The 12th annual Sturm NFL Franchise Rankings are ready for your viewing pleasure. I have tabulated the latest figures after the 2012 Playoffs and Super Bowl 47. As we close the book on another NFL season, we do it the way we have been doing it since 2001.
It is fun for killing time at work, at dinner, or in the dorm rooms.
Who exactly can claim to be the best franchise in the modern era? Is it the Cowboys? The Steelers? Or the 49ers? And who is really better if a Seahawks fan and Falcons fan square off? How about a Jets fan and a Browns fan? And who should be more outraged at their franchises incompetence over the last 47 years, the Cardinals or the Lions?
How did this project ever begin?
To recap, 12 years ago, a good listener of the radio show asked me to rank the franchises from #32 to #1 based on their accomplishments during the Super Bowl era.
So I did. I wanted it to be objective, not subjective. I wanted it to be a formula and you would just enter the numbers and it would spit out the rankings with no favoritism or prejudice. So, I have been doing this since every year since 2001, on the week following the Super Bowl. Since then, it has been imitated a time or two , but I don’t mind. It is pretty obvious idea for any sports nerd with time on hand to come up with.
Here is how it works. Each Franchise gets 1 point for each season it makes the playoffs. Then, if it reaches the Conference Championship Game it gets a total of 3 points. If it makes the Super Bowl it gets 5, and if it wins the Super Bowl it wins the maximum total of points in a given year of 11. It used to be 10 for the Super Bowl, but I have adjusted it because I didn’t like the idea that 2 Super Bowl losses equaled a Super Bowl win. So, Now 11 points for a win and 5 for a loss in the Super Bowl.
I have been asked why no points are given for wins in the Wildcard round, but I decided that would not make sense with the idea that the playoffs have expanded over the years and there is no way to equalize a smaller field to a larger one. Also, a Wildcard win is not that big a deal anymore with 6 teams in the playoffs, so unless you reach the Conference Title game, no additional points beyond the 1 for making the post-season.
I also have been asked how come I don’t go by average points per season (since many teams have joined the league since Super Bowl 1. My answer is simple: I don’t want to penalize teams who have been in the league all of the years. If you go by average points per year rather than total points, it is possible that the Baltimore Ravens would be #1 soon if they win another Super Bowl next year. And it is fair to note how great Baltimore has done compared to teams around them in the rankings. No chance I would believe that premise, given that they didn’t exist prior to 1996. But, if a team has been established since the season of Super Bowl 1 (1966), it is notated.
Just add up the points for all the years, and that is the entire formula. (By the way, if you disagree with the point totals for each accomplishment, you will find that just about any reasonable formula spits out about the same results. Try me, pick your own point values.)
Otherwise, I break ties based on the team with more Super Bowl wins, then Super Bowl losses, then Championship Game wins, then playoff berths, and finally average points per year.
There are no ties. I will settle it somehow.
We have added “average pts per year” in the last 2 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 47 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. Also, the Browns missed 96-98, so they only have 44 seasons to work with.
Here are the Final Rankings through Super Bowl 47:
Teams #1-#10 =========================================
#1 – Pittsburgh Steelers (Last year, #1)
In 2011, it finally happened. When Super Bowl 30 was completed, 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. Therefore, based on the tie breaking system, the Steelers took over as the current heavyweight leader in the Super Bowl era. The first time in years that the Cowboys have not held this post. 2012 did not change this at all as both teams missed the playoffs.
Pittsburgh holds the tiebreaker over Dallas because of Lombardi Trophies, 6-5.
#2 – Dallas Cowboys (Last Year, #2)
Dallas has the most playoff appearances, the most Final 4s, and are tied with Pittsburgh for the most Super Bowl appearances. However, since 1996, they 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. 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 7 points in the last 17. That equates to 3.3 points per season for the first 30 years and 0.4 per year in the 17 years since. Yikes.
The 49ers were poised to get another Super Bowl this season, but they hit the wall in the final game. Even if they had won this Super Bowl 47, it would not have caught Dallas and Pittsburgh for the top pairing, but it would have put them a season away. Nevertheless, they certainly solidify their spot further in the top 3 and look prepared to continue to do more winning moving forward.
Now, having missed the playoffs every season since their last Super Bowl in SB 37, 11 long years ago, they reside easily in the Top 5, but have been a dormant franchise themselves for a while now. But, looking at the rest of their history, they remain one of the strongest franchises of the Super Bowl era.
The gold standard of this millennium, the Patriots have been the Giants victim twice, or they would be right on top of the Raiders . However, given that they have gained 52 points since 2001, they are still the franchise that has been on the move the most. And overall, they have now been to 7 Super Bowls, which trails just 2 other franchises. This year, their AFC Championship Game put them 5th, passing Green Bay in the process.
Another year of high expectations, but a stall out in the divisional round, puts them down to 6th as the Patriots passed them. 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.
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. 5 Super Bowls in just 14 playoffs years is outstanding. In 2012, though, they missed the playoffs and were caught at 59 points by Denver – yet still hold the tiebreaker with 4 Super Bowl victories.
New York holds advantage over Denver based on Lombardi Trophies, 4-2
# 8 – Denver Broncos (#8)
Peyton Manning had them dreaming of a higher finish in 2012, but they did manage to blow the #1 seed and left the year disappointed. Still, soundly in the Top 10 franchises after going the first 12 years of the Super Bowl era before they made their initial playoff entrance.
Nothing new to report in Miami. Another proud franchise with a strong history, but they 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.
It is highly possible – Robert Griffin’s knee willing – that the Redskins are at the start of an era that is headed in the right direction. We shall see about that, but if nothing else, they found themselves in the playoffs with a divisional win and a feeling that things were going to start happening. Still in the Top 10, but its been 20 years since the Redskins were a Super Bowl possibility.
TEAMS #11-#20 =======================================
#11 – Indianapolis/Baltimore Colts (#11)
Some teams have plenty of luck and the Colts must be feeling that after bidding Peyton Manning farewell only to draft a rookie QB who promptly takes them to the playoffs as a rookie. That is a very, rare feat and one that seems to have them positioned for great accomplishments moving forward as well. It was one and done, but they certainly like their odds moving forward with Andrew Luck.
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. 27 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 4 Super Bowls. Truly cursed. But, to make the playoffs in 2012 was a wonderful surprise and one they hope to continue to build upon.
The Rams, out of the playoffs now for almost 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 4 years out of 5 where their seasons ended in the NFC Championship game, usually, at the hands of the Cowboys.
Like the Colts, a mainstay in the playoffs for nearly the entire decade, but have now missed the last two years. Another team that has often been a resident of the post season, without ever winning the big prize. This is a fact that is not lost on its rivals.
Like Green Bay, the Bears would like to use championships that preceded the Super Bowl era, but in the 47 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 1980’s, it has often been a series of good seasons that are not followed with any manner of success in the next year. Like 2010’s NFC Championship Game followed by 2011 and 2012 in which they missed the playoffs altogether.
Total Points: 34 Total Playoff Years: 77, 79, 84C, 85S, 86, 87, 88C, 90, 91, 94, 01, 05, 06SL, 10C
P: 13 4: 3 2: 1 1: 1
Average: 0.72 points per season
Chicago holds the tiebreaker over Buffalo because of Lombardi Trophies, 1-0.
#16 – Buffalo Bills (#16)
The Bills obviously had their crack at NFL immortality during their 4 year stretch of the 1990s when they ran into NFC East buzz-saws. 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 13 years since they made the playoffs – the longest drought in the NFL by a very healthy margin.
Total Points: 34 Total Playoff Years: 66C, 74, 80, 81, 88C, 89, 90SL, 91SL, 92SL, 93SL, 95, 96, 98, 99
P: 14 4: 2 2: 4 1: 0
Average: 0.23 points per season
#17 – Baltimore Ravens (#22)
Established 1996 – (The NFL ruled that all old records stay in Cleveland with the Browns.)
The big mover in 2012 was the Baltimore Ravens who have absolutely been dominant in the last 5 years with 3 seasons in the Final 4 and now a Lombardi Trophy to boot. They jumped from #22 to #17 and in 17 years have beaten teams who have been around from Super Bowl 1. There is no doubting their excellence since their inception and this year gives them 2 Super Bowl titles.
Total Points: 33 Total Playoff Years: 00S, 01, 03, 06, 08C, 09, 10, 11C, 12S
P: 7 4: 2 2: 0 1: 2
Average: 1.94 – 17 years
#18 – New York Jets (#17 last season)
The only team in the league that has approached the Cowboys level of media coverage for little substance in recent years missed the playoffs again after leading Sportscenter all year. After two AFC Championship Games in a row, the Jets were unable to join the postseason in the last 2. Despite that, Rex Ryan has been able to accomplish more in his 4 seasons than the 40 years prior to that going back to Namath’s Super Bowl 3.
Total Points: 32 Total Playoff Years: 68S, 69, 81, 82C, 85, 86, 91, 98C, 01, 02, 04, 06, 09C, 10C
P: 13 4: 4 2: 0 1: 1
Average: 0.68 points per season
#19 – Kansas City Chiefs (#18)
The Chiefs played in 2 of the first 4 Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl 4. 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. And since they are picking 1st in the draft, it would seem that they are rather far away from changing things, too.
The Titans remain at #19 after another year of missing the post-season. With some reasonable years of success in Houston and one Super Bowl loss in Nashville, the Oilers remain in the Top 20 for now. Barely.
Surely, at this point, the Buccaneers realize that being in a hurry to chase Jon Gruden out of there was mistaken, 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. They now have a 5 year streak going with no playoffs and will attempt to get that turned around with a new coaching staff.
Total Points: 24 Total Playoff Years: 79C, 81, 82, 97, 99C, 00, 01, 02S, 05, 07
P: 10 4: 2 2: 0 1: 1
Average: 0.65 – 37 seasons
Tampa Bay holds the tiebreaker over Cleveland because of Lombardi Trophies, 1-0.
#22 – Cleveland Browns (#21)
No season 1996-1998
The post-relocation Cleveland Browns has been absolutely pathetic. One playoff appearance in the 14 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. They severely need a revival amongst their franchise to give those loyal fans something to smile about in Cleveland.
Total Points: 24 Total Playoff Years: 67, 68C, 69C, 71, 72, 80, 82, 85, 86C, 87C, 88, 89C, 94, 02
P: 14 4: 5 2: 0 1: 0
Average: 0.55 in 44 seasons
#23 – San Diego Chargers (#23)
Wow – another year of expectations without even a playoff berth for the Chargers. Certainly, more was expected from this franchise given their level of QB play they have had for almost 3 decades. But, to this point, they 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 down the road.
Total Points: 22 Total Playoff Years: 79, 80C, 81C, 82, 92, 94SL, 95, 04, 06, 07C, 08, 09
P: 12 4: 3 2: 1 1: 0
#24 – New Orleans Saints (#24)
A shocking omission to the playoffs in 2012, thanks to Bounty Gate. The Saints are living their glory days right now in the Drew Brees/Sean Payton era, and have won a Super Bowl and flirted with others in the last several years. This once pathetic franchise has raised its accomplishment level several notches and has worked its way out of the basement of franchises in the NFL in quick fashion.
Total Points: 21 Total Playoff Years: 87, 90, 91, 92, 00, 06C, 09S, 10, 11
P: 9 4: 1 2: 0 1: 1
Average: 0.46 in 46 seasons
#25 – Atlanta Falcons (#27)
This is in fact, the glory days of the Atlanta Falcons. Surely, they are disappointed with the way that 2012 finished by losing a championship game on home turf in which they had a substantial lead. But, any Falcons fan knows that before 2010, the franchise had never made the playoffs in consecutive years. Now, they have made the tournament 3 straight years. Not only that, but they now win with great routine and are a bet to keep winning – they have also passed the Bengals and the Seahawks on this list for 2012.
Total Points: 20 Total Playoff Years: 78, 80, 82, 91, 95, 98SL, 02, 04C, 08, 10, 11, 12C
P: 11 4: 2 2: 1 1: 0
#26 – Cincinnati Bengals (#25)
The Bengals have 2 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 and 2012 with a young group of players including Andy Dalton. Time will tell as Mike Brown running the franchise still has many thinking that long-term success will not happen with him at the helm, but they have actually built a nice foundation.
Total Points: 19 Total Playoff Years: 70, 73, 75, 81SL, 82, 88SL, 90, 05, 09, 11, 12
P: 11 4: 0 2: 2 1: 0
Average: 0.41 – 45 seasons
#27 – Seattle Seahawks (#26)
After a fantastic 2012, Seattle has worked its way to the playoffs 7 times in the last 10. Still chasing its first Super Bowl title, the Seahawks have at least climbed out of the bottom of the league into the mid-20s. The Seahawks have built a young, physical squad and look ready to keep building.
Total Points: 18 Total Playoff Years: 83C, 84, 87, 88, 99, 03, 04, 05SL, 06, 07, 10, 12
P: 12 4: 1 2: 1 1: 0
Average: 0.49 – 37 seasons
#28 – Carolina Panthers (#28)
Another year of hoping Cam Newton takes them where they hope to go, but another year of waiting til next year. So close to winning Super Bowl 38, the Panthers have only made the playoffs 4 times, but the Final 4 in 3 of those 4 runs. They don’t get there often, but when they do, they make it count.
Total Points: 12 Total Playoff Years: 96C, 03SL, 05C, 08
P: 4 4: 2 2: 1 1: 0
Average: 0.66 – 18 seasons
Carolina holds the tiebreaker over Detroit because of Super Bowl Appearances, 1-0 .
#29 – Detroit Lions (#29)
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 on 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.
Total Points: 12 Total Playoff Years: 70, 82, 83, 91C, 93, 94, 95, 97, 99, 11
P: 10 4: 1 2: 0 1: 0
#30 – Arizona/St Louis Cardinals (#30)
The Cardinals, formerly of St Louis, also used Kurt Warner to usher in a brief revival of their franchise (like the Rams). But, it was short-lived, as was the Kevin Kolb era and now they seek the next guy to try and get them out of the bottom handful of teams in this study. To be ranked 30th and only above two expansion franchises speaks to the futility of this team that has had many horrid seasons in its long history.
Total Points: 10 Total Playoff Years: 74, 75, 82, 98, 08SL, 09
P: 6 4: 0 2: 1 1: 0
Arizona holds tie-breaker over Jacksonville due to Super Bowl appearances, 1-0.
#31 – Jacksonville Jaguars (#31)
Jacksonville certainly showed their fans how easy football was when they took off from expansion and went to the playoffs in 4 of their first 5 years with Tom Coughlin and Mark Brunell getting the Jaguars to two AFC Championship Games. Since then, not much of anything has happened for them and the stadium has a real difficult time finding capacity crowds.
Total Points: 10 Total Playoff Years: 96C, 97, 98, 99C, 05, 07
P: 6 4: 2 2: 0 1: 0
Average: 0.55 per season – 18 seasons
#32 – Houston Texans (32)
Finally, in last place, but at least now on the scoreboard in the last two years, are the Houston Texans. They made their first playoff appearance of their history in 2011 and then backed it up with another, and will need many good seasons to pull out of 32nd place (short of a Super Bowl victory). That being said, they are now on the scoreboard and are feeling good about their future – with 2 playoff victories in 2 years.
Total Points: 2 Total Playoff Years: 11, 12
P: 2 4: 0 2: 0 1: 0
Average: 0.18 – 11 seasons
Explanation of Years: Just the year means they made the playoffs (1 point). Year followed by “C” means they lost in the Conference Championship Game (3 points), Year followed by “SL” means they lost the Super Bowl (5 points), and Year followed by “S” means they won the Super Bowl (11 points).