Building an NFL super team is no easy feat. Between free agency, high contract prices, and the tendency of today’s great players to quickly become yesterday’s news, it takes a herculean effort to get enough talent on one NFL roster for long enough to finish a season. It’s why those few teams that do manage to achieve super status tend to have the highest of expectations. Fans don’t just expect the rare NFL super team to win the Super Bowl; they expect them to win a championship without ever losing a game or even allowing the opposing fans the chance to cheer. As any football fan will know, that’s rarely the case. Recent years have seen a wave of underdogs go all the way, but even before then, the NFL super team has a history of failing to really live up to their considerable expectations. There’s just something so much more memorable about a super team that falls flat on their face than a super team that manages to go all the way. Maybe that’s why we can’t stop thinking about these 15 stacked NFL super teams that failed miserably.
15 2015 Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys sold their soul for a Super Bowl. That’s what the headlines read when it was revealed that Jerry Jones had signed the controversial superstar Greg Hardy to the Dallas Cowboys. Hardy may have been one of the most fearsome defensive forces the league had ever seen, but he was also a man whose reputation was forever ruined over multiple instances of personal conduct violations that forced some to label him beyond redemption. Still, the addition of Hardy seemed to fill the biggest gap on an already stout Dallas Cowboys team. Few doubted that this would finally be the year the Cowboys got it together. Instead, the Cowboys succumbed to a plague of injuries the likes of which the NFL has never seen. What crushed their hopes in particular was Tony Romo suffering two major injuries. If they did sell their soul, they did it for a 4-12 record.
14 2001 Tennessee Titans
Since 1998, the Titans had been on a roll. Rarely had anyone ever seen a travelling franchise find their feet so quickly. They had made the playoffs year after year and even lost the Super Bowl by a single yard in 1999. After a 2000 season that saw the Titans finish 13-3 before losing to the Ravens in the divisional round, the popular consensus was that the 2001 Titans were still a powerhouse that would, at the very least, find themselves in Super Bowl contention once more. Instead, this would be the year that it all came to an end. The Titans looked exhausted by their previous success all year. They struggled to put together consecutive wins and barely managed to beat supposedly lesser teams. They finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs for the first time since ’98.
13 2010 Minnesota Vikings
If you stood far enough away from the 2010 Minnesota Vikings, they certainly seemed to have all the pieces they needed to put together a championship puzzle. Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson made up an imposing backfield, Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice looked to terrify opposing defenses, and the team’s defense led by the incomparable Jared Allen ran the world. Coming off of a 12-4 season that saw them dominate the Cowboys in the playoffs and barely lose to the Saints, the Vikings were the hot Super Bowl pick in 2010. A closer look at the team, however, revealed that those pieces weren’t quite as solid as they appeared to be. A midseason trade for Randy Moss proved to be a flop. Injuries forced Favre and Harvin to the sidelines while a coaching change plunged the squad into chaos. By the time the stadium of the team’s roof collapsed, the Vikings already had. They finished 6-10.
12 2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Contrary to how it may seem, the defending Super Bowl champions typically don’t enter the next year as favorites. It’s hard enough to win one Super Bowl, but winning back-to-back titles is nearly impossible. Still, the defending champions are at least expected to step up and set some kind of standard through their play. That’s especially true when you’ve got a team like the 2002 Buccaneers who simply crushed everyone in their path on the way to a Super Bowl where they destroyed the Oakland Raiders. Most of the talent remained the next year, but the mentality of the team had changed. A couple of rough losses by a few points early on had caused the team’s foundation to crumble. They were suddenly fighting each other harder than they were their opponents. In the end, it amounted to a 7-9 finish.
11 2003 Oakland Raiders
Not too far removed from the 2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the 2003 Oakland Raiders. Even though the Raiders weren’t expected to roll over the Bucs in the previous year’s Super Bowl, many expected a game between the league’s best offense and the league’s best defense to at least be interesting. Instead, Tampa Bay rolled over Oakland. They won so convincingly, in fact, that many figured the loss had to be a fluke. Surely the Raiders would return to their winning ways the next year. The Raiders may have lost many of their games that year by a matter of a mere possession, but they lost them nonetheless. Things got worse when quarterback Rich Gannon went down midway through the season and Oakland failed to find a proper replacement. Oakland could get nothing to work during this 4-12 season.
10 1994 Buffalo Bills
The early ‘90s Buffalo Bills are the greatest dynasty to never win a championship. In any other context, making it to four straight Super Bowls would be considered an accomplishment the likes of which few had ever dreamed of. It’s amazing how the context of that achievement changes when the team in question fails to win a single one of those games. Even though Buffalo entered the ’94 season with a lot of the same talent that had gotten them to those Super Bowls, it all finally fell apart for Buffalo. Right from the start, you could see the pain of previous failures etched onto the team's faces. Despite a 3-1 start, the team’s will crumpled in the later parts of the season. They finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs for the first time in years.
9 2009 New York Giants
It’s funny how a few weeks can change the fate of a team. In 2008, the New York Giants went 12-4 on the strength of a roster that included names like Eli Manning, Ahmad Bradshaw, Hakeem Nicks, and Mario Manningham playing out of their minds. New York had spent a few patient seasons assembling a roster that would be able to match up against everyone in the league, and their 2008 season revealed the team’s tremendous potential. However, 2009 proved to be a different story. After starting the season 5-0, the Giants went on a skid. It was equivalent to watching a baby deer trying to walk on ice. They just never found their footing. The team managed to scrape together a few wins late in the season, but they ended their promising season with an 8-8 record.
8 2002 Baltimore Ravens
If there was one thing you could rely on in the early 2000s, it was that the Ravens were going to enter and end each season with the most feared defense in the league. Even if they were beaten statistically by another unit, they would still end up being the one defense you didn’t want to stare down on the field. In 2000, this defense got Baltimore to the promised land and won them a Super Bowl. In 2001, the results weren’t quite as impressive, but the team’s 10-6 record that year still sent the message that Baltimore was a team to be feared. Well, at least until the 2002 season got started. Thanks in part to key injuries, the 2002 Baltimore Ravens defense suddenly looked like it was made of paper. Their 7-9 record was in no way represented their talent.
7 1999 San Francisco 49ers
For a long time, nobody could possibly imagine the San Francisco 49ers as anything less than a contender. After winning four Super Bowls in the ‘80s under the reign of Joe Montana, the 49ers transitioned smoothly to the era of Steve Young in the ‘90s. Going from one Hall of Fame quarterback to another isn’t too shabby, but what was really impressive was the way that the team managed to build such incredible talent around Young just as they had around Montana. Superstars like Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice helped the 1998 49ers make yet another playoff appearance. Their years of magic ended in 1999 when Steve Young went down in Week 3 and left a still-stacked roster scrambling for a leader. In the absence of one, they went 4-12.
6 1995 Cleveland Browns
Yes, believe it or not, there was a time when the Cleveland Browns fielded a super team. Despite their legacy of underachievement, the Browns of the early ‘90s had managed to collect a few key pieces of talent that head coach Bill Belichick had helped mold into superstars. Guys like Vinny Testaverde and Derrick Alexander may not have torn the league apart with their individual performances, but together, the squad had formed a cohesive unit that nearly everyone had to worry about. Everyone was calling for a Super Bowl in 1995. The rate at which that fell apart was astounding. Following yet another blowout loss, Browns owner Art Modell announced he was moving the team to Baltimore in the midst of what could have been an historic season. Blame it on talent, coaching, or management, but the Browns went 5-11 that year.
5 2002 St. Louis Rams
Given the speed of which they appeared out of nowhere, perhaps it was inevitable that the St. Louis Rams would fall apart at some point. Still, the potency of this franchise’s offense (once called the “Greatest Show on Turf”) seemed to ensure that the squad was no fluke. Nobody had ever quite seen a team explode on offense the way that the Rams had done during their 2000 Super Bowl campaign or their 2001 season that saw them barely lose to the Patriots in the championship. If you’re looking for a reason as to why the Rams fell apart in 2002, you can look no further than the injury to Marshall Faulk that effectively turned him into a non-factor and the shocking decline of QB Kurt Warner. No longer able to mount a fearsome offense, the Rams finished 7-9.
4 1995 Miami Dolphins
At a glimpse, the 1995 Miami Dolphins are far from the worst team on this list. They finished their year 9-7 and lost in the first game of the playoffs. That’s not great, but it’s a far greater season than many other teams on this list enjoyed. However, you have to look at this one in the context of the moment. Dan Marino and Don Shula were still in the midst of a spectacular long-running dynasty that had put them in rare company as a perennial contender. After finishing the previous year 10-6 and winning the division, they ended up with a 9-7 record in 1995 and just barely squeaked into the playoffs. Knowing that Shula’s time was at an end, the Dolphins were supposed to use that year to give their coach something memorable. Instead, they sent him limping into retirement.
3 2000 Washington Redskins
The 1999 Washington Redskins managed to take a few pieces of notable talent and turn them into an NFC East Championship. The Redskins may have lost their second game in the playoffs that year, but their 10-6 record suggested that the team was on the verge of great things. At the start of the 2000 season, owner Dan Snyder seemed to have pulled off a great talent coup. He not only signed Deion Sanders and Bruce Smith, he also managed to spearhead a draft that saw future greats Lavar Arrington and Chris Samuels join the team. Suddenly, the already good Redskins were overflowing with great players. Unfortunately, that talent didn’t really find a way to come together. The bond formed the previous year was seemingly interrupted by the big new names, and the Redskins finished 8-8.
2 2011 Philadelphia Eagles
Not everyone was willing to forgive Michael Vick for his crimes going into the 2011 season, but it seemed that Philadelphia fans were. Now that Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens, and some of the others that had helped to lead Philadelphia to the Super Bowl not long ago had departed, it seemed Michael Vick would be the one to spearhead a new era for the franchise. The team’s division win the previous year seemed to suggest that was the case. Following a lockout that shortened training camps, 2011 saw the potential the team displayed dissipate slowly over the weeks. Vick was back to being his inconsistent self and the Eagles suffered devastating loss after devastating loss. They eventually managed to scrape together an 8-8 record thanks to some late wins, but that record doesn’t really convey just how desperate things got.
1 1996 New York Jets
If money equaled championships, you’d not find a single owner in the NFL who wouldn't open up their checkbooks as often as the league allowed. Talent is important, but you can’t always rely on being able to buy it outright. It’s a lesson that the 1996 New York Jets learned the hard way. The Jets spent the last few years failing to live up to expectations, but they still fielded a respectable roster. No longer satisfied with having potential, the Jets front office spent a shocking $70 million during the 1996 offseason on new talents. The hype rookie Keyshawn Johnson attracted combined with the power of the team’s rebuilt offensive line put the Jets into an imposing position. A horror show at the QB position combined with other disappointments led to a shocking 1-15 record. Few teams had ever spent so much money to accomplish so little.