The big storyline in last year’s Super Bowl was the tradition rich Pittsburgh Steelers and their (then) five Super Bowl victories matched against the Arizona Cardinals in their first trip to the championship. This year, 3 of the 4 conference finalists have either never been to the Super Bowl or have not been in decades. To put things in perspective, I took a look at the rosters of each team — both from their last trip to the conference game (win or lose) and their last conference championship — and selected a player representative of that era in the team’s history. You might be surprised who I came up with.
Vintage (sort of) football hotness, after the jump.
OK, let’s get these guys out of the way first. The Colts are the only team left in this year’s playoff whose fans can not lay claim to the term “long-suffering.” Their last trip to the AFC championship came in *gasp* 2006 against the Chargers, thanks in no small part to kicker Adam Vinatieri.
(Remember how the Colts had to get Vinatieri from the Patriots after their previous kicker tried to throw Peyton under the bus after a playoff loss? Fun times. )
The Colts would defeat the Chargers in the Championship and go on to win the 2006 Super Bowl, with a core of players (Manning, Wayne, Clark, Freeny, and Addai in his rookie season) that are still with the team. So they aren’t getting a second picture. Well, they can have this one:
This year’s Cinderella team (it is so fun to be the fan of the Cinderella team; usually my team is the one playing the Cinderella team) has not been to the AFC Championship game since 1982. Their stud running back that season was Freeman McNeil.
The Jets would lose that game to the hated Dolphins in the infamous Mud Bowl. The last time the Jets actually won a conference championship was 1969, when they would go on to defeat the Baltimore Colts in the first officially named “Super Bowl”. And yeah, everyone knows Joe Namath from that game, but I never thought he was that cute, even in his prime. I much prefer wide receiver Don Maynard.
The Vikings’ last trip to the NFC Championship (in 2000) was one they might like to forget: a 41-0 drubbing at the hands of the New York Giants. Daunte Culpepper was the quarterback on that team. I know he became kind of a joke later, but I liked Daunte from his college days, so I enjoyed remembering that he once was the QB of a good team.
The last time the Vikings actually won a conference championship, however, puts them much closer to the Jets than the Colts. The year was 1976, and the Vikings’ roster included not only the legendary Fran Tarkenton but wide receiver Ahmad Rashad. Yes, the Ahmad Rashad that children of my generation knew primarily as the “NBA Inside Stuff” guy:
New Orleans Saints
The Saints have an overall franchise history that overshadows every other team on this list in terms of heartbreaking playoff stories. This is, after all, a team that didn’t win a single playoff game in the first three decades of its history. Their last trip to the NFC Championship was also their first, in 2006, the same year several pre-season and early games were moved due to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In addition to players still with the team like Brees, Bush, Colston, and (as of last week) Deuce McAllister, the 2006 team also included wide receiver Joe Horn.
The 2006 Saints lost their NFC championship game to the Chicago Bears (who would go on to lose the Super Bowl to the above mentioned Colts). As for the last time they won their conference and advanced to the Super Bowl, um …
Yeah, maybe the whole point of this post is why you should not root for the Colts (unless you’re already a Colts fan), but hey, I’m a Jets fan. What do you expect?