O’Neil: Is the ‘Super Bowl hangover’ real for the losing team?
The biggest question when the Seahawks lost their first Super Bowl appearance was whether they would suffer the same curse as the league’s most recent runners-up.
This was 2006, and the Seahawks were seeking to become the first team in six years to lose a Super Bowl to return to the playoffs the following year.
Know what? The Seahawks did it. They not only made it back to the postseason, but they won a playoff game before losing in overtime to the Chicago Bears in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Seattle was the outlier in that time, though. The Seahawks were the only team in the span of eight seasons to return to the playoffs the following season, but before you go ahead and assume the Rams are in trouble next season, let’s broaden the historical context a little bit.
Who fares better the season following a Super Bowl appearance: the team that wins the game, and has to spend an offseason dealing with the spoils of success, or the one that loses it?
The answer is the team that wins the Super Bowl tends to be better. Barely.
Let’s go back to the 1994 season, which culminated in the San Francisco-San Diego mismatch. Starting with that game, the team that won the Super Bowl averaged 10.5 regular-season victories the following season and reached the playoffs in 16 of the 24 seasons.
The team that lost the Super Bowl averaged 9.2 victories and made the playoffs in 15 of the 24 ensuing seasons.
The biggest difference isn’t in the level of success so much as the degree of failure. Of the last 24 teams to win the Super Bowl prior to this season, only two endured a losing record the following season. That was the 1999 Denver Broncos, who were 6-10 in the first season after John Elway’s retirement, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 7-9 after winning the Super Bowl in the 2002 season.
Of the last 24 teams to lose the Super Bowl prior to this season, however, eight had a losing record the following season, most recently the Carolina Panthers, who went 6-10 in 2016 after losing to the Broncos in the Super Bowl the previous season.
Of course, that Panthers team is the only team in the past decade who lost the Super Bowl and failed to return to the playoffs the following season. That’s quite a change from the trend the Seahawks faced back in 2006.