Welcome to my attempt to rank the NFL franchises in the Super Bowl era.
Here's how it works: 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 semifinals (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 close 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 51 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 in context. Also, the Browns missed 96-98, so they only have 48 seasons to work with. So after Super Bowl 51, here are the Sturm NFL franchise rankings, version 16:
TIER ONE - THE HEAVYWEIGHTS
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last year: #1 Total: 113 pts
The Steelers are presently the No. 1 franchise in the Super Bowl era. When Super Bowl XXX was completed after Dallas beat Pittsburgh, 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. The Steelers first took over as the current heavyweight leader in the Super Bowl era back in 2011. 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 wild card and broke the tie at the top. Then, they added 3 more with their trip the AFC Championship Game this season. The margin now sits at 3 points over Dallas.
Playoff Years: 29 | Final 4s: 8 | Super Bowl Losses: 2 | Super Bowl Wins: 6
Average: 2.22 points per season
2. Dallas Cowboys
Last year: #2 Total: 110 pts
Dallas has the most playoff appearances, is tied for the most championship games, and is tied with Pittsburgh for the 2nd most Super Bowl appearances (behind New England). However, since 1996, the Cowboys 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 but the Steelers. 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 9 points in the last 21. That equates to 3.3 points per season for the first 30 years and 0.43 per year in the 21 years since. 2014 and 2016 both seem to indicate that this team is preparing for another fine era moving forward. We shall see.
Playoff Years: 32 | Final 4s: 8 | Super Bowl Losses: 3 | Super Bowl Wins: 5
Average: 2.16 points per season
3. New England Patriots
Last year: #4 Total: 97 pts
They have won yet another Super Bowl! The machine continues to run. 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 afterthought this team was in the first year of this exercise with a measly 17 points. Well, now they are secured in the top 3 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 16 years, with two Super Bowl titles in the last three seasons and even another AFC championship game in 2015, they have risen from the basement into the top 3. Beyond phenomenal.
Playoff Years: 21 | Final 4s: 4 | Super Bowl Losses: 4 | Super Bowl Wins: 5
Average: 1.9 points per season
4. San Francisco 49ers
Last year: #3 Total: 96 pts
The 49ers remain in fine standing among the heavyweights, but in this post Harbaugh-era they look like they are going to tear down and start over under yet again with Kyle Shanahan 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 under Harbaugh boosted them along. They needed it, because it looks like they are heading back to square one.
Playoff Years: 24 | Final 4s: 9 | Super Bowl Losses: 1 | Super Bowl Wins: 5
Average: 1.88 points per season
TIER TWO - THE LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS
5. Oakland Raiders
Last year: #5 Total: 78 pts
The Raiders returned to the playoffs finally in 2016, which is a major breakthrough for a team that had missed the playoffs for 13 straight years since their last Super Bowl in SB XXXVII. They still reside in the Top 5 -- but barely. The Raiders have been a dormant franchise 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 make the playoffs a regular occasion. It looks like it.
Playoff Years: 22 | Final 4s: 9 | Super Bowl Losses: 2 | Super Bowl Wins: 3
Average: 1.53 points per season
6. Denver Broncos
Last year: #6 Total: 76 pts
Denver put itself up the ladder with the win in Super Bowl 50. That suggested the entire premise behind the Peyton Manning era paid off. The Broncos grabbed up 18 points in the four seasons of Manning, but missed the playoffs again now that he is gone. Now, they sit just two points behind their rivals in Oakland after trailing by miles and miles two 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: 1.49 points per season
7. Green Bay Packers
Last year: #7
Total: 75 pts
Three years ago, Green Bay was in the top five. Then, New England and Denver both won Super Bowls to shoot by them, and Green Bay stalled at the NFC championship game in 2014 and 2016. Nevertheless, it has been a mighty strong 20-plus years after 25 years in the wilderness after Super Bowl II. 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 points up every season, but the big point years (Super Bowls) are harder to come by.
Playoff Years: 23 | Final 4s: 4 | Super Bowl Losses: 1 | Super Bowl Wins: 4
Average: 1.47 points per season
TIER THREE - THE MIDDLEWEIGHTS
8. New York Giants
Last year: #8
Total: 60 pts
The gap between the top seven 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. Five Super Bowls in just 15 playoff years is outstanding. However, since their Super Bowl win in 2011, they have made the playoffs just once in the following five seasons. They also appear to be building a championship defense under a new regime, but their franchise QB is getting to the end of his run.
Total Playoff Years: 81, 84, 85, 86S, 89, 90S, 93, 97, 00SL, 02, 05, 06, 07S, 08, 11S, 16 Playoff Years: 15 | Final 4s: 0 | Super Bowl Losses: 1 | Super Bowl Wins:4
Average: 1.18 points per season
9. Miami Dolphins
Last year: #11
Total: 59 pts
Miami made the playoffs in 2016! This is a pretty substantial development. Another proud franchise with a strong history, the Dolphins 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 two playoff entries of any kind since we started doing this study in 2001. They have jumped both the Colts and Redskins with their playoff berth this season.
Playoff Years: 23 | Final 4s: 2 | Super Bowl Losses: 3 | Super Bowl Wins: 2 Average: 1.16 points per season
10. 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 No. 1 overall. Luck helped them attend the playoffs in each of his first three years, but in 2015 and 2016 they have missed the tournament, which sure feels like a troubling step backwards. Still, the future seems pretty bright. They sit in 10th place for now, but seem the most likely to charge forward soon with among 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: 1.16 points per season
Miami has tiebreaker over the Colts by virtue of Super Bowl Losses, 3-2.
11. Washington Redskins
Last year: #10
Total: 58 pts
Out of nowhere, Washington won the NFC East and gained a single point in making the playoffs in 2015. Then, in 2016, they fell back out. In 2014, they fell out of the top 10 for the first time since we have done this study. The team has only accumulated six points in over 21 years, a considerable dry spell since their last title in Super Bowl XXVI. Since then it has been a series of random good years and then a quick return to futility. They seem to remain in that cycle as we speak.
Playoff Years: 18 | Final 4s: 1 | Super Bowl Losses: 2 | Super Bowl Wins:3
Average: 1.13 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 four 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. In 2016, they fell back out of the playoffs but still seem capable of putting something together with a young roster.
Playoff Years: 28 | Final 4s: 5 | Super Bowl Losses: 4 | Super Bowl Wins: 0
Average: 1.06 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 four years out of fove where their seasons ended in the NFC championship game, usually at the hands of the Cowboys. But, now with a playoff drought since 2004, the Rams 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 51 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: 1.0 points per season
TIER FOUR - THE WELTERWEIGHTS
14. Seattle Seahawks
Last year: #15
Total: 36 pts
In this group of teams -- the welterweights -- (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 11 times in the last 14 years. They leaped up six spots with that win in 2013, five more in their Super Bowl loss in 2014, and jumped Baltimore in 2015. They were ranked 27th four years ago and now are in the top half of the league -- and rising.
Playoff Years: 16 | Final 4s: 1 | Super Bowl Losses: 2 | Super Bowl Wins:1
Average: 0.88 points in 41 seasons of existence.
15. Philadelphia Eagles
Last year: #14
Total: 36 pts
The Eagles also are in the group 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 toward most football topics. To the delight of many of their rivals, they fell back out of the playoffs after Andy Reid and remain as a building franchise at the moment with no contention in immediate sight.
Playoff Years: 20 | Final 4s: 4 | Super Bowl Losses: 2 | Super Bowl Wins: 0
Average: 0.71 points per season
Seahawks are above the Eagles based on both Super Bowl Wins and points per year.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Last year: #16
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 decade has been Baltimore. Before 2015, the Ravens had been absolutely dominant in the previous seven years with three seasons in the final four and a Lombardi Trophy to boot. They jumped from No. 22 to No. 17 in 2012 and in 18 years have beaten teams who have been around from Super Bowl I. Two Super Bowl titles has them puffing out their chests, but they missed the playoffs in 2013, 2015, and 2016. 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: 1.62 in 21 years of existence
Ravens win 4-way tie with the Bears, Chiefs, and Bills with two 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 1980s, it has often been a series of good seasons that are not followed with any manner of success in the next year. 2010's NFC championship game was followed by 2011-16, in which they missed the playoffs altogether. They appear to be rebuilding properly now, but there are no real signs of accomplishment at the moment.
Playoff Years: 13 | Final 4s: 3 | Super Bowl Losses: 1 | Super Bowl Wins:1
Average: 0.66 points per season
Chicago holds the tiebreaker over Kansas City because of Final 4s, 3-1.
18. Kansas City Chiefs
Last year: #19
Total: 34 pts
The Chiefs played in two of the first four Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl IV. 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 and then went one-and-done in 2016. This allowed them to move past the Jets and Bills into 18th now.
Playoff Years: 18 | Final 4s: 1 | Super Bowl Losses: 1 | Super Bowl Wins:1
Average: 0.66 points
19. Buffalo Bills
Last year: #18
Total: 34 pts
Perhaps demonstrating the value of a single Super Bowl victory, we find the Buffalo Bills tied in a four-way logjam at 34 points. But, on the tiebreakers, the Ravens have two titles, and the Bears and Chiefs one, rendering them superior to Buffalo. The Bills obviously had their crack at NFL immortality during their four-year stretch of the 1990s when they ran into NFC East buzzsaws. 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 17 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: 0.66 points
Bears and Chiefs win tiebreakers over Bills with Super Bowl wins, 1-0.
20. New York Jets
Last year: #20
Total: 32 pts
No franchise has squeezed more mileage out of one 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 sit in 20th place by themselves now and really don't look particularly close to much as we turn our attention to 2017.
Playoff Years: 13 | Final 4s: 4 | Super Bowl Losses: 0 | Super Bowl Wins: 1
Average: 0.63 points
21. Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers
Last year: #21
Total: 30 pts
The Titans have held steady since the days of Vince Young back in the drama of 2007-08. 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. It certainly appears that they are one of those teams right on the brink of competing for their division.
Playoff Years: 18 | Final 4s: 4 | Super Bowl Losses: 1 | Super Bowl Wins:0
Average: 0.59 points
TIER FIVE - THE LIGHTWEIGHTS
22. Atlanta Falcons
Last year: #27
Total: 25 pts
The Falcons thought they were about to take a massive step forward with a huge lead in Super Bowl LI. Instead, they took a smaller leap by losing the Super Bowl. Still, that is enough to pass New Orleans, San Diego, Cleveland and Tampa Bay all in one playoff run. Dan Quinn's crew is trying to figure out how to make the playoffs a regular feature now, and most of the NFC has the Falcons squarely on the radar. But it will take another Super Bowl berth to jump tiers.
Playoff Years: 12 | Final 4s: 2 | Super Bowl Losses: 2 | Super Bowl Wins: 0
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last year: #22
Total: 24 pts
Surely, at this point, the Buccaneers (established 1976) realize that being in a hurry to chase Jon Gruden out of there was a mistake, 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 and have now been passed by Atlanta. They now have a nine-year streak going with no playoffs, but also have the hope of a young QB with other pieces in place to challenge in 2017 for postseason play. We will see about that.
Playoff Years: 10 | Final 4s: 2 | Super Bowl Losses: 0 | Super Bowl Wins: 1
Average: 0.59 in 41 seasons of existence
Tampa Bay holds the tiebreaker over Cleveland because of Lombardi Trophies, 1-0.
24. Cleveland Browns
Last year: #23
Total: 24 pts
(No season 1996-1998)
The post-relocation Cleveland Browns have been absolutely pathetic. One playoff appearance in the 18 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 they seem no closer to the playoffs than a decade ago. They lose the tiebreaker to Tampa on the Bucs' Super Bowl win.
Playoff Years: 14 | Final 4s: 5 | Super Bowl Losses: 0 | Super Bowl Wins: 0
Average: 0.5 points in 48 seasons of existence
Tampa Bay ahead of Cleveland based on Super Bowl wins, 1-0.
25. 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, 2015, and 2016 were back below the cut line. Certainly more was expected from this franchise given the level of QB play it's had had for almost three decades. Really unimpressive, given the resources. But, to this point, the Chargers 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
26. New Orleans Saints
Last year: #25
Total: 22 pts
As the Drew Brees-Sean Payton era winds down, we see the Saints have been on the outside of the NFL postseason looking in for four of the last five 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 are pretty sure the arrow is headed south at the moment.
Playoff Years: 9 | Final 4s: 1 | Super Bowl Losses: 0 | Super Bowl Wins:1
Average: 0.44 in 50 seasons of existence
New Orleans holds the tiebreaker over Cincinnati because of Lombardi Trophies, 1-0.
27. Cincinnati Bengals
Last year: #26
Total: 22 pts
Quietly sneaking up into a tie with the Saints (that they lose on the Lombardi Trophy tiebreaker), the Bengals have two 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 five straight seasons and still seem frustrating and underachieving to their success-starved fans. But, in 2016, they fell back out of the mix with a step-back year.
Playoff Years: 14 | Final 4s: 0 | Super Bowl Losses: 2 | Super Bowl Wins: 0
Average: 0.45 in 49 seasons of existence
28. Carolina Panthers
Last year: #28
Total: 19 pts
They lost Super Bowl 50 to jump up to 19 points, but then turned around and missed the playoffs altogether this season, which nobody predicted. They seemed to have proven that the Cam Newton/Ron Rivera playoff run is sustainable with three berths in a row and a step forward each season, but then missing this year gave everyone pause.
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: 0.86 in 22 seasons of existence
TIER SIX - THE FEATHERWEIGHTS
29. Arizona/St. Louis Cardinals
Last year: #30
Total: 14 pts
Much like the Panthers above them, the Cardinals, formerly of St Louis, have not had a very good run of things for a long spell. But they have started putting seasons together until missing the 2016 playoffs. Unlike the Panthers, they have an aging QB that makes you wonder how long they can keep it all together. We shall see how the Cardinals move forward, but looking back, only Detroit can relate to the long drought of accomplishment that predates the Super Bowl era.
Playoff Years: 8 | Final 4s: 1 | Super Bowl Losses: 1 | Super Bowl Wins:0
30. Detroit Lions
Last year: #29
Total: 14 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 in 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. Then back in 2014, out in 2015, and back in 2016. Who knows?
Playoff Years: 12 | Final 4s: 1 | Super Bowl Losses: 0 | Super Bowl Wins:0
Cardinals hold the tiebreaker over Lions based on Super Bowl Losses, 1-0.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last year: #31
Total: 10 pts
Jacksonville certainly showed its fans how easy football was when it took off from expansion and went to the playoffs in four of its first five years with Tom Coughlin and Mark Brunell getting the Jaguars to two AFC championship games. Since then, not much of anything has happened for the Jags, and now there are significant doubts about the current regime -- yet again. Times are not overly inspiring these days.
Total Playoff Years: 96C, 97, 98, 99C, 05, 07
Playoff Years: 6 | Final 4s: 2 | Super Bowl Losses: 0 | Super Bowl Wins:0
Average: 0.45 per season in 22 seasons of existence
32. Houston Texans
Last year: #32
Total: 4 pts
They had made the playoffs two straight years, missed it for two more in a row, and re-entered the tournament in 2015 and 2016 -- including a playoff win against a QB-less Oakland Raiders squad. So, in 15 seasons, the Texans still pursue their first AFC Championship Game appearance. They're 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. Still seeking.
Total Playoff Years: 11, 12, 15, 16
Playoff Years: 4 | Final 4s: 0 | Super Bowl Losses: 0 | Super Bowl Wins:0
Average: 0.27 in 15 seasons of existence
So, there you have it. Fifty-one seasons in the books and the results keep stacking. Feel free to point out any errors you might see or other observations below.