The last Super Bowl was a terrific victory for the Los Angeles Rams but especially for Matthew Stafford. After thirteen seasons, the former # 1 draft pick was finally able to escape the list of one of the best players in the NFL not to win a Super Bowl. Sadly, the remainder of that list is plentiful as, despite many chances, some NFL legends were never able to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Some came close with a shot (or three) at the Super Bowl but failed to win. Others, amazingly, never even got that far, losing in the playoffs despite all their incredible talent. It’s amazing how men can be in the Hall of Fame with records likely never to be topped but still not possess a Super Bowl ring, while long-forgotten guys have one. These are the ten best NFL stars to win a Super Bowl to remind fans how unfair that Big Game can be.
10 Barry Sanders
Much like Jim Brown, it’s arguable Barry Sanders might be holding some huge NFL records had he not decided to retire after just ten seasons. In that time, Sanders amassed a stunning array of success for the Detroit Lions as the Heisman Trophy winner was twice the offensive player of the year, made the Pro Bowl in every season, and the 1997 MVP.
He was the rushing yards leader four times and his 1997 season was stellar. Amazingly, Sanders retired short of breaking the all-time rushing record and the Lions never getting past the NFC title game, but his legacy of him remains as one of the best players in Detroit history.
9 Fran Tarkenton
To Minnesota Vikings fans, Fran Tarkenton is still one of the best QBs in franchise history. His career di lui was notable for playing for Minnesota from 1961 to 1966, taking a break for five years with the Giants and then another seven in Minnesota.
He led the Vikings to three Super Bowls in that time, but sadly, each was a hard loss with Tarkenton having a poor game. Yet that doesn’t discount his career achievements of 47,003 yards and 342 touchdowns, both records at the time of his retirement di lui. So while he could never get that elusive win, at least Tarkenton helped the Vikings taste the Super Bowl a few times.
8 Randy Moss
Twice, Randy Moss had a shot at a Super Bowl win but each time couldn’t add it on. A two-time All-American, Moss started for the Vikings before being traded to the Raiders. In 2007, he joined the Patriots, part of that team that went undefeated in the regular season only to suffer a shocking Super Bowl upset loss to the Giants. That was more bitter given Moss had just set the single-season touchdown record.
He had another shot at the Super Bowl with the 49ers only to lose to the Ravens. Thus, despite being second all-time for single-season receptions and one of the best wide receivers in history, Moss never did get that Super Bowl ring.
7 Dick Butkus
He may not hold the records like others but Dick Butkus excelled in changing what a middle linebacker could do. One of the fiercest and most feared players in the game, Butkus didn’t tackle opponents, he mauled them and left them offenses in matters.
An eight-time Pro Bowler and twice defensive player of the year, Butkus had the bad luck of being the best player on an otherwise bad period for the Chicago Bears. Had they the offense to match his ferocity di lui, the Bears could have won a lot more. His post-playing career di lui as a broadcaster and actor may make some forget how fearsome Butkus was in his playing prime di lui.
6 OJ Simpson
Yes, OJ Simpson’s legacy is much different today. But make no mistake, in his prime di lui, “the Juice” was one of the most outstanding players the game has ever seen. He was the first to rush for 2000 yards in a season and still holds the record for the single-season yards-per-game average.
Yet, despite that talent and that fame, Simpson could never help the Bills or later the 49’ers to a Super Bowl. His name di lui means something much different today, yet Simpson still has to rank as one of the best players never to get a chance at the Big Game.
5 Eric Dickerson
After a stellar college career, Eric Dickerson was an easy # 2 pick in the 1983 draft by the Rams. Notable for his goggles (due to his myopia di lui), Dickerson led the league in rushing in four seasons, a six-time Pro Bowler and still holds the single-season rushing record.
Over eleven seasons, the closest the Rams got to the Super Bowl was losing the 1986 NFC title game to the Bears. Dickerson was traded to the Colts, where he still had good numbers but not playoff success. While an obvious Hall of Fame choice, Dickerson never got a chance to rush for a Super Bowl title which he deserved.
4 Tony Gonzalez
Before Tony Gonzalez came along, few cared that much about the position of tight end. Gonzalez redefined what a TE meant over a career that included 14 Pro Bowl appearances, only two games missed out of 270 and just two fumbles on 1327 touches.
He holds the NFL records for total receiving yards (15,127) and receptions by a tight end (1,325) and is third all-time on the receiving list. Unfortunately, all that couldn’t help the Chiefs or the Falcons do well with the playoffs. An easy Hall of Fame choice, Gonzalez also ranks as the best tight end to never get to the Big Game.
3 Terrell Owens
While he was slammed a few times for his ego and behavior, Terrell Owens was one of the prime players of his time. From the 49ers to the Eagles, Owens ranks third in recovering yards and receiving touchdowns and remains the only man to score two or more touchdowns against all 32 NFL teams.
It’s also impressive how many records he holds across five different teams. He made nine receptions for 122 yards on a semi-broken leg in Super Bowl 39, which the Eagles lost. While he made some enemies with his attitude di lui, TO’s numerous records make him one of the best receivers to not get a championship.
2 Jim Kelly
It’s one thing to never get to the Super Bowl. It’s another to have just one shot at it. But imagine going to four straight Super Bowls and not one of them a victory. That was the fate of Jim Kelly, who helped turn the Buffalo Bills into a powerhouse of four consecutive AFC championships from 1991 to 1994.
Yet each time, the Bills lost, which had to hurt. Kelly was a fun guy and a talented QB, so it’s sad he’s best known for one of the biggest “coming up short” stories in the history of the NFL.
1 Dan Marino
A classic scene in the 1999 Adam Sandler movie LIttle Nicky has Dan Marino literally offering to sell his soul to win a Super Bowl. For all his amazing accolades by him, Marino will sadly be known as the best QB to never win the big one. With 155 victories amid scores of titles, the nine-time Pro Bowler and MVP was always terrific, with his quick arm di lui leading the Dolphins to victories.
Yet his only Super Bowl appearance was crushed by Joe Montana and the 49ers. Marino had a successful post-playing career as a broadcaster, but Marino sadly never added a ring to his many accolades of him.
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