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November 30, 2018

A historical look at teams that won the Super Bowl, missed the playoffs the next year, and then...

If the Philadelphia Eagles run the table over the next five weeks of the regular season, mathematically they will clinch the NFC East and go to the playoffs. Of course, if you've watched them play football over the last three months, you already know that the odds of that actually happening are somewhere between slim and none.

With the Dallas Cowboys' win over the New Orleans Saints Thursday, the Eagles' chances of making the playoffs fell considerably, and while they can still salvage this season, many fans have already begun to wonder, "So was that it? It was just a one-year ride, and it's all over?"

Before the season began, we took a historical look at whether a "Super Bowl hangover" was a thing that actually existed, and came to the conclusion that it was a myth, at least for the winner of the Super Bowl. After all, if the Eagles don't make it back to the playoffs, they will be only the 10th team over the last 30 years not to do so. (Of course, if you believe what the Eagles are experiencing is a "Super Bowl hangover," I won't argue, but they'd be something of pioneers in that regard.)

Anyway, here is what happened to the other nine teams since 1988 who won the Super Bowl, failed to make the playoffs the following season, and what they did the season after that.

• 1990 Giants: Bill Parcells retired after the Giants' 1990 Super Bowl win, and rather than promote defensive coordinator Bill Belichick to the head coaching position, they instead gave the job to running backs coach Ray Handley, who was inept and overmatched. The 1991 Giants went 8-8 and missed the playoffs. In 1992, they fell even further, going 6-10, with Handley getting fired.

• 1998 Broncos: John Elway retired the offseason after Denver won their second straight Super Bowl. They went 6-10 the following season under Brian Griese, but bounced back in 2000 with an 11-5 record and a trip back to the playoffs, where they were one-and-done. 

• 2001 Patriots: The 2002 Pats only lost two fewer regular season games than they did the year before, at a time when Tom Brady wasn't yet the dominant player we know today. The 2002 Pats went 9-7 and missed the playoffs. The 2003 team won the Super Bowl over the Carolina Panthers.

• 2002 Buccaneers: The Super bowl-winning Bucs were led by Brad Johnson, which was always going to make a sustained run more difficult than a team with a good quarterback, and in 2003, they went 7-9, missing the playoffs. In 2004, they continued their decline, going 5-11, with Jon Gruden keeping his job.

• 2005 Steelers: The Super Bowl winning Steelers in 2005 were a 6 seed, so a small dropoff out of the playoffs wasn't crazy. In 2006 Ben Roethlisberger had all sorts of issues. He nearly died after an offseason motorcycle crash, he had an emergency appendectomy, which caused him to miss the first game of the season, and he suffered a concussion at a time when protocols barely existed, that preceded a losing streak in which Roethlisberger did not play well. That team finished 8-8, but Pittsburgh rebounded the next year with a 10-6 record and a trip back to the playoffs, where they were one-and-done. Three seasons removed from their Super Bowl win, they won it all again.

• 2008 Steelers: The 2009 Steelers suffered significant injuries, including another Roethlisberger concussion, and they still won 9 games, but missed the playoffs. In 2010, they made it back to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers.

• 2011 Giants: The 2012 Giants matched the 2011 Giants' regular season record of 9-7, but were not as lucky to reach the playoffs. In 2013, they went 7-9 after an 0-6 start.

• 2012 Ravens: The 2013 Ravens lost a whopping eight starters from their Super Bowl run, including Ray Lewis. They finished 8-8. In 2014, they went 10-6, won a playoff game in the wildcard round, before getting bounced by the Pats in the divisional round.

• 2015 Broncos: During the 2016 offseason, Peyton Manning retired and the Broncos went 9-7 under Trevor Siemian. In 2017, they fell off even further, going 5-11.

So, as you can see, it's something of a mixed bag. The Eagles do have Carson Wentz, who some feel is a top five NFL quarterback who will be another year removed from his torn ACL and LCL, as well as a number of talented, though (in some cases) aging players.

If indeed the Eagles whiff on the playoffs in 2018, bouncing back in 2019 will be a challenge, but it's too soon to worry about the team completely fizzling out after one amazing season.

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