So, what is this thing, a Superbowl slump? Most would agree that it’s a down year after appearing in the Superbowl. That’s easy. But how down does that year have to be? Is it good enough to miss the playoffs or is a losing record required? Does one need to pick in the top five of the following draft?
After losing Superbowl XLII the New England Patriots failed to qualify for the playoff field with an 11-5 record, minus their all-globe-golden-boy QB, Tom Brady (or if you prefer, Beardy). So, did the Patriots have a slump season? I don’t think so.
The defending champion (XLII) NY Giants won their division and earned a bye but were dismissed at the first opportunity to advance amid the mayhem of the Plaxico Burress debacle. A disappointing end to the season? Yes, but not a slump by any means.
Following their Superbowl XLI victory, the Indianapolis Colts won their division (13-3) and earned a bye, but failed to advance. Clearly not a slump season. But the defeated Chicago Bears returned the following season to finish last in their division with a disappointing 7-9 record. That’s a slump season, folks.
In the 70’s the Pittsburgh Steelers won four titles in six years and never had a slump season. But the franchise suffered a long Superbowl drought until finally returning for Superbowl XXX in ’95. While it was a losing effort, the Steelers returned to the playoffs the following season. They never suffered a slump until their sixth appearance in Superbowl XL. While they won the game, the following season would be slumptastic. It was the final season for head coach Bill Cowher. Their wunderkind QB, Ben Roethlisberger, suffered a near fatal motorcycle accident earlier in the year, then had an emergency appendectomy before the start of the season. They finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs while their losing opponent made the playoffs with a 9-7 record.
What have we learned about slumps? Sometimes slump happens. If one were to closely examine the state of each franchise mentioned above, it’s easy to see why those slumping teams failed to excel the following season. There’s always a reason, some more predictable (Bears) than others (Steelers).
What can we say about the two teams who played in Superbowl XLIII? Are either the Cardinals or the Steelers primed for a slump season? Or, if the Cardinals fail to excel in ’09, would that even be a slump? Maybe it’s the inevitable return to earth after a rocket-ride to the top. They have long been one of the NFL’s whipping-boy franchises, the hopeless, angry little birds. So cute, so futile. Their success could be an aberration, a sort of anti-slump season, any return to the bottom merely restoration of their natural state. One could say they’re slump-proof.
What about the Steelers then?
Are you kidding me?