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Ranking the Super Bowl Winners, XXXV through XLIV

In case you were living under a rock for the last 16 hours, the New Orleans Saints rallied and defeated the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. The game was, for the third straight year, a nailbiter of a contest that was in doubt all the way through to the final minute. Saints QB Drew Brees tied Tom Brady’s record for most completions in a Super Bowl with 32 (needing 9 fewer throws to do so), and was awarded the MVP award for his stellar performance.

So where do the Saints match up along the list of Super Bowl winners this decade? Here’s my ranking of the ten champion teams from 2000 to 2009. Go ahead and posit your opinions on the ESPN SportsNation poll here.

1. 2004 Patriots (defeated Eagles 24-21)
One of the best teams of all-time, and definitely the best Super Bowl champion of the decade. While the game was a close one, the Patriots were in control throughout. It’s the only reason Deion Branch can find work in this league anymore.

2. 2002 Buccaneers (defeated Raiders 48-21)
Even if you disagree with me that their defense was one of the best ever (and you shouldn’t), you cannot deny that their margin of victory over a favored Raiders team was highly impressive.

3. 2008 Steelers (defeated Cardinals 27-23)
The Steelers had one of the most serious flaws a playoff team can have in a very penetrable offensive line, but it didn’t matter. QB Ben Roethlisberger made up for it by being unflappable in the pocket. That defense helped quite a bit, too.

4. 2005 Steelers (defeated Seahawks 21-10)
Holding the year’s best offense to a meager 10 points? That’s impressive. Keeping RB Shaun Alexander under 100 yards at his peak in the biggest game of the year? That’s unbelievable.

5. 2000 Ravens (defeated Giants 34-7)
One of only two Wild Card teams to win the Super Bowl this year, they dismantled the Giants. I’ll never forget how they answered a Giants kickoff return touchdown with one of their own.

6. 2009 Saints (defeated Colts 31-17)
They were a very impressive team for the first fourteen weeks of the season, fell apart with nothing to play for, only to get right back on the horse (bad pun not intended) in the playoffs.

7. 2003 Patriots (defeated Panthers 32-29)
While a very talented team, it was with this squad that Brady earned his reputation for being ruthlessly efficient in comeback situations. It took all they had to beat a distinctly inferior Panthers team.

8. 2006 Colts (defeated Bears 29-17)
It took a lot of luck for this team to even get to the Super Bowl. When they got there, they turned the ball over three times and let RB Thomas Jones and CB/KR Devin Hester run all over them. QB Peyton Manning was mediocre but won MVP.

9. 2001 Patriots (defeated Rams 20-17)
While they did manage a win over a superior opponent in the big game, the entire team was close to the edge all season long, and Raiders fans today still feel cheated over their Divisional game loss decided by the “Tuck Rule.”

10. 2007 Giants (defeated Patriots 17-14)
Possibly the lousiest Super Bowl winners ever. A downright mediocre team that got hot and lucky at the right time…and they still almost lost their last three playoff games. No sour grapes from this Pats fan, but this team wouldn’t hold a candle to the other champs.

And here are the Super Bowl losers ranked 1-10:

1. ’07 Patriots
All this fan can do is throw his hands up at what would have, could have, should have been.

2. ’05 Seahawks
This team thought they were unstoppable, and then they met the Steelers.

3. ’02 Raiders
Another high-octane offense downed by a tenacious defense in the big game.

4. ’01 Rams
Probably should have won, but the other team played 60 minutes of near-perfect football.

5. ’04 Eagles
A great team with a few key players met a juggernaut with playmakers everywhere, with predictable results.

6. ’06 Bears
Any team starting Rex Grossman at quarterback should predict turnovers aplenty in the rain.

7. ’09 Colts
They won more games than anyone else this decade, but Manning couldn’t take home a second Lombardi despite his best efforts.

8. ’00 Giants
Beating the Eagles and Vikings in the playoffs is like beating up a six-year-old; it’s fun, but trying the same tricks on someone your own size will get you killed.

9. ’03 Panthers
It’s a shame that QB Jake Delhomme’s performance this year is the reason that the team kept starting him in 2009 despite being Interception Man all year long.

10. ’08 Cardinals
They got blown out so many times, but WR Larry Fitzgerald could make even the Lions a winner.

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