Winning a Super Bowl is the best accomplishment that a professional football player can achieve. Of course, the personal records are nice like most passing touchdowns in a season, most rushing yards in a season, etc. But nothing feels as good as winning the big one when all of the chips are on the table. Of course, there are also the players that put up some of the best statistical seasons of their career while ultimately not winning the big one. But the real question is this: who are some of the biggest names in professional football to never win the big one and who are some of the worst names to hoist the Lombardi Trophy?
Imagine being one of the top players on a team like the 1990s Buffalo Bills, who reached four straight Super Bowls and never being able to come out on top in any of those four championship games. Now, imagine being a part of the New England Patriots in the early 2000s when they won three championships in four seasons and getting at least one ring for doing close to nothing. Both of these possibilities exist and every single player on our list falls into one of these two categories. Pick the worse of two poisons: either be good and never win the big one or be below average and obtain a ring. Let's stop procrastinating and get right down to it. Let's look at 10 of the least effective NFL players that won a Super Bowl title and 10 of the best NFL players to play and never win a Super Bowl.
20 Least Effective: David Carr
The Houston Texans were just coming into the NFL and they decided in the 2002 draft that they needed a quarterback that would help bring them to greatness. They decided to go with David Carr and the results were not great, to say the least. Carr threw 59 touchdowns and 65 interceptions before he went over to the New York Giants in 2008.
He went to San Francisco in 2010 before rejoining the Giants in 2012 and was part of the Giants second Super Bowl run, finishing the job against the Patriots. Where was David Carr in this game? He was on the bench backing up Eli Manning. He won a Super Bowl ring with the Giants for doing nothing.
19 Never Won: Jim Kelly
One of the better quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL was Jim Kelly. Kelly was the catalyst behind the Buffalo Bills winning the AFC championship four years in a row from 1990 to 1993. The no huddle offense did wonders for Kelly and his efforts were rewarded as he was a five time Pro Bowl quarterback, a First-Team All-Pro member in 1991 and a two time Second-Team all Pro member as well. Kelly and that Bills team had four chances to win the big game and they simply couldn't do it. They deserved to win at least one ring. Imagine if Buffalo Bills kicker Scott Norwood just aimed his kick a little bit more to the left?
18 Least Effective: Trent Dilfer
The Baltimore Ravens were an all-time great defense in the 2000 season and rolled over the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. The Ravens were 'led' by Trent Dilfer at quarterback and he wasn't exactly Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers out there. Dilfer was known as a "game manager." Basically, he was relying on the strength of Baltimore's dominant defense and not making any costly mistakes to bring the Ravens the title.
Dilfer was let go and then re-signed as a backup the following season to the Seahawks. It's amazing to think about just how ineffective he was during that season, especially in the Super Bowl. Twelve completions and one touchdown aren't exactly MVP-caliber numbers.
17 Never Won: Thurman Thomas
Besides Jim Kelly, the Buffalo Bills had an outstanding running game led by Thurman Thomas. Thomas was one of the best running backs in the 1990s, as he was part of the 1990s All-Decade team. Thomas also was a five time Pro-Bowl running back and was the NFL MVP in the 1991 season. He, like Kelly, was a part of all four Bills Super Bowl losses. The really ironic part is during one of those Super Bowls, his helmet was misplaced, which ultimately cost the Bills a touchdown and supposedly changed the momentum of that particular game against the Redskins. Thomas's career would have been totally complete with a Super Bowl ring.
16 Least Effective: Jason Garrett
Jason Garrett is a former NFL quarterback who seemed to find himself in the right place at the right time. Whenever people talk about the Cowboys Super Bowl wins, one name that always gets mentioned first is Troy Aikman. Garrett was the backup and had his shot playing when Aikman had an injury. Garrett played a few games, got sidelined for another backup and then found himself on the bench for the rest of the season. Garrett won two Super Bowl titles with the Cowboys in 1993 and 1995.
Garrett is now the head coach of the Cowboys and tried to bring the knowledge he gained from those teams to the current day Cowboys. So far, it hasn't worked. But he still has those two rings forever.
15 Never Won: Cris Carter
The Minnesota Vikings had one of the best wide receiving corps during the 1990s. One of those receivers was none other than Cris Carter. Carter had some of his best years with the Vikings as he was an eight-time Pro Bowl wide receiver. He was a two time First Team All-Pro and had a Second Team All-Pro appearance in 1995 as well. He also was the leader in three different seasons in touchdown receptions. He finished with over 1,100 receptions, 130 touchdowns, and over 13,000 receiving yards. It's just a shame that Cris Carter never got to experience being able to hoist the Lombardi Trophy above his head while with the Minnesota Vikings.
14 Least Effective: Brock Osweiler
Imagine being a part of a team that gets the top seed in the conference, because you were leading the way, and then get benched for the biggest game of the season? That is what happened to Brock Osweiler. Osweiler was with the Denver Broncos during the final years of Peyton Manning's career. When Manning was injured and/or ineffective, Osweiler came in and helped the Broncos to a number one seed in the AFC. He finished with just below 2,000 passing yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. He was eventually replaced again by Manning and watched the Broncos win the Super Bowl from the bench. He is now in Miami, trying to prove he can be a consistent NFL starter.
13 Never Won: Tony Gonzalez
This next man is regarded as one of the best tight ends to ever play in the NFL and the numbers certainly can back up that claim. Tony Gonzalez is known as one of the greatest players to suit up in a Chiefs uniform. He has many records with the Chiefs such as most career receiving yards (10,940), most career touchdown receptions (76), most yards from scrimmage (10,954), as well as a few others. The only thing Gonzalez didn't do was be a part of a Chiefs or Falcons team that won the Super Bowl. Tony Gonzalez had some playoff appearances, but that was as close as he got to winning it all.
12 Least Effective: Michael Floyd
One of the most ineffective wide receivers to win a Super Bowl was Michael Floyd. Floyd spent the first part of his career with the Arizona Cardinals before he got into some off-field issues, which led to his eventual release. He was then picked up by the New England Patriots to add some wide receiver depth. He didn't do much for the Patriots, besides maybe a big block to help Julian Edelman score a long touchdown at Miami. He ended up with a Super Bowl ring, despite being inactive for both the AFC championship and Super Bowl. Talk about Michael Floyd being in the right place at the right time.
11 Never Won: LaDainian Tomlinson
One of the most dynamic running backs of all time, and certainly in Chargers history was LaDainian Tomlinson. A lot has changed, as San Diego is now L.A. and the Chargers have Melvin Gordon commanding the backfield. But during the days of L.T., the Chargers had one of the best backs in the game. He was a five-time Pro-Bowl running back, a three-time First-Team All-Pro, a three-time Second-Team All-Pro, the NFL MVP in 2006, along with being a two time NFL rushing yards leader and three-time NFL rushing touchdown leader. LaDainian Tomlinson never got experience of becoming a Super Bowl champion, which would have added to his historic legacy that much more.
10 Least Effective: Charles Johnson
Charles Johnson has found himself to be a very fortunate man when it comes to where he played his football, both in college and the pros. He was a part of the Colorado Buffaloes who saw themselves as a national powerhouse in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with a national championship in there as well. Johnson was a part of that team. He also was a part of the Patriots first Super Bowl winning team in 2001. The only issue was that he didn't do much during his career with the Patriots. But it is all in hindsight now, as he has a National championship ring and a Super Bowl ring to always cherish forever.
9 Never Won: Bruce Smith
It wasn't just the Bills' high tempo offense that got them to four straight Super Bowls. It was getting everybody involved on the defensive and special teams side of the ball as well. Nobody went through it worse on defense than Bruce Smith. Smith was one of the most dominant defensive ends in the history of football. He made the Pro Bowl 11 times, was a two time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, was a four-time AFC Defensive Player of the Year and was a part of the 1980s and 1990s All-Decade teams. Bruce Smith was a great player during his career, but the Super Bowl trophy would have been the icing on top of the cake.
8 Least Effective: Patrick Pass
The New England Patriots won three Super Bowls in a span of four seasons to start their historic run of consecutive winning seasons. There were some great players on that team like Tom Brady, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, etc. However, there were also players like Patrick Pass who didn't contribute much of anything, yet still have three Super Bowl rings. Pass had four total touchdowns while also being a part of the special teams unit as well. Pass may never have done anything significant toward helping the Patriots win their three Super Bowls in the early 2000s. But he will always have the rings to prove he was on those juggernaut New England Patriot teams.
7 Never Won: Randy Moss
Get your 84 jerseys back out, because writing about this next NFL wide receiver is going to be a fun ride. While Cris Carter was one wide receiver that Minnesota had that was spectacular, Randy Moss was another wide receiver that was young and exciting to watch. Moss had one of the rarest combinations of good size and lightning speed to create great separation away from cornerbacks and defensive backs as well. Moss is a six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver and was the NFL receiving touchdown leader for five teams.
His best chance at a Super Bowl was with the Patriots in 2007, but they fell just short. If the Patriots had just finished the undefeated season in 2007. He got another shot late in his career with the 49ers, but San Francisco fell short, losing to Baltimore in Super Bowl XLVII.
6 Least Effective: Jacoby Brissett
The Patriots had a problem when Tom Brady was suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season. They had Jimmy Garoppolo before he went down with an injury which opened a door for Jacoby Brissett. Brissett won one start and lost the other before going back to the bench when Tom Brady returned. Brissett was then traded to the Colts and started before Andrew Luck came back this season.
When the Patriots won their 2016 Super Bowl, Brissett got a ring for doing almost nothing. It must be nice to play behind somebody like Tom Brady and have a Super Bowl ring lying around for studying the playbook more than seeing the actual playing field.
5 Never Won: Dan Marino
Not many players in the NFL stay with one team anymore. One quarterback that stayed with the Miami Dolphins his whole career was Dan Marino. Marino is one of the best quarterbacks of all time to never win the Super Bowl. He was the quarterback of the Dolphins when they were the only team to defeat the 1985 Bears during their Super Bowl run. Marino was a nine time Pro Bowl quarterback, the NFL MVP in 1984, the NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 1994, and has countless amounts of other awards as well. Dan Marino should have been in a title game based on his statistics alone. But unfortunately, it just never panned out that way.
4 Least Effective: Rohan Davey
Coming out of LSU in 2002, Rohan Davey was not expecting to be the starter of the New England Patriots with everything Tom Brady had done for them just a season before. Davey spent three seasons with the Patriots and mainly saw his time in the preseason or during blowouts. Davey was fortunate to be able to win two Super Bowls with the Patriots in 2003 and 2004 while Tom Brady did all the hard work of actually winning those games. He had a 56.5 passer rating during his time in the NFL, which means he was very ineffective, to say the least.
3 Never Won: Eric Dickerson
One of the best running backs during the 1980s and into the early 1990s was Eric Dickerson. Dickerson was part of the "Pony Express" at SMU that made them a national powerhouse, combined with Craig James. Dickerson was highly effective with the Rams, Colts, Raiders, and Falcons. He was a six-time Pro Bowl running back, was the NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 1986 and was the NFC Offensive Player of the Year three times. Dickerson never had the opportunity to win the Super Bowl with his brilliant resume. At the end of the day, Dickerson should have had a better chance at the Super Bowl. He just simply ran into some better teams.
2 Least Effective: Brad Johnson
Some people might disagree with this one, especially if you are a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan. But for a majority of his career, Brad Johnson was ineffective and not that great of an NFL quarterback. He found lightning in a bottle once in 2002 where everything went right for him and the Buccaneers ended up winning the Super Bowl. But was it all legitimate? Johnson even admitted that he had the ball boys fix the footballs to his liking before the Super Bowl that season. Brad Johnson might have messed with the footballs a little bit, but in the end; he is a Super Bowl champion. His career as a whole was not as impressive, however.
1 Never Won: Barry Sanders
The Detroit Lions had one of the best ever to play the game in Barry Sanders. Sanders was all business when it came to playing football. He didn't celebrate or taunt after a touchdown, he just went about his business. That way of playing paid off as Sanders was a Pro Bowl running back in every season he played in. He was also the 1997 NFL MVP, along with being a two time NFL Offensive Player of the Year and a four-time NFL rushing leader. Sanders never got to experience playing in the Super Bowl and it was truly a shame. Sanders probably could have won the game all by himself.