“ … As simple as possible, but not simpler.”
Even if Einstein didn’t really coin it, this is sage advice, especially for fantasy football owners. It’s too tempting to see a problem and latch on to the simplest answer you can find. In colonial
Tom Brady or one of the
New England Patriots, you’re about to suffer the inexplicable, inescapable, and insatiable wrath of the Curse of the Super Bowl Loser.
If you know how this curse goes, you’re probably also familiar with The Curse of the Irrational Sportswriter. Like the flu, every year writers around the country are overcome by an uncontrollable force of Nature. They’re compelled to patch together a few anecdotes from the last few years, glossing over the teams, highlighting a few big name “victims” and offering gloom and doom with no real explanation.
I don’t think you really believe in curses, but there are lessons to be found in a brisk walk through Super Bowl History. Our focus will be key players whose numbers fell off on Super Bowl losing teams since 1978, along with their teams, their situations and their wives that beat team.
No Curses Here
There aren’t too many teams that don’t suffer some kind of loss from one year to the next. Of the losers, the
1979 Cowboys (11-5) pretty much held together, while the
1981 Eagles (10-6) had some injuries outside of its core squad.
Steve McNair of the
2000 Titans (13-3) didn’t find the end zone on the ground for the first time in his starting career, but still made the Pro Bowl, which has to count for something.
Steve McNair, his eventual backup and fellow Lombardi Loser
Neil O’Donnell wasn’t part of the
1996 Steelers (10-6) after his loss, while the
1999 Falcons (5-11) parted with their #2 receiver. Free agency losses for Super Bowl losers, like these, have been rare as well, and why not? Having come within one game of the title, there’s probably not much you need to fix, and you probably want to make your money on a winning team, unless you happen to be
What goes up …
1997 Patriots (10-6) repeated a career high of 14 rushing TDs the previous year, to come down to earth with a paltry four. Likewise,
Dan Marino of the
1985 Dolphins (12-4) slowed down considerably in the year following his record-setting 48 TD season. Unless you expect career highs and records every year, you won’t find a curse in this bunch either.
There’s no law against back-to-back spectacular seasons, but the NFL is ever-changing. Teams, coaches, strategies, players, rules, schedules, stadiums, playing surfaces and weather all change from season to season. Repeat record performances are rare, if unheard of, because it takes a combination of a lot of factors to put together an incredible season.
In this coming season, the
New England Patriots roster may not have changed much, they still have
Randy Moss and sudden record-holder
Tom Brady, but their opponents surely have changed, and we just don’t know how the end of the push-out rule or the new defensive radios are going to affect the game as a whole.
There’s also no telling how the Patriots or their 2008 opponents might adjust following their Super Bowl loss.
Eli Manning may have gotten the trophy, but the game was clearly won by an aggressive pass rush. And maybe it’s just me, but leaving your franchise quarterback and his favorite toy on the field in the 4th quarter when you’re up 45-0 seems like a bad idea. The Patriots will still be a top team, but I wouldn’t bet on another year for the record books.