What Is the Best Franchise in NFL History?

NC Nighthawk@NC Nighthawk (my Xbox gamertag)Analyst IJanuary 25, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII presents the matchup of one of the best franchises in NFL history, the Pittsburgh Steelers, vs. arguably the worst franchise ever in the league, the Arizona Cardinals, who have also resided in Chicago and St. Louis.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are seeking their sixth Super Bowl trophy and if they defeat the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII, they will become the first franchise to do so, and the question what is the best franchise in NFL history comes into play.

By the records, the best franchise in NFL history is Green Bay. The Packers have 12 championships (three in the Super Bowl Era), the most of any team.

The Chicago Bears have around 632 victories in franchise history, the most of any franchise, according to WikiAnswers.  This is a testimony to the franchise’s longevity. By the way, the Packers are second with around 590 franchise wins.

In terms of the issue of franchise wins, winning percentage would be more informational and relevant to me, as opposed to a raw total of wins due to longevity in the NFL.

Lo and behold, the Pro Football Hall of Fame website provides this type of data for:

(1) Most Regular Season Wins: Bears = 672 (so WikiAnswers was not updated)

(2) Most Postseason Wins: Cowboys = 32

(3) Most Combined Wins: (Duh!) Bears = 693

(4) Highest Winning Percentage, Regular Season: Dolphins = .580

(5) Highest Winning Percentage, Postseason: (Hooray!) Panthers = .667 (I bet this does not include the recent loss to the Cardinals and needs to be updated)

(6) Highest Winning Percentage, Overall: (Drumroll!): Cowboys = .577

Obviously, the Panthers’ data needs updating, but the high percentage is primarily the result of being a young franchise who have won a majority of playoff games in their young history. A nice start, but obviously not in the best-ever discussion.

The Dolphins have been a franchise for around 42 years, with their most success in the 1970s and then in the Marino era, but still, hats off to them for winning 58 percent of their regular season games.  I assume this stat includes their 1-15 campaign of 2007 but probably not 2008.

I find it interesting that the Packers are not on this Pro Football Hall of Fame All-Time Win-Loss Records list, but then again, I do recall a couple of 9-5 Green Bay teams winning an NFL title and the other either Super Bowl I or II.

However, 12 NFL titles clearly and loudly point to the Packers as the best franchise in NFL history.  Even with three Super Bowls, however, Green Bay is not in the discussion for best franchise in the Super Bowl Era.

Another franchise not of this list are the New York Giants, with seven titles (four NFL Championships and three Super Bowls), which may be an argument for second best ever NFL franchise. And before the Super Bowl Era, the Cleveland Browns would make the discussion. But not in 2009.

While the Packers win the logical argument in terms of numbers of championships won in  NFL history, another logical argument may be made for the best team in the 43-year history of the Super Bowl era.

But in my humble opinion, the latter more accurately answers a different question: what is the best franchise during the Super Bowl Era?  Since the advent of the Super Bowl,  the Dallas Cowboys, San Franccisco 49rs,  and Pittsburgh Steelers have five rings.

Therefore, if the Steelers earn their sixth Super Bowl title, they are clearly the best franchise in the Super Bowl Era. For data’s sake, the Steelers have around 468 franchise wins (sixth place), according to WikiAnswers.

With five Super Bowl titles, Cowboys’ fans may argue that Dallas has the most postseason wins and the highest total winning percentage, which is not a bad argument. 

However, in my mind, and in the minds of their fans, I give the Steelers the edge since they have defeated the Cowboys in two of three Super Bowl head-to-head matchups.     

With apologies to 49rs fans, who have an excellent argument that their San Francisco frranchise is the best of the Super Bowl Era, I also give the Steelers the edge because they have won their five over a larger span of time (1970s and 2000s) under different regimes, while the 49rs compiled all of theirs in the Bill Walsh era (1980s-1990s). But I admit that is a most subjective and not the strongest argument.  These 49rs had the best offenses and these Steelers had the best offenses.  A tough pick.

But objectively, with five Super Bowls each, it is a three way-tie for now among the Cowboys, Steelers, and 49rs. 

If Pittsburgh wins number six, there will be no debate.

Super Bowl XLIII offers a contrasting matchup of the best franchise of the Super Bowl Era against the worst franchise in NFL history.

In its 87 years, the worst franchise in NFL history had won only two playoff games and two titles. The Cards haven‘t won a crown in 60 years, the longest current drought in the NFL.

Prior to this season, the Cards had gone 43-85 in this decade and haven‘t won a playoff game since 1998 and haven’t won a division title since 1975.

Of course, to the current players and coaches of this games, history has nothing to do with this Super Bowl and I concur: it will be about the team who performs better, or at least plays good enough to win, on Super Bowl Sunday.

P.S. While I was at WikiAnswers, I found:

Super Bowl Rings - Most by an Individual

Six: Conditioning coach Mike Woicik has the most Super Bowl rings: three with the Dallas Cowboys and three with the New England Patriots.

Five: Dan Rooney, Dick Hoak, Joe Greene, Charles Haley, Chuck Noll, and Bill Belichick each have five Super Bowl Rings. Rooney won each as an executive with the Pittsburgh Steelers, for which Hoak was running backs coach for all five championships.

Also for the Steelers, defensive tackle Greene won four as a player and one as the Steelers' special assistant for player personnel. Linebacker Haley is the only person to win all five as a player: two with the San Francisco 49ers and three with the Cowboys.

Chuck Noll acquired four of his rings as a head coach and in Super Bowl XL received one as a team consultant. Bill Belichick gained his five for coaching: two as defensive coordinator of the New York Giants, and three as the head coach of the Patriots.

Four: Dozens of players have four. Twenty-two players, among them Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Mel Blount, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Rocky Bleier, Donnie Shell, and Mike Webster, each won four Super Bowl rings with the Steelers. Joe Montana, Keena Turner, Jesse Sapolu, Eric Wright, and Ronnie Lott each won four Super Bowl rings with the 49ers.

Kicker Adam Vinatieri won three with the Patriots and one with the Indianapolis Colts. Bill Romanowski won two with the 49ers and two with the Denver Broncos.

Coach Charlie Weis won one with the Giants and three with the Patriots. Matt Millen has the most rings from different teams, two with the Oakland Raiders, one with the 49ers, and one with the Washington Redskins.

Three: Among the many football figures with three are Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Michael Irvin, Tom Brady, Joe Gibbs and Jerry Rice. Ken Norton . is the only player to have won three Super Bowls in a row (1992-1994).

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