Every NFL team’s goal every season should be to make a deep playoff run ending in a Super Bowl title. That should always be the objective, or teams should be trying to build a winning culture structured for extended success.
But what if getting there almost assuredly means a team will be broken for years to come? What if once they leave the Super Bowl, win or lose, their team will never be the same for the foreseeable future?
That’s exactly what happens when teams get to the Super Bowl and see the New England Patriots standing across from you. It’s like a delayed poison where year after year you slowly deteriorate from a team that was once at the top of the football world, to a club that’s just hoping for a high first-round draft pick to rebuild your organization.
Now, of course, everyone will say, “Yeah, but this doesn’t only happen with the Patriots opponents. A lot of teams never attain the same success once they reach the Super Bowl until years afterward.” And that fact is somewhat true, but no team has had such a run of dominance at the top as the Patriots have, so the comparison isn’t exactly spot on. Even the Steelers and Cowboys dynasties didn’t have this impact on the opposition.
No other team that has had a sustained run at the top has had this ripple effect on their opponents like New England has.
Let’s take it back from the beginning of this Dynasty to now.
St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams:
The Patriots have faced the Rams twice in their dynasty on the biggest stage. Both times, New England came out on top and shut down a historic offense. Whether it was Kurt Warner and the Greatest Show On Turf or the new-age, high-powered offense run by boy-genius Sean McVay, neither were able to take down the Patriots.
Following the first loss to New England, St. Louis went on a spiral that left them in NFL purgatory for well over a decade. The team only reached the playoffs three times in 16 years.
But then, the new flavor of the league in McVay came around and things started to look up for Los Angeles’ newest team. McVay brought the Rams to the Super Bowl in only his second season. He made Jared Goff, who everyone thought was a bust, look like a franchise quarterback leading a historic offense.
Then the Rams scored three points in Super Bowl 53, leading to a 13-3 loss.
Los Angeles is now stuck with Jared Goff who looks nothing like the quarterback he did last year, leading many to believe that season was just an outlier in an otherwise average career. Goff is also set to have the biggest cap hit out of any player in the league next season.
The team is also forced to carry Todd Gurley, who will also have the highest cap hit at his position and seems to have suffered some sort of career-altering knee injury. Oh, and they’re also 7-5, sitting in third place in their division and currently out of the playoffs.
The Panthers 2003 Super Bowl appearance came in their ninth year in the NFL and was only the second winning season in the team’s short history to that point. The Patriots won 32-29 on a late Adam Vinatieri field goal, a staple of the team’s early success.
Following their Super Bowl appearance, Carolina fell right back into mediocrity with a 7-9 record and missed the playoffs once again. in the 15 seasons from then until now, the Panthers have six playoff appearances (losing in the first round twice) with only five winning seasons. Yes, they made the playoffs with a 7-8-1 record because they won their putrid division.
It wasn’t until Cam Newton flew in did the team start to play good football, but even then, it wasn’t pretty. Newton has only three winning seasons in his eight years in the league, which may shock many considering how Newton is looked upon around the NFL.
Now, with their franchise quarterback out for the year and possibly done with the team, the Panthers are drowning with a backup under center and a 5-7 record which wouldn’t get them into the dance if the season ended today.
The Eagles have had probably the most success following a meeting with the Patriots in the Super Bowl than any other team, but that’s not saying much.
Since the Eagles lost to New England 24-21 in the 2004 Super Bowl, the team went 6-10 the following year. They then went on to have six winning seasons and make the playoffs five times in the 12 years leading up to their rematch with the Pats. Three of those five playoff appearances ended in first-round exits on Wild Card Weekend.
In 2017, Philly toppled the Patriots in a shocking Super Bowl which saw the organization win its first title in their history. This led to the now notorious quote from Lane Johnson saying: “I’d much rather have fun and win a Super Bowl than be miserable and win five Super Bowls.”
The next year they went 9-7 and lost in the divisional round in the playoffs, but this season is where the fireworks began. Philly let go of Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles so they could officially crown the relatively-unproven Carson Wentz as the franchise quarterback of the future.
The team is now 5-7 and in the early stages of a dumpster fire. Whether it’s former players going on talk shows to air the team’s dirty laundry, players speaking to the media about people being late to meetings, losing to the Miami Dolphins or receivers who may or may not have burner accounts on Twitter, it’s safe to say that this is the year the inevitable Patriots Curse hit the Eagles and slowly destroyed them from the inside.
But hey, at least they all had fun that one year, right?
New York Giants:
The New York Giants will forever be the Freddy Kreuger of every Patriots fan’s nightmares until the end of time.
In 2007 the two teams met for the first time in the Super Bowl and the Giants came out with the victory, not only ruining a perfect season for the Pats but also creating a phrase that, to this day, still makes every Patriots fan irrationally angry: The Helmet Catch.
If you ever see a Patriots fan and even mention the 2007 season, they’ll still look at you in disbelief when talking about how David Tyree caught a ball with his helmet while Rodney Harrison was pulling at his arm the entire way down to the ground. Unbelievable.
After crushing the souls of New England, the Giants would go on to lose in the Divisional Round the next season while completely missing the playoffs the following two years until 2011. Once again the two teams faced off in America’s Biggest Game. And once again the Giants ripped the hearts out of Pats fans across the nation.
In the following four seasons though, the Giants would only have one winning record (9-7) and not make the playoffs again until 2016 when they went one-and-done in the wild card game, essentially ending newly-appointed head coach Ben McAdoo’s tenure before it even got started. He would be sent packing the following season amidst team turmoil for benching Giants legend Eli Manning, even though his play had severely fallen off.
The Giants went 3-13, then 5-11 after that playoff defeat and are now a pitiful 2-11 with new quarterback Daniel Jones. With seemingly no light at the end of their miserable, dark tunnel, it looks like the Patriots Curse is going to hit this team harder than most.
Now if you’re the Saints, Packers, Seahawks, 49ers or whatever unlucky team to be next on the Patriots hit list and you step into Hard Rock Stadium in Miami and see Tom Brady and Bill Belichick standing across from you, glaring at your team like the next meal they’re about to devour on their way to seven titles, what do you do?
The future will undoubtedly be changed for the worse once they face team that comes out of this battle against the team from the Northeast.
This isn’t the Madden Curse. This isn’t a superstition about taking the kickoff or deferring. This isn’t you and your friends wearing the same jersey for every playoff game hoping that it sends mystic good luck to your home team. No. This is the Patriots Curse. And it is very terrifying and very real.