Last year, the Kansas City Chiefs were the worst team in the NFL, winning just two games and scoring an average of 13 points per game. This year, after hiring long-time Eagles coach Andy Reid, the Chiefs are one of only two undefeated teams and appear on their way to at least a long playoff run, if not the Super Bowl.
Most teams with bad years tend to require a number of years to improve (if they improve at all, that is). If the Chiefs continue their improbable success, they could become one of those rare franchises that bounces back straight to the top — appearing in the Super Bowl. Looking through the history of the modern Super Bowl era, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the eight teams that managed to come back from a losing season to make it all the way to the Super Bowl.
Sometimes, a disappointing season can actually improve a team’s chances of making the Super Bowl. A terrible year, or years, can often lead management to clean house, firing coaches and making trades. In 2002, the Carolina Panthers fired George Seifert after an abysmal 1-15 season. His replacement, John Fox, ended up leading the team on a Super Bowl run two seasons later.
A bad year can also boost a team’s chances in the form of new star players. Fans know this because the worst teams are allowed to pick earlier in the draft after a season concludes. So, the 15-loss Panthers were allowed to select second overall. They used this pick to draft future star defensive end Julius Peppers, who became a major part of the following year’s Super Bowl team.
The San Francisco 49ers’ poor 1980 season allowed them to draft Hall of Fame defensive back Ronnie Lott eighth overall. Lott then helped the San Francisco make and win the Super Bowl the following year.
For some of these comeback teams, the Super Bowl run was just the first sign of years of success. Going into the 1999 season, the St. Louis Rams had not had a winning season in nearly a decade. That team, which became known as the “greatest show on turf” for its high-powered offense, won the Super Bowl that year, played in another two years later, and made the playoffs in four of the next five seasons.
On the other hand, there are comeback teams on this list that ended up being flashes in the pan. The 1998 Atlanta Falcons came back from two losing seasons to go 14-2 and lose Super Bowl XXXIII. Instead of riding on that success, the team then missed the playoffs in each of the next three years.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed teams that played in a Super Bowl the year following a season where they lost more games than they won. Only teams in the modern Super Bowl era, which began in 1965) were included. The 1988 Cincinnati Bengals and the 1982 San Francisco 49ers were excluded because of the shortened seasons those year.
These are The Greatest Turnaround Teams in NFL History