There are more teams in the NFL that have gone back-to-back as Super Bowl champions than those without an appearance on the NFL’s biggest stage. But, why does it still seem like such a massive feat to pull off a repeat?
From the second the Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV against the San Francisco 49ers to the team’s 2020 season opener against the Houston Texas, the attention was centered around one question: Are Patrick Mahomes and company good enough to do it all again and win Super Bowl LV in February?
Time will tell, and the Chiefs certainly seem as if they have the talent to make it happen. But, if history is any indication, then the odds don’t seem to be in their favor.
Only seven franchises have ever won back-to-back Super Bowls in NFL history:
- The Green Bay Packers in 1966-1967
- The Miami Dolphins in 1972-1973
- The Pittsburgh Steelers the following two years in 1974-1975, and again in 1978-1979
- The San Francisco 49ers in 1988-1989
- The Dallas Cowboys in 1992-1993
- The Denver Broncos in 1997-1998
- The New England Patriots in 2003-2004
The Steelers are the only team to do it twice, and they’re also the only team in NFL history with four Super Bowls in the span of six seasons.
Two of those other teams, the Cowboys and Patriots, are the only ones to win three Super Bowls in the span of four seasons.
So, statistically, that all may seem like a lot, right? Seven out of the league’s 32 teams, equaling out to about 21 percent? Factor in the start dates for some of the teams founded as a result of expansion, and everything seems fine and dandy.
But, looking at the bigger picture tells a whole other story, one that looks a bit more troubling for both the Chiefs and their fans hoping for a run in 2020.
No team has accomplished the feat in 16 seasons. It’s only been done twice in the Chiefs’ own quarterback’s lifetime, spanning almost 25 years at the time of this writing.
And, there are so many other factors to even consider. Yes, repeats have happened eight times in the league’s history. But, think about the amount of times teams have made it all the way back to the Super Bowl scene, only to come up short in their hopes for a second title.
The Patriots, the last team to pull off a repeat and most recent to play in consecutive Super Bowls, know the pain all too well. After winning Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks, they lost to the Broncos in the AFC Championship the following season.
A year later, they win Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons, and then lose to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII one season after that.
Think that’s not enough? The Patriots kept pushing on, and managed to win Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams, albeit in a snoozer of a game. Fast forward one more year, and they didn’t even advance out of the Wild Card round, ending Tom Brady’s career in New England in a loss against the Tennessee Titans.
In fact, plenty of teams have experienced similar fates after a Super Bowl win. Since 2000, only three times has the team that won the Super Bowl even appeared in the game the following year, with the Patriots’ back-to-back campaign from 2003-2004 counting for one of them.
Since 2010? It’s happened twice.
The 1990s were a bit more favorable to those Super Bowl winners, with the Cowboys and Broncos both pulling off repeats throughout the decade. The Packers appeared in the Super Bowl the year after their win in the 1996 season, but lost the following year.
Keep in mind, that is only accounting for teams even fortunate enough to make it to the Super Bowl after a win. Just a total of six occurrences since 1990.
Now, factor in the performances of every Super Bowl winning team in the last decade after their victory.
- 2010: Packers win Super Bowl XLV, lose in the Divisional Playoffs the next year
- 2011: Giants win Super Bowl XLVI, do not qualify for the playoffs the next year
- 2012: Ravens win Super Bowl XLVII, do not qualify for the playoffs the next year
- 2013: Seahawks win Super Bowl XLVIII, lose in Super Bowl XLIX the next year
- 2014: Patriots win Super Bowl XLIX, lose in the AFC Championship the next year
- 2015: Broncos win Super Bowl 50, do not qualify for the playoffs the next year
- 2016: Patriots win Super Bowl LI, lose in Super Bowl LII the next year
- 2017: Eagles win LII, lose in the Divisional Playoffs the next year
- 2018: Patriots win Super Bowl LIII, lose in a Wild Card game the next year
- 2019: Chiefs win Super Bowl LIV, ?
Three of the previous nine Super Bowl winners before the Chiefs didn’t even make the postseason the following year. Three more didn’t even advance past the Divisional Playoffs that next season. One more didn’t qualify for the Super Bowl, and two found a way to make it back, but couldn’t get the job done.
Yes, you can argue that the circumstances are different. The 2020 season comes after months of question marks surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Any team looking for a fresh start after the 2019 season is forced to do so at a severe disadvantage due to the league’s protocols for training camp and a lack of preseason games.
And yes, you can look at the Chiefs roster from year to year and argue that not much has changed. Patrick Mahomes is still under center, albeit with a lot more money to his name and a 10-year contract extension to enjoy.
Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are still around for Mahomes to throw the ball to, and Tyrann Mathieu is still around to lead the team defensively.
The pieces are all there, and all looks to be good and golden for the Chiefs in 2020. But, tell that to the Seahawks after they won Super Bowl XLVIII and came back with a similar roster. Or, let the Patriots know about that philosophy after two different Super Bowl victories in the span of three years, all with similar roster makeups.
Consistency is a tough thing to achieve in the NFL, especially when the repeated result that teams are seeking is another run to a Super Bowl. Just ask the Chiefs themselves, who had to wait 50 years after their win in Super Bowl IV to bring another trophy back to Missouri.
The talent may be there, and the head coach hasn’t changed, either. But, Father Time generally tells all, and history shows that it’s going to be a lot harder for the Chiefs to replicate what they did in 2019 as they search for another Super Bowl title in 2020.