The Big Show No Shows - Super Bowl Wannabees

By Chris Lawton

The Big show no shows are the teams always on the outside. The ones who every year are wondering what it would be like to go to the big dance. Their fans have waited plenty of time for championship success. Even Conference Championship success.

Some Aren't No Shows, But They Didn't Show Up...

There are 12 teams who have never won a Super Bowl. In fact, there are 8 teams that have been, but always come up empty. The Arizona Cardinals, LA Chargers, and Tennessee Titans are all 0-1. The Bengals, who came close in 2022 are 0-3 alongside the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons. Whilst the greatest Super Bowl suffering has come for the Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills. Both are 0-4 at the Big Dance, the latter even doing it in consecutive seasons (1990-1994).

Yet there are four teams who can only dream of this sort of suffering. Four teams whose fans have never even experienced the idea of their team being at the show – the Super Bowl big show no shows.

What really got me to thinking about this again was how close this list came to being down to three teams this past weekend.

The No Shows – how long have they waited?

Being a Super Bowl wannabee is one thing. But how long have the fans of each of these outsiders been waiting? How long has each franchise suffered?

Let’s take a look and delve a little deeper into the 4 teams still waiting to knock on the door of the room holding the Lombardi trophy.

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Houston Texans - First Year: 2002. Seasons without a Super Bowl appearance: 22

The Texans, who played out their first season in 2002 have an all-time regular season record of 152-202-1. They have played in 12 playoff games going 5-7 in that time.

The furthest they have gone in the playoffs is to lose Divisional Round games in 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019 & this past season.

Two decades after their expansion season they finished in 2020 4-12 and 2021 4-13, pretty much mirroring their 4-12 expansion year. Things were on the up this last year however as they finished 10-7, won a playoff game, and lost in the Divisional Round. Texans fans will be hoping it is a sign of bigger things to come.

At least they can point to 9 winning seasons. Plus, their fans have had the shortest wait of any of the Super Bowl no show teams.

Jacksonville Jaguars - First Year: 1995. Seasons without a Super Bowl appearance: 29

The Jags who played out their first season in 1995 have an all-time regular season record of 198-269. They are 8-8 in the playoffs.

The furthest they have gone in the playoffs is to lose in the AFC Championship Game in 1996, 1999 & 2017.

After a 4-12 expansion season the Jaguars went 45-19 over 4 seasons and made 2 AFC title game appearances.

Their last AFC title game in 2017 was a heart-breaking loss away at the Patriots. After that, they were terrible going 15-50 over the next 4 seasons. However, they, like the Texans have shown signs of life of late. They have posted back-to-back 9-8 seasons with a playoff appearance last year and will be hoping they can build on that platform for further success.

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Cleveland Browns - First Year: 1946. Seasons without a Super Bowl appearance: 58. Seasons since a Championship: 60

The Browns who played their first season in the AAFC have an all-time record of 512-530-11 in the NFL regular season. As well as going 12-22 in the postseason.

Their opening years were incredibly successful. They finished their first season as AAFC champions following a 12-2 season. In fact, they won every AAFC Championship (4), going 47-4-3 in the process and having a perfect season on the way. Proving that was no fluke they would appear in 7 of 8 NFL title games between 1950 and 1957 picking up three NFL titles as they did so.

The Browns’ last NFL title – a 27-0 romp over the Baltimore Colts occurred just two years prior to the Super Bowl era.

During the Super Bowl era these big game no-shows have made the 1969 NFL title game (pre cursor to the NFCCG), and the 1986, 1987 & 1989 AFC Championship games). Their fans were heartily sick of the Denver Broncos in the 1980s as they were the obstacle they could not pass every time they were one game away from the Super Bowl.

Following a run from 2003-2019 where they failed to make the playoffs, and recorded winless seasons, the Browns last made it as far as the Divisional Round following an 11-5 2020 season. A slight slump followed but they were back in the playoffs this year after an 11-6 run. Fans will hope they don’t slump again like they did in 2021-2.

Detroit Lions - First Year: 1930. Seasons without a Super Bowl appearance: 58. Seasons since a Championship: 67

The Lions played their first year as the Portsmouth Spartans in 1930 finishing 5-6-3. They have an all-time regular season record of 591-707-34. As well as a playoff record of 9-14.

The Lions won NFL titles in 1935, 1952, 1953, and 1957. In the Super Bowl era, however, they have only really come close to the title game twice. And, they have never come closer than they did this year.

In 1991 a 12-4 Lions team progressed to the NFC Championship Game. Where they were upended 41-10 in Washington. I’m not sure their fans ever felt there was a chance of them going to the Super Bowl in that one either!

The Lions had yet to record a postseason win since that game. Until this season when they went 12-5, defeated the Rams and Bucs on their way to the NFCCG only to drop a heartbreaker to the 49ers 31-34 having been ahead 24-7 at the half.

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The Big Show no-shows – where to now?

One of the things the NFL prides itself on is parity. On any given Sunday any team could beat another. You should be able to draft your way out of a downward spiral. The salary cap should make things an even playing field.

And yet. Here we are going into the 58th Super Bowl and four teams, – the Steelers, Patriots, 49ers, and Cowboys have 22 wins. This game will be between a Chiefs team in its sixth Super Bowl and making its fourth appearance in five years. Facing a 49ers team in their 8th Super Bowl and making their second appearance in five years. 

Meanwhile, these four teams still haven’t even crossed the threshold of the big game.

Who will be the first to scratch their name off this list? We can only imagine what an outpouring there would have been in Detroit if the Lions had made it. Ultimately we don’t know who may get there first, but it will be fun being there when they do – especially for their long-suffering fans.

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Chris originally started following the NFL with the ‘first wave’ of fans when it was shown on Channel 4 in the 1980’s. He has been a keen supporter of the Miami Dolphins since 1983. Chris first encountered the CFL in 2016 and instantly fell in love with the Canadian game. He has been writing about the CFL 2017. Chris has a degree in history, postgraduate degree in librarianship and can be found on twitter as @CFLfanUK