PHOENIX (AP) – A year ago, Pete Carroll stood at a podium in a New York City hotel, less than 12 hours after his Seattle Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. He spoke about what would happen next.
“The first meeting that we’ll have,” Carroll said, “will be tomorrow.”
Sounded a bit over the top, even from the ever-enthusiastic coach. A moment later, he continued the theme, insisting: “We really have an eye on what’s coming, and we don’t dwell on what just happened. We’ll take this in stride.”
Turns out he knew what he was talking about. Fast forward to Sunday, when Carroll’s Seahawks will face Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots in the Super Bowl with a chance to do something that, for many reasons, was thought to be too tall a task in today’s NFL: win a second consecutive championship.
“It’s tough to win it once. That’s the hard part. Winning twice doesn’t happen (anymore),” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, whose team went back-to-back 10 years ago, making for the longest drought without a repeat champion in the nearly half-century of Super Bowls.
“The NFL is built for parity – the way the draft is set up, the way the schedule plays out, the hard salary cap. All those things trying to level the playing field,” Brady said. “It’s hard to get here. It’s tough to win it. It’s certainly tough to win it two times in a row.”
It has happened only eight times in league history but used to be a semi-regular occurrence. Indeed, the first two Super Bowls – well, it wasn’t called that back then – were both won by the Green Bay Packers.
Then the Miami Dolphins won consecutive trophies five years later, followed by the Pittsburgh Steelers (who did it twice), the San Francisco 49ers, the Dallas Cowboys, the Broncos and the Patriots.
“The hardest thing in terms of repeating is not the focus of repeating,” said Seattle’s Russell Wilson, who can become the first starting quarterback to win a pair of Super Bowls within his first three seasons. “It’s: How do you get to the Super Bowl in general?”
There are all the ways mentioned by Brady that the NFL legislates competitiveness.
And there are other factors. Reigning Super Bowl champions have a shorter offseason. Successful teams lose players and assistant coaches (Seattle’s top receiver, Golden Tate, left as a free agent, as did defensive lineman Red Bryant, for example). Champions often are filled with veterans who might feel satisfied.
Last season’s Seahawks, though, had the fourth-youngest roster for a Super Bowl winner, with an average age of 26 years, 175 days, according to STATS. The Steelers who won the 1975 Super Bowl were the youngest champions, and they followed that up by earning rings again a year later.
“It’s always hard to match the intensity … of every opponent, especially after you’ve won one Super Bowl,” said Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, a wide receiver on Dallas’ 1993 and 1994 Super Bowl champions. “After you win the Super Bowl, you need to go play 16 more ‘Super Bowls’ the following season, and then go through the playoffs to get back to the Super Bowl. So it’s a tough go.”
As if setting out to prove that point, the Seahawks did not start this season particularly well.
“The pressure was there early in the season,” defensive end Cliff Avril said, “but then we just forgot about it … and I think that’s what let us take the next step to be able to get here – not thinking about it.”
Seattle’s record was 3-3 in mid-October, then 6-4 after a loss at Kansas City in mid-November. That’s when Carroll held a meeting with a dozen players to air out a few things.
“It was a huge impact, for us to be in a room together and openly and freely express our concerns about the team and not hold anything back,” receiver Doug Baldwin said. “I thought that was crucial for our growth as a team.”
That also happens to be when middle linebacker Bobby Wagner returned from injury.
Seattle has not lost since.
“They’ve dominated the NFC the last two seasons, so we’ll be playing the best team,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said.
As for how much motivation New England derives from trying to prevent Seattle from winning another Super Bowl, McCourty added: “Leading into it, it doesn’t matter what they did last year. It doesn’t really affect us. But if we stop them, then it’s a cool story to talk about.”
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