We are over a week removed from the Cubs ending their 108 year drought and winning the World Series. The sports world is still buzzing. It is nice to see this country captivated by baseball again. If the Cubs drought can end, so will every other big-time drought in sports, including those of the NFL. Here is a look at a few of the longest suffering NFL fan bases and reasons for each to be hopeful. For the record, I do not believe in curses. I believe in being poorly run and poor executing.
Very few fan bases in all of sports have experienced more heartbreak than that of the Bills. They have been so close so many times. While losing a playoff game on the “Music City Miracle” kick return had to hurt, it is the four straight Super Bowl losses in the early 90s that stand out. In fairness, only one was close. Bills kicker Scott Norwood missed a 47 yard field goal as time expired in Super Bowl XXV that would have given the heavily favored Bills their first Super Bowl. “Wide right” are forever cuss words in the city of Buffalo. Those of you who are not Bills fans can relive the kick below thanks to the NFL’s YouTube channel.
Reasons to hope – Most important, after a few years of chatter, it looks like the franchise is staying in Buffalo. Rex Ryan has this team competitive again on a week in, week out basis. They have a ton of playmakers on offense. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor continues to come in to his own. His performance in Seattle Monday night was mighty impressive, despite the loss. A trip back to the Super Bowl is likely a long way off, but the end of a 16 year playoff drought is not.
In terms of the “can’t win the big one” stigma, the NFC version of the Buffalo Bills resides in Minnesota. Behind the “Purple People Eaters” defense and legendary head coach Bud Grant, they reached the playoffs in all but two years from 1968-1980. They could never close the deal, including losing in two of the first 11 Super Bowl’s. As bad as that had to hurt, the most devastating blow came in 1998. Minnesota raced to a 15-1 regular season record. The offense, spearheaded by then rookie Randy Moss, set a record for points scored. Vikings kicker Gary Anderson did not miss a kick all year. However, in the NFC championship game he missed a relatively short field goal that would have extended the Minnesota lead to ten late in the fourth quarter. The upstart Falcons drove down and tied the game and ultimately won in overtime. The video below from the Mauer EssPee YouTube channel sums the whole situation up very nicely. As crushing as last year’s playoff loss to Seattle had to be, that team probably was not winning a Super Bowl anyway. The 1998 team had a chance to go down as one of the greatest ever.
Reasons to hope – In Vikings country, it is all about that young defense right now. The trick is finding the right quarterback. I am also in the minority that thinks Mike Zimmer is not the right coach to get this team where it wants to go. He was the right guy to get them turned around, but I think his expertise is too limited to one side of the ball to win a Super Bowl. Anthony Barr, Xavier Rhodes, and Everson Griffen could easily be the building blocks of a championship defense. Everything else is a question mark in Minnesota. Despite this season falling apart at the seams, the Vikings are not that far away. However, the jump from good to great is the hardest one to make.
Quite frankly, it is difficult to pick a single moment that hurts the most for fans in my hometown. They have been around since 1968 and have been a shipwreck for the vast majority of the time. They did have a brief run of AFC dominance in the 1980s that resulted in a pair of narrow Super Bowl defeats to Joe Montana and the 49ers. The second of those defeats was a real heartbreaker. As you can see below thanks to the Charles Surette YouTube channel, Montana led a 92 yard drive in the game’s final minutes that culminated in a game-winning touchdown pass to the often overlooked John Taylor with under 30 seconds to go. Apart from that, this franchise has been almost comically bad. They have not won a playoff game since 1990 and have only played in seven. Keep in mind, the Bengals are currently on a streak of five consecutive playoff appearances.
Reasons to hope – The Bengals are currently enjoying their most successful run in franchise history. Until he does it or is let go, questions will continue to linger about whether Marvin Lewis is the right coach for this franchise to finally win a playoff game again, and ultimately a Super Bowl. Those questions are fair, but making the playoffs five straight years is no small accomplishment for what may have been the sorriest franchise in professional sports prior to the last five years.
No fan base has suffered more than the Cleveland Browns. Believe it or not, they were the NFL’s gold standard at one point. They won four NFL titles in the pre-Super Bowl era. I highly encourage young people reading this to Google the name Otto Graham. After the 50s and 60s, the Browns fell off a cliff and have not been back. As painful as moments like “The Drive” and “The Fumble ” were, the toughest blow for fans started in 1995. The Browns moved to Baltimore following that season and became the Ravens. The scenes from their final home game that year are surreal. Check them out in the video below from the lock18 YouTube channel. The Ravens won a Super Bowl just five years after leaving Cleveland. The Browns reentered the NFL in 1999, but have only made one playoff appearance and have posted just two winning seasons in that time.
Reasons to hope – Candidly, there are not many right now. The Browns sit at 0-10 with a real shot at going winless this year, but it cannot get much worse… Can it?
The Eagles, Lions, Chiefs, and Jets have also put fans through their fair share of suffering. However, the fact still remains that if the Cubs can finally finish the job after 108 years, then every dog will have its day in the sporting sun… Someday. However, seeing the joy on the faces of those Cubs fans had to give other suffering fan bases everywhere plenty of incentive to hang in there.