North America is home to four of the biggest sports leagues in the world, and although every single one is now a multi-billion dollar enterprise, it is the National Football League that reigns supreme. The NFL was first founded 97 years ago, but it was not until 1966 that the league became the entity we know today, and over all of that time, the league has managed to provide audiences with the best players the sport has to offer. Granted, the NFL has had its fair share of problems, both on and off the field, but those problems have done fairly little to actually hinder the league’s popularity, which is why the championship game is still considered to be an unofficial holiday in the Untied States.
Just like every other professional sports league, the NFL sees every single team vying for championship glory, which in this case is the Vince Lombardi trophy, which gets awarded to the winning team in the Super Bowl. It is the dream of virtually every football player to win a Super Bowl title, because winning at least one provides a player with complete validation, as it shows that all the hard work and risks were worth it. Winning a championship also gives players bragging rights, because only the best of the best are supposed to be able to get a ring, and those bragging rights increase if you manage to win multiple titles. It is true that most players who win multiple Super Bowls are great players, but there are also some who essentially get carried to those wins, and their stats more than reflect that, and this article will try to identify 15 of those players.
15. Bob Griese
In all of NFL history, there has only been one team to have a true undefeated season, the 1972 Miami Dolphins who upon winning the Super Bowl, finished the year with a perfect record of 17-0. The following season saw the team win their second straight championship, and at the helm of both those teams was quarterback Bob Griese, who was mainly on the team to fill the quarterback spot on the field. Griese played for 13 years, in which he never passed for over 2,500 yards, and he almost never threw for more than 20 touchdowns. In truth, the Dolphins won their consecutive titles in spite of Griese, who managed to get zero touchdowns while passing for only 158 yards in both games combined.
14. Larry Brown
Larry Brown was a cornerback who came into the NFL in 1991 after being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, and aside from spending one year in Oakland, he spent his entire career in Dallas, where he won three Super Bowls. When the Cowboys won back-to-back titles in 1992-93, they did so with very minimal help from Brown who was more or less just there for the ride, but in 1995, he actually showed up to play. Brown happens to be the definition of a one-hit wonder, as his 2 interceptions in Super Bowl XXX basically won the Cowboys the game, which is why he was named the game’s MVP. He turned those interceptions into a big 5-year contract from Oakland, who waived him after just one season, because he proved to be what he always had been, a blight on defense, and overrated due to that one big Super Bowl game.
13. Eli Manning
The New York Giants have not been that good the past few seasons, with this season looking like a complete travesty, but things were not always this bad, as the franchise won two championships in 2008 and 2012. A common thread between those teams and the current one is Eli Manning, who has been the team’s starter since 2005, and who was named the MVP in both their Super Bowl wins. Eli is considered to be one of the better quarterbacks in the league, but as he has demonstrated the past few years, he is not a real game changer like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers; and truth be told, his MVP awards should have gone to other players who did make game changing plays. It is true that he can throw for over 4,000 yards. and get at least 30 touchdowns, but he is known for throwing tons of interceptions, and for often missing his clearly open receivers.
12. Ricky Proehl
From 2011 to 2016, Ricky Proehl served as a coach for the Carolina Panthers, but prior to that, he spent 17 seasons as a wide receiver, where he played for the Cardinals, Seahawks, Bears, Rams, Panthers, and Colts. Over all that time, Proehl made it to four Super Bowls, where he walked away with two rings, with the first coming with the Rams in 1999, and the second coming in his last year in 2006 with Indianapolis. Proehl actually played a key role in the 1999 championship win, as he made an incredible one-handed catch in a game where the Rams’ offence was pretty much shut down. That was the best moment in his career though, and he was carried by the Colts in 2006, as he made 0 catches in that Super Bowl, while making just 3 during that entire year.
11. Earl Morrall
We have already talked about Bob Griese, but he was not the only sub-par quarterback on Miami’s championship teams, as Earl Morrall also found himself hitching a ride on the Dolphins’ coattails. It is true that Morrall had three really good seasons, but that did not stop him from basically spending the rest of his 21-year career as a backup, who only played in Super Bowl V after the legendary Johnny Unitas went down with an injury; and in that game, he recorded an interception and no touchdowns. That was how he won his first championship, with the next two coming as Griese’s backup in Miami, where he just sat on the bench the entire time, and for good reason too, because in 1972, when Morrall had to start for an injured Griese, he attempted just 150 passes in 9 games, which resulted in 7 interceptions.
10. Bubba Paris
From 1985 to 1990, the NFL was essentially dominated by the San Francisco 49ers, who managed to win three Super Bowls during that time period, thanks mainly to their overwhelming offence. The team’s offence was so good that virtually every member of the offensive line went on to finish their career with multiple awards and Pro Bowl appearances, all except for Bubba Paris, who never earned any of those accolades. The former offensive lineman was by no means an All-Star player or Hall of Famer, and he definitely did not deserve any awards, because he was in fact the worst player on the 49ers’ offensive line; but the rest of the offence was just so good, that his weaknesses did little to negatively impact the team, who won him three championships.
9. Matt Millen
The 1981 and ’84 Raiders, the 1990 San Francisco 49ers, and the 1992 Redskins were all very good teams who went on to become Super Bowl champions, but they also had something else in common: Matt Millen was on all of their championship rosters. In 12 seasons, Millen managed to win four titles, which is why the Detroit Lions thought that the former linebacker could be a good General Manager, with the result being that he set the franchise back nearly a decade. There a some analysts and former players who believe he was a pretty good player, as he had 11 sacks and 9 interceptions for his career, as well as a lot of tackles, but those stats are actually quite misleading, as he played for teams who all had superb defenses designed to make him look better than he was.
8. Brandon Browner
In 2013, the Seattle Seahawks won their very first Super Bowl, and during that championship run, cornerback Brandon Browner had the best season of his career, which he turned into a three-year, $17 million contract with the New England Patriots that offseason. The very next season, Browner won his second championship when the Patriots beat his former team, but during that season, it became quite clear that he was still a defensive liability, as he often needed help from a safety to cover an opponent. That performance led to New England getting rid of him, which is why he joined the New Orleans Saints in 2015, and that year, he was so bad, that he was somehow able to break the single season NFL record for most penalties taken.
7. Deion Branch
Whether you love them or hate them, the Patriots are without a doubt the most successful franchise of the past 15 years, and several sub-par players have benefited from the team’s greatness, including Deion Branch. The wide receiver spent a combined five seasons with the Patriots, and was part of the team that won back-to-back Super Bowls in 2004 and 2005, championships that New England won while Branch was basically just wandering around the field. Branch played in the NFL for 11 years, and in all that time, he never received for more than 1,000 yards, and was never able to finish a season with more than 5 touchdown passes, which is a real testament to how bad he was considering that Tom Brady was his quarterback, and Brady makes every wide receiver around him look like an All-Star.
6. Derek Loville
No matter the sport, if a player’s career lasts for just eight years, where they play for three different teams, then it is pretty safe to assume that they were not that good of a player, and Derek Loville is an example of this. 1994 was Loville’s best season, where he rushed for 723 yards while averaging 3.3 yards per carry, but other than that performance, he never finished a season with more than 229 rushing yards. In 1995, Loville won his first Super Bowl with the 49ers, where he rushed for just 99 yards the entire year, which was embarrassingly low considering San Francisco’s offence. His other two Championships came in back-to-back wins with the Denver Broncos, and in those seasons, he combined for just 285 yards and 3 touchdowns.
5. Terry Bradshaw
The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the most iconic franchises in NFL history, and have 6 Super Bowl championships to show for it, with four of them coming in the 1970s when Terry Bradshaw served as their starting quarterback. Bradshaw is a member of the Hall of Fame, and he is enshrined in history for throwing what is known as the “Immaculate Reception”, while also being named Super Bowl MVP twice. Despite those accolades though, many NFL historians do not rank him amongst the best all time, and for good reason, because over the course of his career, he completed barely half of his passes, and managed to throw just as many interceptions as he did touchdowns, which by today’s standards are pretty bad for a starter. Many also believe that it was in fact Pittsburgh’s defense that earned those Super Bowls, and that the team could have won with really any other quarterback.
4. Roman Phifer
Roman Phifer was a linebacker who spent a combined 15 seasons in the NFL, and over all that time, he found himself playing for the Rams, Giants, Jets, and most importantly, the Patriots. He may have played for more than a decade, but Phifer was nowhere close to being a great player, as evidenced by his stats, which show that in 177 starts, he only managed to get 29 sacks and 11 interceptions; and he did not tackle as often as teams would have liked. Near the end of his career, Phifer found himself with New England, where he was basically used to fill the roster, a role that he kept for four seasons, but he probably did not complain about his role, seeing as the team went on to win three Super Bowls in that time.
3. Damon Huard
Unless you are a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs, you have probably not heard of the name Damon Huard, because he was the team’s starting quarterback for a few seasons, with his best year coming in 2006, where he had just 1 interception and threw 11 touchdowns. The next two seasons were not as good though, as Huard threw a combined 13 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, numbers that proved that he was at best just a mediocre backup. With that being said though, he has more Super Bowl rings than legends like Brett Favre and Dan Marino, as he sat on the sidelines and watched as Tom Brady led the Patriots to the 2001 and 2003 championships, which makes him the first quarterback to benefit from being Brady’s backup.
2. Ethan Kelley
The Patriots have already been mentioned on this list several times, and will be again with this entry, as they are literally the only reason why former defensive tackle Ethan Kelley has two with the Pats, he spent literally his entire time on the bench, watching as his teammates won him back-to-back championships in 2003 and 2004. After being waived by the team following their 2004 victory, he signed with the Cleveland Browns where he played for three seasons, in which he made a combined 9 starts. Those 9 starts were in fact the only games he ever started in during his career, and I am pretty sure if he could do it all over again, he would gladly take the two rings over starting in more games.
1. Marc Wilson
Had the Raiders done the right thing and gotten rid of Marc Wilson, the franchise could have probably won not just a third but a fourth title in the 1980s. Wilson went back and forth between being a starter and a back up, and in 1981, he threw for 8 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, which was bad, but not bad enough to prevent the team from winning that year’s Super Bowl. The following year, he went 5-4 as Oakland’s starter, and threw 19 interceptions while getting just 14 touchdowns, costing the team a postseason run. The next year, during his one and only playoff start, he threw 3 interceptions which led to a loss. Another team would have gotten rid of him, but Oakland decided to keep as a backup for one more year, a year that saw them give him a second Super Bowl win.
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