This is one of those lists that needs little introduction. Honestly, I can think of 20 players who could have filled this list. There are some players who just did not have the luck of playing in a Super Bowl, let alone win one.
These players span the course of the Super Bowl era, with their superior play and style. These are the 13 best players to never win a Super Bowl ring.
Honorable mention: Merlen Olsen, Los Angeles Rams; John Kasay, Carolina Panthers; Ken Riley, Cincinnati Bengals, Fran Tarkenton, Minnesota Vikings, Thurman Thomas, Buffalo Bills, Bruce Matthews, Houston Oilers, Tim Brown, Oakland Raiders.
13. Tony Gonzalez
There are few players who could catch a football, run and be as agile as Gonzalez. In his time with Kansas City and then Atlanta, Gonzalez grew into the greatest tight end of all time. And while he retired this season, there is a strong belief there is still plenty of game left in him.
12. Eric Dickerson
He was a stallion in cleats. The second football player ever to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. You swore when he came to the NFL from SMU he was galloping with the football. Dickerson retired as the second leading rusher all-time.
11. John Hannah
Played exclusively for the New England Patriots. Alabama coach Paul Bear Bryant said Hannah, a guard, was the finest player and finest offensive linemen he had ever coached. Hannah was touch as nails and was once thought to be part of a trade that would have brought John Elway to New England instead of Denver.
10. Barry Sanders
When he abruptly decided to end his career, Sanders was second on the all-time rushing list. There wasn’t many things the Detroit Lions runner couldn’t do - except win a Super Bowl ring. Played on some mediocre and just plain awful Lions teams.
9. Steve Largent
When he retired, this now politician was the NFL’s leader in receptions. He played, too, played on some poor Seahawks teams. He was always open, whether it was catching passes from Jim Zorn or David Krieg and always know where the chains were to get a first down. He was deceptively fast.
8. Jim Marshall
The leader of the Purple People Eaters. This Minnesota Vikings defensive star was famous for his pass rushing and the play where he ran the other way on a fumble recovery, costing the Vikings a safety and will remain one of the greats in Vikings history.
7. Deacon Jones
The creator of the head slap. Jones was a terror as part of the “Fearsome Foursome” in Los Angeles. The head slap was outlawed, but when it was used it would create such a buzz that offensive linemen would hear a rining or buzzing in their helmets which shook them up, allowing Jones to get to the quarterback.
6. LeRoy Selmon
He played on the winless Buccaneers team in 1976. There were few players like Selmon, an Oklahoma product, who caused fear in tackles on the opposition. For all the things that went wrong on the Buccaneers in their early existence, Selmon was one of the few things that were right about this organization.
5. Bruce Smith
No one dominated a game from the outside in the late 1980s and early 1990s like Smith in the AFC. He was quick on his feet and when he retired, he was the all time leader in sacks. Few players could contain Bruce Smith. He was on the Bills teams that when to four straight Super Bowls.
4. Anthony Munoz
Maybe the best offensive tackle to ever play the game. Munoz was drafted before the Bengals got good. He played in two Super Bowls, but his teams lost to San Francisco in both games. Munoz was the standard by which tackles were judged in his playing days.
3. Dick Butkus
Just the name alone means football. He was the centerpiece of the Bears defense and when he charged at runners from the middle linebacker slot, there was nothing to do but cower at his feet. One of the few players to hit you and tackle you with his eyes open. One mean SOB.
2. Jim Kelly
He was a gunslinger from the get go. Buffalo made it to four consecutive Super Bowls under his watch and his arm, but he could not beat any of the NFC opponents in doing so. Kelly was a part of that great quarterback class of 1983 but opted to play football in the USFL before coming to the NFL and Buffalo.
1. Dan Marino
He held every passing mark when he retired. Marino was the Miami Dolphins. If he had a running game to work with, he may have had more than one Super Bowl appearance in his career. When he dueled with Joe Montana in 1984, it looked like the Dolphins would be the norm for the AFC in the Super Bowl. He never got back there.