It’s the epitome of a high-class football problem, but the way the Patriots deal annually with compressed offseasons is something no other salary-cap era team can even approach.
Saturday at the NFL Combine, Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome lamented the difficulty of trying to follow up a Super Bowl win.
“You’re in a time crunch,” Newsome said. “You’re four or five weeks behind everybody. You’re trying to play catch-up.”
The Ravens capped their 2012 season with their first Super Bowl appearance since 2000. They went 8-8 and missed the playoffs in 2013.
The Giants haven’t been back to the playoffs since beating the Patriots to cap the 2011 season. The Packers have one playoff win since their 2010 Super Bowl triumph.
Over the past 10 seasons (back to 2003 and not including this year), only one team has repeated as Super Bowl champions (the 2004 Patriots).
Thirteen different franchises have gone to the Super Bowl (the Patriots, Steelers, Colts and Giants have been repeaters in the game). Here’s how each edition did the season after appearing in the Super Bowl.
2004 Panthers: 7-9, no playoffs
2004 Patriots: 14-2, Super Bowl champion
2005 Eagles: 6-10, no playoffs
2005 Patriots: 10-6, lost in Divisional Playoff
2006 Steelers: 8-8, no playoffs
2006 Seahawks: 9-7, lost in Divisional Playoff
2007 Colts: 13-3 lost in Divisional Playoff
2007 Bears: 7-9, no playoffs
2008 Patriots: 11-5 no playoffs
2008 Giants: 12-4, lost in Divisional Playoff
2009 Steelers: 9-7, no playoffs
2009 Cardinals: 10-6, lost in Divisional Playoff
2010 Colts: 10-6, lost in Wild Card playoff
2010 Saints: 11-5, lost in Wild Card playoff
2011 Packers: 15-1, lost in Divisional Playoff
2011 Steelers: 12-4, lost in Wild Card playoff
2012 Giants: 9-7, no playoffs
2012 Patriots: 12-4, lost in Conference Championship
2013 Ravens: 8-8, no playoffs
2013 49ers: 12-4, lost in Conference Championship
Eight of the 20 teams appearing in the Super Bowl didn’t make it back to the postseason the following year. Just three (2004 and 2012 Patriots and 2013 49ers) made it back to the Conference Championship.
A lot of factors enter into why those teams lagged after Super Bowl wins. But a prominent and overlooked one is the pressure on coaching, scouting and the front office when a team is otherwise occupied until nearly Valentine’s Day. Add the number of games played by a Super Bowl winning team in contrast to one that fails to make the playoffs and the Super Bowl afterglow, it’s no wonder teams limp a little after big success.
It also adds a little context to the work the Patriots have done in the draft and free agency. They've surely had their share of swings and misses in both of those platforms over the past 10 offseasons, but they've also had significant hits that have kept the machine moving forward.
Newsome highlighted one other dynamic that the Seahawks are currently facing. Paying the fellas.
“The other aspect of it when you win a Super Bowl, you win it because you have good players and can you maintain all of those players?” Newsome pointed out. “At some point, those players have to be compensated and the salary cap just doesn’t work to where you can become like the 49ers or the Cowboys were back in those days when they were winning multiple Super Bowls.”
The 1997-98 Broncos pulled it off. Of course, they were later sanctioned by the NFL for sidestepping the cap during that period.
Seattle catches a break this season with the draft not being held until May 8. Those extra weeks of prep will surely help Pete Carroll and John Schneider with planning for the draft.
“It’s a great problem to have,” Newsome said of dealing with the short offseason. “I wish I was here working on a short time frame, but if you were to ask me which I would rather be I would rather be in Seattle’s position than my position. It’s tough to do, but it can be done.”
In short, being good in the NFL is hard enough. Sustaining an above-average level annually with no dips? Almost impossible.