The Super Bowl Host Curse

The new football season brings new hope for 32 teams and their fans who believe this will be the year their team will add another Lombardi trophy to their case or in the case of thirteen teams, their first.

But I believe there is one fan base who shouldn’t get their hopes up to high, and it’s not the Cleveland Browns. It’s the San Francisco 49ers, the host team for the milestone Super Bowl 50.

In the history of the big game, teams that have hosted the Super Bowl are 0 and 30. And, since the 1993 season, when the NFL began playing the Super Bowl only at NFL stadiums, no host team has even played in the game.

Don’t believe in sports curses? Just look at the 2014 Arizona Cardinals, the most recent victim and host of Super Bowl XLIX.

The Cardinals lost their best defensive player and emotional team leader in defensive end Darnell Dockett for the season with a torn ACL in preseason. Sure the team went on to a league best start with a 9-1 record, losing their only game at defending AFC Champion Denver, no shame there. But, more key injuries kept coming. Quarterback Carson Palmer went down for the season with a season ending knee injury without being touched; his back up Drew Stanton, who was playing admirable in his absence, went down week 15 with a sprained MCL and ACL in his knee  and an infection from surgery kept him out of the playoffs. In all they used four quarterbacks, rookie Logan Thomas played a series at Denver and Ryan Lindley started in the playoff. Even though the Cardinals made the post season—which as you’ll read later hasn’t been easy for Super Bowl host teams—they lost 27-16 in an ugly turnover field game to the 7-8-1 Panthers.

The 49ers started the offseason ahead of the curse schedule. The constant conflict between head coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke has been cited as to why Harbaugh left for Michigan to become the head coach at his struggling Alma Mater. All-Pro defensive cornerstones Patrick Willis and Justin Smith, along with Willis’ potential replacement, linebacker Chris Borland and offensive lineman Anthony Smith have retired. The franchise’s leading rusher Frank Gore and his Hall of Fame resume are now in Indianapolis with the Colts.

I could stop there, but, on August 6th, defensive end Aldon Smith was released by the team after being arrested on suspicion of DUI, hit and run, and vandalism.  There’s also this, they’ll be missing eight players who played over 600 snaps during the 2014 season. Mike Lupati, Perrish Cox, Chris Culliver, Michael Crabtree, Ray McDonald, Johnathan Martin along with the aforementioned Justin Smith and Frank Gore.

Meanwhile, starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who in the run to Super Bowl 47 looked like he was on the verge of redefining the position, has regressed worse than a new popular TV sitcom that gets cancelled before the end of its first season. I’m looking at you “Bad Judge” and “Mixology.”

I know you see the writing on the wall. No Super Bowl for you!

Still don’t believe this curse is real? Look at the result from just the past five host teams.

Super Bowl 48 hosts, the 2013 New York Giants and New York Jets. The Giants went 7-9 and began the season 0-6. The “G-Men” became the first team in NFL history to win a Super Bowl in year three of a five-year span, yet missed the playoffs the other four seasons. Adding insult to injury, two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning led the league in interceptions with 27 and added 7 fumbles.

The Jets went 8-8 and missed the Playoffs for the third consecutive season, this after competing in two consecutive AFC Championship games at the beginning of Rex Ryan’s tenure in 2009.

Super Bowl 47 hosts, the 2012 New Orleans Saints. “Bounty-gate”, the scandal from the 2009 season, was brought to light. Head coach Sean Payton, the architect of their high-powered offense that led to them to their only Super Bowl win at number XLIV, was suspended for the season for his role in the scandal. Veteran defensive leaders, defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jonathan Vilma we’re suspended for significant time during the season. Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita, the other players suspended were already signed to other NFL teams. The end result, a 7-9 record and no playoffs.

Super Bowl 46 hosts, the 2011 Indianapolis Colts. Peyton Manning missed the entire season with a neck injury. It was the first time the “Sheriff” ever missed a game. Before that season he played in 227 consecutive games, second only to Brett Favre’s 297. I don’t need to say more, but I will. The team went on to have a 2-14 record, losing their first 13, and got the number one pick to select Andrew Luck. So, I guess it wasn’t all bad. One more thing, Peyton’s little brother won his second Super Bowl in Peyton’s house. That had to sting a little.

Super Bowl 45 hosts, the 2010 Dallas Cowboys. Year two in “Jerry’s World” was a step back. After winning the NFC East in the previous season, the Cowboys went 6-10 in 2010 and missed the playoffs. At one point they were 1-7, which led to the firing of head coach Wade Phillips and paved the way for the new man in charge Jason Garrett.

Super Bowl 44 hosts, the 2009 Miami Dolphins. The ‘Phins went 7-9 and missed the playoffs after going 11-5 and winning the AFC East title the season before.

Super Bowl 43 hosts, the 2008 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers went 9-7 and missed the playoffs one season after winning the NFC South Division title. Head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen were surprisingly fired at the end of the season.

Super Bowl 42 hosts, the 2007 Arizona Cardinals. The Cards went 8-8 and missed the playoffs by one game. Two of their loses came to the 5-11 San Francisco 49ers. The Cardinals finished 2nd for the NFC West title. The injury bug hit them as well. 2006 Top 10 draft pick quarterback Matt Leinart, the team’s hope to be a franchise player, went down midseason with a fractured collarbone; the injury paved the way for former NFL and Super Bowl Most Valuable Player quarterback Kurt Warner’s career revival.

In a weird twist, the injury propelled the 2008 team to their first and only Super Bowl appearance the next season in Tampa Bay. They lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-23 in one of the most dramatic Super Bowl’s in recent history.

Want to know how a few of the other hosts fared?

SB VIII hosts: 1973 Houston Oilers finished 1-13 for the second consecutive season and missed the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.

SB XVI hosts: 1981 Detroit Lions finished 8-8 and missed playoffs.

SB XVIII hosts: 1983 Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished 2-14, missed playoffs and lost quarterback Doug Williams to the USFL after team couldn’t come to terms on a contract. Williams later became the first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl and the MVP with Washington.

SB XXII hosts: 1987 San Diego Chargers finished 8-7 and missed the playoffs after starting the season 8-1. Hall of Fame cornerstones, quarterback Dan Fouts and tight end Kellen Winslow retired after the season.

SB XXV hosts: 1990 Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished 6-10 and missed playoffs after starting the season 4-2.

SB XXVI hosts: 1991 Minnesota Vikings finished 8-8 and missed playoffs. This was the season their first and second round picks were made by the Dallas Cowboys as part of the Herschel Walker trade in 1989. One pick was wide receiver Alvin Harper, who helped the Cowboys win two Super Bowl titles in the 1990’s. Vikings head coach Jerry Burns retired at the end of the season.

SB XXVIII hosts: 1993 Atlanta Falcons finished 6-10 and lost future Hall of Famer Deion Sanders to free agency.

SB XXX hosts: 1995 Arizona Cardinals finished 4-12 and missed playoffs after winning 8 games the previous season.

SB XXXII hosts: 1997 San Diego Chargers finished 4-12, missed playoffs and had 4 less wins than the year before.

SB XXXIV hosts: 1999 Atlanta Falcons finished 5-11 just one season after making the Super Bowl.

SB XXXV hosts: 2000 Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished 10-6, but fell to the #5 seed after losing the NFC Central Title, and a first round bye in the final game of the season in overtime to the Green Bay Packers. The Bucs lost in NFC Wild Card round 21-3.

SB XXXVII hosts: 2002 San Diego Chargers finished 8-8 and missed playoffs after starting the season 4-0 and were 6-2 midseason.

SB XXXVIII hosts: 2003 Houston Texans finished 5-11 and missed playoffs.

SB XXXIX hosts: 2004 Jacksonville Jaguars finished 9-7 and missed playoffs.

SB XL hosts: 2005 Detroit Lions finished 5-11 and missed playoffs.

If the Niner fans are looking for any good omen to break this curse, they are the only franchise to play in a Super Bowl when it was played in their region. The 1984 49ers won Super Bowl XIX 38-16 over the Miami Dolphins at Stanford Stadium on the University of Stanford’s campus. The only other team to come close, the Los Angeles Rams lost Super Bowl XIV 19-31 to the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, rather than their home stadium the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.



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