Statitudes Statitudes

All workers unite

Fifteen teams hope to continue Super Bowl trend

Posted: Monday January 27, 2003 2:53 AM

By Jacob Luft,

Communism failed behind the Iron Curtain, but it is succeeding in the wildly socialistic NFL.

For the fourth consecutive year, the season has ended with a first-time Super Bowl champion. The Buccaneers followed the Patriots, Ravens and Rams by winning their first Vince Lombardi Trophy, giving hope to all Bengals and Seahawks fans everywhere. Well, Seahawks fans at least.

Does that make Paul Tagliabue a modern-day Karl Marx? If so, his work is only a little more than half done -- 15 title-less teams remain. Eight franchises have yet to play in a Super Bowl. Here is a look at their checkered pasts and prospects for the near future:

Arizona Cardinals
  • Brushes with Vince: They invited him to a party once. He didn't RSVP. They haven't gotten a sniff since the merger, but they did win NFL titles in 1925 and 1947.
  • Forecast: Drought. The Bidwills are synonymous for bad karma, and raising ticket prices for 2003 doesn't help matters any.
  • Atlanta Falcons
  • Brushes with Vince: Skewered by the Broncos 34-19 in XXXIII, with no help from Eugene Robinson.
  • Forecast: Sunny. Get some wide receivers with better hands than Brian Finneran around Mike Vick and watch out.
  • Buffalo Bills
  • Brushes with Vince: Ah, how the shiny silver trophy has teased this club. The Jim Kelly-led Bills amazingly made -- and lost -- Super Bowls XXV through XXVIII, falling by an average of 16.5 points.
  • Forecast: Sunny. Drew Bledsoe, Travis Henry, Eric Moulds ... and if they can re-sign Peerless Price, this offense already is a juggernaut. And the defense improved down the stretch, allowing 32 points in its final three games.
  • Carolina Panthers
  • Brushes with Vince: Reached the NFC title game in their second season, 1996, but were blown out 30-13 by the Packers. They haven't returned to the postseason since.
  • Forecast: Cloudy. Carolina has an up-and-coming coach in John Fox and the second-ranked defense in the league (behind Tampa Bay). Now the Panthers need to find playmakers on offense, of which they have zero.
  • Cincinnati Bengals
  • Brushes with Vince: Before the clueless Mike Brown took over the team, they made the big game twice, losing to that Joe Montana guy twice (XVI and XXIII). There is no shame in that.
  • Forecast: Apocalyptic. Let's see. The Bucs lost double-digit games every season from 1983-94, a span of 12 years. The Bengals have dropped at least 10 games every season starting in 1991, also 12 years. So that puts Cincy on pace to win the Super Bowl in 2010. 
  • Cleveland Browns
  • Brushes with Vince: This is a toughie. Cleveland has won NFL titles in the past, in 1950, '54, '55 and '64. But that was the previous incarnation of the Browns, which moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens and won SB XXXV. So this version, now in its fourth year of existence, has to work with a clean slate.
  • Forecast: Mostly sunny. They made the playoffs this season and have two outstanding QBs in Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb. The defense needs work, though, as Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren had subpar seasons, and they need to re-sign Jamir Miller.
  • Detroit Lions
  • Brushes with Vince: Barry Sanders could get them only as close as the 1991 NFC title game, which they lost 41-10 to the Redskins. In the pre-Super Bowl days, Bobby Layne led them to three championships in the 1950s and they won in 1935.
  • Forecast: Smog. The countdown to Marty Mornhinweg's firing just started. After that formality is done, they can get on to rebuilding around Joey Harrington.
  • Houston Texans
  • Brushes with Vince: None. Give 'em a break, they were just born a few months ago!
  • Forecast: Sunny. In their first year, they found a real-deal QB in David Carr. It took the Lions more than 40 years to go from Layne to Harrington.
  • Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Brushes with Vince: They lost the AFC title game at home to the Titans in 1999 and haven't been the same since.
  • Forecast: Stormy, with a chance of 2-14. Life in salary cap hell has taken its toll. They must decide between a has-been QB (Mark Brunell) and the untested David Garrard. Heck, it's not like they have anybody other than Jimmy Smith to throw to anyway. And the defense is brutal. Enjoy!

  • Minnesota Vikings
  • Brushes with Vince: They were the Bills of the '70s, dropping roman numerals IV, VIII, IX and XI.
  • Forecast: 78 degrees. Isn't that the temperature in every dome? With Daunte Culpepper, Randy Moss and Michael Bennett, they should have a shot in the near future, especially if head coach Mike Tice can build on the late-season turnaround.

  • New Orleans Saints
  • Brushes with Vince: They have won exactly one playoff game since being born in 1967. The closest they ever get to Vince is when New Orleans hosts the Super Bowl.
  • Forecast: Partly cloudy. Aaron Brooks, Deuce McAllister and Joe Horn can put up points on anybody. But the defense is ... not good. It gave up at least 20 points in every game except the season finale, which the Saints lost 10-6 to Carolina. This team did beat the world champion Bucs twice, so they can't be that far away. Then they dropped three straight to end the season, prompting a lawsuit from the Dolphins for copyright infringement.
  • Philadelphia Eagles
  • Brushes with Vince: Lost SB XV 27-10 to the Raiders, lost the past two NFC title games.
  • Forecast: Sunny. It took a few months, but Donovan McNabb's broken ankle finally caught up to them one game shy of the Super Bowl. If he can stay healthy next season, they will be right there again.
  • San Diego Chargers
  • Brushes with Vince: They were in the same stadium once, but got run out of it 49-26 by the Steve Young-Jerry Rice 49ers in SB XXIX.
  • Forecast: Partly sunny. They have a wonderful backfield in Drew Brees and LaDainian Tomlinson, but the pass defense was dead last in the league. This team shows a world of potential but keeps collapsing at midseason, so maybe it just needs to mature.
  • Seattle Seahawks
  • Brushes with Vince: Lost 1983 AFC title game 30-14 to the L.A. Raiders, played in only five postseason games since.
  • Forecast: Rainy. What else? They need to figure out how to stop the run after allowing a league-worst 152 per game in 2001. Only four coaches have taken two different teams to Super Bowls -- Dick Vermeil, Don Shula, Bill Parcells and Dan Reeves. That doesn't bode well for the demoted Mike Holmgren, who won XXXI with the Packers.
  • Tennessee Titans
  • Brushes with Vince: They came within a yard of forcing overtime against the Rams in XXXIV and made it to the AFC title game this year before imploding with uncharacteristic turnovers.
  • Forecast: Sunny. When Steve McNair is your leader, you have a chance at winning it all. Hopefully it will happen before Jeff Fisher's beard becomes Rip Van Winkle-esque.