For every outstanding NFL player whose career is defined by Super Bowl glory, there is at least one all-time great who came up short in their quest to win the big game.
There have been many Hall of Fame players who were not able to win a Super Bowl during their careers. Eric Dickerson, the NFL's single season rushing record holder, was denied his shot at a Super Bowl after running into a road block that was the Bears' legendary 46 defense. Fran Tarkenton started in three Super Bowls but his teams came up short in each game.
Philip Rivers and his teammate Antonio Gates, fellow Chargers great Dan Fouts, Bills legends Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed, Vikings legendary wideout Cris Carter, and Hall of Fame linemen John Hannah, Bruce Matthews, Randall McDaniel and Dermontti Dawson were never able to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning the big game.
As great as these players were, they did not crack our list of the 10 best players that never won a Super Bowl, which you can check out below. We've also included each player's best shot at winning that elusive ring.
1. Dan Marino
Best chance: Marino led the Dolphins to the big game in his just second season. It was an MVP year for Marino, who threw for then NFL records of 5,184 yards and 48 touchdowns. In that year's Super Bowl, Marino was part of one of the greatest big game quarterback matchups in history between himself and Joe Montana, who three years earlier led the 49ers to their first title.
Marino threw for 318 yards and a touchdown, but Montana accounted for over 400 yards and four touchdowns as San Francisco recorded a 38-16 win. It was the first and last Super Bowl appearance for Marino, who retired as the NFL's all-time career passing leader.
It was a showdown of legendary QBs for the ages.#OTD in 1985, @JoeMontana and the @49ers met Dan Marino and the Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX, where San Francisco claimed its second championship of the 1980s with a decisive 38-16 victory.— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) January 20, 2023
📹: @NFL pic.twitter.com/hzdstJp46Q
While their careers have aged well, the same really can't be said of the Super Bowl commercial featuring the two quarterbacks.
On this day in 1985, Joe Montana bought Dan Marino a can of Diet Pepsi after their game.— #Random49ers (@Random49ers) January 20, 2023
What game was that? #SuperBowl XIX.#49ers #Random49ers #FTTB pic.twitter.com/KrVM7cRIZ9
2. Barry Sanders
Best chance: The supremely talented Sanders led the Lions to their only playoff win in the last 65 years when the Lions romped the Cowboys to earn a spot in the 1991 NFC title game.
Happy birthday Barry Sanders— Old Time Football 🏈 (@Ol_TimeFootball) July 16, 2020
Barry had one of his greatest runs against the #Cowboys in his first playoff game#Lions pic.twitter.com/UBhMSmYJJe
Detroit would be on the other side of a blowout against Washington, however, as the eventual Super Bowl champs held Sanders to 59 all-purpose yards.
Sanders' next and last "best chance" at a title occurred two years later. Despite Sanders' 169 yards rushing, the Lions were upset by the Packers in Brett Favre's first playoff win. Favre's 40-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Sharpe late in the fourth quarter gave Green Bay a 28-24 victory.
3. Randy Moss
Best chance: Similar to Michael Jordan and LeBron James, there is an open debate as it relates to either Jerry Rice or Randy Moss as the greatest receiver of all-time. An athletic marvel, Moss flourished when he arrived in New England in 2007. Paired with Tom Brady, Moss caught a single season NFL record 22 touchdowns while helping the Patriots cap off a perfect regular season.
Moss was on the doorstep of winning his first ring after catching the go-ahead touchdown late in that year's Super Bowl. But the Giants countered when Eli Manning's miraculous completion to David Tyree set up his go-ahead touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress.
With seconds left, Moss and Brady nearly connected on a deep throw that would have made things interesting. But the duo could not complete the throw, and Moss and Co. were denied a place in football immortality.
Imagine if Tom Brady completed this pass to Randy Moss in Super Bowl 42?— Brandon Carr (@bcarr_13) August 4, 2022
I think we’d be talking about maybe the greatest completion in NFL History.
🎥: @NFL#NFL | #TogetherBlue | #ForeverNE pic.twitter.com/9RDzYHLhyG
4. Bruce Smith
Best chance: Smith's safety in Super Bowl XXV gave Buffalo a 12-3 early lead over the Giants. But the Bills would score only one more time and ended up on the short end of closest Super Bowl ever. Down 20-19 with eight seconds left, Smith and his teammates locked arms on the sideline as Scott Norwood's 47-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right.
The NFL's all-time leader with 200 sacks, Smith and the Bills would play in the next three Super Bowls while becoming the only team to play in the big game four straight years. But they were defeated each time by a combined score of 119-54.
"We're not putting blame on anybody because each and every one of us could have played better some way, some shape, some how." - Bruce Smith on the Super Bowl XXV loss— NFL Films (@NFLFilms) November 29, 2019
📺 A Football Life: Bruce Smith |TONIGHT 10pm ET on @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/YMlpgBPM6v
5. Anthony Munoz
Best chance: Munoz played in two tightly contested Super Bowls against the 49ers. Both times, Munoz and the Bengals came up short, with their second loss coming after Montana led the 49ers on their famous 92-yard, game-winning drive to win Super Bowl XXIII.
Munoz, widely considered as the greatest offensive tackle in NFL history, sees similarities between Montana and his former team's current quarterback, Joe Burrow.
"He's rarely affected by blitzing," Munoz said of Burrow during an interview with CBS Sports. "To me, that's where the comparison comes into Montana, because Montana could do the same thing.
"You keep Joe healthy, he's got a lot of years ahead of him. He'll continue to just slice and dice and take defenses apart."
6. Alan Page
Best chance: Page and the Vikings weren't really close in any of their four Super Bowl appearances. Their most competitive Super Bowl occurred against the Steelers in Super Bowl IX. A special teams score briefly gave the Vikings hope, but those hopes were dashed moments later when Terry Bradshaw led the Steelers on a game-clinching scoring drive.
It should be noted that Page -- the first defensive player to win NFL MVP -- did win an NFL championship in 1969. The Vikings then lost to the Chiefs in Super Bowl IV in what was the final game before the AFL-NFL merger.
7. Junior Seau
Best chance: Like Moss, Seau's best shot at a ring came as a member of the almost undefeated Patriots. While he and his defensive teammates mostly shut down the Giants, they fell victim to one of the most unbelievable plays in NFL history. They also weren't helped by an offense that scored just 14 points.
Arguably the NFL's best defensive player throughout the 1990s, Seau was the best player on a Chargers team that made an unexpected Super Bowl run in 1994. That remains the Chargers' only appearance in the big game.
8. Tony Gonzalez
Best chance: Despite starring on several talented Chiefs teams, Gonzalez's first playoff win did not come until his 16th season. A member of the Falcons by that time, Gonzalez's 10-yard touchdown reception gave Atlanta a 10-point lead over the 49ers in the divisional round of the 2012 playoffs.
The Falcons were unable to hang onto their lead, however, as two Frank Gore touchdowns lifted San Francisco to a 28-24 win. Gonzalez retired after the following season as the most prolific tight end in NFL history. His 15,127 yards is more than 2,000 yards more than the second-leading tight end in league history, Jason Witten.
9. LaDainian Tomlinson
Best chance: While he played in two AFC title games, Tomlinson's best shot at a ring was in 2006 as a member of the 14-2 Chargers. But San Diego was upset by the Patriots in the divisional round despite Tomlinson's 187 total yards and two touchdowns. The Chargers led 14-3 before falling victim of a vintage Brady comeback.
Had they won that game, the Chargers would have hosted Peyton Manning's Colts in the AFC title game. The Chargers, not the Colts, likely would have defeated the Bears in the Super Bowl had they been able to get past Indianapolis.
10. Larry Fitzgerald
Best chance: Fitzgerald was bottled up for the first three quarters of Super Bowl XLIII. He caught fire in the fourth quarter, however, catching two touchdown passes that included a go-ahead, 64-yard catch and run with 2:37 left.
With Fitzgerald watching on the sideline, the Steelers mounted an 88-yard drive that was punctuated by Ben Roethlisberger's game-winning touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes. The Cardinals lost, 27-23, despite a MVP-worthy game from Fitzgerald, who caught seven passes for 127 yards along with his two touchdowns.
In 2008, Larry Fitzgerald of the @AZCardinals had arguably the greatest postseason in #NFL history— Let’s Talk NFL 🏈 (@TalkFootball34) July 17, 2021
In four games, Fitzgerald had 30 receptions for 546 yards and seven TDs including this spectacular catch and run in Super Bowl XLIII 👀 pic.twitter.com/wnwqUDgeRw