BY Steve Rudman 01:27PM 07/25/2014

Why Super Bowl repeats are so hard to achieve

The Seahawks are among the favorites to win the 2015 Super Bowl, but capturing the big game back-to-back proved too elusive for the nine champions before Seattle.

Seahawks GM John Schneider and Pete Carroll have constructed a roster designed to avoid a Super Bowl hangover. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

As the Seahawks opened training camp Friday at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, analysts at the betting site posted odds on Super Bowl XLIX that are certain to irk the Twelves: the Denver Broncos, at 13/2, are the favorites to win the Lombardi Trophy followed by Seattle at 7/1, San Francisco at 15/2, New England at 9/1 and Green Bay at 10/1.

While the Seahawks demolished Peyton Manning and the Broncos in XLVIII 43-8 with a dynamic young roster creatively built to avoid a Super Bowl hangover, oddsmakers simply can’t avoid history, which demonstrates emphatically why back-to-back winners are so tough to come by.

Injuries. Free agency. Salary cap. Holdouts. Chemistry. A defending champion automatically becomes the biggest game on the schedule of every opponent.

The NFL has not crowned back-to-back champions since New England won XXXVIII (Feb. 1, 2004) and XXXIX (Feb. 6, 2005), and the record of defending Super Bowl champions since shows the effect of shortened off-seasons and the inevitable distractions that dog the winners.

Since the 2004 Patriots, not only has no defending champion returned to the Super Bowl the following year, five didn’t even win their divisions and not one reached a conference championship game — not even the 2011 Packers, who went 15-1. They were dusted in the divisional round. Remarkably, the 2004 Patriots are the last team to win a playoff game one year after winning a Super Bowl, in the wild card round Jan. 7, 2006 vs. Jacksonville.

All others either fell in the divisional playoffs or, in the case of four teams, failed to make the postseason at all. While no defending champion since the Patriots posted a losing record, two — 2006 Pittsburgh Steelers and 2013 Baltimore Ravens — could do no better than 8-8 in their encore years.

The two champions before Seattle (2011 Giants and 2012 Ravens) didn’t even win their first game the following season and finished 9-7 and 8-8, respectively, both failing to reach the postseason.

This is how it’s gone for defending champions since New England won back-to-back:

Year Team Coach Opener Finish Div. Playoffs
2005 Patriots Bill Belichick W 30-20 10-6-0 1st AFC East L Div.
2006 Steelers Bill Cowher W 28-17 8-8-0 3rd AFC North None
2007 Colts Tony Dungy W 41-10 13-3-0 1st AFC South L Div.
2008 Giants Tom Coughlin W 16-7 12-4-0 1st NFC East L Div.
2009 Steelers Mike Tomlin W 13-0 9-7-0 3rd AFC North None
2010 Saints Sean Payton W 14-9 11-5-0 2nd NFC South L WC
2011 Packers Mike McCarthy W 42-34 15-1-0 1st NFC North L Div.
2012 Giants Tom Coughlin L 24-17 9-7-0 2nd NFC East None
2013 Ravens John Harbaugh L 49-27 8-8-0 3rd AFC North None

The Seahawks have already fallen prey to some of the factors that prevented the last nine Super Bowl winners from repeating. They were hit hard in free agency, losing, among others, WR Golden Tate and DE Red Bryant. The Seahawks will be pressed to replace Tate’s big-play ability and especially his punt return skills. Finding someone to run stuff with Bryant’s effectiveness might be impossible, at least this season.

And now the Seahawks have to find a way to deal with Marshawn Lynch’s holdout, which became official Friday when he failed to report, adding the sort of disruption that has helped derailed other repeat aspirants.

Four days after Super Bowl XLVIII, and one day before 700,000 Twelves massed in downtown Seattle for a mega parade, head coach Pete Carroll addressed the letdowns defending champions typically experience.

“We really have an eye on what’s coming, and we won’t dwell on what just happened,” Carroll said. “We are in a very fortunate situation. (GM) John Schneider has done an extraordinary job of structuring this roster contractually and with the vision of looking ahead so that we can keep our guys together. One of the things that happens every so often is teams have a big fallout after they win the Super Bowl. We’re not in that situation.”

Not yet, anyway.


The nine defending Super Bowl champions that failed to repeat, and why:

 2005 NEW ENGLAND (10-6, 1st AFC East, lost division playoffs)

 SUPER BOWL XXXIX: Defeated Philadelphia 24-21 in Jacksonville to become the first repeat Super Bowl winner since the Denver Broncos (1998-99) and the first team to win three Super Bowls in four years since the Dallas Cowboys in the early 1990s.

ENCORE: New England’s tumble began when Bill Belichick lost both coordinators — Charlie Weis to Notre Dame, Romeo Crennel to the Cleveland Browns. Following the Pro Bowl, LB Tedy Bruschi suffered a stroke. The Patriots missed the leadership provided by CB Ty Law (released) and reeled with injuries, especially a season-ender to S Rodney Harrison in Week 3. Forty-five players missed time, an NFL record for a division champion.

The Patriots started 4-4 and finished 5-1 to win their third consecutive AFC East title, but never hit a consistent stride, becoming the first team in NFL history to alternate wins and losses in each of the first nine games.

With the fourth seed in the playoffs, the Patriots defeated Jacksonville in the wild card game but lost to Denver on the road in the divisional round after committing five turnovers.

WHY DETHRONED: Loss of both coordinators, injuries, no new starting help in free agency.

2006 PITTSBURGH (8-8, 3rd, AFC North, no playoffs)

SUPER BOWL XL: Taking advantage of dubious officiating calls, the Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks 21-10 and joined San Francisco and Dallas as the only franchises with five Super Bowl victories.

ENCORE: The stumble to 8-8 began before training camp when QB Ben Roethlisberger was nearly killed in an accident while riding his motorcycle in downtown Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger required an emergency appendectomy and missed Pittsburgh’s opening game, a 28-17 win over Miami. The Steelers dropped six of their next seven, unable to overcome hits they had taken in free agency, the losses of WR Antwaan Randle El, DE Kimo von Oelhoffen, and FS Chris Hope.

WHY DETHRONED: Injuries, losses in free agency.

2007 INDIANAPOLIS (13-3, 1st AFC South, lost division playoffs)

SUPER BOWL XLI: Defeated the Chicago Bears 29-17 by overcoming a 14-6 first-quarter deficit. Peyton Manning was MVP, but the Colts’ defense won the day, forcing five turnovers, including CB Kelvin Hayden’s 56-yard interception return for a touchdown.

ENCORE: The Colts improved upon their 12–4 record from 2006 and could have done better than 13-3. Indy lost back-to-back games in Weeks 9-10 by a combined five points to undefeated New England at home and San Diego on the road, and rested starters in Week 16, a 16-10 loss to Tennessee. The Colts entered the playoffs as the AFC’s No. 1 seed, but came up short against vastly improved San Diego and fell 28-24. Manning had Indy at the San Diego seven-yard line inside of three minutes, but threw a trio of incompletions.

WHY DETHRONED: Didn’t sufficiently upgrade roster.

2008 GIANTS (12-4, 1st NFC East, lost divisional playoffs)

SUPER BOWL XLII: Defeated heavily favored New England 17-14, spoiling a perfect (18-0) season by the Patriots. The Giants qualified for the playoffs as a wild card and became the third team to win three road playoff games en route to the Super Bowl.

ENCORE: After going 10-6 in their Super Bowl season, the Giants improved to 12-4 and won the NFC East, earning the conference’s No. 1 seed – that despite several free-agent losses plus the retirement of All-Pro DE Michael Strahan.

The Giants had a fabulous start. After winning their first four before losing to Cleveland, they produced a seven-game winning streak to start 11-1. But New York lost three of its final four after suffering a crippling injury to RB Brandon Jacobs. Although the Giants entered the NFC playoffs as the No. 1 seed, they couldn’t overcome vastly improved Philadelphia.

WHY DETHRONED: Roster relatively static, Philadelphia improved.

2009 STEELERS (9-7, 3rd NFC North, no playoffs)

SUPER BOWL XLIII: Defeated the Arizona Cardinals 27-23 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. MVP Santonio Holmes caught the game-winning touchdown from Ben Roethlisberger with 35 seconds to play, making Pittsburgh the first franchise with six Super Bowl wins.

ENCORE: After going 12-4 and winning the NFC North, the Steelers lost a dozen players to free agency and attrition. Despite that, they went 6-2 over the first half of 2009, but then dropped five in a row, three to division rivals. Overall, Pittsburgh went 2-4 against teams with losing records. The nadir came in Week 11 when Pittsburgh fell to 3-7 Kansas City and also lost Roethlisberger to a concussion. That wasn’t the only woe as the Steelers battled injuries, particularly late in the year. Five of Pittsburgh’s seven losses came from blowing fourth-quarter leads. Had Pittsburgh won those games, it would have finished 14-2.

WHY DETHRONED: Free-agent losses, injuries, inability to hold leads.

2010 SAINTS (11-5, 2nd, NFC South, lost wild card)

SUPER BOWL XLIV: The Saints scored 18 unanswered points over the third and fourth quarters to upset Indianapolis, a five-point favorite, 31-17. Drew Brees won the MVP by throwing for 288 yards and two touchdowns.

ENCORE: The Saints started 4-3 but won seven of nine to end the season, qualifying for the playoffs as a wild-card. That’s as far as they got, thanks, in large part, to Marshawn Lynch’s “Beastquake” touchdown. Seattle became the first team with a losing record (7-9) to win a division title and qualify for the postseason, and the Saints couldn’t win a playoff game on the road – again.

WHY DETHRONED: Nothing specific beyond Super Bowl hangover: Saints were good, just not as good as the year before.

2011 PACKERS (15-1, 1st NFC North, lost divisional playoffs)

SUPER BOWL XLV: Defeated Pittsburgh 31-25, becoming the first No. 6 seed to win an NFL title. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was named MVP after throwing for 304 yards and three touchdowns.

ENCORE: The Packers became the sixth team in to win 15 regular-season games. With only a Week 15 loss at Kansas City, Green Bay also became the first NFC North entry to go undefeated since the 1987 Bears. Rodgers had the most efficient season by a quarterback in league history, posting a 122.5 passer rating. Despite that, the Packers became the first 15-win team to fail to win a playoff game. In a 37-20 loss to the Giants at Lambeau Field, the Packers lost three fumbles and couldn’t protect Rodgers, sacked four times.

WHY DETHRONED: One-game meltdown in NFC Divisional playoffs.

2012 GIANTS (9-7, 2nd, NFC East, no playoffs)

SUPER BOWL XLVI: Defeated New England 21-17 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The Giants trailed 17-9 in the third quarter, but rallied behind MVP Eli Manning, who threw for 296 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

ENCORE: The Giants faced the league’s toughest schedule and couldn’t recapture the previous year’s playoff magic. They won six of their first eight, but their defense fell apart, surrendering more yards per game than any defense in the history of the franchise. The Giants were actually not much worse in 2012 than they were in 2011. The difference in the seasons: The 2011 Giants had a six-game run when they could do little wrong.

WHY DETHRONED: Difficult schedule, key players had off-years.

2013 RAVENS (8-2, T2, AFC North, no playoffs)

SUPER BOWL XVVII: Baltimore built a 28-6 lead in the third quarter and held off a San Francisco rally – 17 unanswered points – to win the first Super Bowl coached by brothers, the Harbaughs John of the Ravens, Jim of the 49ers. Joe Flacco threw for 287 yards and three TDs, winning the MVP.

ENCORE: The Ravens were destined to tumble. After breaking the bank to re-sign QB Joe Flacco, they lost a record eight starters from the Super Bowl team; no other defending Super Bowl champion had lost more than five. The losses included LB Ray Lewis, who retired, WR Anquan Boldin, traded to San Francisco because the Ravens couldn’t afford him, and DB Ed Reed, who signed with Houston. The Ravens lost five of seven during the middle of the season and crashed in their final two. Red zone defense was a problem: The Ravens allowed opponents to score on 11 consecutive red-zone possessions.

WHY DETHRONED: Lost a record eight starters, defense fell apart.




  • jafabian

    The Hawks can repeat as long as they’re hungry for it. Will they take their newfound success for granted? Will they remain focused? Both Carroll and Schneider cannot show favor to specific players when better ones are ready to replace them. Haven’t seen that with Carroll and Schneider, time will tell with the players.