Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

23 May 2013

49ers Win Super Bowl Bid After Playing in One: How Bizarre

With news of Michael Crabtree's injury, file this one under "It's the Little Things in Fandom That Mean the Most."

On Tuesday, the NFL awarded Super Bowl L to Santa Clara, site of the 49ers' new stadium. My first reaction was, "Man, it's a shame they dragged their feet long enough to lose out on their birthright, Super Bowl XLIX." After that brief numerological interlude, my second reaction was, "Hey, the 49ers got the nod after just having played in the Super Bowl. How many times has that happened?" It's common knowledge that no Super Bowl team has had a true home game, with the 1979 Rams and (coincidentally) the 1984 49ers coming close. Some might even know the further detail that teams have fared horribly when they had the potential to play the Super Bowl at home.

As far as I can tell, though, no one's looked into teams (a la the current 49ers) that were awarded a Super Bowl hosting gig coming off a Super Bowl appearance. Similarly, no one's looked at how teams have fared the season after being awarded a Super Bowl (e.g., what the 2008 Colts did after being awarded Super Bowl XLVII in May 2008).

It turns out that the 49ers (via Santa Clara) are the first team in 28 years to be awarded a Super Bowl after having played in the one preceding the owners' hosting decision. In another series of 49ers-related coincidences, the last time it happened was when, in March 1985, the owners chose Miami as host of Super Bowl XXIII after the Dolphins had just lost Super Bowl XIX to San Francisco (at the 49ers' "home" in Palo Alto). And which team won the Lombardi trophy in Miami four years later? The 49ers, of course.

So the last two times a team was dubbed "host," they were the reigning Super Bowl loser. The only other time this phenomenon occurred, however, it involved a team coming off a Super Bowl win: The 1972 Dolphins finished a perfect season in January 1973, and the owners awarded Super Bowl X to Miami three months later.

If we expand the definition to give credit to the two Los Angeles teams for Super Bowls in Pasadena (only 14 miles from the Coliseum) and San Francisco for the one in Palo Alto (only 30 miles from Candlestick), then the total grows to five. (This isn't so outlandish. The Dolphins' home field is 15 miles from my apartment in the actual "City of Miami.") Pasadena was awarded Super Bowl XXI in May 1984 after beating the Washington Redskins in January 1984. Meanwhile, in what is now bordering on a trend, the 49ers were the reigning Super Bowl XVI champions when Palo Alto's hosting bid won out in December 1982.

What about teams that played in the big game immediately after their city won a hosting bid? Again using my liberal definition, it's only occurred three times in Super Bowl history. The most-recent instance actually was only four years ago, when the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV in January 2010 (in -- wait for it -- Miami) after the owners' May 2009 selection of New Orleans as host of Super Bowl XLVII (lost by -- wait for it -- San Francisco). Before the 2009 Saints, you have to go back 30 years for a previous occurrence. Pasadena won its bid for Super Bowl XVII in March 1979, and the Los Angeles Rams lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super XIV 10 months later (also in -- wait for it -- Pasadena).

The earliest occurrence of a team winning the Super Bowl and then getting awarded a future Super Bowl within a year also happens to involve one of the seven teams to repeat as champs. If my foreshadowing worked, its identity should be pretty obvious. As mentioned earlier, the 1972 Dolphins won Super Bowl VI three months before Miami won its April 1973 bid for Super Bowl X. Nine months later, they also won Super Bowl VII.

Now, I'm fully aware that the repeated appearances of Miami and Los Angeles/Pasadena (and even New Orleans) are closely related to the fact that they've been a major part of the historical Super Bowl rotation, including almost exclusive hosting rights in the 1970s. Nevertheless, two things. First, it just makes the 49ers' fingerprints all over this piece that much eerier (i.e., the Bay area has not been in the rotation over the years, by any stretch of the imagination). Second, even with the highly skewed frequency of Super Bowl host cities, there's still this seemingly random result: Super Bowl hosts have posted a record of 405-406-9 the season before they won their bid, and have posted a record of 383-386-4 the season after they won their bid.

Of course, all of this is just a fun, trivia-related way of saying that, if there's a Super Bowl curse involving host cities, it's about the potential for athletes winning a ring at home, not about executives winning a bid at an owners meeting.

Posted by: Danny Tuccitto on 23 May 2013

18 comments, Last at 28 May 2013, 10:55am by Travis


by Shalimar (not verified) :: Thu, 05/23/2013 - 9:14am

the 49ers (via Santa Clara) are the first team in 18 years... in March 1985, the owners chose Miami

1985 is 28 years ago, not 18.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Thu, 05/23/2013 - 2:15pm


by Dr. Goodell (not verified) :: Thu, 05/23/2013 - 2:28pm

Good thing too. Otherwise I'd be a freshman in college again. That might be fun though.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Thu, 05/23/2013 - 11:23am

"It turns out that the 49ers (via Santa Clara) are the first team in 18 years to be awarded a Super Bowl after having played in the one preceding the owners' hosting decision."

Not surprised this doesn't happen. Half of the teams in the league's stadiums aren't even eligible for the superbowl (because the superbowl is for fair-weather fans).

by Will Allen :: Thu, 05/23/2013 - 11:31am

The Jets intend to prove you wrong this year.............


by CBPodge :: Thu, 05/23/2013 - 11:49am

By including Santa Clara, aren't you already stretching the definition? I mean, it's what, 40 miles from San Francisco?

by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 05/23/2013 - 4:09pm

The Bay Area has a pretty strong identity. Even in San Jose, you'll hear people say that one of the advantages of living there is that "You're so close to the City!" (meaning San Francisco).

by JonFrum :: Thu, 05/23/2013 - 5:36pm

Given that other teams are 2000-3000 miles away, I'd not be concerned about 30 miles.

by greybeard :: Thu, 05/23/2013 - 10:34pm

It is 40 miles from San Francisco but within a mile of 49ers headquarters and practice facilities. Most if the players live in South Bay where Santa Clara is.
I'd say Santa Clara is actually more of a home than San Francisco is.
I don't know where 49ers were when the Super Bowl was in Palo Alto. But Palo Alto is just 20 miles from Candlestick Park.
South Bay is pretty much 49ers territory. That is why the team did not hesitate to move from South San Francisco to Santa Clara.

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 05/23/2013 - 4:20pm

Seriously, where's the Urlacher XP?

by Jerry :: Mon, 05/27/2013 - 1:28am

Thanks for posting that.

by andrew :: Thu, 05/23/2013 - 4:49pm

I applaud the Miami-Dade government for giving their team a better chance to win a superbowl (game).

by JonFrum :: Thu, 05/23/2013 - 5:41pm

"there's still this seemingly random result: Super Bowl hosts have posted a record of 405-406-9 the season before they won their bid, and have posted a record of 383-386-4 the season after they won their bid."

I'm not sure what the point is here. Over time, teams picked at random will have average records - .500. What else would be expected?

by Danny Tuccitto :: Thu, 05/23/2013 - 9:03pm

Bear with me here...

That was a preemptive response to the inevitable critique that all of this was being driven by the long-time SB rotation of LA, MIA, and (especially) NO. My point was that, if "frequent SB host New Orleans only shows up once because they've sucked for most of the past 40-odd years" were such a big deal, then you'd expect the aggregate winning percentage of teams in the season before (or after) winning their bids to be well below .500. Instead, both the before and after are almost exactly .500. Or perhaps you'd expect MIA, a team more above-average in the SB era than NO has been below average, to more than offset the crappiness of NO, and swing the aggregate winning percentages to well above .500. Again, it didn't happen.

And as I said in the very next paragraph, people talk about a Super Bowl curse related to teams not playing in a SB in the same year they're hosting it. Some of these people (as mentioned and linked to in the first paragraph) have gone so far as to point out that those teams don't just miss the SB; their aggregate records in those years is well below .500 (even statistically significantly so). My citing of before-award and after-award records suggests these same-year findings to be statistical artifacts. If there were a curse associated with hosting a SB, you'd see similar negative effects when the team/city wins the bid; not just in the same year they're hosting it.

But, of course, there's also the fact that all of this is just trivia not meant to be taken that seriously. I mean, everyone here knows the SB curse is statistical bunk, right? Just having some fun relaying the results of an idea I had.

by RickD :: Tue, 05/28/2013 - 10:26am

What confuses me is that hosts have played a total of 820 games in the seasons before their winning bids, but only 773 games in the seasons after their winning bids. That's a difference of 47 games. Even if I add in the 16 games for last year's hosts, we're missing 31 games. Perhaps the Rams or Oilers hosted one and then moved? But why add them to one side but not the other? And how is this number odd??

by Travis :: Tue, 05/28/2013 - 10:55am

And how is this number odd??

Three Super Bowl sites (XVII and XVIII before 1982, XXV before 1987) were named before strike seasons.

by CBPodge :: Fri, 05/24/2013 - 5:39am

My favourite Super Bowl host stat is that the Bucs (2001) are the last Super Bowl host to even make the playoffs. Since then the Saints (twice), Dolphins (twice), Chargers, Cardinals, Texans, Jags, Lions, Cowboys and Colts have all failed to even make the playoffs when playing for the chance to host a Super Bowl.

What this says to me, as a Rams fan, is that its very good news that the Cards will definitely suck in 2015 (obviously) and the 49ers will suck in 2016.