The Best of the Worst: Ranking the Super Bowl Losers

By Al Burke
January 26, 2013 5:04 pm
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Remember's New England's failure to complete a perfect season due to that amazing drive by Eli Manning a few years back? How about the Baltimore Colts' stunning loss to the inferior New York Jets of the AFL, complete with a guarantee of success by party-boy Joe Namath?

Then there's the Denver teams of the late 80s who repeatedly made the Super Bowl, but were ridiculously out-manned once they got there.

Well, they all made my list, as I rate all the Super Bowl losers from I through XLVI. While there may be a case for some teams to move up or down a few spots, every team deserves its ranking.

Teams are rated from best to worst, and placement is based both on season performance as well as in the Championship game. 

Feel free to berate me if I slam your team, but remember, I'm not saying they're bad teams - no team that makes the Super Bowl is a bad team - just that there are better options. Enjoy!

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19 months ago
Al-I think my '84 Dolphins should be in a virtual tie for No. 1 on this list. We had everything you said (good backs-over 1900 yds. rushing and almost 700 more yds. receiving, a better than avg. defense, above avg. special teams, and a great coach). This same team beat the Niners in S.F. in the '83 Reg. season, and the '85 Bears in the Reg. season. This Team should have been in 3 straight S.B.'s if we would have had a QB that could have gotten it done in the PO's. In the '84 S.B. for example, that was Marino's worst game of the entire year. And it was similar in the '83 and '85 PO game losses. Pro-Football-Reference claims that Dan provided NEGATIVE VALUE to our Team in all 3 of those games. You can't have a lot of success in the PO's with a QB like that, and we didn't.
19 months ago

Bear in mind that be season's end that defense had worn down and was more of a factor in the loss to SF than Marino. They running game never got going, putting far too much pressure on Marino. These factors would go on to be the story of his career.
19 months ago

Al-that's somewhat disingenious, isn't it? A great QB shouldn't play his worst games of the year almost every year IN THE PLAYOFFS. Remember Kurt Warner-his defense gave up 37 points to Minn. in their 1st PO game in '99, but Warner threw 5 TD passes and helped his team win the game 49-37 on their way to a S.B. win. His backs only had 109 yds. rushing in those 3 games, but Warner's clutch passing got it done. As for our running game in '84, Marino stopped handing the ball off in the S.B. game. Up to that game, we were running the ball just fine.
19 months ago

Bob - Marino's worst game accounted for 318 yards and a TD, although he threw two picks, but his running attack added 25 yards, 16 of which came on one play. Bear in mind that they were playing the 49ers at the to of their game. That was an all-pro secondary he faced. He also led them top three FGs. It gets harder to pass in the redzone when you can't run the ball. It's also tough to compare teams of different eras. Don Shula was used to throwing 50 passes over 2 or 3 games, not at once. He was well out of his comfort zone. As for the defense, some of their key players were getting old in '82, and that team benefited from an easy schedule. I'm not sure that Redskins squad would have made the Super Bowl in a normal season, Joe Gibbs was the king of strike football. Thanks for the response though, I love a good debate.
19 months ago
There is quite a list of Teams that went on to win the S.B. that had overall stats and Rankings that were a lot worse than my '84 Dolphins. By the way, how good was the nucleus of our '83 and '84 and '85 Teams-that nucleus was so good that they were in the '82 S.B. game with David Woodley at QB. Although we added even more Pro Bowl players by '83 and '84.
19 months ago

If you look at their schedule, it wasn't too hard, yet the defense struggled against anyone with a pulse. They were relying mostly on turnovers and sacks, which they showed a knack for (experience), but when they played careful teams, they were in trouble.
19 months ago

And that's more or less the way a Team has to play when they have an average or a little above average QB, but they shouldn't have to have everything go exactly right if they have a Top 10-15 QB of All-Time. Top QB's like that make things happen even when their Team isn't making it happen. That's how they get to the top. Well, that and getting it done a majority of the time in the PO's no matter what. And there are plenty of examples of just that-starting with Warner above.
19 months ago

I agree with you on this 100%. What we have to ask now is, with the game changing to a QB-focused league, is Marino a top 15 guy?
19 months ago

To be perfectly honest about it, Marino's Total Career Resume as it stands right now doesn't call for a Top 10 Ranking. Kerry Byrne at CHFF did a thorough analysis Ranking back in '08 and even then Dan was not in his Top 10. It's about time for a follow-up Ranking, and I'm not sure Dan will make the cut for Top 15 now. It's a great read if you're interested. Google The Definitive List: The All-Time Greatest NFL Quarterbacks.
19 months ago

Just to list some facts on Marino's Career Resume-his biggest accomplishment was that he played great and helped his Team win 1 Conference Championship. He played good enough to help his Team get into the playoffs 10 times, and he holds Career Passer Records of Leading the NFL in Pass Attempts and Completions more years than anybody. He has 1 secondary Record of Most Games with 400 yards Passing. Did he used to hold many others-yes he did, but so did Tarkenton and where do we Rank him now?
19 months ago
Al-let me correct something-that list is actually called the Definitive List: the Top 10 NFL Quarterbacks.
19 months ago

I'll have a look at it when I get a chance. I don't think he's up there any more anyway.
19 months ago
Damn That Eli Guy!!!
19 months ago

Haha! Pats fan!
18 months ago
I have been watching and reading about the NFL for more than 20 years and while I never had thought of the 1977 Denver Broncos as lucky Super Bowl participants I did not give them much notice as you seemed to have here. Now that I have actually looked at their schedule how they performed against top competition I realized that was a truly great team and one of the best not to win a Super Bowl.

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