Most Successful NFL Team: Packers, Steelers, Cowboys or other?

There is a small debate going on the “steelers march to the Super Bowl” Thread that I though deserved it’s own friendly, discussiom. The question at hand is, which franchise can be considered the historically most successful. The main candidates are:

The Green Bay Packers: All time W/L/T 654-518-36 (.558), 4th overall
12 NFL Championships: 1929, 1930, 1931, 1936, 1939, 1944, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1996 (Final three are Super Bowl Championships)

Pros: The numbers, more or less. No other team has more NFL Championships. Three Super Bowl victories (and one other appearance). Super Bowl trophy named after Vince Lombardi. Green Bay called Titletown.

Cons: Most Championships pre-Super Bowl era and are not as valued. Three other teams with superior overall won-loss. Titletown monicker means squat.
The Pittsburgh Steelers: All time W/L/T 529-495-20 (.517), 16th overall
6 NFL Champioships: 1975, 1976, 1979, 1980, 2006, 2009 all Super Bowls

Pros Most Super Bowl rings with six and one other appearance. 70s Steelers frequently considered possibly the greatest team of all time.

Cons: Average W-L. Bestknown for cutting Johnny Uunitas before the arrival of Chuck Noll.
Dallas Cowboys: All-time W/L/T 434-324-6 (.580), 1st overall
5 NFL Championships: 1972, 1977, 1993, 1994, 1996 all Super Bowls

Pros: Best overall W-L in league history. Second most Super Bowl victories and 8 total appearances is the most ever. Shortest time in the league of the three teams.

Cons: 2-1 versus the Steelers in the Super Bowl. Not as much history as the other two teams.
My personal conclusion (disclaimer: I am a Packer fan) PACKERS!

In today’s day and age most casual fans would consider the Super Bowl record the deciding factor, and that tips it toward the Steelers, for a few more weeks at least. I’m saying this as a Cowboys fan.

Interestingly enough, I think the three you nominated are clearly the only three in contention for all time greatest.

A minor nitpick is that I think you mean what is the greatest franchise of all time, as the greatest team is an entirely different discussion.

I’d like to shoehorn the 49ers into the mix. They won 10 or more games every season from 1981 to 1998 (excepting 1982), their winning percentage is .550, and they have five Super Bowls without a loss. Granted, much of their glory years were comprised of the Walsh/Seifert era; even so, the rest of their history compares favourably with Pittsburgh’s pre-Noll.

I believe the 49ers belong in this discussion; 55% overall W-L isn’t much, but 5 Super Bowl wins out of 5 appearances is.

ETA: simulpost!

It may be noted that the Dallas Cowboys also consistenly rank as the most popular American football team worldwide (Harris poll), and have appeared at the top of Forbes’ list of most valuable sports franchises more than any other franchise. The brand is at least as sucsessful as the team.

If the question is “Most Successful NFL Team”, I’d have to go with the Packers. The NFL has been around since 1920 (originally as the APFA), and have named champions since then. Since the Packers have the most championships by a wide margin, I’d call them the most successful NFL team. Only calling Super Bowls as championships ignores almost half of the history of the NFL.

Which should come as a surprise to no one who knows that I’m a Packer fan.

I don’t discount the Packers’ NFL Championships or their first two Super Bowl victories, but I will note that things have changed dramatically since the merger. Those Packers never had to worry about free agency, they never had to worry about the AFL teams… after the merger the Packers were a genuinely awful team on the aggregate.

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, even during their 1980s-1990s drought, was always competitive, and this was the case while they were bleeding players because they couldn’t afford to pay them. Pittsburgh has stability and good management, and as a result they are always in the running.

Pre-merger the answer is definitely the Packers. Post-merger the answer is definitely the Steelers. Given the changes since 1970, Pittsburgh comes out on top.

Sadly that number is reversed.

Roughly a fifth of my posts on this board have been Steelers related so it’s no secret who I root for. :smiley: That said, I can’t deny the strong claim from 49ers and Cowboys fans; their records are a bit more uneven than the Steelers and Packers IMO, especially SF’s.

The Packers have the longest tradition of winning if you go back to pre-Super Bowl years and they do need to count for something even if we agree they don’t carry equal weight to the Super Bowl wins.

I’m sticking with my team but if they are the best it’s by the same margin as they won the last Super Bowl - on the outstretched arms of a WR in the trailing moments of the game.

Well, I’d argue that the Pack has generally been a good-to-very-good team over the course of the 1990s and 2000s (with 2 SB appearances, and a near-miss, in that time)…but, yes, for the first 20 years post-merger (the 70s and 80s), they were usually mediocre-to-poor.

They also were pretty bad through most of the 1950s. Was just reading an excerpt from a new book on Lombardi that described just how down the team was when Lombardi came in (in '59), and how weak fan support was in those days.

While that is technically true, no one would deny that the NFL post 1970 is an entirely different animal than the pre-merger NFL. When people think of the NFL they aren’t thinking of the pre-merger league. Of course if we discount pre-merger success, or if we compartmentalize as Airman Doors did, do we discard the first three Super Bowls and thus the two Packers wins? I don’t know.

I think in a couple more decades there will be a further division of post-salary cap to consider in naming the “best all time franchise.”

Hell the NFL today is almost as different from that in 1970. With the changes to the rules to increase scoring, 2 more games, wild card playoffs, salary caps, and huge salaries/HGH/CBAs, and whatever else you can think of.

There will always be a difference between the past and present. And if the question was “Most Successful NFL team in the Modern Era”, I’d probably go with the Steelers, given their dominance in the 1970’s. But most successful NFL team? Packers.

I disagree. I can only compare the Browns from 1946 onwards since that’s when they were founded, but the Browns absolutely crush GB in from then on to the merger. The Browns dynasty from 1946 until 1964 was utterly dominant for almost 20 years, yet barely get sany credit.

In that period, the Browns were 189 wins, 58 losses, 9 ties - which may be the most dominant period for any team in that time span (only losing 22.6% of their games, and with only one losing season at 5-7) - I don’t have the tools to look up if any team has done better. Green Bay is a mediocre 118-126-6 in that period.

The Browns went to a championship game 13 times in that 18 year period and won 8 of them.

In comparison, GB went to 3 and won 2.

These numbers include the 1946-1949 AAFC years and I’m not sure if we’re including the AAFC/AFL records in this. It’s likely that the Browns would’ve dominated similarly in that period in the NFL during that period, because that’s exactly what happened when they joined the NFL. The 1950 season was especially impressive, actually, because the rest of the NFL sort of scoffed at the Browns as some sort of minor league team, and the Browns proceeded to kick the shit out of them - it’s probably the only time in history an upstart team got admitted from some “minor” league and then dominated that league.

The Browns (particularly Paul Brown) also essentially invented the game of modern football during this period. Paul Brown more or less single handedly invented the modern passing game (the “west coast offense” is credited to Bill Walsh, but he was really just tweaking Brown’s teachings), he developed the scouting process we use (more or less) today, the way we do game planning in a classroom type setting, the way plays are called (both by putting a radio in helmets and by developing a modern playcalling/terminology system), and lots of more minor stuff. There’s been no one more innovative in the NFL than Paul Brown.

Obviously the Browns can’t compare to pre-1946 GB achievements, not having existed, and I’m not saying that the Browns are better overall, but you specifically specified pre-merger and I disagree with that. There was no one anywhere as close to as good as the Browns from the post-war to pre-merger period, and it always pisses me off that when people talk about the great NFL dynasties they talk about the 60s Packers but not the 1946-1964 Browns, who were arguably the most dominant dynasty ever.

I won’t dispute your general premise here…the Browns were absolutely dominant in the AAFC, and through the 1950s, a fact that’s largely forgotten these days.

However, your comparison of the Browns and the Packers through that period, while interesting, is a little bit of cherry-picking. That 19-season span contains one of the weakest 14-season spans in Packers history ('45-'58):

As I noted upthread, the Packers were bad in the 1950s. They won the NFL championship in '44, but didn’t get more than 6 wins in a season from '45 through '58. They went 7-5-1 in Lombardi’s first year as coach (1959), which was the first time they broke .500 in that decade.

The only reason that the Packers’ record in that '46-'64 timespan that you quote is even close to .500 is that it contains the first six seasons with Lombardi as coach (and 40% of their wins over those 19 seasons came in the last 6, under Lombardi).

I didn’t intend it to be cherry picking, I just didn’t find a page that let you do cool stuff like generate a record from arbitrary years, so I had to add up the win/loss data myself, and I was too lazy to do the 30 years previous for the packers. I only wanted to make the case since the person I was responding to specified the “pre merger” era that the Browns had an extremely dominant period leading up to the merger.

Just to add a little more historical info for the Packers:

From 1921 (their entry into the league) until 1944, they were 186-71-20 (67% victories, only 26% defeats). If you include 1919 and 1920, when the Packers played, but not in the AFPA (which became the NFL in '22), they were 205-73-21 (69% victories, 24% defeats).

In that span, they earned 6 NFL titles (3 “named” championships, before there was an NFL championship game, and 3 championship victories…note that it appears the NFL didn’t name champions at all before 1929), and lost in another championship game.

They did have a decent amount of ties back then, didn’t they? When was overtime adopted?

In the 50s for the playoffs, but the regular season didn’t have OT until I came along in 1974.

While there is no denying that the Browns were a very good team in the 50s, to assert that they would have won championships for sure in the 46-49 period is stretching things, especially since they lost three straight championships in '51-'53. They might have, but we will never know. And no, the AAFC results don’t count because the league wasn’t merged in with the NFL. Further, while they were very good in the 50s and 60s, they are kind of like the 70s and 80s Vikings: always in the playoffs, often doing well in the playoffs, but falling short at the end (though, to their credit, unlike the Vikings, they did indeed collect four championships).

If one is to pick the overall most successful franchise in the history of the NFL, it’s probably going to be the Packers. Having said that, I’m the one in the other thread who got the ball rolling by noting that, despite all those championships, many of them came at a time when the league was small, and three of the championships come without there even having been a playoff system of any sort. By comparison, the feats of the Super Bowl winners represent a more difficult result to achieve, and a team like Pittsburgh, with 6 such results, gets high marks for having accomplished that.

Greatest franchise of all time? The Steelers. Most successful franchise of all time? The Packers.
Also rans: Da Bears (9 championships, second most of all time, but not all that much since long ago), the 'Niners (a couple very good decades does not overcome a longer period of mediocrity), the Browns (for reasons noted above).

I’m never sure what to do with the 'Boys, because although they have had very good results since coming into the league, they weren’t around in the old days. So they are less good than Pittsburgh over the same timeframe (the modern era, from '60 on), but without the history of the Packers. Leaves them just where I’d like to see them: in limbo. :smiley:

Senor my fellow Browns’ fan, unfortunately the Browns aren’t in the discussion anymore. From 1946-1969 they were absolutely great, from the merger until the Baltimore betrayal they were entirely mediocre and from 1999 to the present they’ve sucked big red rocks. My 1973 NFL Official Encyclopedia lists them as having the all-time best winning percentage from the period of 1920-1972 (its the NFL’s book so they exclude the AAFC years). The results are kind of interesting. Cherrypicking teams at issue

Rank Team… Years Pct

Pittsburgh’s been great the last 40 years, but they sure stunk the 1st 40, so the best they can be called all time is mediocre, IMHO.