Contrary to a belief held by some football fans, the list of NFL champions does not, in fact, begin with the Green Bay Packers and Super Bowl I. Those record books go all the way back to the 1920s, when franchises such as the Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs and Frankford Yellow Jackets were in operation.
It’s because of that reason that several teams that have never played in a Super Bowl let alone won the Big Game are mentioned below. What were once proud and even dominant teams that haven’t won a title in at least five decades check in on the list.
Here are the 10 teams with the most NFL championships in history.
10. Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts: 4 Championships
The Baltimore Colts of old are largely remembered for three things:
1. Winning “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” the 1958 NFL Championship in which the Colts defeated the New York Giants 23-17 in overtime, the only NFL Championship Game/Super Bowl to date to be decided in overtime.
2. Losing Super Bowl III to Joe Namath and the New York Jets.
3. Sneaking off to Indianapolis in the middle of the night after the 1983 season.
Indy’s lone Super Bowl title came in 2006 when Peyton Manning and company defeated the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI. With Andrew Luck leading the offense, the Colts will, so long as Luck remains healthy, be contenders for the next decade.
9. Detroit Lions: 4 Championships
Detroit was a pro football powerhouse in the 1950s. The franchise won three NFL championships from 1952 through 1957. Unfortunately for Detroit and what was then the team’s fan base, those Lions teams competed against juggernauts such as the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and Baltimore Colts.
Oh, what could have been.
Even more painful is the fact that the Lions have never won a conference title in the Super Bowl. Not when all-time great running back Barry Sanders was breaking records during game. Not in the current era with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson leading the offense.
8. San Francisco 49ers: 5 Championships
The Niners often get credit for being one of the best franchises of the Super Bowl era. San Fran was, during a 13-year period, so much more than that. All of the club’s five Super Bowl championships came from 1981 through 1994.
Just as impressive is the list of players who helped win those titles.
While the Niners struggled throughout last decade, it has since turned things around. Colin Kaepernick is one of the top young quarterbacks currently in the NFL. The 49ers also have what is a championship-caliber defense.
7. Dallas Cowboys: 5 Championships
As with San Francisco, each of the five championships won by Dallas came in the Super Bowl era. Unlike the Niners, however, those Cowboys runs were separated by a title drought that lasted 15 years.
The “America’s Team” nickname originated back in the 1970s, after the Cowboys won the team’s second Super Bowl championship of the decade. As famous and as beloved as those rosters were, the Cowboys of the 90s may have been some of the greatest squads ever assembled.
Those Dallas teams were, when at their best, close to unbeatable.
6. Washington Redskins: 5 Championships
It’s unfortunate that one cannot discuss the pro football team that calls Washington home without sparking either debate or controversy. What’s most obnoxious about that fact is that the situation could be remedied if owner Dan Snyder would just change the name of the team.
That day is seemingly not coming anytime soon.
The Redskins have not appeared in a Super Bowl since last winning the Big Game in January 1992. That drought could come to an end sooner than later. Quarterback Robert Griffin III has the goods to be a championship quarterback, and he isn’t the only talented player on the team’s roster.
RG3 now just has to stay healthy.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers: 6 Championships
The Steelers have, throughout the years, been responsible for moments and plays that will live on for generations to come.
The “Immaculate Reception.” Lynn Swann rising over Mark Washington to make a grab before tip-toeing to remain in-bounds. Santonio Holmes reeling in what is unquestionably one of the greatest receptions in Super Bowl history, a catch that helped the Steelers win title No. 6.
Numbers never lie, or so suggests a show that airs on a certain four-letter sports network, and the record books tell us that the Steelers are the best NFL franchise of the Super Bowl era. That said, one AFC North team has won more total titles than has Pittsburgh.
4. Cleveland Browns: 8 Championships
Yes, you read that right. The Browns – the Cleveland Browns – were once the greatest football franchise in all of North America.
Say, for argument’s sake, that there really is some kind of curse hovering over the pro sports teams that call Cleveland home. It came to life sometime after 1964, the last year that the Browns and the city had a title to celebrate.
Look at all that’s gone wrong for the Browns since that year. Red Right 88. The Drive. The Fumble. The move to Baltimore. The collapse at the Steelers in the 2002 playoffs.
Browns fans deserve better.
3. New York Giants: 8 Championships
The Giants are, at worst, the second-greatest professional football franchise in history. They won four NFL titles before the existence of the Super Bowl. The G-Men have, since January 1987, appeared in five Super Bowl games, and New York won four of those contests.
Big Blue is also, in 2014, more valuable than is any other franchise ahead of the Giants on this list.
What’s interesting about the Giants in comparison to other teams mentioned in this piece is that the greatest pro quarterback in New York history is currently a member of the NFL. Eli Manning is a two-time Super Bowl champion who owns two Super Bowl MVP trophies. The younger Manning QB also has two Super Bowl-winning drives to his name.
2. Chicago Bears: 9 Championships
You have to go all the way back to the days of the Chicago Staleys to pinpoint the first NFL championship in the history of this franchise. The club would ultimately win seven additional NFL titles following its first, but it then hit a skid following the creation of the Super Bowl.
It took the Bears nearly two decades to make their first trip to pro football’s biggest stage. They didn’t at all waste that journey. The 1985 Bears are one of the greatest teams ever assembled, and they steamrolled their way to a 46-10 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX.
That squad was one for the ages.
1. Green Bay Packers: 13 Championships
Major League Baseball has the New York Yankees. The National Basketball Association has the Boston Celtics. The National Hockey League has the Montreal Canadiens.
Pro football has the Green Bay Packers.
Football wouldn’t be football without the Packers. The Frozen Tundra at Lambeau Field. Vince Lombardi. Bart Starr. Ray Nitschke. “The Gunslinger” Brett Favre. Aaron Rodgers matching or perhaps even topping some of Favre’s feats.
No franchise has, over decades and generations, contributed more to pro football.