Not every great NFL player gets to end his career as a champion. Here’s a look at some of the best ever who never got to hoist a Lombardi Trophy.
Let’s explain the ground rules. There have been 97 NFL champions crowned to date; 46 prior to the Super Bowl Era and 51 since. Here we will only talk about the circumstances surrounding the latter title series, with no disrespect meant to the great performers that paved the way for the more modern era.
As for our list of the 30 greatest players not to come away with a Super Bowl victory, there are no active performers mentioned here for obvious reasons (because there’s still a chance it could happen). You will also not find the likes of early legends such as Don Hutson and Sammy Baugh here, also for obvious reasons.
When you boil any list like this down to 30 players in nearly 100 years, there’s liable to be a difference of opinion…or a few.
30. Jim Kelly, QB, Buffalo Bills
He’s made more news these last few years for his struggles with cancer and the work he has done to help others. But on the field, Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly was also an inspiring player and fiery competitor who fueled the team’s offenses in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He remains the only quarterback and the Bills are still the only club to play in four consecutive Super Bowls.
Yes, the team did come up short in each instance and seems appeared to get worse on a yearly basis. But this was a franchise that made six consecutive playoff appearances from 1988-93 and reached the AFC Championship Game five times over that span. Kelly also led the Bills to the postseason in both 1995 and ’96 seasons as well. He finished with NFL career with 35,467 yards passing and an impressive 237 scoring strikes.
Yes, the Bills lost Super Bowl XXV by a nose (20-19 to the New York Giants and then things seemed to get progressively worse in the Big Game. But the fiery four-time Pro Bowler and Pro Football Hall of Famer left quite an impression despite those Super setbacks.