There is at least one all-time great NFL player who failed to win the big game for every outstanding player whose career is defined by Super Bowl success. Numerous members of the Hall of Fame have had their careers cut short by Super Bowl failure. The NFL’s single-season rushing leader, Eric Dickerson, ran into the legendary Bears’ 46 defence, which prevented him from reaching the Super Bowl. In three Super Bowl appearances, Fran Tarkenton started, but his teams lost all three times.
The Vince Lombardi Trophy was never raised by Philip Rivers and his teammate Antonio Gates, fellow Chargers legend Dan Fouts, Bills legends Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, and Andre Reed, Vikings legend Cris Carter, and Hall of Fame linemen John Hannah, Bruce Matthews, Randall McDaniel, and Dermontti Dawson after their team won the big game.
Despite how outstanding these players were, they did not make our list of the most underrated NFL players who have never won a Super Bowl, which you can view below. Each player’s best chance at obtaining that elusive ring is also included.
Dan Marino :
In only his second season, Marino led the Dolphins to the championship game. In his MVP season, Marino set then-NFL records by throwing for 5,184 yards and 48 touchdowns. When Marino and Joe Montana faced off in that year’s Super Bowl, it was one of the greatest quarterback duel ever in a big game. Montana had led the 49ers to their first championship three years earlier.
Montana accounted for more than 400 yards and four touchdowns as San Francisco won 38-16 despite Marino’s 318-yard touchdown pass. Marino, who retired as the NFL’s all-time leading passer, played in his first and last Super Bowl.
While their professional lives have held up well, the Super Bowl commercial starring the two quarterbacks really hasn’t.
Barry Sanders :
When the Lions thrashed the Cowboys to secure a spot in the 1991 NFC championship game, the incredibly talented Sanders led the team to the Lions’ only playoff victory in the previous 65 years.
Detroit, however, would suffer a crushing defeat to Washington as the eventual Super Bowl champions limited Sanders to just 59 all-purpose yards. Two years later, Sanders had his subsequent and last “best chance” to win the championship. Sanders gained 169 yards on the ground, but the Packers still defeated the Lions, giving Brett Favre his first playoff victory.
Green Bay won 28-24 thanks to Favre’s fourth-quarter touchdown pass of 40 yards to Sterling Sharpe.
Randy Moss :
There is a heated argument over whether Jerry Rice or Randy Moss is the greatest receiver of all time, similar to the debate over LeBron James and Michael Jordan. Moss, a marvel of athleticism, thrived after moving to New England in 2007. Together with Tom Brady, Moss set a single-season NFL record with 22 touchdown receptions, helping the Patriots finish the regular season undefeated.
After catching the game-winning touchdown pass late in that year’s Super Bowl, Moss was just a few steps away from winning his first championship. However, the Giants responded when Eli Manning’s miraculous pass to David Tyree enabled him to find Plaxico Burress for the game-winning touchdown.
With a few seconds left, Brady and Moss came within inches of connecting on a long throw that might have added some intrigue.
Bruce Smith :
Buffalo led the Giants 12-3 at the start of Super Bowl XXV thanks to Smith’s safety for the Bills. However, the Bills would only score once more and fell short in the most competitive Super Bowl in history. Smith and his teammates embraced on the sidelines as Scott Norwood’s 47-yard field goal attempt missed wide right with eight seconds remaining and the score 20-19.
Smith, the Bills, and the NFL’s all-time leader in sacks with 200, would participate in the following three Super Bowls, making them the only team to do so for four consecutive years. However, they lost each match by a combined score of 119-54.
Anthony Munoz :
In two fiercely contested Super Bowls against the 49ers, Munoz participated. Munoz and the Bengals lost both times, with the second defeat occurring after Montana steered the 49ers to victory in Super Bowl XXIII with a 92-yard game-winning drive.
Munoz, widely regarded as the best offensive tackle in NFL history, draws comparisons between Montana and Joe Burrow, the quarterback of his former squad.
Alan Page :
In any of their four Super Bowl appearances, Page and the Vikings weren’t particularly close. They played the Steelers in Super Bowl IX, which was their most intense matchup. The Vikings briefly had hope after a special teams score, but those hopes were quickly dashed when Terry Bradshaw led the Steelers on a drive that won the game.
It should be noted that in 1969, Page—the first defensive player to win NFL MVP—won the league title. The final game before the AFL-NFL merger saw the Vikings lose to the Chiefs in Super Bowl IV.
Similar to Moss, Seau had his best chance to win a championship while playing for the Patriots, who were virtually unbeaten at the time.The Giants were largely kept from scoring by him and his defensive teammates, but they were ultimately defeated by one of the most incredible plays in NFL history.
Additionally, the offense’s 14 point output didn’t help them.
Seau, who was arguably the best defensive player in the NFL during the 1990s, was the star of a Chargers squad that made an unexpected Super Bowl run in 1994. The Chargers have yet to make another appearance in a championship game.
Tony Gonzalez :
Gonzalez played a key role on several talented Chiefs teams, but it took him until his 16th season to achieve his first playoff victory. Gonzalez, a Falcon at the time, caught a touchdown pass for 10 yards to give Atlanta a 10-point advantage over the 49ers in the divisional round of the 2012 postseason.
However, the Falcons were unable to maintain their advantage as San Francisco defeated them 28-24 thanks to two touchdowns from Frank Gore. Gonzalez, the most productive tight end in NFL history, announced his retirement after the following season. His 15,127 yards are more than 2,000 yards more than Jason Witten, the second-most productive tight end in league history.
LaDainian Tomlinson :
Tomlinson participated in two AFC championship games, but his best chance to win a championship came in 2006 while playing for the Chargers, who went 14-2. But despite Tomlinson’s 187 total yards and two touchdowns, San Diego was defeated by the Patriots in the divisional round. The Chargers had a 14-3 lead before being defeated by a classic Brady comeback.
The Chargers would have faced Peyton Manning’s Colts in the AFC championship game if they had won that contest. Had they been able to get past Indianapolis, the Chargers rather than the Colts would have likely defeated the Bears in the Super Bowl.
The first three periods of Super Bowl XLIII saw Fitzgerald restrained. But in the fourth quarter, he really came alive, hauling in two touchdown passes, one of which he ran 64 yards for the game-winning score with 2:37 to play.
The Steelers put together an 88-yard drive that culminated in Santonio Holmes receiving the game-winning touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger while Fitzgerald watched from the sidelines. Even though Fitzgerald had a game deserving of the MVP, with seven receptions for 127 yards and two touchdowns, the Cardinals still fell short, 27-23.