Ranking the 7 Best Active NFL Players to Never Win a Super Bowl
Some of the best NFL players, who may go to the Hall of Fame, don't have a Super Bowl title on their resumes. Thanks to longevity, a handful of the top stars still have a chance at a Lombardi Trophy.
Going into the 2020 campaign, seven players stand out among the rest as the most accomplished in the league without a championship victory.
We've identified those veterans based on career accolades, including leaders in stat categories, Pro Bowl nods, All-Pro seasons, Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year awards and league MVP recognition. Each selection must be at least 30 years old with eight years of pro experience.
In order to rank these players, longevity, recent production and position value are criteria used to slot one entry above another.
Let's take a look at the resumes and current situations for the league's most decorated stars. What are their chances to reach Super Bowl 55? Who's at the top of the list?
7. DT Ndamukong Suh, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Ndamukong Suh barely made the list over Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins. He has one more All-Pro nomination and won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2010 with a definitive edge in pass breakups (36) and solo tackles (346).
Suh's pass-rushing production has slipped, as shown on a chart provided by ESPN's Seth Walder, but he's still a quality run defender and gap-stuffer who can solidify a run defense. It's no coincidence the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave up the fewest yards on the ground with him on the interior in 2019.
Suh can beat offensive linemen one-on-one and occupy blockers to clear space for nearby pass-rushers as well. The last two seasons' sack leaders, Aaron Donald and Shaquil Barrett, played alongside the 6'4", 313-pound defensive tackle.
Barrett credited Vita Vea and Suh as factors for his breakout 2020 term, per Eduardo Encina of the Tampa Bay Times.
"They've got the center, guard, they're taking two bodies sometimes and drawing a lot of attention inside which is getting me a lot of one on ones and then it's giving me space to be able to come inside ... when we're doing stunts and moves," Barrett said.
In 2019, Suh showed a little something extra, scooping two fumbles for touchdowns. He's not a candidate for double-digit sacks, but the five-time Pro Bowler can elevate the talent around him.
With quarterback Tom Brady in Tampa Bay, Suh may have another shot at a Super Bowl title after he and the Los Angeles Rams fell short to the New England Patriots during the 2018-19 campaign.
6. QB Philip Rivers, Indianapolis Colts
Philip Rivers doesn't have an All-Pro season on his resume. With the Los Angeles Chargers, he reached the AFC Championship Game once and lost to the New England Patriots.
Rivers makes the list and ranks one spot above Ndamukong Suh because of his consistency at the most important position on the roster. While we can argue the quarterback's eight Pro Bowls may come down to popularity, the 38-year-old's numbers provide a clear picture of what he accomplished with the Chargers.
After sitting behind Drew Brees for two terms, Rivers has played at a high level. He ranks sixth all-time in passing yards (59,271) and touchdowns (397). The 16-year veteran led the league in both categories for a season.
In 2013, Rivers won Comeback Player of the Year, which gives some hope that he can bounce back with the Indianapolis Colts after a turnover-filled 2019 performance.
Although Rivers threw 20 interceptions during the previous campaign, he racked up 4,286-plus yards for the seventh consecutive year. Perhaps fewer attempts will increase his efficiency at this stage in his career.
The Colts aren't a Super Bowl favorite. Yet Rivers' consistent production could propel Indianapolis back to the playoffs. For the most part, he's been effective on the field, so a Super Bowl title would give him a stronger case for a spot in the Hall of Fame.
5. WR Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
Among the players listed, Larry Fitzgerald leads the group in Pro Bowls (11). He put together an All-Pro-worthy performance during the Arizona Cardinals' run to Super Bowl 43.
Thanks in part to an unsettled quarterback situation, Fitzgerald has reached the playoffs just three times since the Cardinals came up short against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2008-09 campaign.
Fitzgerald has been a model of consistency in the desert. He's also had some peak years that elevate him over Philip Rivers.
Fitzgerald led the league in catches twice (2005 and 2016) and caught the most touchdown passes in back-to-back campaigns (2008 and 2009). He's led the Cardinals in receptions in all but one term (2006).
For the first time in over a decade, Fitzgerald may not lead Arizona in catches with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins. On the flip side, he'll likely garner less attention lining up alongside a star receiver in his prime.
Fitzgerald hasn't finished with fewer than 734 receiving yards in a single season. The savvy veteran still has enough game to beat cornerbacks one-on-one out of the slot. Arizona would need an improbable run to reach Super Bowl 55, but the 36-year-old wideout has the career numbers that will likely put him in the Hall of Fame.
4. WR Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
Julio Jones doesn't have comparable career numbers to Larry Fitzgerald, but the Atlanta Falcons star has logged more receiving yards than any other player through their first nine seasons (12,125). Keep in mind, the 31-year-old missed 11 games during the 2013 term because of a fractured foot.
After that injury, Jones has been on a complete tear, logging at least 1,394 receiving yards every year since 2014. He averaged 100 yards or more in five campaigns; Fitzgerald hasn't reached that mark once.
If Jones stays active like Fitzgerald, he'll break plenty of receiving records. Oddly enough, the former isn't a strong threat to score, recording 57 touchdowns in 126 outings. As the second-youngest on this list, the dynamic wideout can still grow in that area. For now, at times, he's unstoppable between the 20-yard lines.
Jones' rookie term and his injury-riddled campaign are the only two years he didn't earn Pro Bowl or All-Pro honors. With him on the field, the Falcons' passing attack should continue to rank in the top 10, but the team faces an uphill battle to reach the playoffs after consecutive 7-9 seasons.
3. QB Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
We should credit Julio Jones for a large portion of Matt Ryan's passing production. With that said, the Atlanta Falcons quarterback won Offensive Rookie of the Year and had a Pro Bowl campaign before his star receiver entered the league in 2011.
In 2013, while Jones missed 11 outings with a fractured foot, Ryan still threw for 4,515 yards and 26 touchdowns. The signal-caller showed the ability to elevate talent around him. Without his lead pass-catcher, he connected with wideout Harry Douglas, who led the team in catches (85) and yards (1,067).
Under former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Ryan put together his best overall performance during the 2016 season, throwing for 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He deservedly won league MVP and Offensive Player of the Year honors but came up short in Super Bowl 51 after the team squandered a 28-3 third-quarter lead.
Ryan provides stability under center. He's only missed three games for his career and recorded at least 4,095 passing yards in nine consecutive campaigns. The nickname Matty Ice certainly fits his performances in the clutch. Since 2008, the 34-year-old leads the league in fourth-quarter comebacks (30) and is tied with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees for most game-winning drives (38).
Barring another surreal season on offense, Ryan will need some help from his defense to reach the title game again, though he's certainly capable of contributing to the former scenario.
2. DE J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
J.J. Watt can't compare to Matt Ryan in reliability. Since 2016, he's missed 32 games because of a herniated disk, tibial plateau fracture and a torn pectoral. However, the Houston Texans defensive lineman has more peak seasons with five All-Pro years and accolades that separate him from all but one player in NFL history.
Through nine campaigns (2011 to 2019), Watt has the led league in sacks twice and tackles for loss three times. Since 1999, he holds the single-season record for the latter category (39).
Nowadays, the league MVP usually goes to quarterbacks. If defensive players had a legitimate shot to win the award, Watt would've earned it along with one of his three Defensive Player of the Year awards. He's the second player after Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor to claim that honor three times.
So yes, Watt isn't the same player we saw during his first five healthy years because of significant injuries. However, he's already established himself as one of the most accomplished defenders to play the game through his accolades. The 31-year-old shares a distinction with Taylor, which speaks volumes.
Despite his recent durability issues, Watt isn't quite done yet. He put together an All-Pro 2018 campaign, logging 16 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. If the nine-year veteran goes through 2020 healthy, we can see another strong showing from him.
Under head coach Bill O'Brien, the Texans have won four division titles in six years, so we can't shut the door on Watt's chance at a Super Bowl.
1. RB Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins
Adrian Peterson stands atop the mountain of ring-less stars. In comparison to J.J. Watt's Defensive Player of the Year awards, the Washington Redskins running back won three rushing titles (2008, 2012, 2015). On top of that, he's the last non-quarterback to earn league MVP recognition.
During his 2012 MVP year, Peterson ran for 2,097 yards, which ranks second all-time in a single season behind Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson. He logged 31 fewer carries than the record-holder.
Lastly, in his mid-30s, Peterson chugs along and continues to punish defenders between the tackles. In 2018, at 33 years old, he ran for 1,042 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 4.2 yards per carry.
Apparently, Peterson's father appropriately nicknamed him "All Day" because even in the latter stages of his career, he's able to log 200-plus rush attempts and move the chains. Since signing with the Redskins in 2018, he's run for 88 first downs as primarily an early-down ball-carrier.
Peterson has the career accomplishments, a unique distinction as a non-quarterback league MVP, longevity and lasting impact, which propel him to the No. 1 spot. Washington isn't on the Super Bowl radar, but the four-time All-Pro running back could enter and finish the 2020 season as the team's lead rusher.