Overcoming the Super Bowl Curse

Overcoming the Super Bowl Curse
Reading Time: 3 minutes.

As the new NFL season kicks into life all the teams are striving for one thing. To lift the Vince Lombardi trophy. From the teams at the bottom of the ladder with plans to rise up. All the way up to the Kansas City Chiefs looking to defend their title.

But what of the team they defeated in Super Bowl LIV? Should the San Francisco 49ers be worried? Received wisdom might suggest so. The fabled ‘Super Bowl curse’ may be about to hit.

That is a curse wherein the team that came within toouching distance of the Super Bowl fall apart. But the question being asked here is this; Is the curse real? Do the stats bear out the idea.

After losing the Super Bowl

What happened to the teams that lost the Super Bowl in the following season? We have 53 examples to look back on. So let’s see what the records tell us ranging from how the Chiefs responded to losing Super Bowl I to how the L A Rams responded to losing Super Bowl LIII.

In the years they qualified for the Super Bowl the losing teams went in with an overall regular season record of 639-182-5. A pretty dominating performance from these teams even if the did lose in the big game itself.

But what of the curse? How far did the runners up really fall away after a dominant season had put them in the championship game?

Only eight teams in NFL history have returned to the Super Bowl after losing in the big game. And the Buffalo Bills account for three of those occasions alone from 1991-3.

Other than that only the ’71 Cowboys, ’72 Dolphins, ’73 Vikings, ’87 Broncos, and the 2018 Patriots made it back onto the biggest NFL stage of all.

So of the 53 previous Super Bowl losers only 3 returned to win it all. The losers of Super Bowl I, the Chiefs fell from a 11-2-1 season to 9-5 and missed the playoffs. The Rams mirrored this by losing Super Bowl LIII off a 13-3 record, falling to 9-7 and missing the playoffs.

More recent effects of ‘The Curse’

It is all good and well for us to look at the idea of ‘the curse’ from the perspective of every Super Bowl losing team. But if we do that we are stretching over half a century of football. And we all know the game has changed considerably in that time.

Not just the game, but how a team is built. The importance of the front office in negating the ideae of the curse is more pronounced than ever in the salary cap era.

So let us shorten our gaze to this century alone. Since Super Bowl XXXV was played in January 2000 Super Bowl runners up have often stumbled.

The idea of ‘the curse’ looks particulalry potent between 2000 & 2007. During that time Super Bowl runners up fell from 87-25 in conference championship years to 47-65 the following years.

Excluding the Seattle Seahawks who went 13-3 and lost Super Bowl XL, and went 9-7 the next year, none would return to the playoffs.

Overcoming the Curse

People like to focus on the idea of ‘the curse’. That it is still out there. They can point to the Carolina Panthers falling from a 15-1 team blown out in Super Bowl 50 to a 6-10 2016 season. Or to the Rams slipping away from their Super Bowl LIII defeat to a 9-7 non playoff season in 2019.

But these are outliers. Since 2010 the Super Bowl runners up have posted a 104-56 record the following season. Take out the Panthers and Rams outliers and that improves to 88-39 with 8 playoff appearances.

Maybe only one of those teams did make it back to (and win) the Super Bowl. Wouldn’t you just know it would be the Belichick led Patriots too?

Over the past decade 8 out of 10 teams have side stepped ‘the curse’ of being a Super Bowl loser and made it back to the playoffs.

As for the 49ers, they can take solace from their own recent history. After losing Super Bowl XLVII in a close contest, they responded by going 12-4 and making it all the way back to the 2013 NFC Championship game.

Curse? What curse? There are plenty of teams fans out there who can only dream of a conference championship followed by another playoff season. It seems these days if you can build a solid team it can survive the so called curse.

Banner image from thefreshtoast.com

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