Super Bowl curse
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The Super Bowl curse is a phrase referring to three types: Super Bowl participants that follow up with lower-than-expected performance the following year; teams that do not repeat as Super Bowl champions; and host teams of the Super Bowl that do not play the game on their own home turf.
Also called a Super Bowl hangover, it has been used, for example, to explain both why losing teams may post below-average winning percentages in the following year and why Super Bowl champions seldom return to the Super Bowl the following year. The term has been used since at least 1992, when The Washington Post commented that "[t]he Super Bowl Curse has thrown everything it's got at the Washington Redskins. The Jinx that has bedeviled defending champs for 15 years has never been in better form". The phenomenon is attributed by football commentator and former NFL manager Charley Casserly to such elements as "a shorter offseason, contract issues, [and] more demand for your players' time". Casserly also notes that "once the season starts, you become the biggest game on everybody's schedule."
There are three types of the Super Bowl curse: 1. the winners' curse, 2. the non-repeat curse and 3. the home field curse.
The Winners' Curse
While the first five Super Bowl winners of the 2000s posted above average winning percentages the year following their Super Bowl appearance, the losers of the same games posted below average winning percentages in the follow-up year. The Super Bowl curse is also said to apply to winners of the game, as since 1993 few winning teams have followed up their Super Bowl successes with a second Super Bowl appearance (Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots won; Green Bay Packers lost) or even advanced to a conference title game in the subsequent season (Dallas Cowboys). In the Super Bowl era two teams have lost the Super Bowl, then won it the following season. The first was the Dallas Cowboys, who lost Super Bowl V to the Baltimore Colts, but came back in 1971 and defeated the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI. The Dolphins repeated the feat in 1972 when they rallied to go a perfect 17-0, capping the season with a win over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII.
Losing teams mentioned in connection to the curse
Super Bowl losing teams who went on to poor follow-up performance include:
- Cincinnati Bengals (Super Bowl XXIII) - 1988 season: 12-4; 1989 season: 8-8.
- Cincinnati started a long streak of losing with their 1991 season mark and it ended with them making the playoffs in the 2005 season.
- Denver Broncos (Super Bowl XXIV) - 1989 season: 11-5; 1990 season: 5-11.
- The Broncos would rebound to advance to the 1991 AFC Championship Game vs Buffalo
- Buffalo Bills (Super Bowl XXVIII) - 1993 season: 12-4; 1994 season: 7-9.
- Atlanta Falcons (Super Bowl XXXIII) - 1998 season: 14-2; 1999 season: 5-11.
- New York Giants (Super Bowl XXXV) - 2000 season: 12-4; 2001 season: 7-9.
- St. Louis Rams (Super Bowl XXXVI) - 2001 season: 14-2; 2002 season: 7-9.
- Oakland Raiders (Super Bowl XXXVII) - 2002 season: 11-5; 2003 season: 4-12
- Carolina Panthers (Super Bowl XXXVIII) - 2003 season: 11-5; 2004 season: 7-9.
- Philadelphia Eagles (Super Bowl XXXIX) - 2004 season: 13-3; 2005 season: 6-10.
- Chicago Bears (Super Bowl XLI) - 2006 season: 13-3; 2007 season: 7-9.
There have been several exceptions since this curse supposedly began in 1977.
- Minnesota Vikings (Super Bowl XI) - 1976 season: 11-2-1.
- Denver Broncos (Super Bowl XII) - 1977 season: 12-2.
- Dallas Cowboys (Super Bowl XIII) - 1978 season: 12-4.
- Los Angeles Rams (Super Bowl XIV) - 1979 season: 9-7.
- Philadelphia Eagles (Super Bowl XV) - 1980 season: 12-4.
- Cincinnati Bengals (Super Bowl XVI) - 1981 season: 12-4.
- Miami Dolphins (Super Bowl XVII) - 1982 season: 7-2.
- Washington Redskins (Super Bowl XVIII) - 1983 season: 14-2.
- Miami Dolphins (Super Bowl XIX) - 1984 season: 14-2.
- New England Patriots (Super Bowl XX) - 1985 season: 11-5.
- Denver Broncos (Super Bowl XXI) - 1986 season: 11-5.
- Buffalo Bills (Super Bowl XXV) - 1990 season: 13-3. In the 1991 season, they went 13-3 again, and made it to Super Bowl XXVI, where they lost to the Washington Redskins. In the 1992 season, the Bills slipped to 11-5, but after what came to be known as The Comeback, they won the AFC Championship, and went on to play in Super Bowl XXVII, where they lost to the Dallas Cowboys. The following season -- 1993 -- they improved their record to 12-4; and after winning the AFC East division, qualified for their fourth straight Super Bowl appearance in Super Bowl XXVIII, where for the second straight year, they lost to the Dallas Cowboys.
- San Diego Chargers (Super Bowl XXIX) - 1994 season: 11-5. In the 1995 season, they went 9-7; although they made it to the playoffs, they lost 35-20 to the Indianapolis Colts. They would later go through eight consecutive losing seasons (2000 being the worst, because they were 1-15 and their only victory was by one point, obtained on a last-second field goal). They would return to the NFL playoffs in the 2004 season only to lose 17-20 to the New York Jets. Even in one of their best seasons in 2006 they still lost their first playoff game to the New England Patriots 21-24. They finally made it to the playoffs in the 2007 season and were close to the Super Bowl only to lose to the Patriots again.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (Super Bowl XXX) - 1995 season: 11-5. In the 1996 season, they went 10-6, and won the AFC Central division. However that was only thanks to a weak division & they ended up losing in a blowout against the New England Patriots 3-28 in the divisional playoffs.
- New England Patriots (Super Bowl XXXI) - 1996 season: 11-5. In the 1997 season, they went 10-6, and won the AFC East division. The Patriots ironically lost to the Steelers in the divisional playoffs 6-7.
- Tennessee Titans (Super Bowl XXXIV) - 1999 season: 13-3. In the 2000 season, the Titans went 13-3 again, clinching home-field advantage. They lost in the divisional playoffs, however, to the Baltimore Ravens 10-24. (Coincidentally, exactly the same thing happened in the 2008-09 playoffs, with the same record, playoff losing round, and the team to which they lost.)
- Seattle Seahawks (Super Bowl XL) - 2005 season: 13-3. In the 2006 season, they slipped to 9-7, but won the NFC West division. They lost in the divisional playoffs to the Chicago Bears 24-27 in overtime.
- New England Patriots (Super Bowl XLII) - 2007 season: 16-0. After having the first perfect season since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, the Patriots went 11-5 in the 2008 season and missed the playoffs barely by losing tiebreakers with Miami in their division and Baltimore for the wild card. The "Super Bowl curse" took a different road, since their starting quarterback, Tom Brady, suffered a season-ending injury in the opening game of the season.
- Arizona Cardinals (Super Bowl XLIII) - 2008 season: 9-7. In the 2009 season they improved to 10-6 and won the NFC West for the second consecutive season. They lost in the divisional playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints 14-45.
- Indianapolis Colts (Super Bowl XLIV) - 2009 season: 14-2. In the 2010 season they went 10-6 and won the AFC South for the seventh time in eight years; however it was the first time in 9 years that the Colts had finished a season with less than 12 wins. They lost in the wild card playoffs to the New York Jets 16-17. The following season, however, without Peyton Manning, they experienced a significant drop. They started the season 0-13, and finished 2-14, the first time out of the playoffs since 2001.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (Super Bowl XLV) - 2010 season: 12-4. In the 2011 season, they went 12-4 again, but did not win the AFC North division, due to being swept by the Baltimore Ravens. They lost in the wild card round, in overtime, 23-29, to the Denver Broncos.
- New England Patriots (Super Bowl XLVI) - 2011 season: 13-3. In the 2012 season, their record dropped to 12-4, but they still ended up with the number 2 seed in the AFC playoffs. They made it to the AFC Championship Game against the Ravens, but this time they lost, 13-28.
- San Francisco 49ers (Super Bowl XLVII) - 2012 season: 11-4-1. In the 2013 season, they finished 12-4, but did not win the NFC West division as the divisional rival Seattle Seahawks had a 13-3 record. They made it to the NFC Championship Game, but lost to the Seahawks, 17-23.
The Non-Repeat Curse
This type of the curse has affected defending Super Bowl Champions since 2005. Only the 2004 New England Patriots and six other teams have ever won back-to-back Super Bowl championships.
Considering the difficulty of winning one Super Bowl in a 32-team league, some wouldn't consider this to be a curse, but rather a difficult feat.
The Home Field Curse
The third type of the curse is one that affects the host team of the Super Bowl. No team has ever played the big game in its own home stadium. The closest have been the San Francisco 49ers who played Super Bowl XIX in Stanford Stadium, rather than Candlestick Park, and the Los Angeles Rams who played Super Bowl XIV in the Rose Bowl, rather than the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Besides those two, the only other Super Bowl venue that was not the home stadium to an NFL team at the time was Rice Stadium in Houston: the Houston Oilers had played there previously, but moved to the Astrodome several years prior to Super Bowl VIII. The Miami Orange Bowl was the only AFL stadium to host a Super Bowl and the only stadium to host consecutive Super Bowls, hosting Super Bowl II and III. MetLife Stadium, which hosted Super Bowl XLVIII, is the home stadium of two NFL teams: the New York Giants and the New York Jets.
The Indianapolis Colts were in a rare, but not unprecedented, situation at the end of the 2011 season, becoming the fourth host team of a Super Bowl to have the worst record in the NFL for their particular season. This also happened to the 1973 Houston Oilers (Super Bowl VIII), the 1980 New Orleans Saints (Super Bowl XV), and the 1983 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Super Bowl XVIII).
The New Orleans Saints, whose home stadium (the Mercedes-Benz Superdome) hosted Super Bowl XLVII, were affected heavily by the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal as their head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire season due to the implications against them and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Some media outlets such as Fox Sports and Sports Illustrated have claimed that the Home Field Curse was in effect there. However, many fans, local and otherwise blame the bounty scandal on Commissioner Roger Goodell. The end result to their season was their elimination from post-season contention in Week 16.
The hosts curse has a wider effect on the San Diego Chargers, in which every time San Diego has hosted the Super Bowl, an AFC West rival has represented the AFC: the Broncos in Super Bowl XXII and XXXII – the Broncos winning the latter – and the Raiders in XXXVII. Besides San Diego, the other instances where a divisional rival of the host has played in the Super Bowl were: Super Bowl III, which the New York Jets won in the Miami Dolphins' Orange Bowl; Super Bowl XXX, which the Dallas Cowboys won in the Arizona Cardinals' Sun Devil Stadium; and the St. Louis Rams, who won Super Bowl XXXIV in the Atlanta Falcons' Georgia Dome and lost Super Bowl XXXVI in the New Orleans Saints' Louisiana Superdome.
Super Bowl XLVIII had the distinction of having two host teams: the New York Jets, and the New York Giants, as both play their home games at MetLife Stadium. Although it was conceivably possible to make NFL history as the first ever Super Bowl with two host teams playing against each other on the same turf, both teams were eliminated from postseason contention in week 15 of the 2013 regular season.
Whatever the case may be, the host team(s) of a Super Bowl has (a) VIP section(s) in the stadium during the game. In some ways, the curse is beneficial to the host city, as its economy would receive more out-of-town visitors if the host team was not playing in the Super Bowl. Combined with the increased costs of airfare and hotel during the event, the economy would see a bigger revenue boost as a larger portion of attendees would be local if the host team participated.
The last Super Bowl host to make the playoffs is the 2000 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Since then, the hosts of the next 13 Super Bowls have failed to make the playoffs.
From 1966-2011, excluding the 6 Super Bowls held in a stadium without a professional team, the Super Bowl host team had a record of 249-364-2. In those 40 years, the host teams had 11 winning seasons, 4 split seasons, and 25 losing seasons. Mathematically, the probability of that many losing seasons or more occurring by chance (assuming a 50% chance of having a losing season (disregarding .500 seasons)) is 7.69%.
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