Top 10 Greatest NFL Players Who Have Never Won a Ring

Chris YoungCorrespondent IMarch 15, 2010

5 Dec 1999:  Dan Marino #13 of the Miami Dolphins gets ready to pass the ball during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at the Pro Player Stadium in Miami, Florida. The Colts defeated the Dolphins 37-34. Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons  /Allsport
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Top 10 Greatest NFL Players Who Have Never Won a Ring

Getting a Super Bowl ring can be the one thing standing between a player and the Hall of Fame. Some of these 10 players could very well be argued to be the best at their position of all time, but have not even won a ring. Each one of these players has had one of the best careers the NFL has to offer. The only thing is they could never live up to the hype of winning the Super Bowl.


Dan Marino - QB Miami Dolphins 1983-1999

Marino became one of the most prolific quarterbacks in league history, holding or having held almost every major NFL passing record. Marino ended his career with 61,361 passing yards and 420 touchdowns.

Despite never being on a Super Bowl-winning team, he is recognized as one of the greatest quarterbacks in American football history. Remembered particularly for having a quick release and a powerful arm, Marino led the Dolphins into the playoffs on numerous occasions, while making it to Super Bowl XIX only to lose to Hall of Famer Joe Montana.


Bruce Smith - DE Buffalo Bills, Washington Redskins 1985-2003

Smith was a member of the Buffalo Bills teams that played in four consecutive Super Bowls as AFC Champions. The 19 year vet is the holder of the career record for quarterback sacks. In his 19 NFL seasons, Smith played in 279 games, amassing 200 sacks.

Of his 19 seasons in the NFL, 14 of them were seasons where he had at least ten sacks, a testament to his consistency year in and year out. He was also selected to 11 Pro Bowls and an All-Pro nine times. As Smith spent most of his career in a 3-4 defensive scheme, a defensive scheme not geared toward creating sack opportunities for defensive ends.


Barry Sanders - RB Detroit Lions 1989-1999

Sanders is best known for being one of the most prolific running backs in NFL history, and left the game just short of the all-time rushing record. Sanders is widely regarded as one of the greatest running backs ever to play the game, and certainly the most elusive. He left football healthy, having gained 15,269 rushing yards, 2,921 receiving yards, and 109 touchdowns.

Despite his individual success, the Lions never reached the Super Bowl while Sanders played for them. The closest they ever came was in the 1991 season. Aided by Sanders' 1,855 combined rushing/receiving yards and 17 touchdowns during the season, they recorded a 12–4 record and went on to defeat the Dallas Cowboys 38–6 in the divisional playoffs, the Lions only playoff win since 1957.

They went on to the NFC Championship only to lose to the Washington Redskins.


Fran Tarkenton - QB Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants 1961-1978

At the time of his retirement from the Vikings, he owned every major quarterback record. Tarkenton played with the Vikings two different times during his career.

He was traded to Minnesota in 1972 after playing with the Giants for five years. He led the Vikings to three Super Bowls in the 1970s, but lost all of them to Miami, Pittsburgh, and Oakland. Tarkenton won the NFL's MVP award after the 1975 season, capturing All-Pro honors in the process. Tarkenton was selected to play in nine Pro Bowls. He also is fifth on the all-time list of wins by a starting quarterback with 124 regular season victories.


Jim Kelly – QB Buffalo Bills 1986-1996

He helped lead the Bills to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances (only to lose all four) and five divisional championships from 1989 to 1995. Buffalo made the playoffs in eight of Kelly's 11 seasons as their starting quarterback. Kelly made the Pro Bowl four times (1987, 1990, 1991, and 1992).

Jim Kelly could very well be the biggest disappointment to play in the Super Bowl. Kelly was stumped by the Redskins, Giants, and the Dallas Cowboys twice (1992 and 1993). He completed 81 of 145 passes for 829 yards and two touchdowns, with seven interceptions during those four Super Bowls.


Eric Dickerson – RB Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Raiders, Atlanta Falcons 1983-1993

Dickerson became the seventh back to gain more than 10,000 yards and the fastest ever to do so, reaching the milestone in just 91 games. During his 11 year career, Dickerson gained 13,259 yards rushing, which was second all-time at the time of his retirement.

A six time Pro Bowl selection, Dickerson was All-Pro in 1983-1984 and 1986-1989. He also helped the Rams to the playoffs from 1983-1986. In 1983 he had the most impressive season as a running back in league history, rushing for 1,808 yards and scoring 18 touchdowns. He was named The NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and to the All Pro Team in his rookie season.

Eric Dickerson had one of the best starts to an NFL career, only to be derailed by injuries.


Bruce Matthews - OL Houston Oilers, Tennessee Oilers, Tennessee Titans 1983-2001

Bruce Matthews is considered to be one of the best offensive linemen in NFL history. Matthews was drafted with the ninth overall pick in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft by the Houston Oilers, where he would eventually play all line positions (guard, center, and tackle), going to the Pro Bowl as a guard and center.

He was selected to 14 Pro Bowls in all, tying a league record held by Merlin Olsen. Matthews was also named First-team All-Pro nine times (1988-1993, 1998-2000) and All-AFC 12 seasons (1988-1993, 1995-2000). He was selected as a guard on the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s. His best chance was in 1999 against the St. Louis Rams. The Titans were doomed by the play called “The Tackle.”


Dick Butkus – LB Chicago Bears 1965-1973

Butkus was selected to eight Pro Bowls and was All-League six times. He was one of the most feared players of his era and even appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1970 with the caption "The Most Feared Man in the Game."

Butkus was also selected the 70th Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century by ESPN, the ninth-best player in NFL history by The Sporting News, and the fifth-best by the Associated Press. The National Football League named him to their All-Time team in 2000.

Butkus led the Bears in tackles, interceptions, forced fumbles, and fumble recoveries, and regularly led the team in these categories throughout his career. During his eight years with the Chicago Bears he never got to see what the playoffs were all about, let alone the Super Bowl. Butkus was forced to retire after multiple knee injuries in 1973.


Deacon Jones – DE Los Angeles Rams, San Diego Chargers, Washington Redskins 1961-1974

Jones specialized in quarterback sacks, a term attributed to him. Nicknamed the "Secretary of Defense", Jones is considered one of the greatest defensive players ever. Jones won consensus All-Pro honors five straight years from 1965-1969 and was Second-team All-Pro in 1964, 1970, and 1972.

He was also in seven straight Pro Bowls, from 1964 to 1970, and was selected to an eighth after the 1972 season with the San Diego Chargers. Olsen teamed up with defensive tackle Merlin Olsen to give the Rams a relentless All-Pro left side of the defensive line. He became a part of the “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line of the Rams, which is now considered one of the best lines of all time.


Merlin Olsen - DT Los Angeles Rams 1962-1976

A leading defensive star of his era, he missed only two games in his 15-season NFL career. He was named the NFL's Rookie of the Year in 1962 and was First-team All-Pro in 1964, and 1966 through 1970. He was voted Second-team All-Pro in 1965, 1973 and 1974.

He became part of one of the best front fours in NFL history, which was nicknamed "The Fearsome Foursome". Olsen made the Pro Bowl a record 14 times throughout his career, only missing it in his final year. Olsen's play helped the Rams to the playoffs in 1967 and 1969, and 1973-1976. Olsen's last game was the NFC Championship game in 1976 against the Minnesota Vikings, only to lose 24-13.


So there you have it, 10 of the greatest NFL players to not win a Super Bowl. Some of these guys could be the best ever at their position and not have won the big game.

Regardless if they missed it four times in a row or never even made it there, each player deserves the best from NFL fans around the nation.

Let’s talk about who you thought could have made the top 10 list or is at least worthy to be in the conversation with these elite guys.