If Tom Brady’s social media dispatches are any indication, the partying has concluded and the plyometrics have commenced.
Which is to say, pre-production has begun on the sequel to the Bucs’ 2020 championship season.
Thing is, sequels rarely stand up to the original. In the Super Bowl era, only eight teams have repeated as world champions, and none since Brady’s Patriots squads of 2003 and 2004. Even teams that appeared destined for dynasty status have tripped during the journey, proving all planets — from good fortune to free agency — must meticulously align for a repeat to occur.
Listed below (in chronological order) are six teams that seemed poised to win back-to-back Super Bowls but fell shy.
After capturing a Lombardi Trophy in the strike-shortened 1982 season, Washington followed up with a 14-2 record. Behind a historic offensive line nicknamed the “Hogs,” Washington scored 541 regular-season points (then an NFL record), and posted a plus-43 turnover margin (still an NFL record). After demolishing the Rams, 51-7 in its playoff opener, it needed a Mark Moseley field goal with less than a minute to play (and some dubious San Francisco penalties in the waning moments) to eke past the 49ers, 24-21 in the NFC title game.
Favored to defeat the 12-4 Raiders in Super Bowl 18, Washington instead was run out of Tampa Stadium by Marcus Allen and Co. Allen ran for 191 yards and two touchdowns, and Washington committed three turnovers (including a pick-six) in a 38-9 Raiders romp.
After transcending football and evolving into a pop-culture sensation in 1985, “Da Bears” seemed equipped to win two or three more Super Bowls. All the key players from that one-loss title team of 1985 remained except defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan (who became Eagles coach). Despite a succession of injuries at quarterback, where four different guys started at least one game, the defense remained the NFL’s best, allowing a league-fewest 11.7 points per contest as the Bears rolled to a 14-2 regular season.
But in the playoff opener at home against Washington, Kevin Butler missed a field goal, Walter Payton lost a fumble (leading to a Washington touchdown) and the Bears blitz couldn’t penetrate a banged-up Washington offensive line. The result was a 27-13 defeat. Chicago has appeared in one Super Bowl since.
This was Brett Favre in his prime. The freewheeling flinger won his third consecutive NFL MVP award in 1997, when the Packers notched their second straight 13-3 regular season, then overwhelmed two opponents (including the Bucs) in the playoffs. Complemented by an uber-talented defense (featuring Reggie White) that held seven opponents to 11 or fewer points, the Packers entered Super Bowl 32 as 11 1/2-point favorites over the Broncos.
But the Packers committed three turnovers, and White and Co. had no answer for Terrell Davis (157 rushing yards) as sentimental favorite Denver won 31-24, giving John Elway his first Super Bowl title in his fourth attempt.
In the wake of their 48-21 romp of the Raiders in Super Bowl 37, the Bucs — buoyed by a defense featuring three eventual Hall of Famers (to date) — seemed destined for dynasty status. That notion was reinforced in the 2003 season opener, when they embarrassed the Eagles 17-0 on a Monday night in the first game at Lincoln Financial Field. But the implosion began in Week 5, a Monday night game marking former coach Tony Dungy’s return to Tampa. The Bucs blew a 21-point lead in the last four minutes of regulation in a 38-35 overtime loss to the Peyton Manning-led Colts.
By season’s end, at least nine opening-day starters had landed on injured reserve, high-maintenance receiver Keyshawn Johnson had been deactivated, and general manager Rich McKay had bolted for Atlanta after mounting tension with coach Jon Gruden. The Bucs finished 7-9.
This team proved to the world that even one play call can derail a dynasty. Led by dual threat Russell Wilson and 1,300-yard rusher Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch, the 2014 Seahawks finished 12-4, becoming the first reigning Super Bowl champ to earn the No. 1 overall playoff seed the following season since the 1990 49ers. After a surreal 28-22 come-from-behind overtime win against the Packers in the NFC title game, the Seahawks found themselves 1 yard from a second Super Bowl title with less than 30 seconds to play against the Patriots.
What ensued will haunt Seattle until Starbucks goes caffeine-free. Instead of giving the ball to Lynch, coach Pete Carroll signed off on a pass play featuring a pick on the right side and slant over the middle. Patriots rookie Malcolm Butler read it and intercepted Wilson at the goal line, preserving a 28-24 New England win.
In the wake of their 2019 title season, Patrick Mahomes and Co. seemed poised to “Run it Back” even during a pandemic-tainted autumn. Statistically, Mahomes improved across the board (4,740 passing yards, 38 TDs, six INTs) during the regular season, and led the Chiefs to a pair of playoff wins despite sustaining an apparent concussion against the Browns. But an injury-ravaged offensive line caught up with Kansas City in Super Bowl 55, where the Bucs exploited it and sent Mahomes scurrying all night.
Hardly helping matters was the immense distraction of coach Andy Reid’s son (Kansas City’s outside linebackers coach) being involved in a multi-car accident (resulting in critical injuries to a 5-year-old girl) only days before the game. The result was a 31-9 Bucs romp on their home field.