The Carolina Panthers are off to a woeful 1-5 start this season, and some fans are talking about the infamous Super Bowl curse. According to the curse, the Panthers were due for misfortune coming off their loss in Super Bowl 50. We don’t really believe in curses (although the so-called “Curse of the Redshirt” that killed off countless Star Trek crewmen is definitely legit.) But the Super Bowl curse seems bogus. After all, it supposedly afflicts not only the game’s loser with mayhem the next season, but the winning team as well. And a sports curse that doesn’t distinguish between winning and losing isn’t much of a curse. We much prefer the term “Super Bowl hangover.” That said, here’s a look at the teams with the biggest collapses following a Super Bowl appearance.
5. 1999 Denver Broncos
The Good: The Broncos went 14-2 in the 1998 season and captured their second straight Super Bowl trophy with a 34-19 win over Atlanta.
The Bad: 6-10 record in 1999
What Went Wrong: The team knew the offense would regress given John Elway’s retirement after that Super Bowl. But things took a terrible turn when Terrell Davis, who had rushed for 2,008 yards and 21 TDs in that championship season, tore knee ligaments in Week 4 and missed the rest of the season. It didn’t help matters that the team went from playing one of the easiest schedules in the league to one of the hardest a year later.
The Broncos are the only Super Bowl winner to make this list. But winners of the big game are almost as prone as losers to stumble the following year. Out of 50 Super Bowls, the winning team has had a losing record seven times the next season; the losing team has had a sub-.500 record nine times.
4. 2005 Philadelphia Eagles
The Good: Quarterback Donovan McNabb had a career-high 31 TDs to lead the Eagles to a 13-3 mark in the regular season. They lost Super Bowl XXXIX to the New England Patriots, 24-21.
The Bad: 6-10 record in 2005
What Went Wrong: The defense that ranked second in the NFL in scoring defense in the Super Bowl season (16.3 points per game) imploded the next year, ranking 27th in the league. The team jumped out to a 4-2 start, but dropped six of their next seven to seal their fate. Coming off a career year, McNabb had one of his worst seasons in 2005.
3. 1990 Denver Broncos
The Good: The Broncos finished 11-5 in 1989, but lost 55-10 to the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV
The Bad: 5-11 record in 1990
What Went Wrong: The Broncos defense went from the No. 1 scoring defense in the league to one of the worst units a year later, with largely the same cast of characters. Quarterback John Elway put up some of the weakest numbers of his career.
2. 1999 Atlanta Falcons
The Good: Running back Jamal Anderson became a breakout star (2,165 yards from scrimmage and 16 TDs) and the Falcons went 14-2 in the 1998 regular season before falling to the Denver Broncos 34-19 in Super Bowl XXXIII
The Bad: 5-11 record in 1999
What Went Wrong: Anderson suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2. He was not only the key to the offense, but his “Dirty Bird” TD celebration had given the team its identity during the Super Bowl run. His injury sucked the life out of the Falcons’ season. We think it’s just a coincidence, but Falcons coach Dan Reeves coached two of the five teams on this list (see No. 3 above).
1. 2003 Oakland Raiders
The Good: The Raiders finished 11-5 and rolled over the Jets and Titans to win the AFC. Quarterback Rich Gannon won the NFL MVP award in leading a Raiders offense that finished second in the NFL in points per game. The only downer: The Raiders lost 48-21 to Tampa Bay in Super Bowl XXXVII
The Bad: 4-12 record in 2003
What Went Wrong: The Raiders simply could not win the close games in 2003. They dropped seven of their first nine games; five of those were one-possession games. Gannon suffered a season-ending injury in Week 7, and the Raiders finished 26th in points per game. In a way, this season marked the end of a remarkable era for Raiders football. The Raiders have not returned to the postseason since that Super Bowl, and the franchise has had seven head coaches since that season.
One More: 1981 Oakland Raiders
The Good: Led by veteran quarterback Jim Plunkett, the Raiders became the first wildcard team to win a Super Bowl, defeating the Eagles
The Bad: 7-9 record in 1981
What Happened: In 1981, Plunkett didn’t have the same magic (four touchdown passes and nine interceptions in seven starts). The Raiders actually had one stretch midway through the season in which they were shutout an NFL-record three straight games. The defense, which had led the league with 35 interceptions in the Super Bowl season, finished last in the league with 13 in 1981.