Tom Brady, the Golden Boy of the NFL. The 11 time pro-bowler is already a first ballot Hall-of-Famer, and his career isn’t even over yet. He is a threat to win another Super Bowl every year, and after getting more weapons to play with this off-season, Brady looks primed to make it again. The New England Patriots have made the playoffs in all but 2 of Tom’s seasons since getting the reigns as the starter in 2001, and has led them to the Super Bowl 6 times.
Going to the Super Bowl so often it really gets you thinking on who he beat. His rivalry with Peyton Manning was great, but Manning did end up retiring with 2 rings. Ray Lewis was another rival for Brady, but Ray got a ring. Ben Roethlisberger has a few too. That’s where it stops though. So many great players never won because Tom Brady didn’t let them. Here are 15 star players who never won a ring thanks to Tom Brady.
15 Steve Smith
Tom Brady isn’t the sole reason a player like Steve Smith never won the Super Bowl. It’s not his fault, as there were few players that have had the talent that Smith had. For the answer look no further than the fact that he played for a franchise content with giving him a slew of ineffective QBs and then unceremoniously choosing to cut him as soon as they get a good one. Jake Delhomme was great (more on that later), but he was rarely on the field. The other QBs that were throwing to Smith included Matt Moore, Chris Weinke, David Carr, and Jimmy Clausen. His one trip to the coveted game was Super Bowl XXXVIII, Smith’s second season in the league. Following the loss, it looked that Smith was in a great position to return to the big game soon and often, but that never came to be. The Panthers never built a team to compliment their Pro-Bowl receiver and Smith never returned. His career is not over, and he does have a chance to go win a Super Bowl with the Ravens, but that seems unlikely. Smith may always look back at that game and curse Brady for taking his ring.
14 Philip Rivers
Another player who technically has a chance to win a ring, as unlikely as it looks. Rivers can blame a whole lot of people for his Super Bowl-less career. Coaches who couldn’t manage a defense, a franchise that refused to give him weapons, Eli Manning for taking his spot in New York; but that isn’t really fair as he has been able to lead teams to the playoffs, only to come up against the monster road block known as Tom Brady. Rivers played Brady in back-to-back post season, losing each time. Those seasons were Rivers’ closest to becoming a champion, but kept getting swatted back in his face. There is definitely an opportunity for Rivers to win, he is still one of the top 10 QBs in the game, but the Chargers don’t see overly interested in building around him, and the frequent trade rumors surrounding him have to be getting annoying at this point. He will forever know that it was Brady who impeded his chances at glory most of all.
13 Jake Delhomme
Jake Delhomme couldn’t stay healthy later in his career. He was a fantastic find for the 2003 season, when he led the Panthers to the Super Bowl. However the rest of his career was a slew of disappointing injuries and he only saw playoff action two more times in his career. Despite playing very well in the Super Bowl, it was Tom Brady who went home with a ring after the Panthers fell on a last-minute field goal by Adam Vinatieri. Delhomme did everything he possibly could to win that game throwing for 323 yards, 3 passing touchdowns, no interceptions, putting up a 113.6 passer rating and throwing the longest touchdown pass in Super Bowl history, but it just wasn’t enough to stop Brady.
12 Mike Vanderjagt
It’s hard to really say that Mike Vanderjagt was a true star. After all, he was a kicker. But during his tenure in the NFL, Vanderjagt was often thought of as one of the better kickers in the game. In 2003, Vanderjagt became the first kicker in the league's history to go an entire season, including the playoffs, without missing a field goal or point-after attempt. Now you can make the case that Vanderjagt is really the one to blame when discussing why he never won a ring. In 2005 he missed a costly field goal meant to force overtime with the Steelers in the AFC Championship game, but every year before that it was Brady and the Patriots costing him a trip to the big game. The Patriots had playoff victories over Mike and his Colts in both 2003 and 2004, Vanderjagt’s best seasons. You take away Tom Brady and who knows what could have been, Vanderjagt may have won multiple rings.
11 Chad Pennington
Another player who isn’t quite a star, but Chad Pennington was a much better Quarterback than most like to remember. Part of the reasons his numbers aren’t amazing is because he played in Tom Brady’s division every year of his career. Brady may have only gone up against Pennington in the playoffs once, but his absolute dominance of that division made it a pipe dream for guys like Chad to make the playoffs, less win it all. Every year that the Patriots did not win the AFC East division, it was Pennington leading either the Jets or the Dolphins to the playoffs. This is no coincidence; Pennington was easily a playoff caliber QB who just was always stuck behind a guy who will be remembered as one of the greatest to ever play the game. It wasn’t as if Pennington was making deep playoff runs those years he did manage to go, but if he could have had the constant success that Brady had, we may have a whole different outlook on this man’s career.
10 Ricky Williams
Ricky Williams had a lot of problems, but he was always a stud on the football field. Playing a bulk of his career in Miami, Williams falls in the same category as his once teammate, Chad Pennington, as a player who rarely made the playoffs because Tom Brady always did. Through seven seasons with the Dolphins, Williams saw playoff action 1 time, with the team, in 2008 when Matt Cassel was playing substitute QB in New England. The difference between Ricky and Chad is that Ricky had a chance to do more. In 2011, he signed with the Baltimore Ravens in an attempt to join a playoff team with his eyes on that elusive Super Bowl win, and he was pretty close. That year the Ravens made it to the conference championship, a win away from going to the big one. And who did he meet there? Tom Brady. The Ravens didn’t make the Super Bowl that year.
9 Edgerrin James
James had the poor luck of playing on the Colts with Peyton Manning before he figured it all out and won a Super Bowl. The closest James got with the Colts to getting a ring was in 2003 when they met Tom Brady in the conference finals. This was the game that really started the Manning Brady playoff rivalry, which Brady has dominated for the most part. Despite playing well, James could not scratch out a win. Fans will remember that Edgerrin did get close to winning a Super Bowl with Arizona in the 2008 season, but he may always remember those years with the Colts for what could have been.
8 Andre Johnson
Technically there are 3 guys who kept Johnson from getting his ring; Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, and Tom Brady. How was Johnson going to win playing in Houston, when those 3 guys represented the AFC in the Super Bowl nearly every year? To be fair Andre Johnson played on some pretty mediocre teams in Houston for most of his career, failing to make the playoffs until 2011, his 9th Arguably the best chance the Texans had was 2012, when they actually had a healthy Matt Schuab, and Arian Foster ready to lead the team to victory. They got passed the Cincinatti Bengals, and were ready for their next matchup with the Pats. Tom Brady dashed Houston’s fans hopes with a 41-28 dismantling of the team. The effects of that game can still be seen with the franchise as their QB situation has been a mess ever since.
7 Terrell Owens
T.O. wasn’t known for his playoff performances. For a guy who ranks at the top of the list in career receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, he was mostly ineffective in the playoffs, catching only 53% of balls thrown at him and racking up only 751 yards and 5 touchdowns in 12 appearances. However, in his lone playoff appearance with the Philadelphia Eagles T.O. put on quite the show. Despite breaking his leg in December, he returned for Super Bowl XXXIX to face the Patriots. Owens had 122 receiving yards in the game. As he has done to so many other stars, Brady didn’t let T.O. win a ring that year, and Owens never even got close to the big game again.
6 Fred Taylor
Many people may not remember much about Fred Taylor because he played in the sinkhole that is the Jacksonville Jaguars franchise, but boy was he something special. He was partially responsible for the Jaguars only 4 franchise Playoff appearances and he played well. In 2005 he was part of one of the better running back tandems in the league with Maurice Jones-Drew, and despite getting hurt, the Jaguars made it to the playoffs, but then Tom Brady ousted them. They did it again in 2007, but with the exact same result. Sick of getting beat by Tom Brady, Fred Taylor joined him for the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Fun fact: the 2009 and 2010 playoffs were the only years that Brady went to playoffs and didn’t win at least 1 game. Seems like Brady just has it out for Taylor.
5 Brian Dawkins
Brian Dawkins lost to Tom Brady in Super Bowl XXXIX. He was the leader of the Eagles defense which was the best in the NFL, and he was arguably one of the best safeties to have ever played the game. He went to 9 pro-bowls and was named to the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team. He was the first player in NFL history to record at least 30 interceptions and 30 forced fumbles. Those accolades are nice, but not even close to what he wanted. Dawkins’ may always look back at that one game in February and curse Tom Brady’s name for taking that ring away.
4 Rich Gannon
Tuck Rule! That was the game that truly lost Rich Gannon his ring (if we ignore that one time he embarrassed himself playing in an actual Super Bowl). During the 2001 season it looked like the Raiders were in prime position to go to the Super Bowl. The Patriots had lost their starting Quarterback and the Steelers were not equipped to go up against Jon Gruden’s defensive juggernaut. It wasn’t exactly going to be a cakewalk, but the Raiders were looking forward to Pittsburgh when they played New England, and their 6th round draft pick starting at QB. Down 13-10 Brady was hit on his right side by Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson, and he lost the ball and the Raider’s recovered it effectively ending the game. The referees decided to review the play, and even though almost everyone watching the game (and even the announcers) saw it as a fumble, the refs disagreed and called it an incomplete pass. The Pats were able to kick a field goal and win in overtime, but the Tuck Rule will forever be remembered as one of the most controversial rulings of all time.
3 LaDainian Tomlinson
Do you know how many times Brady knocked LT out of the playoffs? 3 times! To put that in perspective, Brady has only knocked Manning out of the playoffs twice. Tomlinson did everything possible to try and lead his Chargers (and Jets) past Brady, but never could. His MVP season even ended with Brady beating him. It’d be one thing if there was ever a situation where Tomlinson got the better of the golden boy, but he never did. In the playoff he was 0-3 vs. Brady and he let the team get in his head. He was a loud critic of Bill Belichick and chastised the team for being rude following their victory in 2006. He has since said he regretted those statements, but apologizing won’t get the Patriots to send him a ring.
2 Donovan McNabb
We’ve talked a lot about Super Bowl XXXIX in this article, but when you look at that Philadelphia Eagles team, you can’t help but notice that ridiculous lineup that they were playing with. The team boasted Pro Bowlers T.O., Brian Dawkins, Tra Thomas, Brian Westbrook, David Ackers, Michael Lewis, and of course Donovan McNabb. McNabb was one of the most respected and talented people to have ever played the game and he is partly responsible for the introduction of dual threat QBs seen in the NFL today. He never won a ring. Nothing McNabb did in the NFL makes up for that fact and he may miss out on a Hall of Fame induction because of it. His 37,000 passing yards and 234 touchdowns are bordering on Hall of Fame numbers, but the lack of ring is rough. If things just went a different way in that game. If Brady just wasn’t so good, people would have a lot more respect for Donovan McNabb.
1 Randy Moss
18-1. The Patriots put together one of the greatest teams of all time, but they went 18-1. Yea it wasn’t Tom Brady’s fault, but guys Randy Moss left signed with the Patriots purely to play with Tom, and he couldn’t finish the job. New England steamrolled through everybody on their way to a perfect regular season, and had a fairly easy path to the Super Bowl only to be shocked by the New York Giants. That game was the first time all season Brady wasn’t able to put up 20 or more points and it was Randy’s best shot at getting a ring. Despite having one of the greatest careers of anyone who has ever played the game, Moss didn’t get to the playoffs often. He was on a Minnesota team that never could find a QB for him, and an Oakland team that was… well it was the Raiders in the mid 2000s, you can’t be much worse. When he got to New England he expected to win, and they did, until the game that mattered most.