After writing about Russell Wilson for 31 straight days (and doing so more than 31 times in that span) I finally was able to take a break when he signed his contract extension last Friday. Now instead is an opportunity for me to write about something other than Wilson. (Though you can still donate to my IndieGoGo here, and request a topic, any topic.)
After the party (winning the Super Bowl) is the after-party. And after the after-party (losing the Super Bowl) is often the hotel lobby. In this case, the "hotel lobby" being a purgatory of sorts where teams wait around for next year, because as the cliche goes: Teams that lose the Super Bowl suffer from a hangover from which you cannot recover for at least a couple years.
In the case of the Seattle Seahawks, their mountain to climb is twofold. Not only do they have to try and make the Super Bowl for the third year in a row (something only two teams in history have done) but they have to try and win it a year after losing (something only two teams have done.)
So their 2015 season is hopeless, is it not?
No, it is not.
For those of us that are millennials, or at least trillennials, (not even checking if that's a real thing, though I have a cousin who has three nipples), we've become accustomed to the belief that the Super Bowl loser is just that: A loser. If you started following the NFL in the late-90s or early 2000s, then what you saw was team after team lose the Super Bowl and then turn into the Oakland Raiders. Especially when it came to the Oakland Raiders.
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In fact, if you go from the '98 Falcons to the '06 Bears, the Super Bowl loser won an average of 5.4 games fewer in their follow-up season to the year they won their conference. Atlanta won nine games fewer in '99 than they did in '98, and three teams won seven games fewer the next season. The only team that didn't win fewer games the next year was the '99-'00 Tennessee Titans.
(Another good sign for Seattle, maybe, since the Titans had a devastating Super Bowl loss by one yard and still went 13-3 the next year.)
So that's a bad sign, right? That so many Super Bowl losers couldn't even get back to the playoffs? Well, it would be a bad sign if that was your entire sample, but it's only like 20-percent of all the Super Bowls and it happened at a time when there was a lot of flux in the NFL. Free agency changed in 1993 when they removed "Plan B" free agency, the hard cap was instituted in 1994, the Panthers and Jaguars were expansion teams in 1995, the Browns moved to Baltimore in 1996, then came back in 1999, then the Texans came along in 2002 along with realignment, which changed everything from the Seahawks moving to the NFC and playoff structure.
In pretty much every other era except that nine-year sample, the Super Bowl loser has come back just fine. Sure, the majority of them won fewer games, but almost any team that wins 12-14 games is expected to win fewer games the next year, regardless of the Super Bowl outcome. Seattle won the Super Bowl at 13-3, then went 12-4 last season. The same thing happened to the Denver Broncos, who lost that Super Bowl.
Only a few teams have won more games the year after losing the Super Bowl:
- The '71 Cowboys
- '72 Dolphins that went undefeated
- '75 Vikings
- '76 Cowboys
- '80 Rams
- '93 Bills
- '09 Cardinals
- '12 49ers (though they went from 11-4-1 to 12-4, more like .5 game)
The '83 Dolphins won five more games than they did in their Super Bowl loss season of '82, but in '82 they only played nine games.
The other thing that you'll want to know of course is "How many of them came back to win the Super Bowl the year after losing it?" and the answer isn't all that comforting. Only the '71 Cowboys and '72 Dolphins have done that. But does it really matter that it's been 43-some years since a team has avenged their Super Bowl loss with a championship the next year?
All that really matters is that you're still in the game. And as many of you probably remember, the 2006 Seahawks did something that none of the previous five Super Bowl losers did: They made the playoffs. Not only that, but they won a playoff game, falling an OT loss to Chicago shy of making it to the NFC Championship. Since then, pretty much every Super Bowl loser (save those Bears) has been mostly fine the next year. All except Chicago have posted a winning record in their season following the loss.
Even the 2008 New England Patriots with Matt Cassel.
Even the 2009 Arizona Cardinals that were never supposed to be there to begin with.
The last seven teams to lose the Super Bowl have won 10+ games the following season, including the last four Super Bowl losers each going 12-4 the next year. Ironically, they have a better track record than the teams that they lost to. Like the 2012 Baltimore Ravens that won the Super Bowl then went 8-8 in 2013. The 2011 New York Giants upsetting the Patriots again, then repeating their 9-7 record but with no playoffs. The 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers winning their second Super Bowl in four years, but only going 9-7 in 2009.
In that one weird way, maybe the Seahawks have a better chance this year than New England. It already sort of looks that way when you consider that the Patriots had a very rough offseason, while Seattle just went around extending their favorite players and also adding JFG.
I don't really know what the endgame of this article was. Sometimes you just start researching and writing and don't really plan an ending. I don't know if you're supposed to feel better or worse about the Seahawks' chances based on these findings, but I think you can feel however you want to feel about the team without even having to put their Super Bowl loss into context. It's just a thing that happened six months ago. Now there's another season and the team still looks really, really good.
They know what their endgame is -- to get back to the Super Bowl and win it -- but it's only something you can plan for, not something you can predict. They seem to have planned it really well. At the very least, it should be another fascinating journey.