NFL's Greatest Franchise Rankings: Success

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterSeptember 29, 2016

NFL's Greatest Franchise Rankings: Success

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Success is about luck. Success is sweat and blood and sacrifice. It is luck. It is smarts. 

    This is part of a special series where we will count down the NFL's greatest franchises by a set of criteria (fans, success, future and star power). In this version, I rank the success of every NFL franchise.

    To do so, I've created a 100-point scoring system that takes into account Super Bowl appearances and victories, conference titles, division titles, playoff appearances and overall winning percentage.

    But since there is no exact formula for such an undertaking, there will be an element of subjectivity. Some of this is my opinion, but as someone who has covered the sport for over 25 yearsand even covered some of these great franchises (yeah, I'm old)I do bring a unique perspective to these rankings.

    Part of solving this equation is longevity. Teams that won in the 1970s don't get more points than teams that did in the 1990s. But consistency is part of the answer, too. A franchise that's won throughout the decades does get a little extra weight.

    The quotes used were taken from various online sources. I also acquired some of the quotes firsthand from players and coaches.

    Success is calculable. The numbers don't tell all of the story, but they tell a great deal. Winning a Super Bowl is the culmination of those success factors. It's the hardest thing to do in sports: get a large number of ego-driven men, each with his own successful past, to jell and win a title.

    "Champions are champions not because they do anything extraordinary," Steelers Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll once said, "but because they do ordinary things better than everyone else."

32. Houston Texans

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    Texans defensive end J.J. Watt
    Texans defensive end J.J. WattAdam Glanzman/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 0
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 0
    Conference Titles: 0
    Division Titles: 3
    Playoff Appearances: 3
    Record: 99-128-0

    "Success isn't owned. It's leased. And rent is due every day." —J.J. Watt

    The Texans have the potential to be a winning franchise. They have one of the best players on the planet in J.J. Watt (who hopefully can return to top form next season), a star at wide receiver in DeAndre Hopkins and a settled quarterback situation. Historically, however, despite some limited postseason success, the Texans have been one of the league's greater disappointments. The team moved to Houston in 2002 but didn't have its first winning season until 2009. Its first playoff appearance was 2011.

    It wouldn't be a shock, however, to see the Texans move rather quickly into a better position on this list. They may do so because of players like Watt.

    Total Points: 30/100

31. Detroit Lions

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    Former Lions running back Barry Sanders
    Former Lions running back Barry SandersGregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 0
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 4
    Conference Titles: 0
    Division Titles: 8
    Playoff Appearances: 16
    Record: 536-636-32

    "Happiness does not come from football awards. It's terrible to correlate happiness with football. Happiness comes from a good job, being able to feed your wife and kids. I don't dream football. I dream the American dream. Two cars in a garage, be a happy father." —Barry Sanders, per the Los Angeles Times

    The Lions are one of the great "paper bag over the head" franchises in sports history. But go back in time a bit. The Lions won an NFL championship in 1935. They appeared in three consecutive championship games in the early 1950s, winning two. They won another championship in 1957. The Lions also made the playoffs six times in the 1990s.

    Since then, though, they've largely been terrible, including that infamous 0-16 season in 2008. That is why they're ranked so low.

    Barry Sanders was a strange anomaly as we look at these success rankings. He had a historic career that made the Lions fun to watch even when they were frustrating losers.

    Total Points: 35/100

30. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Former Jaguars running back Fred Taylor
    Former Jaguars running back Fred TaylorAl Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 0
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 0
    Conference Titles: 0
    Division Titles: 2
    Playoff Appearances: 6
    Record: 152-187

    "Surround yourself with great people, people who have an outstanding work ethic, people who are business-like, who are focused and concentrated. Get everybody on the same page and have the same inspiration, same kind of drive, same kind of desire. Do the very, very best you can. Work to the best of your ability. Be efficient. Don't waste time." —Tom Coughlin to reporters on what it takes to be successful

    The Tom Coughlin era was the bright spot for the Jacksonville Jaguars. It isn't just his record that demonstrates how good a coach he was. Coughlin's Jaguars went to the playoffs for four straight years, including two conference title games.

    After Coughlin's final season in 2002, the Jaguars have been to the playoffs just twice. Like in Houston, there is great potential here, but they have recently been co-laughingstocks with the Browns.

    Total Points: 38/100

29. Los Angeles Rams

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    Former Rams running back Eric Dickerson
    Former Rams running back Eric DickersonPeter Brouillet/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 1
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 2
    Conference Titles: 6
    Division Titles: 15
    Playoff Appearances: 27
    Record: 542-543-21

    "I didn't win a Super Bowl, but I fought every down. That is the true nature of success to me. Fighting hard even when you lose." —Eric Dickerson to me in 2013.

    The Rams have a long history in the NFL, and along the way, they have crisscrossed the West Coast and Midwest more than a passenger jet. Along the way, there has been some winning. Championships in the 1940s and '50s. A Super Bowl win by the chinny chin chin in 1999.

    Like other low-ranked franchises, however, the Rams are in a massive drought that hurts their overall success. Badly. The Rams haven’t had a winning season since 2004 and won only three games in 2007, two in 2008 and one in 2009.

    Total Points: 40/100

28. New York Jets

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    Former Jets QB Joe Namath
    Former Jets QB Joe NamathFocus On Sport/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 1
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 0
    Conference Titles: 1
    Division Titles: 4
    Playoff Appearances: 14
    Record: 388-459-8

    "Football is an honest game. It's true to life. It's a game about sharing. Football is a team game. So is life." —Joe Namath

    No franchise has lived off a single Super Bowl win like the Jets. It was a glorious win. A historic win. But a singular one. There have been valiant runs, like the back-to-back conference-championship appearances in 2009 and 2010. Yet since that Super Bowl appearance in 1968, the Jets have been mostly a minefield of horrid draft picks and some of the worst quarterback play in NFL history. (See: Fumble, Butt.)

    Joe Namath remains one of the franchise's high points. "The Guarantee" remains one of football's greater moments even if the franchise itself hasn't returned to that glory.

    Total Points: 42/100

27. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Rogers Photo Archive/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 0
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships0
    Conference Titles: 2
    Division Titles: 10
    Playoff Appearances: 14
    Overall Record: 338-399-3

    "I'll never forget the 13 years at Riverfront Stadium and the jungle that was established right there on the river down in Cincinnati." —Anthony Munoz at his Hall of Fame enshrinement

    The argument could be made that the Bengals should be ranked a few spots lower, closer to 30. Two Super Bowl appearances help push them just north of that. While the Bengals have made the playoffs every year since 2011, they've lost in the first round each time.

    Like other franchises that have lost more than won, the Bengals have still produced a handful of great players that were spectacular to watch and helped them during their limited windows of success. One of them was Anthony Munoz, the great offensive tackle.

    Total Points: 45/100

26. San Diego Chargers

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    Former Chargers linebacker Junior Seau
    Former Chargers linebacker Junior SeauAllen Kee/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 0
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 1
    Conference Titles: 1
    Division Titles: 15
    Playoff Appearances: 18
    Record: 422-422-11

    "Leadership can't be fabricated. If it is fabricated and rehearsed, you can't fool the guys in the locker room. So when you talk about leadership, it comes with performance. Leadership comes with consistency." —Junior Seau, per The Life and Death of a Football Icon

    The Chargers have had success. In fact, a solid amount. The problem is this team has been one of the most inconsistent in the AFC. The Chargers are the best at taking two steps forward and three back. They make the playoffs, then fall off the postseason map for years.

    One of the more staggering things about the Chargers, which has hurt their success ranking, is not doing more with a franchise quarterback like Philip Rivers.

    Total Points: 48/100

25. Tennessee Titans

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    Former Titans running back Eddie George
    Former Titans running back Eddie GeorgeRobert Laberge/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 0
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 2
    Conference Titles: 1
    Division Titles: 
    Playoff Appearances: 21
    Record: 405-444-6

    "I always wanted to win. When it comes down to it, success is all about winning." —Steve McNair to me

    The Tennessee Titans lost one Super Bowl by inches, but in the 1960 and 1961 seasons, the then-Houston Oilers dominated the AFL. They won back-to-back championships with George Blanda as the quarterback. They were a smart, efficient team.

    There would be elements of this to come, including that near Super Bowl win in 1999, and seven straight playoff seasons beginning in 1987. But they also have no playoff wins since 2008.

    Total Points: 50/100

24. Atlanta Falcons

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    Former Falcons running back Jamal Anderson
    Former Falcons running back Jamal AndersonCRAIG LASSIG/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 0
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 0
    Conference Titles: 1
    Division Titles: 6
    Playoff Appearances: 12
    Overall Record: 332-433-6

    "It's good to have critics because that's what motivates you, and helps you take your game to another level. They talked about Michael Jordan and said he didn't have a jump shot. They say the same thing about me. I can't throw the football and all that. Say whatever you want about me. It makes me strive harder." —Michael Vick, per USA Today

    The high point of the Atlanta Falcons franchise came mostly in two spots: the Michael Vick days and the Super Bowl run under Dan Reeves in 1998. Much of the rest of the Falcons' history has been a disappointment, including the recent choke job in the 2012 conference championship game.

    The Falcons haven't made the playoffs since 2012 and have been passed in the division by Carolina. In part that's because Matt Ryan hasn't been as good as he was supposed to be or as many make him out to be.

    In many ways, Vick still defines the success of the franchise while also being one of its most polarizing players.

    Total Points: 51/100

23. Cleveland Browns

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    Former Browns running back Jim Brown
    Former Browns running back Jim BrownAssociated Press

    Super Bowl Titles: 0
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 8
    Conference Titles (since merger): 0
    Division Titles (since merger): 9
    Playoff Appearances: 28
    Record: 508-458-13 

    "Leave as little to chance as possible. Preparation is the key to success." —Paul Brown

    This is a weird position to put the Browns. Their history is almost divided into two: pre-merger and post-merger. From 1946 through 1955, the Browns appeared in 10 consecutive AFL or NFL championship games, winning seven. They won one more championships in 1964 and they produced maybe the greatest coach of all time in Paul Brown and definitely the greatest football player ever in Jim Brown.

    Yet the past three to four decades have been so painful, so putrid, filled with phrases like The Drive and The Fumble. They have no playoff appearances since 2002 and more quarterbacks than stars in the sky. In recent years, nothing has defined losing like the Browns have.

    But those earlier years under Brown were so successful that they act as a propellant for their ranking here. Cleveland is higher because of that respect for Paul Brown.

    Total Points: 55/100

22. Carolina Panthers

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    Panthers QB Cam Newton
    Panthers QB Cam NewtonGrant Halverson/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 0
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 0
    Conference Titles: 2
    Division Titles: 6
    Playoff Appearances: 7
    Overall Record: 167-171-1

    "I've been on record to say I'm a sore loser. You show me a good loser and I'm going to show you a loser. It's not a popularity contest. I'm here to win football games." —Cam Newton to reporters

    The Panthers have only been in existence since 1995. Yet the franchise has already appeared in two Super Bowls and made the playoffs in seven seasons.

    It’s true that when an expansion team enters the sport, it is gifted with mechanisms to help it have a fair shot at catching up to the rest of the league. The Panthers took full advantage early on in their history and have continued to run a top-notch team. 

    Total Points: 60/100

21. Arizona Cardinals

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    Cardinals QB Carson Palmer
    Cardinals QB Carson PalmerBrett Carlsen/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 0
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 2
    Conference Titles: 1
    Division Titles: 8
    Playoff Appearances: 11
    Record: 536-726-39

    "I do what I'm coached to do. That's part of being a team leader and captain. The job will change week in and week out and it's not for you to question what your job is. It's to go out there and execute your assignments." —Larry Fitzgerald, per USA Today

    This ranking is sort of an honorary one. The Cardinals have been in professional football for 97 years. Oh, I know, the Cardinals won an NFL championship in 1925, and it took them over two decades to make the playoffs again, when they won another championship in 1947.

    They lost the championship game the following season and wouldn't make the Super Bowl for another 60 years. The team has been cheap and poorly run at times, but the longevity and the occasional championship appearances earned Arizona this ranking.

    Part of the limited playoff success is thanks to one of the great pros in the history of the sport: Larry Fitzgerald. He's done his part to get the Cardinals the rare playoff success they have achieved.

    Total Points: 63/100

20. New Orleans Saints

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    Drew Brees and Sean Payton talk on the sidelines
    Drew Brees and Sean Payton talk on the sidelinesMichael Reaves/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 1
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 0
    Conference Titles: 1
    Division Titles: 5
    Playoff Appearances: 10
    Record: 331-421-5

    "When you wake up, think about winning the day. Don't worry about a week or a month from now—just think about one day at a time. If you are worried about the mountain in the distance, you might trip over the molehill right in front of you. Win the day!" —Drew Brees in Coming Back Stronger

    This is another franchise whose fans are more known for wearing sad-faced paper bags over their heads. The history has been spotty, except for recently. The Saints have gone to the playoffs in five of Sean Payton’s 10 seasons. Payton also won a Super Bowl.

    Payton is the biggest reason for this ranking. He’s one of the true offensive geniuses in the sport and has transformed the culture of the team into winners. Having Drew Brees hasn’t hurt, either.

    Total Points: 64/100

19. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Former Eagles head coach Andy Reid
    Former Eagles head coach Andy ReidJamie Squire/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 0
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 3
    Conference Titles: 2
    Division Titles: 13
    Playoff Appearances: 24
    Record: 551-582-26 

    "My hobby is my work. I love it so much, it's not work." —Dick Vermeil

    Dick Vermeil transformed the Eagles into the modern incarnation they are now, but what Andy Reid did in Philadelphia remains impressive. The Eagles went to the playoffs in nine of his 14 seasons. The problem, and why they aren't ranked any higher, is that Reid's Eagles often choked in the playoffs.

    Vermeil became known for his work ethic, and it was a big reason why he had so much success. Reid was similar. Since then, no one has matched what they've done.

    Total Points: 65/100

18. Indianapolis Colts

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    Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison became one of the league's most dynamic duos
    Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison became one of the league's most dynamic duosStephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 2
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 2
    Conference Titles: 4
    Division Titles: 21
    Playoff Appearances: 27
    Record: 495-435-7

    "Pressure is something you feel when you don't know what the hell you're doing." —Peyton Manning 

    The history between the Colts and the Ravens is obviously intertwined, but this will deal with the just the Colts. Johnny Unitas and the Colts beat the Giants in the 1958 NFL championship, and that game is one of the key components that transformed football into the major television sport it is today.

    This fact alone gives the franchise a high ranking in terms of success. Then it won a second NFL title the next year and a Super Bowl in 1970.

    The Peyton Manning era followed in the late 1990s and throughout the 2000s. His wins and success redefined the team and, in many ways, the entire sport. The reason the Colts are not ranked higher? They lost to Joe Namath and the New York Jets in Super Bowl III, and his guarantee in one of the great epic choke jobs of all time.

    Total Points: 67/100

17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Former Buccaneers head coach Tony Dungy led the Bucs to the playoffs four times
    Former Buccaneers head coach Tony Dungy led the Bucs to the playoffs four timesTom Pidgeon/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 1
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 0
    Conference Titles: 1
    Division Titles: 5
    Playoff Appearances: 10
    Record: 242-388-1

    "Things will go wrong at times. You can't always control circumstances. However, you can always control your attitude, approach and response. Your options are to complain or to look ahead and figure out how to make the situation better." —Tony Dungy in Quiet Strength

    They were called the Yuccaneers. When asked about his offense's execution, their head coach once infamously said he thought it was a good idea. At times, they have been one of the most putrid franchises in sports history.

    But pay close attention to the tenure of Tony Dungy, who coached from 1996 through 2001. His teams went to the playoffs in four of those years, and while he had a horrible loss in the Wild Card Game in his final year, what he produced was special. The Buccaneers perfected the Tampa 2 defense that would start a revolution and be copied for decades.

    Jon Gruden then took Dungy's players and immediately won a Super Bowl. No, the statistical data isn't as great as some other franchises', but Dungy's schematic success and Gruden's Super Bowl win still put the Buccaneers fairly high on this list. 

    Total Points: 70/100

16. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles
    Chiefs running back Jamaal CharlesJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 1
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 1
    Conference Titles: 2
    Division Titles: 9
    Playoff Appearances: 18
    Record: 437-406-12

    "Yesterday is a canceled check. Today is cash on the line. Tomorrow is a promissory note." —Hank Stram, per The Little League That Could

    The Chiefs won their first championship in 1962 when they were the Dallas Texans. The franchise then won its lone Super Bowl seven years later. The Chiefs have 18 playoff appearances, which is a good number. What hurts them is a postseason drought from 1972 through 1985.

    Coach Marty Schottenheimer had some brutal playoff failures—but at least he got to the postseason.

    Hank Stram remains the example that all Chiefs coaches will be compared to. He won three AFL championships and a Super Bowl.

    Total Points: 71/100

15. Baltimore Ravens

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    Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis
    Former Ravens linebacker Ray LewisChris Graythen/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 2
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 0
    Conference Titles: 2
    Division Titles: 4
    Playoff Appearances: 10
    Record: 176-146-1

    "You've got to go out and show them that I'm a different creature now than I was five minutes ago, cause I'm pissed off for greatness. Cause if you ain't pissed off for greatness, that just means you're OK with being mediocre." —Ray Lewis, per Thirds Eye View

    Winning two Super Bowl wins in two decades is not bad. Neither is winning 173 games in that time span. But in terms of success, the Ravens have produced the second-best defense of all time behind the Bears.

    If you want to say they were the best, that's fine, but either way, the Ravens were dominant for years, and that is their true mark on history. Ray Lewis, despite his off-field problems, defined what it meant to be a Raven.

    Total Points: 75/100

14. Minnesota Vikings

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    Fran Tarkenton led the Vikings to three Super Bowls
    Fran Tarkenton led the Vikings to three Super BowlsFocus On Sport/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 0
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 0
    Conference Titles: 4
    Division Titles: 19
    Playoff Appearances: 28
    Record: 452-379-10

    "As I see it now—and as I saw it back then—you learn the most about career, life, business and yourself by taking every opportunity to move outside of your comfort zone. By definition, the comfortable and the familiar have nothing new to teach you. The most successful people in life and business are innovators. By definition, innovators need to be uncomfortable."  —Fran Tarkenton in The Power of Failure

    This will seem like a strange place to put a franchise that has never won a Super Bowl, but there is something special about going to four Super Bowls in seven years. Yes, the Vikings lost them, but they went to four Super Bowls in seven years. That is such a great achievement that it overshadows the recent years of mediocrity.

    The history of the Vikings is also riddled with greatness—Fran Tarkenton, the Purple People Eaters and now Adrian Peterson. The franchise is also closing in on 500 wins. 

    Total Points: 76/100

13. Seattle Seahawks

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    Seahawks QB Russell Wilson
    Seahawks QB Russell WilsonRob Carr/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 1
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 0
    Conference Titles: 3
    Division Titles: 9
    Playoff Appearances: 15
    Record: 317-314-0

    "I'm just 'bout that action, boss." —Marshawn Lynch to NFL Media's Deion Sanders

    Is this too high of a ranking? Maybe it is, but look at what the Seahawks have done in the past few years. Two Super Bowl appearances—winning one—and losing the latter on a last-second play.

    In his seventh season, Pete Carroll has made the playoffs five times with two Super Bowl appearances. Before that, Mike Holmgren went to the playoffs six out of 10 years with one Super Bowl appearance. Those are pretty good runs.

    There are many reasons for the Seahawks' recent success. The biggest is Russell Wilson. The most underrated was the power of running back Marshawn Lynch. His abilities opened up everything else for this team.

    Total Points: 79/100

12. Washington Football Team

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    Washington head coach Joe Gibbs
    Washington head coach Joe GibbsG Fiume/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 3
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 2
    Conference Titles: 5
    Division Titles: 14
    Playoff Appearances: 42
    Record: 579-567-27

    "Once you have a plan, you must sell it to the players. It is not enough to put it on the blackboard and say, 'OK, here it is.' You have to convince the players that the plan is a good one and show them, in specific ways, why it will work. If you do, you send them out to the practice field with more confidence." —Joe Gibbs, via

    Between 1932 and 1945, the Washington football team went to six NFL championship games, winning two. Coach George Allen would later win a lot of games but lose in the Super Bowl to the undefeated Dolphins.

    But one of the greatest achievements of this team was what Joe Gibbs did. He took three different quarterbacks to three different Super Bowls, winning all three. He remains one of the most innovative offensive coaches the sport has ever seen.

    Total Points: 82/100

11. Chicago Bears

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    "Sweetness" Walter Payton
    "Sweetness" Walter PaytonBruce Dierdorff/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 1
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 8
    Conference Titles: 2
    Division Titles: 23
    Playoff Appearances: 27
    Record: 741-558-42

    "Never die easy. Why run out of bounds and die easy? Make that linebacker pay. It carries into all facets of your life. It's OK to lose, to die, but don't die without trying, without giving it your best." —Walter Payton in his autobiography

    The list of achievements by Chicago is impressive, so much so the Bears could easily be in the top five or even No. 1. Eleven championship game appearances, winning seven. Two Super Bowl appearances, winning one.

    The 1985 Bears also had the best defense of all time. And those 700-plus wins are pretty damn good.

    If one player defines the success of the Bears, it might be Walter Payton. He was not just productive but classy. That is also part of success. 

    Total Points: 83/100

10. Buffalo Bills

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    Jim Kelly led the Bills to four Super Bowls in the '90s
    Jim Kelly led the Bills to four Super Bowls in the '90sRick Stewart/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 0
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 2
    Conference Titles: 4
    Division Titles: 11
    Playoff Appearances: 17
    Record: 394-453-8

    "Where else would you rather be than right here, right now?" —Marv Levy

    The same principle that applies to the Vikings fits here as well, except in an even larger dose. The Bills went to four consecutive Super Bowls, losing their first on an infamous missed field goal. That group, led by Hall of Famers Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith, was one of the most dominant teams in AFC history. The Bills just happened to run into even better NFC teams.

    We also shouldn't forget that the Bills won two consecutive AFL championships in 1964 and 1965. 

    Total Points: 85/100

9. Miami Dolphins

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    Dolphins head coach Don Shula
    Dolphins head coach Don ShulaFocus On Sport/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 2
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 0
    Conference Titles: 5
    Division Titles: 13
    Playoff Appearances: 22
    Record: 430-337-4 

    "You set a goal to be the best and then you work hard every hour of every day, striving to reach that goal. If you allow yourself to settle for anything less than No. 1, you are cheating yourself." —Don Shula

    When you own the only full undefeated season in modern history, your place in eternity is secure.

    What people often forget about the Dolphins is, again, going back to the 1970s, they went to three straight Super Bowls—losing the first to Dallas and winning the next two, including during that undefeated season.

    It's forgotten that before the undefeated season, Shula guaranteed to his players that they wouldn't lose a single game, I learned that fact while writing Undefeated: Inside the Miami Dolphins' Perfect Season that was published in 2013.

    Total Points: 86/100

8. San Francisco 49ers

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    49ers QB Joe Montana
    49ers QB Joe MontanaDan Honda/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 5
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 0
    Conference Titles: 6
    Division Titles: 20
    Playoff Appearances: 26
    Record: 559-452-16

    "For me, the road had been rocky at times, triumphant too, but along the way I had never wavered in my dedication to installing—teaching—those actions and attitudes I believed would create a great team, a superior organization. I knew that if I achieved that, the score would take care of itself." —Bill Walsh in The Score Takes Care of Itself

    What is sometimes forgotten by non-San Francisco fans is how good the 49ers were under Jim Harbaugh. The 49ers went to three conference finals and a Super Bowl.

    The 49ers that everyone remembers were the Bill Walsh and Joe Montana incarnation. Walsh won a Super Bowl in his third year. Three years later, he won another. Four years later, another. Then his protege, George Seifert, won championships as well.

    What made Walsh special wasn't just his innovation and coaching acumen. It was his work ethic.

    Total Points: 87/100

7. Dallas Cowboys

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    Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman dominated the '90s
    Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman dominated the '90sRonald Martinez/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 5
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 0
    Conference Titles: 8
    Division Titles: 22
    Playoff Appearances: 31
    Overall Record: 482-365-6

    "People think football is for tough guys. That's bulls--t. Football rewards the guys that are in great condition. That's when you have fun, when you're kicking somebody's ass and they're sucking for wind." —Jimmy Johnson, per A Football Life

    The Cowboys' recent struggles in the playoffs have been brutal and so embarrassing it could have hurt their rank here. But two eras make the Cowboys special: those of Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson.

    We know how good Landry was. What is sometimes lost is how good Johnson was. He won two straight Super Bowls. And Barry Switzer, with Johnson's players, won another Super Bowl in 1995.

    Johnson should be in the Hall of Fame. At the very least for his draft picks.

    Total Points: 88/100

6. Denver Broncos

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    John Elway was finally able to win that elusive Super Bowl late in his career. Then he did it again.
    John Elway was finally able to win that elusive Super Bowl late in his career. Then he did it again.JEFF HAYNES/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 3
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 0
    Conference Titles: 8
    Division Titles: 14
    Playoff Appearances: 22
    Record: 459-386-10 

    "In the long run, the cream always rises and the crap always sinks." —John Elway

    The Broncos went to three Super Bowls under Dan Reeves. They got their doors blown off, but they went. Then maybe the best quarterback of all time got help at running back and won multiple Super Bowls.

    Then John Elway became one of the great general managers and built a team that went to two Super Bowls with him as GM, winning one. The key is Elway. The team had great success with him on the field and then similar success with him in the front office. That says a great deal about him and the Broncos. 

    Total Points: 89/100

5. Oakland Raiders

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    Former Raiders QB talking with his Head Coach, John Madden
    Former Raiders QB talking with his Head Coach, John MaddenRichard Stagg/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 3
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 0
    Conference Titles: 5
    Division Titles: 15
    Playoff Appearances: 21
    Record: 446-398-11

    "Getting nowhere fast. ... As philosophies go, it's as good as any. What counts is not so much where you're going—I mean, we all end up in the same place—but what counts is the getting there. Kind of simple-minded, maybe...but it's fun." —Ken Stabler, per Sports Illustrated

    The Raiders haven't made the postseason since 2002, but this franchise's greatness remains eternal. From 1967 to 1977, the Raiders missed the playoffs only once, winning the Super Bowl in 1976.

    The team won the Super Bowl again in 1980 and 1983. But the Raiders' glory was built on how formidable they were in the powerhouse decade of the 1970s. Ken Stabler embodied their swashbuckling style. He was also one of the most talented to ever play the quarterback position and a big part of the Raiders' success.

    Total Points: 90/100

4. New York Giants

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    Bill Parcells made the Giants a powerhouse in the '80s
    Bill Parcells made the Giants a powerhouse in the '80sFocus On Sport/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 4
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 4
    Conference Titles: 5
    Division Titles: 24
    Playoff Appearances: 32
    Record: 675-568-33 

    "You are what your record says you are." —Bill Parcells

    The Giants could easily be No. 1. Easily.

    They've had success throughout NFL history. They're not alone in this, of course. A handful of teams can make this claim, but the Giants' success is still impressive.

    The Giants made NFL championship game appearances in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

    There was a drought in the 1970s, but they won the Super Bowl in 1986, 1990, 2007 and 2011. The team knocked off the unbeaten Patriots in the Super Bowl and then beat them again a few years later. Bill Parcells was the engineer of the beginning of the Giants renaissance.

    Total Points: 91/100

3. New England Patriots

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    There's been no duo better than Bill Belichick and Tom Brady over the past 25 years
    There's been no duo better than Bill Belichick and Tom Brady over the past 25 yearsChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 4
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 0
    Conference Titles: 8
    Division Titles: 18
    Playoff Appearances: 23
    Record: 465-381-9

    "You get the job done or you don't." —Bill Belichick to me

    Put your hate of the Patriots aside for the moment and consider several of the most dumbfounding stats of all: The Patriots have won their division seven consecutive years and 12 of the past 13. That type of dominance is unheard of not just in NFL history but in all of sports.

    And it has provided Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and Co. with a springboard to a dynasty.

    They haven't been perfect, but six Super Bowl appearances in 14 years is as good as it gets. The Patriots were also in the Super Bowl when Bill Parcells was the coach. The organization has come a long way since the Bears obliterated it in the Super Bowl in 1985.

    Total Points: 93/100

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Lynn Swann and Franco Harris helped the Steelers dominate the '70s
    Lynn Swann and Franco Harris helped the Steelers dominate the '70sSylvia Allen/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 6
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 0
    Conference Titles: 8
    Division Titles: 21
    Playoff Appearances: 29
    Record: 592-531-20 

    "In order to win a game, you must first not lose it." —Chuck Noll

    The biggest part of what makes the Steelers so great: They are almost perfect in Super Bowls.

    There is something about the Steelers genome that allows them to perform well in that big game no matter the decade.

    The Steelers are one of a handful of teams that defined the 1970s—the last true physically nasty era of football. But here's the question: If they were so great, why aren't they No. 1 in the rankings? Because there's a franchise that's slightly better. Even better than the Steelers.

    Total Points: 95/100

1. Green Bay Packers

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    Head coach Vince Lombardi
    Head coach Vince LombardiVic Stein/Getty Images

    Super Bowl Titles: 4
    Pre-Super Bowl Championships: 9
    Conference Titles: 9
    Division Titles: 17
    Playoff Appearances: 34
    Record: 722-548-37 

    "The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will." —Vince Lombardi

    While it's true that the Green Bay Packers won most of their titles before the merger and further expansion, that shouldn't discredit the success the organization—established in 1919—has had over the past century. In recent history, the Packers have gone to the playoffs in 18 of the past 23 seasons while winning two Super Bowls under two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game (Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers). 

    If it weren't for a massive lull in the '70s and '80s when the Packers were an NFC bottom feeder, they would be a runaway choice for No. 1. However, the Super Bowl trophy is named after the man who coached the Packers to all those titles.

    Total Points: 100/100


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