The NFL is tough. Really tough. Compared to college football, where the same four teams are the only ones who have a real shot at a title every year, parity is rampant. Sure, there are franchises that have been good over a long span of time, like the Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, Las Vegas/Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers, but even they have had their fair share of down years. There's a big difference between the longest Super Bowl droughts and teams who have never even come close to a W.
The formula that seems to work best is getting a talented quarterback, having a coach who develops an offense centered around that quarterback's skill set, a smart front office and a couple of high draft picks. Put all this together, and your franchise could be competing for a Lombardi Trophy instantly. This worked for the Seattle Seahawks and New York Giants in the last two decades, while other NFL history-makers, like the Philadelphia Eagles, took a much less common route to their banner-raising ceremonies.
Just look at the Cincinnati Bengals last year. Head coach Zac Taylor was on the hot seat before quarterback Joe Burrow linked up with his old LSU buddy Ja'Marr Chase. By the time the Bengals reached February, they had won every playoff game that postseason, and had a legitimate shot to win their first Super Bowl win in franchise history in Burrow's second season.
However, not as many teams are as lucky as the Bengals. (And even they haven't gotten over the hump yet.) The Bengals, along with 11 other NFL teams, are still looking for their first Super Bowl title. Some have gotten as close as you can while others haven't come close to sniffing it. Whatever the reason may be, these 12 teams are the only NFL franchises who still don't have an NFL Championship on their resume.
The Texans have only existed for 20-plus seasons, so it's not a huge surprise they're on the list. It's difficult to have the longest Super Bowl drought when you've only been around for two decades. Houston has eclipsed 10 wins four times over the course of its history and has four AFC South titles to its name. Unfortunately for them, they've never been able to get past the divisional round, where they've lost four times. But for the next few years, being able to advance to the NFL playoffs might feel like a Super Bowl win.
Like the Texans, Jacksonville is a young franchise, having joined the league in 1995. The Jags started out strong and reached the AFC Championship Game in two of their first five seasons, but both appearances resulted in a loss. Blake Bortles led the Jaguars back to the conference championship game in 2017. Again, they fell short and lost to the Patriots 24-20.
The 2017 run is the franchise's most recent playoff appearance and only its third since 1999. Other than that, they're consistently at the bottom of the AFC South. But things may be turning around thanks to head coach Doug Pederson and the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Trevor Lawrence.
Lions fans deserve a hug. Not one of those quick hugs, but one of those hugs where you embrace for at least 10 seconds and let them know the fate of their franchise isn't their fault. Then you give them a warm pat on the shoulder after you release and say "Everything's going to be all right" even though you know it's not.
Since the Super Bowl era began in 1967, the Lions have only made the playoffs 12 times. Sadly, it's true. Twelve playoff appearances in 56 years. They've never reached the big game in that time frame and haven't gone past the Wild Card round since 1991.
The Browns are another franchise that hasn't had success in the Super Bowl era. Aside from having horrible luck finding a quarterback, Cleveland has only reached the playoffs twice since 1994.
Granted, the Browns didn't exist for three years because the team moved to become the Baltimore Ravens after the 1995 season, but this is also the franchise that fired Bill Belichick before making said move. So, it's safe to say they made their own bed.
We're past the point of teams who haven't made the Super Bowl at all. The Arizona Cardinals rolled through the 2009 playoffs to secure a date with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLII. However, a clutch two-minute drill by Ben Roethlisberger prevented the Cardinals from capturing their first title.
The Titans have actually been pretty successful since the franchise ditched the Houston Oilers name and moved to Nashville in 1997. They made the Super Bowl two seasons after the move and fell to the "Greatest Show on Turf" St. Louis Rams.
Since, they've made the playoffs eight times and had an improbable run to the AFC Championship Game in 2020 but lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, who wound up winning the Super Bowl.
Mike Vrabel has the Titans consistently among the AFC's best teams. However, they have yet to reach the big game since that 2000 appearance.
Los Angeles Chargers
Back in 1994, the then-San Diego Chargers were defeated by the mighty San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX. The Bolts proceeded to go over a decade without playoff success until Philip Rivers led them to four straight playoff appearances from 2006 to 2009.
With an uber talented roster and Justin Herbert under center, the Chargers should return to the playoffs very soon.
The Bengals could've removed themselves from this list in 2022. Cincinnati's previous two Super Bowl appearances came in 1982 and 1989. They're both eerily similar. Both times they went 12-4 in the regular season and lost to the 49ers. It would've been a spooky coincidence if the 'Niners beat the Los Angeles Rams in last year's NFC Championship Game. Still, the Bengals came incredible close to ending one of the longest Super Bowl droughts in the NFL, but fell to the Rams in 2022. However, with Joe Burrow under center, we have a feeling they'll be back soon.
Unlike the other young franchises on this list, the Panthers have reached the Super Bowl twice in its 27-year existence. The first was in 2004 when Jake Delhomme led Carolina against a young Tom Brady in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Brady's Patriots bested the Panthers 32-29.
The second was at the conclusion of Cam Newton's MVP season six years ago, when Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos shut down Newton to win Super Bowl 50, 24-10. Losing a Super Bowl obviously hurts, but if there's any solace, the losses were to two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
28-3. 28-3. 28-3. The Atlanta Falcons had Super Bowl LI in the bag before collapsing in epic fashion. Attribute it to Atlanta's lack of experience or New England's wealth of it, nobody should ever surrender a 25-point lead. All the Falcons had to do was make one defensive stop or hold the Patriots to one less touchdown and they'd be crowned "King Slayers." Now, they're a footnote in one of the NFL's greatest games.
Buffalo's Super Bowl history is heartbreaking. Four Super Bowl appearances in four years and no wins. That has to be a statistical anomaly. Jim Kelly and the Bills of the early '90s were great, but their greatness is overshadowed by the lack of a Lombardi Trophy. To be fair, the Bills do hold two AFL titles, but those have about as much worth as a three dollar bill. Suffice it to say, the Bills don't have one of the longest Super Bowl drought as much as they have failed to capitalize on their chances.
Watch out for the Bills in 2023. After two devastating losses to the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game, Josh Allen and Co. will be out for blood. Add on the fact that they're playing for their fallen teammate Damar Hamlin and we may be removing the Bills from this list in a matter of months.
The Vikings were one of the best franchises of the early Super Bowl era. Minnesota reached the big game four times from 1969 to 1976, but they couldn't pull out a victory in any of them. They haven't returned since, giving the Vikings the longest Super Bowl drought in NFL History.
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