The Steelers and Cardinals are on their way to the top of the football world in the Super Bowl. As such, the Steelers and Cardinals can’t afford to look forward too much. However, when the game ends and the tears fall, both the Steelers and Cardinals must be very fearful of the future. As many NFL fans know, teams that lose the Super Bowl usually tank the next year, and even teams that win suffer soon afterwards. Some of those teams rebound to contend in future years, but other Super Bowl teams have never been the same.
Here’s a look at past recent Super Bowl teams that went back into the basement soon after Super Bowl Sunday.
Cincinnati Bengals– 1988 Super Bowl losers
The Bengals took the NFL by storm in 1988, with Boomer Esiason, Sam Wyche and the Icky Shuffle. In the Super Bowl, the Bengals were actually on the brink of beating Joe Montana and company. A famed 92 yard drive ended those hopes for the Bengals. The 49’ers completed their dynasty, while the Bengals began a 20 year dive to the basement. With only two winning seasons since that Super Bowl, and countless last place finishes, the Bengals became the “Bungals” not long after they could have been Super Bowl champs.
Washington Redskins– 1991 Super Bowl champions
In 1991, the Redskins were the most dominant team in the NFL. Joe Gibbs and Mark Rypian led the Redskins to the third Super Bowl of the Gibbs era, as the Redskins continued their mini-dynasty. However, right after winning Super Bowl XXVI, the Redskins haven’t got anywhere near the Super Bowl since. The Redskins have only made the playoffs in a handful of seasons in the last 17 years, and have never played in a conference championship game. After the 91 Super Bowl, the Redskins were an NFL power. 17 years later, today’s generation knows the Redskins as a disappointing, often dysfunctional team.
San Diego Chargers– 1995 Super Bowl losers
The Chargers were one of the 90’s most surprising Super Bowl teams, rising from nowhere to win the AFC. But right after upsetting the Steelers in the AFC championship, the Chargers were expected to lose heavily in the Super Bowl. Indeed, the Chargers could barely show up and were slaughtered by the 49’ers. The Chargers didn’t sneak up on anyone after that. After a playoff year in 1995, the Chargers didn’t get back to the playoffs for nearly 10 years, in a ugly era defined by Ryan Leaf and his histrionics.
Atlanta Falcons– 1999 Super Bowl losers
The Atlanta Falcons were even more of a shocking Super Bowl team. Not just because the Falcons were the Falcons, but because they beat the 15-1 Vikings to get there. But in the Super Bowl, the Falcons played second fiddle in John Elway’s last game. After that, the Falcons returned to the basement, paving the way for the Michael Vick era and all that entailed.
St. Louis Rams– 2002 Super Bowl losers
Before the 2002 Super Bowl, the Rams were the next great dynasty in football. With one Super Bowl title, the Rams were set to get another and ensure Kurt Warner’s place in history. But in one Super Bowl against the Patriots, the Pats began their dynasty and ended the Rams dynasty before it started. After that shocker, “The Greatest Show On Turf” never recovered and dismantled, returning the Rams to the NFL’s doormats.
Tampa Bay Bucs and Oakland Raiders– 2003 Super Bowl teams
In one of the odder Super Bowl pairings, the Buccaneers and Raiders played in Super Bowl XXXVII. The Buccaneers, of all teams, became a Super Bowl champion, while the Raiders were destroyed in their first Super Bowl trip in two decades. Neither team has gotten close to coming back since. The Buccaneers have the occasional playoff berth, but no playoff wins since that Super Bowl. The Raiders haven’t even been respectable since that Super Bowl. Fittingly, the Raiders ended the Jon Gruden era in Tampa Bay by beating the Bucs to end the 2008 season.
Seattle Seahawks- 2006 Super Bowl losers
The Seattle Seahawks finally broke through into the NFL elite under Mike Holmgren in 2006, running through the NFC. But the Steelers, a sixth seed, were heavily favored to beat the NFC’s top seed. The Steelers didn’t disappoint, while the Seahawks collapsed under mistakes – caused by themselves and referees. After that, the Seahawks actually made history by being a rare Super Bowl loser to get back to the playoffs. But the Seahawks took advantage of a weak NFC West and were never a Super Bowl threat again. Now the Seahawks are starting over with Holmgren gone, and the entire Seattle sports culture on the brink of collapse.