First, let me put up a couple of links to NFL Super Bowl Standings.
- The official NFL Super Bowl Standings, which ranks the teams by winning percentages.
- The Wikipedia Super Bowl Standings List, this one based on the number of appearances.
Now to parse out the subtleties:
First, The List of Shame (Teams who’ve never played in the Super Bowl):
The Houston Texans are the newest team on this list, and the Jacksonville Jaguars are still new enough to have an excuse. The present incarnation of the Cleveland Browns is also pretty new, although when the Baltimore Ravens were known as the Cleveland Browns they were unable to make it to the Super Bowl (and I don’t care what the official history of the NFL says, the present Browns are a new and different team from the team that moved over to Baltimore).
Then there are the Detroit Lions; also (once) known as the Lie-Downs and the Puddy-tats. It’s been over fifty years of embracing mediocrity (and one year of going 0-16 – only thing harder to do is to go 19-0), and it looks like the Super Bowl will stop being played before the Lions have a chance to make it to the Super Bowl.
(Can you tell I’m a Detroit Lions fan? I may be a “fair-weather” fan, but I represent them whenever I’m asked about my allegiances.)
Any Given Sunday, Anybody?
Now, onto the topic of Super Bowl Appearances by teams: Out of fifty-one games, the New England Patriots have appeared in nine games, while the Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers have appeared in eight games each, making these four teams responsible for thirty-three Super Bowl appearances, or 32.4% of the slots filled by those four teams. These same five teams have won the Super Bowl a total of nineteen times, for 37.25% of the victories – and the percentage of wins would be higher if it weren’t for the Denver Broncos.
Think of it: four teams, or 12.5 percent of the teams have nearly one third of the appearances, and over one third of the victories.
Add in the following teams, each with 5 (or 6) appearances:
- San Francisco 49ers
- Green Bay Packers
- New York Giants
- Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
- Washington Redskins
- Miami Dolphins
We’re now up to sixty-four appearances by ten teams. Just under one third of the teams have just under two thirds of team appearances in Super Bowls. They also have 40 of the 51 victories — nearly four fifths of the victories have gone to teams that have shown up five times or more.
Again: The top ten teams, or just under one third of the NFL, accounts for nearly 80 percent of the victories in Super Bowls.
Things start getting dismal once you get below five appearances. Teams with four appearances in the Super Bowl have a 2-10 record at the big game. Granted, two of the teams had the bad luck of being superior teams in truly inferior conferences (The Vikings during the ’70s, the Bills during the early ’90’s), but we’re talking the separation between consistently good and consistently bad; and it shows.
As for teams with 3 or less appearances, outside of the Baltimore Ravens they are either .500 or below, or have had one Super Bowl showing. Indeed, there’s two stats which show what to expect from the occasional appearance:
- Teams with three or fewer appearances have a 9-17 record in the Super Bowl. That record goes to 11-27 if you expand it to four or fewer appearances.
- For teams debuting in the Super Bowl since 1990, the record is 4-7 for first-time appearances, 6-13 if you count all appearances for teams that have debuted in the Super Bowl since 1990 (which IS an improvement over the past few years).
So while the saying is that “Any Given Sunday” anyone can beat anyone, it seems that the historically good franchises tends to shine in the Super Bowl. So right now, it’s best to say Don’t Believe The Hype”
Cursed, Blessed Cities?
A couple other items to note while looking at the Super Bowl Standings: It’s much harder to go undefeated than to go winless. Only the Baltimore Ravens (with TWO victories for two appearances) have gone undefeated with more than one win, while four teams have had multiple appearances without victories to show for it.
Second, while it’s obvious why Detroit and Jacksonville have not appeared in the Super Bowl, there are a couple of cities which have not been represented at the Super Bowl despite having multiple teams. Cleveland missed the Super Bowl with the earlier Browns after co-dominating the fifties with Detroit, and the new Browns Franchise (Official NFL History can kindly go to hell here) has not really made much of a move.
Houston is another city that seems to be cursed. While it has the newest franchise, it also had probably the only franchise that finished over five hundred in the regular season and finished last in its conference. (This was the AFC Central, with Pittsburgh in peak form).
So in a way, you’re talking about two unlucky towns. Teams that almost made it (or made the wrong time to be “good enough” in certain cities, only to move on and make the final jump into the Super Bowl. (note: while the Tennessee Titans lost their Super Bowl appearance, they DID appear).
And what’s there to say about Baltimore? One team wins and loses a Super Bowl game in Baltimore, moves to “Greener Pastures” and wins a super bowl after a LONG fallow period; while a storied franchise moves in from Cleveland (again, NFL official history be damned) and does what it couldn’t do in its original home city (appear in, and WIN the game – twice). That city, while not necessarily stable (nor the powerhouse, as the Washington team down the road seems to always garner more attention), seems to be blessed for its faithfulness to Pro Football — they have their own fan club, band and other support teams, which have stuck with the city and driven the NFL (or franchise owners) to add franchises to the city.
Some cities are lucky, others unlucky. Sometimes even the disappearance and appearance of teams into these cities can’t change their innate luck.
Finally: What Do I Ask For In a Super Bowl?
Outside of the Detroit Lions showing up and dominating to the point of the opponent begging for mercy, I expect a good game. I want to see good play on both sides (teams and players rising to the occasion), a closely-fought game that requires both teams to play all sixty minutes (although I’ll take fifty-eight plus – the Victory Formation works for what it does), and enough doubt at the end to keep my attention. Not every game can be Super Bowl XLIX (which not only had a miracle catch on the ground, but probably the greatest defensive play ever – start at 3:10 for the twin highlights), but if there’s no mood shots of the losing team moping around towards the end of the game (or at the end of the third quarter, as some of the ’90’s era blowouts gave us) I’ll be happy.
I won’t expect much from the advertisements. Their day has come and gone, and someone will have to do something radically different AND radically good for their ad to be remembered.
I want the National Anthem to be good. Same for the halftime show. No mailing it in (unless you’re the Rolling Stones). If you must mail it in, look like you’re trying (Hear me, Mr. Neville?) Don’t try to be fancy (Aretha – PLEASE? And that goes DOUBLE after your Thanksgiving 2016 National Anthem – I don’t CARE if that wasn’t the Super Bowl!). And don’t try to hide with questionable visuals or gimmicks (Everyone in the Super Bowl XXXVIII Halftime show, Jessica Simpson excluded.). And PLEASE, KNOW ALL THE LYRICS TO THE NATIONAL ANTHEM (Christina Aguilera, I’m talking to YOU.).
Is the above wish-list too much to ask? The game is its own creature, but the performers and advertisements…please, be good. You can control yourself.