total: 54 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. 28 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. 2015 brought a rather unlikely NFC North crown, and now with a young group they have goals much higher.
Playoff Years: 28 | Final 4s: 5 | Super Bowl Losses: 4 | Super Bowl Wins: 0
Average: 1.08 points per season
13. St Louis/Los Angeles Rams
Last year: #13
Total: 51 pts
The Rams, out of the playoffs now for over 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 in a new city - which is actually their old city. The Rams also close the distinction of teams who average 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.
Playoff Years: 21 | Final 4s: 6 | Super Bowl Losses: 2 | Super Bowl Wins: 1
Average: 1.02 points per season
14. Philadelphia Eagles
Last year: #14
Total: 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. To the delight of many of their rivals, they fell back out of the playoffs in 2014 and 2015 and now appear to be starting over with a new coach, quarterback, and upper management.
Playoff Years: 20 | Final 4s: 4 | Super Bowl Losses: 2 | Super Bowl Wins: 0
Average: 0.73 points per season
15. Seattle Seahawks
Last year: #16
Total: 35 pts
In this group of teams (teams with point totals in the 30s), there is no question who is threatening to catch and pass them all to an upper tier. The Seahawks have now been consistent winners over the Pete Carroll run and are annual residents in the postseason. Seattle has worked its way to the playoffs 10 times in the last 13. They leaped up 6 spots with that win in 2013, 5 more in their Super Bowl loss in 2014, and now jumped Baltimore in 2015. They were ranked 27th three years ago and now are in the top half of the league - and rising.
Playoff Years: 15 | Final 4s: 1 | Super Bowl Losses: 2 | Super Bowl Wins: 1
Average: 0.88 points in 40 seasons of existence.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Last year: #15
Total: 34 pts
Established 1996 - (The NFL ruled that all old records stay in Cleveland with the Browns.) One of the big movers over the last 8 years has been Baltimore. Before 2015, they have been absolutely dominant in the previous 7 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 2015 and fell behind Seattle this season. But, on a points-per-season basis, only Pittsburgh, Dallas, and San Francisco can boast better results.
Playoff Years: 8 | Final 4s: 2 | Super Bowl Losses: 0 | Super Bowl Wins: 2
Average: 1.70 in 20 years of existence
Ravens win 3-way tie with the Bears and Bills with 2 Lombardi Trophies
17. Chicago Bears
Last year: #17
Total: 34 pts
Like Green Bay, the Bears would like to use championships that preceded the Super Bowl era, but unlike their northern neighbors in the 50 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 2011-15 in which they missed the playoffs altogether. They appear to be rebuilding properly now, but the results seem a while away.
Playoff Years: 13 | Final 4s: 3 | Super Bowl Losses: 1 | Super Bowl Wins: 1
Average: 0.85 points in 39 seasons of existence.
Chicago holds the tiebreaker over Buffalo because of Lombardi Trophies, 1-0.
18. Buffalo Bills
Last year: #18
Total: 34 pts
Perhaps demonstrating the value of a single Super Bowl victory, we find the Buffalo Bills tied with the Chicago Bears and the Baltimore Ravens. But, on the tie breakers, the Ravens have 2 titles, and the Bears one and are always considered superior to Buffalo, but as you see in our points system, they all have 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 16 years since they made the playoffs - the longest drought in the NFL by a very healthy margin.
Playoff Years: 14 | Final 4s: 2 | Super Bowl Losses: 4 | Super Bowl Wins: 0
Average: 0.68 points
19. Kansas City Chiefs
Last year: #19
Total: 33 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. After cracking the postseason in Andy Reid's first year in 2013, they dropped back out in 2014, and made it back in and won a playoff game in 2015. This allowed them to move past the Jets into sole possession of 19th place.
Playoff Years: 17 | Final 4s: 1 | Super Bowl Losses: 1 | Super Bowl Wins: 1
Average: 0.66 points
20. New York Jets
Last year: #20
Total: 32 pts
No franchise has squeezed more mileage out of 1 year than the 1968 New York Jets. Since then, there have been a few great runs - thanks, Mark Sanchez - but mostly frustration for that pretty loyal fan base. They did have a surprisingly solid year in 2015, but then fell just short. They sit in 20th place by themselves now.
Playoff Years: 13 | Final 4s: 4 | Super Bowl Losses: 0 | Super Bowl Wins: 1
Average: 0.64 points
21. Tennessee Titans
Last year: #21
Total: 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/Titans sit just on the edge of the Top 20. Perhaps the Mariota era will move them up sometime soon. Hope.
Playoff Years: 18 | Final 4s: 4 | Super Bowl Losses: 1 | Super Bowl Wins: 0
Average: 0.60 points
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last year: #22
Total: 24 pts
The gap between 21 and 22 is rather substantial (it would take a Super Bowl win to close the gap). Established 1976 - 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 8 year streak going with no playoffs, but also have the hope of a young QB with other pieces in place to challenge in 2016 for postseason play.
Playoff Years: 10 | Final 4s: 2 | Super Bowl Losses: 0 | Super Bowl Wins: 1
Average: 0.60 in 40 seasons of existence
Tampa Bay holds the tiebreaker over Cleveland because of Lombardi Trophies, 1-0.
23. Cleveland Browns
Last year: #23
Total: 24 pts
No season 1996-1998 - The post-relocation Cleveland Browns has been absolutely pathetic. One playoff appearance in the 15 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. Since then, they seem to have fostered a very unfortunate environment where chaos is the norm and seem no closer to the playoffs than they were a decade ago. They lose the tie-breaker to Tampa on the Bucs Super Bowl win.
Playoff Years: 14 | Final 4s: 5 | Super Bowl Losses: 0 | Super Bowl Wins: 0
Average: 0.51 in 47 seasons of existence
24. San Diego Chargers
Last year: #24
Total: 23 pts
The Chargers returned to the playoffs in 2013 and even scored a win at Cincinnati. Then, 2014 and 2015 was back below the cut line. 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 soon down the road. They are a perennial tease.
Playoff Years: 13 | Final 4s: 3 | Super Bowl Losses: 1 | Super Bowl Wins:0
25. New Orleans Saints
Last year: #25
Total: 22 pts
Established 1967 - As the Drew Brees-Sean Payton era winds down, we see the Saints have been on the outside of the NFL postseason and looking in on three of the last four years. The Saints have won a Super Bowl and flirted with others during that run, however. But, that long stretch of Saints' relevance certainly was easily the best time in this franchise's history and pulled them out of the deep depths on these rankings. We just aren't sure where the arrow is pointing now.
Playoff Years: 9 | Final 4s: 1 | Super Bowl Losses: 0 | Super Bowl Wins:1
Average: 0.45 in 49 seasons of existence
New Orleans holds the tiebreaker over Cincinnati because of Lombardi Trophies, 1-0.
26. Cincinnati Bengals
Last year: #26
Total: 22 pts
Established 1968 - Quietly sneaking up into a tie with the Saints (that they lose on the Lombardi Trophy tiebreaker), 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 2011-15 with a young group of players. The odd thing is, they have done the impossible, which is make the playoffs for 5 straight seasons and still seem frustrating and underachieving to their success-starved fans. The Bengals seem close, but their breakthrough is certainly in question.
Playoff Years: 14 | Final 4s: 0 | Super Bowl Losses: 2 | Super Bowl Wins: 0
Average: 0.46 in 48 seasons of existence
27. Atlanta Falcons
Last year: #27
Total: 20 pts
The Falcons did the impossible by their standards and made the playoffs 3 straight seasons, but now have backed up and missed the last three years as Matt Ryan enters his prime. One coach has already been fired and they enter year 2 under Dan Quinn trying to figure out how to get back in the tournament.
Playoff Years: 11 | Final 4s: 2 | Super Bowl Losses: 1 | Super Bowl Wins: 0
28. Carolina Panthers
Last year: #28
Total: 19 pts
Established 1995 - What a difference one Super Bowl win makes. Had they won Super Bowl 50, they would be alone in 22nd place and would have passed all of their divisional rivals along the way. Instead, they lost and moved up to 19 points but stayed in 28th place. They have proven that the Cam Newton/Ron Rivera playoff run is sustainable with 3 berths in a row and a step forward each season. They also put some space between them and the four below, despite only existing for 21 seasons.
Total Playoff Years: 96C, 03SL, 05C, 08, 13, 14, 15SL
Playoff Years: 7 | Final 4s: 3 | Super Bowl Losses: 2 | Super Bowl Wins:0
Average: 0.90 in 21 seasons of existence
29. Arizona/St. Louis Cardinals
Last year: #30
Total: 14 pts
The Cardinals, formerly of St Louis, have not had a very good run of things either but have started putting seasons together. They have also built a team that many are bullish on moving forward. This year, they have passed Detroit but still amassed amazing futility in its long history. That said, it sure seems like they are building something under Bruce Arians and lost in the NFC Championship Game this year.
Playoff Years: 8 | Final 4s: 1 | Super Bowl Losses: 1 | Super Bowl Wins: 0
30. Detroit Lions
Last year: #29
Total: 13 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. One and done in 2014 got them a point, but then had another bad year in 2015 allowed Arizona to move ahead of them.
Playoff Years: 11 | Final 4s: 1 | Super Bowl Losses: 0 | Super Bowl Wins:0
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last year: #31
Total: 10 pts
Established 1995 - 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 but perhaps the combination of Gus Bradley and Blake Bortles might be able to contend in a rather mediocre division sometime soon. I am sure people are going to need to see it to believe it.
Total Playoff Years: 96C, 97, 98, 99C, 05, 07
Playoff Years: 6 | Final 4s: 2 | Super Bowl Losses: 0 | Super Bowl Wins: 0
Average: 0.48 per season in 21 seasons of existence
32. Houston Texans
Last year: #32
Total: 3 pts
Established 2002 - They had made the playoffs 2 straight years, missed it for 2 more in a row, and re-entered the tournament in 2015. So, in 13 seasons, they still pursue their first AFC championship-game appearance. Easily in last place by either total points or points per year. They desperately need a good QB to capitalize on a roster that doesn't seem far away otherwise.
Total Playoff Years: 11, 12, 15
Playoff Years: 3 | Final 4s: 0 | Super Bowl Losses: 0 | Super Bowl Wins: 0