4 NFL Teams who have never made the Super Bowl
Updated: Aug 24
The first Super Bowl was held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on January 15, 1967. Since then, there have been 55 Super Bowls but 4 teams have yet to appear in a Super Bowl. Let’s take a closer look at those four aforementioned teams.
One of those teams to have never played in the Super Bowl are the Houston Texans. That may be a bad mark on the records for the Texans, but we can still cut them some slack because they are a relatively new team.
The Texans did not hit the turf until 2002 when they joined the NFL. Therefore, the Texans have had fewer opportunities to make it to the Super Bowl since they have only been part of the NFL for 20 years.
To put this into perspective, teams such as the Washington Commanders and the Miami Dolphins have not played in the Super Bowl since before 2002 when the Texans joined. The last time Washington made an appearance in the Super Bowl was in the calendar year of 1992, and for Miami, it was 1985. So while the Texans have never played in a Super Bowl, it just shows the average football fan how hard it is for any franchise to play in the NFL championship game.
In fact, the Texans are the newest team to join the NFL, which brings hope to Texan fans that maybe it will just be a matter of time before the Texans are removed from the list of teams to never have played in the Super Bowl.
That being said, the Texans have been around enough to create some heartache for their local fanbase.
Houston is one of those weird franchises who have never won a road playoff during their brief 20 years of existence. Even worse, they’ve never played in the AFC Championship Game. The closest that the Texans ever got to a Super Bowl was quite possibly during the 2019 postseason. Houston led 24-nothing during the Divisional Round against the Kansas City Chiefs. But Bill O’Brien’s Texans folded up quicker than a poker player without a single pair of cards. Incredibly, the Chiefs outscored the Texans 51-7 the rest of the game en route to an incredible blowout win at Arrowhead Stadium.
On a side note, the Texans are one of the few franchises to win a playoff game with their third string quarterback. T.J. Yates, a rookie, became the starter down the stretch during the 2011 regular season when starter Matt Schaub (SHAW-bb) and backup Matt Leinart (LINE-urt) both ended up on the season-ending injured list. Yates won his first-ever playoff start during the Wild Card round at Reliant Stadium, but he lost on the road the following weekend to the Baltimore Ravens.
But playoff disappointments are nothing new to Texans fans. And they've been dominated by the opposition their fair share of times during the playoffs. The worst such occasion was in 2016 when the Texans got blown out 30-0 at home. That time around, Alex Smith was the starter in KC.
The Texans are winless of course during the Divisional Playoffs, with their only close defeat in Round 2 coming at the hands of the Ravens. As previously stated, Yates was Houston’s starting QB that day against Baltimore.
Another team on the list of zero Super Bowl appearances is the Cleveland Browns. Since they don’t have the excuse of being a new team, why haven’t they played in a Super Bowl? They may have not made it to a Super Bowl yet, but looking back on their history shows they have at least come quite close to the Super Bowl several times.
Technically speaking, the Baltimore Ravens were formally known as the Cleveland Browns. The Ravens have won two Super Bowls since leaving Lake Erie, while both versions of the Browns have yet to make it to Super Bowl Sunday. The new version of the Cleveland Browns began operations in 1999.
In 1968, the Browns defeated the Dallas Cowboys, which enabled them to move up to the conference championship game and play the Colts. The Browns were defeated soundly in the championship game by Baltimore 34-zip. But making it to the championships at all is an accomplishment itself as it’s just one step away from the Super Bowl. And Cleveland proved that 1968 was no fluke when it came to their assortment of talented gridiron stars.
The following year in 1969, the Browns made it to a championship game once again. Just like the previous year, the Browns eliminated the Cowboys during the playoffs. The pattern continued though in a bad way as the Browns had a significant loss in the conference championship game. This time around the score was 51-3, and they lost to the Vikings. If NFL fans recall, the Vikings were known as the Purple People Eaters during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Vikes were a formidable foe against the Browns that day, but a 51-3 beat down is certainly not what Browns fans expected when they watched their favorite football team play on the big screen.
Ever since 1969, the Denver Broncos appear to have become the Browns bad luck charm. The Browns made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game three times during the 1986, 1987 and 1989 seasons. However, in all three of those years, the Browns lost against the Broncos in the AFC Championship. In 1986, the Browns lost to the Broncos in overtime by a final score of 23-20. A 33-yard field goal by the Broncos was the tiebreaker in overtime. With a mindset of the glass half-full, Browns were just one field goal away from making it into the Super Bowl. But that game-winning field goal by the Broncos at the Dawg Pound is hardly the end-all, be-all story when it comes to heartbreak in Cleveland.
Cleveland sometimes gets the bad nickname of “The Mistake on the Lake,” and the famous YouTube parody commercial of Cleveland is kind of true. Ask any local of the 216 area code, and they’ll tell you that Cleveland is not exactly Miami. And if you like professional sports teams, Clevelanders will tell you to avoid watching the Browns at all times.
Not only did Denver win all three AFC Championship Games against Cleveland, but they won in the most unbelievable of fashions. John Elway led the offense from inside his own five-yard line to score the game-tying touchdown on 15 plays. When it was first and ten from the Broncos’ own 2-yard line, Cleveland led 20-13 with 5 minutes and 32 seconds left. Elway then led his teammates 98 yards on 15 plays to tie the score up with just 37 seconds remaining in regulation. This has been known forever in NFL lore as “The Drive.”
The stunned crowd at Municipal Stadium simply couldn’t believe it. The Browns now had to play in overtime, and Elway continued his clutch play into OT by stunning the Dawg Pound.
Even more stupefying, the Browns again lost to the Broncos the following season in a you-simply-can’t-make-this-up finish. With running back Earnest Byer yards away from tying the score at Mile High Stadium, Jeremiah Castille somehow forced a fumble and helped clinch a second straight Super Bowl appearance for the Broncos. Although Byner would like to forget this player ever happened, it’s known forever in NFL lore as simply, “The Fumble.”
The 1989 AFC Championship Game was all Broncos: 37-21. And not to put salt on an open wound, but Browns fans still remember “Red Right 88” and the 1981 AFC Divisional Game. With Cleveland’s kicker struggling throughout the ball game, QB Brian Sipe forced a pass into a tight window in the end zone, and the Raiders intercepted the ball to win by the narrow margin of 14-12. It seemed like an okay decision for Sipe at the time as kicks were not a sure-thing for Browns kicker Don Crockroft. Nothing worked for the Browns that day on special teams: Cockroft missed two field goals, had one of his extra points blocked, and couldn’t kick another extra point due to a bad snap. Sipe didn’t have faith in his special teams unit, but Mike Davis read the play well and intercepted the pass intended for Ozzie Newsome to eliminate the Browns.
Next up on the list of teams to never make it to the Super Bowl are the Detroit Lions. Unlike the Browns, the Lions do not have many near misses to the Super Bowl. The last time the Lions reached an NFC Championship Game was over 20 years ago in 1991. In 1991, the Lions suffered a tough loss against the Washington Commanders. And they haven’t won a playoff game since the early 90s. In fact, they’ve only won 1 playoff game since 1957.
Ask any Lions fan, and they’ll tell you the reason why they never play in the NFL Championship Game is because of former Hall of Fame quarterback Bobby Layne. According to legend, Layne was not happy when he got traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He allegedly said, “That team won’t win for 50 years.” It’s now 2022, and the Lions have only won a single playoff game since he stopped playing QB for Detroit.
Incredibly, Layne supposedly once said “They won’t win for 50 years.” This supposed quote was on October 6, 1958. Why is that so important you might ask? Well, 50 years later, the Lions finished the 2008 regular season without a single victory. They became the first NFL team to go 0-and-16, even with Calvin Johnson on the roster. Call it a coincidence, but it sure is interesting that the Lions became quite possibly the worst team ever assembled 50 years to the day of Layne’s famous curse.
Perhaps if Lions ownership ask for forgiveness about trading Layne, perhaps the curse can be lifted? I’m kidding of course, but the numbers are very eye-opening. Since 1991, the Lions are 0-8 during the Wild Card round. They also haven’t hosted a playoff game since 1993. So not only is it a rare occurrence when the Lions make the postseason, but they usually don’t have a good enough record or tiebreakers to even host a playoff game. Division winners are the only teams to earn the distinction of hosting a playoff game, meaning the Lions haven’t even won a division title since 1993.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are last on the list of non-Super Bowl teams. They are not as new as the Houston Texans but are still one of the newer teams in the NFL. The Jaguars and the Carolina Panthers began playing for the NFL in 1995, expanding the total number of teams to 30 at the time.
The Jaguars have made it to the playoffs 7 of their 27 seasons they have played so far. That means about a quarter of the seasons the Jaguars played resulted in progressing to the playoffs. Not a great statistic by any means, especially since 14 out of the 32 teams make the postseason nowadays.
Still, when the Jaguars have made the playoffs, they’ve usually given their fans a story to remember.
In just their second season of existence, the 1996 Jags upset John Elway’s Broncos at old Mile High Stadium. Mark Brunell (BRUH-knell) and the Jags won two playoff games that year to set up an AFC Championship Game tilt against Drew Bledsoe’s New England Patriots. While the Jags fought hard, they still committed four turnovers on the road. Brunell had a game to forget as he threw two interceptions and even fumbled once. He luckily didn’t lose the fumble, but he threw a costly pick in the red zone late in the ballgame. With under 4 minutes to go and his team down by 7, Brunell threw into double coverage on 2nd and goal at the 5-yard line. Willie Clay intercepted it, and the Patriots went on to win 20-6. It wasn’t all Brunell’s fault that night, but he still only completed 52.6% of his passes with no TD passes and two picks.
The Jaguars would get back to the AFC Championship Game in 1999. With Brunell under center, the Jags easily took care of the Dolphins 62-3 the previous week. The problem was, they had to play the Tennessee Titans during the AFC Title Game. The Jags finished the regular season as the AFC’s best seed with a 14-2 record, but both of those losses came at the hands of the Titans. And Sunday, January 23rd, 2000 would be no different for the Jags and their fans.
Tennessee, who had already dismantled Jacksonville 41-14 on December 26th, picked up where they left off with a crushing 33-14 no-doubt win against their divisional opponent. Although the Jags played at home, Brunell’s knees were clearly bothering him as he had to wear braces on both of his knees. He clearly wasn’t at full strength, and it showed. He threw two picks, including another one in the end zone. He also fumbled twice and lost a fumble. Not really his fault, but he also got sacked in the end zone for a costly safety against his team. Jacksonville actually led 7-0 and then got outscored 33-7 to fall short of a Super Bowl appearance.
The Jaguars would not win another playoff game until David Garrard became the starting QB. After winning the Wild Card thriller against Ben Roethlisberger’s Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, the 17-and-0 undefeated Patriots knocked off the Jags at Gillette Stadium during the Divisional Playoffs.
Coming into the 2017 AFC Championship, Blake Bortles was now the starting QB for Jacksonville. This time around, Jacksonville was known by their defensive nickname “Sacksonville”, with their offense being more of a running attack than an air attack. Jacksonville came into the game 0-2 in New England all-time during the playoffs, and they were hoping they could upset Tom Brady’s Pats as a 3-seed and advance to its first-ever Super Bowl.
Jacksonville led by as many as 11 early on, and they led 20-10 early in the 4th quarter. Linebacker Myles Jack recovered a fumble by Dion Lewis and could’ve run it the other way for a touchdown. After further review, the officials determined that Jack was touched when he was still on the ground. The replays didn’t seem to be conclusive, but the officials made their call. It was a huge decision as Jack’s touchdown would have made it 27-10. Instead, the Patriots got the ball back on a Nortman punt and only needed 2 scores to win the game.
Tom Terrific Brady and the Patriots did what they do best: Get it done during the clutch. Brady smelled blood after Jack’s possible touchdown was called back. Brady’s Pats drove 85 yards to the Jaguars end zone in under 4 minutes.
After the Jaguars couldn’t do anything offensively, Brady made the best of the short field by leading the offense 30 yards for the go-ahead score. With under 3 minutes left, Bortles led the offense to the New England 38-yard line. But Kyle Van Noy’s sack of Bortles pretty much did in Jacksonville, and the Pats would run out the clock on some excellent run blocking.
Just like that, the Jaguars fell to 0-3 all-time against the Pats in the playoffs and once again missed out on playing in the Super Bowl. ***The Jags are actually 0-4 lifetime against the Patriots in the playoffs since they lost when Byron Leftwich was the starting QB.
That concludes the list of teams to never have played in the Super Bowl. What are your thoughts on these four teams - Do you think any of them are on their way to a Super Bowl any time soon? Who do you think will be the first to be removed from the list of teams to never play in the super bowl?