Every sports team dreams of winning a championship. It’s what they want, all their goals set for it and their fans are eager to celebrate if it happens. Thus, some may cite it as unfair that some teams can go years, decades (or in the case of the Chicago Cubs a century) without a championship while others seem to keep winning them over and over. Sometimes they can be centered around one player like the Jordan Bulls or the Brady Patriots. Other times it’s a true team effort to keep things going and help these guys to victory. And yes, sometimes, it’s about the money spent by the front office to push things along. Whatever the case, the results are what becomes a dynasty. They can be obvious (the Bulls winning six in eight years) or a bit more spread out (the Blackhawks winning three Stanley Cups in six seasons) but the fact remains than when a team wins multiple titles in a very short period of time, they have a right to that label and can be listed among the greats.
But there are those teams that aren’t lucky enough to become dynasties, despite all their talent and drive. Despite having incredible players, able to win the big trophies and such, they find themselves unable to repeat those feats again. Sometimes, it’s bad luck, the loss of a key player or two, stiffer competition or timing. Sometimes there is no compelling reason, the team just can’t replicate that same success even with the same people involved. It’s strange to see but it does happen and for some guys, one trip to the big stage holding the trophy is all they get. Here are 15 teams that should have turned their success into a long-range reign but it never happened, 15 teams who had the potential to become a dynasty, but ultimately failed in that regard.
15 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers
14 1968 New York Jets
Super Bowl III was a key moment in the transformation of pro football. Back then, it was still a clash of two leagues, the NFL and the AFL and when the Jets and the Colts met in the big game, the smart money was on the Colts. Joe Namath predicted victory for the Jets and was widely laughed at but ended up proving it as New York easily handled Baltimore 16-7 to win. It proved the AFL as a true league of its own and would push their merger with the NFL while also showing how the flashy pass style could beat a strong team.
13 1994 New York Rangers
For 54 years, Rangers fans had seasons of ups and downs but far, far too many bitter disappointments at the end to celebrate. But finally, in 1994, the drought ended as the Rangers were able to put together one of their best teams ever. Mark Messier led the squad with Sergei Zubov, Adam Graves and Brian Leetch among others, the team pulling off amazing victories with high scoring and tough defense, ending first in their division with a 52-24-8 record. In the playoffs, they played hard and fast, sweeping the Islanders, beating the Capitals in five games and the Devils in seven. The Finals were a back and forth affair but finally, the Rangers were able to beat the Canucks in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden crowd to finally be able to hoist the Stanley Cup after five and a half decades.
12 1983 Philadelphia 76ers
When the NBA of the 1980s is mentioned, most think of how the Lakers and the Celtics would constantly trade championships. However, there was one major break between those two powerhouses in the form the 1982-83 76ers. Sure, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird got the press but “Dr. J” Julius Erving brought his own amazing skill and flash, backed by rebound machine Moses Malone, Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney and Marc Iavaroni. Together, they amassed a stunning 65-17 regular season record, one that would stand as the greatest in the NBA until 1996. Their play relied on quick passing, excellent shooting and pushing Malone and Dr. J as the stars. They ended up sweeping the Lakers for the title, the last championship in the franchise’s history.
11 1999 St Louis Rams
From 1999 to 2004, the Rams were known as “the Greatest Show on Turf.” The key reason was quarterback Kurt Warner who was backed by Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, Kevin Carter and more to create a fantastic team that ruled the roost in the NFC. In 1999, Warner stunned the football world by throwing an amazing 41 touchdowns and sparked the Rams to a 13-3 record and winning the Super Bowl. That promised a long run but the sudden retirement of coach Dick Vermell hurt as Mike Martz put a bit too much pressure on Warner to build a pass-heavy offense that did rack up some terrific stats but couldn’t quite pay it off with more Super Bowl titles.
10 1968 Detroit Tigers
The ’68 Tigers didn’t just win the World Series. They healed a city that had nearly torn itself apart with race riots the year before, uniting black and white fans alike under their banner. Denny McClain was the star, winning a record 31 games as pitcher and a good team of Bill Freehan, Norm Cash, Don West, Willie Horton and Al Kaline. They ended the season with a 103-59 record and in one of the best World Series ever, defeated the St. Louis Cardinals.
9 1971 Milwaukee Bucks
In only their third season, the Bucks took off huge in 1970-71 as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar formed the core of a good team that had a 20-game winning streak to end up 66-16. Oscar Robertson brought some much needed experience while coach Larry Costello crafted excellent strategies that would lead to domination over opponents. They won the NBA title in 1971 with Kareem winning MVP and scoring awards. They would remain strong for a couple of years but lost the conference finals the next year and beaten by the Celtics in the finals a year later.
8 2010 Green Bay Packers
There may still be time but it still astounds that so far Aaron Rodgers has only been able to get to one Super Bowl. Even the biggest Packers hater (meaning your typical Chicago Bears fan) has to admire the man’s amazing skill and drive. So it’s baffling that the Packers team that managed to win the Super Bowl in the 2010 season were the guys who went 10-6, not the ones who went 15-1 in 2011 or 12-4 in 2014. The key factor is that while Rodgers’ talent is incredible, he’s hampered by an often poor defense not to mention some of the most idiotic coaching decisions around. More than one Green Bay writer has point-blank stated that without Rodgers, the team would have lost at least twice as many games in the last few years. Indeed, when Rodgers was out by injury in 2013, the Packers faltered badly and barely eked out a winning record, losing in the playoffs.
7 1982 St. Louis Cardinals
As far as Cardinals fans are concerned, the hopes of replicating the fantastic World Series championship success of 1982 died on June 15th, 1983. That was when Cardinals management, in one of the worst decisions ever, traded star first baseman Keith Hernandez to the Mets. Alongside Ozzie Smith, George Hendrick and Darrell Porter, Hernandez helped the ’82 Cardinals win the first NL East Division pennant and then through the playoffs. They would defeat the Brewers for the World Series but the loss of Hernandez was a major blow as the Cardinals became the first divisional-era World Series champs to fail to make the playoffs the next year, ending up in fourth place.
6 1988 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
To be fair, they gave it a good try. In 1988, Lou Holtz led his Irish squad to one of their greatest years ever, going undefeated, including a fantastic victory over Miami, eventually winning the Fiesta Bowl and becoming national champions. They were on the road to replicate that the following year, lasting all the way until the final week of the season where Miami got their revenge by beating the Irish in the Orange Bowl. Despite also having lost a game that season, Miami ended up being named national champions.
5 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning
After a decade of ups and down, including some turmoil among bad finances and management, the Lightning finally struck the big time in 2003-04 as they posted the second-best record in the NHL that year, first in the Eastern Conference and possessed a great line-up of young talent like Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards and others. Their great speed and smart play allowed them to dominate throughout the year until defeating the Calgary Flames in the finals to win the Stanley Cup.
4 1997 Florida Marlins
This is a fascinating case of how the exact same owner that built a fantastic championship team could be the same person to destroy it. As detailed in the book “If They Don’t Win It’s a Shame,” Wayne Huizenga opened his wallet big-time to pack the Marlins, a team that had existed for only four years, with the best players he could. Moises Alou, Kevin Brown, Cliff Floyd and so many more helped build the Marlins into a fantastic team that got a wild card berth and eventually defeated the Cleveland Indians in seven games to win the 1997 World Series. It was a wonderful moment for a young franchise and made baseball popular in Florida for the first time ever.
3 2006 Indianapolis Colts
In just about every category, Peyton is obviously the more talented of the two Manning brothers, a superstar who has easily locked in his eventual place in the Hall of Fame. However, in one regard, Eli will always have something to hold over his big brother; he’s two for two in Super Bowls (both times over the Brady Patriots no less) while Peyton is one for three. The 2006 Colts were the best of that bunch, going 12-4, squeaking by New England to reach the Super Bowl and Manning managed to get them going after the Bears scored on the opening kickoff. Their victory was top-notch, Peyton finally a champion and confident they could do it again.
2 1986 New York Mets
There were a lot of reasons to hate these Mets. There was the hard-partying, the showboating, the constant grinning, the arrogance, the taunting of opponents and, worst of all, the fact they could back every single bit of it up on the field. Winning 108 games, the Mets were a fantastic team with Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Keith Hernandez and more guided by Davey Johnson, who didn’t mind the team’s wild behavior as long as they kept winning. They dominated throughout the year, easily winning the NLCS and then to the World Series.
Yes, their victory there was majorly helped by Bill Bucker’s infamous boner but the skills the Mets boasted are what got them to the championship. However, that very same party mentality would soon cause their downfall with guys getting into trouble with the law, suspensions, injuries and trades along with poor play. They ended up in second place the next season and it just got worse afterward.
1 1985 Chicago Bears
To a man, every member of that storied Bears team agrees they should have more than one Super Bowl ring. Few teams have run roughshod over opponents as much as this Bears squad, who decimated with several shutouts and games nowhere near close contests. Even the 2007 Patriots didn’t crush teams as much as the Bears did (and they ended up losing the one game that mattered in the end). With a powerful defense, wild but skilled QB Jim McMahon, rising star William Perry and the incredible marvel that was Walter Payton, the Bears were led by Mike Ditka, who molded them into a force that only the Dolphins could slow down with a single loss that year. It culminated in Super Bowl XX as the Bears destroyed the Patriots to achieve victory.
But for some reason, this unstoppable force fell apart quickly. The exit of defense wizard Buddy Ryan hurt as did the rush of becoming media stars and the clashing of egos. The injuries affected as well as McMahon took a massive hit in 1986 that ruined the Bears in the playoffs and Payton retiring a year later. The flash was off in no time and Chicago would make only one more (losing) appearance in the Super Bowl over the next 30 years. Yes, they rank as one of the best single-season NFL teams ever but clearly they could have been a true dynasty if a few bad breaks hadn’t occurred.
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