Fans in Pittsburgh, New England, San Francisco and Dallas have had much to celebrate during the Super Bowl era. Their teams have combined to win 21 of the 51 championships since the NFL instituted the Super Bowl in 1967.
But as the champagne flowed and confetti fell after their teams’ victories, other fan bases haven’t tasted success once in the Super Bowl era. So before you bemoan your team’s prospects for the upcoming season, remember that it could be worse.
These 10 NFL franchises have endured the longest-running droughts in the Super Bowl era.
Bengals (no titles since franchise inception in 1967)
The Bengals almost ended this drought twice in the 1980s, but Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers stood in their way both times. Cincinnati reached the Super Bowl in 1981 and 1988 and lost each game by less than a touchdown. In 1988, the Bengals had a three-point lead with a little more than 3 minutes to go, but Montana orchestrated a 92-yard drive that ultimately dashed Cincy’s Super Bowl dreams.
Falcons (No titles since franchise inception in 1966)
The Falcons appeared to be in position to end this drought four months ago, when they held a 28-3 lead over the Patriots in Super Bowl LI. Then New England pulled off the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, eventually winning an overtime thriller. The Falcons are poised to make another run this year, but will there be any lingering effects from their memorable collapse that could add another year to their title drought?
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Bills (won AFL championship in 1965)
The Bills had more than their fair share of chances to hoist their first Lombardi Trophy in the 1990s, famously reaching the Super Bowl four consecutive years. Their best chance came in their first trip to the NFL’s biggest stage, but Buffalo fell to the Giants in a nail-biter after Scott Norwood narrowly missed a 47-yard field goal with 8 seconds left. The Bills returned to the Super Bowl in each of the next three years but never came as close to winning the big game as they did that first year. The Bills haven’t given their fans much hope as of late, missing the playoffs for 17 consecutive seasons.
Browns (won NFL title in 1964)
Few NFL fan bases understand misery the way Browns fans do. Not only has the team never reached the Super Bowl, Cleveland has recorded double-digit wins just twice since 1989. The Browns have finished last in their division 12 times since 2003 and haven’t won as many as 10 games since 2007.
Chargers (won AFL championship in 1963)
Maybe a change of scenery is what the Chargers need to end their title drought. After 56 years in San Diego, the Chargers are moving back to Los Angeles, where they spent their first year in franchise history. The Chargers reached the Super Bowl once, but it was a forgettable performance, falling to the 49ers in one of the more lopsided results.
Oilers/Titans (won AFL championship in 1961)
The Titans fell 1 yard short of possibly winning it all in Super Bowl XXXIV against the Rams. Kevin Dyson appeared destined for the end zone and a game-tying touchdown, but Rams linebacker Mike Jones wrapped up Dyson, who reached out with one hand for the end zone but was ruled down. The Titans had a bounce-back year in 2016 and, with Marcus Mariota under center, could be in line for a Lombardi Trophy presentation soon.
Vikings (no titles since franchise inception in 1961)
The Vikings were a force at the beginning of the Super Bowl era, reaching the championship game four times from 1969 to 1976. Unfortunately for Vikings fans, the team came up short each time despite having the famed Purple People Eaters on the defensive line. Minnesota looked poised to make a return trip to the Super Bowl in Randy Moss’ rookie season, but the 15-1 Vikings fell to the Falcons in a thrilling NFC title game that went to overtime.
Eagles (won NFL championship in 1960)
The Eagles won three championships before the NFL ushered in the concept of a Super Bowl, but the franchise has had little to celebrate since. Philly has reached the Super Bowl twice but came away empty-handed both times. Do the Eagles have a franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz who can finally get the team to the promised land?
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Lions (won NFL championship in 1957)
The Super Bowl era hasn’t been too kind to the Lions, who have yet to even reach the big game. Detroit made a run at a Super Bowl in 1991, when Barry Sanders carried the Lions to the NFC title game – the only time the franchise has made it that far – only to fall to the Redskins. But look at the bright side, Lions fans, your team is seven years removed from when it went 2-30 during a two-season stretch.
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Cardinals (won NFL championship in 1947)
If not for a magnificent toe-tap touchdown grab by Santonio Holmes in Super Bowl XLIII, the Cardinals would have been off this list nearly a decade ago. It’s still the franchise’s only moment in the Super Bowl sun despite Arizona having won at least 10 games three of the past four years.