You may not have heard, but the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, breaking a drought that dated back to 1908.
And right after the game, everyone started to figure out which franchise now has the longest remaining streak without a championship in American professional sports.
The Arizona Cardinals have taken the torch from the Cubs.
Coincidentally enough, the Cardinals’ drought dates back to Chicago. They won the NFL championship in 1947, led by rookie halfback/quarterback Charley Trippi, a future Hall of Famer. The Cardinals beat the Philadelphia Eagles 28-21 at old Comiskey Park in Chicago. There was only one postseason game back then, mostly because there were only 10 teams.
And they haven’t won since. They moved from Chicago to St. Louis and St. Louis to Arizona, and went decades without any postseason success. The Cardinals won an NFL championship on Dec. 28. 1947, and their next playoff win was Jan. 2, 1999. They’ve made one Super Bowl, at the end of the 2008 season, and lost in the last minute to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Unless you’re 69 years old, or a little more than a month short of turning 69, you weren’t alive the last time the Cardinals ruled the NFL.
They’re not the only NFL team that has hazy memories of its last NFL championship, if it has any championship to remember. Here are the NFL’s longest championship droughts (dates listed are the last NFL or AFL championship; none of these teams has won a Super Bowl), and the outlook of each team breaking that streak in the near future:
Cardinals (1947): The Cardinals seemed close to breaking the longest drought in pro sports. They made the NFC championship game last year, had a good core and a good coach in Bruce Arians, and traded for pass rusher Chandler Jones this offseason. But so far this season they’re 3-4-1, 36-year-old quarterback Carson Palmer doesn’t look the same this season, and it seems like they’ve taken a step further back from finally winning a championship. Championship outlook: It’s not dire, but it looked a lot better a few months ago.
Detroit Lions (1957): The Lions won an NFL championship on Dec. 29, 1957. Since then, amazingly enough, they have won one playoff game. That came in January of 1992. They’ve had Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson, two all-time greats at their position, and still never made a Super Bowl. While quarterback Matthew Stafford has played better lately, and there’s some talent around him, it still seems like a team that’s not close to a breakthrough. Championship outlook: The Lions are still running third in the NFC North. Maybe Stafford continues to improve by leaps and bounds, but a title run doesn’t seem close.
Philadelphia Eagles (1960): The Eagles have been to two Super Bowls, but lost them both. Unlike some other teams on this list, the Eagles have been consistently competitive through the years, just not great. Championship outlook: If rookie quarterback Carson Wentz is legit (it looks like he is), then the Eagles have a shot sometime soon. The fact that they’re not a perennial last-place team makes them seem a lot closer than some other teams listed here.
Minnesota Vikings (no championship, first season was 1961): In many ways this drought is just as bad as the Cardinals, and maybe worse. At least the Cardinals have the 1947 title (and 1925 too, for the real old timers). Many teams who haven’t won in a long time at least have an old NFL or AFL championship trophy. The Vikings have nothing. They were NFL champions in 1969 (the season before the AFL-NFL merger), but lost the Super Bowl. And they’ve had some heartbreaking postseason losses through the years. Championship outlook: It’s not that bad. The Vikings are one of the NFC’s best teams this season, though a two-game losing streak has stopped some of the positive vibes. But they have a great defensive core and a good coach in Mike Zimmer. It’s possible this drought ends soon.
Tennessee Titans (1961): In 1961, the Houston Oilers won their second AFL championship in a row. And that was their last title. Even a move to Tennessee and a name change hasn’t gotten the franchise much closer. They made Super Bowl XXXIV, but came up a yard short to the Rams. Before that, Bum Phillips had the Oilers knocking on the door in the late 1970s, but they were never good enough to break through. And the Titans haven’t even won a playoff game since Jan. 3, 2004. Championship outlook: The Titans have a promising young quarterback in Marcus Mariota, which helps. But it’s still a franchise that hasn’t even been close for a long time. Unless Mariota develops into an MVP candidate, it’ll be a while.
San Diego Chargers (1963): The Chargers had some wonderful teams in the 1980s with Dan Fouts. They had perhaps the NFL’s most talented teams in the middle of last decade. But there hasn’t been a major breakthrough. The 1963 AFL championship is all they have in their trophy case. Championship outlook: There’s a chance for the Chargers to build quickly and make one more run while Philip Rivers is still in his prime. But Rivers will turn 35 in December, so the Chargers better hurry up.
Cleveland Browns (1964): The Browns get all the attention because of Cleveland’s longtime woes (the Cavaliers provided some healing, then the Indians opened up some old wounds), but they’re not even close to the NFL’s longest drought. Still, they haven’t made a Super Bowl and 0-16 seems possible this season. Championship outlook: It’ll take some time, but the Browns finally appear committed to a plan. We’ll see if ownership can stay on course.
Buffalo Bills (1965): We all know the story. The great team of the 1990s had four shots in the Super Bowl and lost them all. And they haven’t even made the playoffs since the end of the 1999 season. Championship outlook: It’s not great. They’re competitive now but don’t seem to have a championship upside or a young core that projects as a future champion.
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