There are four teams that have never reached the Super Bowl that are desperate to turn things around. Let's take a look at them all:
In the mid-80s the Browns made consecutive AFC championship games. That's the closest Cleveland have ever been to making the Super Bowl. The six time AFC Central champions have never won the AFC North since divisional realignment in 2002. In fact, the Browns haven't placed higher than third place in their division since 2007.
In 2020 the Browns managed to end a 17-year playoff drought having not made the playoffs since 2002. Cleveland went on to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road in the Wild Card Round, their first playoff win since 1995 and first road playoff win since 1969.
The Browns however have been a dysfunctional franchise throughout their history. They were sensationally deactivated from the league in 1996 with the Baltimore Ravens taking their spot. They would be reactivated in 1999 as an expansion team following the opening of their brand new stadium.
A poor history of quarterback play and draft busts have somewhat been steadied with the draft picks of Baker Mayfield and Myles Garrett. The Browns are hoping the pair can set the foundation to get Cleveland to their first ever Super Bowl.
Detroit won four championships prior to the 1970 AFL-NFL merger but unfortunately for the Lions - their first season in the NFL in 1930 - they remain the oldest team to have never made the Super Bowl.
The Lions made it to the conference championship in 1991 but haven't been back ever since. Their last playoff win was in 1992 and since then, they've lost eight playoff games all in the Wild Card round. The last time Detroit has managed to top their division was in the NFC Central division in 1993. And it doesn't get any better, the 2008 Detroit Lions the worst team in NFL history, becoming the first team ever to finish a 16-game season without a win.
Fortunately the reward for that season was Matt Stafford with the first pick of the 2009 draft, Stafford becoming the the fastest quarterback in history to reach 40,000 passing yards. But even with six-time Pro Bowl and Hall of Fame wide receiver Calvin 'Megatron' Johnson by his side, the Stafford-Johnson partnership could only lead the Lions to two Wild Card Playoff losses.
Lions fans often blame poor ownership and bad management for the franchise never having made the Super Bowl. Truth be told, they're probably right. A still healthy Barry Sanders was showing no signs of slowing down and at only 31 years of age would retire, frustrated with the front office and their lack of commitment to build a winning team. Lions fans would be hoping that the Ford family one day relinquishes control of the stuttering franchise.
Despite a rough first decade for the franchise, the Texans won six AFC South Champions between 2011 and 2019. Houston however have lost all four divisional playoffs and they remain the only team in the NFL to have never appeared in a conference championship game.
They can be forgiven. The Texans were an expansion team in 2002 making them the youngest franchise in the league. The Texans best chance to earn a Super Bowl birth was with three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, the defensive end registering 100 sacks in 10 seasons with Houston, including two seasons with over 20 sacks.
Deshaun Watson was also supposed to be the player to take the Texans to their first ever Super Bowl but despite his elite quarterback play, he became disgruntled with Houston's head office. Understandable, considering the Texans completed one of the worst trades in NFL history. They would trade one of the best wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals before the 2020 season, taking away Watson's best offensive weapon.
J.J. Watt also left for the Cardinals before the beginning of the 2021 season, completing one of the biggest robberies of talent in NFL history. The Texans will need to rebuild and work out not just how to get to their first ever Super Bowl but to their first ever conference championship game.
The Jaguars have made it to the conference championship game three times - 1996, 1999 and 2017. That's a poor return however considering the Jaguars joined the league in 1995.
Despite Jacksonville's early success, their decline was sudden and it was all triggered by a botched play during the 1999 AFC championship game. Star receiver Jimmy Smith got behind a defender for what would have been a 99-yard touchdown pass but instead, a failed blocking assignment led to a safety and the Titans would score a touchdown from the very next free kick.
In the 2017 AFC championship game they did it again. After only three winning seasons since their 1999 championship game appearance, they blew a 10-point lead early in the fourth-quarter against the Patriots to miss out on the Super Bowl again. But even after their ferocious 2017 season it was expected that they'd at least make it to their first ever Super Bowl in the following seasons.
They've since collapsed with a 12-36 record since then before drafting Trevor Lawrence in the 2021 draft. The generational talent is likely the final hope for every Jaguars fan. If he ends up a bust, its likely Jacksonville won't even care if the franchise ends up moving to London.
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It's a shame these teams couldn't make it to a Super Bowl.
I was struck by the fact that the Detroit Lions, being so old, have not played this game yet.