From the beginning years of 1920 -1932 (pre-Championship) when there were only a handful of ball clubs, the NFL had only one or two teams good enough to win championships each year. In that time span Chicago and Green Bay won six titles that you would swear they won yesterday the way fans talk of their 'championships'. Beating up on teams like Frankford, Pottsville, and Decatur is an easy road to glory.
From the 1933 to 1965 seasons the league added a championship game. Winners were declared NFL Champions. The Packers and Bears won a championship in the years 1933,36,39,40,41,43,44,46,61,62,63, and 1965. Even the Lions won title in 1935,52,53, and 1957. Over the years the league grew in size, expanding and then sometimes retracting. There were again only a few good franchises each year. Between 1933 and 1944 only five teams were strong enough to win titles: Lions; Bears; Packers; Giants; and Redskins. By the year 1964, only five more teams added championships: Rams (45,51); Cardinals (47); Eagles (48,49,60); Browns (50,54,55,64); and the Colts (58,59). Minnesota would join as an expansion team in 1961.
The league continued its' restructuring while it added a "Super Bowl". In the forty-four Super Bowls there has been eighteen different winners. The Steelers lead with six titles, while the 49ers and Cowboys have five each. In the last thirteen years there has been six first-time winners: Broncos, Rams, Ravens, Patriots, Bucs, and Saints. As of this year, there are fourteen teams that have never tasted a Super Bowl win. The Vikings fall in this category. When talking about SB wins, all Minnesota fans can do is become envious.
But do not confuse the inability to win the biggest game with being a losing franchise. Minnesota has a long history of winning football games, division titles, and even championships. Just not the biggest. To examine this closer, let us look at the history of the NFC North, formerly the NFC Central. Presently there are four teams in the North, including historic winners the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, along with the Minnesota Vikings. For a long while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were members of the NFC Central as well.
The NFC Central was formed in the 1967 football season. That first year the Packers won the inaugural division title, and went on to win the second Super Bowl, which was also their second win. The Vikings then would win four straight from 1968-1971. After Green Bay claimed their second division title in 1972, Minnesota would reel off six straight titles. After twelve years of existence, the Vikings would win the Central an amazing ten times. The Bucs would break that streak in 1979, their first of three titles (the others 1981 and 1999). Minnesota followed with its' 11th title in 1980. In the strike-shortened year of 1982 the Pack finally re-visited the top of the division.
After a Lions first win in 1983 a new dynasty began. The Chicago Bears, whom had not seen a title of any kind since 1963, won five straight starting in 1984. They would go on to be the second NFC Central/North team to win a Super Bowl in 1985. Minnesota interrupted the streak in 1989, only to see the Bears return in 1990. The Vikings and Lions traded title from 1991-1994, the Lions winning odd years and Minnesota the even ones. In 1995 a new dynasty returned.
The Green Bay Packers, led by Brett Favre, would win the division from 1995-1997. They would later add another three year streak from 2002-2004. Favre led Green Bay to its' 7th and last recorded title in 2007. Seven division titles in thirteen years. Impressive. During that thirteen year span the Vikings won only only two titles (1998 and 2000), the Bears three (2001,2005, and 2006), and the Bucs their final title before leaving (1999).
Since Brett Favre has left the Packers there has only been one winner of the division, that the Minnesota Vikings. Their present two year run (2008-09) now gives them eighteen division titles,compared to ten for Green Bay, nine for the Bears, and three for the Lions. In the forty-three years of the divisions' existence, Minnesota has won over forty percent. Elections have been won with less.
So this is why Minnesota fans are eternally optimistic. Compared to its' rivals, the Vikings have dominated the division for over forty years. True, this does not equate with success, and the five championships the Vikings do own are trivial compared to the ultimate prize. But when August rolls around each year, Vikings fans see that their chances of being better than the Bears, Packers, or Lions as pretty good. Without Favre, the Pack has won three titles in nearly thirty years. Take away the Super Bowl Shuffle team of Chicago in the 1980s, and the Bears have won four titles in the other near forty years. The Lions, well, Barry Sanders is long gone.
Who will win the NFC Central? The odds are heavily in favor of the team with the most proven succes in its' history.
My team. The Minnesota Vikings.
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