Nobody likes to lose close games. But is there some benefit to it? Can it help you learn how to win those games down the road and become a better team?
History says yes.
I raise this question because the Redskins lost five games by a field goal or less last year – and, as a result, tied for last in the NFC East at 6-10. Since 1940, you might be interested to know, 37 other clubs have dropped that many (or more) nail-biters in a season, and 29 of them posted a better record the next year. (Six, on the other hand, put up a worse record, and two stayed in the same place.)
Better still, three of them went to the Super Bowl the following season, and one took home the Lombardi Trophy. Here are the details:
● 1972 Vikings – Lost by 3, 2, 2, 3 and 3 points in a 7-7 season. The next year: Lost to the Dolphins in the Super Bowl, 24-7.
● 2008 Saints – Lost by 2, 3, 3, 3 and 2 points in an 8-8 season. The next year: Beat the Colts in the Super Bowl, 31-17.
● 2009 Steelers – Lost by 3, 3, 3, 3 and 3 points in a 9-7 season. The next year: Lost to the Packers in the Super Bowl, 31-25.
That’s right. The last couple of seasons, one of the two Super Bowl finalists was a team that had lost five games by a field goal or less the year before. Feeling a bit more optimistic about the 2011 Redskins?
Some other quick turnarounds of recent vintage:
● 2008 Packers – Lost by 3, 3, 1, 3 and 3 points in a 6-10 season. Two years later, they beat the Steelers in the Super Bowl, 31-25.
● 2001 Panthers – Lost by 2, 3, 1, 3, 3 and 1 point in a 1-15 season. Two years later, they lost to the Patriots in the Super Bowl, 32-29.
● 1997 Ravens – Lost by 1, 3, 3, 2 and 2 points in a 6-9-1 season. Three years later, they beat the Giants in the Super Bowl, 34-7.
● 1993 Patriots – Lost by 3, 3, 1, 3, 3 and 3 points in a 5-11 season (their first under Bill Parcells). Three years later, they lost to the Packers in the Super Bowl, 35-21.
● 1991 Chargers – Lost by 3, 1, 2, 3 and 3 points in a 4-12 season. Three years later, they lost the 49ers in the Super Bowl, 49-26.
So that’s seven clubs in the last 20 years that have lost five (or more) games by a field goal or less and, within three seasons, gone to the Super Bowl. Who knew?
Of course, there are no guarantees. The 2009 Redskins lost games by 3, 1, 3, 3 and 3 points en route to a 4-12 mark (and Jim Zorn’s dismissal). Then they came back last year and lost five more white-knucklers. Which suggests what? That they didn’t learn from their mistakes? That they have some coronary deficiency?
Whatever the case, Mike Shanahan has continued his housecleaning this season, turning over even more of the roster, and the Redskins are hoping for better results. The odds are certainly with them.