Okay, kids, gather around, it's story time!
Once upon a time, a Celtics fan walked into a sports bar. He sat down next to a Lakers fan and started talking smack about Kobe Bryant. The Lakers fan retorted by asking the Celtics who won the last two NBA championships. The Celtics fan said they still have more titles than the Lakers. This argument went on and on until they were thrown out of the bar. Unfazed, they continued exchanging one-ups about Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Phil Jackson, and Red Auerbach until the cops had to pull them apart. The end.
So what's the moral of the story? Right now, somewhere in the world, two guys are in a sports bar, arguing over something. Think about it, it's really touching. Hopefully neither of them will end up in handcuffs after said argument. Even more hopefully, they're engaging in one of our great sports debates – who's the best hitter of all time, the best basketball player, or the best coach. The great thing about sports debates such as these is that, because there is no parameter or statistic that sets some players above others definitively, there is no right or wrong answer. Ruth or Aaron? Flip a coin. MJ or Kareem? Staring contest. John Wooden or Vince Lombardi? Roshambo. (On second thought, no crotch-kicking, please.)
With all that in mind, imagine I'm in a sports bar, sitting next to a friend, and having one of these great debates. I don't drink, so my arguments will at least be intelligible if not impeccable. I take a sip of my Diet Pepsi and ask my friend who the ten best franchises in the NFL are. Before he has his say, though, I tell him my rankings, based on several factors: all-time regular season record, number of championships, front office stability, public perception, coaching, star power, and perennial success. “So whatcha got?” he asks “Here's what I have,” I reply.
Regular season record since 1932: 541-506-27 (.526)
NFL championships: 1937, 1942
Super Bowl titles: 1982, 1987, 1991
The Redskins own some great memories in NFL lore: Doug Williams becoming the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl, the run to the 2007 playoffs after Sean Taylor's murder, and, of course, the Hogs. Unfortunately, the 'Skins have had far too many dark moments to allow them to be higher on this list. Joe Theismann's leg injury, Gus Frerotte's headbutt, and Dan Snyder's reign of financial terror have all put a stain on an otherwise proud franchise and fanbase.
Regular season record since 1960: 387-349-10 (.525)
Super Bowl titles: 1997, 1998
The Broncos with John Elway (pictured) and the Broncos without him are two very different parts of history. With Elway, they have two Super Bowl championships in six appearances and, along with LeBron James, the ire of the city of Cleveland thanks to "The Drive". Since Elway retired, however, they have struggled to find their next true quarterback, and very well may have lost it in the person of Jay Cutler.
Regular season record since 1953: 441-390-7 (.530)
NFL championships: 1958, 1959, 1968
Super Bowl titles: 1970, 2006
The Colts are another franchise who got knocked back a notch for a substantial blight - namely, bailing on Baltimore in the middle of the night on March 29, 1984. Still, that hasn't prevented them from turning Peyton Manning (pictured) into not only the greatest quarterback in Colts history (which is saying something considering the great Johnny Unitas), but maybe the best quarterback in NFL history when it's all said and done. Their coaches have been phenomenal, but their defense as of late has been suspect. Can that change in time for Peyton to get at least one more Lombardi trophy under his wing?
Regular season record since 1920: 693-507-42 (.575)
AFPA/NFL Championships: 1921, 1932, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1946, 1963
Super Bowl titles: 1985
The Bears might be most well known as the “Monsters of the Midway” for their stifling defense (especially their front seven), but let's not forget their legacy of running backs, including Red Grange, Bronco Nagurski, George McAfee, Gale Sayers, Walter Payton, Thomas Jones, and most recently, Matt Forte. However, the only proper way to honor the Monsters of the Midway in this article is to channel my inner Bill Swerski. So here goes...
DAAAAAAAA BEARSSSSSSS. DITKAAAAAAAAAAA.
Okay, my lungs are sore now.
Regular season record since 1960: 387-360-9 (.518)
Super Bowl titles: 2001, 2003, 2004
The Patriots would never approach this list, let alone be number six, if it weren't for the acquisition of the team by one of the most brilliant owners in all of sports, Bob Kraft. While head coach Bill Belichick may take a lot of flack for his mannerisms, attire, and shrewd (and sometimes lewd) tactics, Kraft offsets that with great business decisions and support for the team and its fan base. As for on-field greatness, there's this guy named Tom Brady (pictured). You may have heard of him.
Regular season record since 1925: 626-518-33 (.546)
NFL championships: 1927, 1934, 1938, 1956
Super Bowl titles: 1986, 1990, 2007
The Patriots would probably have this slot were it not for the Giants, David Tyree, and the greatest upset in NFL history. Aside from what Patriots fans would deem a complete and utter fluke, let's not forget greatness on both sides of the ball, from Phil Simms to Lawrence Taylor, Y.A. Tittle (don't laugh, you young whippersnappers) to Michael Strahan, and today with Eli Manning (pictured) and Justin Tuck. When you outplay what would have been the best team in NFL history when it matters most, you deserve to ahead of them on this list.
Regular season record since 1946: 503-410-15 (.550)
Super Bowl championships: 1981, 1984, 1988, 1989, 1994
While the 49ers' championships are bunched together in a 15-year span, there's no denying the greatness that has come out of the Bay Area. Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, and Ronnie Lott can attest to that. But as Don Cheadle aptly described in an NFL Playoffs promo a few years ago, we would never think as highly of these men as we do now if it weren't for Dwight Clark and “The Catch” (pictured).
Regular season record since 1921: 654-518-36 (.556)
NFL championships: 1929, 1930, 1931, 1936, 1939, 1944, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967
Super Bowl championships: 1966, 1967, 1996
“Titletown USA? They've only won three Super Bowls!” Calm down, Speedy, and remember that the trophy every NFL player wants is named after the coach who made the Packers who they are, Vince Lombardi (pictured). Long before the Super Bowl existed, the Green Bay Packers dominated the NFL, winning nine NFL championships before the epic annual battle with the AFL and two more to qualify for said game. What truly sets the Pack apart from any other team in professional sports is their owners – all 111,968 of them. Who needs billionaire real estate investors when you have the undying love and support of your fans? And despite what the media would have you think, the team is doing just fine without Brett Favre. All Aaron Rodgers needs is some better offensive linemen.
Regular season record since 1960: 434-314-6 (.580)
Super Bowl championships: 1971, 1977, 1992, 1993, 1995
You don't get to be called “America's Team” for nothing. Even before Jerry Jones (pictured) became owner, the Cowboys had some history behind them with two Super Bowl rings and some guy named Staubach. One epic trade of Herschel Walker for a bunch of draft picks (who turned out to be, among others, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, and Troy Aikman) and three more Lombardi Trophies later, the franchise is the second-highest valued in the world ($1.65 billion) after Manchester United, and that value will only go up with stars like Tony Romo and Miles Austin, and the Eighth Wonder of the World that is Cowboys Stadium. Now if only they could elevate the HD scoreboard a little.
Regular season record since 1933: 534-509-21 (.512)
Super Bowl championships: 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 2005, 2008
The Steelers may have the lowest all-time record of the ten teams listed, but that should never stand in the way of everything the franchise has accomplished. They are they only franchise with six Super Bowl championships. They are backed by some of the best and most loyal fans in the league. They own a legendary reputation on defense. They have a solid coaching foundation with names like Chuck Knoll, Bill Cowher, and Mike Tomlin. Most importantly, however, they are headed by one of the best ownership groups in sports history in the Rooney family, who paved the way for African-American head coaches in the NFL, including the aforementioned Mike Tomlin.
That's one way to tell the story. How would you rank the ten best franchises in the NFL? Go ahead and share your opinions in the comments - but don't end up having to be restrained like these guys.