No team that has won a Super Bowl is necessarily “bad.”
Sunday, the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks will face off in a matchup that pits the AFC’s best against the NFC’s best. However, that isn’t the case every year.
Sure, some championships are better than others. Wouldn’t we all like to see the defensive-minded 1985 Chicago Bears and the prolific 2010 New Orleans Saints square off?
But no Super Bowl victory is a total fluke. That said, when ranking the Super Bowl’s winners, the following teams are at the bottom of the list.
5. 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3-1)
Even in the ’70s, winning just 10 games wasn’t a high total for a Super Bowl champion. In fact, of all of the ’70s teams that won a Super Bowl, the ’74 Steelers are the only team that didn’t win more than 10 games in the regular season. They’d be fourth (instead of fifth) on this list if not for an impressive playoff run in which the team won each contest by at least two scores.
Pittsburgh rotated three quarterbacks that season. Between Joe Gilliam (six starts), Terry Bradshaw (seven starts), and Terry Hanratty (one start), the Steelers’ quarterbacks completed 43 percent of their passes for a paltry 2,154 yards, 12 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. With ambiguity under center, a low win total and a soon-to-be-star-studded team that wasn’t nearly in its prime yet, the ’74 Steelers kick off this infamous list.
4. 1980 Oakland Raiders (11-5)
Of the teams on this list, the Raiders have one of the best records, but their win-loss total doesn’t tell the full story.
The 1980 version of Oakland’s football team benefited from a combination of good luck and getting hot at the right time. The Raiders began the season at just 2-3 before ripping off six straight wins. They cooled off again after their hot streak, compiling a 3-2 record in their final five regular season games.
After garnering a Wild Card berth, they squeaked past two of their three playoff opponents by a single score, before handling the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl 27-10.
Oakland ranked seventh in the NFL in scoring offense and tenth in scoring defense. While these numbers are solid, they’re usually not indicative of a team that wins it all.
3. 2007 New York Giants (10-6)
Including on this list the team that knocked off the mighty, undefeated 2007 Patriots may be seen as blasphemous to some, but the truth is that there was a reason that the Giants’ victory was so improbable.
The Eli Manning-led squad crawled to a Wild Card spot, finishing the season 4-4 after its Week 9 bye. The Giants then beat the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 in the Divisional Round and knocked off the Green Bay Packers 23-20 in the Conference Championship in overtime.
Giants fans will argue that the team’s pass rush was elite, but the defensive unit overall ranked in the bottom half of the league (seventeenth) in scoring. After losing to the Patriots in Week 17, the Giants were able to beat the Brady Bunch the second time around in the Super Bowl on a miracle final drive that featured David Tyree’s famous helmet-catch. The Giants were really just beneficiaries of a well-timed hot streak.
2. 1968 New York Jets (11-3)
It seems like we really have it out for New York teams, but the truth is that Broadway Joe’s Jets were heavily overmatched in a Super Bowl game they shouldn’t have won.
New York may have gone 11-3, but they beat up on poor AFL teams that weren’t nearly as talented as their NFL counterparts. In the other league, over a full season, the Jets would have been a mediocre ball club with an average record.
However, after an impressive 27-23 victory over the formidable Raiders in the Conference Championship, the Jets turned their attention to the Baltimore Colts.
The NFL considered the AFL an inferior league for good reason—it was. However, in a sample size as small as one game, crazy things can happen. Namath and the Jets took down the mighty Colts 16-7. The AFL and NFL eventually merged, and the rest is history.
However, if the Jets had to play the regular season schedule that the Colts had to endure, it’s likely they wouldn’t have even been in the Super Bowl in the first place.
1. 1969 Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)
The only thing stronger than this article’s vendetta against New York teams is its crusade against AFL teams. After the Jets’ victory over the Colts at the conclusion of the 1968 season, AFL teams began to believe that they could play with NFL teams.
While the ’68 Jets finished first in their division, the Chiefs finished second in theirs in 1969. Still, they managed to beat the Jets in the first round of the playoffs (by just one score) and took down the Raiders 17-7 in the Conference Championship after Oakland had already beaten them twice during the regular season.
In the Super Bowl, Kansas City rode its newly found momentum to a victory over the Vikings, setting the stage for the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. In terms of talent, Kansas City had an amazing defense, but never proved much of anything against NFL competition outside of the Super Bowl. A second-place AFL team which rotated two quarterbacks (Len Dawson and Mike Livingston), the ’69 Chiefs are the worst team to ever win a Super Bowl.