Hello, Blitzers! It’s your old pal, MZE, back with more content after a little holiday vacation time. We’re into the NFL’s second season where hopes are both found and lost in a heartbeat. The ultimate goal is, of course, to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. It’s a goal that has eluded one dozen NFL teams. I decided to dig into these franchises and have come up with my four top franchises without a Super Bowl title.
Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans
I'm leading this column with the Titans because even though they've never won a Super Bowl, they'll always have the title of "Patriots Dynasty Enders". God bless you, Derrick Henry.
The Houston Oilers were founded in 1960, joining the AFL. The team won back-to-back AFL titles in its first two seasons and made it to the title game in 1963. They joined the NFL in 1970 but didn’t achieve a .500 season until 1974. From 1978 to 1980, coached by O.A. “Bum” Phillips and his signature cowboy hat, the Oilers made the playoffs but came up short each time. It would be 1987 under Johnny Cash wannabe, Jerry Glanville, that the Oilers would get back to the post season. For the next seven seasons they would be a playoff team, three years under Glanville and the last four under Jack Pardee, but wouldn’t get any deeper than the divisional round. In 1997 the franchise moved to Nashville and changed names from the Oilers to the Titans. The 1999 season saw them advance all the way to the Super Bowl with dynamic quarterback, Steve McNair, and under the tutelage of Jeff Fisher, who apparently took several barrels of Texas oil for his hair. They’d make it all the way to the three yard line where their championship dream would end against the Rams (watch the replay because Kevin Dyson was not even close to only a yard short of the end zone). They’ve been back to the playoffs six times since that Super Bowl but have yet to make it back. This franchise’s history has become a country song without the dog dying.
San Diego/LA Chargers
Another team that had AFL success makes this list. From 1960 through 1969, the Chargers made five appearances in the AFL title game, winning once in 1963. They were merged into the NFL in 1970 but it wouldn’t be until 1979 and the advent of “Air Coryell” that they’d make the playoffs. For the next four seasons with Dan Fouts at quarterback (long before he was telling Brent Musberger to shut up while covering the Bourbon Bowl) the Chargers would be a playoff team, falling short each time. It would be 1992 before they’d get back to the post season under head coach, Bobby Ross, and puffy quarterback, Stan Humphries. In three of the next four seasons they would be a playoff team, making it to Super Bowl XXIX where they would succumb to Steve Young and company, 49-26. During the 21st century the franchise has made seven more playoff appearances with 2007 being the closest they’d come to making another Super Bowl visit, losing 21-12 to the Patriots in the AFC title game (but hey every team except for one from New Jersey lost to that team). Two California locations for the franchise and no Super Bowl rings won. I hear Burbank is a nice city.
The third and final AFL crossover team on my list is the Buffalo Bills. Another franchise that had success prior to joining the NFL, the Bills won back-to-back AFL titles in 1964 and 1965 before merging into the NFL in 1970. They made their first NFL playoff appearance in 1974 under head coach, Lou Saban, but were defeated by the Pittsburgh Steelers. They wouldn’t be back to the playoffs until 1980 then again in 1981with quarterback, Joe Ferguson, and head coach, Chuck Knox. They’d lose road games to the Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals in each of those years. Man, remember when the Bengals were relevant? It would be 1988 before the team would see the playoffs again but it would begin a fairly successful run for the franchise. With head coach, Marv Levy, and Hall of Fame quarterback, Jim Kelly, they would make the playoffs in eight of nine seasons. In the middle of this success came the most frustrating run in Super Bowl history. From 1990 through 1993 the Bills would represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. They would lose Super Bowl XXV when Scott Norwood would miss a field goal that made the words, “wide right,” send Bills fans into therapy for several years. They would spot the Redskins a 24-0 lead in Super Bowl XXVI, never recovering. They would be outscored 82-30 combined by the Cowboys in Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII making the Bills the only team in history to lose four consecutive Super Bowls. The team would make the playoffs as a wild card in 1998 and 1999 under Wade Phillips. The 1999 team would put Bills fans back in therapy thanks to the words, “Music City Miracle,” and a controversial kickoff return for touchdown that to this day still causes outrage among Orchard Park residents (I don’t have the heart to tell them it may actually have been a backwards pass). The Bills have only made the playoffs one time this century, losing 10-3 to Jacksonville in the 2017 AFC Wild Card game but as far as franchises go, they’ve been left out in the cold and I don’t mean the December temps in New York’s Southern Tier.
You Like That? With all due respect to the above three franchises, no franchise in existence since 1960 has been more beleaguered than the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings were formed in 1961, joining the NFL as an expansion team. They actually won their first ever game. It would be 1968 under second year coach, Bud Grant, that the team first made the playoffs. One year later they’d make their first Super Bowl appearance where they would be upset by the Kansas City Chiefs, the last one before the AFL-NFL merger. From 1968 through 1982 the Vikings would miss the playoffs just three times. They would play in Super Bowls VIII and IX, losing first to the Dolphins and then the Steelers. The 1975 team would be eliminated from the playoffs when Drew Pearson assaulted Nate Wright to free himself for a 50-yard touchdown pass from Roger Staubach on what would be dubbed, “The Hail Mary.” Apparently offensive pass interference is a gift from the heavens but I digress. Super Bowl XI would be the fourth one lost by the Vikings as they were pounded by the Raiders, 32-14. In all the Vikings have made 29 playoff appearances. They have lost games on the lone kick missed by a Hall of Fame kicker on the season (although that one was really lost by poor coaching choices but that’s for another time), the inability of a coaching staff to count to 11 after a time out, missed chip shot field goals, and other fun and exciting ways (writer’s note: these ways were not fun nor exciting for the writer). A franchise that has produced more Hall of Fame talent than any of the other four and the best overall franchise W-L record among the group but still one that has not been involved in a parade down Main Street, U.S.A. Maybe someday, most likely the day after my funeral.
What franchise without a ring would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments and please read the work of my fine cohorts in crime among the Blitzed family.
Until next time, don’t qualify as a wild card because winning on the road is a bitch, use the time on your bye week wisely, and if you haven’t won a ring yet just use the pull tabs from that six pack you just finished as a substitute.
Yours in football.
Mike Zimmers Ears is a die hard Vikings fan (SKOL!) and a regular columnist for Blitzed Football. You can listen to his Heart and Skol podcast here.