Ranking the 5 most successful teams in NFL history
In a society and a culture that values the ultimate prize, winning division titles, clinching home field throughout the playoffs, and winning a conference championship doesn’t always register on the radar of casual or diehard NFL fans.
It’s all about winning Super Bowls, and bringing back the Lombardi Trophy home for a celebration that will last all offseason.
As we gear up for another exciting finish to an NFL season, and a playoff run that will culminate in Tampa Bay with Super Bowl LV, let’s take a look back at the teams that have won the most Super Bowls in NFL history.
Pittsburgh Steelers (6 Super Bowl victories)
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been synonymous with success for the last 50 years in the NFL. One of the secrets to their success has been their continuity at the head coaching position, as they are the only NFL team who can say that every head coach they’ve had since 1969 has won a championship.
It started with Chuck Noll, who got the Steelers coaching job in January 1969. In short order, with some excellent draft picks, Pittsburgh’s stable of talent was bolstered far beyond anything their roster had in the previous 36 years of their existence. Led by QB Terry Bradshaw, RB Franco Harris, WR Lynn Swann, and the infamous “Steel Curtain” defense, Pittsburgh dominated the 1970’s by winning four Super Bowls.
After their fourth Super bowl victory in January 1980 to cap off the 1979 season, it took the franchise another 25 years to win their next championship. Head coach Bill Cowher had several competitive teams in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, but wasn’t able to get over the hump. In the 2005 season, everything finally came together, as the team surrounded second year QB Ben Roethlisberger with reliable veteran talent. As a wild card team, they made an improbable playoff run, and defeated the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.
Shortly after Cowher retired, 36 year old Mike Tomlin would lead the team back to the promised land with an ascending Roethlisberger. In the 2008 NFL season, Big Ben had settled in as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and went toe to toe with Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. He had one of the most iconic throws in history, finding WR Santonio Holmes in the very corner of the end zone with little margin for error. That play would clinch the sixth championship in the team’s history.
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New England Patriots (6 Super Bowl victories)
While the Steelers’ success has been spread out over many decades, the Patriots’ championship glory only began a couple years after the new millennium. Had New York Jets LB Mo Lewis not knocked out New England starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe in Week 2 of the 2001 NFL season, the last two decades of success and the legend of Tom Brady may never have come to fruition.
After that play, Brady and head coach Bill Belichick went on to become the winningest QB-coach tandem in NFL history. It started with the remainder of the 2001 season, where the Patriots shocked the world by first making the Super Bowl, and then defeating the “Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams in the big game.
New England would impressively record Super Bowl wins against the Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, and eventually the relocated Los Angeles Rams, but perhaps their greatest triumph came against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. After being down 28-3 in the third quarter, the Patriots started to chip away at the lead, starting with a James White touchdown catch from Tom Brady.
After that, the flood gates opened, as Brady orchestrated three more scoring drives in the 4th quarter, and one more in overtime (which White was a big part of), as the team completed the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.
San Francisco 49ers (5 Super Bowl victories)
The San Francisco 49ers picked up right where the Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty left off, as they dominated the NFL in the 1980’s with four Super Bowl titles in the decade.
The team was coached by Bill Walsh, who is the godfather of the style of play we know today as the “West Coast Offense” Hall Of Fame QB Joe Montana was as formidable a leader as there was in the decade, and led the team to two Super Bowl wins in the 1981-1982 and 1984-1985 seasons, with a cool, calm and collected way of playing that would be imitated by many but rarely duplicated in the seasons that followed.
As if one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time needed additional help, the 49ers paired Montana with the greatest wide receiver of all time in Jerry Rice, whom they selected in the first round of the 1985 NFL Draft. After a somewhat slow rookie season(for him), Rice kicked his career into high gear in 1986, scoring 15 touchdowns through the air to go along with 1,570 receiving yards. Rice would go on to score double-digit touchdowns in nine of his first 11 NFL seasons.
Just when it seemed like the 49ers wouldn’t be a serious threat to win another title after Joe Montana’s elbow injury in 1991 and eventual departure to the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993, in stepped former BYU QB Steve Young. He played very well since he assumed the starting role in 1991, but his signature season came in 1994, when he threw for 35 touchdowns.
Young and Rice formed an unstoppable tandem that season, and ended up leading San Francisco back to the Super Bowl that year, where they would defeat the San Diego Charges 49-26 for the franchise’s fifth title. The two connected for a long touchdown pass on the opening drive of the game, which basically ended the game before it ever started.
Dallas Cowboys (5 Super Bowl victories)
NFL fans under the age of 30 probably wonder why the Dallas Cowboys are referred to as “America’s Team” given their relative lack of success the past 2 decades. They actually did most of their damage in the 1970’s, intermittently winning Super Bowls while the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins weren’t able to, and in the 1990’s, when some of their most famous players donned the iconic star.
The team won their first two Super Bowls with QB Roger Staubach leading the way, in the 1971-1972 and 1977-1978 seasons. Remarkably, in 11 seasons in the NFL(all with the Cowboys), Staubach never had a losing record in games he started. In his final season, he threw a career high 27 touchdown passes.
After some rough years in the 1980’s, Dallas was able to reload their roster in the latter part of the decade, and re-establish a winning culture with head coach Jimmy Johnson. Johnson and owner Jerry Jones(who bought the team in 1989) added Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin to the roster to bring the team back to glory. They would win Super Bowls in 1992-1993, and 1993-1994.
The successful pairing of Johnson and Jones did not last, as Jones brought in Barry Switzer to coach the team after their two Super Bowl wins. With the core of the team still in tact, Switzer was able to guide Dallas to another Super Bowl ring in 1995-1996, the franchise’s fifth.
Green Bay Packers, New York Giants (4 Super Bowl victories)
There are two teams tied for the 5th most Super Bowls wins in NFL history—the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers.
The Giants most recent Super Bowl wins have come in thrilling fashion, as they defeated the New England Patriots and Tom Brady twice in the prime of his career. QB Eli Manning and New York’s vaunted defensive line were able to make big plays when it mattered most to get by perhaps the NFL’s greatest dynasty.
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The Packers wasted no time winning championships, as they were victorious in the first two Super Bowls ever played. They defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl I, and the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl II. Legendary coach Vince Lombardi stormed up and down the sidelines during those years, making sure his teams were focused and ready to bring home the trophy that would later be renamed after him.