A wise guy I know once stated that he believes there are trade-offs in everything in life. No exceptions. Regardless of what happens, there’s always a positive and a negative.
He might be on to something. It is certainly true that most developments have pros and cons that need to be weighed. Maybe you get a good job offer in a city where you don’t want to live. Maybe a promising business deal has risks.
Even blessed events can have their drawbacks. If you win the lottery, you pay a hefty tax bill. If you marry the person of your dreams, you have to share the remote.
Along those lines, if you’re an NFL franchise and win a Super Bowl, you don’t get to stop and celebrate for long. You have to ramp back up pretty much immediately and try to do it again the next year.
It’s a supreme challenge the Ravens now face after winning the Super Bowl in February. Numerically, the odds are against them. Teams have gone back-to-back just eight times in the Super Bowl’s 47-year history, with all but two of those triumphs occurring before the NFL instituted a salary cap in 1994, making it much harder to keep a championship squad together and sustain a dynasty.
The last team to go back-to-back was the New England Patriots in 2003 and 2004. Of the seven winners since then, three failed to reach the postseason the following year and four lost their initial playoff contest.
In other words, it’s been eight years since a defending Super Bowl champion won a playoff game.
Some observers believe the pattern is attributable to a Super “hangover,” a vague malaise in which – so the story goes -- a creeping sense of self-satisfaction robs a team of its winning edge. But I’m not so sure that exists. Maybe some teams catch such a bug, but not all do. The Green Bay Packers went 15-1 in 2011 after winning it all in 2010. The Indianapolis Colts went 13-3 in 2007 after hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy in 2006. Both played well, if not better, the next year, but picked a bad time to throw in a playoff clunker.
Perhaps a better explanation for the back-to-back blackout is that it simply is hard to have everything go your way two years in a row. That could be why the Ravens’ 2013 Super Bowl odds are running as high as 20-1 in places.
Now that they’re facing this daunting history, the Ravens are taking an interesting approach. In a way, they’re almost trying to pretend the Super Bowl didn’t happen.
The front office didn’t get all romantic about the squad that pulled off the 2012 championship run. General Manager Ozzie Newsome has overseen a fairly significant roster overhaul, parting with several popular veterans.
And it certainly seems Head Coach John Harbaugh would rather look ahead than back. He has said repeatedly that he doesn’t believe in “the defending champion thing,” explaining that teams effectively start over every year and that past accomplishments really have no bearing on what happens next. You relish what you did, but you move on.
Asked last week if he is looking forward to getting his Super Bowl ring, Harbaugh said, “I haven’t thought about it that much. I’m looking forward to it, I guess, but I can’t say it’s the most thrilling thing in the world. I’m excited about practice tomorrow, in all honesty. That’s the thing you think about.”
It’s obviously not correct to say the franchise wishes its Super Bowl triumph had never happened. To the contrary, that was a crowning achievement for all involved, destined to define careers and fill memory banks and scrapbooks. No one would ever wish such glory away.
But a tough, new task has arrived: making the magic happen again. Do those precious Super Bowl memories play any part in the process? Maybe some veterans will perform more confidently after what they experienced, but in general, the organization seems anxious to turn the page and change the subject as it sets out to try to alter the dubious recent record of teams that made their Super dreams come true.