The New Orleans Saints lost a pretty heartbreaking game to the San Francisco 49ers in an NFC Divisional round playoff game last January. Fortunately for Saints fans, the team had averaged 12 wins a year going back to the 2009 season, and with a high-powered offense led by quarterback Drew Brees, and an often underrated defense led by linebacker Jonathan Vilma, things figured to pick up right where they left off last season, with the Saints as one of the favorites in the NFC in 2012.
And what had to be even more appetizing to players and fans alike was the fact that New Orleans would be the host city for Super Bowl XLVII, and it would be played in the Saints home stadium--the Louisiana Superdome. The Saints had just won Super Bowl XLIV following the 2009 season, and what better way for the franchise to win its second title than in its own backyard?
Unfortunately, almost immediately after the 2011 season ended, the Saints had to deal with Bounty-gate, and for their roles in the highly publicized "pay for pain" scandal, head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire 2011 season and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was essentially banished from coaching anywhere in the NFL for an indefinite period of time. Vilma was accused of being the ring-leader among the players and was subsequently suspended for the entire season. Other Saints players, both past and present, also received punishment of varying degrees for their roles in the bounty scandal--the player suspensions were eventually overturned just before the start of the season, but the damage to the team's reputation had already been done.
Speaking of reputations, the squeaky clean one of Brees took a bit of a hit during his often bitter contract dispute with the Saints this past summer. The two sides eventually reached a deal, but it was just another black mark in an offseason full of them for the franchise.
If you're the Saints or one of their fans, you're probably thinking, "Why is this stuff happening to us?"
Maybe you're the latest victim of a bizarre curse that seems to inflict teams during years in-which they are the host franchise for the Super Bowl.
There have been 39 Super Bowls played in cities with NFL teams, but no host team has ever had a season even good enough to make it to a conference championship game. It's actually pretty amazing.
Just take last year's Indianapolis Colts, for example. Lucas Oil Stadium was to host Super Bowl XLVI, and with Peyton Manning leading a Colts team that was a perennial Super Bowl contender for the better part of a decade, the chances of Colts fans seeing their team have the greatest homefield advantage in Super Bowl history were actually quite tangible...........until Manning had a couple of operations on his neck and had to miss the entire 2011 season. Indianapolis responded by losing its first 13 games and finished with a 2-14 record.
Prior to this season, the Super Bowl host teams had a combined regular season record of 241-337-4, for a winning percentage of .414.
Here's a brief run-down of how some other teams have fared during their years hosting the Super Bowl:
Miami Dolphins: If it wasn't for the Dolphins, Super Bowl host teams would have a much worse winning percentage over the years. The City of Miami has hosted nine Super Bowls, and during those years, the Dolphins have a combined regular season record of 75-62-1. However, despite the City of Miami hosting the Super Bowl four times from 1969-1979--III, V, X, XIII--the Dolphins missed playing it on their own turf even though they were one of the teams of the 70's and appeared in three straight Super Bowls--VI, VII, VIII. Tough luck for the Dolphins, but better luck for the NFC representatives of that era.
Detroit Lions: Surprisingly, the City of Detroit has hosted two Super Bowls--XVI at the old Pontiac Silverdome and XL at Ford Field--not so surprisingly, the Lions went a combined 13-19 over the course of those two seasons.
Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals have been the host team for two Super Bowls since moving to Arizona--XXX at Sun Devil Stadium and XLII at University of Phoenix Stadium--and they went a combined 12-20 during those two regular seasons. Interestingly enough, the Cardinals actually faced the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII the year after their city hosted Super Bowl XLII. Timing is the key to life.
Atlanta Falcons: Speaking of bad timing, the Falcons made it to Super Bowl XXXIII in Miami following the 1998 season and lost to the Denver Broncos. Pretty decent season, right? Where was the very next Super Bowl played? You guessed it, the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. What was the Falcons' record that year? 5-11. Ouch.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The City of Tampa has hosted four Super Bowls over the years, and the Bucs have combined to win 26 regular season games over those four seasons. However, here's a nice little tidbit: the 2000 Tampa Bay Buccaneers became the only post-merger NFC team to actually make the playoffs during a season in-which their city hosted the Super Bowl, when they went 10-6 and lost in the wild card round.
San Diego Chargers: The Chargers have hosted three Super Bowls, and they've gone a combined 20-27 in the regular season. Not horrible numbers, but when San Diego hosted Super Bowl XXXII, the Chargers went 4-12 in the regular season despite appearing in Super Bowl XXIX just three years prior.
Last but not least, the worst Super Bowl host team of them all:
New Orleans Saints: The City of New Orleans has hosted the Super Bowl eight times prior to this season, and the Saints have been the anti-Dolphins, going 42-92-2 during those years. The franchise combined to go 7-39 over the course of three of those host seasons--including the infamous 1-15 "Aints" 1980 campaign.
With all of this in mind, I guess it's no surprise that the Saints are off to such a horrible start.
So is it a conspiracy by the league to keep the host team out of the Super Bowl? A mere coincidence? Or perhaps another one of those very strong sports curses?
I'll take the third option.
Move over Madden and Sports Illustrated, you have some company in the jinx/hex/curse department.