TAMPA — The curse, curiously, never existed and yet continues to live on. In case you weren’t aware, no team has ever played a Super Bowl in its home stadium. That’s 54 games up and 54 games down, although further explanation is required.
Two teams — the Rams in 1979 and the 49ers in 1984 — basically played in their hometowns, but not in their home stadiums. So that makes the curse more technicality than damnation, but why ruin a spooky story line?
There’s also a geographic element that better explains this defiance of odds, but we’ll get to that later, too.
For now, the question is this:
Exactly one year away from Super Bowl 55, what are the chances that the Buccaneers make history by giving fans in Tampa Bay a hometown celebration like no other?
If we’re talking about breaking a curse, then I say this is our town, this is our game and this is our time. But if we’re talking about real-world talent and execution, then I say get ready for the Cowboys and Ravens.
Now is there a scenario where the Bucs could be on the field at Raymond James Stadium on Feb. 7, 2021? Absolutely. In fact, I’d say they have a better chance than most teams in the NFL. Certainly better than the current odds in Las Vegas, which suggest 21 other teams are safer bets than Tampa Bay.
It’s not like it’s unprecedented for a team to go from a losing record to the championship game in 12 months. At this point last year, the 49ers were sitting at home with a 4-12 record. The 1998 Rams went 4-12 and won the Super Bowl a year later. The Patriots have had two similar turnarounds, going from five wins in 2000 and six wins in 1995 to Super Bowls the following seasons.
So if the Bucs re-sign their free agents on defense, and there is no reason to believe they won’t, they have a chance to move from the bottom of the league to near the top in points allowed. In the last six weeks of the season, Tampa Bay’s defense improved dramatically and the young secondary should only get better.
And, of course, the offense has been capable of scoring points with any team in the NFL the past two years, with turnovers being the only drawback. If quarterback (fill in the blank) can cut Tampa Bay’s interceptions from 30 to 12 then, heck yeah, the Bucs have a shot at the Super Bowl.
I mean, there really is no basis for a curse, supernatural or otherwise, that prevents local teams from reaching the Super Bowl. As far as I know, no one on the host committee in Los Angeles tinkled on Vince Lombardi’s shoes at the first Super Bowl in 1967.
The whole idea of a curse centered on mathematics more than mojo. Based on the number of franchises and the number of playoff teams annually, the average franchise has had a 36.3 percent chance of making the playoffs in any given season. And yet, Super Bowl host teams have only made the playoffs 8.3 percent of the time. That’s a pretty stark difference.
Is it spooky? Is it fluky? Or is it almost predictable based on Super Bowl sites?
You see, the teams with the most Super Bowl appearances have historically been cold-weather cities without domes. In other words, cities that rarely, if ever, get to host the Super Bowl.
Between them, seven teams (Patriots, Steelers, Cowboys, Broncos, Packers, 49ers and Redskins) have accounted for nearly half of all Super Bowl appearances. And yet those teams have only had two Super Bowls in their home stadiums.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay, New Orleans and Houston have hosted 17 Super Bowls, and franchises in those cities have combined to make two Super Bowl appearances. That’s not evidence of a curse, it’s more of a AAA travel tip.
The NFL does have a contingency plan in mind if a host city ends up with a team in the Super Bowl. Players, for instance, would be required to stay in hotels instead of their own homes. And since participating teams already get an allotment of tickets, the typical five percent that goes to the host city would then be split with the visiting team.
Will Tampa Bay be the first team to see that protocol enacted?
It all depends on quarterback (fill in the blank).
John Romano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @romano_tbtimes.