Are the Patriots, the Steelers, or the Cowboys the most successful NFL franchise of all-time? A rubric was developed to determine which team has been the most historically successful. The points rubric awards progressively more points the further a team went in the playoffs. The results suggest that all three teams could make a good argument, since their scores are extremely close.
16 pts. – Super Bowl Champions
8 pts. – Reached Super Bowl
4 pts. – Reached Conference Championship
2 pts. – Reached Divisional Playoffs
1 pts. – Reached Wild Card Playoffs
TOP 5 MOST SUCCESSFUL NFL FRANCHISES
1. New England Patriots – 170 pts.
The Patriots have the most appearances in the Super Bowl with eleven and have won it six times. Before the year 2000, the Patriots lagged far behind the Steelers and Cowboys in success. The Patriots had never won a Super Bowl and had only gone to it twice, once in the 1980’s and once in the 1990’s. However, with the duo of quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick, the team became absolutely dominate, making the Super Bowl nine separate occasions between 2000-2020. However, since 2020 the team’s success has again begun to plateau.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers – 169 pts.
The Steelers are the oldest franchise in the AFC. They had the most Super Bowls of any franchise, until the Patriots tied them in 2019. However, the team has not been to the Super Bowl as many times as the Patriots, losing only twice in just eight appearances. The Steelers were really dominate in the 1970’s with quarterback Terry Bradshaw. In the 1980’s the team was not very successful, but since 1995 the Steelers have gone to four Super Bowls and won two of them. However, since 2010 the team’s success has again stagnated.
3. Dallas Cowboys – 168 pts.
Although the Cowboys have not had much recent success, they are still the third most successful NFL team, according to the rubric. In fact, for a few decades, the Cowboys were clearly the most NFL successful franchise. The team has won five Super Bowls, with three of them coming in 1990’s under quarterback Troy Aikman and running back Emmitt Smith. While the team was not successful in the 1980’s, the Cowboys were also very good in the 1970’s. During that decade they won two Super Bowls and appeared in three others.
4. San Francisco 49ers – 156 pts.
The 49ers won the Super Bowl five times, with four of them coming in the 1980’s. They were led by quarterback Joe Montana. Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice also collected for Super Bowl rings for the 49ers. However, between 2000 and 2010, the team had very little success. More recently, the team reached the Super Bowl in the 2013 and 2020, but they eventually lost to the Ravens and Chiefs respectively.
5. Green Bay Packers – 121 pts.
The Packers won the first two Super Bowls in the 1960’s, so the Lombardi Trophy is named after the Packers’ former coach, Vince Lombardi. However after that time, the Packers had very little success between 1970 and 1990. Brett Favre helped revive the franchise by reaching the Super Bowl in back to back seasons in 1996 and 1997. More recently, quarterback Aaron Rodgers consistently lead the Packers to the playoffs and won the Super Bowl in 2010.
Source: Pro Football Reference
For the full table of all NFL franchises ranked and a breakdown of success decade by decade please see: