There are 12 teams who have never won a Super Bowl — and four of them haven’t even been to the big game.
Super Bowl I kicked off on January 15, 1967. And while some of the teams listed have won “football” championships, none have won it all after ‘67 when it was given its hyperbolic moniker.
These four teams will have to wait another year for a chance to play in the big game. But they’re all used to that.
The Detroit Lions are one of the oldest football teams in the NFL, but they have never been to a Super Bowl.
The Portsmouth Spartans were founded in 1930 but moved across the Ohio border to Detroit in 1934 where they became the Lions. The team won an NFL championship against the New York Football Giants in 1935, and Detroit would go on to win three more in ‘52, ‘53, and ‘57, beating the Cleveland Browns every time.
But the closest the Lions have ever been to a Super Bowl was one NFC Conference title tilt in 1992. Barry Sanders was quiet in the game, rushing for only 44 yards on 11 attempts. As a result, the Washington Football Team previously called a racist name walloped Detroit 41-10 at RFK Stadium. Washington would go on to win the Super Bowl that year. The Lions? They haven’t won a playoff game since.
The Texans became an NFL franchise in 2002. So you can’t knock the newest NFL team too hard for never making it to the Super Bowl. But Houston is the only NFL team that’s also never made a conference championship. They have lost four divisional round matchups — including last year’s game against the Chiefs. Knock the heck out of them for that.
The Jaguars organization was founded in 1995 and they got off to a hot start. The Jags, led by head coach Tom Coughlin, made the playoffs in four of their first five years and played in an AFC Conference Championship in 1996, just their second season.
In 1999, Jacksonville posted a franchise-best 14-2 record, but they lost out on a Super Bowl trip to Steve McNair’s Titans in the AFC championship. 18 years later, Blake Bortles and the Duval defense led the franchise to its third AFC title game, which they lost to Tom Brady and the Patriots. But who hasn’t?
The Browns have won plenty of championships… just not Super Bowl championships. Cleveland had a dynasty on its hands from the organization’s founding in 1946 to 1955. During those first 10 seasons, the Browns went to 10 straight Championship games and won 7. The team won their 8th title in 1964 when they shut out Johnny Unitas’ Colts 27-0. But since the Super Bowl era began, the closest Cleveland has been to the big game is the conference championship.
The Browns lost two straight conference championships in the ‘68 and ‘69 seasons. And before heading to the 1987 AFC Championship, Cleveland posted their most wins in a regular season during the Super Bowl era (12-4). That regular season win total is still a franchise best.
That Browns team, led by head coach Marty Schottenheimer, lost the ‘87 AFC Championship to John Elway in heartbreaking fashion on “The Drive.” The next year, the Broncos beat the Browns in the conference championship again, this time on the equally heartbreaking “The Fumble.” Because nauseating things come in threes, the Dawgs were then treated to a third loss to the Broncos in the 1990 AFC Championship. No cutesy name that time.
Cleveland has not been back to the AFC title game since.