The Vikings Are the Best Team to Never Win the Super Bowl (and It Isn’t Even Close)
Earlier this week, I watched the 1998 NFC Championship Game between the Vikings and Falcons. This, of course, was the season where rookie Randy Moss lit the NFL world on fire. The team set a then-NFL record with 556 points scored and finished the season 15-1.
Unfortunately, the Vikings fell apart when it mattered most, and the Falcons upset them in overtime, 30-27. It was a reminder that the Minnesota Vikings have fielded some great teams over the years. We aren’t like the Browns or Lions. This just isn’t a team that has had large patches of futility. In fact, every generation of fans has enjoyed years of success.
So I decided to see just how great the Vikings have been over the years and how they stack up against not only the other 11 teams without a Super Bowl victory but also how they stack up against franchises with Super Bowl wins.
The Vikings Are Among the Winningest Franchises in the NFL
When stacked up with all of the franchises in the NFL, the Vikings stack up among the best when it comes to all-time winning percentage.
Minnesota’s regular-season record of 495-412-11 gives them a .546 winning percentage, good enough for seventh among the league’s 32 teams. The teams above them are the Packers (.571), the Cowboys (.569), the Bears (.565), the Ravens (.564), the Patriots (.562), and the Dolphins (.553). This isn’t surprising as all these teams besides the Ravens have had dynasties at some point in their history. And the only team without one, the Ravens, never had to deal with expansion issues. They took a talented Browns team, changed cities and logos, and have won two Super Bowls since moving to Baltimore in 1996.
Here’s where things get interesting. When looking below the Vikings on the list, they rank above many of the league’s most successful franchises. They have a better all-time winning percentage than the 49ers (.541), the Steelers (.536), the Giants (.532), the Colts (.530), and the Broncos (.529). In fact, you have to go all the way down to the Browns at No.16 (.511) on the list to find the next franchise that hasn’t won a Super Bowl. Uffda.
To make it to the Super Bowl, you need to make the postseason (obviously). Among all franchises, once again the Vikings rank among the best in playoff appearances. They have 30 playoff appearances, which is tied for fifth all-time. This is especially impressive since they are the youngest franchise among the 14 franchises with 24 or more appearances.
Now, these playoff appearances themselves can be considered skewed. They factor in all playoff appearances across all decades since 1933, when the first NFL Championship Game was played (they used to give the championship to the team with the best record at the end of the season). The Packers, for example, have more playoff appearances than anyone with 34. However, they had six appearances before the Vikings ever played a regular season game. That the Vikings are tied for fifth is remarkable in itself.
The Vikings also just haven’t had long, brutal stretches of incompetent play. After missing the playoffs each of their first seven seasons, Minnesota’s longest playoff drought has been four seasons, from 1983 through 1986. In fact, they have only finished below .500 18 times in 60 seasons. Even a team like Green Bay has had long stretches of poor play. From the time Vince Lombardi coached his final game in Super Bowl II (following the 1967 season) until Brett Favre arrived in 1992, the Packers only reached the playoffs twice.
Failing to Break Through
Now, these nice stats only mean so much. Winning the Super Bowl is the ultimate goal, and, spoiler alert, the Vikings have yet to do so. Minnesota has reached the big game four times, losing all four. They haven’t even had a lead in a Super Bowl yet, which is sad considering they blocked a Ray Guy punt inside the five-yard line in Super Bowl XI.
Since that game, played in January 1977, the Vikings have reached the NFC Championship Game six times. They have lost all six, some being embarrassing blowouts, others being heartbreaking nail-biters.
The losses in the 1998 and 2009 Championship Games were to two teams with very little franchise success up to those games. The 1998 Falcons had made the playoffs for only the fifth time in franchise history. When they upset the Vikings, the Falcons punched their ticket to their first Super Bowl in Miami before losing to the Broncos 34-19.
The 2009 Saints were in the playoffs for only the sixth time in their franchise’s history. By taking advantage of Vikings turnovers (among other strategic moves), New Orleans would punch their tickets to their first Super Bowl in, you guessed it, Miami. Unlike Atlanta, the Saints would win their first title, defeating the Colts 31-17.
Finally, since Super Bowl XI in January 1977, only five other teams have failed to make it to the Super Bowl (the Lions, Browns, Jets, Jaguars, and Texans). Even the two expansion teams of the 1976 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks, have combined for three Super Bowl wins since then their pathetic inaugural seasons. The two teams squared off in Week 6 of 1976, both 0-6. The Seahawks would win their first game in franchise history. The Buccaneers would lose the first 26 games of their existence before a Week 13 victory over the Saints in 1977.
Will We Ever See the Vikings Win It All?
At this point, it can be hard to envision the Vikings ever winning a Super Bowl, let alone returning. That isn’t to say that there isn’t talent on the 2021 roster. But there have been much more talented Viking teams that have failed to put it all together.
Still, I try to stay positive, as hard as it is. The Arizona Cardinals almost beat the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII, and I never thought I’d see a successful Cardinals team. I’ve seen the Saints and Falcons field worse teams than the Vikings ever have, and I’ve seen them still make the Super Bowl. The Chiefs returned to the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years in 2019, then returned again in 2020.
Hopefully, someday, the Vikings’ fortunes will turn. Until then, we will continue to cheer them on every Sunday, keeping the faith, believing that we never missed the franchise’s glory days, but are about to live them.