Easiest NFL team to have been a fan of

Average age of NFL audience is 50. You get to go back in time, advise one in that audience which team to be a fan of, at the age you deem appropriate (but no older than 25)- with the goal of maximum enjoyment between then and today. You are allowed to factor in things other than wins and losses. Which team? New England, Dallas, Steelers?
Cleveland, Detroit I would expect to end up near the bottom, even with that whole perverse pride in sticking with a losing team thing.

Every great dynastic team that I can think of (i.e. Steelers, 49ers, Patriots), despite having a decade or so of dominance, has also had some lean years.

The Cowboys, though, seem to be a team that has had multiple runs with multiple “mini” dynasties - they made their first Super Bowl with Craig Morton as QB. They had a great run with Staubach. Then Danny White got agonizingly close. The late 80’s kinda sucked, but then you get the Aikman teams. It gets bad for a little while, but then Tony Romo gets your hopes up and Dak Prescott has the team thinking of another run. So, for fan excitement, I’m picking Dallas.

(Note: I’m a Dolphins fan. We had it pretty good for about 25 years, but the long bleak mediocrity since Marino lost his sheen and then retired has been a painful time).

If I were 50 and had no hometown loyalty to bind me, I’d probably vote for the Cowboys. But I’m older than that.

If you go back to when I was a teenager, Cleveland was by far the most exciting team and Jim Brown was the most exciting player in the league, and that imprinting means a lot. My wife moved from Cleveland in 1965, and to this day she still remembers the Browns fondly and sneers when she hears the name “Art Modell.”

I grew up with the Cardinals when they played in St. Louis, and despite myself, I followed the team in Arizona until the last player who had been on the roster in St. Louis retired.

Unfortunately, Stan Kroenke moving the Rams and trashing St. Louis on his way out of town has utterly destroyed any fandom my wife and I had for the NFL. I still tune into the Super Bowl, but I don’t watch any other games.

Football is too subjective for me to have a good answer. I grew up a fan of Seattle and can’t imagine being a fan of another team.

The Miami Dolphins still hold an important title.

Plus I was among the crowd to welcome them home when they went undefeated and that was so fun.

I recall back in the 70s or 80s seeing the wonderful headline, The Losingest Team In Football, on a magazine article about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And a quick check shows that, only marginally admittedly, they still are. They will do me. There is no going downhill when you start in the cellar. And one rare, distant memory of glory to foster false hope.

Packers. Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson… Those of who survived the Don Majkowski years are thrilled with the occasional Super Bowl.

I agree, and I was always an Oilers fan until they left Houston, and haven’t really been much of a NFL fan since then.

But the thing about the Cowboys is that they seem to have had more up than down over the years, there’s robust media coverage of the team (like literally every single day if you live in DFW), and there’s a lot of off-the-field goings on that you can get into- the Cheerleaders show, the shenanigans the players get up to, and the various goings-on of the ownership/management/former players of the team. For example, you’ll see a lot of stories about former Cowboys.

So if you’re really into the whole total experience of a football team, they’re the ones to go with.

AS someone who’s lived through the Henry Burris, Kordell Stewart, Craig Krenzel, Chad Hutchinson, Jonathan Quinn, Todd Collins, Caleb Hanie, Jimmy Clausen, Mike Glennon years, I hear you.

The Packers have been at least pretty good most years since '89, and very good for a good chunk of that time, with three Super Bowl apperances and two championships in that span. If they aren’t exactly the right answer to the OP, they’re on the list of the easier teams to be a fan of for the past 30 years.

Speaking as someone who became a Packer fan in the mid '70s, I lived through the two decades of wandering in the wilderness – I’ll see your Don Majkowski years, and raise you the Lynn Dickey years and the Randy Wright years. :smiley:

I was an Army brat growing up, and then went into the Navy myself, so I moved around a lot when I was younger. Growing up, I never really lived anywhere long enough to get much of an attachment to any team. I’m originally from Houston, but the Oilers were never really all that exciting a team to watch in the 1970s. A few years later, I lived near Oakland, California…right as the Raiders left for Los Angeles, which did not endear them to the local fans.

A few years after that, I was living in the Chicago area in the mid '80s, and was excited to watch the Bears win the Superbowl in 1986 – but moved back to Houston later that year for college, and the Bears were not able to recapture their magic from the season before. I kind of lost track of them afterwards.

After graduating college and moving around with the Navy, I ended up in New England. I’ve now been here for over 25 years. You can see where this is going. I’ve gotten a lot of satisfaction as a Patriots fan the last couple of decades. No other team has maintained a dynasty this long, according to a 2017 article by FiveThirtyEight, and that article was written before they won two more Super Bowls (in 2017 and 2019).

I would think either Packers or Steelers.

Both have always been successful enough to be excited about football and have a large enough fanbase that you can have fun talking about your team even when on vacation away from home.

Related: Go Pack Go!

Come on, you gotta love Jimmy Pickles! :smiley:

I remember when he led the Bears to a glorious 26-0 loss against the Seahawks. He was 9 for 17 with 63 yards passing. Good times.

To answer the OP: It might be the Dallas Cowboys. Although it’s true that the Cowboys haven’t advanced as far as the conference title game in the last 23 years, let alone gone to a Super Bowl or won one, they have two factors in their favor in terms of ease-of-fandom:

  1. The Cowboys have long had one of the largest fanbases in the NFL, and an extremely geographically represented one at that. There are many Dallas fans in New York, California, Florida, etc. In upstate New York, I noticed that oftentimes Walmart-type stores would sell primarily two jerseys: Bills and Cowboys. In northern Virginia, it sometimes felt to me like there were more Cowboys fans advertising their presence than Redskins fans. No matter how badly the Cowboys do, you’ll always have lots of fellow fans to commiserate with. Furthermore, Cowboys games are often featured on national TV more than any other team, I believe. And they have Thanksgiving games nationally televised. They’re like the Yankees, minus championships since 1996.

  2. The Cowboys have only ever had three truly “bad” periods in their franchise history, and all three periods were fairly short. The first was their expansion period (it’s normal for expansion teams to suck), 1960-1965. By the following year, 1966, the Cowboys were already in the conference championship game. The second was the twilight of Tom Landry’s career and the beginning of Jimmy Johnsons’; 1986-1989. The third was the Dave Campo era; 2000-2002. Aside from those three short periods, the Cowboys have always been in playoff contention or on the verge of it, or just having an occasional losing season.

From 1968 to 1991, the Packers only had 5 winning seasons and only won their division 1 time (1972).

That’s a long time without much success, or even notable players (James Lofton, perhaps?)

Now, if you don’t mind waiting from 1945 until the 70’s, you have more of a point with the Steelers…the late 1980s are about the worst you’ll do (losing seasons 3 out of 4 years!)

The Packers have had a lot of success in the last few decades. The Packers also have a tradition of drafting and keeping players, rather than trading players. So if you are a fan of a particular guy, you can be fairly sure he’ll stick around.

The Patriots have had a lot of success, they are probably the most divisive team in the League. A lot of people don’t like them, for a variety of reasons.

If I’m reading this right, we have to rewind at least 25 years to 1994, when the 50 year old was 25, but we could arbitrarily go back up to, say, 1979, when the 50-year-old was 10? So between 1979 and 1994.

#1 easiest sell, regardless of how far back we go: Your home team. If you lived in the same place your whole life, definitely go home team. If you moved around a lot, not so much.

#2 easiest sell: Patriots. Doesn’t get better, especially if you start with either Superbowl loss in 85 or 94(?). That must be tremendous satisfaction.

  1. Single Dynasties
    I imagine it’s hard to beat the awesomeness of watching your team become a dynasty. (He said, wistfully…) 49ers on quantity but Cowboys on history. There is some amount of enjoyment following a “storied” franchise, but then again, Joe Montana. If we could push back into the 70s both the Steelers and Cowboys shoot to the top of the list: At least one dynasty, plus another separate multi-Superbowl run. Is that too far back, though, going to like 6 or 8 years old? (I’m 48, watched football as a kid, faded away, became a fan again for good at 19. I think below maybe 13 is pushing it.)

  2. Multiple Winning Eras
    The Giants won four rings, two each in the 80s and 2000s with very good but not great teams for three of them. Exciting games, at least. Bonus points for getting extra national games because New York. The Broncos won three rings, two in the 90s (Elway!) and one in the 2010s. And the Packers have two rings in our time frame, one each in the 90s and 2000s. Bonus points because both teams were great.

  3. Single Winning Eras
    The Redskins boast 3 rings, but if I remember correctly two were strike-shortened and/or scab players, which is a bummer. And the first was at like 12 years old for our hypothetical 50-year-old, which is pretty young. Honestly I think I’d put the Steelers ahead of the Redskins here, but man, Ben’s first Superbowl was putrid.

  4. And the Red Sox win!
    Since the timeline ends this season, an argument could be made for long-suffering franchises that finally got the first win “recently.” The Saints would be tops in this category, I think. Seahawks would be solid, though that’s a lot of pain to carry on the missed second ring. I tend to think not the Eagles, if only because of the infuriating frustration of the Reid/McNabb era. Still, that was a LONG drought that finally came to an end, and it’s fun to live through history like that.

So let’s see, that gives me, in order of easiest sell:

  1. Home team (if you never moved)
  2. Patriots (greatest dynasty)
  3. Cowboys, 49ers (single dynasty)
  4. Giants, Broncos, Packers (multiple winning eras)
  5. Steelers, Redskins (single winning era)
  6. Saints, Seahawks, Eagles (recently earned first championship)

Growing up a Seahawk fan, I loved my team and we had some great talent at times (Steve Largent was my role model as a kid) but those were some really lean years. Playoff appearances were rare. They only had two years with double digit wins in the 20th century, and six years with double digit losses.

Over the last couple of decades, the Patriots have indeed had “a lot of success.” According to the number crunchers over at FiveThirtyEight, there’s never been an NFL dynasty like the Patriots. Since 2002, there have been 18 Super Bowls, and the Pats have played in nine of them, winning six. No other team comes close to that record over that short of a time period.

Cites:
The Patriots Dynasty Just Won’t Die

There’s Really Never Been An NFL Dynasty Like The Patriots

The Patriots Are The NFL’s Greatest Dynasty

Everyone likes the underdog. Case in point – those lovable losers (until 2016, anyway) the Chicago Cubs, who are the most liked MLB team in the country.

Nobody likes a team that consistently dominates a sport. Case in point – the most hated MLB team in the country is the New York Yankees. Cite: America Has Spoken: The Yankees Are The Worst

With respect to the Patriots, all that crap about Deflategate and the like is mostly just sour grapes. Deflategate in particular was also a bunch of overblown B.S., as I noted on the SDMB here and here.

I mean, give me a break. The New Orleans Saints were giving out bounties to their players to intentionally injure players on opposing teams, a despicable tactic that started the year they won the Super Bowl…and people make less of this than the allegations lobbed at the Patriots. Hearing people whine about Deflategate is like hearing people complain about Hillary’s emails.

With all that said, the vitriol directed at the Pats seems to have spurred them on in recent years. Tom Brady especially seems to still feel he needs to prove the haters wrong, so there is that.

Years? That was practically all in one season. Yeesh.

I think if you step away from just looking at wins and losses, the Bears and a few other teams have an interesting case. The Bears, for all their flaws, have some pretty cool “intangibles” to latch onto. They will always essentially be the granddaddy of of the league and only a relative few teams can trot out the legacy they can. Someone born in say 1970 wouldn’t remember those great Halas teams, but they’d be part of the culture. Also, the Bears have a very clear identity that’s been pretty continuous throughout their history, defense, bad weather, running backs, middle line backers and a bit of attitude without being petulant. Not a lot of change in their stadiums, uniforms and colors or ownership.

Tough to measure that stuff of course, but if that stuff affects your sense of “ownership” as it applies to your fan enjoyment beyond just the gameday thrill of winning it might be really important.

The Cowboys, while successful with several championship teams over the decades, are comparatively young and there’s been a a few stretches where they just weren’t likable.

The Steelers have a similar problem where I think even their own fans would admit they pushed the limits to the point of being dirty on the field and pretty unlikable off of it.

The Patriots suffer from almost universal dislike by non-fans, but I don’t think that applies to their own fanbase much. But they’ve kinda been a one-hit wonder. They played way out in Foxboro, in a truly awful stadium back in the day. And then they totally revamped the ownership and designs making it almost feel like the Kraft era teams hove no relationship to the prior decades. Championships and 2 decades of utter dominance are great salves, but if you were to balance the first 20 years with the last 20 years it’s a tale of two totally different experiences.

The Packers probably have the best combo of recent success combined with continuity and identity. The Green Bay thing is mostly an endearing quirk as opposed to a liability. You can hate Chicago, Boston, New York and Philly teams simply because you dislike their city and people on principle, but it’s tough to have a strong opinion of Green Bay apart from how you feel about the team. The Packers have been around forever and have a pretty distinct character as a team, QB play and WRs, and have that whole Lombardi thing to latch onto. The worst part of being a Packers fan is probably dealing with all the fucking casuals that gravitate towards them.