On Sunday, the New England Patriots will make their franchise’s ninth Super Bowl appearance – the most of any NFL team. It will be the team’s seventh appearance in the last 15 years, which underscores the consistency they have achieved under coach Bill Belichick and star quarterback Tom Brady.
But not every NFL team is so blessed as the Pats. Not even close.
There are four NFL teams that have yet to play in a Super Bowl.
No, the Houston Texans have never made a Super Bowl, but the franchise has only been around since 2002, so let’s cut them some slack. To their credit, they have made the playoffs four times in that 15-season span, better than every other team on this short, sad list.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, also an expansion team, entered the league in 1995. They immediately turned into contenders, making the playoffs in four straight seasons under coach Tom Coughlin from 1996-1999. They advanced to the AFC Championship Game twice but lost both games.
Coughlin was fired in 2002 and the franchise slowly slid into irrelevance. They last made the playoffs in 2007.
Now here is where the list gets sad. There’s a difference between being mediocre for 20 years like the Jags. Try being below average for 50 years! That’s the Lions.
The storied franchise has four NFL championships, believe it or not, the last one coming in 1957. The Lions boast a 7-13 playoff record all-time; six of those wins came in the pre-Super Bowl era.
Since the dawn of the Super Bowl – Super Bowl I was played in 1967 before Apollo 11 landed on the moon – the Lions have won exactly one playoff game. Led by Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders, the Lions defeated the Dallas Cowboys 38-6 in the NFC Division round in 1991. They were promptly run over by Washington the following weekend 41-10 to be denied a trip to the Super Bowl.
After a tumultuous run under general manager Matt Millen, the Lions bottomed out as the laughingstock of the league in 2008 by going 0-16, the only team in the history of the NFL to have a winless season. They have since rebounded to make the playoffs three times in the past five seasons.
The Cleveland Browns are like the Lions, yet somehow worse. Also an NFL mainstay, they were a dynamo in the pre-Super Bowl era, including five consecutive NFL championships from 1946-50. They actually played in the championship game in 10 straight seasons from 1946-55, going 7-3 in that span.
They made the playoffs in the 60s – no Super Bowl appearance.
They made the playoffs twice in the 70s – no postseason wins.
They made the playoffs seven times in the 80s! Three AFC championship losses. No Super Bowl appearances.
The Browns won a wildcard game in 1994 but fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC division round. Their team history is marred after that. In 1995, team owner Art Modell moved the franchise to Baltimore, infuriating Browns fans. Through legal action, fans and the city of Cleveland held onto the Browns’ history, records and intellectual property, and were reborn as an expansion franchise in 1999.
The new Browns have made the playoffs once since their rebirth – a 2002 wildcard loss to the Steelers. The Baltimore Ravens, meanwhile, won the Super Bowl in 2000 and 2012.