The Bay Area's Problem with Winning Consecutive Super Bowls
One of the most difficult tasks in all of sports is winning consecutive championships. So much energy was put into winning the first championship that often time’s, the team is out of the energy required to repeating the monumental task. In the NFL, the teams that have accomplished such a feat are revered and honored as some of the greatest teams of all time. The San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders have won a combined eight Super Bowls and yet, have only won back to back titles just once. Each of these teams had the chemistry to win the first championship but for a variety of reasons could not find that same championship formula the year after. The following stories shed a light on what happened to the teams that did not win back to back Super Bowls.
The 1976 Raiders had spent the better part of the past decade relentlessly pursuing their first Super Bowl. When they won it, they went 13-1 in the regular season and had torn apart the NFL, exhausting every ounce of greatness they had to claim that elusive Lombardi Trophy.
The 1977 season featured an almost identical roster and the Raiders enjoyed another stellar season. They began the year easily winning their first four games but ran into a surprise contender: the Denver Broncos. Denver beat them 30-7 and even though the Raiders won the rematch 24-14 a few weeks later, they knew that the Broncos were a legitimate threat to their title aspirations. They finished the regular season 11-3, giving up just 230 points for the season.
Their first playoff opponent was the Baltimore Colts. It was a legendary game, with neither team willing to give room for error. Late in the fourth quarter, the Raiders called a post pattern to tight end Dave Casper, nicknamed "the Ghost". He caught a 42-yard strike to set up the game tying field goal. The game went into overtime where neither team scored. Finally, in double overtime, the Raiders called another pass play to Casper. He caught the pass and the Raiders won the game 37-31. Next up was the Denver Broncos in the Mile High City.
It was a close, low scoring game for the first three quarters, but eventually the Broncos built a 14-3 lead entering the fourth quarter. With their stadium on the brink, Ken Stabler and Dave Casper exploded in the final quarter, connecting for two touchdowns. The Broncos scored a touchdown of their own in between the Raider’s scores with a connection between quarterback Craig Morton and Haven Moses. The Raiders fought hard, but in the end succumbed to the relentlessness of Denver’s fierce pass rush.
The 1980 Raiders shocked the NFL and became the first Wild Card team to win the Super Bowl. The 1981 edition of the Oakland Raiders had much promise, having drafted defensive end Howie Long and returned the Super Bowl MVP Jim Plunkett. However, they lacked consistency and often found themselves on the wrong end of a shutout. The Raiders were shutout in a three week stretch and only won back to back games twice. Four of their losses were to the division rival Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers. Though Plunkett had led them to a Super Bowl victory the years before, injury and ineffectiveness brought its toll on the signal caller and the Raider were forced to look to their first round pick from the year before, Marc Wilson. Wilson was young, talented and came with no baggage but proved to be inexperienced. In thirteen appearances, Wilson won five games, lost four and threw 19 interceptions. To make matters worse, this was their last year in Oakland, as they were moving to Los Angeles in 1982. All of the calamity throughout the season resulted in a 7-9 finish and out of the playoffs.
The 49ers had done a splendid job the year before by going from worst to first in just two years. Their victory in Super Bowl XVI had brought hope and visions of grandeur for the City by the Bay. Unfortunately, the 49ers were caught reading their own press and were not up to par when the season began, losing to the newly minted Los Angeles Raiders. After a loss to the Broncos the following week, a players strike immediately followed, costing the NFL seven games. With so much down time on their hands, a number of players that had already been experimenting with drugs soon found an ample amount of time to indulge themselves.
When the season resumed, the 49ers suddenly found their backs against the wall. They defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in their first week back and defeated the Rams two weeks later. It wasn’t until their second to last game of the season before they had another victory, this time against the Chiefs. A one point loss to the Rams deflated the last bit of hope that the 49ers had for getting into the playoffs, ending their season a disappointing 3-6.
The 1983 Raider had possibly the greatest collection of talent in franchise history. They stunned Washington in the Super Bowl with running back Marcus Allen winning the game’s MVP. The 1984 Raiders were good and even made the playoffs, but they stumbled in the first round of the playoffs. They started the year winning their first four games but lost to the Broncos, eventually being swept by Denver at season’s end. A three game losing streak in the middle of the year hurt their playoff chances but they rebounded to finish the regular season 11-5. They even defeated Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins who were setting all kinds of passing records that year. They would lose to Seattle in the first round of the playoffs.
The 1984 49ers were one of the NFL’s greatest teams, finishing a league best 15-1 and beating the pass-happy Miami Dolphins in the Super Bowl. 1985 looked promising as they drafted Jerry Rice in the first round. Eventually, Rice would become one of the greatest players of all time but in the early part of the season struggled to grasp the nuances of the West Coast Offense. When the team traveled to Minnesota for the season opener, an equipment manager found a snake in the 49ers luggage.
The players saw it as an omen for a less than stellar season and their foresight proved to be accurate when they lost to the Vikings, a team that had gone 3-13 the year before. The season wasn’t a complete waste as Roger Craig became the first player in NFL history to gain 1,000 yard rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season. While the 49ers finished the year 10-6 and second in their division, they could not get past the New York Giants who were a year away from reaching their first Super Bowl. The 49ers lost to the Giants 17-3 in the first round.
After years of struggling, the 49ers finally defeated the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game and won their fifth Super Bowl in 1994. They had a tremendous amount of talent, much of which was only signed for that year. Highlighting their offseason departures were offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan and cornerback Deion Sanders. Injuries hindered them throughout the season, a burden which they would carry for the rest of the decade. While the 49ers finished second in the NFC, the Green Bay Packers stunned them in the first round of the playoffs. It was just the beginning of their troubles with the Packers.