Every year around this time, the phrase "Super Bowl hangover" gets tossed around in NFL conversations. Losing in the big game is devastating, of course, and many believe those emotions can have a lasting, negative impact on a franchise.
There are certainly reasons to believe in such a phenomenon. No one since the 1992-93 Buffalo Bills have made it back to a Super Bowl a year after falling short in one; the Carolina Panthers, who were coming off a magical 15-1 campaign, earned a 6-10 record this year.
Nevertheless, there are reasons to believe the so-called hangover is overstated. And there are reasons to believe the Falcons are equipped to avoid that pitfall.
While teams have had a difficult time getting back to the Super Bowl after losing one, it'd be untrue to say the 2016 Panthers were the latest example of a proven trend. In fact, out of all the clubs that fell short in a Super Bowl from 2011-2015, Carolina is the only one to miss the playoffs the following season.
- After losing SBXLIX, the Seahawks went 10-6 and won a playoff game in 2015.
- After losing SBXLVIII, the Broncos went 12-4 and won the AFC West in 2014.
- After losing SBXLVII, the 49ers went 12-4 and won two playoff games in 2013.
- After losing SBXLVI, the Patriots went 12-4, won the AFC East and won a playoff game in 2012.
Indeed, recent history bodes well for the Falcons and should give fans a dose of optimism. More importantly, though, that hopefulness should be felt because of what Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn have built together.
In 2015, NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks ranked the most important positions to fill when building a football team. Here are his top 10, beginning at the top: quarterback, designated pass rusher No. 1, left tackle, left cornerback, No. 1 wide receiver, defensive tackle, running back, designated pass rusher No. 2, middle linebacker, tight end.
At present it'd be fair to say the Falcons have eight, possible nine, of these jobs locked down, and most of them are occupied by players who entered the league in 2013 or later.
"We're really encouraged where we are from a roster standpoint," Dimitroff said Tuesday. "We have a lot of youth here; we have a lot of talented players. We're excited about the trajectory here. Of course, it's very positive. … I really believe that we don't' have any major holes in this roster. I think we're continuing to build the depth of this roster and continuing to get better and better across those lines."
Like every team, the Falcons do have areas to shore up, so in a matter of months, all of Brooks' top 10 spots could be set.
That leads to the topic of player acquisition, which the Falcons have done extraordinarily well during Quinn's tenure. Nine draft picks in the last two years have already earned significant roles; veteran additions like Adrian Clayborn, Brooks Reed, Mack, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel have been vital, as well. Another offseason of similar moves would
And while it's not quantifiable, the chemistry – or Brotherhood – the Falcons have built should aid them in their quest for redemption. The players believe their camaraderie was needed to make a long playoff run, and as they begin to move on from SBLI, that bond will be as important as ever. Long snapper Josh Harris put it well on Monday morning.
"Seeing them in the meeting room, seeing how Dan addressed the team, seeing how they responded to me speaks volumes about the type of people we have on this team," Dimitroff said. "I would just say [to the fans], 'Look, there's a really, really positive side to this and we'll continue to learn. And I just think this is going to make us that much stronger as a team.'
"And I know you hear the Brotherhood thing; some people want to believe it, and other people don't. I've seen how Brotherhood here has grown over the last two years more than I've ever seen this in professional football. And this will take it to another level. I'm feeling very, very confident with that."