Winning the Lombardi Trophy should be the mindset of every single NFL player in the league; it signifies a team’s dominance and the effort they put into achieving this admirable feat. Unfortunately, in a league controlled by powerhouse teams that take up the Super Bowl spotlight, some players who have made a namesake for themselves have either never been able to win the big one, or ever be in one. It’s a shame that some of the game’s best athletes haven’t been able to get their hands on the championship trophy, despite their incredible work ethic and accomplishments. With that said, here are ten of the most elite, active NFL players that deserve to win a title:
10. Carson Palmer
Carson Palmer did not have the greatest start to a professional career coming off a Heisman award-winning season and being drafted first overall by the Bengals. He bounced back later in his career to win the NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2015 with the Arizona Cardinals. For his sake, he does deserve some playoff glory for the hardships that he’s been through. For a man who has everything, it’s strange that he is partially defined for what he’s missing: a title.
9. Julius Peppers
Peppers hasn’t come as close to a Super Bowl win since he and the Panthers were dashed at the hands of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXVIII (how tragic). He is currently the Panthers’ all-time leader in sacks, forced fumbles, and blocked kicks. It’s extraordinary that a man drafted in 2002 is still a force to be reckoned with in the league today. His consistent level of play and upgrade to any defense has made for a great career that would be nicely capped off with a Super Bowl victory.
8. Frank Gore
At 33 years old, Gore is a still a stud running back that is able to rack up 1,000 yard seasons when most backs his age are at home on the couch. This past season, his 1,025-yard total was the highest by any RB not named John Riggins or Walter Payton in year 12, making for his ninth 1,000-yard season. He did get close to a championship win with Harbaugh’s 49ers, but he won’t get anywhere close with the mending Colts. For a player about to head in to his 13th year, he’s been everything of what a championship player should be.
7. Antonio Gates
111 career touchdowns – tied for most ever by a tight end alongside Tony Gonzalez. 36 years old, more than 200 NFL games played, and Antonio Gates still doesn’t have a ring. He also earned three straight first-team All-Pro Honors from 2004 to 2006. In the direction the Chargers have taken their organization over the past couple years, Gates won’t be in the Super Bowl spotlight anytime soon, even after all work he’s put in to help his team win… or at least try to.
6. Joe Thomas
If you give this guy a championship, you might as well give his whole team one too, and they need one more than anything. Joe Thomas has played every snap at left tackle for the saddest team in the league, the Cleveland Browns. His only winning season was his rookie year, where the Browns went 10-6 surprisingly. The six-time first-team All-Pro has done his job extremely well at an elite level while his team has gone 38-106 since 2007. This guy deserves to win, but being the humble guy that he is, he’ll put the entire city of Cleveland first.
5. Eric Berry
This guy’s life could be a movie if some Hollywood studio decided to pick up his story. After being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in late 2014 and going through chemotherapy treatment in the offseason, Berry came back for the 2015 season and was named a Pro Bowler, a first-team All-Pro, and AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year. That’s simply incredible. The Kansas City Chiefs just made him the highest-paid safety in the NFL with a franchise tag to go along with his monstrous contract. What would make his story more incredible, however, is if he was able to hoist the Lombardi Trophy to bring it all around full circle.
4. Julio Jones
So close, but yet so far. The Atlanta Falcons were by far the best team in the NFL last year, but fell flat and blew the biggest lead in Super Bowl history (Go Pats). Julio Jones is the best wide receiver in the game today and has done nothing to tarnish his reputation off the field. I think back to Stephen A. Smith’s rant about him on First Take back in February about how it’s all about actions with him, not words. Not to mention that he’s a one-man highlight reel (see catches he made in Super Bowl). If Jones and the Falcons win a championship in the next couple years, it’ll be rightfully deserved because of the enormous work ethic they all put into success. But against the Patriots, they might have to work on holding a lead better.
3. Jason Witten
Sure enough to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, Witten is without question one of the best tight ends to ever play the game. Like Gronkowski, Witten is asked to block very often and is an every-down player. He currently ranks seventh all-time in tight end catches behind Tony Gonzalez. He even helps rookies adjust well to their new spots on the team (example: Dak Prescott completed 72 percent of his passes when targeting Witten). He’s a team player that can still perform at a high level. However, the Dallas Cowboys haven’t seen a Super Bowl appearance since the mid-1990’s. Witten won’t be touching any trophies soon if his team keeps on choking in the playoffs like they have in the recent past.
2. Adrian Peterson
When healthy and available, Peterson has been a dominant player on any field he steps on. He’s also the last non-quarterback to win league MVP. He came close to breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record, which was the main reason why the Vikings landed in the postseason in 2012. Unfortunately, he has missed a total of 28 games over the past three seasons and has developed a severe case of fumbilitis. Now with the Saints, his career is going in a different direction now that him and Mark Ingram will have to share backfield duties. His resume is all of what a championship player should be, but his lone NFC Championship appearance was not one to be remembered. Maybe he’ll help the Saints get back on top and then he’ll finally be able to add a Lombardi Trophy to his repertoire.
1. Larry Fitzgerald
It hurts me that Fitz hasn’t won a championship yet. Fitzgerald will obviously waltz right into the Hall of Fame when eligible. But can he get a ring to walk in with? His best shot was back in Super Bowl XLIII where the Cardinals lost to the Steelers. He currently ranks third-all-time in receptions and led the league last season in that same category. Time is running out for him as he has already openly pondered retirement. As one of the most reliable wide receivers to ever lace up his cleats, Larry Fitzgerald deserves a championship that will make his career completely fulfilled.