The NFL is a league full of parity in terms of playoff turnover from year to year. Every season, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a good 3-4 teams in the postseason who weren’t there the previous year. By the same token, you can usually pencil in some teams immediately following a playoff exit and say they won’t be there next year. That’s part of what makes the NFL so fun. However in terms of the big prize, the NFL is still dominated by the usual suspects. For the past few years, the biggest Super Bowl contenders have constantly been the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers, with teams like the Ravens and 49ers thrown in there.
The point is, year after year, you don’t see teams like the Jaguars, Buccaneers, Titans or Browns making big strides towards a Super Bowl. The organizations just don’t seem to know how to build a contender, despite having some great players on their teams. Thus, these players are likely to suffer the fate of never winning a Super Bowl. Think of some of the great players of the past that never won one; Dan Marino, Randy Moss, Dan Fouts, Dick Butkus, Barry Sanders and Fran Tarkenton.
This list isn’t meant to be an indictment to these players, but rather on their organizations. It also includes aging players on struggling teams who will likely retire by the time their teams are contenders. There are also teams that look promising, but let’s face it, you just don’t see those teams winning the big one. It’s a harsh reality of the NFL that some teams just seem destined to lose forever.
I know I’m going out on a limb here, as these players have plenty of time to win it all. Some can even get themselves off this list if they were to join a contender in the near future. However, as it stands now, here are the top 15 active NFL players who will never, or at least very likely, will not win a Super Bowl.
15. Alex Smith
Alex Smith seems to be the perfect guy to not screw things up when your team is playing well, but not the guy that can lift your team to victory. That’s what it takes to win the Super Bowl, as Tom Brady lifted his team past the best defense in the league in last year’s Lombardi game. The Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game since the early 90s and while they currently seem to be stuck in neutral, the Broncos continue to contend, while the Raiders are creeping up on them. Eventually the Chiefs will be surpassed by those around them and Smith will either find himself on a new team, or Kansas City will ride him to the end.
14. Andy Dalton
Until Andy Dalton is able to win a playoff game, he’ll have to find himself on a list like this. While there’s plenty of blame to go around for the Bengals’ failures in the playoffs, plenty falls on Dalton for their last four. In his four playoff losses, Dalton’s stats are 88-for-158 passes, 873 yards and just one touchdown to six interceptions.
Cincinnati’s fast start this season has people high on the Bengals again, but we have to remember the team that shows up in January, and the Andy Dalton that shows up in January. If Dalton is going to win a Super Bowl, it’ll be as someone’s backup.
13. Julius Thomas
If Julius Thomas had stayed in Denver, or at least signed with another contender, he wouldn’t be on this list. However him taking the money and going to Jacksonville seems like a mistake that will dip his production and his chances of winning the Super Bowl. Thomas had amazing production under Peyton Manning, scoring 24 touchdowns in the last two years. While the jury is still out on Blake Bortles, it’ll be hard to see this Jags team surpassing the Colts while Andrew Luck is the QB, the Texans while J.J. Watt is terrorizing offenses and even the Titans are staring to look promising.
12. Karlos Dansby
Karlos Dansby is aging and he’s playing for the Cleveland Browns. He’s had a solid NFL career, nearing 900 tackles, 16 interceptions and 41 sacks. His best years came in Arizona and if he was still there with the current Cardinals roster, he’d have a chance, but in Cleveland he seems to be in purgatory, as the Browns’ future at QB is still up in the air and we’d have to see some stability at head coach and GM. In his 12th season, it’s a simple case of time running out on Dansby.
11. DeSean Jackson
DeSean Jackson isn’t in a great situation in Washington. While Kirk Cousins is having a good season, it still feels like the Washington Redskins are going to keep playing second fiddle to superior teams in the NFC. Do you really see the Skins surpassing teams like the Seahawks, Panthers and Packers in the coming years?
10. Matt Forte
Matt Forte has had great lasting power for a running back in today’s NFL. Now in his eighth season, Forte broke through as a rookie in 2008, rushing for over 1,200 yards and scoring eight touchdowns. Forte will likely pass the 10,000 yard rushing mark before his career is over, as he can possibly surpass 9,000 this season. Unfortunately, Forte now finds himself on a Bears team depleted with talent while he’s approaching 30. The only thing that can save Forte is a move to a contender.
9. Cameron Wake
Cameron Wake broke into the NFL late, so time was already working against him. Wake had to prove himself in the CFL first, where he became the league’s most dominant pass rusher. He earned himself a shot with the Miami Dolphins in 2009. Wake has become one of the NFL’s most consistent pass rushers, with 63 sacks as of Week 3 this year. The Dolphins though, seem to be an organization in flux, without solid leadership from the top down. Wake still hasn’t gotten a chance in the playoffs, and it’s unlikely the jump to the Super Bowl will come for the 33-year-old.
8. A.J. Green
A.J. Green is still in his prime, so it may seem curious as to why he’s here, but being that he’s with the Cincinnati Bengals, perennial underachievers run by a penny pinching owner, Green has the odds against him. In his fifth season, Green is a model of consistency at WR, and one of the game’s elite at the position, but he’s in a weird situation in Cincinnati. He’s made the Pro Bowl every one of his years and he may win more offensive awards, but barring a change of scenery or drastic changes to the organization, Green may keep coming up short.
7. Trent Williams
Trent Williams is often forgotten about because he finds himself on a team with a lack of direction in Washington. He was drafted to protect the franchise quarterback, who was at one point Donovan McNabb. When Washington drafted RGIII, they knew he’d be in good hands on the blind side with Trent Williams there. However due to chaos within the organization, Williams has found himself protecting the likes of Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy, Rex Grossman and heck, even John Beck for a while. The organization is just a mess, but Williams is locked in on a long-term deal. If he wants a Super Bowl, it’ll likely have to be somewhere other than the nation’s capital.
6. LeSean McCoy
Running backs have a short shelf life in today’s NFL and LeSean McCoy has started to be hit by the injury bug in the last couple of seasons. While Buffalo has a lot of talent on defense, an improving offense and Tyrod Taylor actually looking like a starting NFL quarterback through the first portion of the season, they could possibly find themselves in the playoffs, but it’s hard to imagine the Bills being able to defeat the likes of the Patriots come playoff time. When it comes to Buffalo winning a Super Bowl, people’s attitude is, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
5. Steve Smith Sr.
Steve Smith has come very close to the Lombardi trophy, making it to Super Bowl XXXVIII in Carolina and he has made several trips to the playoffs, but he has stated he is in his last season and the Ravens have stumbled out of the gate. Steve Smith has a chance to surpass 1,000 receptions this season, but unless the Ravens go on a dominant run until February, Smith’s career is going to close out without a Super Bowl title.
4. Joe Thomas
Joe Thomas has had a remarkable career, but he’s been stuck on a bad to mediocre team for all of it in Cleveland. Thomas has made the Pro Bowl roster in every one of his eight seasons, including five first-team All-Pro seasons. Back in 2011, the Browns made a Joe Thomas a very rich man, signing him to a seven year, $84 million extension. It turns out they’re paying their stud left tackle all that money to protect… Josh McCown. That’s a bad situation for a tackle on the wrong on side of 30. Poor Joe.
3. Ndamukong Suh
Ndamukong Suh fulfilled his goal of becoming the highest paid defensive player in the league this past offseason, but he went to an organization that can never seem to put it all together. Miami has plenty of talent, but they’ve yet to give them solid direction and Suh has gotten off to a rough start for the Dolphins. With his massive contract, he’s going to be a Fin for a long time, but his Super Bowl aspirations look bleak in Miami’s current state.
2. Philip Rivers
Philip Rivers might be the most under-appreciated quarterback of the generation because much like others on the list, the Chargers tend to be a team that constantly underachieves. Last season, Rivers surpassed the 35,000 yard mark and the 250 touchdown mark. His total career passer rating sits at 94.8. However, Rivers is 4-7 in playoff games and San Diego is in tough, with a division featuring Peyton Manning’s Broncos, a solid Chiefs team and an emerging Raiders squad. Rivers just signed an extension in San Diego, but you wonder if they’re ever going to reach the next level while Rivers is still performing at a high level.
1. Calvin Johnson
He’s the most talented receiver of the generation, yet we’ve rarely gotten to see Calvin Johnson play on a big stage. His Lions have lost both playoff games in Megatron’s career. Among Johnson’s career achievements are the single season receiving record, with 1,964 yards. Unfortunately, the Lions, despite a boatload of talent have yet to put it all together and they’ve never been able to solve Aaron Rodgers, the main obstacle in their way of Super Bowl contention. For football’s sake, let’s hope we see Calvin Johnson in a Super Bowl before his career is over.
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