A Visual History of the NFL Title Belt

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystJune 27, 2013

Feb 3, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis (52) hoists the Vince Lombardi trophy after Super Bowl XLVII against the San Francisco 49ers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Ravens defeated the 49ers 34-31. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Fans of the National Football League are a passionate and ingenious bunch, and one intrepid Reddit user has come up with a fascinating take on the NFL's king of the mountain down through the years.

"The NFL Title Belt."

Reddit use Raktoner, borrowing an idea from the website The College Football Belt, created the National Football League's version.

You can view a full-size breakdown of the belt's progression from 1967 to 2013 here.

The idea is simple. Once you claim the belt, it's yours until another team takes it from you. It also carries over from season to season. Even if a team holding the belt failed to make the playoffs, it was theirs until their first loss of the following season.

When the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl I in 1967, they took control of the title belt. The Packers lost the belt to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 5 of the following season. Two weeks later they lost the belt to the Atlanta Falcons, who gave it up the next week to the Dallas Cowboys.

And so on and so forth.

The current holders of the belt are the world champion Baltimore Ravens, who won it by virtue of their victory in Super Bowl XLVII. That win took the belt from the 49ers, who had taken it from the Green Bay Packers, who took it from the Minnesota Vikings, who had the belt at the end of the 2012 regular season.

Looking at the NFL's history through this particular lens creates all sorts of interesting fun facts.

Per Reddit user Lobo Marino, the Dallas Cowboys have held the best the most times, with 21 "title reigns". Dallas and the Oakland Raiders are the only two teams to have held the belt at least 20 times.

It's worth noting at this point that if this were professional wrestling, at least half of the Raiders' belts would have been obtained using eye gouging, steel chairs, or the intervention of Vince McMahon.

At the other end of the spectrum, two teams have claimed the belt only a single time. It's somewhat understandable for the Houston Texans, as the NFL's newest team, to have only one. It also says a lot about the early struggles of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that a team in existence since the 1970's has claimed the belt only once.

It speaks to the relatively difficult (or fluky, if you want to get all glass half-empty about it) nature of the belt. Not only does a team have to win a football game, but they have to beat the one other team in possession of the title.

The team that reeled off the longest streak holding the belt was the Denver Broncos. They held it for 15 weeks, beginning with their victory over the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII and lasting until their week 15 loss to the New York Giants the following season.

The New York Giants have also held the belt for the most calendar days, although a great deal of that is simply heading into the offseason with it. The Giants have held the belt for 1,115 total calendar days according to data compiled by Reddit user orgodemir, while the Broncos held the belt for 322 consecutive days, tops in that regard.

As one might expect, the NFL's biggest game has caused the belt to change hands a number of times. In the 46 Super Bowls played since the Packers began their reign, 28 were also contested for the NFL title belt.

Somewhat surprisingly, of those 28 games, only 11 times did the team entering the Super Bowl with the belt leave with it according to Reddit user geywolf2155.

Even more surprisingly, only two times in NFL history has a team entered the postseason in possession of the title belt and capped it with a Super Bowl win. The 1981 San Francisco 49ers were the first to accomplish the feat, defeating the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XVI. The 1986 New York Giants repeated the accomplishment en route to a victory in Super Bowl XXI.

So what does this all mean?

In NFL terms, not a whole lot. Sure, the Broncos' run with the belt in 1999 is indicative of how good that team was, since they went on to win consecutive Super Bowls.

However, the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns have combined to hold the belt 29 times, and fans of those teams will gladly tell you how unimportant that is.

Or sadly tell you, as the case may be.

Still, it's a fascinating look at the NFL during the Super Bowl era from a different perspective, and a glimpse into how social media has changed how we all enjoy America's favorite sport.

And don't lie. You'll wonder about this for just a second when the Broncos and Ravens kick off the 2013 season on September 5th.