Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Super Bowl hangover? Past 10 Super Bowl losers paint a more optimistic picture for 49ers

Jul 13, 2020 at 1:46 PM--

It's easy to use the Los Angeles Rams' loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII, and their subsequent 9-7 season and missing the playoffs together as an example of a Super Bowl hangover. Analysts also like to look at the Carolina Panthers' loss in Super Bowl 50 as another example. That team finished 6-10 the next season.

It's important to note, however, that type of regression is not the recent norm. In fact, looking at the past 10 Super Bowl losers before the 49ers' February defeat in the big game, those are the only two examples of a second-place team that didn't end up making the playoffs the next season.

One team, the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII, lost and then made their way back the next season, winning a championship. That, too, is not the norm, but it is proof that it can be accomplished in today's NFL and has been accomplished very recently. There's no reason to assume the 49ers can't do the same.

Only two of the 10 teams followed up their Super Bowl defeat with fewer than 10 wins. Four, including the 2012 49ers, came back to win 12 games the next season. Of course, this also depends on your definition of "Super Bowl hangover." If you count not returning to the big game as a "hangover," then yes, there are a lot of teams that fall within that definition.

Below are the 10 Super Bowl runner-ups before the 2019 49ers, and how they did during their ensuing season.

Team Super Bowl Next year's record How it ended
Rams 53 9-7 No playoffs
Patriots 52 11-5 Super Bowl champs
Falcons 51 10-6 Divisional round
Panthers 50 6-10 No playoffs
Seahawks 49 10-6 Divisional round
Broncos 48 12-4 Divisional round
49ers 47 12-4 Conference championship
Patriots 46 12-4 Conference championship
Steelers 45 12-4 Wild card round
Colts 44 10-6 Wild card round

Of course, this is an offseason like no other. Players haven't even been able to meet face-to-face with coaches or each other in an official capacity, much less practice together outside of a few player-organized sessions. That is due to the coronavirus pandemic that continues to change our way of life.

Several 49ers players have said the team remained focused this offseason, as they met virtually during the offseason program. That February Super Bowl defeat is still fresh in their minds and serves as motivation.

As for any potential hangover, no one on the roster considers that to be a possibility. Not with this locker room and its mindset.

"I think it's the guys in our building and the leadership that we have," offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey said last month. "It's not even an option. It's not even a possibility because of who we are, what we do, the way that we work, and the way that things are going to go."

Added star linebacker Fred Warner: "I think the focus is obviously to make it back to the big game and winning it, this time around. I think that's the focus every year, is to make it to the Super Bowl. But we all understand that there's a lot of time and effort required to get to that point."

Tight end George Kittle has noticed something about his teammates as they met this offseason virtually. 49ers players are hungry to fight their way back to the Super Bowl and avenge February's heartbreaking defeat.

"I think everyone understands that hey, yeah, we were close, but obviously we weren't good enough to get the job done," said Kittle during a recent conversation.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan felt last season's 49ers were among the best rosters he's ever worked with during his time in the NFL.

"I know we were good enough to win that Super Bowl, and we didn't," Shanahan said last month. "And that's something we've got to live with. And that's why the state of the franchise, right now, is we've got to get right back to that moment. We've got to get right back to that fourth quarter, and get to have a lead, and we've got to finish the job."

Note: Article inspired by this in-depth look at the 2020 49ers by Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic.

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