The NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL are the four major professional sports leagues in America. Every major sports league brings in millions, or more, in revenue each season along with millions of fans to their respective stadiums located all across the country. They each hand out awards to the best players in their league and honor those same elite stars with an All-Star game. But the pinnacle of the each one is their league championship. The NHL has the Stanley Cup, the NBA has the NBA Finals, MLB has the World Series, and the NFL has the Super Bowl, the most coveted championship game of all four.
Besides the World Cup, the biggest single game in the world is the Super Bowl, watched by over 100 million people around the globe each year. It has become so big that the cost of buying ad space, also known as commercials, was $5 million for a 30-second spot in 2015. It is also something that every single football player strives to reach at some point throughout their career.
The Super Bowl has helped solidify player's careers while also proving their value to the other owners around the league. It is a surefire way to become a legend in the NFL. It is hard to consider a NFL player the greatest without winning a Super Bowl
Look at Dan Marino or Calvin Johnson, for example. Dan Marino might just be the best QB ever to play the game but since he did not win a Super Bowl, many dismiss him right away. Calvin Johnson, who recently retired, is another player that can be argued as one of the best at his position but he never even played in a Super Bowl, let alone win one.
What about the active players in the league that you probably did not realize had never won a Super Bowl? You have seen these players in the Pro Bowl, on award ballots, and signing huge contracts, but you probably did not realize they have not won a Super Bowl ring, ever. We went out and found the 15 best active players without a ring and decided to share them with you today.
15 Matt Forte, RB, New York Jets
Since 2008, Matt Forte has been tough to stop. He is not only a great running back, he is a great all-around athlete and has an incredible pass catching ability that made him a fantasy stud for quite some time. In fact, his worst season was arguably 2015 when he still managed to rush for 898 yards and four touchdowns while catching 44 passes for 389 yards and THREE scores. And that was in only 13 games.
The Chicago Bears spent eight seasons using him as the key to their offense. Matt Forte was responsible for 31% of the total offense of the Bears from 2008 to 2015. That was nothing new seeing as they used Walter Payton in the same way during the '80s. The 31% usage is not even the best in NFL history but certainly does paint a picture of a workhorse that was responsible for just about the entire offensive output of a bad team for many years.
He is now with the Jets so any chance he had at winning a Super Bowl just got a little thinner.
14 Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers
During his first year as a starter, in 2006, Philip Rivers was handed the reigns of the San Diego Chargers, who were loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. On defense, they had Shawne Merriman, Shaun Phillips, Quentin Jammer, and Donnie Edwards while on offense, the Chargers featured the leagues best running back with LaDainian Tomlinson and one of the best tight ends with Antonio Gates. He had a great chance at winning it all that year but fell flat after a home loss to the New England Patriots.
He came back with an 11-5 season the following year, and a 13-3 season in 2009 but has never reached the Super Bowl, yet. They got really close in 2008 when they faced the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game but lost 21-12.
Now 35 years old, he is getting closer to his final games of his career so he needs to make something happen soon or he will become another elite QB without a Super Bowl ring.
13 Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys
With 158 consecutive starts, Jason Witten owns the record for most consecutive starts for a TE and with a few more games to play, he should grow that number a little bit higher in 2016. But he is not just a dependable tight end, he is a great one that does exactly what he is asked to do, week-by-week.
Over the past few years, his numbers have declined as the Dallas Cowboys offense has changed with the times and is now more of a passing, spread offense than anything else. Before the dip in production, Jason Witten was among the league's best tight ends every year between 2007 and 2013. In that same span he averaged 90 receptions, 994 yards, and five scores a season.
There are a few players that have worked harder and longer that have nothing to show for it like Jason Witten. If the Cowboys do not choke in the playoffs this year, maybe it is finally his chance at that coveted Super Bowl ring he has been chasing since 2003.
12 Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Jets
Regardless of where he goes or who is throwing the ball to him, Brandon Marshall puts up 100 catches and 1,200 receiving yards consistently. He has quietly become one of the most reliable wide receivers in the league. After beginning his career in Denver, he has since moved on to Miami, Chicago, and, now, the New York Jets. Every single time he moves somewhere else, the critics think it is a mistake until he puts up the same big time numbers that he does every year.
Brandon Marshall has caught more than 86 passes for over 1,120 yards, and at least six touchdowns six different seasons. Only one other players has done this more times, it was Jerry Rice, he did it seven times. That means that Brandon Marshall only needs two more seasons with these numbers to become the only player in NFL history to do that, in that many seasons.
11 Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals
At Cincinnati, Carson Palmer was good enough but never great. Then he moved on to Oakland where he had zero protection and was constantly being forced into bad decisions which led to his departure in 2013. Then he signed with the Arizona Cardinals and he has finally found his place in the NFL.
It took him 12 years to put up his best season and he did it with an amazing offense that went 13-3 in 2015. That same year he threw for 4,671 yards, 35 touchdowns, and only 11 interceptions. All he needed was a little protection and he would be able to make big plays. Unfortunately for him, the chance to win a Super Bowl is shrinking by the years and since it does not look good for the Cardinals in 2016, he will be 38 next year and even closer to his final game.
10 Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers
Before Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski, there was Antonio Gates. The former collegiate basketball player turned NFL tight end has battled injury after injury since 2010 and has not been able to play a full season since. With the addition of Hunter Henry, the rookie TE from Arkansas, it looks as though the Chargers are going to be transitioning from Gates to a younger, healthier option in Henry.
In the meantime, Antonio Gates has seen his production levels decrease over the past four seasons and is all but finished with the NFL. He has just one more year left on his contract and then a decision will have to be made by him and the franchise where he has spent his entire career. So unless the Chargers bounce back in 2017, he could be another legend retiring without a ring.
9 Steve Smith Sr., WR, Baltimore Ravens
Steve Smith is one of the loudest trash-talking hot heads in the NFL. He has a reputation for being a loose cannon and blowing up on players but it is only because of his competitive edge. He is probably the hardest working wide receiver in the entire league so when it comes down to it, he can trash talk all he wants, he has earned it.
He was supposed to retire last year but tore his ACL and missed most of the season so he decided to return for another year and has done his best to help the Ravens get in position to win but with such a loaded wide receiving core, full of young and talented future stars, he has become less of a threat on the field and has seen a decline in numbers.
But his chances at finally winning a Super Bowl could happen this season if the Ravens can figure things out in the next few weeks.
8 Julius Peppers, DE, Green Bay Packers
With nine Pro Bowls, six NFL All-Pro selections, a 2004 NFC Defensive Player of the Year award, and the 2002 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, you would think that Julius Peppers would have won a Super Bowl ring by now, right?
Unfortunately for him, however, after spending eight seasons in Carolina, four in Chicago, and three in Green Bay, Julius Peppers has come close and even played in Super Bowl XXXVIII when the Patriots beat the Panthers on a last minute field goal. When he signed with the Packers, he had to have been thinking that he was going to get back sooner rather than later. But they have struggled recently and he might have to wait another year or so before getting another shot.
7 Nick Mangold, C, New York Jets
Last week, Nick Mangold was placed on injured reserve after spending the previous few weeks dealing with a serious ankle injury. It was not a surprise to many as the Jets have been worried about this move since he was rumored to return. Once he came back he made only one game before injured it again, this time was worse and could require surgery.
If Nick has surgery, one of the NFL's best centers, for almost a decade now, might be put into a spot that no player in the league wants to be forced into, and that is retirement. It has been reported that if he has to have ankle surgery, he could follow in the footsteps of his friend and former teammate, D'Brickshaw Ferguson. Or he could move on from New York and pursue a team that is chasing down a Super Bowl in one year when he becomes a free agent since it looks like he is all but done with the Jets.
6 A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Since A.J. Green was drafted in 2011, the Cincinnati Bengals have made it to the postseason every single year. However, they have choked every time and have not made it past their first game. They are 0-5 in that time period and fans are starting to get worried about their future. With so much talent, how can the Bengals continue to struggle like they do?
To no fault of his own, A.J. Green has made them one of the better offenses in the league but he can only do so many things to help them score points on offense. The defense has to do their part too. It does not look as though they are going to be in the playoffs this season and that only hurts A.J. Green's chances even more.
As long as they Andy Dalton behind center, they are highly unlikely to win a Super Bowl, even with the talented A.J. Green at wide receiver.
5 Frank Gore, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Every year, Frank Gore is pushed to the back of the running back line. Teams either think he is too old or is not worth the price. However, after analyzing the numbers, Frank Gore is quite possibly the greatest running back value in NFL history. He is basically a sleeper every single season and he still puts up 1,100 yards and six touchdowns.
During his rookie year, he rushed for 608 yards. After that, he has rushed for 1,000 or more yards eight times in the past 10 seasons which is including his 853 yards in 2010 and 967 last season. He is a 75 yards per game workhorse that is going to grind for three-to-four yards every carry. He is an absolute beast at pass blocking too. It all adds up for a 12,000 rushing yards career that could get him into a Super Bowl now that he is in Indianapolis, who are almost ready for a run.
4 Joe Thomas, OT, Cleveland Browns
After nine Pro Bowls, PFF's Bruce Matthews award, seven First-team All-Pro selections, and a Second-team All-Pro selection, Joe Thomas should be a household name to any NFL fan. The offensive lineman has dedicated his life to protecting the quarterbacks blindside and Thomas is the best in the league at it. He just has the bad luck of playing for the one team that is nowhere close to getting to the Super Bowl, the Cleveland Browns.
His talent was recognized during his rookie year and he actually finished second in voting for the NFL Rookie of the Year award in 2007 to none other than Adrian Peterson.
For some odd reason, however, Joe Thomas decided to stay in Cleveland and in 2011, he signed a seven-year $84 million ($44 million guaranteed) contract extension, which is a record breaking extension. So now he remains in Cleveland until, at least, 2018.
3 J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
After the way he has dominated the league, it is shocking to think J.J. Watt is only 27 years old and has never missed a game in five seasons (2016 would have been his sixth but he went down in Week 3 with a season-ending injury). His ability to anchor the defensive line, and the entire defense in Houston, has changed the game. It has changed the way teams draft defenders. It has changed the way to gameplan against him. He has caused QB's so much trouble that they tend to throw away from him just to avoid his giant, long arms.
When he returns in 2017, chances are, the Houston Texans defense will return to their dominate role in the league which could also put them in contention for a Super Bowl appearance. He is young and has not won a ring yet but he has plenty of time to get after it. He just needs his front office to find his offense a QB for the future.
2 Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
After seven seasons of running over people in the NFL, Adrian Peterson was well on his way to becoming the NFL's greatest running back ever. However, after the first game of the 2014 season, he was suspended by the NFL for a child abuse scandal that ended up costing him the entire 2014 season. He returned in 2015 and it was business as usual for him as he rushed for 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns. That was the moment the fans thought he was back but then he went down in 2016, this time, for the year.
Loyalty is a rare quality among NFL players but the greatest players of all time have it and Adrian Peterson proves it. He has remained in Minnesota since entering the league in 2003 and in that time, they have gone 79-80 with only four playoff appearances. They came close in 2009 but the New Orleans Saints shut that down during the NFC Championship game in the Superdome.
He might have another five or six years, maybe less if this injury does not heal properly, in the league so his time to win a Super Bowl is getting thinner by the weeks. He knows it, and the Vikings know it too.
1 Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals
If you are a fan of consistency, then you must love Larry Fitzgerald. The man rarely takes a day off and has been playing that way since he first entered the NFL in 2004. Throughout his entire 13-year career, Larry Fitzgerald has played in 199 games, out of a possible 205, and has averaged 85 catches, 1,097 yards, and eight touchdowns per season. Those are not pedestrian numbers. He has put up at least those numbers, five different times in his career. The only three players to do that more were Marvin Harrison, Cris Carter, and Jerry Rice. He has the some of the best hands in the NFL too making him reliable too.
He came so close to a Super Bowl ring and had an incredible performance during Super Bowl XLIII with seven receptions, 127 yards, and two touchdowns. With only 2:37 to go in the game, and trailing the Pittsburgh Steelers 20-16, he connected with Kurt Warner for a 64-yard touchdown that appeared to be the game winner until Santonio Holmes made one of the greatest catches of all time.