As football fans you’d hope that your team’s ultimate goal each and every year is to pursue a Super Bowl Championship and we’ve already seen in the Top 5 Turnarounds in NFL/AFL History that it’s certainly possible to reverse your fortunes rather quickly. But you can’t hoist up the Lombardi Trophy without first making it to the playoffs, or is that totally true?
There seem to be certain franchises that are in the hunt year after year, yet never quite seem to have what it takes to get to the big game. Sure, they may have popped in once or twice along the way, but overall “They get invited to the prom but never to the after party.”
So The Football Educator got to thinking, “What are the longest droughts of consecutive playoff appearances without a Super Bowl invitation in NFL history?”
Here are your Top 6 “Close, but no cigar” pro football playoff runs.
(5) 1979-1983 Dallas Cowboys – The Cowboys also have a 4 year run in the Top 10 (’66-’69), but for all the success that Dallas has had in its long and illustrious history, there’s been an equal amount of playoff disappointment in “Big D”. The Cowboys captured back to back Super Bowl births in ’77 & ’78, beating Denver and then losing to Pittsburgh. But the majority of the Danny White – Tony Dorsett era ended before the big game with two early outs to the RAMS, and three Conference collapses to division rivals Philadelphia & Washington, then perennial powerhouse San Francisco.
(5) 1985-1989 Cleveland Browns – “The Dog Pound” never recovered from John Elway and the Denver Broncos … never. Seriously, three of five seasons Cleveland was one win away from their first trip to a Super Bowl only to be thwarted by “blue and orange”. The last time came in 1989 with Bud Carson and not Marty Schottenheimer at the helm. Since then Cleveland has been to the playoffs twice in twenty-one years and had only three winning seasons. Now that’s a curse!
(5) 1997-2001 Miami Dolphins – Much like the Cowboys the ‘Fins have a lot to be proud of over their 45 year history. Five Super Bowl appearances, two Lombardi Trophies. But since the late ‘90’s it’s been tough to take the heat in south Florida. For all of Jimmy Johnson’s storied success, he never got Miami to the Conference Championship and subsequently passed the torch to Dave Wannstedt who never did either. Since that five year futility to the Super Bowl, the Dolphins have made just one trip to the playoffs over the past decade; a 27-9 bounce by Baltimore in the 2008 Wildcard round.
(6) 1973-1978 Los Angeles Rams – Football once reigned supreme in southern California as the L.A. Rams ruled the NFC West for 6 straight seasons throughout the 70’s. Despite their stranglehold on the division, neither Chuck Knox nor Ray Malavasi could get past the powers in the NFC at the time; Minnesota and Dallas. Los Angeles fell to either the Viking or the Cowboys 4 out of the 6 seasons in the Conference Championship game. But practice makes perfect and the run ended in 1979 when L.A. topped Tampa Bay 9-0 to reach Super Bowl XIV, only to run into Pittsburgh’s Terry Bradshaw and Company.
(6) 1990-1995 Kansas City Chiefs – Having spent all of my 16 years in the NFL with the Denver Broncos, the Chiefs long personified excellence to me in the AFC West. Arrowhead Stadium is one of the toughest places to play in the National Football League. Marty Schottenheimer bounced back after a year off from Cleveland to take over for the Chiefs and led them to six straight playoff appearances – WITHOUT a Super Bowl. Kansas City captured the AFC West twice and got as far as the Championship game once, succumbing to the Buffalo Bills. The Chiefs have salt & peppered 4 playoff appearances over the past sixteen seasons since.
(7) 1987-1993 Houston Oilers – I preface this paragraph with the fact that I grew up a “die hard” Oiler fan. To “Luv Ya Blue” is a cross that football fans throughout southeast Texas bore for many years. Dan Pastorini, Earl Campbell and Bum Phillips couldn’t get it done in the late 70’s, so the resurgence of the franchise under Jerry Glanville and Jack Pardee had all of us “Columbia Blue” wearing “Derrick Heads” pleading for a trip to the BIG ONE. Not once in that seven year itch did the Oilers even make it to the Conference Championship. Warren Moon and the “run & shoot” stacked up the yards and the points but never the wins in the playoffs. Houston went 3-7 and wouldn’t return again to postseason as the OILERS.
Of note, the Baltimore Ravens (aka Cleveland Browns) are sitting on a streak of four seasons and counting; 2008-2011. Ask Ozzie if he believes in the curse?