With the Chiefs already vaulting from two total wins in 2012 to three in three games in 2013, an interesting question has emerged, courtesy of The Dan Patrick Show caller known as Jake in Wisconsin.
Jake asked us via Twitter to identify the worst record any Super Bowl-winning team has had in the season before becoming the champions.
So I broke out the 2013 Official NFL Record & Fact Book (an inexpensive and must-have publication for any hard-core football fan), turned to page 373, and started working backward.
Seven teams have won the Super Bowl a year after going .500 or worse. The first came in Super Bowl XVI, when the 49ers went from 6-10 to the title. The next year, the Redskins jumped from 8-8 to Super Bowl winner in a strike-shortened season. (The Redskins went 8-1 in 1982.)
Then came a generation-long gap, with the Super Bowl winner coming from a team that was a winner in the prior season. Seventeen years after Super Bowl XVII, the Rams went from 4-12 to Super Bowl winner in Super Bowl XXXIV.
The next year, the 8-8 Ravens vaulted to the top of the mountain.
The next year, the 5-11 Patriots did it.
It has happened two more times, with the 8-8 Giants in 2006 winning Super Bowl XLII, and the 8-8 Saints in 2008 winning Super Bowl XLIV.
So the answer to Jake’s question is the 1998 Rams, at 4-12. The fact that five non-winning teams have won the Super Bowl the next year since 1998 — with only two in 33 Super Bowls before that — shows how the salary cap and free agency made it easier for bad teams to become very good teams, quickly.
Which puts more pressure on coaches of bad teams to make their bad teams into very good teams, quickly.
While Andy Reid has turned the 2-14 Chiefs around quickly, there’s a long way to go before they join the Rams as a team that went from being a dwelling in the basement to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.