In this, the 50th anniversary of that quasi-holiday, man-made spectacle known as the Super Bowl in which heroic efforts are lauded and legends created, let us stop to consider those football greats who were not fortunate enough to win a Super Bowl ring.
When you consider that Charles Haley had the good fortune to play for the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers and win five Super Bowl rings, yet all those players that played their entire career with Arizona, Atlanta, Buffalo, Carolina, Cincinnati, Detroit, Houston, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Philadelphia, San Diego and/or Tennessee were never part of a Super Bowl winning team.
The list of following players, many that are in Pro Football’s Hall of Fame, may surprise you. Presenting the 50th Anniversary All-Time Non-Super Bowl Winning Team:
At quarterback, it can be none other than Dan Marino. Marino retired as the quarterback with the most completions, passing yards and touchdowns in NFL history. Marino played in SB XIX at the young age of 23 in only his second season in the NFL and probably believed that he would have other Super Bowl appearances. Neither he nor the Miami Dolphins have played in a Super Bowl since.
Honorable mention: Dan Fouts, Jim Kelly, and Fran Tarkenton.
At running back, at what might be the most difficult to choose between current and future Hall-of-Famers the picks are: Barry Sanders and O.J. Simpson. Sanders, a 10-time Pro Bowl selection, most likely would of been the NFL’s all-time leading rusher had he not elected to retire after a career playing for a seldom playoff contender in the Detroit Lions.
Simpson, the first running back to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season, unlike those that have accomplished the feat since, did so in a 14-game season in 1973. Simpson was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time team.
Honorable mention: Earl Campbell, Eric Dickerson, Adrian Peterson, Gale Sayers, and LaDainian Tomlinson.
At wide receiver, the choices are Randy Moss and Larry Fitzgerald. One could make a strong case that Moss was the second greatest receiver all-time and perhaps the most naturally gifted receiver ever. A seven-time Pro Bowl selection and member of the 2000s All-Decade team, Moss finished with 156 touchdown receptions. Fitzgerald has been selected to the Pro Bowl nine times in his amazing career spent entirely with the Arizona Cardinals. It took a remarkable Ben Roethlisberger-to-Santonio Holmes touchdown pass in Super Bowl XLIII to keep Fitzgerald eligible for the non-Super Bowl winning team.
Honorable mention: Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Calvin Johnson, Charlie Joiner, James Lofton, Steve Largent, Terrell Owens, and Andre Reed.
At tight end the choice is Tony Gonzalez. Can one argue with a 14-time Pro Bowler and the all-time reception, receiving yards and touchdown receptions leader for tight ends in NFL history?
Honorable mention: Antonio Gates, Ozzie Newsome, Charlie Sanders, Jackie Smith, Kellen Winslow, and Jason Witten.
At tackle: Anthony Munoz and Willie Roaf. Munoz spent his entire career with the Cincinnati Bengals and was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time team. Munoz was an 11-time Pro Bowl selection. Roaf, also an 11-time Pro Bowl selectee, played most of his career with the New Orleans Saints and finished his career with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Honorable mention: Dan Dierdorf, Walter Jones, Jackie Slater, and Ron Yary.
At guard: John Hannah and Bruce Matthews. Hannah, perhaps the greatest guard in NFL history, was a 10-time All-Pro and was named to the NFL’s 75th anniversary All-Time team. Hannah spent his entire career with the New England Patriots.
Matthews was a 14-time Pro Bowler and 10-time All-Pro and named to the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade team. Matthews spent his playing career with Houston and Tennessee.
Honorable mention: Steve Hutchinson, Tom Mack, Randall McDaniel, Mike Munchak, and Will Shields.
At center: Dermontti Dawson. Dawson had the quickness that made him the rarest of centers. A seven-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro, Dawson was named to the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade team.
Honorable mention: Kevin Mawae, Dwight Stephenson, and Mick Tinglehoff.
Turning to the defensive side of the ball and as they say defense wins championships, any coach would of loved to have any of these players:
At defensive tackle it’s clearly Merlin Olsen and Alan Page. Olsen, the gentle giant out of Utah who played his entire career with the Los Angeles Rams, was a 14-time Pro Bowler and was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-time team.
Page was one of the quickest defensive tackles to ever play the position and was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection while playing for the Minnesota Vikings. Page finished his career with the Chicago Bears.
Honorable mention: Cortez Kennedy and John Randle.
At defensive end: Deacon Jones and Bruce Smith. Jones, the Secretary of Defense, was one of the greatest defensive players ever. An eight-time Pro Bowler, Jones was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time team.
Smith, an 11-time Pro Bowler and nine-time All-Pro selection at defensive end, retired with an amazing 200 sacks to his credit. Despite Smith’s outstanding play his Buffalo Bills came up on the losing side in four Super Bowls.
Honorable mention: Elvin Bethea, Carl Eller, Claude Humphrey, John Randle, Lee Roy Selmon, Jason Taylor, and Jack Youngblood.
At linebacker: Dick Butkus, Derrick Thomas, and Junior Seau.
When one thinks of the image of a linebacker, often times Butkus is the image that comes to mind. An eight-time Pro Bowler, Butkus was named to the 1960s and 1970s All-Decade teams.
Thomas, a nine-time Pro Bowler and member of the 1990s All-Decade team, has 126.5 sacks in his illustrious career. Seau, a 12-time Pro Bowler, reached the Super Bowl twice but was on the losing side on each occasion.
Honorable mention: Randy Gradishar, Clay Matthews, Jr., Tommy Nobis, and Brian Urlacher.
At cornerback: Champ Bailey and Aeneas Williams. Bailey was a 12-time Pro Bowler and had 52 interceptions despite teams often avoiding throwing in his area.
Williams, who played for the Cardinals and the Rams, was an eight-time Pro Bowler and named to the 1990s All-Decade team and finished his career with 55 interceptions.
Honorable mention: Lem Barney, Lemar Parrish, and Roger Wehrli.
At safety: Ken Houston and Larry Wilson. Houston was a 12-time Pro Bowl selection and was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time team. Houston had 49 interceptions in his career. Wilson was an eight-time All-Pro and was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time team as well. Wilson played his entire career with the St. Louis Cardinals and had 52 interceptions.
Honorable mention: Kenny Easley, Paul Krause and Carnell Lake.
On special teams, the placekicker is Morten Andersen. Andersen retired as the all-time leader in games played in the NFL with 382 and is also the all-time leading scorer in NFL history with 2,544 points. Andersen spent the majority of his playing career with New Orleans and Atlanta and also had stops in New York, Kansas City and Minnesota. Andersen was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection.
Honorable mention: Gary Anderson, Nick Lowery, and Jason Hanson.
Punter: Shane Lechler. Lechler is the all-time career punting average leader in NFL history with a 47.5 yard average. A seven-time Pro Bowl selection, Lechler was named to the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade team.
Honorable mention: Greg Montgomery, Reggie Roby, Todd Sauerbrun, and Rohn Stark.
Kick returner: Devin Hester. Hester has been named to the Pro Bowl four times and was selected for the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade team. Hester is the NFL’s all-time leader in combined kick/punt return touchdowns.
Honorable mention: Dante Hall, Billy “Whiteshoes” Johnson, and Rick Upchurch.
There you have it, the NFL’s All-Time Non-Super Bowl winning team. It’s one list that it is an honor to be considered for but players would not rather make and be instead remembered as a Super Bowl champion.
John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.