It has been 16 years since the Minnesota Vikings suffered their humiliating 41-doughnut loss to the New York Giants. In that time span since, Minnesota has come within a game of the Super Bowl just once – their loss to New Orleans in January 2010.
It has been a multi-generational Super Bowl drought, now in its fourth decade since their last Super Bowl appearance against the Raiders in January 1977.
But the good news for the Vikings and their fans is that, while there have been power teams in the NFC over the last 16 seasons, there hasn’t been a domination of just one or two teams.
In fact, in the last 16 seasons, a whopping 12 teams have represented the NFC in the Super Bowl – Seattle three times, Carolina twice and 10 other teams once each – Atlanta, San Francisco, New York, Green Bay, New Orleans, Arizona, Chicago, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay at St. Louis.
It’s hard to imagine that only four teams from the NFC haven’t been to a Super Bowl in the last 16 years – Minnesota, Dallas, Detroit and Washington.
On the flip side, during that same span, three quarterbacks have hogged almost the entire show in the AFC – Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. Of the last 16 Super Bowls, Brady and the Patriots have been there seven times – a feat made even more impressive when you consider that they lost four AFC Championship Games in that span. Peyton Manning-led teams (Indianapolis and Denver) represented the AFC four times and have lost in the AFC title game once. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers have gone to the Super Bowl three times and lost in the AFC title game on three other occasions.
When you add them all up, of the last 16 AFC Super Bowl representatives, only two of them haven’t included Brady, Manning or Big Ben – Baltimore after the 2012 season and Oakland after the 2002 season. Fourteen of the last 15 have seen either Brady, Manning or Roethlisberger – a streak of limited success that has left everyone except Joe Flacco four years ago out in the cold watching the Super Bowl instead of playing it.
While quarterback play can’t be viewed as the only chance teams have or win the Super Bowl – defenses have plenty to do with it – the Big 3 of the AFC are unique only in their collective longevity.
In the two times in the last 17 years that the Vikings made it to the NFC Championship Game, it’s no coincidence that their quarterbacks were Daunte Culpepper and Brett Favre.
When you look at who the Super Bowl quarterbacks of the NFC have been over the last 16 years, you’ve seen a nice mix of many players – Russell Wilson twice, Eli Manning twice, Kurt Warner twice and Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Rex Grossman, Matt Hasselbeck, Donovan McNabb, Jake Delhomme and Brad Johnson once each.
The lists over the same time span couldn’t be more disparate. Only four AFC QBs have made it to the Big Dance and Flacco was the Ringo of that Fab Four – making it just once. On the NFC side, it has been an interesting mix.
It can be argued that Eli, Warner, Rodgers and Brees are all likely Hall of Famers at some point. A case can be made that Wilson, Ryan and Newton have laid the foundation of Hall of Fame careers by advancing to their first Super Bowl when they were still viewed as being young quarterbacks.
The same can’t be said for Kaepernick, Grossman, Hasselbeck, McNabb, Delhomme and Johnson. Just as often as not, when an NFC team made it to the Super Bowl, it was on the back of a strong defense, not an elite QB again and again and again.
For all their talent, Rodgers and Brees have made it to the Big Show just once each. Fortunately for them, they have the rings to prove it.
In the NFC, teams rise and fall faster than they do in the AFC.
There’s no underestimating the value of a franchise quarterback, but in this century, having the best QB hasn’t always meant you have the best team in the NFC – something the Vikings are banking on moving forward.