Super Bowl curse

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The Super Bowl curse or Super Bowl hangover is a phrase referring to one of three things that occur in the National Football League (NFL): 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 have never advanced to the title game on their own home fields.

The phrase has been used 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 title game the following year. The term has been used since at least 1992, when The Washington Post commented that "the 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".[1] The phenomenon is attributed by football commentator and former NFL manager Charley Casserly to such elements as "a shorter offseason, contract problems, [and] more demand for your players' time".[2] Casserly also notes that "once the season starts, you become the biggest game on everybody's schedule."[2]

The losers' curse[edit]

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.[3]

Losing teams mentioned in connection to the curse[edit]

Super Bowl losing teams who went on to poor follow–up performance include:[3]


There have been several exceptions since this curse supposedly began in 1977:

The non-repeat curse[edit]

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 and Seattle Seahawks lost), or even advanced to a conference title game in the subsequent season (Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks). 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.

Considering the difficulty of winning even one Super Bowl in the 32-team NFL, some wouldn't consider this to be a curse but rather a difficult feat. Indeed, only seven teams have won back-to-back Super Bowl championships, and only one of these seven teams have made more than two consecutive appearances in the Super Bowl, the Miami Dolphins who lost Super Bowl VI and then won Super Bowl VII (as part of a 17-0 perfect season) and defended their title in Super Bowl VIII. The only franchise to reach more than three straight title games was the Buffalo Bills who lost four Super Bowls in a row from 1990–93. This is in contrast to other North American major professional sports leagues (MLB, NBA, NHL) where repeat championships and even "three-peats" are not uncommon.

Since 2005, no incumbent holder has managed to successfully defend their title, in fact between 2006 and 2013 every defending Super Bowl champion would conclude the following season either losing their opening playoff game or failed to qualify for the playoffs. The 2014 Seattle Seahawks opened the playoffs with a win over the Carolina Panthers in the Divisional round, becoming the first defending champion since the 2005 Patriots to win a playoff game the following season.

  • As the two-time defending Super Bowl champions, the 1990 San Francisco 49ers were favored to become first NFL team to win three consecutive Super Bowls. Dating back to 1989, the 49ers completed a fifteen-game unbeaten streak in the regular season (5 victories in the last 5 games of 1989 and 10 victories in the first ten games of 1990), en route to compiling the league's best regular season record (14–2) while quarterback Joe Montana was named regular season MVP.[6] Facing the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game, the 49ers defense was able to hold backup quarterback Jeff Hostetler and the Giants without a touchdown, but the tide of the game changed when Montana was sacked by Leonard Marshall while rolling out of the quarterback pocket; a play which injured Montana and forced him to leave the game. With only a few minutes left, 49ers running back Roger Craig fumbled while the 49ers were attempting to score the game clinching touchdown, and the ball was recovered by the Giants' Lawrence Taylor, setting up the drive to kick their fifth field goal of the game with seconds left to win the game 15–13. The words of Pat Summerall "There will be no three-peat!" haunt 49ers fans to this day. The NFC Championship game also turned out to be Montana's next-to-last appearance in a 49er uniform, as elbow injuries cost him the entire 1991 season, and despite his recovery he lost his starting position to Steve Young.
  • The Seattle Seahawks were the most recent defending champions to return to the title game the following year, Super Bowl XLIX, where they faced the New England Patriots. The Seahawks built a ten-point lead to end the third quarter 24-14, and until Super Bowl LI (which also featured the Patriots), no team in Super Bowl history had ever overcome a fourth-quarter deficit of more than seven points. The Patriots, however, rallied with two touchdowns to take a 28–24 lead with roughly two minutes left in the game. Seattle threatened to score in the final moments, driving the ball to New England's 1-yard line. With 26 seconds remaining in the game, they decided to pass the ball in a highly scrutinized play that resulted in Patriots rookie Malcolm Butler making a game-saving interception from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. However, the game was not decided at this point since New England was backed up against its own end zone, so if Patriots quarterback Tom Brady went too far back before kneeling his team would give up two points and have to kick the ball back to the Seahawks, who would simply need to get into field goal position for a chance to win. However, Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett was drawn across line of scrimmage and flagged for encroachment which penalized Seattle five yards and moved the ball to the New England six-yard line, ending Seattle's hope of a comeback.

The home field curse[edit]

The home field curse affects the host team of the Super Bowl. From 1966–2011 (excluding the six Super Bowl games held in a stadium without a professional team), the Super Bowl host team had a record of 249–364–2. In those 40 seasons, the host teams had 11 winning seasons, four split seasons, and 25 losing seasons. Mathematically, the probability of that many losing seasons or more occurring by chance (assuming a 50 percent chance of having a losing season (disregarding .500 seasons)) is 7.69 percent. It should be noted, however, that in contrast to the other Big 4 North American major professional sports leagues (Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League), whose championship round is co–hosted by the two competing teams that season (which gives a higher probability that both teams will have a winning season, to qualify for the playoffs), the Super Bowl host is selected several years before it is played. The only other major professional sports league in North America using this format is the Canadian Football League, where the Grey Cup host city is selected ahead of time. However, unlike the NFL, there have been multiple teams who have won the Grey Cup at home.

So far no team has yet managed to reach the championship game in their home stadium, or even come close. Only two NFL teams have reached the Super Bowl hosted in their home market: 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.

In a way, not having the home team play in the Super Bowl is actually beneficial to the host city as it would receive more out-of-town visitors than if the host team was 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 host team(s) of a Super Bowl do receive VIP section(s) in the stadium during the game; for instance New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was in the luxury suite of his team's home MetLife Stadium during Super Bowl XLVIII, which saw the Denver Broncos quarterbacked by his brother Peyton Manning lose 43–8 to the Seattle Seahawks.

Further reading[edit]

  • "Credit Belichick for beating Super Bowl curse". The Sacramento Bee. October 25, 2006. pp. C3. 
  • Freeman, Mike (December 12, 1991). "Fans cry: Off with Giants' Head (Coach)!". The Washington Post. 
  • Green Jr., Ron (November 5, 2004). "Lost-the-Super-Bowl blues afflict Panthers, Raiders". The Charlotte Observer. pp. 2C. 
  • "Less and more than rumored Miami and the Super Bowl curse". Sarasota Herald Tribune. January 30, 1999. 
  • Penner, Mike (August 27, 2006). "Curses are reality to fantasy leaguers". Los Angeles Times. pp. D.2. 


  1. ^ Boswell, Thomas (September 21, 1992). "A Curse but not yet a sin". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 22, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b Gruber, Jack (February 6, 2007). "Champions, for now — Super Bowl curse could vex Colts, Bears". USA Today. Retrieved April 19, 2008. 
  3. ^ a b Simpson, Matt (September 17, 2006). "Seattle out to break Super Bowl curse". East Valley Tribune. Retrieved April 19, 2008. 
  4. ^ "Game Notes: Oakland Raiders 35 Carolina Panthers 32". Oakland Raiders. November 27, 2016. Retrieved January 4, 2017. 
  5. ^ Belson, Ken (February 1, 2010). "Is the Super Bowl curse real? Just ask Brady, Alexander and others". National Football League. Retrieved February 2, 2010. 
  6. ^ "1990 NFL Standings, Team & Offensive Statistics". Retrieved 2015-12-13. 

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