skip to Main Content
Save money on coffee. Win a scholarship. Learn more.
5 Things You Can Learn From The Past 5 Super Bowl Losers

5 Things You Can Learn From The Past 5 Super Bowl Losers

5 Things You Can Learn From The Past 5 Super Bowl Losers

Super Bowl Champions leave behind a legacy. But so do the losers. With Super Bowl LII upon us, here are 5 lessons learned from failure from the past 5 Super Bowl losers.

No One Remembers The Loser

Each year, one team has an opportunity to be written into the history books. And the rest of the teams are, well, forgotten. The losers fade into the background.

If you don’t believe me, try this:

See how quickly you can recall the last 5 championship teams in your favorite sport, from last year to 5 years ago

Now, do the same thing with the 5 teams that lost.

See the difference?

Even a 1pt loss in the biggest game of the season means most of society will forget you completely. Only champions live forever.

Legacy Established

That’s the beauty (and beast) of sports. It’s a dog-eat-dog world. There is surely pain to be felt when your team loses, but there are far less hard feelings towards the winning team. Coaches and players are all fighting for one thing. They understand that only one team can leave their legacy behind.

So what does the loser leave behind?

Failure Is Feedback

Besides probably a pretty darn good team in it’s own right, the losing team leaves behind valuable lessons to learn failure in life and sport.

When you see failure as feedback, you can learn from a loss. It becomes objective, and the information can help you achieve your goal in the future.

“Failure is feedback” is a popular saying, but do you believe it? Do you learn from your failures? Do you change your behaviors based on the information provided?

On the world’s biggest competitive stage, it must be difficult to find the silver lining of defeat in the moment.

With Super Bowl LII upon us, let’s take a look at 1 lesson learned from failure from each of the past 5 Super Bowl losers.

#5. 2012 San Francisco 49ers

Lesson: You can want to win and still be happy for people around you.

For the first time in modern American sports, two brothers (John and Jim Harbaugh) faced off as head coaches in Super Bowl XLVII.

Besides the game being declared the “Harbowl”  (which someone filed a trademark for 1 year prior to this Super Bowl matchup and the NFL threatened to sue), and family pride being plentiful, playing in your sport’s biggest game against someone you vacation with was probably emotionally confusing, to say the least.

Jim Harbaugh had to congratulate his little brother for preventing him from realizing a lifelong dream in front of millions of people as the 2012 Baltimore Ravens beat his 49ers.

But in sport and life, it’s okay to want to win and be happy when others do. There is a unique type of kinship formed with your competition because you’re both very aware of how much hard work and sacrifice it takes any team to get to the big game. In a way, you’re brothers, even if you aren’t related by blood.

Pure focus, to a degree, will help you achieve outcomes. But tunnel vision is not a one-size-fits-all solution because you can’t always see the bigger picture. Don’t wholly rely on it.

#4. 2013 Denver Broncos

Lesson: One instance won’t define you… if you don’t give up.

One of the worst defeats in a championship game in history, Super Bowl XVIII is a great example of how one instance doesn’t define who you are. Sure, the Broncos were destroyed 43-8, but their defense dominated the Panthers in Super Bowl 50 and they took home the Lombardi trophy only two years later.

Their coaches and players deserve a ton of credit for rising back up. Most teams would have collapsed after such a defeat, believing the imposter syndrome was real.

No matter how low things seem, remember that you can’t fake getting to the championship game. If you got there, chances are you’ve got what it takes to win the thing. Back to the drawing board.

#3. 2014 Seattle Seahawks

Lesson: It only takes one.

The 2014 Seattle Seahawks were 1 play away from winning their second Super Bowl in three years. One snap of the ball and one wrong decision was all it took for that dream to disappear forever.

But as the saying goes… “s*&* happens”.

Sometimes, it takes one thing happening for every hour of preparation and hard work you’ve put in to become seemingly meaningless.

Sports are humbling that way, maybe even a little scary.

But that doesn’t mean you don’t stop preparing or working hard- ever. Life is unpredictable. Remember that even your best-laid plans will sometimes be thwarted. It’s the playground you’re playing in. It’s the price you pay when you try to be the best.



#2. 2015 Carolina Panthers

Lesson: You’re only as good as your last at-bat.

There are few examples of team domination in NFL history more than the 2015 Carolina Panthers, who went 15-1 in the regular season and then destroyed the Seahawks and Cardinals on the way to the Super Bowl.

Remember that resilient 2013 Broncos Super Bowl team that got whooped by 35 points? Well, they played one of the best defensive games in NFL history, effectively shutting down the otherworldly 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton en route to a 24-10 victory.

Super Bowl 50 was an example of a team that peaked too early. Achieving something great is a dynamic, evolving process that requires you to constantly grow. If you buy into the buzz about yourself, you’ll stop focusing on the things generating the buzz.

#1. 2016 Atlanta Falcons

Lesson: Finish the job you started.

In The 48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene teaches us that you must crush your enemy totally. In the chapter, he cites this quote from Indian philosopher Kautilya:

“The remnants of an enemy can become active like those of a disease or fire. Hence, these should be exterminated completely. One should never ignore an enemy, knowing him to be weak. He becomes dangerous in due course, like the spark of fire in a haystack.”

From the top of the organization down, the Falcons clearly showed they felt the game had been decided way before the final whistle. Players were celebrating on the sideline as early as halftime. And look what happened?

The Falcons blew the biggest lead in Super Bowl history, losing to the Patriots 33-28 in overtime after a 25 point comeback that didn’t start until midway through the third quarter.

The Falcons didn’t finish the job. They lost focus. You can bet that if they had another chance, they would have stuck to what got them their in the first place.

But that’s sport, and that’s life. You don’t always get a second chance. Best to focus on the next moment in front of you, and make it the best you can. Learn from it if things don’t go your way, but always stay focused on what you must do to be successful now. Keep writing your story.