At the close of business this coming Sunday, the NFL will welcome the 47th Super Bowl champion to its most exclusive team fraternity.
So how do we rank the previous 46?
That’s a dangerous project, one guaranteed to bring arguments from many fan bases.
But I have decided I’m up to the task, especially after sampling a few of the old NFL Films Super Bowl productions from over the weekend.
ESPN did a somewhat similar list several years ago, ranking all 80 Super Bowl participants at the time.
That would really be starting too much trouble, ranking teams who have lost Super Bowls ahead of teams that actually got their name on the trophy.
So here it is, all 46 Super Bowl champions – starting with the dreaded Worst team ever to win the Super Bowl…
The Bottom 16
46. 1970 Baltimore Colts
Actually, naming the worst Super Bowl champion is not a hard decision.
The 1970 Colts went through much of the old AFL in the NFL’s first post-merger season and then defeated the third-year Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders. The Super Bowl V win was over the Dallas Cowboys in a game in which it was a shame someone had to win.
Incidentally, on the NFC side the Cowboys defeated the Detroit Lions in a Divisional playoff game in which the final score-line was 5-0. Here is some cool CBS post-game footage from the game with coach Tom Landry being interviewed.
45. 1968 New York Jets
Super Bowl III remains a benchmark event for professional football, and the Jets delivered in proving that the AFL had arrived in becoming equal with the original NFL.
From the highlights of that game though, it seemed like the Colts did not come to play that day. There have even been conspiracy theories over the years that the game was a “production.”
I don’t buy those theories, but I do believe that the ’68 Colts considered winning the old “NFL Championship” as the big game and mistakenly considered the Jets game as a mere formality.
44. 1969 Kansas City Chiefs
Hank Stram’s squad sent the old AFL out on a high note with a convincing trashing of the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV, proving the Jets upset of the previous year not to be a fluke.
The Chiefs were very talented, but the Vikings were perhaps the least impressive of 1960s’ “NFL Champions.” And Joe Kapp ranks near the bottom of starting QB’s ever in the big game.
43. 1967 Green Bay Packers
The Lombardi Era has always had its rightful place in league history. But the fifth and last of the Packers 1960s championships was its least impressive, as by this time Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung were among those who left the building.
Green Bay went 9-4-1 in the regular season. And then there was the Ice Bowl. Everyone knows the final chapter but does not talk about how Dallas rallied from 14-0 to lead 17-14 going into the Packers’ final drive.
If Bart Starr or a lineman slips on that final QB sneak, the Cowboys would have been NFL Champions. As it was, the Packers won, then took care of business against a young Oakland Raiders team two weeks later.
The following year the Packers were a 6-7-1 team, which started 20+ years of futility for the franchise.
42. 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I had to stick a somewhat recent champion near the bottom.
Controversy recently erupted over Tim Brown’s allegation that Bill Callahan “sabotaged” the game to let friend Jon Gruden win.
Watching the NFL Films production, it was interesting hearing Jerry Rice gripe in the first half about not getting the ball. Truth be told, Super Bowl 37 was decided when Raiders center Barrett Robbins went off the deep end in Tijuana a couple nights earlier.
Brad Johnson was the third-rated QB in the NFC that year, but defense (Sapp, John Lynch, etc.) carried this team.
41. 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers
It’s hard to slot the teams who caught fire at the right time.
The first sixth-seed to ever win the Super Bowl, the Steelers literally had to run the table after starting 7-5.
The signature moment of the playoff run en route to Super Bowl XL was Ben Roethlisberger’s tackle to prevent a would-be TD return in the Divisional playoff at Indianapolis.
40. 1980 Oakland Raiders
The first team who had to go through the Wild Card round to win it all.
A telling moment was Mike Davis picking off Brian Sipe in the infamous “Red Right 88” play. With anyone other than the ailing Don Cockcroft kicking that day, Cleveland would have won.
Oakland’s championship was especially awkward with Pete Rozelle handing the SB XV trophy to Al Davis, who at the time was in a middle of a lawsuit with the league.
39. 2001 New England Patriots
Some people still put an asterisk on New England’s first championship in SB 36 because of the Tuck Rule.
Still, New England has to earn points for upsetting the heavily favored St. Louis Rams. The Pats would prove not to be a one-hit wonder in the decade that followed.
38. 1987 Washington Redskins
This was the Doug Williams team that exploded for 35 points in the second quarter of the Skins’ Super Bowl 22 win over Denver.
The team’s 11-4 regular season record was padded by the replacement team going 3-0 while the NFL varsity was on strike early in the season. And Timmy Smith’s 204 rushing yards ranks as the biggest one-hit wonder ever.
37. 1982 Washington Redskins
I would like to rank Joe Gibbs’ first championship team higher. They went 12-1 after finishing the previous campaign 8-8 (after starting 0-5).
The Miami Dolphins did not provide much opposition in SB 17. An early 76-yard David Woodley pass and a Fulton Walker kickoff return accounted for Miami’s two TDs that day. The ‘Skins were able to stick around until John Riggins (166 yards) took over late.
36. 1981 San Francisco 49ers
In real time, the Super Bowl 16 matchup at the Pontiac Silverdome between the 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals was an odd battle of Cinderellas, and two franchises who hadn’t amounted to much in the previous several seasons.
Of the Niners five championships teams, I’ll slot this as the worst. Joe Montana was a bit young yet and Roger Craig and Jerry Rice had not yet arrived.
35. 2000 Baltimore Ravens
The Super Bowl 35-winning team featured one of the best defenses in league history, and it began Ray Lewis’ “vindication.”
That defense needed to be nothing short of legendary to win with Trent Dilfer at QB. And Kerry Collins was easy pickings for the Ravens in Tampa.
34. 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers
The first of the Steelers’ four championship teams in the 70s was not close to peaking on the offensive side, but defensively was one of the best ever.
Franco Harris ran wild in an ugly 16-6 win outdoors in a frigid rain in New Orleans over the Vikings in SB 9. That game was 2-0 Pittsburgh at halftime.
Rookies on this team included Swann, Lambert, Stallworth, and Webster. The best was yet to come.
33. 1988 San Francisco 49ers
This team gets ranked relatively low only due to a 10-6 regular season that featured Steve Young stepping in at QB during the season.
The 49ers routed the Chicago Bears in frigid conditions at Soldier Field before winning an epic Super Bowl 23 over the Cincinnati Bengals with a late Montana drive.
32. 2010 Green Bay Packers
Another team I will put relatively low for being a six-seed in the playoffs.
As I said during that season, the Pack in reality had to win six games consecutively at the end of the season, like a low-seed making an NCAA basketball tourney run.
Green Bay’s championship vindicated Aaron Rodgers and was achieved despite numerous injuries to key starters throughout the season.
31. 2003 New England Patriots
It’s kind of hard to knock the New England championship teams. Interestingly, the team that was undefeated in 2007 was arguably better than the three teams that won.
The Carolina Panthers took the Pats to the wire in SB 38 before the Tom Brady/Adam Vinatieri late-game heroics for the second time in three seasons.
Ricky Proehl would make a great bridesmaid at any wedding.
Where is the Greatest Show on Turf? How about Peyton Manning’s Colts? And the recent Giants’ championship teams?
Continue reading to find out.